Beyond the Committee: What a Battle Over Bolton Might Look Like on the Senate Floor


Arlen Specter (R-PA) gave an indication yesterday of what a battle over John Bolton might look like if Bolton’s nomination did move out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to the Senate Floor.
As reported by Douglas Jehl in the New York Times:

In contrast to optimistic statements from the White House, a top Republican senator said Sunday that John R. Bolton’s prospects of winning Senate confirmation as ambassador to the United Nations were “too close to call.”
The doubts expressed by the Republican, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who spoke on the CNN program “Late Edition,” came as Democratic critics sharpened attacks aimed at portraying Mr. Bolton as someone who sought to politicize intelligence judgments. Four of 10 Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have expressed concern about Mr. Bolton, on a panel where one Republican vote against him could keep the nomination from reaching the Senate floor.

I have joined Bill Kristol in calling on Senator Frist to offer unlimited time for debate on John Bolton if this nomination ever does make it out of Committee, which looks more doubtful by the hour. The combination of behavioral and abuse problems, sabotage of diplomatic efforts, brinksmanship with the entire national security intelligence apparatus, and previous judgment problems when at the National Policy Forum, the Department of Justice, and Covington & Burling provide a vast amount of material for Senators — and the nation as a whole — to review via C-Span.
Bolton’s nomination would be subjected to countless holds, ongoing questions, and requests for more information on allegations that are even today still continuing to emerge.
I am fairly sure that the Democrats would lose Ben Nelson — one Democrat — in the battle against Bolton who seems to have made it clear that he is uninterested in the evidence on Bolton and like Chafee wanted to give a “low-hanging fruit” vote to buy a favor or two from the White House. Nelson’s calculus may change when he is confronted by constituents miffed by his stance — but he’s not one to count on.
But what is interesting is that there are lots of Republicans from Pete Domenici to Chuck Hagel to Arlen Specter who are expressing serious doubts and concerns about Bolton. If this ever did come to a vote in the Senate — the White Housee could actually lose in the Republican-controlled Senate.
As I have written before, a lot hangs on the NSA intercepts. My hunch is that these intercepts will either make it impossible for Bolton to secure a favorable outcome in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — or the intercepts will prove innocuous and give the White House the slimmest opportunity to squeak out a Committee victory.
But there is still a great deal of tumult ahead. It does seem strange that the White House is willing to bleed a little move every day over this. If Cheney-Bolton do win, it will be a victory that harmed the nation.
— Steve Clemons