Senate leaders talk about luncheon with US President Bush at White House
Larry Downing  /  Reuters
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist gestures while discussing John Bolton's nomination as the UN ambassador with reporters after lunch with President Bush at the White House on Tuesday. 
By Chief foreign affairs correspondent
NBC News
updated 6/21/2005 4:24:46 PM ET 2005-06-21T20:24:46

WASHINGTON — President Bush continues to stand by his embattled nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, telling Senate Republicans at a luncheon at the White House on Tuesday that he intends to push for Senate confirmation of John Bolton, despite two setbacks at the hands of Democratic critics.

Bush’s statements came shortly after Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said that he had exhausted all efforts to win a vote on Bolton. NBC News Andrea Mitchell discusses the back and forth and what’s next regarding the troubled nomination.

What is the situation with the Bolton nomination at the moment?
As of this morning, Senator Frist announced that he was not going to schedule another vote on John Bolton. He said that there was no way to proceed with another cloture vote because they were in fact losing support, rather than gaining support.

But, then Frist went to the White House, saw the president and came out, apparently with a renewed determination to press ahead with this nomination. Although it is unclear what their options would be.

Speaking to reporters in the White House driveway after having lunch with President Bush and other GOP lawmakers, Frist said, “The president made it very clear he expects an up or down vote and in talking directly to leadership, and to our entire caucus, I hope we can deliver that up or down vote.”

Describing his talk with Bush, Frist told reporters, "The decision in talking to the president is that he strongly supports John Bolton, as we know, and he asked that we to continue to work. And we'll continue to work."

"It's not dead," he said. "It is going to require some continued talking and discussion."

How exactly Frist will accomplish that goal remains to be seen.

The State Department said today that it still believes that he needs to be confirmed. There was no hint of caving in or withdrawing the nomination. What is difficult to determine right now is how much of that is a negotiating stance and how much of that is reality.

If President Bush were to do a recess appointment of Bolton, how would it affect his status as the U.S. envoy to the United Nations?
Well, if President Bush were to do a recess appointment, it would somewhat undermine his effectiveness at the United Nations, although that has already been some undermined by the controversy over his nomination and the way these folks have shown strong opposition to him. 

It would certainly limit the time because he would only remain in office for the duration of this congressional session. A recess appointment by definition is during a recess of this current Congress. So, by definition, his term would expire when this Congress goes out of business,  after the election of 2006.

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Would it also be seen as a failure for Bush if he had to resort to a recess appointment?
Absolutely, yes, it would. It would also be a way of circumventing the will of Congress. So, it would certainly underscore the lack of cooperation between the two branches of government right now.

Is there still a chance that Bolton would withdraw his own name?
There is always a chance that under fire, if someone realizes that they are not going to get confirmed, that they withdraw their name either to get the president off the hook or to get themselves off the hook.

The Democrats have been insisting that the administration release more records on Bolton’s use of classified information when he was the State Department’s top arms control official. If those documents were released, is there any chance that they might be willing to compromise?  
Yes, if they did get those intercepts that they’ve been seeking, and they are not going to back down on that point, there could be a compromise. That would of course clear the way. 

Is there any further recourse for Bolton himself at this point? Is there anything else he can do to move himself forward?
Not without providing the intercepts that the Democrats have asked for.

There is always an artful way, and diplomats know that. They can always come up with some sort of assurances and sit down and work something out. But, so far, they have not been able to.

Andrea Mitchell is NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent.


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