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Jim Inhofe
Jim Inhofe official portrait.jpg
Official portrait, 2018
United States Senator
from Oklahoma
Assumed office
November 16, 1994
Serving with James Lankford
Preceded by David Boren
Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee
Assumed office
February 3, 2021
Preceded by Jack Reed
Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee
In office
September 6, 2018 – February 3, 2021
Preceded by John McCain
Succeeded by Jack Reed
Chair of the Senate Environment Committee
In office
January 3, 2015 – January 3, 2017
Preceded by Barbara Boxer
Succeeded by John Barrasso
In office
January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2007
Preceded by Jim Jeffords
Succeeded by Barbara Boxer
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Oklahoma's 1st district
In office
January 3, 1987 – November 15, 1994
Preceded by James R. Jones
Succeeded by Steve Largent
32nd Mayor of Tulsa
In office
May 9, 1978 – May 8, 1984
Preceded by Robert LaFortune
Succeeded by Terry Young
Member of the Oklahoma Senate
from the 35th district
In office
January 7, 1969 – January 4, 1977
Preceded by L. Beauchamp Selman
Succeeded by Warren Green
Member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives
from the 70th district
In office
January 7, 1967 – January 7, 1969
Preceded by Joseph McGraw
Succeeded by Richard Hancock
Personal details
James Mountain Inhofe

(1934-11-17) November 17, 1934 (age 89)
Des Moines, Iowa, U.S.
Political party Republican
Kay Kirkpatrick
(m. 1959)
Children 4
Education University of Tulsa (BA)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service 1956–1958
Rank Specialist 4

James Mountain Inhofe (/ˈɪnhɒf/ INN-hoff; born November 17, 1934) is an American politician serving as the senior United States senator from Oklahoma, a seat he was first elected to in 1994. A member of the Republican Party, he chaired the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) from 2003 to 2007 and again from 2015 to 2017. Inhofe served as the U.S. representative for OK's 1st congressional district from 1987 to 1994 and as mayor of Tulsa from 1978 to 1984.

Inhofe is known for his rejection of climate science. He has supported a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and has proposed the Inhofe Amendment to make English the national language of the United States.

Inhofe served as acting chairman of the Armed Services Committee while John McCain fought cancer in 2018. After McCain's death, he became chairman. Since February 2021, he has served as Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

On July 15, 2021, Inhofe told Tulsa World he planned to retire at the end of his current term, in 2027. In February 2022, The New York Times reported that Inhofe was planning to resign at the end of the 117th United States Congress.

Early life, education, and business career

Inhofe was born in Des Moines, Iowa, the son of Blanche (née Mountain) and Perry Dyson Inhofe. He moved with his family to Tulsa, Oklahoma, as a child. He was a member of the Class of 1953 at Tulsa Central High School, and served in the United States Army from 1957 to 1958. Inhofe received a B.A. in economics from the University of Tulsa in 1973. Until his 1994 campaign for the U.S. Senate, Inhofe's official biographies and news articles about him indicated that he had graduated in 1959. Inhofe initially denied the stories that uncovered the discrepancy, but later acknowledged them. After admitting that the stories were true, Inhofe explained that he had been allowed to take part in graduation ceremonies in 1959 though he was a few credits short of completing his degree, and did not finish his coursework until 1973.

Inhofe worked as a businessman for 30 years. He worked in aviation, as a real estate developer, and in insurance, eventually becoming the president of Quaker Life Insurance Company. During his curatorship, the company went into receivership; it was liquidated in 1986.

U.S. House of Representatives


In 1986, when Representative Jones decided to retire to run for the U.S. Senate, Inhofe ran for the 1st District and won the Republican primary with 54%. In the general election, he defeated Democrat Gary Allison 55%–43%. In 1988 he won reelection against Democrat Kurt Glassco, Governor George Nigh's legal counsel, 53%–47%. In 1990 he defeated Glassco again, 56%–44%. After redistricting, the 1st District contained only two counties, all of Tulsa and some parts of Wagoner. In 1992 Inhofe was reelected with 53% of the vote.


In 1987 Inhofe voted against President Ronald Reagan's budget, which included tax increases and no increase in defense spending.

He first came to national attention in 1993, when he led the effort to reform the House's discharge petition rule, which the House leadership had long used to bottle up bills in committee.

U.S. Senate

Neil Gorsuch and Jim Inhofe
Inhofe meeting with Neil Gorsuch in March 2017.


In 1994, incumbent Senator David Boren, who had been serving in the Senate since 1979, agreed to become president of the University of Oklahoma and announced he would resign as soon as a successor was elected. Inhofe was elected Boren's successor in an election cycle that saw the Republican Party take both houses of Congress and the Oklahoma governorship (the latter for only the third time in state history). Inhofe took office on November 16, giving him more seniority than the incoming class of senators. After serving the last two years of Boren's term, he won his first full term in 1996. He was reelected in 2002, 2008, 2014, and 2020.

Inhofe does not plan to seek reelection in 2026, and was reported to be planning retirement by the end of the 117th Congress. His retirement triggered a 2022 special election.



In the 2008 election cycle, Inhofe's largest campaign donors represented the oil and gas ($446,900 in donations), leadership PACs ($316,720) and electric utilities ($221,654) industries/categories. In 2010, his largest donors represented the oil and gas ($429,950) and electric ($206,654) utilities.

President Joe Biden meets with a bipartisan group of Senators
Inhofe meeting with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, February 11, 2021.

The primary PACs donating to his campaigns were Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association ($55,869), United Parcel Service ($51,850), National Association of Realtors ($51,700), National Rifle Association ($51,050) and American Medical Association ($51,000). Additionally, if company-sponsored PACs were combined with employee contributions, Koch Industries would be Inhofe's largest contributor, with $90,950 according to OpenSecrets.[undue weight? ]

Armed Services Committee
Inhofe Gilday handshake (48423570207)
Inhofe shakes hands with Vice Admiral Michael M. Gilday, director of the Joint Staff, before his confirmation hearing for the position of Chief of Naval Operations at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., July 31, 2019.

As a member of the Armed Services Committee, Inhofe was among the panelists questioning witnesses about the 2004 Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse, saying he was "outraged by the outrage" over the revelations of abuse. Although he believed that the individuals responsible for mistreating prisoners should be punished, he said that the prisoners "are not there for traffic violations ... they're murderers, they're terrorists, they're insurgents". In 2006, Inhofe was one of only nine senators to vote against the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which prohibits "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment of individuals in U.S. Government custody.

When chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John McCain was absent seeking medical treatment for brain cancer from December 2017, Inhofe became acting chairman of the committee. During this time, Inhofe helped secure the passage of the record $716 billion National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019. McCain died in August 2018, and Inhofe lauded him as his "hero". Inhofe also said that McCain was "partially to blame for" the White House's controversial decision to raise flags back to full mast after less than two days, as McCain previously "disagreed with the President in certain areas and wasn't too courteous about it".

On March 6, 2019, Inhofe said he intends to put language in the next defense authorization act to reinforce Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement and reintroduce severe sanctions on Tehran.

Committee assignments

CODEL James Inhofe visit to Kyiv, Ukraine, October 27-28, 2014 01
CODEL James Inhofe during a visit to Kyiv, Ukraine, October 27–28, 2014

Inhofe, as of the 115th Congress, is a member of the following committees:

  • Committee on Armed Services
    • Subcommittee on Airland
    • Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support
    • Subcommittee on Strategic Forces
  • Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
  • Committee on Environment and Public Works
  • Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

Caucus memberships

  • International Conservation Caucus
  • Senate Army Caucus
  • Senate Diabetes Caucus
  • Senate General Aviation Caucus
  • Senate Rural Health Caucus
  • Senate Tourism Caucus
  • Sportsmen's Caucus

Ideology and opinions

Inhofe was ranked the most conservative member of Congress on the 2017 GovTrack report card. He received the same ranking for 2018. For 2019, he was ranked as the fifth-most conservative member of the U.S. Senate with a score of 0.91 out of 1, behind Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Mike Braun (R-IN), and Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Environmental issues

Early years; 2003 Chair of Environment and Public Works committee

In December 1997, Inhofe argued that the Kyoto Protocol was a "political, economic, and national security fiasco."

Before the Republicans regained control of the Senate in the November 2002 elections, Inhofe had compared the United States Environmental Protection Agency to a Gestapo bureaucracy, and EPA Administrator Carol Browner to a Tokyo Rose, i.e. an English-speaking spreader of Japanese propaganda during World War II. In January 2003, he became Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and continued challenging mainstream science in favor of what he called "sound science", in accordance with the Luntz memo.

Climate change denial

Since 2003, when he was first elected Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Inhofe has been the foremost Republican promoting climate change denial. He famously claimed in the Senate that global warming is a hoax, invited contrarians to testify in Committee hearings, and spread his views via the Committee website run by Marc Morano as well as through his access to conservative media. In 2012, Inhofe's The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future was published by WorldNetDaily Books, presenting his global warming conspiracy theory. He has said that, because "God's still up there", the "arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous", but also that he appreciates that this argument is unpersuasive, and that he has "never pointed to Scriptures in a debate, because I know this would discredit me."

As Environment and Public Works chairman, Inhofe gave a two-hour Senate floor speech on July 28, 2003, in the context of discussions on the McCain-Lieberman Bill. He said he was "going to expose the most powerful, most highly financed lobby in Washington, the far left environmental extremists", and laid out in detail his opposition to attribution of recent climate change to humans, using the word "hoax" four times, including the statement that he had "offered compelling evidence that catastrophic global warming is a hoax" and his conclusion that "manmade global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people". He supported what he called "sound science", citing contrarian scientists such as Patrick Michaels, Fred Singer, Richard Lindzen and Sallie Baliunas as well as some mainstream scientists. Two of these, Tom Wigley and Stephen Schneider, later issued statements that Inhofe had misrepresented their work.

On July 29, the day after his Senate speech, Inhofe chaired an Environment and Public Works hearing with contrarian views represented by Baliunas and David Legates, and praised their "1,000-year climate study", then involved in the Soon and Baliunas controversy, as "a powerful new work of science". Against them, Michael E. Mann defended mainstream science and specifically his work on reconstructions (the hockey stick graph) that they and the Bush administration disputed. During the hearing Senator Jim Jeffords read out an email from Hans von Storch saying he had resigned as editor-in-chief of the journal that published the Soon and Baliunas paper, as the peer review had "failed to detect significant methodological flaws in the paper" and the critique by Mann and colleagues was valid.

In a continuation of these themes, Inhofe had a 20-page brochure published under the Seal of the United States Senate reiterating his "hoax" statement and comparing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to a "Soviet style trial". In a section headed "The IPCC Plays Hockey" he attacked what he called "Mann's flawed, limited research." The brochure restated themes from Inhofe's Senate speech, and in December 2003 he distributed copies of it in Milan at a meeting about the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, where he met "green activists" with posters quoting him as saying that global warming "is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people". He signed a poster for them, and thanked them for quoting him correctly. In an October 2004 Senate speech he said, "Global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people. It was true when I said it before, and it remains true today. Perhaps what has made this hoax so effective is that we hear over and over that the science is settled and there is a consensus that, unless we fundamentally change our way of life by limiting greenhouse gas emissions, we will cause catastrophic global warming. This is simply a false statement." In January 2005 Inhofe told Bloomberg News that global warming was "the second-largest hoax ever played on the American people, after the separation of church and state", and that carbon dioxide would not be restricted by the Clear Skies Act of 2003. In a Senate Floor "update", he extended his argument against Mann's work by extensively citing Michael Crichton's fictional thriller State of Fear, mistakenly describing Crichton as a "scientist". On August 28, 2005, at Inhofe's invitation, Crichton appeared as an expert witness at a hearing on climate change, disputing Mann's work.

In his 2006 book The Republican War on Science, Chris Mooney wrote that Inhofe "politicizes and misuses the science of climate change".

During the 2006 North American heat wave, Inhofe said that the environmentalist movement reminded him of "the Third Reich, the Big Lie": "You say something over and over and over and over again, and people will believe it, and that's their strategy." In a September 2006 Senate speech Inhofe argued that the threat of global warming was exaggerated by "the media, Hollywood elites and our pop culture". He said that in the 1960s the media had switched from warning of global warming to warning of global cooling and a coming ice age, then in the 1970s had returned to warming to promote "climate change fears". In February 2007 he told Fox News that mainstream science increasingly attributed climate change to natural causes, and only "those individuals on the far left, such as Hollywood liberals and the United Nations", disagreed.

In 2006 Inhofe introduced Senate Amendment 4682 with Kit Bond (R-MO), which would have modified oversight responsibility of the Army Corps of Engineers. The League of Conservation Voters, an environmentalist group, said analyses for corps projects "have been manipulated to favor large-scale projects that harm the environment." During the 109th Congress Inhofe voted to increase offshore oil drilling, to include provisions for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the House Budget Amendment, and to deny funding for both low-income energy assistance and environmental stewardship, citing heavy costs and unproven programs.

In May 2009 Inhofe gave support to the idea that black carbon is a significant contributor to global warming.

Inhofe has received money from the fossil fuel industry. For example: "Exxon's beneficiaries in Congress include the Oklahoma senator Jim Inhofe, who called global warming a hoax, and who has received $20,500 since 2007, according to the Dirty Energy Money database maintained by Oil Change International."

Global warming temperatures

In July 2010 Inhofe said, "I don't think that anyone disagrees with the fact that we actually are in a cold period that started about nine years ago. Now, that's not me talking, those are the scientists that say that." The Union of Concerned Scientists said that Inhofe was wrong, pointing to a NOAA report indicating that the summer of 2010 had so far been the hottest on record since 1880. Inhofe added, "People on the other side of this argument back in January, they said, 'Inhofe, it has nothing to do with today's or this month or next month. We're looking at a long period of time. We go into twenty year periods.'"

During a House committee hearing in 2011, Inhofe testified, "I have to admit—and, you know, confession is good for the soul ... I, too, once thought that catastrophic global warming was caused by anthropogenic gases—because everyone said it was." Under questioning from committee member Jay Inslee, Inhofe dismissed the notion that he was less knowledgeable than climate scientists, saying that he'd already given "five speeches on the science."

2015: Chair of Environment and Public Works committee

Inhofe holding snowball
Inhofe holding a snowball on the U.S. Senate floor.

On January 21, 2015, Inhofe returned to chairing the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works as part of a new Republican majority in the Senate. In response to NOAA and NASA reports that 2014 had been the warmest year globally in the temperature record, he said, "we had the coldest in the western hemisphere in the same time frame", and attributed changes to a 30-year cycle, not human activities. In a debate on the same day about a bill for the Keystone XL pipeline, Inhofe endorsed an amendment proposed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, "Climate change is real and not a hoax", which passed 98–1. Inhofe clarified his view that "Climate is changing and climate has always changed and always will. There is archaeological evidence of that, there is biblical evidence of that, there is historical evidence of that", but added, "there are some people who are so arrogant to think they are so powerful they can change climate."

On February 26, 2015, Inhofe brought a snowball to the Senate floor and tossed it before delivering remarks in which he said that environmentalists keep talking about global warming even though it keeps getting cold.

Hydraulic fracturing

On March 19, 2015, Inhofe introduced S.828, "The Fracturing Regulations are Effective in State Hands (FRESH) Act." The bill would transfer regulatory power over hydraulic fracturing from the federal government to state governments. In his announcement of the bill, Inhofe said that hydraulic fracturing has never contaminated ground water in Oklahoma. The U.S. senators from seven states (Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Dakota and Texas) cosponsored the bill.

Paris Agreement

Inhofe co-authored and was one of 22 senators to sign a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. According to OpenSecrets, Inhofe has received over $529,000 from the oil and gas industry since 2012.

Personal life

In 1959, Inhofe married Kay Kirkpatrick, with whom he has four children.

Inhofe is a private pilot and flies a Van's Aircraft RV-8 he built in 2002. He has attended the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh gathering over 40 times; in 2021, he said, "I've slept in the same tent for 20 years. If you're not sleeping in a tent, it's not like being at Oshkosh."

On November 10, 2013, Inhofe's son, Perry Inhofe, died in a plane crash in Owasso, Oklahoma, flying alone for the first time since training in a newly acquired Mitsubishi MU-2.

Inhofe was the first recipient of the U.S. Air Force Academy's Character and Leadership Award for his character and leadership in public service.

Electoral history

Oklahoma governor

1974 Oklahoma gubernatorial election
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jim Inhofe 88,594 58.76
Republican Denzil D. Garrison 62,188 41.24
Total votes 150,782 100.00
General election
Democratic David Boren 514,389 63.91
Republican Jim Inhofe 290,459 36.09
Total votes 804,848 100.00
Democrat hold

Tulsa mayor

1978 Mayor of Tulsa election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jim Inhofe 39,236 51.05
Democratic Rodger Randle 35,213 45.81
independent (politician) Jim Primdahl, Jr. 2,412 3.14
Total votes 76,861 100.00
Republican hold
1982 Mayor of Tulsa election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jim Inhofe (incumbent) 43,463 59.29
Democratic Tom Seymour 27,177 37.07
independent (politician) Robert T. Murphy 2,668 3.64
Total votes 73,308 100.00
Republican hold

U.S. Representative

1986 Oklahoma 1st Congressional District election
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jim Inhofe 19,575 54.21
Republican Bill Colvert 10,577 29.29
Republican Joan Hastings 5,956 16.49
Total votes 36,108 100.00
General election
Republican Jim Inhofe 78,919 54.79
Democratic Gary D. Allison 61,663 42.81
independent (politician) Carl E. McCullough, Jr. 3,455 2.40
Total votes 144,037 100.00
Republican gain from Democratic
1988 Oklahoma 1st Congressional District election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jim Inhofe (incumbent) 103,458 52.63
Democratic Kurt Glassco 93,101 47.37
Total votes 196,559 100.00
Republican hold
1990 Oklahoma 1st Congressional District election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jim Inhofe (incumbent) 75,618 55.96
Democratic Kurt Glassco 59,521 44.04
Total votes 135,139 100.00
Republican hold
1992 Oklahoma 1st Congressional District election
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jim Inhofe (incumbent) 36,354 67.71
Republican Richard L. Bunn 17,339 32.29
Total votes 53,693 100.00
General election
Republican Jim Inhofe (incumbent) 119,211 52.79
Democratic John Selph 106,619 47.21
Total votes 225,830 100.00
Republican hold

U.S. Senator

1994 United States Senate special election in Oklahoma
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jim Inhofe 159,001 77.80
Republican Tony Caldwell 45,359 22.20
Total votes 204,360 100.00
General election
Republican Jim Inhofe 542,390 55.21
Democratic Dave McCurdy 392,488 40.56
independent (politician) Danny Corn 47,552 4.84
Total votes 982,430 100.00
Republican gain from Democratic
1996 United States Senate election in Oklahoma
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jim Inhofe (incumbent) 116,241 75.34
Republican Dan Lowe 38,044 24.66
Total votes 154,285 100.00
General election
Republican Jim Inhofe (incumbent) 670,610 56.68
Democratic Jim Boren 474,162 40.08
independent (politician) Bill Maguire 15,092 1.28
Libertarian Agnes Marie Regier 14,595 1.23
independent (politician) Chris Nedbalek 8,691 0.73
Total votes 1,183,150 100.00
Republican hold
2002 United States Senate election in Oklahoma
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jim Inhofe (incumbent) 583,579 57.30
Democratic David Walters 369,789 36.31
independent (politician) James Germalic 65,056 6.39
Total votes 1,018,424 100.00
Republican hold
2008 United States Senate election in Oklahoma
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jim Inhofe (incumbent) 116,371 84.18
Republican Evelyn L. Rogers 10,770 7.79
Republican Ted Ryals 7,306 5.28
Republican Dennis Lopez 3,800 2.75
Total votes 138,247 100.00
General election
Republican Jim Inhofe (incumbent) 763,375 56.68
Democratic Andrew Rice 527,736 39.18
independent (politician) Stephen P. Wallace 55,708 4.14
Total votes 1,346,819 100.00
Republican hold
2014 United States Senate election in Oklahoma
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jim Inhofe (incumbent) 231,291 87.68
Republican Evelyn Rogers 11,960 4.53
Republican Erick Paul Wyatt 11,713 4.44
Republican Rob Moye 4,846 1.84
Republican Jean McBride-Samuels 3,965 1.50
Total votes 263,775 100.00
General election
Republican Jim Inhofe (incumbent) 558,166 68.01
Democratic Matt Silverstein 234,307 28.55
independent (politician) Joan Farr 10,554 1.29
independent (politician) Ray Woods 9,913 1.21
independent (politician) Aaron DeLozier 7,793 0.95
Total votes 820,733 100.00
Republican hold
2020 United States Senate election in Oklahoma
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Jim Inhofe (incumbent) 277,868 74.05
Republican JJ Stitt 57,433 15.31
Republican John Tompkins 23,563 6.28
Republican Neil Mavis 16,363 4.36
Total votes 375,227 100.00
General election
Republican Jim Inhofe (incumbent) 979,140 62.91
Democratic Abby Broyles 509,763 32.75
Libertarian Robert Murphy 34,435 2.21
independent (politician) Joan Farr 21,652 1.39
independent (politician) J.D. Nesbit 11,371 0.73
Total votes 1,556,361 100.00
Republican hold

See also

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