It’s Time to Do the Work
After enduring weeks of what I have charitably referred to as “shenanigans” in the Missouri Senate, I finally reached my limit. As I’ve mentioned in past columns, I recently co-chaired a select task force charged with protecting the rights of sexual assault survivors. Through consultation with law enforcement, prosecutors, health care professionals and survivors’ advocates, we crafted bipartisan legislation that would fix a previously enacted “Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights” that is currently tied up in court. Again, this was a carefully crafted bipartisan bill with support from both sides of the political aisle. Literally no one expected it to be controversial. That fact did not stop a small group of obstructionist senators from attempting to derail this legislation. Fed up, and no longer willing to abide by their tactics, I called a press conference the following morning and left no doubt where I stood. What follows is a portion of the words I spoke while 22 members of the Missouri Senate stood alongside me in support:
Last night, we witnessed a small group of self-serving politicians obstructing a non-controversial, and needed, piece of legislation yet again.
In recent weeks, this has become our norm in the Missouri Senate. We have sat by helpless as bipartisan legislation like this bill, aimed at helping new moms, guarding victims of sexual abuse and protecting children in cases of child abuse or neglect, has been hijacked and purposefully tanked by a select few. The senators you see standing here care about these issues, and they care about the work we do here for the people of Missouri. We don’t always agree, but we strive to work through what we can. And when we can’t, we try our best to remain professional –– not self-centered, with an attitude of “If my important bill won’t pass, then yours won’t either.”
A few senators who can’t, or won’t, put in the work to get their own legislation through the process want to attach their hot-button, partisan issues to bills that have, in some cases, been worked on for months. The Missouri Rights of Victims of Sexual Assault Task Force spent months preparing recommendations, and a bipartisan group of senators put in the work to build the support needed to get a bill to the floor of the Senate. That is what got us to where we were last night.
But that is not how the few obstructionists in this body have worked this year. They have worked tirelessly to attach “poison pill” amendments to their colleagues’ bills. They then take to social media to misrepresent what has just happened in the chamber. And they do it to even the senators who agree with them 90% of the time. They continually filibuster the journal –– when that has never been done in the manner that we are seeing it this year –– and then cry foul when anyone else steps outside the traditional use of a Senate motion to defend themselves or their colleagues. Despite constant adversarial and classless actions, they seem shocked and appalled daily that no one is rushing to help them get their legislation passed.
All they are after are political stunts and campaign sound bites.
I’m not OK with that anymore. We are not OK with that anymore. Standing behind me is the majority of the Senate, Democrats and Republicans alike, who are here for the common good –– who understand working in a collegial body, through a traditional process, to get things done for the people of this state.
Last night was the red-line for me. A bill that has been worked on for months by stakeholders from across this state –– a bill aimed at easing some of the second-level trauma that sexual assault victims experience –– got hijacked by a few men who wanted to talk about another issue. One of them even made a comment about “this little bill,” as if guarding those who have been through a sexual assault is some nothing piece of legislation.
Why do they care so little about an issue that is life changing for so many Missourians?
And yes, this is personal for me. But perhaps that is exactly what it is going to take to stop the self-interested bullying that we have seen for weeks, as they blow up one good bill after another. The people they are pushing around now are sexual assault survivors. The people they are running over now are the children of this state who need protection, and the mothers struggling with postpartum depression and the children in their household. All of these would have benefited from legislation these men have derailed with their tactics.
These are elected members of the Missouri Senate, several of which are running for their next office. It is time the people of this state get more than a sound bite, or a tweet, or a Facebook ad. It’s time we shine a light on the problem –– and the problem is exactly what makes me, and the majority of Missourians distrust and dislike politicians.
These guys need to halt their campaigning, and work for the job that they are currently elected to do. It’s time for us to end the empty negotiations and begging for civility with these guys behind closed doors. It’s time for the Missouri Senate to do its work.
I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Holly Thompson Rehder, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Rm 433, Jefferson City, MO 65101, send an email to Holly.Rehder@senate.mo.gov or visit www.senate.mo.gov/Rehder.