The Missouri House on Monday approved a congressional map with just four days left to get the bill across the finish line and to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk.
The map, seen as a compromise among Republicans, passed the lower chamber by a vote of 101-47. It now heads to the fractured Senate where it faces an uncertain future. If it fails, a federal or state judge will likely draw the state’s boundaries.
Monday’s vote illustrated the General Assembly’s last-minute attempt to fulfill its constitutional obligation and avoid the courts before the legislative session ends at 6 pm Friday. Three law suits already seek a solution in the courts if the legislature fails.
House Republicans, including Redistricting Committee Chair Rep. Dan Shaul, say the map was designed to survive the Senate. A hard-right fact in the Senate called the Conservative Caucus has for months derailed debate in search of a map that allows the party to pick up an additional seat in Congress.
The map that passed the House Monday appears to maintain the state’s current mix of six Republican and two Democratic members of Congress.
It’ll likely preserve US Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver’s hold on the 5th Congressional District in the Kansas City area, which was under threat in an alternative map pushed by conservatives. Cleaver, Kansas City’s first Black mayor, has held the seat since 2005.
Several lawmakers pointed out the legislature’s tight time frame and the urgency to pass a map, but Sen. Bob Onder, a St. Charles Republican and member of the Conservative Caucus, signaled on Twitter that the bill may face an uphill battle in the upper chamber .
Onder criticized the House for not taking up a map proposed by Rep. Nick Schroer, an O’Fallon Republican. Schroer’s map, which he called a “7-1 map” would have required gerrymandering the Kansas City-area 5th District, held by Cleaver. It’s similar to maps sought by members of the Conservative Caucus.
“This is outrageous. This is second time that (Schroer) has been denied the opportunity to offer a #7-1 #MAGA Map,” Onder posted on Twitter Monday. “I once called #HB2117 #ThePelosiMap ‘the fix is in’ map. It sounds like once again the fix is in. #moleg #betrayal.”
Every 10 years — after the release of new US Census data — state lawmakers must redraw state and congressional lines to match population shifts. Missouri is one just four states without a finalized congressional map.
Shaul told lawmakers that he’s been pressured by “every side” during the redistricting process. He said the new map was the best option.
House Democrats voted against the bill and criticized it as a partisan map that was being rushed through without enough input from constituents. Some argued the map split up certain communities of interest like Boone County and parts of St. Louis County.
“This bill gives me heartburn,” said Rep. Jerome Barnes, a Raytown Democrat. “It is just a last-ditch effort by the majority to salvage a redistricting bill the Senate did not like.”
The House’s proposed map splits liberal-leaning Boone County — home to the University of Missouri-Columbia — nearly in half between the 3rd and 4th districts, which both lean more right.
Jefferson County is also split between the 3rd and 8th districts.
And it keeps Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base together in the 4th District, currently represented by US Senate candidate Vicky Hartzler.
Rep. David Tyson Smith, a Columbia Democrat, referred to the map’s split of his home county as “a joke. It’s nothing but absurd.”
During a nearly two hour debate on Monday, lawmakers tried to make three additional changes to the map. All three amendments proposed by Barnes, Rep. John Black and Bill Kidd, failed.
If the map stalls in the Senate amid backlash from members of the Conservative Caucus, three lawsuits — two in state court and one in federal court — address what would happen if a new map is not approved.
The lawsuits contend it would be unconstitutional for Missouri to hold its August primaries using districts based on the 2010 census because it would significantly weaken votes from constituents in “overpopulated” districts.
Of the two lawsuits filed in state court, the one filed by Democrats asks the courts to draw a new map. The competing lawsuit filed by Republicans asks a judge to require the legislature to adopt a new plan and reopen candidate filing.
This story was originally published May 9, 2022 7:31 PM.