STL Post-Dispatch: Missouri Senate gummed up a day after marathon filibuster ends

JEFFERSON CITY • Traffic in the Missouri Senate stalled again Thursday, a day after a rare parliamentary maneuver was used by Republicans to shut down a 37-hour Democratic filibuster.

Democrats drew national attention this week after opposing a measure that would grant greater legal protections to clergy, wedding vendors and religious organizations that oppose same-sex marriage. Their filibuster ended Wednesday morning after the majority Republicans flexed their muscle to force a first-round vote on the proposal.

Wounds inflicted during the epic debate and its aftermath clearly had not healed Thursday.

One of the first actions in the Senate each day is the reading of the Senate Journal, a recap of the previous day’s events. Senators generally waive the reading of the journal.

On Thursday, however, Senate Minority Leader Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis, objected to the waiver, forcing a Senate secretary to spend about 30 minutes reading the whole thing.

The Democratic delay tactics didn’t end there. Keaveny proposed several amendments to the Senate Journal that he said would set the record straight on a series of procedural snafus that occurred Wednesday.

He also proposed an amendment to include the fact that Republican Sen. Bob Onder of Lake Saint Louis, the measure’s sponsor, on Tuesday had called for the Missouri State Highway Patrol to summon Democratic Sens. Jill Schupp and Maria Chappelle-Nadal to the floor if the Senate doormen couldn’t find them.

Democrats said the action ought to be included in the history books.

Onder disputed Keaveny’s version of events, calling the amendment “completely inaccurate” and “ridiculous.”

“I asked the doormen to summon the two members and then I did say tongue and cheek that if the doormen cannot find the members, I said, perhaps the Highway Patrol can,” he said. “However, I never made the motion suggested by the amendment.”

Republican Sen. Bob Dixon of Springfield gave an angry response, chiding both Onder for his objection to the amendment and Republican leadership for stopping the filibuster, even though he supports the underlying bill.

“I am rather disgusted this morning; I’m trying to deal with the contempt that is in my heart,” Dixon said. “I’ll freely admit that to the media, the members, the leadership — because I’m angry.”

Dixon said the Senate is different from the House in that debate is supposed to be unlimited, the purpose being for both sides to forge compromise before the body takes further action on a bill.

He also said he heard the Senate doormen discuss how to contact the Highway Patrol.

“So don’t sit here on this floor and tell me that it was not done!” Dixon yelled, pounding on his desk. “I am a senator! And I am disgusted at the slope and the speed with which this place is disintegrating!”

After more than three hours, Keaveny’s proposed change was rejected on a 21-10 vote. Keaveny proposed another amendment to the journal to clarify that Chappelle-Nadal had the floor before the Senate briefly adjourned at 5:40 a.m. Wednesday.

The Democrats believe she should’ve been recognized again when the Senate reconvened later that morning. But that amendment, along with Keaveny’s other proposals, were voted down by most of the GOP members.

“You broke the rules and you made the people that I represent invisible,” Chappelle-Nadal said after the vote, also accusing the majority party of having racist motives. “You should be ashamed of that.”

Dixon and fellow Republican Sen. Ryan Silvey voted with the Democrats on most of the amendments, saying they sought to uphold the integrity of the Senate. Republican Sen. Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph also offered support for the Democrats, but left early Thursday for another commitment.

The sparring raised questions about whether the Senate could get back on track to take care of its normal business. House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said he was hopeful the turmoil in the Senate would subside.

“We’re prepared to work with our colleagues in the Senate and I hope that those intent on slowing down the process understand there are important priorities we need to get done for the state,” he said.

The wild week in the Missouri Senate started just after 4 p.m. Monday when Democrats started their filibuster. They argued that Onder’s proposal to put the same-sex marriage measure on the ballot would allow voters to potentially enshrine discrimination into the state constitution.

They also charged that the measure is a ploy to increase conservative voter turnout at the polls this year.

Creve Coeur-based Monsanto, Dow Chemical, the St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce and other groups — including some religious groups — have come out against the proposal.

But Republicans argue greater legal protections are necessary for bakers, florists and others opposed to same-sex marriage who could be sued. They also say church tax exemptions could be threatened if a church opposes same-sex marriage.

With about two months left in the legislative session, it’s unclear to what extent the two parties will put aside their differences to work on other measures.

The marriage measure, Senate Joint Resolution 39, still needs final approval before moving to the House.

This post was written by