The one scenario that must be avoided when it comes to the drop-dead-ugly impeachment saga engulfing Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is turning this into a partisan controversy.
Lawmakers stepped over that line in recent days with Democrats threatening to bottle up all bills unless the GOP-led House immediately began the impeachment process.
“There’s no reason for delay,” Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh told reporters. “We need to do the right thing, right now.”
Republicans, meantime, insisted the only way to proceed was to wait until after the General Assembly adjourns on May 18. That way, lawmakers can pass the bills that need passing as the General Assembly hits its crucial stretch run.
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Both sides make worthy points. The Democrats note that to delay impeachment proceedings only keeps Greitens in office longer. By week’s end, almost every lawmaker from both parties wanted him to either resign or face impeachment. By remaining in office, Greitens continues to wield enormous power when it comes to signing bills into law and rejecting others. In a worst-case scenario, Greitens could negotiate over this future: I’ll sign your bill, Mr. or Ms. Lawmaker, but only if you oppose impeachment.
That doomsday prospect obviously has no place in Missouri government. But it’s possible if Greitens stays.
For their part, Republicans point out that by waiting, the special legislative committee looking into multiple Greitens controversies can complete its investigation into dark money and Greitens’ possible misuse of the charity he founded, The Mission Continues, for political gain. They argue that lawmakers and the state deserve a complete picture of the Republican governor as they approach this enormous decision.
We believe both things can happen at once. Impeachment proceedings should begin next week. Missouri’s citizens are fed up with this governor’s misdeeds, and they deserve a direct and immediate response. A major chunk of the GOP establishment, including Republicans such as Congresswoman Ann Wagner and Attorney General Josh Hawley, has reached the same conclusion. Certainly Democrats have.
With just five weeks to go, lawmakers should remain focused on their jobs despite the distraction of impeachment swirling around. There is, of course, much important work still to be done. The Missouri Constitution requires that lawmakers complete the state budget. Legislators should pass a proposal to raise gasoline taxes and fund the state’s vastly under-financed highway network. They should do the same with an ethics measure that would ban lobbyist gifts and another that would help state agencies keep track of families that move back and forth across state lines to avoid child welfare officials.
There’s still hope in Kansas City that lawmakers will agree to pay for half of a $96 million downtown arts campus for UMKC as was once promised.
Simply giving up on the 2018 session by filibustering bills to protest the lack of movement on impeachment would amount to a huge loss for everyone.
At a pivotal moment in state history, which the impeachment of any governor represents, Republicans and Democrats must stand united. To have this extraordinary move framed as partisan in any way would amount to a major setback for the state and would give a governor who likes to shoot big guns more ammunition to run down his opponents.
Of course, the governor could do everyone an enormous favor by taking the only honorable step left for him, and that’s to resign voluntarily. But honor escapes this man, even though the former Navy SEAL has paid so much lip service to the idea.
Most Missourians want the same result. Let’s begin impeachment proceedings while passing critical legislation to move Missouri forward. That’s a two-fer worth pursuing.