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Democrats bristle at Bush's push to confirm Bolton

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- On the same day President Bush promised a new bipartisan Washington, he began efforts to get two of his most controversial decisions approved before the Democrats take over Congress.

Bush on Thursday submitted the nomination of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and said he would like to move forward on legislation to authorize the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program.

Bush said he would like to see action on both issues before year's end. The Democratic-controlled Congress begins its term in January.

Bolton was appointed August 2005 during a Congressional recess. His appointment will expire in January unless the Senate confirms him -- and the probable next chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee says approval is unlikely.

Some Republicans are also against the Bolton nomination. Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who was defeated in this week's election, also said he would block Bolton's nomination.

Last year Democrats launched a heated debate about Bolton.

They complained he gave the Senate false information when he failed to note on a questionnaire that he had been questioned by the department's inspector general as part of a joint inquiry by the State Department and CIA into allegations that Iraq attempted to obtain uranium from Niger in Africa.

The State Department formerly acknowledged the error in Bolton's statement.

Also, Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, took to the floor and read a list of complaints by Bolton's subordinates who said he had a reputation of bullying his colleagues, taking facts out of context and exaggerating intelligence.

Carl Ford, the former chief of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, called Bolton "a quintessential kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy" and a "serial abuser" of subordinates.

Democratic Sen. Joe Biden is set to become the Foreign Relations Committee's chairman and control the agenda in January. "I see no point in considering Mr. Bolton's nomination again in the Foreign Relations Committee because regardless of what happens there, he is unlikely to be considered by the full Senate," he said.

It is unclear at the moment whether there will be enough votes for the Bolton nomination to move beyond the committee and to the full Senate.

The president Thursday also outlined some other issues he'd like to see Congress address before year's end, and had lunch with the likely new speaker of the House of Representatives, California Democrat Rep. Nancy Pelosi. (Transcript)

Among those issues are the Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006, bipartisan energy legislation, trade legislation, a federal spending bill and an agreement with India on civilian nuclear technology.

The Terrorist Surveillance Act is likely to face stiff opposition in the Senate and House, as both parties have previously criticized the measure as unconstitutional.

The legislation would authorize the NSA to eavesdrop on phone calls between people in the United States and suspected terrorists overseas.

Before his lunch date with Pelosi, Bush lined up his Cabinet for a photo op and spoke to reporters about a new era of bipartisanship.

"We'll discuss the way forward for our country, and I'm going to tell them what I just told our Cabinet. It is our responsibility to put the elections behind us and work together on the great issues facing America," Bush said.

"The American people expect us to rise above partisan differences, and my administration will do its part."

President Bush appointed John Bolton, right, ambassador to the U.N. while Congress was in recess.



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