Published November 10, 2006
WASHINGTON – U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton won't get a hearing before the 109th Congress adjourns, effectively killing any chance he would have of being confirmed for his post.
Members of the current Senate are coming together next week in a lame duck session to vote on remaining spending bills left unfinished before the October campaign season, but they are not going to vote on Bolton, staff members for Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist told FOX News on Thursday.
Part of Bolton's inability to get through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is the result of opposition from Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee.
Chafee, who lost his re-election and is considering whether to leave the GOP altogether, said he has not changed his reservations about Bolton nor does he think now is the time for a fight.
"The American people have spoken out against the president's agenda on a number of fronts, and presumably one of those is on foreign policy," Chafee said. "And at this late stage in my term, I'm not going to endorse something the American people have spoke out against."
With control of the Senate next year passing to Democrats, Bolton, whose recess appointment is set to expire before the 110th Congress convenes in January, will not get a hearing then either.
Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., who is likely to head the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next January, also said he sees "no point in considering Mr. Bolton's nomination again."
"Mr. Bolton did not get a vote in the full Senate last year because the administration refused, with no justification, to allow the Senate to review documents highly relevant to his nomination. ... Unless the administration provides the Senate with the documents it is entitled to see, Mr. Bolton should not get a vote."
Bolton was given a recess appointment to be the chief diplomatic negotiator to the international body in August 2005 after Congress refused to confirm him. The position lasts until the new congressional term.
The White House sent Bolton's nomination to the Senate on Thursday morning, and can try to ram through a hearing, but they are only able to do so much given the outcome of the election and the inability to get 60 votes to stop a filibuster if a Bolton consideration were to sent to the Senate.
"We'll find out if we can get him confirmed. We know what the vote tallies are," White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said Thursday morning, calling Bolton "a very accomplished and capable U.N. ambassador."
"We think it's important that he stay there," Snow said of Bolton's place at the U.N.
Opponents have called Bolton too brash. For four months prior to the appointment, Senate Democrats questioned Bolton's temper and treatment of staff aides. They also said they need more documents relating to Bolton's term as undersecretary for arms control and international security.
Republican Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio blasted Bolton's described him as "the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be."
Chafee too cited concerns about Bolton's tie to a government investigation into faulty prewar intelligence on Iraq. In September, Chafee — who was in a tight re-election race — said he would oppose Bolton's nomination until the administration answered questions about its policy in the Middle East, which in effect delayed any vote until after the elections.
But several lawmakers said Bolton served with distinction during the recess appointment period, getting agreement on condemnation of North Korea for test-firing a nuclear weapon and generally winning over many of his colleagues on issues of lesser importance.
In July, Voinovich said that his observations are that "while Bolton is not perfect, he has demonstrated his ability, especially in recent months, to work with others and follow the president's lead by working multilaterally."
Democratic critics have not changed their tunes, however. Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, said in July he regrets that President Bush insists on forwarding Bolton.
"I'm sorry the administration wants to go forward with this. The problems still persist," he said.
If he chooses, President Bush can re-appoint Bolton during the congressional recess, a senior Republican aide who is an expert on parliamentary procedure told FOX News. But the ambassador won't get paid until he is confirmed by the Senate.
Bolton could be named to another U.N. post in order to ensure that he gets a salary, the aide said.
FOX News' Trish Turner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.