Saturday, May 14, 2005

Hold Tight 

The Democrats are generally hampered by a lack of tools and a disinclination to use the few they have. One happy exception is Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, who has placed a formal "hold" on the Bolton nomination until the State Dept. agrees to cough up various documents the Democrats have demanded:
At the State Department, spokesman Richard Boucher indicated the Democrats' demands for more Bolton documents would not be met. "We think that we have provided everything that is relevant to this nomination," he said.

President Bush's nomination of Bolton [as Ambassador to the U.N.] was voted out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee 10-8 on Thursday without an endorsement [thank you, Sen. Voinovich -- S.], and Democrats vowed to take their fight to the Senate floor.

Boxer told The Associated Press on Friday she would use procedural delays until Democrats receive the requested information.

"It is not fair to bring this nomination to the floor for debate and a vote until all the information has been delivered," she said.

Boxer said the Democrats want to know if Bolton sought the names of American officials whose communications were intercepted by U.S. intelligence, details on the private business activities of a Bolton assistant, Matthew Friedman; and the circumstances of a tough Bolton speech on Syria.

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., who is leading the drive to scuttle the nomination, is backing Boxer's request for a hold, a legislative device to keep the Republican leadership from beginning debate, spokesman Norm Kurz said.

Asked to assess Bolton's chances of being confirmed, Boxer said, "I think we can definitely beat John Bolton because, I think, the American people are going to weigh in and make their views known."

She said she would lift the hold when the Democrats received the requested information. But, she said, "all options are on the table, including a filibuster."
As Laura Rozen asks: "Since when does the State Department think it has the prerogative to resist Congressional oversight, advice and consent?" Rozen also quotes a letter from a reader who posits an interesting scenario:
Reid and other Democrats have vowed to bring the Senate to a halt for all but urgent national security issues if the Senate GOP exercises the nuclear option on judicial nominations. Urgent issues most assuredly does not include the Bolton confirmation. Chris Nelson and others have argued that Democrats will not filibuster Bolton because they want to save their ammunition for the judges. That assessment was correct so long as the Bolton floor vote took place before Frist exploded the nuclear option.

But, as all accounts indicate and if no compromise emerges, Frist will move for a parliamentary ruling next week. Once that occurs, all hell will break lose and the Senate Democrats will not allow the Bolton nomination to come to a floor vote this year.

In short, because of the likely timing of the nuclear option, I suspect the only way we will see John Bolton in Turtle Bay will be through a recess appointment, an unprecedented step for a Cabinet-level nomination.
UPDATE: Another Bush nominee may find his confirmation in doubt. Lester Crawford, the President's pick to head up the FDA, is under investigation for alleged misconduct:
But beyond that, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., confirmed that he intends to place a hold on Crawford's nomination if it gets out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. His spokesman, John Hart, said Coburn is concerned that the FDA under Crawford's leadership as acting commissioner has not implemented a law requiring new labels for condoms that describe their limitations.

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