Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Gorsuch well-qualified for Supreme Court, deserves Senate confirmation vote

In perhaps his most responsible decision since taking office, President Donald Trump has nominated a well-qualified, conservative federal appeals court judge to the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Neil Gorsuch is widely praised for his sharp intellect, low-key demeanor and clear writing. While he should be questioned closely about his record and originalist approach to interpreting the U.S. Constitution, he deserves a full confirmation hearing and a vote in the Senate.

Gorsuch, who sits on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Denver, would not upset the balance between conservatives and moderates on the Supreme Court. He is cut largely from the same mold as the late Justice Antonin Scalia, without Scalia's sharp edges. And at 49 years old, Gorsuch is the youngest Supreme Court nominee in 25 years and would likely serve on the court for decades.

That makes it imperative that the Senate fulfill its role and vigorously question Gorsuch. His likeable personality and record of articulate arguments should not gloss over that he can be reactionary, or that his dedication to applying the Constitution strictly as its meaning was intended more than two centuries ago can result in pinched rulings out of touch in the 21st century. For example, it is uncertain where Gorsuch stands on abortion rights and same-sex marriage — which the court has found constitutionally protected and which he is likely to oppose.

Senators also should question Gorsuch on his expansive views on religious freedoms as they apply to corporations. In one of its more wrong-headed decisions, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in 2014 that corporations can cite religious beliefs to avoid providing health coverage for contraception. The opinion involving Hobby Lobby, a chain of craft stores owned by a closely held family company, enables the owners of for-profit corporations to impose their religious views on their employees and undercuts a woman's right to choose when and how she uses birth control. Gorsuch wrote a concurring opinion when that case was at the 10th Circuit about why that is permissible. Does that mean the judge also believes federal law allows bakers to cite their religious beliefs and refuse to sell wedding cakes to gay couples?

Other areas ripe for exploration by the Senate: Gorsuch's skepticism of the long-held practice of court deference to administrative agencies and their authority to write regulations to carry out complicated federal law; the judge's views on the Second Amendment and gun rights, particularly since his nomination is highly praised by the National Rifle Association; and his thinking on various law enforcement issues, particularly given the tension between police departments and African-American communities in various cities.

Of course, Gorsuch should not be awaiting Senate confirmation for the Supreme Court at this moment. President Barack Obama nominated appeals court Judge Merrick Garland last year to fill the vacancy created by Scalia's death, and Garland deserved a confirmation vote by the Senate. Instead, Senate Republicans refused to honor the process and acted as obstructionists to await the outcome of the presidential election. Garland would have been a fine justice and is more moderate than Gorsuch, and it's understandable Democrats now want to block Gorsuch's confirmation from moving forward by filibustering.

That would be a terrible mistake. The Republicans' lack of respect for the presidency and the Senate as an institution by blocking Garland leaves a permanent stain, but it should not trigger a similar obstructionist response to Gorsuch by Democrats. They should not force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to resort to the so-called nuclear option and end the practice of requiring 60 Senate votes to end a filibuster and proceed to a confirmation vote on Supreme Court nominees.

There will be plenty of other opportunities for Democrats to draw a red line and oppose the president. This is not one of them, and the nation needs to see some return to normalcy in Washington. Gorsuch is a well-qualified conservative who would not tilt the Supreme Court's ideological balance, and he deserves full consideration and a confirmation vote by the Senate.

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Editorial: The Catholic Church’s proper response to Pennsylvania scandal

Editorial: The Catholic Church’s proper response to Pennsylvania scandal

Forceful words are coming from the pope’s pen as well as pulpits around Tampa Bay: The sexual abuse of minors, which proliferated for decades within the Roman Catholic Church, were not merely sins but crimes whose repercussions are still being felt b...
Published: 08/20/18
Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Editorial: Did Rick Scott’s wallet affect his epiphany on rail line?

Within weeks of taking office in 2011, Gov. Rick Scott made one of the worst decisions of his administration and refused $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. Within months of leaving office, the governor...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Editorial: Hillsborough has a place among growing number of governments suing opioid makers

Local governments across the land can find plenty of reasons to go after the drug industry over the crisis of opioid addiction.Hillsborough County can find more reasons than most.• In 2016, the county led the state with 579 babies born addicted to dr...
Published: 08/17/18
Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

Editorial: Here’s what needs to be done to stop algae blooms

The environmental crisis in South Florida has fast become a political crisis. Politicians in both parties are busy blaming one another for the waves of toxic algae blooms spreading out from Lake Okeechobee and beyond, fouling both coasts and damaging...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/20/18
Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

Editorial: Journalists are friends of democracy, not the enemy

It is real news that the Hillsborough County School District said this week it will accelerate testing for lead in drinking water and release the results after the Tampa Bay Times reported testing would take years and that until we asked families wer...
Published: 08/15/18
Updated: 08/16/18

Bumping into GOP cowardice on guns

One small island of sanity in the generally insane ocean of American gun culture is the near-complete federal ban on civilian possession of fully automatic weapons — machine guns.The nation got a bitter taste last year of what we’d be facing on a reg...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

Editorial: Vaccinations are safe way to prevent measles

The revelation that three people in Pinellas County have contracted the measles virus should be a wake-up call to everyone to get vaccinated if they haven’t been — and to implore parents to immunize their kids. Contagious diseases such as measles can...
Published: 08/14/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

Editorial: Habitat for Humanity still has questions to answer about selling mortgages

A good reputation can vanish overnight, which is why Habitat for Humanity of Hills-borough County made a smart decision by announcing it would seek to buy back 12 mortgages it sold to a Tampa company with a history of flipping properties. The arrange...
Published: 08/14/18
Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

Editorial: Vote — or a minority of the electorate will decide your future without you

40%of Americans who were eligible to vote for president in 2016 just didn’t bother. That number dwarfs the portion of all eligible voters who cast a ballot for President Donald Trump — 27.6 percent — or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton, 28.8 percent...
Published: 08/13/18
Updated: 08/17/18
Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Editorial: Why stand your ground has to go

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe made a reasonable decision to charge Michael Drejka with manslaughter in last month’s deadly Clearwater convenience store parking lot confrontation. The shooting, which erupted over use of a handicap parkin...
Published: 08/13/18