April 20, 2005

For all those who think the workings of the U.S. Government are uniformly boring

...I strongly recommend this link. Embedded within it is a 'move on to the next diary' link you can follow for round two. It is a blow-by-blow liveblogging of yesterday's attempted confirmation vote, in which (apparently) the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Sen. Richard Lugar, tried to fast-track Bolton's appointment as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. They tried to do so by voting to move the nomination to the floor of the Senate, where it would be voted on by the entire body (and where the Republicans have a comfortable majority).

Some critical background: There have been allegations in recent weeks that Bolton, in addition to his public statements disparaging the United Nations (which make him an odd choice to represent the U.S. there, in my opinion) attempted on several occasions to have subordinate analysts who disagreed with him or would not support positions he espoused fired from their jobs - despite those positions proving later to be unsupported by evidence. In addition, there are rumors of additional allegations of personal impropriety that have surfaced, rumors of evidence supporting them as well. During one period, Bolton apparently requested that the NSA provide him with the names of American government officials whose voices were captured on communications intercepts of foreign targets - apparently in order to determine which of his colleagues were opposing his initiatives inside his department.

In a more immediate context, the committee is (in this hearing) attempting to vote to bring the nomination to the floor. You will hear Sen. Lugar refer to 'five o'clock' because the Senate is in recess until that time, which is why they are able to hold the meeting; at that time, the Senate is scheduled to resume business, and the committee business must close. Therefore, Sen. Lugar has only until 5:00 pm to hold a vote to move Mr. Bolton's nomination to the floor.

There are eighteen members of the committee. Ten of those are Republican, and eight Democrat. If a vote is held to move the candidate to the floor, it can be assumed in one sense that Mr. Lugar has done his job as a 'loyal Republican' - moved the President's nominee to the full Senate, where his party holds sway. He will be pressing to do just that. He is opposed by several Democrats, who (while they do not hold a majority on the committee) feel that the facts the committee have heard make it plain that John Bolton is, frankly, a poor candidate, and they will do all they can to convince any of their Republican colleagues to 'vote their conscience' using whatever procedural means are at their disposal to increase their chances of making their case. Even a delay in the vote is a victory of sorts for the Democrats, as the inability to push the vote to the floor with a 10-8 majority indicates that at least one Republican is wavering on the party's nominee - a clear sign of weakness given the overwhelming advantage the Republicans currently hold in Congress. Couple that with the current Republican rhetoric that nominees (for example, judicial nominees) are being held up by Democratic obstructionism, and a Republican defection is suddenly magnified.

In any case, the political theater is awesome. I strongly recommend that you watch the hearings as well; C-SPAN has them available, although their choice of format is, frankly, abysmal.

Posted by jbz at April 20, 2005 2:13 AM | TrackBack

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