UNITED NATIONS – John Bolton said Wednesday he still hopes the Senate will vote this year to confirm him as ambassador to the United Nations, and he predicted he would win despite unwavering opposition from Democrats.
Bolton's nomination has languished in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for more than a year, blocked by Democrats and several Republicans. Sen. Lincoln Chafee, a moderate Republican who lost in the midterm elections Nov. 7 that swept Democrats to power in both houses of Congress, said he remains opposed to Bolton.
President Bush gave Bolton the job temporarily in August 2005, while Congress was in recess. But the appointment expires when Congress adjourns, no later than January. Bush resubmitted Bolton's nomination on Wednesday and White House spokesman Tony Snow said Bush would stand by his choice despite the Democrats who view the U.N. envoy as too combative.
"We've been hoping for about a year and a half to just get a straight up or down vote on the Senate floor," Bolton said on FOX News. "We have a few more weeks left in a lame-duck session, so we're still going to see if that's not possible."
Meanwhile, Bolton said, he was focusing on doing his job at the United Nations, dealing with North Korea, Lebanon, Sudan's conflict-wracked Darfur region, and Iran, where the Security Council is at odds over a resolution imposing sanctions on Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.
"One of the things that would be important is that we not lose continuity, and that's one of the reasons we hope we can get an up or down vote. And if we can, I think I will be confirmed and we won't lose continuity," Bolton said.
With Democrats capturing control of the next Congress, Bolton's chances of winning confirmation appear slim at best.
Chafee's opposition probably would deny Republicans the votes needed to move the nomination from the committee to the full Senate before the new session. Republicans now lack the 60 votes needed to force a vote.
The Senate's top Democrat, Harry Reid, said Sunday that lawmakers have more pressing matters to deal with during the postelection session this week. "I think we should go to things that we can work together on," he said.
Last week the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Joe Biden, said he saw "no point in considering Mr. Bolton's nomination again."
Finding a replacement for Bolton would come at a sensitive time for the Bush administration. It is counting heavily on U.N. diplomacy to help confront North Korea and Iran over their nuclear programs and to end fighting in Darfur.
The 57-year-old arms control expert has a reputation for brilliance, obstinacy and speaking his mind. Democrats say Bush should nominate someone less hard-charging, with greater finesse in handling sensitive diplomatic matters.
On Tuesday, Bolton got a vote of confidence from Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya.
"I enjoy working with him," Wang told reporters who asked about Bolton's performance. "Professionally, he's capable. He's effective, but I don't want to get into the politics of the U.S."