Senate postpones Bolton confirmation vote

At the urging of Democrats, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has put off a vote until September on whether to keep John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, committee aides said on Monday.

Democrats want to use that time to press the White House for documents they had sought last year during the dispute over Bolton’s nomination to be U.N. envoy. They contend he bullied intelligence analysts to conform to his hawkish views in his last job as top U.S. arms control negotiator.

Republicans, citing the need for a strong hand at the United Nations during the Middle East crisis, had pushed for quick confirmation.

Bolton, a favorite of conservatives and a harsh U.N. critic, has served in the post for a year after President George W. Bush bypassed the Senate and appointed him during a congressional recess.

The appointment expires in January, and the White House wants him confirmed by the Senate to keep him for the rest of Bush’s term, which ends in January 2009.

Bush could reappoint him, but Bolton could not receive a salary and he would be viewed as being in a weakened position.

A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said Democrats will decide after the committee vote on whether to work again to block Bolton’s confirmation, as they did successfully last year.

Sen. Charles Schumer on Sunday said he doubts Democrats this time would be able to muster the 41 votes in the 100-member Senate needed to block the nomination.

The New York Democrat also said he was reviewing his own position, after voting last year to block him, because Bolton has been a "staunch and very good defender of Israel" at the United Nations.

"I think that if you count the votes, a filibuster is unlikely, but a lot of Democrats are deciding," Schumer said on CNN’s Late Edition.

Bolton was getting help from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful lobbying organization that has publicly praised him as a "strong advocate for the U.S. on issues that matter to the pro-Israel community."