Nominee sides with the powerful
I write to express my concerns about Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court. One Another way to describe him would be as Wall Street's best friend, as Gorsuch has consistently favored the wealthy and powerful at the expense of everyone else.
Gorsuch has argued that it should be harder for regular people to band together in order to hold Wall Street and huge corporations accountable for fraud and other wrongdoing. He also ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that private corporations are people — and that they enjoy the same constitutional protections as actual human beings. And his views on money in politics suggest that he may be willing to overturn the remaining restrictions on unlimited campaign spending by big money donors and special interests.
Trump's administration is already the wealthiest and most pro-Wall Street ever. Now he wants to add Gorsuch to the Supreme Court — a lifetime appointment. Doesn't Wall Street have enough friends in Washington?
I urge senators to reject Gorsuch and the idea that huge corporations and special interests' agendas should ever be put ahead of workers and ordinary Americans. We need a Supreme Court justice who will protect everyone, not just the wealthy and powerful.
Andy Madtes, Tallahassee
The writer is Florida executive director of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.
No deal, no bill on health care | March 25
'Great' plan was promised
The defeat of the Republican health care bill is a small victory for Democrats, but it's not yet a victory for the American people. The Affordable Care Act was never meant to be the end of health care reform. It was just the start, because as President Donald Trump now admits, health care is "complicated."
Unfortunately, the Republicans successfully used a campaign of misinformation about the Affordable Care Act (i.e., death panels) to win back the House in 2010 and have used the "repeal" campaign ever since to energize their base.
If Trump really cared about the working-class people who voted for him, he would use his self-proclaimed negotiating genius to work with Democrats and moderate Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act to increase competition and lower costs. He promised his voters a "great" plan. The Republican plan was definitely not that plan. Will it happen? No, because he now wants to move on to other ways to make his rich friends even richer, like tax reform and financial industry deregulation.
Michael Voris, Odessa
Back to the drawing board
President Donald Trump blamed Democrats for Congress' failure to repeal and replace Obamacare. But the Republicans control the House and the Senate and it takes a simple majority vote to pass a bill. Even without a single Democratic vote, Republicans obviously had, and have, the power to pass any bill they want, including repealing and replacing Obamacare.
The failure to pass the bill was not due to lack of Democratic cooperation (indeed Republicans held no hearings on their bill at all); it was strictly due to differences among Republicans.
Not only does Trump shamelessly attempt to shift blame to Democrats, but he says everything is going work out fine since Obamacare will explode soon. Apparently he wants Americans to suffer just so he can try to use that suffering for political leverage.
Obamacare needs reform, no doubt. How about holding some hearings and trying in good faith to find some bill that will best serve Americans instead of hoping for (and likely helping orchestrate) disaster as the solution?
Mark A. Brown, Brandon
Bills hobble transit options
I have lived in the Tampa Bay area for almost 20 years and have seen how our wonderful area has grown so much in that time. One of the most visible negative impacts of that growth is the notable increase in traffic and related congestion on our roadways and expressways. As a proponent of rail transportation, I strongly support smart and viable alternatives to adding more toll lanes to our interstates or building new roads through our diminishing unspoiled rural areas.
Brightline, an express passenger rail system, promises a new and better way to bring relief to the traffic issues we are facing on our highways between the major cities in Florida. Brightline is building infrastructure to connect Miami with Orlando, with future service planned to Tampa. Research shows that the Orlando to Miami route alone will take over 3 million cars off the highways of Florida annually. And the best part about Brightline is that it is privately funded.
In addition, Brightline will generate billions of dollars in economic impact. Much new real estate development has already been started adjacent to the South Florida Brightline train stations. That same growth opportunity can happen here when Brightline expands to Tampa.
Unfortunately, there is a small but vocal group of opponents who would deny Floridians this opportunity to move forward. With duplicitous and costly new regulations on railroads, SB 386 and HB 269 will severely impact, if not altogether stop, the ability of All Aboard Florida to complete its route to Orlando and the later expansion to Tampa.
I urge bay area legislators to vote no on these bills. I also ask residents of the bay area who are tired of crowded highways and ever-expanding roads that cost billions of tax dollars to contact your elected representatives in Tallahassee. Tell them that you oppose these two bills that will stifle private business and that are overreaching with a slew of new and unnecessary regulations.
Brian Thorniley, Valrico