Monday, December 18, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Filibuster change a necessary remedy

By abusing the filibuster to an unprecedented degree, Senate Republicans brought about the reasonable changes they are now fuming over. Throughout President Barack Obama's administration, Republicans have used the filibuster to keep judicial seats vacant and federal agencies leaderless by denying nominees an up-or-down vote for confirmation. This is contrary to the Senate's constitutional advise-and-consent role, and it erodes the authority of the president. Democrats were backed into a corner, and limiting use of the filibuster is a necessary change.

The Senate changed its rules on the filibuster on Thursday so that a simple majority of 51 votes and not a supermajority of 60 votes is required to end debate on the president's executive and judicial nominees. The change doesn't apply to U.S. Supreme Court nominations or to legislation, which would still need 60 votes for cloture. But even this limited change fundamentally alters the way the Senate operates, and it was not taken lightly.

For years, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to find a bipartisan compromise to end the gridlock, but each time the obstruction returned. Reid knows that putting limits on the filibuster will make the Senate more fiercely partisan like the House, where the minority party at times seems consigned to the role of potted plant. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Democrats they would come to regret the move if Republicans regain the majority. But with Republicans deciding that their go-to governing strategy was to block Obama's appointees no matter their merits or qualifications, there was really no choice.

Reid could not ignore the decision by Senate Republicans to indefinitely block three judicial nominees to the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals to prevent the president from shifting the conservative tilt of that powerful appellate court. Leaving those seats vacant for the duration of the president's term would have abrogated the voters' will in electing Obama as president. Now, with the filibuster changes, the Senate is free to move on the 17 nominees to the federal judiciary and the 59 nominees to the executive branch who have been waiting for confirmation votes.

Both parties, when out of the majority, have used the filibuster to assert some power. But never before had the rule been used with such regularity against presidential nominations. Collectively, Obama's picks have faced half of all filibusters against nominees in the entire history of the Senate. Republicans used the filibuster to force policy changes they couldn't win through the legislative process. Obama's pick to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was held up for years because Republicans didn't like the agency itself. That is not how the Constitution framers envisioned the Senate would operate. In fact, presidential nominees were hardly ever filibustered before the 1970s.

Senate Republicans promise to use every remaining procedural tool to gum up the Senate. What's missing is a recognition that their constituents sent them to Washington to do what is best for the country, not only their political party.

Comments

Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17