WASHINGTON – The Ohio (search) senator who surprised fellow Republicans on Tuesday with his sudden concerns about President Bush's nominee for ambassador to the United Nations is known as a maverick.
Sen. George Voinovich (search) was the rare Republican holdout against Bush's 2003 tax cut plan, an administration priority. Despite intense lobbying from the White House, he stood firm. The president had to settle for a smaller tax cut package.
This time, inside the packed Senate Foreign Relations (search) Committee room, Voinovich took another stand against the administration by suggesting the committee delay a vote on Bush's nomination of John Bolton as U.N. ambassador.
"I've heard enough today that I don't feel comfortable about voting for Mr. Bolton," Voinovich told fellow committee members. He previously had said he would vote for Bolton.
After Voinovich's statement, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who also had expressed reservations about Bolton's nomination, also asked for a delay on the vote.
Republicans hold a 10-8 majority on the panel, which was expected to pass Bolton's nomination quickly. Voinovich's change of mind came after Democrats brought up fresh allegations of unbecoming conduct by Bolton toward subordinates.
"I think one's interpersonal skills and their relationship with their fellow man is a very important ingredient in anyone that works for me. I call it the kitchen test. Do we feel comfortable about the kitchen test?" Voinovich said.
The former two-term governor of Ohio and mayor of Cleveland is a soft-spoken, folksy man who's known for making such statements. In his home state, he's earned a reputation for being a tight wad — he buys his clothes on sale and shines his own shoes. In Washington, that fearless independent streak has made the moderate Republican somewhat unpredictable.
"We come down here and we do what our heads and our conscience tells us to do," Voinovich told reporters after the hearing, saying he hadn't reached a decision on Bolton's nomination.
"I've got enough people over there who understand who I am and they may not agree with me, but I think they respect me for doing what I think is right," he said.
Conservatives ran harsh ads criticizing Voinovich for opposing Bush on the tax cut package, but the lawmaker drew widespread support from people in his home state. He was overwhelmingly re-elected to the Senate last year.