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May 13, 2005


Oh, Bolton will get appointed one way or another. Recess appointment, if need be.

But I think the terms "win" and "lose" should be inoperative in the Senate for the next two weeks. Because more than a fight over judges and highway bills, it's a matter of breaking the Republican coalition. And we might have to suffer a few "losses" to get to that much more important "win."

BTW, Boxer has placed a hold on Bolton's nomination, pending receiving the information requested from State. I'm sure Kagro X can clarify this, but it requires 60 votes to break the hold. Which means we have a de facto filibuster, without the confrontation. And if BushCo wants to complain about it, they only publicize the fact that they're withholding information.

I've got mixed feelings about the move (RonK has me convinced we ought to move foward to a vote, ASAP). I also think this increases the chance of a recess appointment dramatically (particularly with a nice recess coming up just TEMPTING Bush). I hope this move doesn't deprive us of a confrontation that, coming when it is, could be very useful.

I don't know what the formal rules are, if there are any, on the hold. I think it's just a placeholder for an intent to filibuster, so the 60 vote thing ties in that way. The holds are just a simpler and more collegial way of saying, "yeah, you can bring it to the floor if you want to, but I'll filibuster it."

Of course, Frist could simply decide to test her resolve on that threat and bring it anyway. I don't think anything prevents that.

Except the fact that so many other Senators would be pissed off to find out that Frist was unilaterally dishonoring the informal hold system, which would spark opposition on principle.

It's all connected, this stuff, to the credible threat of filibuster, and the assumption that a serious breach of protocol will trigger a filibuster from people who have a colleague's back.

I don't see the basis for assuming Republican unity on the Bolton nomination. Voinovich, obviously, is a no. Hagel, Murkowski, and Chafee all had very pointed criticisms of Bolton during the committee session yesterday; they could easily have avoided giving Democrats those sound bites if they didn't have serious concerns. Whether those add up to no votes from any of the three is unclear; but it's impossible to believe that out of 55 Republicans in the Senate, these are the only 4 who take these issues seriously, and they all just happen to sit on the Foreign Relations Committee. I would expect there is a lot of doubt in the ranks that hasn't been quantified yet.

Steve, see Brownstein's article, or the discussion in emptywheel's, piece referred to (both are linked) in the main story in the last para.

Collins and Snowe have, for their failure to toe the party line, just lost Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. IIRC, Sununu was off the reservation on one of the recent Fuehrerbefelen...

Recess appointment is a possibility unless the Senate has already voted down tne nomination.

Are there in fact "many people who agree with the president that John Bolton is the right person at the right time"?

There are a handful of R senators who despise the UN, and constituents who who push the button to blow it up -- but Bolton has promised he won't be that kind of Ambassador.

There are R's who will loyally follow W's lead, but none of these imagine Bolton is the best man for the job.

And there are a slew "circle the wagons" R's ... afraid of what happens after Bush loses that first big showdown. They may prevail, if they all hang together.

But my count of R's who would rather not (or should rather not) vote for Bolton runs to 27 or 28, with varying instensity. Bush does them no favors by "staying the course".

Remember, the typical Senator's career horizon extends a lot farther than a President's horizon. The Day After Bush is fated for most of the Republican caucus, and their political calculus will extend beyond W's simple arithmetic.

No doubt a host of issues could have red-lined my fury-at-the-media gauge the past couple of days, but given the limited amount of time I have to catch the news on or off-line, Orin's line "tough-love U.N. envoy" ties with the softball approach toward Uzbekistan taken today by the Cato Institute's Charles Pena during a brief interview on MSNBC. He was willing to call the regime "repressive," which is like saying the Chinese Red Guards favored censorship.

As for Orin, does she have any evidence that there's any U.N. love in Mr. Bolton's toughness?

I'm not persuaded that R's will toe the party line, and I think RonK has it right. Bush has basically said to all the R's, "Stick with me and we'll go places." But every polarizing issue offers a new chance for that dam to finally break. Lots of things, including the nuclear option, would have gone down long ago if the R's really were that inclined to vote as a bloc on everything.

Look at Murkowski, in particular. She had absolutely, positively no reason to say all those bad things about Bolton yesterday, if she was already 100% certain to vote yes on the floor. Why would she do it? To provide cover with all 4 of the Democratic voters in Alaska?

I think sheer percentages suggest that if a lot of R's have their private doubts about Bolton, a number of them will vote their conscience. And once that dam does break, and the Senate realizes that no bolt of lightning will strike if they defy the Administration, that dimming aura of invincibility surrounding the White House will be gone once and for all.

You're right about the dam breaking. But the CW hasn't yet changed. Steve Clemons says there's time, but the pressure to conform remains. Without a lock-step R vote, it isn't just Bush who will have diminished power.

I'm glad I'm not the only one seeing the common thread running through the nominations, the recess appointments, the renominations, and the basic hubris. I try segmenting my attention in posts, but then find things all run together.

Hubris. Oy.

"Without a lock-step R vote, it isn't just Bush who will have diminished power."

Think in parliamentary terms for a minute. If the moderate R's stop backing the White House on every vote, suddenly they become a lot more important. If they remain as one of the herd, they get nothing special out of it.

Now, the White House can try to bring them back into line with the carrot, or with the stick. But not all of them are equally afraid of the stick.

Party loyalty is an exceedingly powerful tool. It's what DeLay is counting on in the House, and it's what Bush specializes in. It's true that the moderates hold the balance of power in terms of votes in the Senate, but most can't withstand the pressure of a President still 90% popular with R's.

Hagel, e.g., wants to run in 2008. He won't allow himself to be seen as dysloyal to Bush; his vote against Bolton is near-impossible, whatever he personally thinks. Same with McCain, same with Chaffee, and so on. Only the ladies from Maine have the gumption to break, and they're just not enough.

BTW, Boxer has placed a hold on Bolton's nomination, pending receiving the information requested from State.

On Late Edition, today, Biden said that Boxer told him she had only put the hold on because of the rumors that, if they got him out of committee, Frist might bring up Bolton as early as Monday.

That doesn't mean Boxer will remove the hold tomorrow but Biden suggested she might.

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