By placing party above all else with their vote on 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Robert Bacharach, U.S. Senate Republicans did a disservice to the court and to the good man caught in the middle. Oklahoma’s two senators deserve a share of the blame.
Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn both say they strongly support Bacharach’s nomination. Indeed Coburn, R-Muskogee, said Monday that Bacharach was the best appellate court nominee he had seen during his eight years in the Senate.
And yet neither Coburn nor Inhofe, R-Tulsa, did the honorable thing Monday by voting to end a Republican filibuster that’s kept Bacharach’s nomination from getting an up-or-down vote in the Senate. Instead they voted “present.” Sixty votes were needed. The tally came up four short, with three Republicans and two independents joining the 51 Democrats in voting to advance Bacharach’s nomination.
Bacharach is a victim of what Coburn has called a “stupid” Senate custom, used through the years by both parties, to slow the confirmations of appeals court nominees in presidential election years when the president is from the other party. Bacharach is considered a top-shelf jurist, and it’s expected he would win easy approval in the full Senate. His sin was being nominated by Democratic President Barack Obama.
So the nomination languishes, and a 10th Circuit vacancy remains that has existed since July 2010 when Robert Henry stepped down from the Denver court. Until Bacharach’s name surfaced in January, the administration had struggled to find a nominee who would get Coburn’s and Inhofe’s imprimatur, which is vital to the process. Six months later Bacharach’s still waiting. After Monday’s poke in the eye by Senate Republicans, he must wait some more.
The fact Coburn and Inhofe voted as they did was highly disappointing and an illustration of just how polarized Washington is. When a well-qualified, noncontroversial nominee such as Bacharach can’t get off high center, that’s a problem.