Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said yesterday he will force another vote to end a filibuster of President Bush’s pick to be ambassador to the United Nations at the end of this week, and called Democrats’ recent letter requesting information “absurd.”

“What’s bothering me a little bit now, is that every time we sort of make a step forward, the demands grow and numbers of names being looked at, or shifting goal posts in terms of background information,” the Tennessee Republican said. “It makes me think that it isn’t really whether or not John Bolton could be a good ambassador representing us as we address the challenging issues at the United Nations, but there is something beyond that.”

But Democrats said they first made their request for two pieces of information about John R. Bolton two months ago, and Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, said his impression from yesterday’s weekly luncheon of Senate Democrats was that they are united enough to continue to block Mr. Bolton.

“If there were one this afternoon, you’re asking my guess, my guess is that cloture would not be invoked,” he said, referring to a vote to end the filibuster and bring the nomination to an up-or-down vote.

Mr. Dodd also said several Republicans have told him they were asked to lobby Democrats but have refused. Even though they support Mr. Bolton’s nomination, they support the institutional privileges of the Senate, he said. “I think they feel that this is sort of an insult to the Senate not to provide this information,” he said, though he would not name the Republicans.

Mr. Dodd also said that contrary to Mr. Frist’s claim, Democrats actually have altered their request. They no longer are seeking to view 10 foreign-communications intelligence intercepts, but have asked Mr. Bolton to submit a list of 36 names to see if they appear in the communications. They also have dropped entirely a request from Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, to see a list of clients from an outside consultant Mr. Bolton has hired during his time as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.

Most Democrats oppose Mr. Bolton both because of past statements he has made about the United Nations and because they think he has tried to bully intelligence analysts into changing their conclusions to fit what he wanted to say. Republicans say Mr. Bolton is qualified and is the right person to force reform on the United Nations.

Mr. Frist held a press conference with Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, to try to spur action on the nomination. The two men, both of whom are considered potential presidential candidates, recently tangled when Mr. McCain led a bipartisan group of senators that scuttled Mr. Frist’s attempt to officially end judicial filibusters.

Yesterday, about the only issue they agreed on was that Mr. Bolton should see another vote. Mr. McCain said he wanted a vote immediately, while Mr. Frist said he will give Democrats a few more days. At the same time, Mr. McCain said he hopes negotiations with Democrats continue and that they work out a way to get the information they are seeking, while Mr. Frist said Democrats have enough information to make a decision about Mr. Bolton.

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