Wednesday, April 25, 2018
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.

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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...
Updated: 9 hours ago

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
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18