The Missouri Legislature will enter an unprecedented phase on Friday evening – a special session to consider if impeachment proceedings should be launched against Governor Eric Greitens.
If a special House committee investigating the governor chooses to begin the impeachment process, the House would need 82 members to vote in favor of impeaching Greitens for the next step in the process to occur.
If that figure is met, the state Senate would then select seven “eminent jurists” made up of Missouri circuit and appellate court judges to decide whether to convict the governor. At least five of the judges would have to favor convicting Greitens in order for him to be removed from office.
The Missouri Constitution does not require a criminal conviction for impeachment.
Of the 138 signatures on a petition to call the state legislature in for a special session, 109 of those came from House members. An argument is swirling around about the figure indicating there are more than enough votes to impeach the governor. The number does not automatically mean members who signed the petition will support the impeachment of Greitens.
Some of the 115 House Republicans have argued they did not sign onto the petition to impeach Greitens. Rather, they inked the document to let the process play out. They want a special House committee investigating the governor to have time to finish its work. They want sufficient time to debate the issue on the House floor. They don’t want to make a rash decision – one of historic proportions. Republicans hold a super majority in both chambers of the General Assembly and the face of their party is in the hot seat.
Another argument has been made many times that the governor has not made many Republican friends in the General Assembly. He did not make many friends when his political action committee used attack ads to target members of his own party. He did not make many friends when he stacked the Missouri State Board of Education with interim members who would agree to vote in favor of firing then-Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven. He did not make many friends when he called lawmakers “career politicians”. He did not make many friends when he got involved in a proposed pay increase for state elected officials.
Greitens still has some hardcore backers in the legislature and around the state. Many, if not all, of the governor’s supporters see this week’s dismissal of a felony invasion of privacy case against him as a way to reaffirm their backing of the governor. They might also argue that impeaching the governor would overturn the will of the people.
Keep in mind that the governor’s political action committee – A New Missouri – pumped $500,000 last week toward Right-to-work measures that were slow to move in the legislature. During this final week of the regular session, those proposals are being fast-tracked. Right-to-work, which would ban mandatory union fees in the workplace, is widely embraced among Republicans. The move raises the question: Is the governor hoping for a favor in return during a potential impeachment process?
Mizzou political scientist Peverill Squire is not convinved.
“My guess is Republicans in the legislature have enough grievances with the governor and the way that he has treated them that I don’t think a large contribution, even on an issue about which most of them care, will probably change the dynamics of their relationship,” Squire tells Missourinet.
So where would the 82 votes come from? Let’s do some math. Expect all of most of the 47 House Democrats to vote in favor of impeaching the governor. That leaves roughly 35 favorable votes from House Republicans for impeachment to become a reality.
Watch how the five Republicans vote who serve on the House committee investigating the governor.
In March, Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, led an effort to have House GOP members support a letter encouraging Greitens to resign. There were 13 anonymous names involved in that move. He told Missourinet that the number of members who believe the governor should resign is much higher than the 13 involved in the letter, but they want the investigative process to play out. Keep in mind that the letter was delivered at the beginning of March – before other allegations emerged against Greitens.
A few other House Republicans have essentially said they have real problems with some of the allegations facing the governor. Whether their concerns will translate into support to impeach the governor is anyone’s guess.
“I’m sure some Republicans would much rather avoid having to go through this process,” says Squire. “But at the same time, they’re probably reluctant to have as their sort of leading official in the state, somebody who has so many different allegations that have been made credibly against him.”
The historic move to hold a special session stems from allegations that Greitens took and transmitted a graphic photo of his hairdresser-turned-mistress in 2015 without her permission and threatened to blackmail her with it. Greitens is also accused of violating federal campaign finance laws by taking international campaign donations, breaking open records laws by using a secret cell phone app for government business and obtaining a charity donor list without authorization to finance his political campaign.
All eyes will be on the Missouri House during this special session that gets underway at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. The outcome could impact an important mid-term election in November, not only for Republicans but for Democrats, especially Democrats serving in Republican-leaning districts. The final vote tally could be tighter than some might think.
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