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Missouri Senate to pause discussions on congressional redistricting

A nearly empty Missouri Senate during a filibuster.
Sarah Kellogg
St. Louis Public Radio
In a nearly empty Missouri Senate chamber Tuesday, Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, stands and speaks with Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville.

The Senate delay on the map follows a week in which senators spent hours both debating and filibustering possible maps, including holding rare Friday and Saturday sessions.

Updated Feb. 13 with Senate pausing debate

Almost a full week after the Missouri Senate began discussion on congressional redistricting, senators are pausing discussions over drawing Missouri’s congressional districts.

In a statement on Twitter issued Saturday evening, Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said the Senate will step away from the debate.

He also criticized the inaction on the map.

“We have watched as business critical to [Missouri] citizens has been delayed by a small group of senators willing to send our congressional map to federal courts if they do not get districts that suit their ambition,” Rowden said.

Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, on Twitter called Rowden’s statement offensive. Onder is a member of the seven-person conservative caucus in the Senate that has advocated for a more Republican-leaning map.

“The ‘group of senators’ to which he refers has refused to give away one to two congressional seats to progressives and Nancy Pelosi,” Onder said.

Rowden said the length of pause has not been determined, but in the meantime the 34-member Senate will focus on other legislation that has yet to see action in the chamber.

Updated Feb. 12 with continued Senate discussion on congressional redistricting map

A full week after the Missouri Senate began discussion on congressional redistricting, senators will continue debating over how they would like to see Missouri’s congressional districts drawn when they reconvene Tuesday.

The ongoing debate comes weeks after the Missouri House passed a proposed map that would likely keep Missouri’s current congressional delegation of six Republicans and two Democrats.

That map has received criticism from Democrats who believe a map with five Republican districts and three Democratic ones would better reflect the state politically. Meanwhile a section of the Republican Senate has continued to rally for a map with a 7-1 Republican majority.

Since Monday, Feb. 7, the Senate has spent hours discussing, filibustering and delaying action on any proposed congressional map, including having sessions on Friday and Saturday.

Discussion on the floor has included reading comments from Missourians, reading aloud from books and even reading song lyrics.

In this time, few Senate committee hearings have occurred, while no action on any other bill has happened on the Senate floor.

Speaking on the floor Friday with Sen. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, said though there has been continuous discussion over different maps, the underlying House bill has remained unchanged.

“Even though there have been a lot of discussions, there hasn’t been any movement off of that map and I would like to see some because I think there are places we could agree,” Onder said.

Rehder, who voted for the House map in committee, spoke on how legislators should be looking at this process.

“I think it’s important to note that with this product, it is supposed to not be partisan. It’s supposed to be reflective of the voters of our state,” Rehder said.

Onder said he didn’t completely agree with that.

Original story from Feb. 8:

After more than 23 hours, the Missouri Senate is still debating a House-approved congressional redistricting map.

The Senate began debate on the floor late Monday afternoon and has continued nonstop since.

That time has been dedicated to three proposed changes to the map that the Missouri House approved a few weeks ago. That map would likely keep Missouri’s current congressional makeup of six Republican representatives and two Democrats.

The proposed map has drawn criticism from Democrats who argue a map with five Republicans and three Democrats would better reflect the political makeup of the state, while a coalition of Republicans has spent weeks advocating for a 7-1 map.

An amendment from Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, would have created seven likely Republican districts. The map groups a section of the Kansas City area into a district that includes parts of Missouri as far central as Boone County.

In speaking for the amendment, Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, read aloud supportive messages from Missourians advocating a 7-1 map, including one about the need to send more Republicans to Washington.

“That’s what’s at stake. Control of Congress is held by a razor-thin edge. Democrats around the country are playing hardball, and we’re playing patty-cake,” Onder said.

Ultimately, after around five hours of debate, Senate Democrats joined a majority of Republicans in voting against the amendment by a vote of 24-8.

Since then debate, including at times hours dedicated to filibustering by not talking about the maps, has occurred over two further amendments.

The first, introduced by Sen. Steven Roberts, D-St. Louis, would have made modifications to the 1st Congressional District, moving it northwest and increasing its minority population. Changes to account for that would also occur to the 2nd District. The 1st is currently represented by Cori Bush, D-St. Louis County, and the 2nd by Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin.

Sarah Kellogg joins St. Louis on the Air

“The 1st Congressional District is the only district in our state that’s protected by the Voting Rights Act, and this is a change to those two districts that would increase minority representation,” Roberts said.

After hours of debate on that amendment without a vote, Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, introduced an amendment to Roberts’ amendment. This amendment keeps Roberts’ changes to the 1st District, but makes changes to both the 2nd and 3rd, which is represented by Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth.

“I do think we’ve managed to do some things that I think make this map slightly more attractive to folks interested in a stronger, more Republican CD2,” Rowden said.

Under Rowden’s amendment, the 2nd District would include all of Jefferson County, which is in the 3rd District under the House map. Rowden has previously said the most likely changes he saw happening to the map were to the 2nd and 3rd districts.

By a vote of 22-5, senators voted to approve Rowden’s amendment to Roberts’ amendment. However, Roberts then withdrew his amendment, leaving the House bill still intact.

Debate over the bill is still continuing.

Sarah Kellogg is a Missouri Statehouse and Politics Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio and other public radio stations across the state.