Press "Enter" to skip to content

‘Olive branch’: PQ rule change floated as potential peace offering in Senate

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In what he called a “first step,” Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo proposed a higher threshold for a procedural move that ends floor debate Thursday amid cacophonous cries of a lack of trust in the upper chamber

Rizzo’s rule change resolution would up the number of senators needed to move a previous question (PQ) motion forward to 10 from five. It would also require a two-thirds vote for the motion to be sustained rather than just a majority. 

Proposed Thursday before session concluded for the week, Rizzo said he hoped to see a “vehement discussion” on the proposal next week. 

“Approving the resolution would be a positive first step in restoring the trust in the Senate. It’s an olive branch that I think they could extend to us to show that they are ready and willing to move forward,” Rizzo told reporters later. 

Democrats and conservatives kicked off the session by decrying what they view as fractured trust with the Republican majority — complaints that have carried over from last year. 

Sen. Bob Onder, a member of the Conservative Caucus, said it was unlikely he would support the PQ rule change but stood in solidarity with Rizzo’s overall message. 

“There’s no question senators from both sides of the aisle have used the phrase ‘erosion of trust’ and many variations of that,” Onder said. “I think we have a common cause in restoring that trust which has always allowed the Senate to function as a body. I don’t think I can support your resolution, but no question, senator, your proposed change would really empower … a minority to stop things they wanted to stop.” 

Senate is ‘not special right now’ 

Led by Sen. Denny Hoskins, a handful of conservatives in the upper chamber kicked off the legislative session by denouncing perceived slights of dishonesty, exclusion from caucus meetings, and deviations of tradition on Wednesday. 

Hoskins and Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden even faced off on the floor about a December meeting of Republicans that some conservatives were not invited to; Rowden has said the meeting was held at the request of several other senators — not leadership — who wanted “to have a conversation that they felt like wasn’t going to be used against them.” 

State Sen. Mike Moon speaks on the floor on the first day of session as conservative members criticize Republican leadership. (PROVIDED)

Senate leaders, including Rizzo, Rowden, and President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, were inundated with questions about the state of relationships in the upper chamber, particularly among Republicans, in a post-session press conference. 

Rowden maintained he would help any member who “respects the Senate and wants to get good stuff done” but said leadership would not “go out of our way to overly cater to a relatively small group of people within our caucus.” 

As for the PQ, Rowden held fast in his belief that it should be used as little as possible and not weaponized. 

“I think that this place is special because things like the previous question matter, and we want it to continue to matter,” Rowden said. “I’m way more interested in protecting the Senate and what has made the Senate special. From my perspective, it’s not special right now. It’s not what it was 20 years ago, and we should strive to make it that way again.” 

While it’s often used in the House, the tactic is seen much less in the Senate, a body that ardently values tradition and decorum. 

It was 1970 when a PQ was used in the Senate after a more than 100-year hiatus. Since, it has been used about several dozen times successfully. A PQ was last used during a special session in 2020.

Rizzo said his resolution was the “beginning” of what could be done to make his party “feel more comfortable” as session progresses. 

Rizzo, now infamously, ended the legislative session last year abruptly after slamming Republican leadership for throwing curveballs and being dishonest to the Democrats.