WASHINGTON -- A Senate committee postponed until Monday a hearing on John R. Bolton's nomination as US ambassador to the United Nations, with a spokesman saying several panel members would be attending the funeral of Pope John Paul II.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, set for today, was delayed as the vote of a pivotal Republican seemed uncertain. Bolton faces opposition for stands he has taken as undersecretary of state for arms control and for his outspoken criticism of the United Nations.
His chances of approval could hinge on the vote of Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, a moderate Republican. If Democrats are united against confirmation and Chafee joins them, Bolton's chances of going to the United Nations could be damaged.
''The senator has not made up his mind," Chafee spokesman Stephen Hourahan said yesterday. ''He's waiting to hear on the record what is said, and then he'll decide. But we're inclined to support the nomination. That's where we are."
Republicans hold a 10-8 edge on the committee. Bills and nominations need a majority vote for a committee to send them to the full Senate, although the committee can reconsider a failed vote later.
Democrats are researching Bolton's background in preparation for at least one day of tough questioning. Senate Democrats have circulated a portion of a two-year-old Senate Intelligence Committee report questioning whether Bolton pressured a State Department intelligence analyst who tried to tone down language in a Bolton speech about Cuba's biological weapons capabilities.