All Talk, No Action
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All Talk, No Action

Date: January 19, 2007
By: Tina Marie Macias
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A solo, one-man filibuster ended early Friday morning with confirmation of a University of Missouri curator.

With out even a bathroom break until the very end. Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee's Summit, rambled for 17 hours about a wide range of issues including garbage and GPS devices in his failed effort to stop a vote on the confirmation of Warren Erdman -- whom Bartle charged was too supportive of human stem cell research.

To be successful, a filibuster usually requires more than one participant -- so a long-winded senator can take a nap and get a bathroom break.  But Bartle was nearly alone, holding the floor from Thursday morning until Friday in a one-man performance unseen for more than three decades in Missouri history.

Not until near the end did a colleague come to Bartle's rescue -- to take over the filibuster so the Kansas City area legislator could take a bathroom break.

As Bartle talked, Senate leaders had staff bring Bartle cups of water, soda and coffee in an effort to intice him into filling his bladder.  Bartle, however, did not fall for the ploy.  Eventually, more than nine cups crowded his Senate desk.

Bartle took every cup that was brought to him and tasted it -- out of courtesy of the person who gave it to him -- and then proceeded to spit the liquid out, as though he were at a wine tasting.

Bartle, the legislator's leading opponent against embryonic stem-cell research held an all-day, one-man filibuster in protest of Warren Erdman, a nomination to the UM Board of Curators. Erdman, who refused comment, is a leading voice for life sciences research in Kansas City and at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Bartle's solo performance covered range from a demonstration of his GPS navigation PDA to a lengthy description of his work driving a garbage truck in Columbia when he was going to school.  "They used to say if you were a good garbage man, you didn't have to bring your lunch to work.  And I was a good garbage man," Bartle told a nearly empty chamber Thursday night.

Gov. Matt Blunt appointed Erdman to the UM Board of Curators on Dec. 29. Because Erdman was named when the legislature was not in session, his appointment took effect immediately. Continuation on the board, however, is subject to Senate confirmation. 

"He is passionate on the subject," Bartle said. "It is unreasonable to think that Mr. Erdman would be able to set aside his passionate commitment to human cloning research as he deliberates about the expenditure of public money at the University of Missouri System."

Erdman is also an esteemed Republican. He sat on the staff of former Republican Govs. John Ashcroft and Kit Bond, and his supporters said there is no doubt Erdman will eventually be confirmed.

"It's clear that Sen. Bartle is totally on his own," Sen. Mike Gibbons said. Gibbons, the Senate's President Pro Tem said the senate would wait until Bartle gave up on his one-man filibuster and put the nominations to a vote. "He has a stronger bladder than I do.

The curators exercise near total authority over the University of Missouri system, its budget and top administrative staff. 

Beginning soon after Senate began at 10 a.m., Bartle objected to a motion to approve some gubernatorial nominations. That list included Erdman. Not one senator stood up to help Bartle while he took hours to speak about his personal digital assistant, more than two hours to read off the entire roster of the General Assembly, an hour to speak on major league baseball and 30 minutes to lecture Sen. Chris Koster, R-Cass County, on his eating habits.

"I urge you to eat breakfast," Bartle said to Koster. "This morning I thought, 'what would a filibuster-sustaining meal be?' And I decided it would be the same thing I'd eat when I run. Rolled oats." 

By 7 p.m. Bartle was yawning periodically, but showed no signs of ending the filibuster soon.

"He's a marathon runner. I expect him to go on into the night," said Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis. Smith is a freshman senator who disagrees with Bartle's stem-cell stance, but vowed to sit through his entire filibuster.

When Bartle first began his protest, questions began to arise about the political affiliation of another curator nominee, Judy Haggard of Kennett. Haggard and a third nominee, Bo Fraser of Columbia will be brought before the gubernatorial nominations committee next week.

Haggard's husband is an active Republican who has helped Republicans win elections. Haggard identifies herself as a Democrat although she has never been a part of a Republican or Democrat committee.

"I hope that being appointed a curator is not a partisan thing," the nurse practitioner said. "It's more for people who have a passion for the university."

Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, has been quoted as being in opposition to Haggard's nomination, but he refused comment on the nomination Thursday.