Monday, November 13, 2006

White House intent on Bolton for U.N. envoy

White House intent on Bolton for U.N. envoy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration is intent on overcoming Democratic opposition to U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, the White House said on Sunday, but top Democrats said Congress would not confirm the outspoken envoy.

"I think if (Bolton) actually was able to get a vote in the full Senate, he would succeed ... I'm still hopeful that we can get him through," White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

"He's been a good ambassador. He deserves confirmation, so we are following the rules," Bolten said.

The White House will try to build more bipartisan support for the nominee, Bolten said, instead of trying to sidestep Congress by keeping Bolton at the United Nations in a job that does not require congressional approval.

When originally faced with Democratic opposition, Bush put Bolton in the U.N. job in August 2005 with a temporary recess appointment that did not require congressional approval but expires in January.

Bush, now in an unfriendly political environment after Democrats swept last week's congressional elections, wants to see Bolton formally approved for the U.N. ambassadorship before Democrats take control of Congress in January.

Democrats have blocked confirmation of Bolton, a former undersecretary of state for nonproliferation, since he was first nominated in March 2005, charging he is ill-suited for the diplomatic workings of the United Nations.

"Mr. President, if you really mean it, that you really want to cooperate and have a bipartisan (support) -- play by the rules, Mr. President. ... Send somebody else," Sen. Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat who is expected to head the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, said on "This Week."

Bolton has been a polarizing figure, not just among Democrats. Opposition from Sen. Lincoln Chafee, a Rhode Island Republican who lost his seat in last week's elections, might also hurt Bolton's chance of confirmation.


The nominee "doesn't even have the votes of a Republican-controlled committee. ... He's going to lose," Biden said.

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, who will become the Senate majority leader, also indicated Bolton's chances were not good.

"Even before we took over, the Republicans didn't have enough votes to get the guy out of committee, so I think we should go to things we can work together on," he said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, another senior Democrat, told ABC that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has "not decided that he is the appropriate person for that job."

The White House's Bolten declined to confirm what course the White House would take if Bolton's nomination failed again.

He told CNN's "Late Edition" show that at least one lawmaker, Republican Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, has reconsidered earlier opposition to Bolton. "We hope other members will see that," Bolten said.

White House counselor Dan Bartlett told "Fox News Sunday" that Bolton's record in the United Nations -- especially in building support for resolutions on North Korea and Iran -- had proved naysayers wrong.

"He's done a good job. We believe that both senators from both the Republican Party and Democratic Party ought to give this man the opportunity to continue," Bartlett said.

In blocking Bolton's original nomination, Democrats said he manipulated intelligence to promote hawkish views in his previous arms control job. He also has been criticized for having a go-it-alone attitude toward foreign policy but supporters say he is a strong defender of U.S. interests.