Full Senate Considers Bolton Nomination
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
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And I'm Melissa Block.
The United States Senate ended one protracted battle today and immediately resumed another. In a near-party-line vote, Priscilla Owen won a lifetime seat on the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Her nomination had previously been filibustered by Democrats. This week's bipartisan deal got it moving again. Now another contentious nomination has hit the Senate floor, President Bush's choice of John Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations. NPR's David Welna reports from the Capitol.
DAVID WELNA reporting:
Perhaps it was seizing on a general weariness as well as wariness in the Senate over the whole issue of filibusters. Whatever the reason, Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist brought John Bolton's controversial bid to be UN ambassador to the Senate floor this afternoon, hoping it would not be stopped by a filibuster and that it would be voted on by the end of this week. But Frist also knew that a fellow Republican, Ohio's George Voinovich, is not at all happy about President Bush choosing Bolton for the UN post. On the Senate floor, sporting a necktie emblazoned with the flags of many nations, Voinovich called Bolton the wrong man for the job.
Senator GEORGE VOINOVICH (Republican, Ohio): I believe we can do better. And we owe it to the United States of America, the US Department--the State Department, our soldiers overseas, our children and our grandchildren to do better than Mr. Bolton. This is not my opinion alone. The overwhelming opinion of the colleagues I've talked to about John Bolton is that he is not an ideal nominee, that they're less enthusiastic about him, and many were surprised at the decision. Many of my colleagues have said that the only reason they're going to vote for him is because he is the president's nominee.
WELNA: Defending Bolton was Republican Richard Lugar, who chairs the Foreign Relations panel. Lugar acknowledged that some sharp accusations have been leveled against Bolton, but he said they've all been thoroughly investigated by his committee.
Senator RICHARD LUGAR (Republican, Indiana): The end result is that many of the accusations have proven to be groundless or, at worst, overstated. New information has cast others in a different light. There's no doubt that Secretary Bolton has been blunt and combative in defense of his perspectives. Indeed, this is one of the qualities that President Bush and Secretary Rice have cited as a reason for their selection of this nominee.
WELNA: But Delaware's Joseph Biden, who is the top Democrat on Lugar's committee, pointed out that while overseeing Bolton as secretary of State, Colin Powell saw it necessary to reassure State Department employees who'd been the targets of Bolton's blunt talk.
Senator JOSEPH BIDEN (Democrat, Delaware): And then the number-two man at the State Department, a former military man himself, says, `By the way, Johnny Boy, no more cut'--excuse me, I shouldn't be so flip. `Mr. Bolton, no more. No more speeches by you unless I sign off on them.' Now we're going to take this guy, we're going to send him to the single most important ambassadorial spot in all of America's interest and to make us feel confident, the secretary of State says, `Don't worry. We will control him.' Now come on.
WELNA: Other Democrats on the Foreign Relations panel say they might try to hold up a vote on Bolton's nomination if the Bush administration does not turn over documents they've sought. Connecticut Democrat Christopher Dodd says the chief outstanding request is for 10 intelligence intercepts that Bolton requested in his arms control post at the State Department.
Senator CHRISTOPHER DODD (Democrat, Connecticut): It is very uncommon for a policy-maker to seek raw data. There are 19 Americans' names in those 10 intercepts. We want to know what the names are, and why Mr. Bolton sought the information.
WELNA: But Kansas Republican Pat Roberts, who chairs the Intelligence Committee and has reviewed those intercepts, says Bolton did nothing improper requesting them. But Democrats say unless those documents are provided, it may take longer than this week to get a vote on Bolton's nomination. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.