President George W. Bush urged the Senate to confirm John R. Bolton as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday, as a key Republican senator signaled he is leaning against a nominee accused of mistreating co-workers.
Sen. Lincoln Chafee said he wants to discuss Bolton's behavior with other Republican senators, but is troubled by it. Earlier, Chafee had said he would vote for Bolton, albeit with reservations. He sits on the Senate panel considering Bolton's nomination, and his no-vote could deny Bolton the GOP-led panel's recommendation.
"We need to talk about it. I want to hear what (colleagues) have to say," Chafee said.
The White House "has been in touch" to lobby him, he added.
Bush blamed partisan bickering in the U.S. capital - "where sometimes politics gets in the way of doing the people's business" - for a delay in a committee vote on Bolton's nomination to be the United States' top diplomat at the world body.
"John's distinguished career and service to our nation demonstrates that he is the right man at the right time for this important assignment," Bush said. "I urge the Senate to put aside politics and confirm John Bolton to the United Nations."
Allegations of abusive personal behavior and possible instances of misuse of his government power derailed a key vote by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Bolton's nomination on Tuesday. A new vote is probably three weeks off, giving Democrats time to investigate new charges and the White House time to lobby disaffected Republicans.
Bush's impromptu remarks, which came at the top of a planned speech in Washington before a meeting of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, were clearly designed to show that the White House is not giving up on Bolton.
Bush called his nominee "a good man."
Democratic senators are seeking new information about whether Bolton abused his authority and misled a Senate committee.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked Wednesday to interview former deputy CIA director John McLaughlin, another unidentified CIA official and a National Intelligence Council official, a Democratic committee staff member said. The staff member spoke only on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still under way.
The three spy officials had been scheduled to meet with Bolton in July 2002 when Bolton was in the midst of a bureaucratic disagreement with a CIA analyst. Bolton told the committee last week that he never tried to get the analyst fired, and he implied that he had dropped the matter quickly. The analyst was not fired.
Sen. Christopher Dodd asked McLaughlin and the two officials whether they met with Bolton and whether he discussed removing the analyst from his job, a Dodd aide said.
Government records dispute Bolton's account of the visit to the CIA, according to Sen. Joe Biden and the new inquires are partly an attempt to find out whether Bolton lobbied top officials to get rid of the analyst.
ANNE GEARAN, AP Diplomatic Writer
On the picture: John Bolton