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Clear and 'present' changer


Gazette staff July 31st, 2012

Let's get this straight: U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, thinks stalling the appointments of exceptionally qualified judges is ... a travesty! A sham! A travesty of a sham!

tom+coburn-low+49mhTom Coburn

That's the impression you'd have after Coburn told The Oklahoman it was “stupid” for Senate Republicans to block a vote to confirm federal Magistrate Robert Bacharach to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. But then Coburn and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, both of whom have strongly endorsed Bacharach, stepped aside and left the judicial nominee in the proverbial cold yesterday when Senate Democrats tried forcing a vote on the matter.

Bacharach, President Barack Obama's pick for the 10th Circuit, needed 60 votes to allow a vote on his confirmation. He received 56, netting 51 Democrats, two independents and three Republicans. (Editor’s note: Bacharach is the higher-earning but less-handsome brother of Oklahoma Gazette editor-in-chief Phil Bacharach.)

Given their support of the candidate, one would think Coburn and Inhofe would have no problem casting “yay” votes. Instead, they voted “present,” the parliamentary equivalent of pretending to be asleep when you're asked to take out the garbage.

By all accounts, Bacharach is a solid pick to fill the vacancy left by Robert Henry, who resigned from the bench in 2010 to become president of Oklahoma City University. Bacharach, an Edmond resident, received a unanimous “well-qualified” from the American Bar Association, that organization's highest rating. He has won praise from Democrats and Republicans alike and was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a voice vote.

But, ay, here is the rub: He was appointed by Obama in an election year. And so Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell has held up Bacharach's nomination, along with a handful of others, in hopes that a Mitt Romney win in November would change the judicial playing field.

The Heritage Foundation even jumped into the fray, too, urging GOP senators to keep up the filibuster and not “hold their manhood cheap.” The conservative think tank even noted that the vote would be remembered when it came time for its annual scorecard of lawmakers.

And so the senators kept their manhood, if not their integrity.

Coburn denounced the game-playing — immediately after he played the game. Following the procedural vote, he called Bacharach “a stellar individual” caught up in politics.

“The game is politics and not policy for our country, and to me, it saddens me,” Coburn said. “It's not a whole lot different than what you see on the playground of the kindergarten.”

In the wake of the good senator's comments, let the record reflect that three GOP senators — Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe and Scott Brown — behaved themselves, played well with others and will get chocolate milk.

 
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