WASHINGTON – John R. Bolton’s nomination as U.N. ambassador suffered a setback Tuesday when a GOP-controlled Senate committee scrapped plans for a vote in favor of a fresh look at allegations of unbecoming conduct.
The delay throws President Bush’s provocative choice for the U.N. job into limbo. Despite his history of hostility to the United Nations and a reputation for blunt talk and a hard head, Bolton had appeared on his way to confirmation.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee set no new date for a vote, but a delay of at least two weeks seems likely as the committee looks into allegations including those of a Dallas businesswoman who says an irate Bolton chased her through a hotel and threw things at her at a global conference a decade ago.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush stood by Bolton unequivocally.
The decision to postpone a vote closed a rancorous session in which some Democrats questioned Bolton’s veracity and repeatedly appealed for more time to investigate Bolton.
“We’ll all have to trust each other,” said Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., the committee chairman, in sealing the unanimous agreement.
Republicans hold a 10-8 majority on the panel, and Lugar had sounded confident early in the session that he had the votes to prevail. He pushed hard for an immediate vote, over loud objections from Democrats.
“Shocking,” muttered Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., as Lugar tried to hustle the process along.
The tide turned when Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich spoke for the first time. He did not attend Bolton’s two-day confirmation hearing last week but had been presumed to be a supporter.
“I don’t feel comfortable voting today,” Voinovich said.
Bolton may be asked to return for more testimony, and the committee may also now call additional witnesses, Democrats said afterward.