WASHINGTON - Democrats are likely to vote unanimously against John R. Bolton when his nomination to be ambassador to the United Nations comes before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next week, according to Democratic and Republican lawmakers and aides.
It would mark the first time committee Democrats have unanimously opposed a Bush diplomatic nominee and would put the nomination in peril if any Republicans defected to vote against him. But Republicans say they believe the outspoken conservative will win solid GOP backing in the committee, including from the moderate Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who has voiced reservations about Bolton's nomination to be U.N. ambassador.
While Democrats have challenged a number of past diplomatic nominees, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, "they see this nomination as more distasteful, and they're more united," said one Democratic Senate aide.
The split on the panel is one of several signs that the proceedings, set for April 7, will be acrimonious. Advocates have organized letter-writing and ad campaigns for and against Bolton. Democrats said they intend to probe Bolton's comments on a variety of issues, an exercise that Republicans say could stretch the hearing into a second day.
Republicans said they also are concerned that Democrats may attempt to filibuster the nomination if it reaches the Senate floor.
Bolton, who is now undersecretary of State for arms control, is controversial because of his open criticism of the United Nations and other international institutions and agreements.
"He's been contemptuous of the U.N.," said Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California. "There's a lot to talk about at this hearing. It's going to be a very contentious."
Some Democrats predicted that Bolton could lose support among Republican members if he is unyielding in criticism of the United Nations. Republican officials said Bolton is expected to emphasize that he wants to reform the United Nations, rather than destroy it.
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.