WASHINGTON – A Senate committee postponed until next week its hearing on John R. Bolton's (search) nomination as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (search), with a spokesman saying several members would be attending Pope John Paul II's (search) funeral.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing had been planned for Thursday. Bolton faces stiff opposition for stands he has taken as undersecretary of state for arms control.
The postponement -- probably until Monday -- comes amid increased focus on the pivotal vote that will be cast by Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I. Chafee is a moderate who has said he likely would support the nomination, but he has given Bolton only a lukewarm endorsement.
"The senator has not made up his mind. He's waiting to hear on the record what is said and then he'll decide. But we're inclined to support the nomination. That's where we are," Stephen Hourahan, a Chafee spokesman, said Wednesday.
So far, Hourahan said, there's been nothing in Bolton's background that has surfaced that would prompt Chafee to vote against Bolton.
Republicans control the Foreign Relations panel by 10-8. Bills and nominations generally need a majority vote for a committee to send the item to the full Senate.
Committee spokesman Andy Fisher said the postponment involved an agreement with Democrats that action on Bolton by the committee would be completed next week.
Fisher said at least three committee Democrats, Joseph Biden of Delaware, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut were attending he funeral. Republican Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida also is going.
Hourahan said Chafee's office has heard from hundreds of constitutents -- mainly through e-mails and faxes -- about Bolton's nomination.
"Most of the people we have heard from in Rhode Island have been opposed," he said. But Hourahan said a TV ad running in the state by opponents of Bolton have directed residents of Rhode Island to contact their senator to oppose, and "there's an active push by real lobbying organizations in our state to oppose the nomination."