JEFFERSON CITY - For the second year in a row, a Republican Senate filibuster is blocking the governor's plan to expand state-funded health care for children.
Extended debate blocked a routine Senate vote on the measure until late evening.
During the three hours of debate, Republicans complained the proposal wasn't about insurance, but an extension of welfare into the middle income.
"Anyone who thinks this is about buying insurance doesn't understand the nature of the beast," said Senate GOP Leader Steve Elhmann, R-St. Charles, during floor debate. "This is an entitlement. It's a service."
Gov. Mel Carnahan's plan would expand Medicaid coverage to children whose parents have an income up to three times the federal poverty level. Medicaid is a government health program paid for by both state and federal funds.
The governor's plan would provide health coverage for the children of a family of four with an income nearly $50,000 per year.
The debate filled the Senate's afternoon session, but the Senate majority leader, who sponsored the bill, decided at last minute not to bring the issue back up in the evening session.
"We'll let things cool down a little bit," said Majority Floor Leader Ed Quick, D-Liberty. "No one will get backed into a corner."
Carnahan staffers were congregating outside the Senate chamber Wednesday evening.
"We're going to keep working on it," said Spokesman Chris Sifford. "It's too important legislation."
Sen. Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, who participated in the filibuster, said he thought the Republican minority had the will power to keep the filibuster going.
"I think there's a dozen of us who could go into next week," he said, refering to the legislature's adjournment Friday of next week.
Quick said he hopes to bring the issue to the floor again this week. But the Senate still has to approve the state's budget, which, according to the Missouri Constitution, must be on the governor's desk by 6 p.m. Friday.
The House approved the Medicaid expansion bill Monday and finished the operating budget Wednesday.