Weekly Opinion Editorial
RELIABLE INHOFE RETIRES!
by Steve Fair
On Friday, Senator James Mountain Inhofe announced his resignation from the United States Senate effective the end of the 117th Congress (1/3/2023). Inhofe, 87, has served in the upper chamber since 1994. Prior to that, he served three terms in the U.S. House. All told, Inhofe has served 35 years in Washington. Prior to that, he served as mayor of Tulsa for six years and prior to those ten years in the Oklahoma legislature. In total, Inhofe has spent over 50 years in elective office.
During his time in the Senate, Inhofe served as Chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works and the powerful Armed Services Committee. He first came to national attention in 1993, while in the House when Inhofe led the effort to reform the discharge petition rule. House leadership used the process to bottle up bills in committee and keep them from getting a floor vote. Inhofe has been a vocal critic of those who believe in man-made climate change and global warming. He wrote a book entitled, “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.”
Like Senators Boren, Nickles and Coburn, Inhofe by resigning before March 1st saved Oklahomans from a special election. The special election to fill the remaining four years in Inhofe’s term will be held as the same time as this year’s general election. Both of Oklahoma’s U.S. Senate seats will be up in November. Expect the Republican field to replace Inhofe to be crowded.
In an interview, Inhofe endorsed his chief of staff, Luke Holland, to replace him. He said he would campaign for Holland before the GOP primary, which is June 28th. Holland is a fourth generation Oklahoman who grew up in Bartlesville and already has a website. Former Oklahoma Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon and Congressmen Kevin Hern and Mark Wayne Mullin are also potential candidates. Three thoughts about Senator Inhofe:
First, Senator Inhofe is conservative. He has been consistently ranked as one of the most conservative members of the Senate. He is unapologetically pro-life and pro second amendment. He is a strong and reliable supporter of the military. The military will miss him and his staunch loyalty.
Second, Senator Inhofe is trying to pass the baton. His endorsement of Holland is meant to keep his agenda and political views alive. It remains to be seen if that works in 2022. It didn’t work in 2003, when Senator Don Nickles resigned. Senator Inhofe endorsed and campaigned for then OKC Mayor Kirk Humphries. When former Congressman Tom Coburn got in the race, it spoiled Inhofe’s plan. Coburn easily won the Republican primary.
Third, Inhofe wasn’t afraid to disagree. In 2010, when earmarks were banned in the Senate, Coburn called earmarks nothing more than re-election tokens. Inhofe said elimination of earmarks was a phony issue. Coburn said earmarks were the gateway drug to overspending. The GOP Senate voted to eliminate earmarks in 2010(Remember the ‘bridge to nowhere’).
In February 2021, the Democrat controlled U.S. House voted to bring back earmarks. In April 2021, the Senate followed their lead. Inhofe and several other Republican Senators voted to bring earmarks back. Coburn’s successor, Senator Lankford said: “The problem is earmarks are one of the worse of the worst ways that Congress spends taxpayer dollars. They are often a misuse of funds and become a way to buy votes from other legislators on bills they normally wouldn’t vote for.” Lankford voted no, Inhofe yes on bringing them back.
The issue of earmarks is a heavily debated topic by Republicans. Former President Trump favors earmarks. Most fiscal conservative Republicans oppose earmarks for the reasons listed above.
Senator Inhofe will be missed. He was a stable, consistent, reliable voice for Oklahoma in Washington for 35 years. British statesman Benjamin Disraeli said, “the secret of success is constancy of purpose.” Jim Inhofe knew and remained focused on his purpose. Oklahomans were blessed to have Senator Inhofe represent them.