More Bolton news: Profiles in Courage, or rather the lack thereof. (updated since this morning, see bottom.)
Senator Lincoln Chaffee, Republican of Rhode Island, today says that he will vote in favor of the nomination of John R. Bolton to be the new ambassador to the United Nations. As both the most moderate and independent of Republican Senators on the SFRC, he was long considered the most likely member of the committee to vote against Bolton's nomination.
"I won't deny a lot of information certainly brings great pause, but I fight the administration on so many issues; this is one of those that I've been with them on-- to appoint their team," Chaffee said, in making his decision.
Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska was considered the second most likely to vote against Bolton, but he has indicated in recent days that he too would vote for Bolton.
It now appears all but certain that Bolton's nomination will be voted favorably out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he will be confirmed by the Senate.
The only Republican who has not yet to say how he would vote is Senator George Voinovich, of Ohio. In recent days, it has been this Senator whom the White House was the most worried. One reason was that his decision to postpone the original vote on Bolton's nomination on April 19 so that the SFRC could gather more information was done without his informing the White House ahead of time, at a time that they believed they already had his support.
Of all the Senators considering voting against Bolton, Voinovich, however, would have the most to lose. Chaffee is a Republican from the bluest of states, Rhode Island, and in many ways a vote against Bolton would have assisted in his re-election bid by making him more attractive to Democrats and Independent voters. Hagel is so popular and wins by such lopsided margins in his native state of Nebraska that he had less to lose politically by an anti-Bolton vote than virtually any other Republican Senator. (The last time Hagel ran for re-election, in 20002, he received 83% of the vote. That was the largest margin of victory ever by a Nebraska Senator.)
Now with Chaffee and Hagel both apparently going to vote for Bolton, it would obviously be that much more difficult for Voinovich to be the sole Republican to vote against the nomination. A vote against Bolton by either Chaffee or Hagel, or both of them, would have provided Voinovich the opportunity to make a decision more free of politics.
Update, May 11, 5: 16 P.M.: Told that White House spokesman Scott McClellan had said the Bush administration was "in close contact with members" of the SFRC, and as a result had concluded "that John Bolton will be voted out of committee and that he will be confirmed on the floor of the Senate," Senator Voinovich has made it known that he has become more than a tad bit testy that his vote was being taken for granted.
He told home state reporters this afternoon: "I don't know how anybody knows what's going on in this guy's head." Voinovich appeared to point in the direction of his own head as he made the comments. But it was not entirely clear if he was referring to himself or McClellan.
In private discussions with other Senators, Voinovich has complained about what he has considered to be heavy handed lobbying by supporters of Bolton and President Bush. Whether that, combined with the voluminous evidence assembled against Bolton, would lead him to not only break with his own party, but also with all of his fellow Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and vote against Bolton's nomination, remains to be seen. It is unlikely he would do so, no matter how irritated he has become, and how incriminating he believes the evidence against Bolton has become.
But the Senator was clearly showing signs today that he has felt besieged by the White House. And those in the White House who are already declaring victory may very well be doing so prematurely.
In the meantime, Democrats hold out hope, however slim, that Voinovich is the Republican Senator who just might vote against Bolton. Norm Kurz, a spokesman for Senator Joe Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told journalist extraordinaire Laura Rosen: "Voinovich is the guy who might just has his conscience pricked again. I wouldn't bet on it happening, but I wouldn't say the game is over."
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