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‘Troubled waters’: Senate Republican fissures still prevalent in upper chamber as session kicks off

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — It was almost as if the frigid temperatures in Jefferson City Wednesday were a reflection of the relationships between GOP members of the upper chamber as session got underway for the year. 

The previous legislative session — as well as a special and veto session during the interim — widened fractures among senators, especially those in the GOP. Conservative members remain incensed that the legislature, with the help of most Republicans, passed an FRA renewal package without advancing any legislation curtailing public spending on abortion providers or affiliates. 

Conservatives, led by Sen. Denny Hoskins, began 2022 by holding the floor to decry perceived slights of dishonesty, exclusion from meetings, and deviations of tradition. 

It all came to a crescendo when Hoskins inquired of Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden to grill him on a meeting of Republican senators ahead of session — which he dubbed the “Super Secret Special Secret Caucus Meeting” — that did not include the full caucus. 

“Do you think a good way to build trust is to schedule super secret special caucus meetings without all the caucus?” Hoskins asked. 

Rowden said multiple Republican senators had requested a meeting. 

“I wasn’t the only one that wanted to be there,” Rowden said. “I think the notion that one individual has the ability to cause all of these waves to happen and all of these shifting sands in the Missouri Senate without a lot of support from a lot of other people is a false notion and is a dangerous one.” 

During the conservative speeches, most of the Republican and Democratic members of the Senate appeared insouciant as they did not remain in the chamber. More senators from both parties came to the floor while Rowden spoke with Hoskins. 

The Conservative Caucus’ commentary stood in juxtaposition to Schatz’s opening speech just moments before. The Republican leader expressed hope and implored his colleagues to embrace unity during the new legislative session. 

“The challenges of the past two years have been great and have only seemed to intensify, but I am hopeful. I am hopeful because the senators here today have demonstrated before that they can put aside personal differences in order to overcome the obstacles before us,” Schatz said. 

Earlier in Hoskins’ inquiry around the chamber, he called for a quorum to be established as only a handful of the conservative cohort remained on the floor at their desks. 

“Maybe the other Republicans in the room decided to have a caucus meeting that we weren’t invited to,” Hoskins said. 

In all, Sens. Rick Brattin, Bill Eigel, Mike Moon, Bob Onder, and Paul Wieland, joined Hoskins. 

“The senators that are out here on the Senate floor don’t want there to be troubled waters anymore than those that aren’t on the floor right now,” Eigel said. “But it’s not a decision that you come to if you don’t feel you have don’t have a trust to move forward and have productive conversations in the future.” 

The Senate moved on to the reading of pre-filed bills following the exchange between Hoskins and Rowden. 

On the other side of the Capitol, the lower chamber began session and gaveled out without much fanfare.