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Inside Politics

Voinovich speaks out on Bolton nomination

By Bill Schneider
CNN Political Unit

Sen. George Voinovich: "I think one's interpersonal skills and their relationship with their fellow man is a very important ingredient in anyone that works for me."
White House
George W. Bush

(CNN) -- A senator goes to a congressional hearing and changes his mind. That's not just unheard of, it's the political Play of the Week.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was all set to vote on President Bush's nomination of John Bolton to be U.N. ambassador Tuesday when suddenly another voice was heard.

"I've heard enough today that I don't feel comfortable about voting for Mr. Bolton," Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said Tuesday.

That sent shock waves through Washington. Sen. Voinovich wasn't supposed to be a wavering Republican. What happened?

The committee heard testimony about Bolton's allegedly abusive personal behavior. That didn't sit well with Voinovich.

"I think one's interpersonal skills and their relationship with their fellow man is a very important ingredient in anyone that works for me," stated Voinovich.

With a little more time, Democrats think maybe they can defeat the Bolton nomination.

"We would find out whether there was contemporaneous corroboration," said Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Delaware. "We haven't started that yet."

The White House noted that Voinovich had missed most of the confirmation hearings. They promised to bring the senator up to speed.

"We are more than happy to answer any questions that he has, and we are in touch with him about these matters," White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said Wednesday.

This is not the first time Voinovich has given the White House trouble. In 2003, he resisted President Bush's tax cuts until he could be reassured that the cost could be contained.

That earned him attacks from conservatives, and guess what? They're attacking Voinovich again -- in a radio ad playing in Ohio that says, "It seems like Sen. Voinovich has become a traitor to the Republican party."

We don't know if Voinovich will end up opposing Bolton's nomination, but what he did this week was something rarely done in Washington.

"As long as I've been in politics and the city council back in my home town, I've never seen someone make a decision on the spur of the moment, and with good -- some justification, that Sen. Voinovich did. It was refreshing, I think," said Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-Rhode Island.

And we think it was the political Play of the Week.

Should Sen. Voinovich be worried? Not particularly. He just got re-elected to a second term last year -- with 64 percent of the vote.

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