WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday cleared two Oklahoma federal judicial nominees for a full Senate vote, but Sen. Tom Coburn said presidential politics could prevent the Senate from confirming both this year.
Robert E. Bacharach, a U.S. magistrate judge in Oklahoma City, was approved by the committee for a seat on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is a step below the U.S. Supreme Court.
John E. Dowdell, a Tulsa attorney, was approved for a district judgeship.
The Oklahoma nominations are not controversial, and both of Oklahoma's Republican senators support them. Still, 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.
Coburn, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said Bacharach could become a victim of a delaying tactic on judicial nominations sometimes used in presidential election years by the party that doesn't control the White House.
This year, it could mean that Republicans block votes on nominees for appeals courts, which can have great influence on a wide range of legal issues. 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.
Coburn said he told Bacharach personally that he might not get through the Senate confirmation process this year.