Bolton's U.N. Nomination to Face Full Senate Vote

The White House is optimistic that John Bolton will soon be confirmed as the new ambassador to the United Nations. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted Thursday along party lines to send Bolton's nomination to the Senate floor — but refused to endorse the nominee.

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Bush administration officials sound confident they'll soon have John Bolton confirmed as United Nations ambassador. Bolton did get over one barrier yesterday. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted along party lines to send on the nomination for consideration by the full Senate. But in an unusual move, the committee refused to endorse Bolton for the job. Several moderate Republicans expressed reservations, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN reporting:

The 10:8 vote was hardly a victory for the Bush administration. While all the committee Republicans agreed that the president's pick should get an up or down vote on the Senate floor, some made clear they see him as a problematic UN ambassador. Ohio's George Voinovich said Bolton is the, quote, "Poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be." He said Bolton has been accused of being arrogant and of bullying intelligence analysts who disagreed with him. Voinovich said that's not the face the US needs at the UN at a time when America must overcome its `go it alone' image in the world.

Senator GEORGE VOINOVICH (Republican, Ohio): It is my concern that the confirmation of John Bolton would send a contradictory and negative message to the world community about US intentions. I'm afraid that his confirmation will tell the world that we're not dedicated to repairing our relationship or working as a team, but that we believe only someone with sharp elbows can deal properly with the international community.

KELEMEN: Rhode Island Republican Lincoln Chafee raised concerns about allegations that Bolton intimidated intelligence analysts and said he's apprehensive that a vote to confirm Bolton would endorse that behavior. He also questioned Bolton's diplomatic skills, pointing to a tough-sounding speech the undersecretary for arms control made about North Korea on the eve of six-party talks.

Senator LINCOLN CHAFEE (Republican, Rhode Island): Mr. Bolton says that speech was cleared by the highest level of our government. True though that may be, it does not diminish the questionable wisdom of his having delivered it at such a sensitive time.

KELEMEN: Alaska's Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski said she, too, thought that speech was inflammatory and she said there's evidence that Bolton tends to push the envelope. George Voinovich of Ohio says he raised all this with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Sen. VOINOVICH: I was informed by the secretary of State that she understood all these things and, in spite of them, still feels that John Bolton is the best choice and that she would be in frequent communication with him and he would be closely supervised. My private thought at the time, and I should have expressed it to her, is, `Why in the world would you want to send somebody up to the UN that has to be supervised?'

KELEMEN: That's a question that now rests with the Republican-held Senate. California Democrat Barbara Boxer, who had hoped to quash the nomination in committee, said she expects a heated debate on the floor. She pointed out that many of the current and former US officials who testified privately against Bolton were Republican appointees.

Senator BARBARA BOXER (Democrat, California): It is hard for me to understand why the president didn't simply say he's going to send down somebody else. I guess he wants a fight. I guess he's asking people to walk the line. And if that's where we're going, that's where we're going, 'cause we're going to have a fight.

KELEMEN: But at the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan seemed confident about John Bolton's prospects.

Mr. SCOTT McCLELLAN (White House Spokesman): He's exactly the kind of person we need at the United Nations. He brings a lot of unique qualifications to the position and a great amount of experience and passion, sometimes a little bluntness but the president believes that's exactly what is needed at the United Nations during this time of reform.

KELEMEN: Ohio's George Voinovich disagrees and his blistering attack on Bolton could influence some Republican votes on the floor, but until the vote is set, the White House is likely to lobby hard to ensure the president's pick gets confirmed.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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