JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Thunder resounded throughout the Senate chambers, and hail rained down on Jefferson City Friday night as Senate Republicans continued to search for a “compromise” FRA reauthorization.
Business on the Senate floor ground to a halt shortly after 12 p.m. when Sen. Bob Onder attempted to attach an amendment excluding abortion providers and their affiliates from Missouri’s Medicaid program. The Senate then stood at ease to address a point of order levied by Minority Floor Leader John Rizzo.
After about an hour, the Senate moved into recess. Republicans caucused for about an hour Friday afternoon, but dealmaking continued behind closed doors as the capital city grew dark and the power flickered in the Capitol.
Bells chimed to bring senators back to back to the chamber at about 7 p.m., but the gavel was not lifted. Republicans moved to caucus about an hour later where a deal that was seemingly in place just minutes before broke down.
One particular idea put forth from Sen. Andrew Koenig would have included Onder’s abortion provider language but left it contingent upon approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Onder told The Missouri Times. He said he didn’t have faith that CMS under the Biden administration would give such approval.
Opponents of Onder’s language have warned it could put Missouri out of compliance with CMS, costing the state large sums of federal money. He said there’s a “zero percent chance” of Missouri losing money under his plan.
Onder said he suggested his own idea: His proposal would leave in place his abortion provider language, but it would become inoperative immediately should Missouri begin to lose federal dollars. The FRA renewal would remain in place, however.
“Not just CMS refusing to give us a waiver, or not some bureaucrat at CMS sending us a nasty letter, but actual loss of funding, then the amendment would become inoperative,” Onder said. “I said again and again throughout regular session … that we need to renew the FRA, but unfortunately we’ve kicked the can down the road, again and again, to avoid making that decision — whether we’re truly going to defund Planned Parenthood or keep the spigots of money flowing to Planned Parenthood.
One deal that was successful was brokered by the women in the Senate. Nearly every female senator met Friday and came up with a proposal to strip the list of drugs that would not be covered under Medicaid. They had concerns that the way those drugs were listed, women could be denied access to birth control. Sen. Paul Wieland, who has championed the language to prevent Medicaid from covering abortifacients, agreed to the plan.
“There is probably nothing that couldn’t be solved if it was just us women,” said one senator who attended the meeting.
Rizzo huddled with reporters in a side gallery Friday afternoon while the Senate was still in recess, urging the governor to step in.
“I have a lot of respect for the governor, especially what he’s done in the last few days in really trying to make his case. I think it’s time, now, to narrow the call — take the guesswork out of the Senate; they obviously can’t handle it — and narrow the call to a simple extension of the program,” Rizzo said. “He can do that right now. He needs to narrow the call because this body is unable to handle the responsibility of governing.”
Earlier, Onder addressed the governor’s special session call: “The minute we say the governor can write our bills for us, we do not have a governor. We do not have a Missouri Constitution anymore. We have a king. And like my predecessors in government service in this country, I will bow down to no one — and certainly not to a king.”
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.