| John Bolton
Washington, May 13 (Reuters): A Senate committee sent John Bolton’s nomination to be US ambassador to the UN to the full Senate yesterday, but without an endorsement after a key Republican branded President George W. Bush’s choice as unfit for the job.
While the committee action advanced Bolton’s nomination, Republican Senator George Voinovich’s stinging criticisms of Bush’s choice for UN envoy gave Democrats more ammunition to fight his confirmation in the full Senate on the grounds he was a bully who tried to mould US intelligence to fit his views.
Republicans said Bolton’s prospects were good in the Senate, which they control 55-45. But Voinovich’s criticism and the rare lack of a committee endorsement were embarrassments for Bush who has worked aggressively for Bolton, a favourite of conservatives.
The committee voted 10-8, along party lines, to advance the nomination. Democrats argued that the committee should reject Bolton, 56, and force Bush to find a better candidate.
The White House said it was confident the Senate would back Bolton, who Bush has touted as the best choice to push for reforms at the world body. “We respect Senator Voinovich’s decision, but there are many people who agree with the President that John Bolton is the right person at the right time for this important position,” said spokesperson Scott McClellan.
It was unclear when the Senate would take up the nomination. Democrats also said they were considering filibustering it ' which would force Republicans to muster 60 supporting votes ' but most said that was unlikely.
Voinovich, who had not tipped his hand earlier on how he would vote, blasted Bolton as “the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be.”
“The United States can do better than John Bolton,” the Ohio senator said. He said the blunt Bolton could worsen the US’ already poor image around the world.
But Voinovich said, “I am not so arrogant to think that I should impose my judgment and perspective ... on the rest of my colleagues. We owe it to the President to give Mr. Bolton an up or down vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
His stance was key, as a 9-9 committee tie could have blocked the nomination from a full Senate vote. Voinovich later told reporters he thought Bolton’s confirmation was in some doubt. “No one is really excited about him,” he said.
Democrats contend that in his role as top US diplomat for arms control, Bolton has tried to coerce intelligence analysts to conform to his hard-line views, bullied subordinates and had a chilling effect on the intelligence community.
Richard Lugar of Indiana, the committee’s Republican chairman, said no information that should disqualify Bolton for the UN post emerged in a review of stacks of documents and interviews with 31 witnesses in the last three weeks.
But Democrats and Voinovich argued the inquiry produced a compelling case that Bolton was wrong for the job.
“After poring over the hundreds of pages of testimony ... I believe that John Bolton would have been fired if he’d worked for a major corporation,” Voinovich said.