Remarks as prepared:
Yesterday morning I came to the floor to provide an update on the status of the Bolton nomination. As I said then and I repeat now, Senate Democrats have had a clear and consistent position on this matter: If the Administration works in good faith to give the Senate the information it requires, Senate Democrats are ready to immediately give this nomination an up or down vote.
We are not going on a fishing expedition here. Democrats are seeking clearly defined and specific information about two very important issues that bear directly on John Bolton’s fitness to represent this great country at the United Nations:
Did Mr. Bolton attempt to exaggerate what Congress and the American people would be told about Syria’s alleged WMD capabilities?
Did Mr. Bolton use, and perhaps misuse, highly classified intelligence intercepts to spy on bureaucratic rivals who disagreed with his views or for other inappropriate purposes?
At the time I made those remarks, sadly, the Administration and Senate Republicans had taken the position for the past month or more that nothing needed to be provided to the Senate on either of these issues.
Last evening the Chairman of the Intelligence came to the floor to announce that he had attempted, “one last good faith effort to alleviate [Senate Democratic] concerns.” These questions were directed to a member of the Intelligence Committee or a member of the Armed Services Committee. They were directed at the White House.
Mr. President, let’s take a look at the Chairman’s efforts. They completely ignored one of the two issues on which we are seeking further clarification, namely whether Bolton attempted to exaggerate what Congress and the American people would be told about Syria’s alleged WMD capabilities.
Let me remind my colleagues that this is no small matter. Concerns about this Administration hyping intelligence cannot be dismissed lightly. U.S. troops are fighting in Iraq today largely because this Administration told the Congress and the American people that Iraq not only possessed stockpiles of WMD but was also capable of using them against us and our allies.
Subsequently, we have learned that the Administration’s own investigator concluded Iraq did not possess either the stockpiles or the means of delivery. And just as importantly, there are a series of unanswered questions about whether senior officials in this Administration dramatically and intentionally hyped this threat to justify their desire to invade Iraq.
So Mr. President you can see why we believe it is no small matter for us to learn whether Mr. Bolton was a party to other efforts to hype intelligence.
Let’s be clear about what is happening in Washington and the Senate today. We have a White House that continues to drive a radical agenda, determined to consolidate its power and abuse it when necessary to push its unpopular policies. This disagreement over the Bolton nomination is not about partisan politics, ideology, or even reform at the United Nations. It is about whether we permit this Administration yet again to walk roughshod over the Constitution and our duty as Senators to ensure that our country is represented by qualified and ethical individuals.
Instead of joining the Senate to protect and respect the Constitution – this administration has decided to pick a fight with harsh rhetoric and negative attacks as it concentrates its power and continues its secretive approach to governing.
Instead of joining us in a bipartisan conversation to reform Social Security – this Administration has pursued a risky privatization scheme that will slash benefits and threaten our economy with massive new debt. This Administration has also acquiesced to its radical right wing base and supported the intrusion of the federal government into the private lives of families.
And just as troubling as all of this, when the Administration fails to get what they want they rev up the negative attack machine and set it to slash and burn. The pattern could not be clearer and the American people are joining us to say enough is enough.
For months now, Democrats have been talking about reforming Washington and focusing on the issues that affect the lives of American families. Our work on the energy bill this week is a fine example of this. We have a bipartisan bill that we hope to continue to improve on the floor over the next days and weeks. Americans are sick and tired of getting caught in the crossfire of partisan sniping so let’s continue to join together in the commonsense center and do the work that the American people sent us here to do.
So I end as I began, if this Administration – like previous Administration – respects the requests of the Senate, we will immediately move to grant Bolton an up or down vote. I stand by that pledge today.