Doug Jehl captured the rarity of a Senator like Voinovich breaking not only once with his party — but essentially THREE TIMES — given his “Dear Colleagues” letter today on Bolton.
Jehl’s article begins:
The Ohio Republican whose opposition to John R. Bolton as United Nations ambassador nearly stalled his nomination in committee took a new swipe at him today, circulating a letter urging colleagues to vote against Mr. Bolton when his name reaches the Senate floor, possibly this week.
The letter from Senator George R. Voinovich was sent to all senators, but it was aimed particularly at fellow Republicans in a chamber in which the party holds a 55-44 majority (with one independent). At least five Republicans would have to join Mr. Voinovich in opposing Mr. Bolton if the nomination were to be defeated.
In the letter, Mr. Voinovich said that while he had been “hesitant to push my views on my colleagues” during his years in the Senate, he felt “compelled to share my deep concerns” about Mr. Bolton’s nomination.
“In these dangerous times, we cannot afford to put at risk our nation’s ability to successfully wage and win the war on terror with a controversial and ineffective ambassador to the United Nations,” Mr. Voinovich wrote. He urged colleagues to “put aside our partisan agenda and let our consciences and our shared commitment to our nation’s best interests guide us.”
Senator Frist has “hotlined” the Bolton nomination, calling for a vote with 40 hours of debate — 20 hours for each side. This means that a vote is possible this week, or just after the Memorial Day recess.
Senator Boxer has agreed to remove her “hold” on Bolton as Frist can remove the hold with a “motion to proceed” which requires only a simple majority to win.
While the Dems and a couple of Republicans probably have enough votes to sustain a filibuster of Bolton, the fact is that the deal on the judges reached last night has made the caucus less eager to engage in that kind of brinksmanship — though they seem eager to stand relatively united against Bolton.
There are rumors that even Senators Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Mark Pryor and Mary Landrieu are reconsidering their semi-positive leanings on Bolton.
There are fundamental issues unresolved in the Bolton Battle.
First, the administration has defied Congress in failing to provide the controversial and important “unedited” NSA intercepts which Bolton requested during his tenure.
Secondly, there are rumors that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is actually investigating Bolton’s use of this NSA intercept material and attempting to ascertain whether Bolton compromised national security by mishandling and inappropriately using the intelligence information he gathered from these intercepts. It is remarkable that the Senate would consider a vote on any nomination in which there was such a major outstanding concern.
So, the vote grows close. . .perhaps.
— Steve Clemons