White House hits back over Bolton 'bullying'

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The Independent US

The White House rounded on Congressional Democrats yesterday as it tried to salvage the increasingly threatened nomination of John Bolton to be the US envoy to the United Nations.

The White House rounded on Congressional Democrats yesterday as it tried to salvage the increasingly threatened nomination of John Bolton to be the US envoy to the United Nations.

A day after the Republican-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee was forced to postpone a vote to confirm the tough-talking Mr Bolton to the post, Scott McClellan, President George Bush's spokesman, accused the eight-strong Democratic minority of trumping up "unsubstantiated allegations" against the nominee.

But the problems lie not with the Democrats but with the panel's Republican majority, three of whom voiced doubts as more evidence emerged of Mr Bolton's allegedly bullying behaviour, in his present job as the State Department's official in charge of arms control, and during his earlier career as a private sector lawyer.

On Tuesday, George Voinovich, a moderate Republican on the committee, stunned colleagues by saying he "did not feel comfortable" voting for the nominee. Later another wavering moderate, Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, ominously declared: "The dynamic has changed; a lot of reservations surfaced."

For three weeks the committee has been investigating charges that Mr Bolton, a blunt-spoken conservative who has often talked contemptuously of the UN, bullied subordinates, manipulated intelligence, and even withheld information from the new Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. Theoretically, if Mr Bolton fails to command a majority on the committee, his name could be sent for confirmation to the full Senate, where Republicans have a 55-45 majority. But Democrats warn that then they may stage a filibuster. With at least three moderate senators uneasy about Mr Bolton, Republicans would almost certainly fail to muster the 60 votes needed to confirm nomination.

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