A tension which had been building within the Senate Republican Caucus spilled on Tuesday into the hallways. There was talk of a contentious caucus meeting set for the evening. At the top of the list of grievances was the pile-up over a hundred bills upon which Pro Tem Rob Mayer was sitting, refusing to refer. As a result the body only had a half-dozen to open for debate.
Instead of Mayer being first among equals, he was asserting his position to advance a select few issues while everyone else’s bills lingered in limbo.
Meanwhile the clock was ticking on some of Governor Jay Nixon’s appointments. While deals were being proposed to untangle Steve Stoll and Jason Hall from the cross-ropes of conflicting interests, sentiment about their prospects was turning negative.
Together with the stalled 100 bills, the Senate’s inability to do the simple work of advice and consent of the governor’s appointments, was returning the clouds of “dysfunctionality.”
Senate Republicans caucused that evening behind closed doors; the Senate adjourned early.
The Senate went straight to the employment discrimination bill early and never wavered.
Fourteen hours later, they voted to perfect the bill.
In between, Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal held the floor for the bulk of the time, inquiring of most of the other senators at one point or the other.
But while sleepiness of a filibuster sets in on the floor, moods can swing in the Senate offices and in the hallways. Particularly as afternoon turns to evening and evening turns to night and night approaches midnight. That’s when things can snap. The majority can start to oscillate between talk of a “PQ” to close debate, and folding tents for another time. The minority likewise can careen between desolation and defiance.
When the fragile moments came, however there were the experienced hands of Sens. Victor Callahan and Kevin Engler who both have a bias for compromise, and finding a way out of stubborn situations.
Furthermore, Sens. Jolie Justus and Eric Schmitt acted as seconds to the principals of Chappelle-Nadal and bill sponsor, Sen. Brad Lager. Justus and Schmitt, being lawyers, were able to work around the finer details of the legalese with some understanding of the practicable implications of changes in language.
But also, the two have a friendship and a shared interest in a Senate that works.
Chappelle-Nadal, worn from a day and night of standing in opposition, needed a way out that was better than collapsing from fatigue. The Justus-Schmitt team was able to provide her and Lager that alternative.
Ultimately Wednesday may have provided a model for a functional Senate again. Democrats, led by Callahan, demonstrated their willingness to stand on principle while still acknowledging that “NO” was not a solution.
Pro Tem Rob Mayer and Floor Leader Tom Dempsey provided the perfect amount of pressure – canceling committee meetings to open up the entire day and night to debate – while also restraining elements of their own caucus who would lose patience and begin to mutter those two letters – PQ. Instead they demonstrated the patience to let the process work. And it worked.
After the chamber’s victory of the previous day, there was the risk of a reverting to the mired slog of inaction.
Steve Stoll – a respected former Democratic senator – had his name withdrawn because Republican senators wanted to pair his nomination with a Republican for the same commission.
Jason Hall’s name didn’t make it out of committee to the floor. The critique that he was too young was obviously offensive everyone under 40 (but these are the times in which we live).
Ron Levy was opposed by Sen. Rob Schaaf. I has assumed it was an extension of old Missouri Hospital Association grudges, but others felt that Schaaf’s position that Levy’s slot should go to a non-political person was well-founded.
Joseph Hunt’s nomination was withdrawn after Sen. Chuck Purgason insisted on a quota system for geographic representation on the Transportation Commission.
No one challenged any of these nominees on their individual ability to competently fulfill the role for which they were nominated. It was an hour ripe for disgust at the political machinations which prevent good government from occurring.
And yet each of the sponsors or their opponents seemingly told the same tale: the governor’s administration was horrible at communication, making matters worse in each instance by being nonresponsive or deaf to their concerns. Senators seemed genuinely sadden that Hall was being sacrificed; Sen. Ryan McKenna lamented that “nothing is easy with the second floor;” and Purgason said he’d given a heads up to Nixon’s folks long ago, but heard nothing back.
Lobbyist Nancy Giddens joins twitter (though she has yet to tweet) as @nancygiddens.
Last week I write that the Supreme Court was sending out alerts via twitter. Not at all! It’s a law firm – Cook, Vetter, Doerhoff and Landwehr – which had registered @MoSupCourtAlert and was sending out their own alerts about the Supreme Court. My apologies.
They changed their name on Wednesday with this tweet – “CVDLMoSCtUpdate FYI to avoid any confusion we changed our user name. Posts on MO Sup Court matters are created by our firm and are not issued by the Court.”
Lobbyists’ Principals Changes
From the Pelopidas website:
Greg Chesmore added Celgene Corporation.
Gary Harbison added Missouri Coalition for Oral Health Inc.
Debra K Kohl added Concerned Women for America.
Justin Short added Equipment Leasing and Finance Association.
Leah Wiggs added American Lung Association Guls-Plains Region.
Missourians for Ed Martin - $8,000 from Joan Langenberg.
Happy birthdays to Sen. Jason Crowell (the big 4-0), and Reps. Dave Hinson (also 40) and Kent Hampton (64).
Saturday: Catalyst’s Danny Pfeifer is 34.
Sunday: former Rep. Steve Hobbs turns 52.