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Missouri House says no to Senate’s congressional map, again requests compromise

The Missouri House of Representatives breaks on Wednesday after the first day of the legislative session at the capitol in Jefferson City.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
The Missouri House of Representatives, photographed in January, voted down the Senate's version of a congressional map on Thursday and again requested a conference committee to reach a compromise. However, some senators are against a conference committee, saying the map the Senate already passed is the best that will leave their chamber.

Though the filing deadline for the primary on Aug. 2 officially occurred this week, congressional candidates still do not know what their districts will look like, with the Missouri House and Senate deadlocked on a map.

A week after the Senate broke through months of discussion and at times contentious debate and passed its version of a congressional map, the House voted 129-26 on Thursday to ultimately reject it after its own request for a conference committee was also denied.

“This House overwhelmingly asked to go to conference and through a voice vote, in the Senate late last evening, decided they didn't want to discuss with us the map. And they basically said to us, ‘Take it or leave it,'” Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, said.

The House also on Thursday voted 131-17 on a motion to request the Senate “recede from its position” on the Senate bill and “failing to do so, grant the House a conference.”

The House and Senate versions of the map each likely would produce a 6-2 Republican majority but differ in how some of the districts are drawn, including in the St. Louis region, drawing objections from both Democrats and Republicans in both chambers.

Speaking on the House decision to again seek compromise, House leadership said in a statement that Thursday’s vote was to continue the process and discussion on the map.

“We will continue to work toward a compromise with our Senate colleagues so that we can pass a map that fairly and accurately reflects our state,” the statement said.

Now, it is again up to the Senate to decide whether to grant a conference committee and work with the House to draw a map that satisfies both chambers, or to again reject the House’s request and continue the legislative stalemate.

But the Senate itself is split on whether to go to conference, with Senate Republican leadership on one side and Democrats and members of the Conservative Caucus on the other.

Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said Thursday that going to conference is the right thing to do at this point.

“I think it behooves all of us to not just say, ‘Hey, we got our part of the deal, right.’ And so we're gonna throw our hands up in the air and not be willing to continue to have a conversation,” Rowden said.

Not all senators agree with that position. Sen. Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, is opposed to a conference, saying the map the Senate passed was likely the best it was going to pass.

“Everyone is trying to search for this unicorn map. And I think at this point, if there was a unicorn map out there to make everyone happy, it would have reared its head,” Rizzo said.

Agreeing with Rizzo was Sen. Bob Onder, a Conservative Caucus member.

“The Senate map last week represented a compromise, and I think it is the map that is going to come out of the Missouri Senate,” said Onder, R-Lake St. Louis.

The actions from the House on Thursday came after several days of the chambers volleying the map between them.

On Tuesday, House members voted to request the conference committee. At the time, Shaul spoke of his dissatisfaction with the Senate version of the map.

“I think it would be best served for the House and the citizens of Missouri to go to conference and get the best possible map for the state of Missouri,” Shaul said.

But the Senate rejected that request by a voice vote on Wednesday night, forcing the House to vote on the Senate’s version of the map, which it rejected Thursday on a bipartisan basis.

“This map that they have today, I'm a solid no and I asked that everyone today vote this down,” Rep. Jerome Barnes, D-Raytown, said.

As to what this means for the future of Missouri’s congressional maps, the possibility of the courts drawing the map looms, with House Democrats previously saying that a map drawn by the courts would be a better outcome for them.

Rizzo said that he’d rather the legislative body do its job.

“We should pass maps, we should do our constitutional duties and get a budget done,” Rizzo said.

On why the Senate voted against the conference committee this week, Rowden said the chamber did not have the votes, but thinks some of his colleagues will have to reevaluate their position if they want the legislature to pass a map at all.

“I will say definitively, anybody at this point who doesn't want to go to conference is responsible for it to go to court. It's the bottom line,” Rowden said.

Despite the threat of lawsuits or court intervention, currently the House and Senate meeting remains unlikely.

“We're not going to conference,” Onder said Thursday before both chambers adjourned until Monday afternoon.

Follow Sarah Kellogg on Twitter: @sarahkkellogg

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