A leading Senate opponent of John Bolton's nomination as ambassador to the UN has signaled that Democrats would drop their objections to a vote on Bolton's nomination if the White House would compromise in a dispute over access to information about his actions.
Senate Republicans are expected to try again this week to push for a vote on Bolton's nomination. Senate Democrats succeeded last month in blocking such a vote, but they have said they are not certain of succeeding again, even if the administration continues to refuse to hand over the information they have demanded.
The opponent, Senator Christopher Dodd, did not abandon the Democrats' insistence that the administration provide more information about Bolton's role in two areas, including his success in obtaining highly classified information about American individuals and companies named in communications intercepted by the National Security Agency.
But in a letter to Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, Dodd suggested that Democrats could settle for something less than complete access to those names. As one possibility, Dodd proposed that Negroponte might instead assure the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that none of the names obtained by Bolton were among "names of concern" to be listed by the panel.
Dodd wrote, in the letter released by his office, that he was "obviously also open to other suggestions for resolving this impasse."
Last month, Senate Republicans seeking to end debate on Bolton's nomination fell short of the 60 votes necessary to do so. The opposition came from 40 Democrats and an independent, who insisted that the Senate take a stand against the administration's refusal to provide information about the intercepted communications and another matter, related to a dispute between Bolton and US intelligence agencies over assessments of the threat posted by Syria.
The White House has insisted that the Senate has all the information it needs to vote on Bolton and has shown no sign that it might entertain any compromise.
Some Republican congressional officials expect the White House to push for another vote on Bolton this week even if passage appears unlikely, in the hope at minimum of portraying Democrats as obstructing important business.
Over the weekend, Senator Joseph Biden Jr., who with Dodd has led the opposition to Bolton, conceded that he was "not at all certain" that Democrats could keep their filibuster alive. Republicans may need to pick up only the votes of two Senate Democrats to bring Bolton's nomination to a vote, and Senator Bill Frist, the Republican leader, has expressed confidence that Bolton will ultimately prevail.
In the letter to Negroponte, Dodd did not mention the dispute over Syria and focused only on issues related to the National Security Agency interceptions. But Senate Democratic aides said he and Biden would insist that the White House provide at least some information on both areas of inquiry.
"It is not my intention to prevent an up-or-down vote on the Bolton nomination," Dodd wrote in the letter to Negroponte. "I stand ready to work with you to find a way to satisfy the legitimate needs of the Senate, while at the same time addressing the administration's concern about the sensitivity of the information being sought."
Negroponte and his deputy, General Michael Hayden of the Air Force, have briefed the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee on the 10 intelligence reports about which Bolton requested additional information using his authority as an undersecretary of state. But they have declined to provide the names of the 19 Americans and companies that were provided to Bolton, saying those identities are too sensitive to be shared.