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Playing politics: Inhofe talks SCOTUS pick, legislative agenda during brief Ardmore stop

Robby Short
robby.short@ardmoreite.com
US Senator Jim Inhofe lands at Ardmore's Downtown Executive Airport Monday.

US Senator Jim Inhofe made a last minute stop in Ardmore Monday to meet with local members of the press.

The senator’s single prop plane landed approximately three minutes behind schedule, a fact Inhofe confessed to immediately after indicating that his most recent COVID-19 test had come back negative, roughly five hours prior. 

Inhofe used the impromptu press event to champion some of President’s Donald Trump’s first-term accomplishments, including but not limited to the unprecedented economic conditions prior to being derailed by the pandemic. 

“I am a real fan of the president in terms of what he has done for the military,” Inhofe said. “During the last five years of the Obama regime, he reduced military spending by 25% at the same time when China and Russia were increasing theirs by 84%. So we got behind and Russia and China are actually ahead of us on some equipment.”

Inhofe acknowledged that US defense spending continues to eclipse the combined military spending of Russia, China and top ten largest spenders sans the United States.

“As a general rule, everyone hates Trump (everyone in the media) but when you stop and look at what he’s done, before the pandemic, we had the best economy of my lifetime,” Inhofe, who is 85, said. “People don’t often realize what he’s done for the economy and what he’s done for energy in this country.” 

Inhofe also used the opportunity to guarantee the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. 

Inhofe acknowledged his role in denying hearings for Merrick Garland nearly four years ago after then-president Barack Obama nominated the US circuit judge to replace Justice Antonin Scalia. The Republican-held Senate managed to stall the nomination for 293 days as Inhofe, among others, demanded the American people have a say in the nominations via the ongoing election.

Four years later, Inhofe said the circumstances have changed. The primary difference being the Senate and White House are controlled by Republicans. But he said the main push behind the Senate’s current efforts to rubber stamp the nomination is due to current polling returns and an unfavorable political landscape for Republicans in the next four to six years.

“That’s the reason I support pushing it through,” Inhofe said. “I want to have a third conservative Justice on the bench. I can assure you, if the tables were turned, they would do the same. She will be confirmed, there is not any doubt about that.”

Inhofe said he didn’t believe his Democrat peers would respond by packing the courts by adding additional seats — a scenario that would require Democrats to regain a majority in the Senate as well as control of the White House — though he admitted it was a possibility.

“They can’t change that (Barrett’s confirmation), once she’s confirmed, there is nothing they can do about it,” Inhofe said. “Now they could pack the courts, they said they would, but you gotta keep in mind, this is one of the years when there are many more Republicans up for reelection than there are Democrats. The same is true in the next election, 2022. But then in 2024, there will be far more Democrats up for reelection. So they know full well what we will do if they try to pack the courts. I don’t think they would do it because they know it would be a temporary thing.”

While only temporary, the move could allow Democrats to stave off potential threats to Rowe vs. Wade, the Affordable Care Act and a number of other legislative issues being put before the courts, albeit temporary. Were the Democrats to stand pat, the current makeup of the Supreme Court would give the country’s conservatives legislative sway in the event that national polling trends come to fruition, making Republicans a legislative minority for the next four years.

However, if the political chess move works out for the Republicans, it could allow a re-elected President Trump to essentially rule from the bench, bypassing both chambers of congress, if needed, to fulfill his agenda. 

The worst case event for Republicans, Inhofe said, would mean territories like Puerto Rico, Guam and Washington D.C. being recognized as states, erasing any current advantage Republicans have with Senate districting.

“I don’t think they will do it, because anything that is done will be undone or will be done in a way that it’s just as egregious on the other side,” Inhofe said. “I think both parties are going to try to get as many people that agree with them in the court system as possible, most won't admit it.”