The nomination of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was cast in further doubt on this weekend when a fourth Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said more time was needed to review his record.
A spokeswoman for Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said the senator felt the committee “did the right thing delaying the vote on Bolton in light of the recent information presented to the committee.”
Asked if Bolton, an outspoken critic of the United Nations, had Murkowski’s support, spokeswoman Kristin Pugh said, “I can’t speculate on how she would vote.”
She said Murkowski was traveling and could not be reached.
Before the recent allegations that Bolton threatened and bullied subordinates and sought to influence U.S. intelligence assessments improperly, Pugh said Murkowski had met with Bolton and expressed support.
Since then, she said, Murkowski had decided the accusations merited further examination.
Pugh said Murkowski has discussed the nomination with Sen. George Voinovich, the Ohio Republican who stunned lawmakers when he said he was not prepared to support Bolton as Republicans were set to muscle the nomination through the committee on a party-line vote.
Republican Sens. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska also said they wanted more information on the accusations before they made up their minds.
Democrats appeared unified against Bolton, who most called one of the worst possible choices for the diplomatic post.
Committee Republicans and Democrats agreed to a May 12 session for their vote on Bolton.
In the meantime, the committee continued to gather information on whether Bolton tried to bully intelligence analysts into coloring their assessments to fit his views, and whether he showed a pattern of abusive treatment toward subordinates.
In a letter to the Senate panel’s chairman and ranking Democrat, 43 of Bolton’s former colleagues at the American Enterprise Institute denied allegations of the nominee’s abusive behavior.
“Several of us were Mr. Bolton’s subordinates, and the idea that he would seek to punish or settle scores with those who disagreed with him seems particularly preposterous,” they wrote.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who generally assumed a softer diplomatic line than Bolton, discussed the troubled nomination with senators who sought his opinion, Powell’s spokeswoman said.
“General Powell has returned calls from senators who wanted to discuss specific questions that have been raised. He has not reached out to the senators and he considers the discussions private,” said Powell spokeswoman Peggy Cifrino.
The New York Times reported that he expressed reservations about Bolton to Chafee and Hagel.
Another Powell associate made clear there was little love lost between Powell and Bolton, a conservative who has taken a hard line toward nations like Iran and North Korea over suspicions they are seeking nuclear weapons.
“He didn’t like him,” one official said. Bolton served as under secretary of state for arms control and international security during Powell’s four-year term as the top U.S. diplomat.
The White House meanwhile continued to push for Bolton, who President Bush has said is just the man to press for reforms at the United Nations.
Vice President Dick Cheney urged members of the Republican National Lawyers Association to lobby for the nomination.
“I’ve looked at all of the charges that have been made. I don’t think any of them stand up to scrutiny. And if being occasionally tough and aggressive and abrasive were a problem, a lot of members of the United States Senate wouldn’t qualify,” Cheney told the lawyers’ group.
(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Adam Entous)
© Reuters 2005