Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Congress returns to a full plate

The least productive Congress on record returns to work this week, planning to work even less in this midterm election year than it did last year. Republican congressional leaders may consider that smart politics, but it's not good for a nation with so many issues that demand attention. The most pressing for many jobless Americans is the extension of long-term unemployment benefits that expired in December, hurting families with nowhere else to turn and the overall economy.

President Barack Obama is expected to renew his push today for a three-month extension of the long-term benefits, and progressive groups are holding rallies around the country and launching a television ad campaign to persuade Republicans to agree. House Speaker John Boehner says Republicans will agree only if the $6.5 billion cost is made up elsewhere, and Democrats should try to meet that demand. But that has not been the policy in the past, and the long-term unemployed should not be pawns in another partisan fight over the federal deficit.

More than 1.3 million Americans, including nearly 90,000 Floridians, have lost their modest unemployment checks as a result of the expiration of emergency benefits. The situation is exacerbated in Florida, a particularly stingy state where benefits are capped at 16 weeks. The economy is on the rebound, and a three-month extension of long-term benefits is reasonable.

Extending unemployment benefits is not the only essential issue demanding immediate attention in Washington. Congress has a week to approve a spending plan that carries out the budget compromise approved in December to avoid another government shutdown. While that appears likely, it is less certain that Congress can avoid another stalemate over raising the debt ceiling before that cap is hit in March and the nation can no longer borrow money to pay its bills. This is another manufactured crisis that should be avoided, and Boehner will have to channel his frustration with tea party Republicans into action.

There are broader policy issues that have lingered for far too long. A farm bill remains hung up over a partisan fight over food stamps, with Republicans unconscionably pushing for a cut of up to 10 times what Democrats will accept. The House also has refused to budge on immigration reform since the Senate approved a comprehensive approach last year that includes a long path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. House Republicans are still pondering a piecemeal approach of individual bills on such consensus issues as more visas for highly skilled foreign workers. While Obama is open to that approach, its success again depends on Boehner's willingness to stand up to tea party supporters even at the risk of his speakership.

If there is a silver lining in all of this inaction, it is that House Republican leaders have signaled they are prepared to shift away from their constant calls for repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Repeal will not happen while Obama is president, and the focus should be on improving health care reform and ensuring the system works instead of trying to sabotage it.

While 2013 set a modern record for the fewest federal laws passed at 65, this year could produce even fewer. But voters will be judging members of Congress this fall by what they have accomplished, and maintaining gridlock is not a compelling bumper sticker slogan.

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‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

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Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18