Democrats stood on the sideline as a Republican squabble led to a 17-hour filibuster in the Senate last week. And they might use the lessons learned against the majority party when they seek to stall debate on an issue. Senate Minority Leader Maida Coleman (D-St. Louis) jokes that she never has a problem with the majority political party is fighting among itself. Coleman watched in fascination as a Republican Senator Matt Bartle of Lee’s Summit sought to stop the appointment of a Republican Governor Matt Blunt backed by Republican leaders in the Senate. The appointee, Warren Erdman of Kansas City, also is a Republican who worked for ten years as Senator Bond’s Chief of Staff. State Senate leaders showed the Senator Bartle every courtesy in his 17-hour talking marathon. Coleman says Democrats would like the same professional courtesy should they decide to use the filibuster this legislative session. The filibuster is a tradition of the Senate, both at the State Capitol and in Washington, D. C. It allows one or more senators to hold the floor indefinitely, bringing debate on an issue to a standstill. It is unusual for a filibuster to be used against an appointment, rather than against a bill. Majority Floor Leader Charlie Shields (R-St. Joseph) won’t promise anything to Democrats, but says he prefers to approach filibusters in one of two ways; either to wait them out or to negotiate his way out of them. Shields says that in the Bartle filibuster, negotiation really was impractical, because an appointment was at issue. It is easier to negotiate when an issue is at stake. As far as fall-out from this filibuster, Shields isn’t worried about Democrats. He says the fallout from this filibuster is that Senator Bartle has done damage to himself within the Republican caucus and he is going to have to work to rebuild that.
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