WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) is keeping open the possibility that President Bush will bypass the Senate to get John R. Bolton (search) installed as U.N. ambassador temporarily if Democrats persist in holding up a confirmation vote.
Rice, on a trip to the Middle East and Europe, commented in a round of television interviews Sunday as Democrats defended their attempt to block a vote on Bolton's nomination. They said the administration's refusal to turn over intelligence information is delaying an up-or-down decision.
Democrats say they want to check a list of 36 U.S. officials against names — initially blacked out — that Bolton requested and received from national security intercepts he reviewed. They rejected a list of seven names offered last week by Sen. Pat Roberts (search), R-Kan., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Rice, in Jerusalem, said Roberts "has already spoken to the issue of the nature of those inquiries."
Asked on "Fox News Sunday" whether Bush would consider a recess appointment of Bolton — a temporary placement that does not require Senate approval — Rice said: "We'll see what happens this week."
The Senate plans to take a July Fourth recess in two weeks. Under the Constitution, a president can make an appointment during a Senate recess without the chamber's approval of the nominee. That appointment lasts only through the next one-year session of Congress — which in this case would mean until January 2007.
It was unclear whether Rice's statement was an indication that the administration would seriously consider a recess appointment for Bolton or whether it was meant to increase leverage for White House bargaining with Senate Democrats.
"What we need to do is we need to get an up-or-down vote on John Bolton," Rice said on ABC's "This Week." "Let's find out whether, in fact, the Senate — in its whole, in its entirety — intends and wants to confirm him. That's all that we're asking."
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., predicted that Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., would fail in an effort late Monday to end the filibuster. He said Democrats are standing for principle by delaying the vote until the administration provides what they seek.
"Once we get it, we can have an up-and-down vote immediately," Biden said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "We're not going to let the administration tell us we're not entitled to exercise our oversight responsibility. If we give up on this, we might as well forget about oversight."
Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., told ABC that a recess appointment would send to the United Nations an ambassador "who lacks the confidence of the United States Senate." That, he said, would "cripple" Bolton as he goes to the world body and damage his standing with the Senate.