Republicans have firm control of the Missouri House this legislative session and might tap a rarely used power during budget proceedings.
House Speaker Steven Tilley, a Republican from Perryville, is proud of the gains made by Republicans and made that clear as he began a news conference at the Capitol.
“Let me be the first to officially introduce to you the largest Republican majority in the history of this state,” Tilley said to a thunderous ovation from the 106 members of the Republican Caucus.
Republicans have a decided 106-to-57 advantage over Democrats in the Missouri House. The total number of Republican votes in the House chamber falls only three short of the total needed to override a governor’s veto.
Tilley has been cautious to play down the advantage of such a strong majority both during news conferences and in interviews. During his speech to the House on the first day of the legislative session, though, he indicated he’s ready to use the power provided by such a strong majority. In just one sentence, Tilley served notice that he would not shy from confrontation with the Nixon Administration.
“Further, I am ready to grant subpoena power to the budget committee to root out more waste, fraud and abuse,” Tilley stated.
Afterward, during the Republican House Caucus news conference, reporters latched on to the statement and asked Tilley to elaborate. Tilley began by asserting the power given him in his new role.
“Well, you know, the Speaker has the authority to grant that to any committee he chooses,” Tilley replied.
Tilley chooses to give it to House Budget Committee officials attempting to craft a budget with a possible $700 million shortfall and coping with state department officials who might resist budget cuts.
“And I want to give them any tool that they can to make sure that they craft a budget that recognizes that we have to live within our means and we need to make sure that every tax dollar is spent wisely,” Tilley told reporters.
No specifics were given on how subpoena power might be used by Budget Committee Chairman Ryan Silvey (R-Kansas City) or his various Appropriations Committee chairmen. Tilley did not mention any instances when department heads within the administration of Governor Nixon failed to cooperate voluntarily during budget hearings. When asked if the use of subpoena powers might set up a conflict between the legislative and executive branch, Tilley answered simply that such conflict exists anyway and that if the committee needs subpoena power to run the House in the manner best for the citizens of the state, he would grant it that power.
The move caught top House Minority Leader Mike Talboy, a Democrat from Kansas City, off guard.
“You know, that was a new thing for me,” Talboy said with a chuckle, “I haven’t heard that one in a while.”
Talboy declined to say much about the issue, telling reporters he isn’t sure how it will play out.
“Throwing it out there and saying we’re going to have the subpoena powers; what they’re actually going to used for, I think, is going to be more telling than anything,” Tilley said.