It was another blow to President Bush, two days after Democrats triumphed in elections that will give them control of Congress next year. On Wednesday, Mr. Bush had announced that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, a polarizing figure and face of the Iraq war, would step down.
On Thursday, the White House resubmitted Bolton's nomination to the Senate, where the appointment has languished for more than a year. Mr. Bush appointed him to the job temporarily in August 2005 while Congress was in recess, an appointment that will expire when the Congress adjourns, no later than January.
"There are several ways that the administration may continue ambassador Bolton's tenure at the U.N., including another recess appointment, but there are limitations on that," said CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk from the United Nations. "But a congressional nomination appears to be mired in opposition in both a Republican-led and Democratic-led Congress."
Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., who was defeated by Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse on Tuesday, told reporters in Rhode Island that he would continue opposing Bolton. That would likely deny Republicans the votes needed to move Bolton's nomination from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to the full Senate.
"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," Chafee said. "And at this late stage in my term, I'm not going to endorse something the American people have spoke out against."
Democrats indicated that even should the Senate try debating Bolton's nomination when lawmakers reconvene next week — still under Republican control — they would stretch out debate on Bolton with the aim of killing it. Republicans lack the 60 votes needed to force a vote on the nomination.
"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 Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, the committee's top Democrat.
Bolton's 2005 recess appointment came after Democrats blocked repeated attempts by GOP leaders to grant him Senate confirmation. Democrats said Bolton was a bully who lacked the diplomatic skills necessary to broker international deals.
In 2005, Chafee wavered on his support for Bolton, citing concerns at one point about Bolton's tie to a government investigation into faulty prewar intelligence on Iraq. In September, Chafee — who was in a tight re-election race — said he would oppose Bolton's nomination until the administration answered questions about its policy in the Middle East, which in effect delayed any vote until after the elections.
Mr. Bush asked congressional Republicans Thursday morning at the White House to confirm Bolton during their "lame duck" session beginning next week, said White House spokesman Tony Snow.
Asked if Mr. Bush thinks Bolton will be confirmed, Snow said, "We'll find out."
In addition to Bolton's U.N. post, Congress has to attend to must-pass spending bills and tax relief measures that have expired. It could keep lawmakers in Washington until just before Christmas.
Prospects are better for confirmation of former CIA Director Robert Gates to succeed Rumsfeld as defense secretary. Hearings are tentatively scheduled for early December, when the Senate returns from its Thanksgiving break, with a goal of a Senate vote before the end of the year.
Lawmakers return on Monday for a busy week that includes orientation for the freshmen, dominated by Democrats, who will be sworn in when the 110th Congress begins in January. Both parties in the House and Senate will also elect new leaders for the next Congress, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., whose re-election as Democratic leader will put her in line to become the first woman Speaker.