A recess for Bolton

Bush seems likely to apoint John Bolton to the U.N. without the Senate's help.

Published July 26, 2005 2:25PM (EDT)

Once the Senate adjourns for its monthlong August break on Friday, it will be unable to deliberate on many important national matters. True emergencies -- say, healthcare -- will go unsolved. But there is one emergency that may become so urgent, so pressing, that George W. Bush could argue he has to step in and solve it himself, without the Senate's help. We're referring to the seat for ambassador to the United Nations, which is currently empty. John Bolton, Bush's pick for the job, has so far been blocked by Senate Democrats -- but as soon as the Senate clocks off Friday night, Washington speculation goes, Bush may issue a recess appointment to put Bolton in place.

So far, there's no guarantee that Bush will do this -- but there are clues. Congressional aides tell Reuters to expect the nomination on Friday. When asked about the possibility on Monday, White House press secretary Scott McClellan declined to say what Bush will do. But speaking in general about presidential nominees who've been blocked, he said, "If the Senate fails to act and move forward on those nominees, then sometimes there comes a point where the president has needed to fill that in a timely manner by recessing those nominees." Reuters notes that this differs from McClellan's previous answer, which was that the White House had sought an "up or down" vote on Bolton.

Such a vote now looks to be off the table. Democrats are united and adamantly opposed to Bolton, whose idea of reforming the U.N. involves -- we aren't sure if he means literally or what -- lopping off 10 stories from the organization's headquarters building. Republicans seem to be at best halfhearted about the affair. Even Bill Frist, the Republican leader in the Senate, has gone back and forth over whether he'll push for the Bolton nomination.

Bolton, meanwhile, seems pleased as peaches about the possibility he'll get to the U.N., even if he'll be the first representative to that body who doesn't have the backing of the U.S. Congress. The Washington Post reported a couple of weeks ago that Bolton, a diplomat noted for a particular lack of tact, has already bruised some feelings at the State Department by requesting to double the office space reserved for the U.N. ambassador and his staff. "Two colleagues said Bolton's request was inappropriate because he had not been confirmed," the Post reported -- but perhaps Bush could fix that problem for Bolton as well.

By Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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