Monday, June 20, 2005

Bolton vs. the filibuster (the filibuster won)

The Bolton nomination continues to go nowhere, as Democrats stood firm once again on Monday to prevent it from going to the floor for a final vote. The Times reports here:

For the second time in a month, Senate Democrats blocked a vote on Monday evening on the nomination of John R. Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations, raising the possibility that President Bush will circumvent the confirmation process and appoint Mr. Bolton when Congress recesses.

The final tally was 54 to 38, six votes short of the 60 required to break a filibuster, the parliamentary tactic that Democrats have used to forestall a final vote on the confirmation.

The vote, a setback for both President Bush and Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, came after the White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., made a fruitless attempt to negotiate an end to the impasse with one of Mr. Bolton's chief Democratic opponents, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware. With Mr. Biden and other Democrats holding firm in their demand for the White House to release information relating to Mr. Bolton, his future is unclear.

"At this juncture, I think it's a pretty tough climb," said Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, who has tried to broker a deal with Democrats, when asked if he thought Mr. Bolton would eventually be confirmed. He added, "We tried our best and we failed."

The next move, then, is up to the president, who must decide whether to use his constitutional authority to put Mr. Bolton in the ambassador's job when Congress takes a vacation, perhaps as early as the July 4 break...

I'm not getting my hopes up, and I certainly wouldn't put it past Bush to circumvent the Senate with a recess appointment. But at least the Democrats have done everything possible to prevent an atrocious confirmation. The U.S. needs an ambassador to the U.N. who can engage with the international community and present America's interests without alienating those who need to be persuaded that those interests are worth supporting. As I've argued a number of times at The Reaction -- most recently here and here (with links to previous posts) -- Bolton's just not the right man for the job, and the Democrats have every right not to consent.

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