Chafee Supports Bolton…Reluctantly

One of the moderate Republicans who has been wavering on the nomination of John R. Bolton to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Tuesday he will reluctantly support the embattled nominee.

Rhode Island Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee’s decision gives momentum to Bolton ahead of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote Thursday. Chafee said he decided to support Bolton because he is President Bush’s choice.

“I won’t deny a lot of the information certainly brings great pause, but I fight the administration on so many issues; this is one of those that I’ve been with them on _ to appoint their team,” Chafee said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Weeks of inquiry into Bolton’s conduct in office also left three other GOP members of the committee leaning toward supporting Bolton or at least unwilling to write him off.

On Tuesday, the first workday for the Senate after a weeklong break, other Republicans predicted unified GOP support for Bolton when the committee votes.

“I think our team will be together,” Sen. George Allen, R-Va., said Tuesday.

A 10-8 party-line vote on the GOP-led panel would send Bolton’s nomination to the full Senate and probable confirmation.

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said he is reserving judgment on Bolton for now. His misgivings forced a three-week delay in Bolton’s confirmation vote originally slated for last month.

“I’m doing the best I can to get the best information I possibly can so I can make a good decision,” Voinovich said.

He acknowledged he has been subjected to an intense Bush administration lobbying campaign but would give no details.

“If I should decide that I’m not going to go forward and support him I don’t consider that bucking the party,” Voinovich said.

Republican colleague Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said she remains inclined to vote for Bolton but wants to hear from him directly before Thursday’s vote. Bolton has held more than 20 private meetings with senators since his nomination was announced in March.

“I have more than adequate information but I do want to sit down with Mr. Bolton again,” she said.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., has said he has yet to learn anything about Bolton that would keep him from supporting the nominee but plans to make his decision at Thursday’s committee meeting. His spokesman, Mike Buttry, said Tuesday that those plans have not changed.

Skirmishes continued Tuesday over whether the State Department and the secret National Security Agency had provided enough information to senators. Democrats said they do not plan to try to delay the vote.

“I’ve been disappointed by it,” Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., said of the fruits of several requests by Democrats for documents and other information related to Bolton’s current job as the State Department’s arms control chief.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to complain that the department is dragging its feet.

“Perhaps there is incriminating information about Mr. Bolton in these documents. Perhaps there is not. But the refusal to provide these documents has the appearance of stonewalling members of the committee in an effort to prevent it from fulfilling its constitutional responsibility,” Boxer wrote.

Committee Democrats oppose Bolton on various grounds, including that he has allegedly mistreated colleagues and underlings and may have tried to bend government intelligence to suit ideological ends.

Democrats also sought information about whether Bolton tried to snoop on other government officials. The nation’s No. 2 intelligence official, Deputy National Intelligence Director Gen. Michael Hayden, briefed leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday about Bolton’s pursuit of names or other details about U.S. officials whose communications were intercepted by the NSA.

Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. _ chairman and ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee _ refused to make any comment after the approximately two-hour session. They would not say whether they will share details of the briefing with Senate colleagues.

Sen. Joe Biden, the Foreign Relations Committee’s senior Democrat, sought unsuccessfully to be included in the Hayden briefing, much of which dealt with classified information.

“You have to know what to ask. They don’t know the details of the case,” Biden said Tuesday.


Associated Press writer Lolita Baldor contributed to this report.

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