Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) has confirmed that he will retire at the end of 2022, confirming scattered reports that such an announcement was imminent.
“It is bittersweet, but with a clear heart, that Kay and I announce that at the end of the year, I will retire from the United States Senate,” Inhofe, who will turn 88 in November, said in a statement posted on Twitter.
“Going into public service was never in my plan,” Inhofe said. “Then, one day, I needed a dock permit. I had to visit 27 government offices to get a single dock permit, and realized if we wanted the government to work for the people, not against the people, it was up to us to make a change.”
Inhofe, who started his career in the mid-1960s in the Oklahoma legislature, and eventually rose to the U.S. Senate in 1994, said, “Throughout our years there has been one constant—making the world safer and better for our 20 kids and grandkids and the next generation of Oklahomans.
“It is now time for that next generation of Oklahomans to have the opportunity to serve the state in the U.S. Senate.”
His imminent retirement, Inhofe insisted it “is not the end of the road. I have work yet to do for Oklahomans over these next nine months, including passing the National Defense Authorization Act and holding the Biden administration accountable.
“Thank you to everyone who has trusted me with your vote over these many years. It has been an honor to serve you in the Senate. May God bless you and God bless Oklahoma.”
In a statement posted immediately following Inhofe’s retirement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “When Senator Jim Inhofe retires, the Senate will lose one of its foremost experts on defense policy, and Oklahoma will lose one of its fiercest advocates. I am glad our friend will continue to serve with us through the end of this Congress.”
McConnell continued, “from improving transportation infrastructure to harnessing abundant American energy, the fruits of Jim’s labors are recognizable across Oklahoma and across the country.”
“But Jim’s legacy of consequential public service extends even beyond our borders,” McConnell said of Inhofe, who has long served on the Senate Armed Forces Committee.
“His advocacy for his fellow veterans and for the men and women serving today in uniform has helped make America safer and our power more respected around the world. … And his commitment to rock-solid conservative principles has helped improved accountability and efficiency at the Department of Defense on behalf of American
McConnell’s statement concluded, “while the Senate will miss one of its foremost experts on defense policy, I am glad our friend will continue to serve with us through the end of this Congress.”
In 2008 Inhofe worked with former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) on a bill that would expand the GI Bill to increase servicemembers’ access to health care, therapy, and other benefits.
Inhofe has long been controversial among Democrats for his position on climate change. While many Democrats have insisted that climate change is an immediate, civilizational threat, Inhofe has long held that the situation has been greatly exaggerated by climate activists.
In May 2017, Inhofe led an effort urging President Donald Trump to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement (pdf). In August 2017, Trump obliged, informing the United Nations that the United States would withdraw from the agreement. Immediately upon taking office, President Joe Biden reversed the withdrawal.
Inhofe is the most recent in a series of GOP retirements announced for 2022. Also retiring on the GOP side are Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
Since he was reelected in 2020 to serve a six-year term, Inhofe’s retirement will kick off a special election. However in Oklahoma—which last elected a Democrat to the Senate in 1990 and last elected a Democrat president in 1964—Democrats are unlikely to be able to capitalize on the retirement to flip the seat.
Because the announcement was just made official, it is not yet clear who will run to replace Inhofe, though many GOP contenders are likely to vie for the Republican nomination in the strongly-red state.