The top Democrat on the Senate committee considering the nomination of John R. Bolton as United Nations ambassador scolded Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Saturday for ignoring Democratic requests for additional information about the embattled nominee.
In a curt letter to Rice, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., reiterated his requests for State Department documents related to charges that Bolton tried to bend or ignore government intelligence findings that did not suit his hard right ideology.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to vote on Bolton’s nomination on Thursday. Biden repeated a warning to Rice that Democrats could hold up the vote if they are not satisfied they have investigated Bolton fully.
Biden acknowledged that the State Department sent the GOP-led committee a large number of documents last week from Bolton’s four-year tenure as the department’s arms control chief. But the documents answered only requests from the committee’s Republican chairman, and ignored what Democrats wanted to see, Biden wrote.
“In particular, the unfulfilled portions of the request relate to the nominee’s reported efforts, in speeches and testimony, to make statements that went far beyond what the intelligence would support,” Biden wrote.
“What I seek to determine is whether these documents demonstrate a pattern of conduct that calls into question the nominee’s fitness to serve as U.S. Representative to the United Nations,” he said.
A copy of the letter was obtained by The Associated Press.
Biden said that in her public remarks about the Bolton nomination fight last week, Rice implied “that you do not believe you have a duty to respond to requests from the minority.”
Biden also complained about a bureaucratic impasse over Bolton’s acknowledged pursuit of names of U.S. officials whose communications were secretly recorded by the National Security Agency.
The new national intelligence chief, John Negroponte, may allow the spy agency to brief some senators next week on Bolton’s unusual request for names and details of the secret intelligence intercepts, but it is not clear how many senators would receive the information or how detailed it would be.
“I recognize that this information is not under your direct control, but it relates to the consideration of the nomination,” Biden wrote.
State Department spokesman Noel Clay said he could not confirm whether Rice had seen the letter. Rice is traveling in Europe with President Bush. Clay also had no comment on the letter. He referred a reporter to statements from other spokesmen last week that the State Department is cooperating fully with the Senate committee.
Bolton’s nomination is the most contentious of Bush’s second term, and has revealed fissures in Republican support in the Senate. Four of the 10 Republicans on the Senate committee have expressed reservations about Bolton, but none has said they will definitely vote against him. GOP qualms are based on allegations that Bolton abused underlings or ran roughshod over intelligence analysts who disagreed with him.
All eight Democrats on the committee are united against Bolton. One Republican vote against him would deny Bolton the committee’s endorsement, although his nomination could still reach the Senate floor.