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Senate could see slowdown if Greitens impeachment process doesn’t start soon

Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh speaks to reporters on April 12, 2018. Walsh doesn't want any bills sent to Gov. Eric Greitens until the impeachment process starts soon.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh speaks to reporters on April 12, 2018. Walsh doesn't want any bills sent to Gov. Eric Greitens until the impeachment process starts soon.

Some Senate Democrats don’t want to send any more bills to Gov. Eric Greitens’ desk unless House members begin the impeachment process immediately — as opposed to a special session after May 18.

It’s a sentiment that capped off an emotional day in the Missouri Senate, where lawmakers from both parties lamented on a startling House report on the governor’s conduct.

Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh told reporters she doesn’t believe her colleagues should send any legislation for Greitens’ approval or disapproval after Wednesday’s report was released. It features testimony from a woman accusing Greitens of sexual and physical abuse.

House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said on Wednesday he’s planning to get necessary signatures to call a special session after the General Assembly adjourns on May 18. Walsh said that timeline is not acceptable.

“There’s no reason for delay. We don’t need a special session later,” said Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors. “We need to do the right thing, right now. When the House comes back on Tuesday, the first thing they should do is start impeachment process.”

Missouri’s Constitution requires the House to initiate impeachment. If a majority of members vote to impeach Greitens, then the Senate would select seven members of the judiciary to see if the governor violated aspects of the Missouri Constitution. That could include “moral turpitude or oppression in office.”

“The policies that pass or do not get passed will impact our state for a long time to come,” said Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur. “This is not the person who should be at the helm.”

For his part, Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard said he wanted to follow Richardson’s lead on the timing of impeachment proceedings — especially since the Senate can’t do anything until the House acts. But he also said he had the ability to prevent legislation from being sent to Greitens.

“I’ve got to keep the Senate in a position that we are above the fray — that’s what the Senate does,” Richard said. “We try to reconcile the unreconcilable. In the middle of this if I have to pick judges and take them to the body of the Senate, I want to make sure we’re above the fray. Let the House do what they do. If they rule on something, we will take that and move on it — if there is a recommendation.”

While Richard did not join Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, in calling for Greitens to step down, he made it clear he was disturbed by the report’s contents. He also said he was upset that Greitens attacked the report’s process as a “witch hunt.”

“I let my wife read [the report] when the speaker gave it to me over the weekend, just to get her sense of it,” Richard said. “She was disgusted.”

Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, noted that lawmakers must pass a budget in May to avoid an automatic special session. He went on to say that “folks need to be patient” about the process.

“I think the speaker hit the nail on the head yesterday when he said ‘we’re not going to rush, we’re not going to get ahead of ourselves, but we’re also not going to shy away from the task,’” said Rowden, who called on Greitens to resign before the report came out.

Both the House and Senate are set to convene again Tuesday. House members adjourned early on Wednesday ahead of the report’s release.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.