Congress Set for More Debate on Bolton

Members of Congress return from a holiday break ready to resume a battle over U.N. ambassador nominee John Bolton, and to render a final decision on three of President Bush's judicial nominees.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Unfinished business awaits lawmakers returning to Washington, DC, this week, at the close of the Memorial Day break. John Bolton, President Bush's judicial nominations and stem cell research legislation are just some of the issues that are undecided at this time. NPR's Washington editor Ron Elving joins us.

Ron, thanks for being with us.

RON ELVING reporting:

Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: And remind us where Congress left the nomination of John Bolton to be ambassador of the United Nations. Just before the recess, there was a de facto filibuster going on among the Democrats. That likely to resume?

ELVING: The Republicans will try again to cut off that filibuster by invoking cloture. They were three votes shy, just before they went home. Negotiations are under way with all the Democrats, but certainly trying to find three of them to come over to the other side. It does not appear necessarily that that will be the case. The Democrats themselves are going to have a strategy session Tuesday afternoon to decide whether or not to continue their filibustering tactics.

SIMON: At issue are documents that the Democrats say they want and the administration says, `We're not gonna give them to you.'

ELVING: Strictly speaking, the Democrats are not filibustering Mr. Bolton's nomination at this time. They are filibustering in pursuit of those documents. And these are State Department documents that the Democrats allege would show manipulation of information by Mr. Bolton. I do not think that these documents, in and of themselves, would change very many minds on the Republican side. But the Democrats know that this White House is adamantly opposed to sharing documents in general, and that it is possible that they can create an impasse here with the White House simply by forcing the White House to choose between an up-or-down vote on Bolton and having its way with respect to keeping these documents under cover.

SIMON: Just before the break, Priscilla Owen was confirmed to the 5th District Court of Appeals because of this compromise that senators came up with on judicial nominees to head off filibusters. Any other nominees expected to be confirmed, or voted down for that matter, in the coming days?

ELVING: This coming week, two more judgeships at the appellate court level should come before the Senate. That's Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor. Both of them have been covered by the agreement that the senators made to let three of these controversial nominees have up-or-down votes in the Senate, so just like Priscilla Owen, they will be voted on on the floor by the full Senate and be confirmed.

SIMON: Now President Bush has said that he would veto legislation that would expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The House has already passed such a bill. It's now being sent to the Senate. There are a number of prominent Republicans who are in favor of expanding federal research for embryonic stem cell research. Are there enough votes in the Senate to override a presidential veto?

ELVING: Well, there are certainly enough votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. There are probably more than 60 votes in the Senate, but whether we could get all the way to 67 votes in the Senate is probably a closer call. This much we know: There will not be two-thirds vote in the House to override the president's veto, so if he does choose to veto this, as he has said he would, then it would appear that his veto would be sustained, at least in the House.

SIMON: OK. NPR's Washington editor Ron Elving, thanks very much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: And it's 18 minutes past the hour.

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