By Associated Press - Saturday, February 13, 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Senate president has removed a fellow Republican colleague as chair of the chamber’s health committee, saying she showed “complete disrespect” by trying to bring a Medicaid expansion bill to the floor for the purpose of voting it down.

Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook disclosed that Senate President Susan Wagle had removed her as chair of the Public Health and Welfare Committee in a statement Friday.

“Instead of allowing members to stand on principle and vote their conscience, she seeks to push conservative principles aside and push her own political agenda,” Pilcher-Cook said.

During a debate over legislation to require the use of step therapy for Medicaid patients, Pilcher-Cook offered the Medicaid expansion amendment, saying the House needed to know where the Senate stood on Medicaid expansion, which has not made it to the House floor.

The Senate Rules Committee ruled the amendment out of order, which Pilcher-Cook appealed, forcing a vote over whether to allow debate on the amendment.



Wagle said the vote on the rules challenge gave the appearance among some members that they were casting a vote on whether or not they support Medicaid expansion.

Wagle responded Saturday to Pilcher-Cook’s statement had shown “complete disrespect” for the Senate and its rules by bringing the amendment in that manner.

“Breaking the rules of the Senate and putting senators unnecessarily in a position of choosing between upholding the rules of the body or being seen as supporting Obamacare is unacceptable for any committee chair. It showed complete disrespect for the body and its rules,” Wagle said. “I hope that Senator Pilcher-Cook’s removal makes that point very clear.”

Under Pilcher-Cook’s leadership, the committee approved bills opening teachers to misdemeanor charges if they fail to protect students from obscene materials and restricting welfare eligibility. She also held hearings on legislation to ban surrogate pregnancies that included a live sonogram of a pregnant woman, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1KNrweE ).

Wagle’s removal of Pilcher-Cook from the committee and Pilcher-Cook’s reaction bring into focus long-running tensions within the Senate GOP caucus.

Pilcher-Cook said Wagle “will soon learn that power plays of this scale against conservatives do not work.”

Wagle has tapped Sen. Michael O’Donnell, a fellow Wichita Republican, to head the committee on an interim basis. On Saturday, Wagle also promised a Senate debate on Medicaid expansion soon.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com

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