Thursday, May 12, 2005

A (Small) Victory

It's been a very long, very intense day for all of us who've been paying close attention to the John Bolton nomination process, and we've all certainly gotten a look at how the political process really works (as well as an object lesson in confirmation procedure). Here's what happened, and where we go from here.

In what I presume was not a surprise statement (judging from the fact that Chairman Lugar allowed Senator Voinovich to speak directly after his opening statement and some comments from Senator Chafee), Ohio's George Voinovich declared that he was not going to support sending the nomination of John Bolton to the Senate floor with a positive committee recommendation. The speech is available in transcript form here. If I can find a video link I'll post it, but for now, read the statement. It is a most eloquent, masterfully-constructed case against John Bolton's nomination. I've got some of the best lines quoted below, but read the entire speech. It's worth it.

Voinovich's comments were followed by statements from the other members of the Foreign Relations Committee, most of whom repeated the same arguments that have been heard time and time again, both pro- and anti-Bolton. At approximately 3:20 p.m., Chairman Lugar called for a vote on his motion that the nomination be sent to the full Senate "without recommendation." That motion passed on a party line vote of 10-8. This means that the full Senate will be able to take up the nomination for a debate and (probably) eventual vote.

Some opponents of Bolton are disappointed that the nomination passed the committee at all, suggesting that Voinovich somehow "sold out" (see some of the comments over at Daily Kos, Washington Note, and so on). I disagree. This nomination was going to go to the Senate floor somehow [even if it had been bottled up in the committee, there are procedural ways that the Senate leadership could bring Bolton to the floor] , and sending it there with a neutral recommendation from the Foreign Relations Committee is nothing short of a major upset to the Bush Administration. I have not yet been able to discover how many (if any) executive appointments at this level have eventually been confirmed without committee recommendation [if any readers know, please, email me or comment and clue me in], but at any rate, this is an incredible embarrassment to Bush and to John Bolton. There is a real possibility (perhaps under any other administration it would be almost a given) that the nomination could be withdrawn under this circumstance.

Assuming that the nomination is not withdrawn, and Bolton's confirmation does reach the Senate floor for a vote, we now have a very interesting situation. Remember, the Senate is 55-45 in favor of the Republicans (i.e. Dems would need to remain united and attract six Republicans to be able to defeat the nomination). Senator Voinovich said today that he'll oppose Bolton in the floor vote. Senators Chafee and Murkowski didn't clearly state that they will support him. Senator Domenici has in the past been very critical of Bolton. And then there are the other possibilities: Senators DeWine, Snowe, Collins, Specter potentially could oppose Bolton on the floor (I have not seen ironclad statements of endorsement from any of them, if you have, send it along by all means). A defeat in a floor vote is a clear possibility, and that's even without a potential filibuster (which I consider very unlikely to happen). So by no means is confirmation of Bolton a sure thing.

So far, the Bush Administration is "standing by their man," trotting out Scott McClellan this afternoon to say that Bush continues to believe Bolton is "the best man for the job." It is not at all clear how long this level of support at the highest levels will be able to continue. The best advice I could give to the president is this: listen to George Voinovich. John Bolton is not the best candidate for the UN ambassadorship - we can do better.

To those who stand with Senator Voinovich (and myself) in opposing this nomination, do not be disheartened by today's events. It could have been much worse. There is still work to be done, for sure, and a few senators to be persuaded. But we have won a major skirmish in this fight today, and we will not back down as the field of battle shifts to the Senate floor. Moderate and conservative senators know that George Voinovich is a reasonable man, and if they paid any attention to the statement he made today, they know how sincerely and strongly he believed in the words he spoke. He and we have a long road ahead before the final vote on the Bolton confirmation, but let me say this: I'll he happy to have George Voinovich as my travel companion on that road all the way to the end.


At 6:42 PM, Blogger The Cynical Liberal said...

I disagree about this being a victory. Remember, the ideological ground on which people like Chafee approved Bolton's nomination just so it could have an up-or-down vote is a load of Bush-written bullshit... The moderates got handled in this one, and they will likely get handled again in the floor vote.

Sure, we can hold out hope, but lets be honest... If the Bush machine can bully them in committee, what is to stop them from bullying them in a floor vote?

This is a victory in the same way a person murders someone, but feels bad about it.

Sorry if it sounds like I'm being a jackass here. I'm just kinda livid, especially towards Chafee, who as I stated in my bLog, lost my vote next year.

At 6:47 PM, Blogger JBD said...

It's better than nothing. This nomination was going to the floor, recommendation or no recommendation. Better to have it go like this (with a strong statement of opposition from Voinovich and the possibility of winning over other Republicans, than trying to hold things up in committee further and getting run around procedurally or being accused of obstruction. This is the best outcome possible under the circumstances for Bolton opponents.

This was not moderates getting "handled" - this was one very courageous Republican taking a stand. It's fine to be livid, but take what you can get. There was never a chance the nomination was going to die today - but George Voinovich broke its back.

At 6:49 PM, Blogger Heiuan said...

There was a great deal of anger from the republican blogs today directed towards Mr. Voinovich.
Most of them simply couldn't believe that a Republican would vote his own conscience and not the strict party line. Free Republic was fairly vociferous in their calls for getting rid of Mr. Voinovich in the next election. It really got pretty ugly.

I was proud of Mr. Voinovich two weeks ago and I was proud of him today.

And for those few who keep muttering about how he betrayed his party, of the ten senators on the Republican side, at least FOUR of them had major reservations on Bolton's qualifications. That's a lot of senators who deemed this nomination to be troubling.

I agree with Mr. Biden when he said that the Senate is EQUAL to the Presidency. It is the Senate's job to "advise and CONSENT" on nominations; not rubberstamp. We'll see how many Senators on the main floor feel the same.

At 1:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nominee for U.N. Moves to Senate; No Endorsement
The New York Times states that Bolton's nomination to the Senate," only the third time in twenty two years that the committee has sent a nomination to the Senate without a favourable recommendation.",Q2AlmoP)bePPDEmE--_m-_msqmjPd4D4)bmsqlPdDPQ3CC7Dxd

At 8:49 PM, Blogger JBD said...

Excellent sleuthing anon! Heiuan, I was struck by the level of nastiness from the right as well - again, Voinovich hada to be doing something right to have gotten both sides so upset!


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