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Bolton Nomination to U.N. Post Sent to Full Senate

12 May 2005

Senate committee makes no recommendation

By Rebecca Ford Mitchell
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- In a straight party-line vote May 12, the Senate Foreign Relations committee voted 10-8 to send John Bolton’s nomination as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to the full Senate for a vote but without a recommendation.

Committee hearings on presidential nominations usually result in a favorable recommendation or a rejection of the nominee, but, in this case, Senator George Voinovich, an Ohio Republican, broke ranks with his party, saying that although he believed Bolton to be “a decent man,” he did not believe the nominee was the best choice to be “the face of the United States to the world community in the United Nations.” 

He then requested a motion of “nomination without recommendation” so that he could join with other Republicans on the committee to bring the nomination to the entire Senate for consideration. Senator Richard Lugar, chairman of the committee, agreed to do so to avoid a 9-9 tie, which would have defeated a motion for a favorable recommendation.

Voinovich indicated he would urge the full Senate to defeat the nomination.  “It is my concern,” he said, “that the confirmation of John Bolton would send a contradictory and negative message to the world community about U.S. 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.”

Bolton has the strong support of President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has called him “eminently qualified.”  The nominee has held several high posts within a variety of government departments, most recently as under secretary of state for arms control and international security, and has been confirmed by the Senate on four previous occasions.

During these confirmation hearings, however, witnesses came forward with complaints about Bolton’s brusque behavior toward subordinates and attempts to intimidate analysts who did not agree with his own assessment of intelligence reports.  These allegations and Bolton’s own critical statements of the United Nations allowed Democrats to delay a vote that had been scheduled in April to allow for further investigation.

During today’s debate, the Republicans presented a point-by-point rebuttal of the charges, maintaining that none of them disqualified Bolton for the U.N. job. They stated their belief that his attitude toward acknowledged problems at the world body would lead to effective reform.  They also cited Bolton’s many successes in international work, including getting more than 60 nations to express support for the Proliferation Security Initiative, which is intended to prevent illicit trafficking of weapons of mass destruction, and helping in the effort that saw Libya give up its nuclear weapons program.

Democrats, while agreeing that U.N. reforms are important, said questions about Bolton’s behavior and judgment meant he would not have the credibility needed to bring about reforms nor to make the case on U.S. concerns to the Security Council.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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