Sens. Coburn and Inhofe (R-OK) really don’t like judicial nominee Arvo Mikkanen. Yet, as Andrew Cohen explains in a column written in Mikkanen’s voice, they’re not telling anyone why:
Sen. Tom Coburn called me “unacceptable for the position” and said he had “serious concerns” about me. Last week, he pronounced my nomination “dead.”
There was something else the senator said last week that caught my attention. When asked last week to describe why he concluded so quickly and surely that I was “unacceptable” to become a federal judge, Sen. Coburn said: “No comment.” When asked if he knew me, the senator said: “I know plenty. I have no comment.”
Coburn and Inhofe’s kneejerk rejection of Mikkanen is more than a little bizarre, since Mikkanen hardly has the kind of background in progressive legal advocacy that is likely to trigger a conservative senator’s ire. Indeed, Mikkanen spent the last seventeen years of his legal career working as a federal prosecutor.
Moreover, Mikkanen is exceptionally qualified for federal trial judgeship. As an Assistant U.S. Attorney, he has tried over 475 cases in federal court. Mikkanen also has prior judicial experience, having previously served as a Justice of the Supreme Court of the Cheyenne Arapaho Tribes.
Which brings up another important reason why Mikkanen’s nomination is welcome — if confirmed, Mikkanen will become the only sitting Native American federal judge in the country.
So Coburn and Inhofe’s refusal to even talk about why they oppose this exceptionally qualified nominee is both misguided and misinformed, but it is also par for the course for these two senators. Coburn is often referred to as “Dr. No” because of his long history of placing holds on popular bills with broad bipartisan support. And Inhofe has a long history of absurd objections to Obama’s judicial nominees.
When Obama nominated Justice Elena Kagan to her current seat on the Supreme Court, Inhofe declared his opposition just a few hours later. When Obama nominated Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Inhofe outlandishly claimed that he decided to oppose her eleven years before she was actually nominated.
So maybe Inhofe deserves a little credit: he at least waited for Mikkanen’s nomination to be announced before he proclaimed that he was utterly opposed to this newly-revealed nominee.