JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Senate was stalled on Tuesday morning when dozens of protestors and clergy vocally called on lawmakers to pass Medicaid expansion.
“We will not be silent. We will not be silent. The pain of Missouri speaks today. Today the misery of Missouri speaks. Today the pain the hurt the sickness the poverty of Missouri speaks,” the protestors chanted. “Today we will not be silent.”
As soon as the protesters erupted, Senate Majority Floor Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, called for the Senate to go into recess and ordered the gallery of the Senate cleared. During their removal, the group broke into song, singing that Missourians without Medicaid “shall overcome” the lack of health coverage, and representatives of different religions prayed for expansion.
Audio of the outburst was made available by the Democratic-leaning group Progress Missouri.
“Do justice. Do your job. Expand Medicaid,” they said.
Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, was engaged in an inquiry with Sen. Gina Walsh, D-St. Louis, when the outburst began. They stopped immediately, and Nasheed waved a thumbs up to the protestors. The event drew lawmakers out of their offices. Senate Minority Leader Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, entered the Senate to watch, as well as State Rep. Jeremy LaFaver, D-Kansas City.
The emotional outburst from faith leaders came as the legislature has refused to expand Medicaid using federal funds. Conservative lawmakers have rejected the proposal, claiming it would be damaging to the state’s coffers in the off years when federal funds for the program are reduced to 90 percent. Twenty clergy members were arrested by Capitol Police after they refused to leave, said Andrew Kling of Communities Creating Opportunity. They were not charged with any crime.
Sen. Ryan Silvey, a Kansas City Republican who is pushing the Republican case for Medicaid expansion, wrote on Twitter: “After all of the progress we’ve made this session on Medicaid Transformation, it appears that unruly protesters have killed our chances.”
“It’s incredibly frustrating, after all the work I’ve put in to solve the Medicaid problem, to be sunk by the very people I’m trying to help,” he added.