The White House signaled on Monday that President Bush may bypass the Senate and appoint John Bolton, his embattled nominee for U.N. ambassador, to the post temporarily as hope faded for a Senate vote on the nomination.
Congressional aides said a recess appointment could be announced as early as Friday night, immediately after the Senate is scheduled to adjourn for the monthlong August break. A recess appointment would allow Bolton to take up the U.N. post but he would serve only until January 2007.
The nomination of the blunt-spoken conservative has been held up by accusations he tried to manipulate intelligence and intimidated intelligence analysts to support his hawkish views in his post as the top U.S. diplomat for arms control.
Some critics have also seized on reports he may have been involved in leaking the identity of a CIA operative, Valerie Plame, but a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Bolton had neither testified nor been asked to do so before the grand jury investigating the leak.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush has used recess appointments in instances where “there are important priorities we’re working to advance and it’s important to have people in certain positions.”
McClellan declined to say whether Bolton would receive a recess appointment.
But when asked in general about possible recess appointments, McClellan said, “If the Senate fails to act and move forward on those nominees, then sometimes there comes a point where the president has needed to fill that in a timely manner by recessing those nominees.”
Asked if his U.N. nominee fit into that category, McClellan said: “There’s nothing that’s changed, in terms of what we said previously on that at this point.”
When asked earlier this month about the prospects of a recess appointment for Bolton, McClellan would only say that the White House was seeking an “up or down vote” in the Senate.
Senate Democratic leaders have removed a possible hurdle by signaling that they would not use a recess appointment of Bolton to hold up Bush’s nomination of John Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“It’s unlikely that one would be used against the other,” said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
There had been questions about whether Bolton would accept a recess appointment, which lawmakers said would send him to the United Nations in a weakened political position.
But Republicans say Bolton has signaled his willingness to accept a recess appointment if another vote by the Senate is unlikely to occur.
McClellan said it was premature to speculate on what “may or may not occur” until the Senate adjourns.
But congressional aides said there were no immediate plans to bring Bolton’s nomination back to the floor of the Senate for another vote. “I don’t see any appetite for that,” one senior Democratic aide said.
In procedural votes in May and June, Democrats denied Republicans the 60 votes needed from the 100-member chamber to bring debate on Bolton to a close and move to a confirmation vote, which would require a simple majority.
A number of Democrats and Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich have urged Bush to give up on Bolton and offer another nominee.
(Additional reporting by Vicki Allen and Paul Eckert)
© Reuters 2005