A key Senate panel has postponed a vote on the nomination of John Bolton for a full- term appointment as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The unexpected development came as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee considered a number of President Bush's key diplomatic nominations.
Bolton's nomination, and therefore his confirmation by the full Senate, has been held up for months even as he has temporarily carried out his duties at the United Nations under a recess appointment made last August by President Bush.
That appointment expires January 1, and the president has made it clear on numerous occasions his determination to have Bolton confirmed by the Senate.
Republican Senator Richard Lugar, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, explained the postponement during Wednesday's committee session.
"We had originally intended to vote on the nomination of John Bolton to be ambassador to the U.N. However, I am removing the nomination from today's agenda after conferring with several senators," he said.
Eventually, Bolton is expected to have the support of 10 committee Republicans, although one key senator, Lincoln Chafee, has not yet said how he will vote.
The nomination has been troublesome for Senator Lugar, who had to overcome opposition from one key Republican Senator, George Voinovich, and from Democrats who successfully blocked the Bolton nomination in the Senate last year.
All eight committee Democrats have opposed Bolton, and Senator Chris Dodd has urged fellow Democrats to filibuster Bolton's nomination if it does get to the Senate floor.
Senator Lugar has not said when the nomination will be scheduled again at committee level.
In separate actions, the Foreign Relations panel also approved six ambassadorial or diplomatic nominations.
One, Richard Hoagland as ambassador to Armenia, sparked statements by some senators upset that the U.S. government does not officially recognize as genocide the forced mass evacuation, and deaths related to it, of hundreds of thousands of Armenians during the Ottoman Empire.
Among the comments were these by Democrat Joseph Biden and Senator Lugar, who said rejecting the Hoagland nomination would set a troubling precedent and harm U.S. efforts to work with a strategically important nation.
"I think the administration's policy [on the Armenian genocide issue] is not only wrong, it is factually inconsistent with history," Sen. Biden said.
"Further delay in posting a highly-qualified nominee in Yerevan is not in the interest of U.S. national security or our credibility in the region," said Sen. Lugar.
The Senate committee also approved and sent to the Senate for ratification the U.S.-Britain extradition treaty which lawmakers noted will help both countries deal with the worsening threat of Islamist terrorism.