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Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn considers voting against his party to help an Oklahoman get confirmed to federal appeals court

Federal magistrate Robert E. Bacharach, of Oklahoma City, may need both Oklahoma Republican senators to break ranks with the GOP in showdown vote on Monday.
by Chris Casteel Modified: July 27, 2012 at 9:59 pm •  Published: July 28, 2012

— Sen. Tom Coburn said Friday that he hadn't decided whether he would vote against his party's leadership Monday to help an Oklahoman get confirmed to federal appeals court.

Coburn, R-Muskogee, strongly supports U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert E. Bacharach's nomination for the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. And he said in June the custom of blocking judicial nominations in the last few months of a presidential election year is “stupid.”

In an interview Friday, Coburn said Bacharach is “just a stellar candidate and he ought to get through.” But he said he would weigh over the weekend whether to do that over his party's objections.

“I want to do the right thing,” he said. “I haven't decided what that is yet.”

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, who has also expressed strong support for Bacharach's nomination, did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Bacharach may need both of his home-state senators to help his cause on Monday.

Bacharach, who has heard more than 3,000 cases as a federal magistrate in Oklahoma City, received the highest possible rating from the American Bar Association and sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. But his nomination, along with that of three others cleared by the committee for circuit courts, has been stalled by Senate Republicans.

Coburn, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said he didn't know Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was going to file a procedural motion on Thursday to break the Republican blockade on Bacharach.

Coburn and Reid have clashed many times over the years, but Coburn has stepped up his criticism of the leader recently, blaming him for Senate inaction on pressing fiscal issues. Democrats have countered that Republican stalling tactics prevent the Senate from conducting business.

Coburn said Friday that voting for Reid's procedural motion would “reward” Reid for the way he has run the Senate.

Reid's motion calls for a vote Monday afternoon. That vote will not be on whether to confirm Bacharach to the circuit court, which is a step below the Supreme Court. Rather, it will be a vote to break the GOP filibuster; 60 of the 100 senators must approve it. If it is approved, the Senate could then confirm Bacharach with a simple majority.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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