Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Return of the Voinovich

After victories for bipartisan centrism on the nuclear option and on stem cells, it is tempting to think that another triumph for moderation might be on the horizon when John Bolton's nomination hits the Senate floor, perhaps as early as sometime this week. Until today, it was difficult to envision a scenario in which Bolton's confirmation would be voted down by the Senate ... and frankly such a scenario is still probably quite unlikely. But a renewed effort from Ohio senator George Voinovich to defeat Bolton may change the dynamic just enough to make things interesting.

In a "Dear Colleague" letter circulated among all 100 senators Tuesday, Voinovich lays out his "deep concerns" with Bolton's nomination, writing "I worry that Mr. Bolton could make it more difficult for us to achieve the important U.N. reforms needed to restore the strength of the institution. I strongly believe that we need to reform the U.N., make it a viable institution for world security, and remove its anti-Israel bias. However, I question John Bolton's ability to get this job done." Voinovich adds "I strongly feel that the importance of this nomination to our foreign policy requires us to set aside our partisan agenda and let our consciences and our shared commitment to our nation's best interests guide us."

Douglas Jehl in the New York Times notes "it is unusual for a Republican to break ranks so publicly with President Bush," noting that Voinovich "was also making telephone calls and meeting with other Republican senators to urge them to oppose Mr. Bolton's nomination, according to two Senate Republican officials."

Jehl and others add that Senator Barbara Boxer on Tuesday lifted her procedural "hold" on the Bolton nomination; Boxer and Senator Biden reportedly have agreed to a vote on Bolton's nomination after forty hours of debate on the Senate floor. The likelihood of a Democratic filibuster against Bolton seems very much diminished at this point, so now the only major questions remaining are, will other Republicans join Voinovich in opposing Bolton on the floor? And how many Democrats will vote to confirm him?

My guess, and this far out it's still very much a guess, is that the answers to those questions are maybe one, if that; and three, possibly four. But there is plenty of time remaining to change minds. Victory could yet be snatched from the jaws of defeat. Let's just hope George Voinovich's powers of persuasion are at their very finest for the next couple of days.


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