JEFFERSON CITY — Opposition to a new congressional map collapsed on Thursday, and the Missouri Senate approved new boundaries for the state’s eight US House districts, sending the map to Gov. Mike Parson.
A series of extraordinary events unfolded, allowing months of acrimonious debate to come to an end – along with all the other business. After approving the map, the Senate adjourned for the year, a day before its Friday deadline.
The new map will likely lead to the status quo in Missouri’s US House delegation: six Republicans and two Democrats, bolstering US Representative Ann Wagner’s St. Louis County-based 2nd Congressional District for the GOP .
A group of Republicans calling themselves the “Conservative Caucus” had sought an aggressive “7-1” Gerrymander to send seven Republicans to the U.S. House. Democrats believed that with their party winning more than 40% of the vote in the recent election, they should have a chance of winning three seats.
In March, the splinter group of Republicans finally accepted a “strong” 6-2 card that kept the two Democratic districts. The map placed four-fifths of St. Charles County’s population in the heavily Republican 3rd District, a victory for St. Charles County senses Bob Onder and Bill Eigel.
People also read…
The House rejected the map, sending a revised “6-2” map to the Senate on Monday in a last-ditch effort to complete the redistricting by the end of the legislative session at 6 p.m. Friday.
If lawmakers hadn’t acted, three federal judges would have been tasked with drawing the map of the state.
On Thursday, the Senate redistricting committee met at noon and was scheduled to hold a public hearing on the new plan for the House.
But Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, the chairman, quickly interrupted the proceedings by going into recess, and no hearing on the bill took place.
After 5 p.m., 12 Republicans used a rarely used Senate rule to “relieve” the House card from the committee, sending it straight to the Senate for debate.
Over procedural objections from Onder, a leader of the breakaway group, the chamber moved forward, bringing the bill to debate.
“Why exactly did you short-circuit the process by disbanding the committee and putting the bill straight on the schedule?” Onder asked Bernskoetter.
“I think there’s a group of us who think we’ve talked enough and filibustered enough and I think it’s time to let the process unfold and get the bill debated and vote for it,” Bernskoetter replied.
“Obviously what happened here, when the Senate redistricting committee was disbanded, was a sneak attack,” Onder said minutes later.
The map was approved by a 22-11 vote shortly before 8:30 p.m., but not before Republican senators shot each other on the floor.
“There is no doubt that this card that this body is likely to adopt today is an improvement over the (House Bill) 2117 card, the (Nancy) Pelosi card, the betrayal card, the sold out that this body – the leadership of this body – Republican so-called leadership,” Onder said, “tried to ram us down our throats.”
Onder and his allies argued that the original House map contained a 2nd District that was too pro-Democratic and likely to shy away from the GOP, deriding it as a “5-3” map.
“The victory I will claim,” Onder said, “is losing the Pelosi map, the 5-3 map.”
“I pray to God this is the last pontificate we have to hear from the senator from the second,” said Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder, R-Sikeston, who held a news conference in March to speak out against the filibuster group to its legislation revising the state’s Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights.
She said that despite all the faction’s public talk of a ‘7-1’ map, the concept was not pushed into behind-the-scenes caucus sessions with other Republicans, suggesting the group was politically motivated. .
“Everyone — including every senator who wants to talk about it on their social media — knew” the 7-1 card was impossible because it was unconstitutional, Rehder said.
This week, the faction also derailed Rehder’s legislation implementing a wide range of health policy priorities, including legalizing needle exchanges in an effort to prevent disease transmission through the use of dirty needles.
“She’s angry that her needle-exchange bill didn’t cross the finish line,” said Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, who is allied with the dissident faction.
He then called Rehder a “progressive Republican” and “definitely not a conservative.”
Hoskins had the final say in the exchange, with the card then going to a vote.
According to the plan, the 1st District, held by Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Louis, would go further into the Webster Groves area with a “peninsula” that places voters in the Maplewood, Richmond Heights and Shrewsbury areas in the 2nd District.
Wagner’s 2nd District is set to expand from central and southern St. Louis County west to Warren and Franklin counties.
Eastern St. Charles County would be placed in the 3rd District. About three-quarters of St. Charles County’s population will be placed in 3rd, the plan’s sponsor said.
The House returns to action on Friday with votes likely on unfinished priorities such as legislation giving patients in healthcare facilities the right to visitors in response to limits introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Updated 10 p.m. Thursday, May 12.