JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Four filibustering Missouri senators upset about the growth of federal spending thought they had a deal to reject about $250 million of federal stimulus money. In in the end, they settled for a $14 million cut in Missouri's stimulus spending and declared a symbolic victory.
The Missouri Senate ended an all-night filibuster Wednesday morning and passed a budget bill reauthorizing the expenditure of about $450 million of federal stimulus money. The chamber's 20-8 vote came after a divided Republican caucus met twice behind closed doors, ultimately agreeing to slice off only a portion of the federal money that the filibustering senators had demanded be axed.
"At the end of the day, I think that people are addicted to the opium -- they're addicted to the federal money and they can't say no," said a frustrated and sleep-deprived Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis.
Lembke was part of a tag-team filibuster effort that also included Republican Sens. Brian Nieves of Washington, Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph and Will Kraus of Lee's Summit. It was their second major stalling effort of the year in a quest to highlight what they consider to be out-of-control federal spending and deficits.
The quartet previously delayed Missouri's reauthorization of federally funded jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed, relenting last month only upon a pledge from GOP Senate leaders to help them identify $250 million of cuts to Missouri's stimulus funds and to scale back the number of weeks that people can received state-funded jobless benefits.
But that deal fizzled as other Republican and Democratic senators refused to go along with the stimulus cuts. The four senators began a roughly 14-hour filibuster Tuesday with a goal of eliminating about $40 million from the stimulus reauthorization bill that has been allocated to projects but was not yet under contract. They ended up agreeing to cut $14.5 million, mainly from energy efficiency programs.
Lawmakers face a Friday deadline established by the state constitution to give final approval to the state's budget. Still incomplete is most of the proposed $23 billion operating budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Among the other incomplete items is House Bill 18, which would allow stimulus money that has gone unspent in the current budget to be carried over to the next fiscal year. Without that reauthorization, the money cannot be spent after June 30.
Stimulus bill is HB18.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)