Saturday, January 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Congress plays politics at expense of economy

The last thing Florida and the nation needs is another manufactured financial crisis. Yet congressional Republicans are creating one by threatening to shut down the federal government next week unless a temporary spending bill cuts all funding for the Affordable Care Act. It is a reckless strategy that is doomed to fail, and Florida voters should hold Sen. Marco Rubio and House Republicans accountable for risking the economic recovery to play partisan politics.

Reps. Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, Richard Nugent of Spring Hill, Dennis Ross of Lakeland and C.W. Bill Young of Indian Shores followed the Republican Party line last week in voting for the House plan that the Senate is expected to reject. This is not in the best interests of Tampa Bay, where the economy is just now coming back and thousands of their constituents need health coverage. Young, the defense appropriations subcommittee chairman who has spent decades negotiating compromises and pushing spending bills through Congress, should know better than anyone the potential consequences of this foolish tea party-fueled mission.

Rubio is particularly shameless in his attacks on the Affordable Care Act and his willingness to trigger a budget crisis over health care reform, President Barack Obama's signature achievement. Here is a first-term senator building a fundraising network that could be used to run for president, yet he is standing with extremists such as Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas who are aiming to shut the government down. Is the real Marco Rubio the responsible one who helped pass a bipartisan immigration bill, or the immature one willing to shut down the government and jeopardize Florida's economy?

Republicans in Tallahassee and Washington should acknowledge they have lost the fight over health care reform and try to improve it rather than sabotage it. They lost in Congress, and they lost in the courts. They lost the presidential election, and they failed to win control of the U.S. Senate. Obama and the Senate will not back down on health care reform, and they shouldn't. If the federal government shuts down next week because congressional Republicans won't embrace a temporary spending plan unless it neuters the Affordable Care Act, it will be the Republicans who will be blamed.

Floridians will feel the consequences if Congress fails to agree on a temporary spending plan by Tuesday, and the financial markets will not react well. Among the likely consequences: Hundreds of thousands of federal workers would be sent home on unpaid furloughs; paychecks for military personnel at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa and elsewhere would be delayed; and national parks and monuments would close. Social Security and Medicare checks would go out, but new applications would not be processed. The Federal Housing Administration would stop guaranteeing home loans; passport applications would stop being reviewed; and government contractors would stop being paid. This is self-inflicted pain that can be avoided if reasonable Republicans stand up for their constituents.

The budget fight is only the first act. Congress also must raise the federal debt limit in several weeks or the nation will not be able to pay bills it already has incurred. Raising that limit used to be routine, but congressional Republicans pledge to use the deadline as another opportunity to fight the health care law. Forcing a debt default would reverberate through the global economy.

This is not inside baseball in Washington that Floridians can ignore. Voters should demand that the Republicans they sent to Washington act responsibly, stand up to the extremists and avoid creating an economic crisis.

     
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Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18