Political Wrap: Bolton Headed to United Nations

President Bush names John Bolton as United Nations ambassador; Congress takes a break, but the president still faces debate over the nomination of John Roberts for the Supreme Court; and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist lends support to stem-cell research.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep

President Bush announced this morning that he will appoint John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations. This appointment comes after the Senate failed to confirm Bolton before it recessed for the summer. The president praised Bolton and blamed partisan differences for the Senate's failure to confirm him.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: This post is too important to leave vacant any longer, especially during a war and a vital debate about UN reform. So today I've used my constitutional authority to appoint John Bolton to serve as America's ambassador to the United Nations.

INSKEEP: He is allowed to use--make a limited appointment, bypassing the Senate. And joining us now to discuss this move is NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts.

Good morning, Cokie.

COKIE ROBERTS reporting:

Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So the president blamed partisan differences. Most of the senators opposed to John Bolton were Democrats, not quite all of them. What does this do to the president's relations with the Senate?

ROBERTS: Well, I think this has been so long coming that everybody is prepared for it and whatever hard feelings there are have already been expressed and moved on, to some degree. This was, as you know, a very, very contentious nomination, and Democrats felt perfectly free to oppose it, along with some Republicans who gave them cover. But I think that the president is--it's interesting. He's showing here, by not pulling the nomination, by not having Bolton withdraw his name, the president's showing that he's not a lame duck, that he's going to do what he intends to do in this second term, and I think the Senate just has to live with it.

INSKEEP: How might this affect the president's other big pending nomination, the one of John Roberts to the Supreme Court?

ROBERTS: Well, I think one thing that you will see is that the place where the Democrats felt that they were on safe ground in opposing this nomination was asking for documents, saying that they wanted to know what the record was. And you've already seen a lot of that with John Roberts. In fact, document after document has been released from the National Archives or the Reagan Library. But the Democrats are asking for more. And I think that that is the one place that you'll see a similarity. But other than that, the Roberts nomination is so much more important, a lifetime Supreme Court nomination, and so many more groups on the outside of Congress are involved, that there won't be very many similarities.

INSKEEP: Let's talk about a couple of other issues. This recess appointment comes after a week in which the president has been able to claim some success.

ROBERTS: And he--again, you know, this was the White House saying, `See, we're not lame ducks here.' The president, with the help of the Republican leaders of Congress, got through the Central American Free Trade Agreement, a big highway bill, a big energy bill, both of which were talking about lots of jobs for people, and is able to claim that the deficit is on a downward trend. All of that was something that the Republican leadership was very eager to be able to claim before going home for August recess so that they can tell the voters that they're bringing them something.

It also, Steve, was a moment of a real resurgence of the leadership of majority leader Tom DeLay in the House of Representatives. He was very much in the forefront for all of that legislation and his ethical problems seem to not be bothering him, at least at the moment.

INSKEEP: However, the president also suffered what can be seen as a setback when the majority leader, Bill Frist, announced that he supports expanded federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

ROBERTS: And that is going to make it tough for the president because the bill is now likely to pass the Senate. It has passed the House. And the president has vowed to veto it. That would be his first veto in all of this time in office and it would be a veto of a bill that the latest poll show the American people approve of stem cell research by 2:1. Tough one for him.

INSKEEP: Thanks very much. That's NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts joining us, as she does, every Monday morning.

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