People For the American Way

Sen. Coburn Hopes His Party Won’t Block His State’s Judicial Nominees

Here’s yet another sign that the Senate Republican leadership’s obstruction of qualified judicial nominees is beyond the pale: It is too extreme for Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn.

Yesterday, the Judiciary Committee approved by voice vote President Obama’s nomination of Robert Bacharach to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Bacharach is from Oklahoma, and the president made sure to find a qualified nominee who had the strong support of both of that state’s conservative Republican senators. A unanimous ABA panel analyzed his record and concluded that he was well qualified, the highest possible rating. The Judiciary Committee approved his nomination by voice vote, along with that of John Dowdell for a district court seat in Oklahoma.

Nevertheless, according to NewsOK, Sen. Coburn is concerned that his party leadership will prevent the Senate from voting on Bacharach and filling an important circuit court seat that has been vacant for two years:

Senate Republican leaders will have to agree to allow their nominations to come up for a vote in the full Senate, and Coburn said he didn’t expect that to happen for Bacharach.

Coburn, R-Muskogee, said he spoke to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, on Thursday about the nominations. McConnell told Coburn that he plans for Senate Republicans to discuss their approach to judicial nominations early next week.

For a responsible Senate leader, determining your “approach to judicial nominations” should not be difficult: Allow timely votes on nominees after they have been cleared by the Judiciary Committee, so that America’s courts can once again function effectively. But Sen. McConnell has made clear throughout the Obama presidency that partisanship takes priority over the proper functioning of the justice system.

The aim of the tactic is to delay making lifetime appointments to courts in hopes that their party will regain the White House and the power to fill judicial vacancies.

“I think it’s stupid,” Coburn said in an interview, adding that the goal should be to confirm good judges.

If only it really was stupidity that explained Senate Republican obstruction tactics. Unfortunately, Mitch McConnell knows exactly what he is doing.


John Dowdell, judges, judicial nominations, Lower Federal Courts, Mitch McConnell, Obstruction, Obstructionism, Oklahoma, Robert Bacharach, Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, Tom Coburn