The panel voted 10 to eight along party lines to send the nomination to the full Senate.
But the fact that the Republican-led committee approved the nominee without recommendation was a blow to the White House.
The panel's decision came after Republican Senator George Voinovich of Ohio sharply attacked Mr. Bolton as a bully, saying the nominee is, in his words, the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be. He said Mr. Bolton could hurt efforts to reform the world body.
"Those in the international community who do not want to see the U.N. reformed will act as a roadblock and I fear Mr. Bolton's reputation will make it easier for them to succeed," said George Voinovich. "I believe some member nations in the U.N. will use Mr. Bolton as part of their agenda to further question the integrity and credibility of the United States and to reinforce their negative U.S. propaganda."
Senator Voinovich said he shares Democrats' concerns about allegations that Mr. Bolton mistreated subordinates and pressured analysts to reach certain conclusions on policy and intelligence matters.
The top Democrat on the committee, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, said he is troubled by allegations Mr. Bolton sought to politicize intelligence, particularly since the administration cited faulty intelligence on Iraq's weapons in making the case for war in that country.
"We have already lost a lot of credibility at home and abroad after the fiasco on Iraq, and Mr. Bolton is not the man to help us rebuild it," said Joe Biden. "He is the wrong choice."
Committee chairman, Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, defended the nominee while acknowledging, as he put it, that Mr. Bolton's actions were not always exemplary.
"The picture is one of an aggressive policy-maker who pressed his mission at every opportunity and argued vociferously for his point of view," said Richard Lugar. "In the process his blunt style alienated some colleagues but there is no evidence he broke any laws or engaged in any serious ethical misconduct."
At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan predicted the full Senate would confirm Mr. Bolton, who currently serves as undersecretary of State for arms control and international security.
"John Bolton is a strong voice for reform at a time when the United Nations is beginning efforts to move forward on reform," said Scott McClellan. "He is exactly the kind of person we need at the United Nations."
With Republicans controlling the Senate by a 55 to 45 margin, confirmation is likely.
Democrats, however, have not ruled out using procedural delays to try to kill the nomination on the Senate floor.