WASHINGTON – President Bush bypassed balky Senate Democrats on Monday and used his constitutional powers to appoint John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Bush said the diplomatic post is “too important to leave vacant any longer,” a reference to the Senate’s failure to act on Bolton since Bush nominated him nearly five months ago.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and other Democrats had vowed to block Bolton’s confirmation through a filibuster that requires 60 votes to break.
The recess appointment, made while senators are on their August break, means no Senate action is required for Bolton to serve until the current Congress ends in January 2007.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., called it “shameful and irresponsible” that Bush would appoint Bolton even though “Bolton misled Congress by denying he’d been interviewed in the State Department-CIA investigation of faulty prewar intelligence on Iraq.” Bolton has said he did not recall the interview.
Bolton’s nomination had been stalled amid controversies over his harsh critiques of the U.N., his treatment of subordinates who disagreed with him and Democrats’ insistence that the White House release documents about Bolton’s access to intercepted conversations between U.S. and foreign officials.
The State Department’s former top diplomat for arms control once summed up his own hard-edged style this way: “I don’t do carrots.” In remarks Monday, before being sworn in and heading for U.N. headquarters in New York, he said he would try to make the U.N. “a stronger, more effective organization.”
Bush praised Bolton, 56, for his “willingness to confront difficult problems head-on” and blamed “partisan delaying tactics” for the Senate’s failure to confirm him. But GOP Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio argued strongly against him. Voinovich said Monday that he feared Bush’s move would “add to John Bolton’s baggage and his lack of credibility.”
Bush has called Bolton a blunt reformer who’ll shake up a failing institution. “The president did the right thing,” Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee said Monday.
Reid called Bush’s action an abuse of power.