According to several Democratic staffers on the Foreign Relations Committee, talk inside their offices had Sen. Joe Biden discussing with Republican colleagues on both that committee and Judiciary the notion of “trading” Bolton’s confirmation for a vote on all if not the majority of President Bush’s judicial nominees who are being blocked by Biden and other Dems. Depending on how negotiations played out, Bolton’s nomination would either have died, or moved ahead after the dumping of at least three Bush judicial nominations.
“It sounds like it was the Senator’s attempt to break the deadlock,” says one of the Democratic staffers. “But nothing came of it, and that’s a good thing. There are quite a few people here who want to see Bolton squirm, as well as some of the Republicans who have to vote for him.”
Biden’s bid at brinksmanship would have required the lifting of a “hold” by Sen. Barbara Boxer, as well as at least two other Democratic Senators who, according to Senate Democratic leadership sources, also placed holds on the nomination in the hours after it was released by the Foreign Relations Committee.
In the end the hold(s) are comparatively minor parliamentary tricks that the Republican leadership can overcome through procedural votes, though they present an initial headache that cannot be easily resolved, as the White House would apparently like.
On Thursday, rumors were swirling in the Capitol, and in the press, that the White House was trying to strong-arm Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist into placing the Bolton nomination ahead of the judicial confirmation vote.
But from a practical perspective, such a move would bog down the Senate further for possibly another week of debate and delay, drawing the judicial fight into early June, a situation many Republicans would find unacceptable, given the level of debate and negotiations undertaken in the past few weeks on the judicial front.
“The White House understands that there are some things that just can’t be turned back and the judicial fight is one of them,” says a Republican staffer for a member of the Judiciary Committee. “The White House was one of the entities pushing us on this. They can’t expect us to change horses midstream when we have gotten this far.”
On its face, the Biden gambit makes little sense, but it highlights a certain desperate air among Democrats feeling marginalization blues.
Biden, along with Sen. Ben Nelson and several other Democrats, has been attempting to play some role in the process and to avoid the appearance of being steamrolled by Republicans.
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