New Republican Governor Mike Parson met with most of Missouri’s Congressional Delegation Monday morning at the state capitol in Jefferson City.
The gathering came before his scheduled address to a joint session of the state legislature at 5 p.m. Only Republican Representative Sam Graves and Democratic Representative William Lacy Clay were not present among the 10 Washington D.C. based lawmakers.
Clay bypassed the roughly 30-minute conference to attend his own job fair which is an annual occurrence in St. Louis and was arranged months in advance.
Democratic U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill told reporters afterward she had little if any contact with former GOP Governor Eric Greitens, saying he isolated himself from other lawmakers.
“I don’t think that Governor Greitens saw this as a team effort,” said McCaskill. “I think he saw it as he could always go it alone and that he was wanting to fight everybody. This governor appears that he wants to work with everybody instead of fight everybody.”
East Central Missouri Republican Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer said the legal and ethical challenges surrounding former Republican Governor Eric Greitens were getting a lot of attention in Washington.
“There were regular stories at least once a week in a lot of the different publications out there with regards to what was going on with regards to the lawsuits and the hearings and all of that stuff,” said Luetkemeyer. “We were being quizzed on a regular basis by the folks in DC about what in the world is going on in (our) state.”
West Central Missouri Republican Congresswoman Vicky Hartlzer said she was happy to see Parson make the effort to meet with the delegation.
“I know Mike Parsons,” said Hartzler. “I’ve worked with him for years, and I really appreciate him reaching out and having this meeting with us today. I know that we’re going to have a very positive relationship going forward helping Missouri be the best it can be.”
The Senators and Representatives generally said the discussion centered on fixing roads and bridges, fighting the opioid crisis and improving education. Hartzler said there was also talk of one of her major priorities.
“Areas that are important to me that I talked about was our opportunity to expand rural broadband into the parts are state that don’t have high-speed Internet,” Hartzler said. “I have an amendment on the farm bill at the federal level.”
Hartzler’s amendment would set a minimum standard of service for United States Department of Agriculture broadband programs of 25 megabits per second for downloading and 3 megabits per second for uploading. The bill itself would authorize $150 million in broadband lending, which equates to about $1 billion in loans, along with $350 million in grants.
Luetkemeyer sidestepped a question from a reporter asking if Greitens was accurate in calling the Missouri House investigation of him “a witch hunt”.
“My focus has been on DC,” said Luetkemeyer. “I’m not privy to the information that they had prior to their calling an investigation to see what those issues were, the information or evidence they had to say that they could go forward with.”
A special House committee canceled all its hearings once Greitens announced he was resigning from office. It had previously been probing two felony cases against the former governor that have been dropped by prosecutors as well as his communications and dealing in office with his secretive nonprofit that doesn’t have to report its donors’ identities.
Greitens’ attorney worked a deal with the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s office to drop its felony case against him in exchange for his resignation.
While Republican Luetkemeyer defended President Trump’s declaration at the G-7 meeting that Russia should be invited to rejoin the group after it was banished in 2014, Democrat McCaskill criticized the President’s decision to sanction countries the U.S. has a trade deficit with.
She said Missouri’s biggest industry, agriculture, would be hurt because the countries’ have announced they will retaliate. “We have a trade surplus in our state because of agriculture,” McCaskill said. “The surplus that we have in the state is an agricultural surplus. I think it’s really important that everyone began to speak out that we can’t be picking trade wars with our friends.”
Beyond McCaskill, Luetkemeyer and Hartzler, the meeting with Parson in the Governor’s office included U.S. Senators Roy Blunt-R as well as U.S. Representatives Ann Wagner-R, Emanuel Cleaver-D, Billy Long-R, and Jason Smith-R.