Senate Republicans break filibuster on “religious rights” bill

About 7:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, Republicans in the Missouri Senate voted to end one of the longest continuous filibusters in history of the Missouri General Assembly. After a little more than  39 hours, the Missouri Senate voted 22-11 in favor of a motion to “move the previous question”, ending a Democratic filibuster on Senate Joint Resolution 39, sponsored by Sen. Bob Onder.

The resolution would allow Missourians to vote on a an amendment to the state constitution that would forbid penalties being levied on certain groups who refuse to provide wedding related services to gay weddings on religious grounds.

Once the previous question motion was used to shut down the filibuster, SJR 39 passed the Senate by a 23-9 vote.

However, the significance of the use of the previous question motion is the key element to this story. The motion is traditionally not used in the Missouri Senate, where the quote “Free and fair discussion will ever be found the firmest friend of truth” by the Scottish writer George Campbell is etched into the chamber’s wall. Senate leaders have at times gone decades without using the maneuver, and the use of the motion usually signals the end of the minority party’s cooperation in moving legislation forward. When Republicans were in the minority, the filibuster was used to block tax increases on employers and to force negotiations on other issues facing employers.

Last session for all intents and purposes ended when Republicans used previous question motions to move a Right to Work bill. Democrats responded by filibustering nearly all motions made from that point on.

So the question now is, where do we go from here? The Senate has adjourned to rest until Thursday. When it reconvenes, we will see how Senate Democrats react. With more than two months remaining in the legislative session, if the Democrats use the minority’s traditional tactics, it is possible Republicans will have to use the previous question motion to pass everything from skipping the daily reading of the Senate Journal, to a motion to adjourn a session for the day.