Former GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe, famous for throwing a snowball in the Senate chamber, dead at 89

Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma speaks during a news conference after a Senate Republican luncheon in June 2020.

Former GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma has died at age 89.
Before his election in 1994, he served in the US House, as mayor of Tulsa, and in both state legislative chambers.
He famously threw a snowball in the Senate in an attempt to debunk climate change in 2015.

Former Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, has died at age 89, Tulsa World and Politico report. He is survived by his wife, Kay, along with 4 children and over a dozen grandchildren.

He died after suffering a stroke on July 4, according to Politico.

First elected to the Senate in 1994 in a special election to replace the retiring Sen. David Boren, Inhofe himself triggered a special election when he abruptly announcement his retirement in February 2022.

“It has been the greatest honor to serve the people of Oklahoma since I first entered public service in 1967, but after much prayer and consideration, Kay and I feel the time has come to stand aside,” wrote Inhofe in a letter to Oklahoma’s Secretary of State announcing his resignation.

Inhofe was among the chamber’s most conservative members, and was known for his hawkish views on national security and his denial of the science behind climate change.

Following the late Sen. John McCain’s death in 2018, Inhofe led Senate oversight of the nation’s military as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee before becoming ranking member when Democrats retook the Senate majority in January 2021. 

‘The greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people’

Inhofe and then-ranking member Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing in January 2015.

Born in Iowa in 1934, Inhofe served in the military from 1957 to 1958 and embarked on a career in real estate, insurance, and aviation; even into 80s, Inhofe was an avid pilot himself and frequently piloted his own small plane.

His career in public service began over 55 years ago, when he was elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 1967. He went on to hold numerous offices, including stints as a state senator (1969-1977), mayor of Tulsa, the state’s second largest city (1978-1984), and as a member of the US House of Representatives (1987-1994).

The Oklahoma Republican first became chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in 2003, and served as the committee’s top Republican until 2017. His time on the committee overlapped significantly with that of former Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, who served as chair of the committee from 2007 to 2015.

Inhofe’s position as chair of the environmental committee offered him a prominent platform from which he denied the science behind climate change.

“With all of the hysteria, all of the fear, all of the phony science, could it be that man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people?” asked Inhofe in a July 2003 floor speech. “It sure sounds like it.”

In 2009, he claimed that a trove of leaked emails from a group of researchers at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom had proven that the science behind climate change “has been pretty well debunked.”

Former Democratic Vice President Al Gore, who’s focused on advocating for solutions to climate change and global warming since his time in office, was also a frequent target of Inhofe’s. In 2010, the senator told ABC News that the planet is “in a cycle now that all the scientists agree is going into a cooling period” after giving a speech earlier that year drawing attention to an igloo built by his grandchildren dubbed “Al Gore’s New Home.”

He even wrote an entire book, “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future,” in 2012.

But Inhofe’s most infamous moment may have come in February 2015, when he tossed a snowball on the Senate floor as part of a speech aimed at disproving climate change.

“We keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record,” said Inhofe as he removed the snowball from a plastic bag. “It’s very, very cold out. Very unseasonable.”

But despite his record on climate change, Inhofe notably had a warm friendship with his counterpart Boxer, a liberal Democrat who was outspoken about the need to address climate change. The duo worked together on legislation to regulate toxic chemicals, improve transportation systems, and securing $200 million in emergency funds to address the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

“She has every right to be wrong,” Inhofe quipped in an interview with the Associated Press in 2016. Boxer, for her part, said she and Inhofe “respect each other and we don’t waste a lot of time arguing.”

And that partnership was widely recognized in the Senate.

“I hate to see the Boxer-Inhofe team come to an end,” said then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the time, remarking on Boxer’s planned retirement.

And Inhofe even earned praise from Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a liberal firebrand and 2-time Democratic presidential candidate. Asked in March 2016 which Republican he is closest to, yet shares significant disagreements with, Sanders named Inhofe.

“Jim is a climate change denier, he is really, really conservative,” said Sanders, noted that even praising Inhofe had the potential to “probably ruin his political career.”

“But you know what? He’s a decent guy, and I like him, and he and I are friends,” he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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