Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Senate dysfunction heads toward disaster

A U.S. Senate that routinely blocks votes on legitimate presidential appointments is one that is better at partisan gamesmanship than at running the country. The specter looms this week that fed-up Senate Democrats may use an ill-advised procedural maneuver to try to fix things. The better solution is for Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to stop denying President Barack Obama an up-or-down vote on his nominees, at least for agency and Cabinet posts.

It was hoped that after the presidential election McConnell, R-Ky., would begin to be more reasonable when it came to voting on presidential picks and not routinely require a 60-vote supermajority to break a filibuster before an up-or-down vote on nominees. Instead, McConnell has continued the strategy even for noncontroversial nominees who would be expected to win confirmation handily if a vote were ever taken.

Now Democrats are preparing for a strong-arm tactic that would remake the more deliberative Senate to look more like the House, where the majority party controls decisions. Democrats may force McConnell's hand by bringing some nominees to a vote. If McConnell blocks the vote with a filibuster, Democrats have threatened to change the Senate rules for overriding a filibuster through a technical maneuver so the votes could proceed on at least agency and Cabinet appointments — though not necessarily judicial or legislative ones. Dubbed the "nuclear option" for the way it would snuff out any remaining bipartisanship in the chamber, the move is a surrender to Washington's hopeless gridlock.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Senate majority leader, has resisted filibuster reform and refused to modestly change the rules by a majority vote during a window of opportunity in January. Changing them more drastically now would set a troubling precedent where the minority party loses the leverage that has been a central feature of the Senate. "Majorities are fleeting, but changes to the rules are not," McConnell recently warned. "And breaking the rules to change the rules would fundamentally change this Senate."

But the reality remains that McCon-nell is abusing his power by blocking the work of the Obama administration and remaking public policy without having to submit to the legislative process. Among the nominations held up are those for vacant seats on the National Labor Relations Board, the only federal body that polices collective bargaining rights for the nation's employees, and that of Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. A letter signed by 43 Republican senators says they won't confirm any nominee as the bureau's director because they object to the bureau's power. But that should be a debate over law, not a specific nominee's appointment to an agency job that is on the books.

This is no way to run a country.

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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...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18

Editorial: Pinellas commission stands up for accountability

The Pinellas County Commission has gotten the message that it should not be a rubber stamp. Commissioners sent a clear signal this week they will demand more accountability of local agencies by refusing to approve nominees for the board for CareerSou...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Editorial: Progress on Tampa Bay graduation rates

Tampa Bay’s four school districts all reached a significant milestone last school year: achieving graduation rates over 80 percent. It’s believed to be the first time Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties all surpassed that threshold, a...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18

Take deal; build wall

President Donald Trump says he is optimistic a deal can be struck to shield "Dreamers," the young undocumented immigrants whose lives he put in jeopardy by stripping them of work permits and deportation protection, beginning March 5. His price, and t...
Published: 01/10/18
Updated: 01/11/18