Does it seem mind-boggling to anyone else that whereas the “Super 14” were so focused on preserving Senate institutions in the judicial case that they oddly seem to have little respect for that same issue in the Bolton matter?
Dianne Feinstein has actually said that she may support cloture on the Bolton nomination — but vote against him. Ben Nelson has made similar soundings.
But the cloture vote is not about John Bolton; it is about the integrity of the Senate as an institution vs. the Executive Branch of government.
Read the “Dear Colleague” letter below by Senators Dodd and Biden making the case that this battle is now about the failure of the administration to supply information requested by the legislative branch of government.
Dianne Feinstein better figure out what principles she is fighting for. I remember when she was on the floor of the Senate petitioning my then-boss, Jeff Bingaman, to sign on to a charity postage stamp dedicated to breast cancer research. We were a bit worried that such efforts would lead to lots of “fad-funding” of illnesses and produce market failures in the more obscure or less well-visible diseases. I think we signed on anyway — but Feinstein really pushed her colleagues on this important, but nonetheless pet project of hers.
Bolton is far bigger than that — and the issues involved in his nomination and confirmation even greater than Bolton’s appointment to the United Nations. Feinstein and other Dems better get off the notion that this is politics as usual and that America is not paying attention.
We are. This is a consequential vote.
Here is the Dodd/Biden letter which makes the case:
Dear Democratic Colleague:
We write to urge you to oppose cloture on the Bolton nomination tonight. We want to make clear that this is not a filibuster. It is a vote to protect the Senate’s constitutional power to advise and consent to nominations.
For more than a month, we have been requesting two types of information from the Executive Branch. First, materials related to the preparation of congressional testimony on Syria and weapons of mass destruction that Mr. Bolton planned to give in July 2003 and ultimately gave that September. We think this will show Mr. Bolton’s continued effort to exaggerate intelligence information. It may also show that he misled the Foreign Relations Committee when he told us that he was not personally involved in the preparation of the testimony. Second, information related to National Security Agency intercepts and the identity of U.S. persons on those intercepts.
During the past four years, Mr. Bolton requested the identity of U.S. persons on ten occasions. There may be nothing improper in this; or there may be something highly improper. But we won’t know unless we see the very same information shown to Mr. Bolton. So far that has not occurred. The Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence were shown the intercepts, but not the identities of the U.S. persons.
In refusing to provide the information about the Syria testimony, the State Department has asserted that it does not believe that the request is “specifically tied to the issues being deliberated by the Committee.” In other words, the Executive Branch is deciding what it thinks is relevant to the Senate’s review. That’s unacceptable. In the case of the NSA intercepts, no one in the Executive Branch has even tried to explain why the chairman and ranking member of the Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees are not allowed to see information that was made available to Mr. Bolton and even to his staff. That, too, is unacceptable.
The refusal of the Executive Branch to provide information relevant to the nomination is a threat to the Senate’s constitutional power to advise and consent. The only way to protect that power is to continue to demand that the information be provided to the Senate. The only means of forcing the Administration to cooperate is to prevent a final vote on the nomination today. We urge to you vote no on cloture.
Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
Stygius is offering good hourly updates on the speechifying on Bolton while I dig into questions on the endgame.
If Bolton squeaks through — which I plan to fight til the end — then watch for a new “BOLTON WATCH” feature on the TWN website.
— Steve Clemons