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Filibuster of jobless benefits continues in Mo. Senate

Mo. Sen. Jim Lembke (R, Lemay) is leading the filibuster.
Mo. Senate
Mo. Sen. Jim Lembke (R, Lemay) is leading the filibuster.

A group of fiscally conservative Missouri senators is continuing to block legislation to draw down $81 million in federal unemployment benefits, even though Senate Republican leaders support the bill.

State Senator Jim Lembke(R, Lemay) has been leading the filibuster for weeks.  He says rejecting the money would send a message to Washington that it needs to reign in spending.

Majority Floor Leader Tom Dempsey (R, St. Charles) asked Lembke if he would consider relenting for those who’ve been trying hard to find work.  Lemke said not unless the Missouri Senatemakes further cuts to the state budget.

“We could cut education, we could cut social services," Lembke said.  "If we as a body want to make a decision that this is something that we believe that Missourians need to have...then I think that we should do it with the resources that we have, not resources that the federal government has sent us that they don’t have."

Then President Pro-tem Rob Mayer(R, Dexter) made Lembke the following offer:  "To try to move this along, I prepared this amendment…it would exclude your district and the other three senators’ districts…it would exclude your citizens from getting any of this extended benefit.”

But Lembke rejected the offer, saying that he was looking out for the interests of all Missourians, not just those in his district.

The other three senators involved in the filibuster are Brian Nieves (R, Washington), Will Kraus(R, Lee's Summit) and Rob Schaaf(R, St. Joseph), all freshmen.

Another proposal would delay receipt of benefits until August and shrink the amount of federal dollars drawn down.  But so far, Lembke is not backing down.

Around 10,000 unemployed Missourians could lose benefits if the bill isn’t passed before lawmakers leave tomorrow for spring break. 

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.