Bolton May Accept Recess Appointment

Embattled UN Ambassador nominee John Bolton may take a recess appointment after all.

Bolton May Accept Recess Appointment (WaPo, A4)

John R. Bolton’s nomination to be ambassador to the United Nations was the hottest issue in Congress a few months ago. But it has virtually evaporated this summer, eclipsed by speculation over a Supreme Court nominee and the fate of the president’s top political adviser.

With neither the White House nor Senate Democrats showing any sign of yielding in their long-running dispute over documents related to Bolton’s State Department work, speculation is rife that Bolton is prepared to accept a recess appointment good through the end of 2006, despite warnings from some GOP senators that it would weaken his influence and effectiveness.

Although the Senate has twice voted to sustain a filibuster against his nominee, President Bush has refused to surrender the fight over Bolton. “The president continues to believe that John Bolton should receive an up-or-down vote, and he encourages the Senate to move forward on his nomination,” spokeswoman Erin Healy said yesterday.

But an administration source who is close to Bolton said that Bolton is prepared to accept a recess appointment next month unless the administration and Senate Democrats can resolve differences that have held up the confirmation for four months.

“He’ll take the recess” appointment, said the administration source, who is familiar with Bolton’s thinking. “The president has made his selection, and the president is asking the Senate to confirm the selection, and if the Senate refuses to do that, then most assuredly [Bush] will make a recess appointment.”

The president is constitutionally empowered to fill vacancies when the Senate is in recess, and the appointments are effective through the final adjournment of the sitting Congress. The White House took no action during last week’s Fourth of July break. The next recess, scheduled to last a month, starts July 30.

While I would have supported a recess appointment during the July 4 break, it strikes me as incredibly foolish at this juncture.

With Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement–and the rumored retirements of Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice John Paul Stevens–one would think the Bolton fight would lose its priority. Unless the White House calculates that there is no getting around acrimony over the Supreme Court nomination(s), stoking the flames over what will, in the long run, be an insignificant appointment makes little sense. The Supreme Court picks the president makes may serve a quarter century or more; his UN Ambassador will be forgotten before his successor finishes his oath.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mark says:

    Can anyone name the current UN Ambassador without having to look it up? I can’t.

  2. Scott Harris says:

    Does anyone else suspect that the Bolton hearings were not really about John Bolton or about the UN? Does anyone else suspect that they were merely about the Democrats rehearsing for the inevitable Supreme Court nomination(s) that were/are coming? Was it all just a dress rehearsal?

  3. SoloD says:

    If it was merely a dress rehearsal, then I would say that the WH failed miserably. They miscalculated Republican support, and failed to take the steps (relatively minimal IMHO) necessary to gain Democratic support.

    They thought they could just bully the guy through. But learned that an approval rating in the mid-40’s makes bullying a whole lot more difficult.

  4. Scott Harris says:


    I absolutely agree. The Democrats must be heartened by their, so far, successful obstruction of the Bolton nomination. Also, it doesn’t bode well for President Bush’s most conservative supporters. That is either a tragedy or a triumph, depending upon your point of view.