Missouri Senate sends new congressional map to governor, ends session early | Politics

JEFFERSON CITY – Opposition to a new congressional map crumbled Thursday and the Missouri Senate approved new boundaries for the state’s eight US House districts, sending the map to Gov. Mike Parson.

An extraordinary series of events unfolded, allowing an acrimonious, monthslong debate to come to an end – along with all 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, shoring up US Rep. 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 gerrymander to send seven Republicans to the US House. Democrats believed with their party winning more than 40% of the vote in recent elections, they should have a shot at winning three seats.

The splinter group of Republicans eventually accepted a “strong” 6-2 map that maintained both Democratic districts. The map placed four-fifths of St. Charles County’s population in the heavily Republican 3rd District, a win for the St. Charles County Sens. Bob Onder and Bill Eigel.

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The House rejected the map, sending a revised “6-2” map to the Senate on Monday in a last-ditch effort to finish redistricting by the end of the legislative session, at 6 pm Friday.

If legislators had not acted, three federal judges would have been tasked with drawing the state’s map.

On Thursday, the Senate Redistricting Committee convened at noon and was expected to conduct a public hearing on the new House plan.

But Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, the chairman, promptly paused the proceedings by going into recess, and no hearing on the bill took place.

After 5 pm, 12 Republicans employed a rarely used Senate rule to “relieve” the House map from committee, sending it straight to the Senate floor for debate.

Over the procedural objections of Sen. Bob Onder, a leader of the conservatives, the chamber moved forward, bringing the legislation to the floor for debate.

“Why exactly did you short circuit the process by dissolving the committee and pulling the bill directly onto the calendar?” Onder asked Bernskoetter.

“I think there’s a group of us that think we’ve done enough talking and filibustering and I think it’s time to – to let the process play out and have the bill debated on the floor and voted on,” Bernskoetter responded.

“Clearly what went on here, when the Senate Redistricting Committee was dissolved, was a sneak attack,” Onder said minutes later.

The map was approved on a 22-11 vote shortly before 8:30 pm

The House returns to action Friday with likely votes on unfinished priorities such as legislation granting patients in health care facilities the right to visitors in response to limits introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This article will be updated.

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