ST. LOUIS – Sen. Caleb Rowden is the featured guest on Sunday’s episode of This Week in Missouri Politics, and he spent much of his time talking with host Scott Faughn about the drama in the Senate, including his own inquiry of Sen. Rob Schaaf, the man who ground the body to a halt just a few weeks before the end of session.
Rowden effectively ended session when he questioned Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, on renting a room from a lobbyist who has ties to a company Schaaf serves on the board of directors of. Schaaf had spent much of the week filibustering on the Senate floor to oppose a planned managed care expansion in the budget and to show “actions have consequences” as he put it for various actions in the House.
Predictably, Rowden’s questioning angered Schaaf, but the Boone County senator said Schaaf had been acting in bad faith in a body that is supposed to be deliberative.
“For me it wasn’t about Caleb Rowden vs. Rob Schaaf; I think it was about something much bigger than that,” Rowden said. “Sen. Schaaf was filibustering a Blue Alert bill, which is a pro-law enforcement bill, and he was doing that by just reading a book. Certainly the motivation for him was just to delay… For me, yesterday was about two paths forward. Either we’re going to work hard to do the work, to build relationships, to have relational capital… or we’re just going to continue to tie ourselves in knots.”
Rowden said he drew from a freshman Senate orientation with former Senate leaders like Peter Kinder and Victor Callahan, who said both sides were abusing their powers in the Senate. He also took offense to Schaaf’s inferences that people opposed to him on issues were automatically corrupt.
The opinion maker panel, made entirely of state representatives also chimed in on the Senate drama. Rep. Justin Alferman said it was far too late to stop the rollout of managed care in the state.
“If Sen. Schaaf wanted to stop managed care, he should have been paying attention two years ago whenever the initial conversation was had and put into the budget language,” Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, said. “We are a couple of months away from the implementation of managed care going statewide. You’re not going to be able to reverse that process.”
Rep. Rob Vescovo said he had worked with Schaaf on suing Gov. Jay Nixon in last year’s Rams stadium debacle, but he could not defend the senator’s current actions.
“In my opinion, the way he’s going about kicking House bills off of the consent calendar, I think these are issues being handled in a manner that a baby would handle these issues.” Vescovo said. “I say that with all due respect to him, but one of my bills was on that consent calendar.”
Democrats added that the atmosphere in the Senate had devolved.
“I no longer think there’s a statesperson-like ambience in the Senate, and in a weird way, I think us members in the House are treating each other more ‘statespersonly’ and cordially and professionally than what we’re seeing over in the Senate,” Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-Olivette, said.
“We want to move on with the business of the Senate and the House and move onto the next big issue,” Rep. Michael Butler, D-St. Louis, added.
The panel also roundly condemned the attacks from the Gov. Eric Greitens-supporting political nonprofit, A New Missouri, Inc., on Schaaf. The nonprofit gave out Schaaf’s personal cell phone number.