A senior Democratic senator said on Monday John Bolton would be confirmed by the “tiniest” of margins as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, thereby sending a signal to the rest of the world that he lacked strong support at home.
The U.S. Senate this week will again examine Bolton’s nomination, which has twice been delayed by Democrats amid accusations that he has a record of abusive, erratic behavior that should disqualify him for the sensitive diplomatic job.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, of Vermont, like other leading Democrats, predicted the Senate would approve Bolton, a strong critic of the United Nations, this week or next but said no previous American ambassador to the world body was approved by a small margin.
“I don’t think we should send a U.N. ambassador who is confirmed by the tiniest margin,” said Leahy, one of two Congressional delegates to the U.N. General Assembly. “It will send a signal to the rest of the world that he does not have the kind of strong support he needs.”
“I think that it is unfortunate, and I have no doubt that Mr. Bolton is a very intelligent person, but I think we would be better served had he been nominated for a position other than this one,” Leahy told reporters after meeting U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Leahy, a member of the Senate appropriations committee, also said he opposed a proposed bill in Congress that would restrict U.S. funding to the United Nations because it would hinder American efforts to reform the world body.
“I do not have any intention of supporting such a unilateral move,” Leahy said.
The bill, which will be formally introduced on Tuesday, threatens to withhold 50 percent of U.S. dues to the U.N. administrative budget unless specific reforms are carried out. U.S. monies would be withheld from programs Congress considers unnecessary.
“I know there are a lot of members, unfortunately it’s sometimes been both parties, who find it very easy to get applause lines back in their home states or districts by blasting the U.N. or blasting the idea of foreign aid,” Leahy said. He said Americans believed the United States was donating 15 percent of the national income to foreign aid when in reality it was less than 1 percent.
He said ultimately it was not just members of both parties who should speak out on the issue but “it is going to require the president of the United States.”
Leahy said too many legislators saw the United Nations as an “easy place to beat up” but that the United States should not be acting unilaterally “simply because the United Nations happens to be here within the borders of the United States.”
“It is hard to think of a world without the U.N.,” he said.