The Republican leader of the Missouri Senate said Thursday that she would like to expel a conservative senator who has been blocking work in the chamber, escalating a GOP rift that has thwarted work on the party's priorities.

The Missouri Senate has been in session for four weeks but has yet to debate any legislation on the floor, as conservative Republicans in a newly formed Freedom Caucus have used procedural tactics to slow routine work. The Freedom Caucus is trying to force more rapid consideration of a proposed constitutional amendment that would make it harder to pass citizen-led ballot initiatives such as one backing abortion rights.

Earlier this week, Senate Republican leaders stripped four Freedom Caucus members of their committee chairmanships and prime parking spots.

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Cindy O'Laughlin told reporters at an annual Missouri Press Association event that she “absolutely would” like to expel from the chamber state Sen. Bill Eigel, an outspoken member of the Freedom Caucus who is running for governor. But she acknowledged that was unlikely, because it would require a two-thirds vote and the support of some minority party Democrats.

“I know people think, boy that’s a radical thing, but look where we’re at here," O'Laughlin told the media. "It’s just gotten worse and worse and worse. It’s juvenile. It’s terrible.”

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Word of O'Laughlin's remarks quickly reached Eigel, who summoned her to the Senate floor to question her about it.

“If anybody wants to expel me from this chamber for being bold about my leadership, for being bold about my beliefs, I welcome that. I will not bow,” said Eigel, yelling and pointing at O'Laughlin from just a few feet away.

The internal Republican spat has prevented Senate approval of GOP Gov. Mike Parson's appointments to state departments, university governing boards and the state highways commission. Parson, a former state senator who is prevented by term-limits from running for governor again, said it isn't his role to “fix the Senate,” but he expressed frustration that the spat has affected people willing to serve on state boards.

“They're in the crossfires of what's going on here politically, internally," Parson said. "And that's not right. It's just simply not right to treat people that way."

Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, the top Democrat in the chamber, said he wouldn't vote to expel Eigel but that he was tired of watching “Republicans bloviating.”

“Every person in this chamber ran for public office to make a difference in this state,” Rizzo said. "And we’re not even able to get off first base to have our ideas vetted, because it has turned into reality TV.”

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