Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid issued this statement on the nomination of John Bolton to the United Nations on Senate floor today.
Remarks as prepared:
Mr. President, yesterday at the White House, it was reported that the President told Republican leaders to “keep fighting” to get Mr. Bolton, the President’s nominee to be UN Ambassador, an up or down vote. “Keep fighting.” That was the message delivered by the President.
I understand the need for an occasional pep rally to bolster the discouraged members of his party, but the American people are tired of the fighting and the bickering. They want us to tackle the hard issues confronting the country and deal with the crises in health care, education, the war in Iraq, and retirement security.
They want the John Bolton matter resolved. And it can be resolved – easily and quickly – in two ways.
First, the President can take the advice of the distinguished Republican Senator from Ohio, and offer a new nominee. Over the course of the Foreign Relations Committee hearings, it has become quite clear that John Bolton is simply not the right man for this important job. This man has attempted to manipulate intelligence, intimidate intelligence analysts, and has shown outright disdain for the international system and the institution for which he was nominated to serve.
The Administration would have you believe that Mr. Bolton is the only man capable of delivering the reform message to the United Nations. We all agree that the U.N. is in need of serious reform. But I would submit that there are dozens of tough, reform minded conservatives who could be confirmed rapidly with broad bi-partisan support. We have quickly approved the White House’s two previous selections for this post and were prepared to do so again. When Senator Danforth decided to step down as our representative to the U.N., the Administration had a choice to make: Did it want to pick someone along the lines of its two previous nominees that could have been quickly confirmed and on the job fixing the U.N. or did it want a fight in the U.S. Senate? Unfortunately, the Administration purposefully and knowingly chose a fight. And the White House’s choice and subsequent actions demonstrate that reform here in Washington is needed as much as it is at the United Nations.
If the Administration does not want to withdraw Mr. Bolton’s nomination, there is another path. It can take the advice of my Republican friend and colleague from Mississippi – the former Majority Leader – who said yesterday that the Administration should provide the information that has been requested by the Senate. Speaking to Fox News, the Senator from Mississippi said “My colleagues have a right to know that information….I think the [Administration] ought to give the [Senate] the information.”
The Senator from Mississippi also went on to say what this fight is really all about: “We’re saying to the White House, we’re a co-equal branch of government here, other Senators have done this in the past, we’re seeking this information which we have a right to…”
That’s also a view shared by the Republican Senator from Rhode Island who, when asked whether the White House should turn over information about Mr. Bolton, said “I like full disclosure.” Full disclosure is exactly what we need. It would shed light on whether this nominee tried to stretch the truth about Syria’s weapons of mass destruction programs, and it would explain why Mr. Bolton needed to see what Americans, perhaps his own superiors at the State Department, were saying about him in NSA intercepts.
I have said it before, and I will say it again: This fight is not about Mr. Bolton. It is about whether this Administration will recognize that the Constitution established the Congress as a co-equal branch of government with certain powers and responsibilities.
If the President turns over the information – not part of it or a summary of it – but turns over all the information requested, the White House will get their up or down vote on Mr. Bolton. Unlike the advice offered by the President yesterday, continued fighting will not advance his troubled nominee. Working with the Senate will. And by taking the advice of my friends and colleagues from Ohio, Mississippi and Rhode Island, the President and the Congress can put this matter behind them and move on to the critical issues facing the nation.