Fri May 13, 8:01 AM ET - Yahoo News
Democrats in the US Senate have made a fresh bid to derail the appointment of John Bolton, the embattled White House pick for UN ambassador, after a Senate panel declined to back him ahead of a floor vote.
Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer "put a hold on the nomination" of Bolton as US ambassador to the United Nations, her spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz said without indicating how the process could be delayed.
The move is intended to either force further negotiations or ultimately to prevent his nomination from reaching the Senate floor.
A Senate panel took the rare step Thursday of refusing to endorse President George W. Bush's choice for UN ambassador, although it did send the nomination to the full Senate for confirmation.
The White House had hoped that Bolton would receive the seal of approval of the committee's 10 Republicans, whose backing would have improved his odds for success in the Senate vote.
Instead, Bolton barely squeaked out of the polarized Senate committee.
His nomination was apparently saved after several Republicans agreed to forward his nomination for the UN post, without giving him explicit support.
Despite the lack of a congressional endorsement, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she was "pleased" by the outcome, and expressed hope for Bolton's quick confirmation.
Rice argued that Bolton, currently undersecretary for arms control and international security at the US State Department, would bring the "skill and dedication necessary to advance the president's reform agenda" at the UN.
A date has not been set for the vote in the Senate where Republicans hold a 55 to 45 majority. But Democrats promised they would continue to fight tooth and nail against the nomination as it moves to the chamber.
"If this comes to the floor, we're going to have a fight," Senator Barbara Boxer said during the committee meeting.
Democrats have been united in opposition to Bolton, while four of the committee's 10 Republicans expressed serious reservations.
Chief among Bolton's Republican critics was Senator George Voinovich, who expressed grave reservations about allegations Bolton mistreated staff during his long Washington carreer and shaped intelligence to fit his views.
He also issued a scathing denunciation of the nominee, saying the president could have chosen any one of a number of equally qualified, less controversial, candidates.
Nevertheless, the Ohio senator said he would approve sending Bolton's nomination to a vote before the full Senate, in deference to the White House.
The debate in the divided committee was the latest showdown between Senate Democrats and Republicans, after weeks of bitter wrangling over Bush's nominee.
Bolton's Republican supporters acknowledge that he has at times been "blunt," but they say his direct manner is just what is needed to help whip the scandal-plagued UN into shape.
"I think the American people want someone at the United Nations who pushes strongly for reform," said Senator George Allen. "We are not electing 'Mr. Congeniality.' We do not need 'Mr. Milquetoast' in the United Nations," he said.
The panel has spent weeks examining allegations that Bolton misused or hyped flawed intelligence on issues including China, Iran, North Korea and Syria.
Even his ex-boss, former secretary of state Colin Powell, reportedly told lawmakers that Bolton had been a problematic official. Powell's former chief of staff was quoted by the US press as saying that Bolton would make an "abysmal ambassador."
If confirmed by the Senate, Bolton would have to fight the US case on vital foreign policy issues, ranging from nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea to the future of the world body itself.