Republicans have dominated the Missouri General Assembly for more than a decade. But for the last four years, the threat of a veto by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, helped balance the scales.
When bills passed that the governor didn’t like, he pulled out the veto pen. Only twice was he overturned. At times, all he had to do was hint at a veto to stop legislation in its tracks or force lawmakers to make changes.
That could be a thing of the past.
And the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry couldn’t be more pleased.
Missouri Republicans pulled off a historic feat on Election Day, amassing a two-thirds supermajority in both legislative chambers, enough to override any gubernatorial veto.
Just one day after voters got their say at the ballot box, House Speaker Tim Jones explained the new dynamic, as he saw it.
“The governor will need to understand the importance of true, actual negotiation during the legislative process,” Jones, a Eureka Republican, said in prepared remarks Wednesday. “The checkmate that he possesses in the form of a veto is now equaled by the overwhelming numbers that we have in the House and Senate.”
He was joined by House Majority Leader John Diehl, who spoke with bravado Tuesday.
“We’re going to take advantage of our new numbers,” the St. Louis area Republican said. “Voters sent a pretty clear message that the legislature is going to have a significant say over what happens in this state over the next couple of years.”
Nixon scoffed at the idea that he would have to change the way he has worked with the legislature, saying he has always focused on working across the political aisle. He added that he has a political mandate of his own as the first Missouri governor to win re-election since Mel Carnahan in 1996.
And his victory wasn’t close. He cruised past his Republican opponent by more than 300,000 votes.
“The thing about being governor is that every politician that you see, you can start the discussion by saying all of your constituents are my constituents,” Nixon said. “I am not dividing the state and leaving out certain segments.”
Steve Glorioso, a longtime Democratic political consultant, said his party has lost so many seats that it “may not be able to recapture the legislature for a generation.”
“But it doesn’t make Gov. Nixon completely impotent,” Glorioso said. “It certainly gives Republicans more leverage, but they should also understand that the public tends to punish ideologues and reward those who are willing to compromise.”
On that much, veteran Republican strategist Jeff Roe agrees.
“The governor has not been marginalized,” Roe said. “It will force him to work with Republican legislators more closely instead of just vetoing things.”
Nixon, who ran a re-election campaign that emphasized bipartisanship, said the next two years won’t be much different from the previous four.
“The folks that use partisan differences as an excuse, that seems small to me,” he said.