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Sen. James Inhofe (R)

Oklahoma

N/A

inhofe.senate.gov

Biography

Elected: Nov. 1994, term expires 2020, 4th full term.

Born: November 17, 1934, Des Moines, IA

Home: Tulsa, OK

Education: U. of Tulsa, B.A. 1973

Professional Career: Businessman, land developer, 1962–86.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Presbyterian

Family: Married (Kay Kirkpatrick) , 4 children (1 deceased); 16 grandchildren

Republican James Inhofe, Oklahoma’s senior senator, was first elected to the House in 1986 and to the Senate in 1994. He is widely known for his vehement disbelief in the science of climate change as well as for his hawkish pro-military views. He returned to the chairmanship of the Environment and Public Works Committee in 2015.

Inhofe (IN-hauff) grew up in Tulsa, served in the Army, and worked in real estate and insurance. He was elected to the Oklahoma House in 1966, at age 31, and to the Oklahoma Senate in 1969. As a state legislator, he worked to promote the balanced budget constitutional amendment championed by Nebraska Sen. Carl Curtis. Inhofe ran for governor in 1974 and lost to David Boren, 64%-36%. In 1976, he ran for the U.S. House against Democrat Jim Jones and lost. From 1979 to 1984, he was mayor of Tulsa. He won the heavily Republican 1st District House seat in 1986, when Jones ran unsuccessfully for the Senate, but held it with uninspiring margins. He was hurt by negative publicity from a family business lawsuit and charges of campaign finance irregularities.

Inhofe’s greatest achievement in the House was reforming the arcane discharge petition rule. For years, House rules kept secret the names of signers of petitions to force bills stuck in committees to the floor for action; anonymity allowed lawmakers to claim they had worked to bring legislation to the floor when they in fact had done the opposite. That was changed in 1993, and one of the first bills to benefit from the new rules was an aviation liability reform bill, co-sponsored by flying buff Inhofe and limiting the liability of small airplane manufacturers in lawsuits resulting from crashes.

Inhofe jumped into the 1994 Senate race after Boren, a conservative Democrat, announced he was retiring to become president of the University of Oklahoma with two years left in his Senate term. The Democratic nominee was moderate Dave McCurdy, a congressman from southwest Oklahoma since 1980 who was favored to win. But in Oklahoma in 1994, the burden of Bill Clinton’s unpopularity among conservatives was too much for McCurdy, who had voted for the 1993 budget and tax legislation and for the 1994 crime bill with its ban on assault weapons. Inhofe won by a solid 55%-40%. In the Senate, Inhofe was president of the conservative freshman class of 11 senators. In 1996, he was elected to a full six-year term over James Boren, David Boren’s cousin, 57%-40%.

Inhofe has a solidly conservative voting record and is blunt, even acerbic, at times. “I’m not afraid of controversy. I’m not afraid to say what’s on my mind and what’s on a lot of people’s minds,” he says. He speaks his mind in pungent terms, with his barbs often targeted at his opponents in the green movement. He once accused Clinton Environmental Protection Agency chief Carol Browner of “Gestapo tactics.” Environmentalists often hit back; activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in 2012 called Inhofe “big oil’s top call girl.”

Inhofe has been a leader of the GOP faction that dispute the scientific evidence that carbon dioxide emissions cause catastrophic climate change. In 2003, Inhofe said that the idea that man-made emissions have caused global warming was “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” After emails in 2009 revealed attempts by some scientists to bolster the case for global warming, he said in March 2010 that “the world’s first climate billionaire is running for cover. Yes, I’m talking about Al Gore. He’s under siege these days.” Inhofe published a book in 2012, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.

In January 2015, he said on the Senate floor: "Climate is changing, and climate has always changed. There's archeological evidence of that. There's biblical evidence of that. There's historic evidence of that." His agenda for EPW included efforts to villify the EPAs "job-killing regulations" through tough oversight hearings, along with an update of the Toxic Substances Control Act. He also expressed his desire for "a long term transportation bill -- a sizeable and robust one."

Much of Inhofe’s tenure as chairman of the committee from 2003 to 2007 was devoted to the reauthorization of the highway bill, which is one of the main institutional responsibilities of the committee. By early 2004, Inhofe had hammered out an agreement in the Senate on a $318 billion transportation bill. House Transportation Chairman Don Young was seeking a $375 billion bill, while the Bush administration wanted to cap spending at $256 billion. Inhofe argued that money was needed to maintain the highway system and would be funded entirely by user fees, primarily the gas tax. The Senate passed Inhofe’s bill, but the House reduced the size of its version to $275 billion. The political differences were also significant. A goal of Inhofe’s bill was to guarantee that every state got 95% of its gas tax money back, but if total spending were decreased, that meant other states would lose projects. So the issue was deferred to 2005. By that time, Republican leaders were eager to cut a final deal with Bush, and Inhofe backed a scaled-down bill at $286 billion.

Coming from a major petroleum-producing state, he favors oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and more oil and gas drilling exploration in the United States generally. He also has low regard for the Endangered Species Act. “America has adopted an attitude that places more value on the life of a critter than on a human being,” he once said.

After Democrats won control of the Senate, Inhofe in January 2007 withstood a backroom challenge from Virginia Republican John Warner to become the ranking minority member on the committee. Prospects for his cooperation with incoming Democratic Chairman Barbara Boxer, a liberal from California, seemed to be nil. He spoke out strongly against her bill to impose a mandatory cap on carbon dioxide emissions. When Boxer’s proposal died in the Senate in June 2008, he said that it showed “momentum is going our way.” But he insisted their personal relations were good. Indeed, after they worked together in 2012 to pass a two-year highway and surface transportation bill, Boxer told reporters that Inhofe “has been just the best partner for me as chairman...in the best traditions of how the highway bill has been done until now.”

Inhofe co-sponsored a bill to stop the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide emissions and also limiting states’ authority to do so. The Senate rejected it, 47-52, in March 2013. After the April 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, he opposed a Democratic initiative to remove the $75 million cap on damages for offshore drilling accidents and argued there should be some limit.

Inhofe took the top GOP post on Armed Services in 2013 after Arizona’s John McCain stepped aside because of party-imposed term limits. Inhofe began by crusading against his former Senate colleague, Nebraska Republican Chuck Hagel, to become secretary of Defense after having earlier praised Hagel. While other senators questioned Hagel’s support for Israel as a cause for concern, Inhofe went even further: He suggested that Hagel was “cozy” with countries promoting terrorism because Iran had expressed support for his nomination. That led Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill to respond, “Senator Inhofe, be careful. What if some horrible organization said tomorrow that you were the best guy that they knew?”

Inhofe continued to regularly blast Obama on national security matters. He accused Obama in February 2014 of telling an “outrageous lie” during an nterview about the 2012 attack on a consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and alleged the administration was mounting a Watergate-sized cover-up about the incident. He also implored his colleauges in September of that year to give the president the formal power to take military action in Syria. Before a White House address on the subject, he told MSNBC: "Let’s give him that authority so, at the last minute, he can’t say, ‘Well, I’m not sure I have that authority.’ He’s inclined to do that.”

In the past, Inhofe has been a strong supporter of missile defense and was one of the leaders of the successful fight to stop President Clinton’s effort to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. He added a provision to the fiscal 2011 defense authorization law barring commanders from collecting information about weapons privately owned by troops. The measure led a group of senior retired generals and admirals in 2012 to ask that the law be changed because it interfered with efforts to prevent military suicides. Inhofe said he disagreed with that view, but he did not block efforts to modify it.

Inhofe has also been a leader in the movement to make English the country’s official language, and during the 2006 debate on overhauling immigration policy, he got the Senate to pass his amendment. “This is not just about preserving our culture and heritage, but also about bettering the odds for our nation’s newest potential citizens,” he said. When immigration reform came up in the Senate in 2007, Inhofe again was able to get his language amendment passed. And Inhofe’s contrarian streak has not slackened in the least. In June 2009, he refused to meet with Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor on the grounds that he had decided to oppose her.

In 2002 and 2008, Inhofe was reelected by almost identical margins, both somewhat smaller than Republican presidential margins in Oklahoma. In 2002, he beat former Gov. David Walters, who had years earlier pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of violating campaign finance laws, by 57%-36%. In 2008, he beat state Sen. Andrew Rice, 57%-39%, carrying all but four counties in the Muskogee area.

Inhofe has for years regularly flown airplanes and is one of the few certified commercial pilots in Congress. He flew around the world following the historic route of Wiley Post, the first pilot to fly solo around the globe. But he encountered problems in October 2006 when the small plane he was flying spun out of control and suffered significant damage on landing in Tulsa, though he and an aide escaped injury. His penchant for daredevil stunts in the air is well-known around the Capitol, and few of his aides will take him up on his offers of airplane rides. But in October 2010, his flouting of air safety rules became a serious issue. Inhofe set his six-seat Cessna down on a runway clearly marked closed at a South Texas airport, and just narrowly missed hitting a group of construction workers during an aborted landing attempt. The Federal Aviation Administration ordered him to take remedial flying lessons, but did not take away his pilot’s license. Inhofe was a major backer of a bill signed into law by Bush in 2007 that raised the mandatory retirement age for airline pilots from 60 to 65.

In November 2013, Inhofe's son Perry died when the small, single-engine plane he was flying crashed in Oklahoma. Discussing how the loss affected him, he told NBC News: “You don’t change in terms of your positions, in terms of what you believe in, but you change in terms of your understanding of individuals."

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-4721

(202) 228-0380

RSOB- Russell Senate Office Building Room 205
Washington, DC 20510-3603

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-4721

(202) 228-0380

RSOB- Russell Senate Office Building Room 205
Washington, DC 20510-3603

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-4721

(202) 228-0380

1924 South Utica Avenue Suite 530
Tulsa, OK 74104-6511

DISTRICT OFFICE

(918) 748-5111

(918) 748-5119

1924 South Utica Avenue Suite 530
Tulsa, OK 74104-6511

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-4721

(202) 228-0380

1900 Northwest Expressway Suite 1210
Oklahoma City, OK 73118-1821

DISTRICT OFFICE

(405) 608-4381

(405) 608-4120

1900 Northwest Expressway Suite 1210
Oklahoma City, OK 73118-1821

DISTRICT OFFICE

(580) 234-5105

(580) 234-5094

Continental Tower North Suite 104
Enid, OK 73701-4025

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-4721

(202) 228-0380

Continental Tower North Suite 104
Enid, OK 73701-4025

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-4721

(202) 228-0380

First National Center Suite 106
McAlester, OK 74501-5069

DISTRICT OFFICE

(918) 426-0933

(918) 426-0935

First National Center Suite 106
McAlester, OK 74501-5069

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Election Results

2014 GENERAL
James Inhofe
Votes: 557,537
Percent: 68.02%
Matt Silverstein
Votes: 233,932
Percent: 28.54%
2008 GENERAL
James Inhofe
Votes: 763,375
Percent: 56.68%
Andrew Rice
Votes: 527,736
Percent: 39.18%
2008 PRIMARY
James Inhofe
Votes: 116,371
Percent: 84.18%
Evelyn Rogers
Votes: 10,770
Percent: 7.79%
Ted Ryals
Votes: 7,306
Percent: 5.28%
Prior Winning Percentages
2002 (57%), 1996 (57%), 1994 special (55%); House: 1992 (53%), 1990 (56%), 1988 (53%), 1986 (55%)

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