Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Time for recess?
With Mr. Moustache foiled again in the Senate, the White House is under increasing pressure to pull the recess appointment card. The pressure is coming, of course, from the activists on the ground and the blogosphere, and also from the Senate itself, where it seemed early Tuesday that Dr. Video, Bill Frist, wasn't willing to subject himself (or his amateur vote counter Mitch McConnell) to another cloture humiliation, and announced there would be no more Bolton ballots. I last checked that headline on WaPo about 20 minutes ago, but of course, now it has been reversed. Frist, after "meeting with the White House," says he'll give voting another try. (Gotta get me a pair of those Dick Cheney brass knuckles!) WaPo now has this posted to the homepage from the AP wire:

WASHINGTON -- Reversing field after a meeting with President Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said he will continue pushing for a floor vote on John R. Bolton for U.N. ambassador. Frist switched his position after initially saying Tuesday that negotiations with Democrats to get a vote on Bolton had been exhausted.

Talking to reporters in the White House driveway after he joined other GOP lawmakers for a luncheon with Bush, Frist said: "The president made it very clear that he expects an up or down vote."

Just about two hours hour earlier, Frist said he wouldn't schedule another vote on Bolton's nomination and said that Bush must decide the next move. Frist, R-Tenn., had said there was nothing further he could do to break a Democratic stalemate with the Bush White House over Bolton, an outspoken conservative who, opponents argue, would undermine U.S. interests at the world body. But he changed his tune after talking to Bush.

Frist's abrupt public turnabout underscored the political pressures that the long-running battle over Bolton have heaped upon himself and Bush.

Six months into his final term in office, Bush is struggling to avoid the perception of a weakened lame duck at a time when his proposal for revamping Social Security has made little progress and some lawmakers are calling for troop withdrawals from Iraq. Frist has lost control of the Republican-run Senate in recent weeks in fights over Bush's judicial appointments and earlier attempts to confirm Bolton.

Describing his talk with Bush, Frist said: "The decision in talking to the president is that he strongly supports John Bolton, as we know, and he asked that we to continue to work. And we'll continue to work."

"It's not dead," he said. "It is going to require some continued talking and discussion."

Frist, however, also said that some Democrats, led by Sens. Christopher Dodd and Joseph Biden, had "locked down."

Is it just me, or is Bush worried that sending Mr. Moustache to Turtle Bay without a Senate vote will make him -- Bush -- look like a weakling?

Speaking of Dodd and Biden and lockdowns...

I try to avoid quoting the Leaking Prince of Darkness, Bob Novak, because I have no respect for him, but in his column yesterday, the Capitol Gang member accused Sen. Chris Dodd of orchestrating a "charade" of purportedly phony defense of Senate prerogatives vis-a-vis the president.

Novak starts by proving that he dutifully watches C-SPAN

Dodd's unreported speech to an empty Senate before it adjourned for another long weekend was classic senatorial misdirection. He held out the prospect of ending the filibuster against Bolton and quickly confirming him, if only more information were given Democratic senators. Yet, in the same speech, he reiterated his unequivocal opposition to the conservative Bolton, not discussing competence or ideology but personality.

All this is a charade. Opposition to Bolton has become a party matter, where his possible Democratic supporters have been brought to heel. The cloture vote to end the filibuster scheduled for 6 p.m. today is unlikely to collect the necessary 60 votes. That effectively would end the confirmation struggle. President Bush then would face the dilemma of either sending Bolton to the United Nations on a recess appointment that will be reviled by Democrats as extra-constitutional, or accepting defeat. This outcome hardly seemed possible two months ago when Dodd, long seeking improved relations with Fidel Castro's Cuban dictatorship, renewed an old complaint about Bolton's disclosure as undersecretary of state of Castro's bioweapons development. Sen. Joseph Biden, ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee who seldom shuns a confirmation fight, eagerly joined Dodd.

Leaving aside that any Democrat who called a Bolton recess appointment "extra-Constitutional" could not ever have read the Constitution -- something Novak should know -- and the empty point that a down vote on cloture would effectively end the Bolton nomination (it clearly hasn't,)Novak appears to find the "real" cause of the Dodd-Biden roadblocks on Bolton to be their opposition to his opposition to Fidel Castro. Right. And so the assertion that the Senate, as a co-equal branch of government, has a right to demand, and to have the White House turn over, any documents it deems important to its role in advising and consenting to presidential nominations, is basically a false front, right Bob?

Seeking a way to justify preconceived opposition, Dodd and Biden seized on the executive branch's refusal to give the Senate what it wanted. The issue, so obscure it is difficult for the non-senatorial mind to grasp, goes to Bolton having requested intelligence intercepts. Dodd demands the names of U.S. officials listed there whom Bolton might have intimidated.
But if that is true, how can this be true?

This baffling process becomes intelligible only in terms that Dodd and Biden want to hold together the Democrats on grounds of senatorial prerogative in demanding information.
It's either one or the other. Either Dodd and Biden are fighting for the principle of separation (and equality) of powers within the branches of government, or they're faking. Novak appears undecided.

I, for one, believe they're not faking at all. But if Bolton ultimately is put through on recess, following another failed cloture vote, perhaps, Slate's Fred Kaplan is dead-on in surveying the consequences, based on the damage already done to Bolton by the confirmation hearings:
Still, there is something extremely peculiar—beyond precedent, in fact—about the idea of Bush invoking his constitutional privilege on Bolton's behalf. In all other cases, presidents evaded Senate scrutiny from the outset. Bolton, on the other hand, has been through confirmation hearings at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which passed the nomination to the floor without endorsement; and he has twice failed to gain the three-fifths majority of a cloture vote. In other words, other stealth appointees have dodged anticipated bullets. If Bolton slips through, he will have been strafed, hit, and mortally wounded—then resurrected by a magic wand waving on the president's outstretched middle finger.
posted by JReid @ 2:40 PM  
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"I am for enhanced interrogation. I don't believe waterboarding is torture... I'll do it. I'll do it for charity." -- Sean Hannity
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