JEFFERSON CITY – A renegade Republican teamed up with minority party Democrats on Wednesday to deliver the first affirmative — albeit symbolic — vote of the year for a plan to expand Missouri's Medicaid program to hundreds of thousands of lower-income adults.

House Health Insurance Committee Chairman Chris Molendorp voted with four Democratic members to attach the Medicaid expansion proposal to an unrelated Senate bill pending in his committee. Molendorp said he planned to do the same thing to any other Senate bills sent his way before the May 16 end of the legislative session.

A Republican from Belton who is not seeking re-election, Molendorp has been at odds with a majority of his GOP colleagues who remain firmly against expanding Medicaid eligibility under the terms of President Barack Obama's health care law.

His committee voted 5-2 for the expansion plan, with the other Republicans on the panel either voting "no" or leaving the room before the vote. An affirmative vote typically would advance a bill to the House Rules Committee and then, potentially, to the House floor for debate. But Molendorp acknowledged that Republican leaders are unlikely to allow the bill to be debated by the full chamber.

The committee vote was intended "to make a statement that the Republican Party needs to do the right thing," Molendorp said. He added: "It's symbolic, I understand that, but someone's got to lead on this issue, and that's what I'm