Vicki Allen / Reuters – 2005-06-17 10:05:09
Democrats Cite Downing Street Memo in Bolton Fight
Vicki Allen / Reuters
WASHINGTON (June 16, 2005) — US Senate Democrats rejected a Republican compromise over John Bolton’s nomination as UN ambassador on Thursday and cited a British report backing their view that the Bush administration hyped intelligence on Iraq before the 2003 invasion.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, scheduled a procedural vote on Monday to try to break the deadlock. Democrats said they had enough votes to stall the nomination until the White House turns over information they demanded on Bolton, but Republicans hoped they would be viewed as obstructionists.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid demanded a full accounting of whether Bolton exaggerated assessments of several countries’ weapons programs, a key issue in the long-stalled nomination.
“All over the news the last few days has been concerns about weapons of mass destruction by virtue of the memo that was discovered,” the Nevada Democrat said, referring to the so- called “Downing Street memo.”
The July 2002 memo, prepared for British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said President Bush had already decided to invade Iraq and intelligence was being made to fit that policy.
“Concerns about this administration hyping intelligence and Great Britain hyping intelligence cannot be dismissed lightly,” Reid said, adding that it “is no small matter for us to learn whether Mr. Bolton was a party to other efforts to hype intelligence.”
Bush and his aides, including Bolton, justified the invasion by saying Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were a threat to the United States, but no such weapons have been found.
Bolton met at the Capitol with top Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who told him he “needs to convince Vice President (Dick) Cheney to provide the information” they sought on preparations for testimony Bolton gave Congress on Syria’s weapons and on classified National Security Agency intercepts, according to a statement from Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat.
Bolton, the top US diplomat for arms control and a fierce critic of the United Nations, is a favorite of conservatives and failure to get him confirmed would be a setback for Bush.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said “some of the Democratic leaders who have already voted against John Bolton are not interested in a reasonable compromise. They are simply interested in continuing with stall tactics.”
Republicans would need to pick up two more Democrats in the 100-seat chamber to get the 60 votes required to end debate on Bolton and go to a confirmation vote, if they kept all of the senators they had in a previous vote.
If they can get beyond the procedural hurdle, Republicans, who hold a 55-45 Senate majority, are confident they will have the simple majority needed to confirm Bolton.
Bush could appoint Bolton during Congress’ July 4th holiday recess if the Senate remains deadlocked. That appointment would last through the end of this Senate session in 2006.
But a recess appointment would be viewed as a political retreat. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a key Bolton backer, said he had not heard that suggested by administration officials.
In a bid to get more support, Senate Republicans tried to act as intermediaries to get some of the information on Bolton that Democrats are demanding, but the administration has refused to turn over.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts said on Wednesday he confirmed with US Intelligence Director John Negroponte that key officials known to have had confrontations with Bolton over intelligence assessments were not mentioned in National Security Agency intercepts Bolton had sought.
Roberts, a Kansas Republican, said that should answer Democrats’ questions on whether Bolton sought the intercepts to spy on or punish bureaucratic rivals. Critics have accused Bolton of bullying subordinates.
But Democrats said they still did not have internal e-mails and memos leading up to testimony Bolton gave on Syria’s weapons, and the information on the intercepts was inadequate.
ACTION ALERT: Speak Out on John Bolton
The People’s Email Network ON MESSAGE
It is looking more and more like the Bolton nomination is about to collapse, but not only must we sustain the filibuster, we must do it for the RIGHT reason and that reason is the PRINCIPLE that Bolton is totally unacceptable with or without any additional documents.
The other side will try to claim a message spin victory by hanging their latest foul slur “obstructionist” on us. That is why we must encourage all our senators to make strong statements on the MERITS. What we are doing is demanding something positive, that the president tender a better nominee for this critical post of U.N. Ambassador.
And if the other side will not take responsibility, and lacks the backbone or integrity to make that demand,THEN WE WILL! And we do it proudly, firmly and without any apologies and that is what our senators must say on the floor.
The message to the American people isn’t that we have been as appeasing as possible. The message must be that the other side has been absolutely and totally NOT cooperative. The message must be that our side is here to fight for what we believe in and never, ever compromise on principle. And the principle here is that Bolton was, is and will always be wrong and must be ultimately rejected for that reason ALONE.
Take action NOW on this and post and forward this message everywhere you can to everyone you know. Or if you want to get no more just email back to firstname.lastname@example.org
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