Gen-R-al Assembly

There is no truth to the rumor that Senate Democrats asked to borrow the press gallery in the Missouri House of Representatives Thursday because it has the only phone booth remaining in the Capitol and they wanted to borrow it for their post-election caucus meeting.

But the fact is that the Rs have put the Ds into such a minority that in the Senate, at least, almost every Democrat can hold a position in the Democrat caucus. Democrats lost three seats in Tuesday’s election, leaving them with only eight of the 34 senate seats. And when Senator Yvonne Wilson’s retirement takes effect, there will only be seven Senate Democrats.

In the 2010 session, Democrats had a Minority Floor Leader and an Assistant Minority Floor Leader, a Minority Caucus Chair and a Minority Caucus Secretary. All they need to do is name an Assistant Minority Caucus Chair, an Assistant Minority Caucus Secretary, and a Minority Whip and everybody will have something to put on their Senate letterhead.

The House R count is now 106, the most in history as far as our Curator of Legislative Arcania, Marc Powers, knows. Republicans took 17 seats away from Democrats Tuesday. Democrats snatched one Republican seat. So the House now is 106-57 R.

But Marc tells us the record number of Republican members does not constitute the biggest majority Republicans have had in the House. The Rs have 65 percent of the seats going into the 2011 session. But the House has not always had 163 members. In 1921, Republicans controlled the House 104-38, a 73 percent majority. In 1929 they controlled the House 103-47, a 69 percent majority.

The value of knowing these numbers today is because the House needs 109 votes to override a Governor’s veto. House Rs will need three Ds to cross over, meaning Governor Nixon might have some work to do with his own party’s members. Senate Rs have the override number and then some.

The 106 Republicans in the House constitute the largest number of members of one party since Democrats had 111 seats in the 1987 session and the first time one party had more than 100 seats since the Democrats had 104 in 1989. The 26 Senate Rs is the greatest number of Senators of one party since Democrats had 28 in 1961.
But none of this compares to 1935 when there were only two Republicans in the Senate. There were only three in the 1937 and 1939 sessions.

The worst year for Republicans in the House was 1933, when the House had 150 members. Only ten were Republicans.

Read into the numbers whatever you find most comforting.

But Marc’s numbers remind us that those who seek public office are at the mercy of one of the most fickle of all elements–the voting public.

The last lines of the movie “Patton” come to mind. We hear the voice of George C. Scott, a former journalism student at the University of Missouri, over the scene of Patton taking his dog for a walk:

“For over a thousand years, Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of a triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters and musicians and strange animals from the conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children, robed in white, stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning that all glory is fleeting.”

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