Earlier this year, President Obama nominated Arvo Mikkanen, who would become the only sitting Native American federal judge in the country if he is confirmed, to a federal court in Oklahoma. Almost immediately, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) placed Mikkanen on double-secret probation — vowing to block Mikkanen’s nomination, but refusing to tell anyone why.
Just six months later, Coburn is back to his same obstructionist tricks:
Sen. Tom Coburn shot down the impending nomination of the dean of the University of Tulsa law school for the vacant seat on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, according to Oklahoma attorneys who said Coburn was concerned about Janet Levit’s background in international law. [...]
Levit is a Yale Law School graduate with a distinguished resume that includes serving as a clerk for the former chief judge of the 10th circuit court and arguing cases before the court. She has been dean of the University of Tulsa College of Law since 2008.
Levit’s academic specialty is international law, and she is a member of the American Society of International Law.
Coburn is one of the leading proponents of a paranoid fantasy that claims that activist judges are on the cusp of replacing American law with some kind of international legal new world order, but his decision to block Levit is bizarre even by Coburn’s standards. Apparently, merely knowing something about international law disqualifies you from service on the federal bench.
Coburn’s veto over judicial nominees within his state stems from a process known as “blue slipping” that effectively enables home-state senators to block nominees within their state that they disapprove of — although this rule somehow doesn’t apply when there is a conservative president. And it is unlikely that any nominee will survive Coburn’s effective veto given his deeply radical views of the Constitution. Coburn believes that Medicare, Medicaid, and education programs such as Pell Grants, federal student loans and Title I are all unconstitutional.
In other words, this is just one more example of how the Senate’s broken rules are failing the country. It makes no sense whatsoever to give a single senator with radical and idiosyncratic views the ability to prevent any new judges from being confirmed within his state.