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Missouri Sen. Chappelle-Nadal's punishment for Trump comment: A written reprimand

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, speaks during a 2016 candidate forum for candidates in the 1st Congressional District.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio


Updated 7:25 p.m. with exclusive comments from Chappelle-Nadal — Maria Chappelle-Nadal won’t lose her seat in the Missouri Senate, the chamber decided Wednesday. But the Democrat is being censured — a move that apparently hasn’t happened before and is little more than a written reprimand.

Gov. Eric Greitens and Lt. Gov. Mike Parson said last month that the University City Democrat should be expelled for posting a Facebook comment in which she wished for President Donald Trump’s assassination. There wasn’t enough support among Senate members for that to happen Wednesday during the otherwise-quiet veto session. Instead, the GOP majority censured her by a 28-2 vote for her now-deleted post.

In an interview at the Three Kings Public House in University City on Wednesday night, Chappelle-Nadal said she was “thankful” to her colleagues for choosing to censure her.

“What I said politically and spiritually was wrong,” said Chappelle-Nadal, who granted St. Louis Public Radio an exclusive interview. “When it comes to the constitution and when it comes to the First Amendment, that’s a different matter.”

Senate Communications Director Anne Marie Moy said there is no record of censuring being done before, and it was up to the Senate members to define what a censure would look like. 

Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said the censure is a written reprimand and the option to expel her later. Chappelle-Nadal already has been stripped of her committee assignments.

Her chances of being kicked out of the Senate were reduced after Republican Sens. Bob Dixon, Ed Emery and Rob Schaaf said they were against expulsion in the days before the veto session, making it impossible to reach the 23 votes needed to remove her from office without Democratic support. Some Democrats did vote for censure, though.

“There were some people who really wanted to support me,” Chappelle-Nadal said. “There’s some people I know were thinking about their political futures.”

She also said she was concerned about the lingering possibility of expulsion.

“They were still saying that they may want, in the future, to expel me,” said Chappelle-Nadal, who is term-limited after 2018. “And that’s something for the legislature and my attorneys to decide what they’re going to do when that happens – and if that happens.”

In the House, Democrats spoke out Wednesday against GOP Rep. Warren Love’s Facebook post last month, in which he said whoever vandalized a Confederate monument in Springfield in late August should be “hung from a tall tree with a long rope.”

Democrats wanted him to resign and criticized Republicans for not demanding the same, given their calls for Chappelle-Nadal to remove herself or be removed. The Osceola lawmaker apologized but hasn’t removed the post. Rep. Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, said she has filed a motion for the House ethics committee to investigate his actions.

“We’ve had conversations about taking him off of committees,” she said. “Absolutely nothing has been done to Representative Love. He has faced absolutely no consequences.”

As for Chappelle-Nadal, she said she’s looking forward to getting back to work and focusing on issues like figuring out how to handle radioactive waste buried in the West Lake Landfill.

She also emphasized that while Republicans like Greitens and Democrats like U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill called for her resignation, her constituents in her central and north St. Louis County-based district had her back.  

“The way that I got through this? I had pastors and people who have prayed for me and with me throughout this state,” she said.

In-home health-care solution

House and Senate GOP leaders said there’ll be a bipartisan push to preserve in-home, health-care services for 8,000 older and disabled Missouri residents. The announcement came in a news release while the House was in session Wednesday.

Sen. Mike Cunningham, R-Rogersville, and House Budget chairman Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, are tasked with coming up with the “fiscally responsible plan” in the next three weeks, the release said. The plan also will look at restoring provider rate cuts.

Reversing the cuts were a priority for Democrats during the veto session, but their push to override Greitens’ veto failed 49-106.

Of note

Two new lawmakers were sworn in before the start of Wednesday’s veto session.

Rep. Sara Walsh, R-California, fills ex-Rep. Caleb Jones seat; he resigned to become deputy chief of staff for Greitens. And Republican Sen. Sandy Crawford of Buffalo fills the seat left vacant when Parson became lieutenant governor.

Original story from Sept. 13

There's little to no consensus among Missouri lawmakers on whether they’ll attempt to override any of first-year Gov. Eric Greitens’ six vetoes during Wednesday’s session.

Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City, 2016
Credit Ethan Weston | Flickr
Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City, 2016

GOP leaders have been weighing options for holding one or more special sessions, including in the case of Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, but there are no guarantees. The veto session begins at noon.

Some House members have been gauging whether there’s enough support to file a new bill to restore in-home health care services to more than 8,000 older and disabled Missouri residents, said Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston. But that would have to meet Greitens' approval.

Democratic Reps. Joe Adams of University City and Stacey Newman of Richmond Heights told St. Louis Public Radio on Tuesday they don’t think the House will call a special session or make any serious push to override any of Greitens’ vetoes.

“I doubt it seriously. I don’t think they’ve got enough votes,” Adams said.

But House Democrats are expected to seek time to speak against Republican Rep. Warren Love of Osceola, who said on Facebook that whoever vandalized a Confederate monument in Springfield should be “hung from a tall tree with a long rope.” Love has apologized for the post.

House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, criticized Love’s comments but has not called for him to resign as Democrats have.

“Out of all of this, hopefully, there will be more effort for us to be more respectful of each other,” Newman said.

In a similar situation, Senate leaders are waiting to hear whether they can discipline Chappelle-Nadal for a Facebook comment during veto session or if they’d have to call a special session with three-fourths of the chamber’s backing.

The University City Democrat commented on Facebook last month that she wished someone would assassinate President Donald Trump. She also has apologized, but said she wouldn’t resign. Lt. Gov. Mike Parson has called on the Senate members to expel Chappelle-Nadal, who’s already been stripped of her committee seats.

Legal experts are still interpreting the part of the Missouri Constitution that covers expelling a sitting senator during veto session, Anne Marie Moy, Senate communications director, said.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Erica Hunzinger contributed to this report.

Follow Marshall and Jason on Twitter: @MarshallGReport, @jrosenbaum

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.
Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.