Last minute Senate deal impacts priorities for both parties

   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A compromise between the majority Republican Party and the minority Democrats in the Senate in the final days of the legislative session sealed the fate on several issues considered priorities by both parties.

On the final Monday of session, Senate leaders announced that Republicans and Democrats had come to an arrangement. Democrats would stand down on attempts to filibuster a controversial bill tripling the mandatory waiting period for abortions and the Republican-backed early voting initiative. In exchange, Republicans promised not to force “paycheck protection” and voter ID bills through the chamber in the final hours.

Speculation swirled in the final weeks of session about whether Republicans would use the previous question motion — which ends a filibuster — to force a vote on the controversial abortion bill. A PQ would likely have triggered Democrats to begin to slow down as many senate priorities as possible, bringing the chamber to a halt. The motion to end a filibuster in the senate hasn’t been used in 2007 and is historically rare, given the decorum of the upper chamber.

But Republican leaders decided to make a deal, identifying the 72-hour bill as a top priority, Republicans chose not to force a vote on paycheck or voter ID legislation in exchange for passing a landmark abortion bill.

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed
Sen. Jamilah Nasheed

Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, played a role in forcing a compromise. Nasheed was vocal that she would do everything in her power to filibuster a voter ID bill. Her willingness to bottle up other issues over the bill forced Republicans to consider what they were willing to fight for.

“In the Senate, there has to be a high degree of compromise to get things done,” Nasheed said. “All of those issues were priorities, but ultimately what they decided was that this abortion bill, which I want to be clear is a bad bill, was more important to them. As a senator, we have to consider a compromise in terms of how it affects our constituents. And for me, this was a compromise that was going to have the least negative impact on them.”

While some in the chamber welcomed the compromise at the cost of doing business across party lines, members of both parties also took issue. Some Republican members objected to backing down on voter ID bills while some Democrats thought permitting the new abortion bill was a bridge too far.

“Whoever had the better end of the deal, the clear loser was Missouri women,” said Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis. “The only thing worse than sitting down was the alternative,

Sen. Scott Sifton
Sen. Scott Sifton

which was not sitting down and seeing that bill, as well as several other bills I was opposed to, being rammed through the process.”

Sifton said refusing to compromise would likely have resulted in a Senate that ceased to function in the final days, which he says would

have seriously jeopardized the school transfer bill.

“For my constituents, I believe that, more than anything, it was essential for us to get a school transfer bill on Governor Nixon’s desk,” Sifton said. “And opposing this compromise was likely going to put that in jeopardy.”

Lawmakers on both sides credited Senate Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles and Minority Leader, Sen. Jolie Justus for working out the deal.