How powerful are U.S. senators? Robert E. Bacharach and Al Armendariz would attest that they are plenty powerful.
Bacharach's chances to become a member of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver are much better today, after Sen. Tom Coburn cleared the way for the nomination to be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Bacharach's name had been offered in late January by President Obama, but Coburn, R-Muskogee, only signed off on it Monday. Backing of both U.S. senators is critical in the process; Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, had given his imprimatur in March.
Oklahomans should hope for smooth sailing from here out. The 10th Circuit position, traditionally held by an Oklahoman, has been vacant far too long — since July 1, 2010, when Robert Henry became president of Oklahoma City University. Obama first considered nominating someone from outside the state, which angered members of our congressional delegation. Then last summer, Coburn nixed the potential nomination of University of Tulsa law school dean Janet Levit.
After that, Coburn asked former Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Turpen to provide names of potential Democratic nominees. Bacharach, a highly regarded federal magistrate in Oklahoma City, was on the list. Now he may be on his way to Denver.
Armendariz, meantime, is on his way out of the Environmental Protection Agency. He resigned Sunday, days after Inhofe released a video clip of remarks made during a public hearing about natural gas drilling. In the video Armendariz, an administrator in the region that includes Oklahoma, said the EPA's approach to enforcing oil and gas exploration rules would be similar to the way Romans crucified some people after invading a town, in order to make examples out of them.
Armendariz apologized, but Inhofe said the attitude is typical. He plans, big stick in hand, to keep examining the EPA's work regarding oil and gas exploration.