WASHINGTON – President Bush is expected to put State Department official John Bolton (search) on the job as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations this week with the help of the U.S. Constitution, which allows the president to fill any vacancies during a congressional recess.
For four months, Democrats have blocked Bolton's nomination by filibustering. They say they need more documents relating to his work at the State Department while he was undersecretary for arms control and international security. The anti-Bolton push ramped up again last week when it was revealed that Bolton answered a question inaccurately on a form submitted to the Senate in March.
Bolton said he had not — at the time of filling out the form — been asked to testify before a grand jury in any government investigations within the past five years. He signed an affidavit saying his answers were all true.
However, lawmakers questioned whether Bolton had not disclosed information about his being questioned regarding the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's (search) identity. They had learned that in 2003 Bolton had spoken with the State Department's inspector general as part of a joint investigation with the CIA into Iraq's attempts to purchase yellow-cake uranium from Niger.
The State Department at first insisted that Bolton answered the question truthfully when checking off "no" to those questions but then on Friday said a corrected version of the questionnaire was sent to Capitol Hill.
"Mr. Bolton certainly wishes he hadn't had to resubmit the form, but he would characterize it as an honest lapse in memory," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday.
In the letter to Bush on Friday, 35 Senate Democrats and one independent accused Bolton of intentionally misleading the Senate, dismissing his claim that it was an innocent mistake as "simply not believable."
Democrats continue to maintain that the nominee is not the man for the job.
"He's damaged goods; this is a person who lacks credibility. This will be the first U.N. ambassador since 1948 we ever sent there under a recess appointment. That's not what you want to send up, a person who doesn't have the confidence of the Congress," Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., told "FOX News Sunday."
Click here to read the senators' letter to Bush. (pdf file)
The letter urged the president not to give Bolton a recess appointment (search), a tool Dodd said was never meant for situations such as this one.
"Remember, this is written in the Constitution to provide during these long periods when Congress was not going to be around at all and you had to put people in place. Now what presidents do — Democrats and Republicans — is wait for a week or two recess to come along and slip someone in. I think it is an abuse of the process, whether Democrats or Republicans use it," Dodd said.
Apparently not persuaded, the president is expected to make the appointment before this Tuesday. The appointment will last until January 2007, when this Congress ends. Republicans say the Democratic filibuster justifies use of a recess appointment.
"I think Mr. Bolton has been treated incredibly unfairly by the process here. And the president would have every right to give him a recess appointment," said Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.
Some lawmakers say they worry that a recess appointment will undermine Bolton's credibility at the United Nations, but others say once on the job, Bolton will prove that he deserves it.
"We've finally got somebody who will go up there and challenge the establishment up there at the U.N., and bring about the kind of reform that is needed," Dodd said.
Senate observers say Bolton's appointment could infuriate Democratic senators, though it's uncertain whether that would undermine another important nomination, that of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts.
"Probably at the end of the day, they're just going to have to be outraged ... and I think it does sort of play into this new strategy they have of accusing Republicans, accusing the White House of overplaying their hand and sort of not playing by the rules," Charlie Hurt, a reporter for The Washington Times, told FOX News.
FOX News' Megyn Kendall contributed to this report.