Senate Republicans to block vote on Oklahoma nominee for federal appeals court

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn says Robert E. Bacharach is an “awfully good candidate'' for court who got caught in election-year politics as Republicans eye a White House win.
by Chris Casteel Published: June 15, 2012

Senate Republicans won't allow a vote before November's presidential election to confirm U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert E. Bacharach to a federal appeals court, despite Bacharach's credentials and support from both Oklahoma senators, Sen. Tom Coburn said Thursday.

Coburn, R-Muskogee, said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told him Republicans were following a tradition used by both parties to block votes on circuit court nominees a few months before a presidential election.

That means a vote on Bacharach, whose nomination to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, “is not going to happen,'' Coburn said.

Coburn said the nomination of John E. Dowdell to be a U.S. district judge in Tulsa still has a “great chance'' of clearing the full Senate.

Bacharach is “an awfully good candidate'' for the circuit court position, said Coburn, who praised his character and judicial temperament. Bacharach, who has been a magistrate judge in Oklahoma City since 1999, was given a rating of “unanimously well qualified” for the appeals court position by the American Bar Association.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, praised Bacharach during a committee hearing last month.

But the selection and confirmation process moved too slowly to fill the vacancy on the appeals court — which is a step below the U.S. Supreme Court — given the political timetable in Washington.

Though the position has been open since July 2010, the White House didn't make a nomination until January, after spending months vetting candidates that weren't going to be acceptable to Coburn and Inhofe.

Then, it took more than three months to schedule a committee hearing for Bacharach as the staff conducted a background investigation; Coburn withheld his approval for a committee hearing until the committee investigation was completed.

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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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