The Bolton ball moves back to Bush's court

Bill Frist says he won't push for another vote in the Senate. Your move, Mr. President.

By Tim Grieve
Published June 21, 2005 6:37PM (EDT)

President Bush, it's your move.

Democrats told the White House that they wouldn't allow a floor vote on John Bolton's nomination until they got information about whether he had access to "intercepts" of conversations involving certain U.S. officials. The White House refused to provide that information, and the Democrats -- joined by Republican Sen. George Voinovich -- held true to their word and blocked a vote on Bolton's nomination Monday afternoon.

This afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said he's given up. While it's not clear why First called for a vote on a cloture motion that he must have known he'd lose -- the Bolton nomination doesn't offer quite the same martyr possibilities that the "nuclear option" did -- Frist says he won't make the same mistake twice. "Bringing up another votes not going to change anything, Frist said. "At this juncture, we have to go back to the president and see what the decision hes going to make is."

Bush's choices: Nominate someone else, leave the U.N. ambassadorship empty and re-nominate Bolton next year, or send Bolton to the U.N. next month via a recess appointment. Our money is on a recess appointment -- this White House isn't often willing to get less than what it wants -- but even some Republicans are urging caution. Sen. Pat Roberts, a reliable White House ally who has blocked an investigation into whether Bush and other administration officials misused intelligence in selling the Iraq war, told the Washington Post yesterday that installing Bolton through a recess appointment would "weaken not only Mr. Bolton but also the United States" because the world would know that the U.S. ambassador did not have the support of the U.S. Senate.

That's certainly true. The question for Bush: Does he care?

Update: A reader points out that Bush has one other choice: He could simply give the Democrats the information they've requested. Is it our fault -- or just a sign of the usual intransigence of this administration -- that we didn't think to mention that option the first time around?

Tim Grieve

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

MORE FROM Tim Grieve

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

George W. Bush War Room