As the Senate prepares to consider anew the nomination of John Bolton as United Nations ambassador, Senators Schumer and Clinton are facing increasing pressure from pro-Israel groups to renounce another Democratic filibuster in light of the escalating war in the Middle East.
The Foreign Relations Committee is set to hold a hearing on the nomination tomorrow, and several Democrats on the panel have voiced their unswerving opposition to Mr. Bolton's nomination.
From New York's senators, however, there has been nothing but silence. Mr. Schumer and Mrs. Clinton voted to block Mr. Bolton's confirmation a year ago, but they have not declared their positions this time around.
Aides to both senators did not respond to repeated inquiries about the Bolton nomination over the last three days.
One Jewish leader may have an idea why. The president of the Zionist Organization of America, Morton Klein, said yesterday that "important friends" of Mr. Schumer and Mrs. Clinton have confided to him that the senators are "seriously reconsidering" their position on Mr. Bolton. Mr. Klein, in a telephone interview, would not disclose the names of the friends, saying they had not given him permission to do so.
"If they came out against him, I would be somewhat surprised," Mr. Klein said of the New York senators. "I think there's a reasonable chance they might support him this time around."
He added, however, that "with politics, you never know."
Mr. Schumer and Mrs. Clinton have both made strong statements in support of Israel following attacks by Hezbollah and the ensuing war with Lebanon.
A shift by the senators would likely dash any hopes of another Democratic filibuster of Mr. Bolton and would point to a sizable political ramification of the crisis in the Middle East.
Mr. Bolton has served at the U.N. post without legislative backing since President Bush appointed him during a congressional recess last August. Discussion of his nomination resumed last week when Senator Voinovich, a Republican of Ohio, said he had changed his mind and would vote to confirm Mr. Bolton.
Mr. Voinovich had been the lone Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee opposed to Mr. Bolton, and his vote last year resulted in the nomination being sent to the Senate floor without committee approval.
Democrats twice blocked the nomination from receiving a full vote as part of a standoff with the White House over the administration's refusal to release classified National Security Agency intercepts that Mr. Bolton had asked to see while he served in the State Department. Lawmakers also cited Mr. Bolton's brusque management style and his earlier criticisms of the United Nations as obstacles to his confirmation.
The committee chairman, Senator Lugar of Indiana, seized on Mr. Voinovich's reversal last week and immediately scheduled a hearing on the nomination for tomorrow.Six of the eight Democrats on the committee responded with statements standing by their opposition to Mr. Bolton, but the minority leader, Senator Reid of Nevada, has not committed to another filibuster attempt.
Jewish leaders who support Mr. Bolton said they hope the war in the Middle East will take precedent over a stalemate between Democrats and the White House on the release of classified documents that led to a filibuster last year.
"Given the fact that we face a world today where every decision every day seems to count, we cannot allow any disruption in who plays the lead role in representing the United States," the chairman of the American Jewish Congress, Jack Rosen, said. "This is not a time for a void.It is not a time to take away someone who's represented us well at the United Nations, putting aside for the moment any squabbles or disagreements with the administration."
Mr. Rosen said he has written letters to members of the Foreign Relations Committee urging their support, and that he hopes the lack of a statement from Mr. Schumer and Mrs. Clinton is an indication that they are changing their position. "I think they would understand that the Jewish community is supporting Bolton and that when you represent a large Jewish community in New York, politics matters," he said.