Discord that has seemingly paralyzed the Missouri Senate in recent weeks continues to escalate.
Sen. Ryan Silvey, a Kansas City Republican, penned an open letter Tuesday afternoon to Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard panning his leadership of the Senate and sarcastically thanking Richard for not putting him on a conference committee tasked with working out differences with the House on the state’s budget.
The letter is addressed to “Senator Richard,” but Silvey scratches that out and writes “Ronnie” in its place.
“I want to take a moment to thank you for not putting me on the Appropriations Conference Committee this year,” Silvey wrote in his letter, which his office released to the media Tuesday afternoon. “While your decision transparently epitomizes the worst of petty personal politics and flies in the face of 196 years of Senate tradition, it is a load off my mind not to be tasked with cleaning up the mess you have created.”
He also slammed Richard’s inclusion of a $1 million earmark in the budget for an airport hanger in Joplin, calling the money “pork for the powerful.” The money was also included in last year’s budget but was cut by Gov. Jay Nixon.
Silvey serves as vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which historically means he’d be a key negotiator on the budget with the House. But he was passed over, along with two other Republicans who serve on the committee — Sens. Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph and Denny Hoskins of Warrensburg.
All three joined with 16 other senators to buck GOP leaders last week and amend the state budget to fully fund K-12 public schools.
Silvey attributes the snub to his vote on education funding. But it’s far from his only run-in with Richard.
Early in the 2017 session, Richard appointed Sen. Dan Brown of Rolla to chair the Appropriations Committee. Silvey, who served as Budget Committee chairman during his time in the Missouri House and vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee since 2014, had publicly lobbied for the position for months. He said at the time, he was told it was because of his opposition to legislation targeting labor unions.
A few months later, Silvey said in numerous interviews that pay-to-play allegations against Richard warranted an investigation by the FBI.
Richard has remained mostly quiet about issues he may have with Silvey. He could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
The Silvey-Richard spat is just the latest in a long session of public fights among Republicans in the Senate.
On Monday, a group of Republican legislators and one Democrat tied the Senate in procedural knots to force GOP leaders to allow debate on legislation that would force so-called “dark money” groups to disclose their donors. Tuesday morning the gridlock continued, with the Senate adjourning for the day after being in session for only 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, lawmakers have until 6 p.m. Friday to finish their work on the state’s $27 billion budget. The state constitution mandates that the legislature adjourn for the year the following Friday.
But hope among some Republicans that tensions in the Senate could be close to thawing, which could allow a litany of legislative priorities to start moving through the process again, seemed to be dashed by Silvey’s letter to Richard.
“I, and many others,” Silvey wrote, “are comforted by the fact that you only have one year left to play these political games and a new Missouri is on the horizon.”