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Senate approves new congressional map

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After months of negotiations, all-night filibusters and verbal jabs between legislators, the Missouri Senate passed a congressional map on Thursday last week.

The new map, which requires approval from the House and governor, would give the state’s congressional delegation a likely split of six Republicans and two Democrats.

The Senate passed the new map on a bipartisan vote of 22-10. Seventeen Republicans supported it while five Republicans opposed it. Since 18 votes are required to pass a bill in the Senate, at least one Democratic vote was needed. The bill ultimately gained support from five Democrats; five voted no. Two Republicans were absent.

An emergency clause that will allow the map to go into effect immediately upon the governor’s signature also passed by a 30-2 vote.

If passed by the House, the map would split Boone County and the city of Columbia: Much of the city would remain in District 4, while some of southern Columbia would be in District 3, which is currently represented by U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth. District 4 is currently represented by U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, who is leaving to run for the U.S. Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, voted to pass the map. He said it will leave a lot of people unhappy, but that is the nature of compromise, and it was important to get a map passed with enough time for the House to potentially act before the filing deadline Tuesday.

“You had to get a map done,” Rowden said. “I don’t love it by any means.”

As negotiations went from Wednesday night into Thursday morning, several new maps, including the one that ultimately passed, were developed. Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, a member of the conservative caucus and key holdout on many of the previous maps, said a “turning point” came around midnight in the office of Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, with “about a dozen senators sitting in a room looking at a big screen with a map on it.”

The compromise map was drafted by Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, and later amended onto a map proposed by Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City.

“We’ve been running these maps for weeks upon weeks,” Koenig said. “It’s by no means my ideal map. … I tried to consider everybody’s interests out there.”

The final map will have important ramifications for many parts of the state. Jefferson County, for example, is currently split between Districts 3 and 8; the proposed map would put the entire county in District 8.

Missouri is one of only four states in the U.S. that hasn’t passed a new congressional map following the 2020 census. For much of the session, the Senate had been at a standstill as members of the Senate Conservative Caucus rallied for a map that likely would send seven Republicans and one Democrat to Washington, D.C. Many conservative caucus members regularly voiced concerns that some of the proposed 6-2 maps could end up sending three Democrats to Congress.

“This is another 5-3 map. This is another ‘Pelosi map,’” said Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, of one proposed map Thursday morning. Onder was echoing a phrase he has used repeatedly that alleges the map would help keep Speaker Nancy Pelosi in power. “We have been fighting against 5-3 and we’re going to continue to fight against 5-3.”

Onder spent much of the morning filibustering by reading from the book, “The Chief’s Chief,” by Mark Meadows. He criticized the body for bringing a 6-2 map to the floor in the first place, which he called a “punch in the gut” to himself, Missouri residents and the system of government.

Another key issue came from the location of two military bases within the state. Whiteman Air Force Base and Fort Leonard Wood are both currently within the Fourth District. Initial proposals, including those passed by the House, would have separated those bases into two districts. Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, pushed for the bases to remain together throughout the redistricting process. He said having those bases together is vitally important.

“That pretty much guarantees a seat for our congressman or congresswoman on the powerful U.S. Armed Services Committee,” Hoskins said.

The map passed by the Senate keeps the bases in the Fourth District. Hoskins voted in favor.

Though some of his conservative caucus colleagues voted for the map, Onder remained against it. But while he still wanted a 7-1 map, he ended his filibustering and allowed a vote to take place.

“There was ultimately a realization that, unless we were going to let the federal courts draw the map, this was the best we were going to get,” Onder said. “Some of our members were just barely comfortable voting for it. I was not.”

Most other senators have long supported a 6-2 map, such as the one passed by the House in January. The fight over redistricting has hampered the Senate’s ability to pass legislation. In the roughly two months between the start of session and the legislature’s spring break, the Senate passed only one piece of legislation.

At a news conference after the vote, Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, said he wasn’t optimistic the scars from this fight will fade quickly.

“I don’t believe that anyone should take from this that this was a healing week or a healing moment,” Rizzo said. “We’ll see; maybe things have changed;. I’m not confident in that.”

Eigel seemed more optimistic about members of the upper chamber coming together to close out the session.

“When Republicans were working together, we saw things working the way things should,” Eigel said, referencing a number of bills passed earlier in the week. “I think that may be a sneak preview of what can come over the next six weeks.”

The map will now return to the House for approval. Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, who serves as chair of the House Special Committee on Redistricting, said he and his fellow representatives will take the time they need to pass a map that satisfies members of the House. Republican House members will hold a caucus meeting March 28 and discuss next steps, he said.

The three options for the House are to accept the map passed by the Senate, reject it or form a conference committee between the two chambers to iron out differences.

“All three options are on the table,” Shaul said. “There’s nothing that says we have to be done by Tuesday. It would be nice to have it done by Tuesday. It would have been nice to have had it done six weeks ago.”

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