Bolton: Maybe not a slam dunk?

With Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee wavering, will Bush's nominee to the U.N. survive the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?

Published April 7, 2005 4:49PM (EDT)

When George W. Bush announced that he was nominating John Bolton to serve as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the reaction from Democrats was about what you'd expect: A guy who has attacked the United Nations as viciously as Bolton has probably isn't the best choice to represent the United States there, but the Republicans' majority in the Senate means that he'll be confirmed anyway.

Not so fast. While the odds are still with Bolton, there's at least some hope that his confirmation will be derailed. Before he can get to the Senate floor -- where confirmation is indeed probably automatic -- Bolton needs a majority vote from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That means that if Democrats unite against Bolton and pick up one Republican on the committee, they can block his nomination. Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee might be that Republican.

While a spokesman for Chafee tells the New York Times that the senator is "inclined" to vote for Bolton's confirmation, he isn't committed to doing so yet. And sources close to Chafee tell UPI that he's "overwhelmingly" opposed to Bolton's confirmation.

Bolton's opponents are working hard to provide Chafee with reasons to cross over party lines. As the Times reports today, Bolton's confirmation hearing will feature a former State Department official who clashed with Bolton in the past over what the official believed was Bolton's intimidation of intelligence officials. The Times says the committee is also working to obtain the testimony of two current intelligence officials about "what the officials have said they believed were Mr. Bolton's efforts to have them replaced for disagreeing with him over the weapons programs of Iraq, Cuba and other countries."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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