Sunday, September 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Supreme Court pick qualified, but confirmation process should be vigorous

For the second time in less than 18 months, President Donald Trump has nominated a well-qualified, conservative federal appeals court judge to the U.S. Supreme Court. That does not mean Judge Brett Kavanaugh should get an easy pass through Senate confirmation hearings. Kavanaugh would tilt the court significantly to the right, and senators from both political parties should carefully examine his extensive record and question him closely about his originalist approach to interpreting the U.S. Constitution.

Trump passed over more provocative possibilities and nominated a Republican establishment conservative in Kavanaugh to succeed the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s swing vote. A Yale law school graduate, Kavanaugh clerked for Kennedy, worked for President George W. Bush and has been on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since 2006. He represented former Gov. Jeb Bush in defending a controversial school voucher program that later was struck down by the Florida Supreme Court, and he worked for George W. Bush’s legal team on the Florida recount following the 2000 election.

Kavanaugh also has a long record that should be thoroughly explored by the Senate. He has written hundreds of opinions and worked for Independent Counsel Ken Starr during the investigation of President Bill Clinton. His lengthy paper trail, from the Bush White House to his extensive legal writings, needs to be scrutinized. That work should not be short-circuited by artificial deadlines aimed at rushing through the process and forcing a confirmation vote before the mid-term elections. The examination should run its course, and there is too much at stake to cut corners regardless of Kavanaugh’s impressive resume.

This is not about replacing one conservative justice with another and maintaining the status quo. Kavanaugh could shift the court in ways that threaten abortion rights and equal protection for LGBTQ people. It could become more difficult for government agencies to pass regulations to control air pollution and fight climate change that particularly threatens Florida as sea levels rise. The future of the Affordable Care Act, which has its issues but has provided health coverage for millions of Americans, could again be in jeopardy.

Another particular concern: Kavanaugh’s views on executive privilege given special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s meddling into the 2016 election on behalf of Trump. The judge has written that presidents should be exempt from "time-consuming and distracting’’ lawsuits and investigations that "would ill serve the public interest, especially in times of financial or national security crisis.’’ With Trump facing multiple investigations and lawsuits, senators should question the nominee’s views in this area closely and seek further assurances that he can be impartial if these questions regarding the presidency reach the court.

Democrats are eager to block Kavanaugh’s confirmation, but they have limited options. Their simmering anger over Senate Republicans blocking a confirmation vote for appeals court Judge Merrick Garland, who was nominated by President Barack Obama to fill the vacancy created by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, is understandable. But Republicans still control the Senate, and Democrats cannot resort to obstructionism that should not be employed by either party. What Democrats can do is insist on a thorough review of Kavanaugh’s record, regardless of how long it takes. They should question him closely about his views on deference to court precedent, his skepticism of the authority of regulatory agencies and his devotion to interpreting the U.S. Constitution as its authors originally intended.

Kavanaugh is a well-qualified conservative, and Democrats do not have the numbers to block his confirmation by themselves. That does not mean he should be rubber stamped by senators from either political party. Now 53 years old, Kavanaugh could serve on the court for decades and help shift it in a far more conservative direction that could erode the constitutional rights of women, minorities and LGBTQ people. The confirmation process should be thorough, and the American people should have a more complete picture of Kavanaugh before the Senate votes on whether to confirm him.

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Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Vote by mail has been a stunning success in Florida, increasing turnout and making it easy and convenient to cast a ballot with time to research and reflect. But a new study shows that mail ballots cast by African-American, Hispanic or younger voters...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

State and federal lending regulations exist to protect consumers from being surprised — and overwhelmed — by ballooning debt. Marlin Financial, a shadowy auto lender doing business around Florida, seems to be skirting those protections ...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

In addition to a lesson on political patronage, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam needs a refresher on the particulars of state public records law.In January 2017, Putnam hired the 27-year-old son of a former Publix executive to a high-pay...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

There should be a timely investigation of the allegation of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh before senators hear from him and his accuser, let alone vote on whether they should confirm his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. The proces...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

The heated debate on immigration could benefit from some more facts, which the U.S. Census has helpfully provided. And the facts show that rather than building walls, the United States would do far better to keep opening doors to legal immigrants. Th...
Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/20/18
Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

The federal Food and Drug Administration is bringing important scrutiny to the increasing use of e-cigarettes, requiring companies that make and sell them to show they are keeping their products away from minors. Vaping is the new front in the nation...
Published: 09/18/18

Tuesday’s letters: Honor Flight restored my faith in America

Dogs are the best | Letter, Sept. 15Honor Flight restored my faith in AmericaJust as I was about to give up on our country due to divisiveness and and the divisions among its people and politicians, my pride was restored. As a member of the recen...
Published: 09/17/18
Updated: 09/19/18

Editorial cartoons for Sept. 18

From Times wires
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

The Senate and the nation needs to hear more about the sexual assault allegation against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Setting aside Kavanaugh's judicial record, his political past and the hyper-partisan divide over his nomination, a no...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

The Tampa City Council has yet to hear a compelling reason to allow a private social club in a residential neighborhood off Bayshore Boulevard, and a final meeting on the matter scheduled for Thursday offers the council a chance to show the diligence...
Published: 09/14/18