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House Republicans tap Diehl as new majority leader

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 17, 2012 - Fresh off obtaining a historic veto-proof majority, Missouri House Republicans selected state Rep. John Diehl as the next house majority leader.

Diehl – a Town and Country Republican – was picked as the second-highest-ranking Republican at the party’s caucus in Jefferson City. He bested state Rep. Mike Leara, a St. Louis County Republican who was also running for the post.

The house majority leader position is a powerful one, mainly because the officeholder decides which pieces of legislation are brought up on the floor. The last two majority leaders – Steve Tilley and Tim Jones – eventually rose to the speakership.

“I am honored that my colleagues have seen fit to entrust me with the immense responsibility of controlling the flow of legislation on the House floor,” Diehl said in a statement. “It’s a trust I will work to keep by listening to the needs of my fellow House members and working with them to ensure their top priorities make it through the process.”

Diehl replaces Jones, a Republican from Eureka who became House Speaker earlier this fall after Tilley resigned early.

An attorney, Diehl quickly established a high profile role in the Missouri House handling congressional redistricting and economic development legislation. He was previously chairman of the House Rules Committee, a powerful entity that can block bills from moving from a committee to the floor.

Before Diehl won election to the Missouri House in 2008, he was chairman of the St. Louis County Board of Elections. He also served as an alderman for the city of Town and Country.

When the legislature is sworn in next year, Republicans will hold 110 seats in the Missouri House – one more than necessary to override a gubernatorial veto. That accomplishment was a small bright spot to a night that brought a raft of disappointments, including Republicans losing four out of five statewide contests and the race for the U.S. Senate.

Additionally, House Republican tapped state Rep. Jason Smith to become the House Speaker Pro Tem. The Republican attorney from Salem, Mo., will replace  Republican Shane Schoeller of Willard, Mo., who narrowly lost to state Rep. Jason Kander, D-Kansas City, in the secretary of state’s contest.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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