Frustrated Senate Republicans hoping to turn up pressure on Democrats said Tuesday they would try again this week or next to vote to break the deadlock over John Bolton’s bid to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Democrats said they still had the votes to delay Bolton’s nomination, which has snagged on accusations he tried to misuse U.S. intelligence and bully analysts and other officials who did not agree with his hard-line views.
Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist said he would hold another procedural vote even though he may not have enough senators to move the nomination to final passage, if only to demonstrate that Democrats are “unreasonably and irresponsibly filibustering this nominee.”
Late last month Democrats delayed the nomination in such a procedural vote, demanding the Bush administration turn over more information on Bolton’s use of intelligence material in his post as top U.S. diplomat for arms control.
Frist, a Tennessee Republican, said he hoped negotiations would continue between Senate Democrats and the White House on the additional information that could break the impasse and avoid the procedural vote.
But, he said, “goal posts are shifting again and again and again” on requests by Democrats, and said the White House already has provided all the necessary material.
Democrats said the White House had refused all of their requests even as they sought compromise.
After a caucus meeting, Democrats said they still had support to block Bolton’s confirmation. They said the issue was more about the Senate’s right to information than Bolton.
“As long as Bolton is before the Senate, and as long as the White House is not allowing the information to come forward, there’s going to be no change in the vote,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat.
Fifty-eight senators back moving the nomination to a final vote, two short of the 60 needed to end the deadlock. Republicans are seeking support from two more Democrats.
But they might lose a Democrat who had sided with them on ending the debate. Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas said if the White House continued to rebuff requests from Democrats that he said were reasonable, “then I want to reserve the right to change my vote.”
If they can get past the procedural hurdle, Republicans, who hold a 55-45 Senate majority, are confident they will have the simple majority needed to confirm Bolton.
They accuse Democrats of using the nomination as a political weapon against President Bush, who has lobbied aggressively for Bolton and maintains he is the right choice to press for needed U.N. reforms.
Democrats want the administration to turn over e-mails and other internal communications leading up to testimony Bolton gave Congress on Syria’s weapons. They also want some access to classified National Security Agency intercepts sought by Bolton that contain the names of Americans.
Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee Democrat, said senators were entitled to see material seen by Bolton and his staff. He said Democrats “have moved the goal posts closer” to try to get an agreement with the administration.
“Clearly there is something in those documents which is so damaging to Bolton they don’t want to release it,” said Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate Democrat whip.
The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts of Kansas, rejected the latest request on the NSA intercepts, which Democrats said could shed light on whether Bolton sought names of Americans on the intercepts to spy on or punish his bureaucratic rivals.
Roberts in a letter said Democrats had expanded their request in what “appears to be an effort to preserve the issue, not to resolve it.” He said he could not recommend that the administration accommodate them.