WASHINGTON — Sen. Lincoln Chafee has pulled the plug on a push by his fellow Republicans to confirm John Bolton as U.N. ambassador, saying he had more questions that needed to be answered.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was expected to vote along party lines during a committee meeting Thursday to approve Bolton. But the panel postponed the vote after Chafee, R-R.I., expressed doubt.
"Sen. Chafee said he still had questions that were not answered," said the senator's spokesman, Stephen Hourahan.
Chafee was expected to send a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice later in the day outlining his questions about Bolton, Hourahan said.
During the hearing, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, R-Ind., gave no reason for the delay and did not say when the vote would be held. Bolton had been opposed by many Democrats but was expected to be confirmed by the Republican-led panel.
Lugar said he removed the nomination from the agenda of Thursday's committee meeting after conferring with several senators.
Joseph Biden, the top Democrat on the panel, said he did not know what the delayed vote means for Bolton, or whether Democrats would push for a filibuster. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said he plans to recommend his colleagues filibuster the floor vote on Bolton to keep him from being confirmed.
Democrats have questioned Bolton's brusque style and whether he could be an effective bureaucrat who could force reform at the U.N.
Biden did say Democrats would not push for a committee vote any time soon. "I feel zero urgency with Mr. Bolton," said Biden, D-Del.
Timing of hearing
Bolton's approval by the committee would have paved the way for a confirmation vote on the Senate floor, which Republicans have wanted for more than a year. Bush temporarily installed Bolton as U.N. ambassador on Aug. 1 of last year while Congress was in recess, an appointment that will expire in January. The recess appointment, provided for by the Constitution, came after Democrats blocked repeated attempts by GOP leaders to grant Bolton Senate confirmation.
The panel's meeting comes as the United Nations is playing pivotal roles in trying to resolve confrontations with North Korea and Iran over their nuclear programs, and in keeping peace in the Middle East.
Except for Chafee, Republicans on the committee have promised to support Bolton.
Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said Wednesday he had a "direct conversation" with Bolton earlier in the week. When asked whether he thinks Bolton is the right man for the job, Hagel would only say: "I'm going to vote for him."
Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, who last year sided with Democrats in opposing the president's nomination, has said he had been won over by Bolton's hard work in recent months.
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