Gaylord News is a Washington reporting project of the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Patrick Wyrick to serve as U.S. district judge for the Western District of Oklahoma a year after his initial nomination with vocal support from both Oklahoma senators.
Wyrick, 38, was confirmed with a party line vote of 53-47 and is among the first of President Trump’s nominees to benefit from a shortened debate time pushed through by Republicans last week.
“Patrick Wyrick will be an excellent choice,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said shortly before the confirmation vote.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said he has no doubt Wyrick is qualified for the position, calling the transition from the state’s Supreme Court to federal court a “lateral move.”
Trump renominated Wyrick for the federal judgeship, which has been vacant since July of 2013, in January after his nomination died when the last congress adjourned under Senate rules. The president first nominated him for the position in April 2018.
In November 2017, Trump had added Wyrick to a list of 25 potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees alongside now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urged senators to bring the confirmation to a vote.
“We’ll build on the action taken last week to restore some reason and sanity to the nominations process, which has suffered in recent years under the burden of partisan obstruction,” McConnell said of the effort to shorten the required debate time from 30 hours to two.
“I’m sorry to say that this week will mark one year since Mr. Wyrick’s nomination was first received in the Senate,” McConnell said. “I hope each of my colleagues will join me in long-overdue support for its prompt consideration here on the floor.”
Inhofe predicted this new procedure “won’t change the debate a bit.”
“(Democrats) use the debate for the time, not for the content,” Inhofe said.
In fact, no senator addressed the Wyrick nomination during the two allotted hours on Tuesday afternoon.
A year ago, Wyrick’s nomination advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee after a May 2018 hearing. According to The Oklahoman, senators during that meeting questioned him about several ethical issues, including his role in a Scott Pruitt controversy, an allegation that he made false statements in a brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court and a lawsuit that questioned his residency, among other things.
Lankford said he thinks these accusations seemed “like a Hail Mary pass.”
“I get people don’t like President Trump or they don’t like Scott Pruitt, but you need to allow each person to be evaluated on their own merits and not try to say they’re guilty by association,” Lankford said.
Some Democrats point to the controversy as a reason why a shorter confirmation process is a red flag.
“Republicans have all but eliminated time to debate judicial nominees,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) tweeted. “Today's vote on Patrick Wyrick shows why that's a problem: he's up for a *lifetime* appointment while facing allegations of unethical behavior. This should be disqualifying.”