The commentary has begun to percolate on the recess appointment of John Bolton to the United Nations post, for which Senate Democrats twice filibustered rather than allow a confirmation vote. The comments have predictably shown their partisan bias. Republicans, except for George Voinovich, have offered their support and decried the necessity of a recess appointment. Voinovich reiterated his opposition to Bolton but pledged to support him and his work in the future. Democrats, for the most part, have emphasized their opposition to Bolton but kept their remarks rational.
However, in this last group, we have already seen two exceptions, and to no one’s great surprise, the exceptions come from Massachusetts’ Senators, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. Both remain true to form in their reactions. Kerry gets his facts wrong, and Kennedy sees dark conspiracies and abuses of power. Kerry first (emphases mine):
“The president has the right to make this recess appointment, but it’s the wrong decision. It only diminishes John Bolton’s validity and leverage to secure America’s goals at the U.N. John Bolton has been rejected twice by the Senate to serve as our Ambassador to the United Nations. This is not the way to fill our most important diplomatic jobs.”
Kerry gets it wrong yet again. A filibuster does not equate to a rejection; it means that the minority refused to let the Senate vote to accept or reject the nomination. Bolton did not get rejected by the Senate at all, and had the Democrats not filibustered the vote, he would have won confirmation, albeit on a narrow margin. That foregone conclusion led the Democrats to stage the filibuster in the first place.
Either Kerry has spent twenty-odd years in the Senate without learning the difference, or he’s just lying for effect. Given his history of Christmas in Cambodia, running guns to the Khmer Rouge, and so on, I’ll leave it to CQ readers which explanation suits them best. At least Kerry has read the Constitution, however, which is more than one can say for his senior partner:
“The abuse of power and the cloak of secrecy from the White House continues. … It’s a devious maneuver that evades the constitutional requirement of Senate consent and only further darkens the cloud over Mr. Bolton’s credibility at the U.N.”
Cloak of secrecy? Bolton has gone through months of attacks in the media for his nomination to this position as well as a highly contentious Senate hearing. His confirmation literally received endless debate in the full Senate. The White House has talked about the possibility of a recess appointment for weeks. Some secret!
As far as it being an “abuse of power” that evades “Constitutional requirement” of a Senate confirmation, perhaps Senator Kennedy might like to read Article II, Section 2, Clause 3 of that same Constitution:
Clause 3: The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.
No abuse of power there; the Constitution clearly gives the President the exact power he just exercised. The Senate appears to have abused its power by denying Bolton an up or down vote on his confirmation, however, because the word “filibuster” doesn’t appear anywhere in the Constitution, nor does the right of endless debate.
Each party has its shrill and un-credible voices. Unfortunately for the Democrats, they picked their leadership from that contingent.