US democrats force delay of Bolton final vote
US democrats forced the Senate to put off a final vote Thursday on John R. Bolton's nomination to be U.N. ambassador, the latest setback for the tough-talking nominee President Bush has called strong medicine for corruption and inefficiency at the United Nations.
Democrats contended the White House had stiff-armed the Senate over classified information on Bolton's tenure in his current job as the State Department's arms control chief, and demanded more information before the Senate can give Bolton an up-or-down vote.
The dramatic roll call underscored that, despite the compromise the two parties' centrists forged just days ago in a bitter dispute over judicial nominees, most senators still had a taste for partisan confrontation over a polarizing figure like Bolton.
It also raised questions about Bush's ability to win confirmation of some of his more ideological appointees as he begins his second term in the White House. And it was a setback for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., who was hoping to end nearly three months of delays and investigation and finally deliver Bolton's nomination for the president.
Frist said the Bolton matter soured the air of cooperation.
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said Democrats do not want to postpone an up-or-down vote indefinitely.
"We are willing to vote 10 minutes after we get back in session, if in fact they provide the information," Biden said.
Thursday's vote lasted about 50 minutes ¡ª far longer than the 15 minutes generally allowed for roll calls ¡ª as GOP leaders futilely hunted for enough support to prevail.
In a telephone interview, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the administration was pleased that Republicans would revisit the vote after the recess and criticized Democrats for the newest delay.
"Just 72 hours after all the goodwill and bipartisanship, it is a shame to see the Democratic Senate leadership resort back to such a partisan approach," McClellan said. "This is a nominee that enjoys majority support."
Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana were the only Democrats to vote for going to a final vote on Bolton. Frist was the only Republican to vote against ending the delays, but he only did so because that gave him the procedural right to force the Senate to vote again on the issue.
Sens. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., did not vote.