Launching Bolton before the nuclear option

That's what the Bush White House wants to see happen -- but it'll have to do battle with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Published May 19, 2005 4:59PM (EDT)

That's what the Bush White House wants to see happen, according to a report in the The Hill -- but it'll require a battle with Bill Frist. According to the paper, Republican sources in the Senate said White House aides urged Frist this week to have John Bolton's nomination considered before the chamber gets tied up with any protracted battle over the issue of filibustering judicial nominees. But a GOP aide said the majority leader "pushed back within minutes and that was the end. It was immediately rejected."

At this point Frist may be more beholden to his right-wing base in terms of prioritizing Senate business; the current Supreme Court term finishes at the end of June, when it's widely expected that the ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist will announce his retirement. Of course, Frist would be prioritizing the fight for Bush's own judicial nominees -- but apparently the administration is nervous that the longer the wait on Bolton, the more difficult it may become to get its political muscleman the nod for U.N. ambassador. It's an intriguing measure of Bolton's importance to the administration, and the administration's concern over his propects (no doubt a function of Bolton's lengthening rap sheet as a bully and manipulator).

"The feeling is that time is not on our side," said one GOP aide of the nomination.

As The Hill further notes, the fallout from the filibuster battle itself, if it takes precedence, could wipe out Bolton: "Democrats have yet to decide whether they will filibuster Boltons nomination, which the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reported to the floor without a recommendation, the first time since 1993 the committee has done so with a diplomatic nominee. It is likely that Democrats will be more inclined to filibuster Boltons nomination after Republicans trigger the nuclear option, which Democrats predict will lead to a shattering of bipartisan cooperation."

By Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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