Still battling over Bolton

The standoff continues between Senate Dems and the Bush White House -- and House Republicans angle for another way to cow the U.N.

By Page Rockwell
Published June 10, 2005 5:46PM (EDT)

Wondering what happened to that big-tempered guy with the bushy mustache? Senate Democrats and the Bush administration remain deadlocked this week on John Bolton's U.N. nomination, with Dems saying they'll prevent a final vote on Bolton's confirmation until the White House forks over classified documents related to Bolton's alleged monitoring of other U.S. officials. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said on Wednesday that intelligence czar John Negroponte -- who's apparently acting as go-between in negotiations -- had recently let him know that the administration was "done with" the Democrats' latest compromise overture. "They've said no to everything we've asked for," Dodd said.

But Democrats aren't flinching. "I haven't done a nose count here, but based on the reaction in the room I think there's a strong feeling to continue the position," Dodd said. "This is now beyond Mr. Bolton. It's a question of whether or not the Senate has the right to certain information pertaining to a nominee." And though Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is reportedly shopping for the votes he needs to end the Bolton block, he hasn't been confident enough to call a confirmation vote yet.

But even if Bolton doesn't get the chance to shave the U.N. down to size, House Republicans have come up with another way to rein in the U.N. The House International Relations Committee approved legislation on Wednesday that would withhold U.S. dues to the U.N. until the international body agrees to a bureaucratic overhaul and stringent internal monitoring from an independent oversight body. Since the U.S. is the U.N.'s largest source of funding -- providing 22 percent of its $1.1 billion operating budget, plus a projected $1 billion for peacekeeping in 2006 -- the House proposal is a serious sanction.

Compromise-minded House Democrats, noting that stripping the U.N. of funds could end up saddling the U.S. with even greater global peacekeeping duties, have proposed leaving the U.N. performance review and the option of dues withholding to the discretion of Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice. But the legislation's sponsor, Salon favorite Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Illinois, argues that stopping the U.N.'s allowance is the only effective route to reform: "You can't have reform if you don't withhold dues. You can wish. You can pray. You can do all sorts of things. But if you don't withhold the dues, it's an empty gesture.''

Not surprisingly, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay agrees. In fact, according to the Associated Press, DeLay suggested that Hyde's legislation could give Bolton -- should he squeeze his way through Senate confirmation -- even more power at the U.N.: "DeLay ... said it would be 'incredible' if a 'tough and strong man' like U.N. ambassador-designate John Bolton were to go to the United Nations armed with a mandate to promote the reforms outlined in Hyde's proposal."

Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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