Inhofe Leaves Top Position On Environment Committee

Image of Jim Inhofe from TPM

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe is leaving his position as top Republican huckster on the Environment and Public Works Committee, which he has used to lobby relentlessly for the oil and gas industry while embarrassing the state with his rejection of climate-change science.

A generic, pro-Inhofe article on NewsOK.com, the site of The Oklahoman, indicates the Oklahoma senator will become the top Republican on the Senate Armed Service Committee when Congress convenes in January.

The article, written in a typical press-release format by chief Washington stenographer Chris Casteel, then tells us this:

Inhofe will be giving up his spot as the top Republican — or ranking member — on the Environment and Public Works Committee, where he has helped author highway bills and gained international notice for his crusade against legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

“International notice,” as in that’s a good thing, Chris? Really.

Of course, Inhofe leaving the Environment and Public Works Committee as its top minority member is the real news not his new appointment, but Casteel, who works for an extremely conservative and biased news organization, won’t expand on it. (Casteel and The Oklahoman have enabled Inhofe during his entire political career.) Inhofe has waged a one-man war against the science of global warming for years, using his position on the committee as a bully pulpit. He has called global warming a “hoax” and absurdly claimed climate change science is a left-wing conspiracy.

Meanwhile, he has tried to protect the interests of the oil, gas and coal industries through outlandish, illogical claims while pocketing more than $500,000 in campaign contributions from the fossil fuels industry since 2007. Certainly, Inhofe has probably been one of the most anti-environmental politicians in the history of the country and definitely THE most anti-environmental figure in the world so far in the twenty-first century. For this, he has obviously become a national and state embarrassment.

Now, post-election, it appears his crusade against basic scientific principles has become an albatross around the GOP’s neck, a tremendous liability that will only sink the Republicans further into their oblivion on the national level. How can the GOP win the presidency if Inhofe and others like him continue to so loudly represent a particular, archaic branch of the party?

Cases in point:

  • Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, used the specter of Inhofe and his global warming claims to win a U.S. Senate seat against the Republican incumbent Scott Brown in Massachusetts. Here’s what she said: “Sen. Brown has been going around the country, talking to people, saying, you’ve got to contribute to his campaign because it may be for the control of the Senate. And he’s right. … What that would mean is if the Republicans take over control of the Senate, Jim Inhofe would become the person who would be in charge of the committee that oversees the Environmental Protection Agency. He’s a man that has called global warming ‘a hoax.’ In fact, that’s the title of his book.” Warren, well-known as a consumer advocate, won a decisive victory. Obviously, the Inhofe reference helped her, especially after Hurricane Sandy.

  • New York City Michael Bloomberg, an Independent who once ran for office as a Republican, endorsed President Barack Obama for president on the heels of Hurricane Sandy because he thought the president would do more to address global warming than Mitt Romney. As Bloomberg wrote before the election, “Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be -- given this week’s devastation -- should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.” This was a major smack-down for Inhofe and an indication that more and more public officials are becoming aware of climate change’s impact. It also argues that Republicans will not be able to increase their independent-voter share without becoming more flexible about climate change.

  • Inhofe spent the waning days of the last election campaigning for “legitimate rape” candidate Todd Akin, a fellow Republican, who was running for a U.S. Senate seat in Missouri. During the campaign, Akin said, “It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.” Akin said this to defend his anti-abortion stance, even in cases of rape. After he said it, he become an extremely controversial figure among Democrats and Republicans alike, but that didn’t stop Inhofe from openly supporting him, and why not? Legitimate rape and the “hoax” of global warming are kooky ideas presented by old, kooky white men who reject basic science. Akin lost the election.

Warren's victory, Akin's loss and Bloomberg's statements make Inhofe look like a relic of political party that, as of now, refuses to change.Inhofe can do a lot less damage for his party as a minority member of the Armed Services Committee as the country finally winds down the military occupation of Afghanistan.

Does the election mean Inhofe, who will soon turn 78, will lose even more credibility over his outlandish claims about global warming? It seems so, and that’s good for the planet.

Update: Inhofe says he's stepping down from his position because of term limits apparently mandated by the GOP. He says he will continue to fight against climate-change science.