WASHINGTON — Oklahoma had two election-night winners Tuesday who weren't on any ballot — the federal judicial nominees whose confirmation votes had been stalled by Senate Republicans hoping for a new president.
With President Barack Obama's victory, the nominations of U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert E. Bacharach and Tulsa attorney John E. Dowdell should “fly through” the Senate, Sen. Tom Coburn said Wednesday.
Bacharach, a magistrate judge in Oklahoma City, was tapped by Obama early this year for a seat on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the nation's appellate courts a step below the U.S. Supreme Court. Dowdell was nominated for a U.S. district judgeship in Tulsa.
Both won bipartisan praise and support in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but their nominations bogged down in election-year politics as Republicans — employing a tactic that has also been used by Democrats — refused to advance nominations in the last few months before the presidential election.
Had Republican Mitt Romney won, he would have been able to make his own judicial nominations.
Oklahoma City attorney Dan Webber, the former U.S. attorney in the Oklahoma City region, said Wednesday that the Senate “could and should approve the backlog of President Obama's judicial nominees that have been pending for months.”
“Most of the nominees, including Judge Bacharach and John Dowdell, face little or no opposition and could be confirmed by unanimous consent or voice vote. The Senate could confirm a dozen or more nominees, including the Oklahomans, in less than an hour.”
The Senate is scheduled to reconvene next week.
Coburn, R-Muskogee, supports Bacharach and Dowdell, though he essentially abstained from voting when Senate Democrats tried to advance Bacharach's nomination past a Republican filibuster in July.
Coburn said Wednesday that he would ask Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, to schedule another vote on Bacharach's nomination. Ultimately, he said, it would be up to Reid and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, to determine when votes will be held.
If the judges don't make it through the Senate before the next Congress begins in January, the president would have to nominate them again, Coburn said.
In a news conference on Wednesday, Reid expressed frustration that he had to try to break Republican filibusters on 17 different judicial nominations. He said he would seek to reform the process by which the minority can block action in the Senate.