June 27, 2021
Missouri Governor Mike Parson and GOP legislative leaders gathered on a conference call Tuesday morning with little time to spare.
The governor had set a noon deadline for lawmakers to come to an agreement on a tax that provides $ 2 billion for Missouri’s Medicaid program. If they didn’t, he promised deep cuts in all areas of the state budget.
The mood was choppy, with the governor expressing his frustration with the way the process had unfolded.
Then suddenly Parson was gone. He had hung up on his fellow Republicans, leaving lawmakers unsure whether there would be a special session after all.
Soon after, however, cooler heads seemed to prevail. Parson announced he was convening the legislature the next day.
It wasn’t the most auspicious start to a special session with such high stakes.
The fight to renew a crucial tax for Medicaid funding, known as the Federal Reimbursement Allowance (FRA), is the most high-profile example of a division that has plagued Republicans in Missouri all year.
From Parson’s letter of reprimand in January to the House leadership complaining about the location of his state-of-state speech to a request last month from a Senate Republican for a change in the leadership of the House chamber, infighting plagued the Republican super-majority and often left the impression that the state had three political parties.
As state senators gathered to work on an FRA resolution on Wednesday, the tension – and lack of confidence – was fully visible.
Senator Paul Wieland, an Imperial Republican whose attempt to ban certain contraceptives from being paid for by Medicaid initially derailed the ARF extension, wondered why the Senate leadership decided to present three bills instead of just one.
“The last time we discussed it, I felt like we were going to make a bill,” Wieland said, adding that no one had informed him of the “11th hour surprise”.
Then came Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, who demanded that any extension of the FRA include language preventing Planned Parenthood from being a Medicaid provider.
During a Senate speech, Onder said he had tried to work with the governor’s office in the last few weeks of the legislative session to strike a deal on the ARF.
“I begged the governor’s office to intervene with the leadership of the House and Senate so that we can do something in the regular session,” Onder said, later adding: “By the way, neither he nor his chief of staff never called me back. “
Earlier today, in an interview with KCUR, Onder even suggested that Parson was calling the Democrats by keeping “the money paid to Planned Parenthood.”
Kelli Jones, the governor’s spokeswoman, did not respond to a request for comment.
Onder’s criticism came just two days after Parson called a press conference to publicly criticize his fellow Republicans in the legislature for moving the goalposts during the FRA negotiations.
“I am pro-life. I have supported pro-life measures my entire career and always will,” Parson told media on Monday. “However, narrow political interests cannot be allowed to hold the vital financing of health care and the success of our economy hostage.”
At stake is a tax on hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers that expires in September and is expected to provide more than $ 2 billion for the state’s $ 12 billion Medicaid program.
The FRA has been uncontroversially extended 16 times since it was first implemented in 1992.
Parson’s proclamation calling a special session calls for the ARF to be extended for five years.
As a concession to Senate conservatives, Parson called for limits on the purchase of multiple contraceptives through Medicaid and a ban on Planned Parenthood from providing care under a state-funded family planning program for them. uninsured women.
But Planned Parenthood says its affiliates in Missouri receive “no publicly funded reimbursements under the Uninsured Women’s Health Program,” a revelation that immediately caught the eye. drew Onder’s wrath.
Senator Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, said he felt during the regular legislative session that Republicans were on the same page in approving an extension of the ARF with contraception and Planned Parenthood language .
But then, Hoskins said, it emerged that GOP leaders struck a deal with Democrats on the last day of the session in an effort to expand the ARF without these provisions.
This deal exploded, leaving Republicans and Democrats feeling betrayed. Senatorial Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, retaliated by leading a day of filibustering that ultimately forced the chamber to adjourn four hours earlier.
On Wednesday, Rizzo and his fellow Democrats urged the Senate to follow three decades of precedent and endorse the FRA without any amendments.
With just 10 seats out of the 34 Senate members, Rizzo expressed hope that enough Republicans would join the effort.
“If there are eight Republicans who decide to join us and go on a clean ARF and carry on with this program for the next five years,” Rizzo said, “we’ll be more than happy to have these conversations.”
This story was originally published by the Missouri Independent. For more stories from the Missouri Independent, visit Missouri Independent.