Sunday, December 17, 2017
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: 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