WASHINGTON - President Bush urged Republican senators yesterday to work harder to win confirmation of John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, even as Republicans looked to the White House to break the impasse with Democrats.
After the meeting, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, indicated that the president was not yet prepared to use his powers to appoint Bolton to the job while Congress is in recess in early July - a move that Democrats would consider provocative and international partners might interpret as casting a pall over Bolton's position.
A recess appointment "was not discussed," Frist said as he left the White House. "Basically, our goal is an up-or-down vote, so we're continuing to work on that."
Frist said Bush expressed no willingness to meet Democrats' demands for two sets of documents related to Bolton's work as undersecretary of state in the president's first term.
Two attempts to bring Bolton's nomination to a vote have failed, with Frist unable to muster the 60 votes needed to end debate on the issue. The Republican majority lost one vote Monday night when Sen. George V. Voinovich of Ohio, a harsh critic of Bolton, joined Democrats in voting against curtailing debate on the nomination.
Democrats have insisted that they have a right to review the documents they have requested and have vowed to continue to block a vote until the White House relents.
The White House and Senate Republicans appeared to be looking to the other to break the stalemate with Democrats.
"Whether or not we bring it back to the floor depends on really what the president's conversations with the Democrats are," Frist told an Associated Press reporter before the lunch, according to a transcript provided by Frist's office. "It's really up to the president."
Frist said he had "exhausted" efforts to mediate between the White House and Senate Democrats.
"At this juncture, we have to go back to the president and see what his decision is, and that's really it," Frist said.
Democrats and Republicans alike expressed doubt that there was any point in Frist scheduling another vote.
"It keeps turning out the same. He keeps losing ground," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat.
Republicans accused Democrats of shifting their demands, a charge that Democrats deny.
"The Democrats continually are changing the goal posts. It is clear their object is to obstruct," White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove said in an interview on CNN.
But Rove indicated that the president was not prepared to make a recess appointment.
Under the Constitution, presidents are permitted to make some appointments without Senate confirmation if Congress is in recess. Originally designed to keep government functioning during long recesses when travel was difficult, presidents have used their power in recent years to gain temporary appointments without Senate confirmation.
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.