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Key Republican joins Dems opposing Bolton nomination

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- This is probably not what President Bush had in mind when he stressed bipartisanship after the Democratic Party's midterm elections sweep.

A key Senate Republican has joined Democrats in opposing one of Bush's initiatives for the lame-duck Congress: John Bolton's nomination as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

With leaders from both parties promising a new bipartisan Washington, Bush began efforts to get two of his most controversial decisions approved before the Democrats take over. (Watch reason to hope for national unity -- 2:16 Video)

Along with Bolton's nomination, Bush said he would like to move forward on legislation to retroactively 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.

But Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who was defeated in this week's election, said he would block Bolton's nomination.

Chafee, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters that he did not believe Bolton's nomination would move forward without his support.

"The American people have spoken out against the president's agenda on a number of fronts, and presumably one of those is on foreign policy," the Rhode Island moderate told The Associated Press.

"And at this late stage in my term, I'm not going to endorse something the American people have spoke out against."

The committee, dominated 10-8 by Republicans, requires a majority vote to send the nomination to the Senate floor. A tie would be the same as a no vote.

After failing to get a Senate vote for Bolton's nomination, Bush made the appointment in August 2005 during a Congressional recess. (Full story)

Bolton's appointment will expire in January unless the Senate confirms him, and the probable next chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee says approval is unlikely.

"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," said Democratic Sen. Joe Biden, who is set to become the committee's chairman and control the agenda in January.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said that Bolton has "earned the right to remain our U.N. ambassador."

"You know, in this country, I thought you were rewarded for success, and he's been highly successful," he said. "And again, if people take a look at the record, it's going to be awfully hard to poke holes in it."

Last year Democrats launched a heated debate about Bolton as they blocked a vote on his nomination.

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 acknowledged the error in Bolton's statement.

Also, Sen. George Voinovich, an Ohio Republican, 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.

Bush to meet with Reid, Durbin

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, and has drawn objections from members of both parties.

In August, a federal judge in Michigan declared the program unconstitutional. That ruling was appealed, but Justice Department officials do not expect a ruling until next year.

The legislation would authorize the NSA to eavesdrop on phone calls between people in the United States and suspected terrorists overseas without a court order.

Aides to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales indicated he is likely to be making public appearances to push for passage in coming days.

Before his lunch date with Pelosi, Bush lined up his Cabinet for a photo opportunity and spoke to reporters about a meeting he has scheduled Friday with two Democrats who will lead the Senate come January -- Sens. Harry Reid of Nevada and Richard Durbin of Illinois. (Watch Bush's plans for Congress before GOP cedes control -- 3:10 Video )

"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."

At a news conference celebrating his party's return to control in the Senate, Durbin on Thursday vowed: "We can come together on a bipartisan basis to solve the real problems facing our country."

But he also dismissed the president's plans for the lame-duck Congress, the AP reported.

"For a Republican Congress to have gone forward for two years and produced so little, and then for the president to come up with a huge agenda for the next two weeks, you have to ask him, 'Why didn't you use some of the time you spent arguing on some less important issues before?'" Durbin said.

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



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