Something strange is cooking on the John Bolton nomination. . .
First of all, John Bolton’s nomination was formally sent to the U.S. Senate yesterday, Thursday, between 10:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. when the Senate was called to order for a pro forma session designed just to exhange letters and paperwork between the various branches of government.
In other words, correspondence from the White House to the Senate was received during this time.
Remarkably, House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi was caught off guard by the Bolton nomination. The nomination is a Senate matter — but it is also a political matter — particularly when the theme of the President’s lunch yesterday with Pelosi was “trust-building behavior” and “bipartisanship.”
Nancy Pelosi’s office would not comment on the President’s failure to inform her of the White House’s new moves on the controversial US Ambassador to the United Nations.
However, Pelosi’s office did confirm that (a) the President mentioned nothing about re-starting the Bolton process again and (b) Speaker Pelosi opposes him firmly — arguing that his brand of diplomacy has seriously undermined America’s interests and our ability to achieve our national security and foreign policy objectives in the United Nations.
The President’s office released word of the Bolton nomination at 1:22 p.m. to the public — about 7 minutes after Nancy Pelosi actually left the Oval Office.
I also queried Senator Harry Reid’s office yesterday and asked if the Senator would add “John Bolton’s UN nomination” to the roster of topics he would discuss with the President today. Reid’s office informed me that they too would not comment on the record about this aggressive, provocative move by the White House — but that Senator Reid maintained strong objection to John Bolton’s confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
Now, many have queried on whether there is a chance that Bolton would get through the Senate — despite Senator Lincoln Chafee’s formal declaration of opposition to Bolton.
The answer is NO.
The reason that the Bolton nomination was sent BACK to the Senate yesterday in a formal exchange of letters between the legislative and executive branches is that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee returned the nomination back to the Executive branch when his nomination failed to pass in September.
To keep Bolton’s nomination alive in this Congressional session and potentially considered during next week’s lame duck session, Bolton’s nomination had to be sent back to the Senate.
There are only two ways in which the Bolton nomination can make its way from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to the Senate floor:
1. The nomination can be voted out — and requires 10 votes.
2. The nomination can be “discharged” from the Committee to the Senate floor without bias by the unanimous consent of all members of the U.S. Senate.
Neither of these options will occur. Chafee has closed down option one — and many Senators will shut down option two.
Senior staff at the Department of State have told me that the juice behind Bolton’s nomination is “100% political and 0% from the State Department.”
The question people should ask is not whether this push on Bolton will get him confirmed by the Senate — it is why the White House continues to push this pugnacious Ambassador after the elections that took place and what they think they “gain” from losing this battle in the Senate.
Remember, it is not the Democrats who have sunk Bolton — it has always been Republicans who have provided the tipping point leverage in undermining his confirmation.
The White House can’t blame the Democratic-controlled Senate for failing to get Bolton in place.
It’s time to drop him — and to give up fantasies of appointing Bolton “Deputy Ambassador” in a recess appointment and then made “Acting Ambassador.”
It’s time to consider alternatives who can manage America’s interests well at the United Nations and continue to try to reform that institution and to organize global collective action against international security threats.
Lincoln Chafee should be on that list — he’d make an incredible Ambassador. But I also support outgoing Congressman Jim Leach, who has served for many years on the House International Relations Committee. I also think current Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky would also do a very good job at the UN.
But Bolton? No.
— Steve Clemons