JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The new congressional map that passed out of the House last week, has made it over the first hurdle in the Senate.
During a Senate redistricting committee Tuesday afternoon, the six Republican, two Democrat map was approved by members by a 9-5 vote, with three Republicans and two Democrats voting against the legislation.
In the meeting that was supposed to be about redrawing the state’s map, abortion quickly became the main focus. Some Republican senators feel that their vote could reflect on their pro-life views.
“Are you saying that if they don’t vote the way you want them to, they aren’t pro-life?” Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder, R-Sikeston, asked Susan Klein, executive director of Missouri Right for Life.
“I didn’t say that,” Klein responded. “I said I’m asking for you to give us the opportunity.”
The three-hour hearing started with a heated back-and-forth from Rep. Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, who is sponsoring the legislation, and Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, who believes the map should be a seven Republican, one Democrat.
“You’re trying very hard not to answer any of my questions and I appreciate that,” Eigel said to Shaul.
“It’s kind of the same way it was the other day with you and I, and I appreciate that,” Shaul said back.
Eigel said he believes the current proposal could turn into a five Republican, three Democrat map because of District 2, which represents part of St. Louis County and St. Charles County.
“Walk me through why you believe that district as drawn in your map would produce a Republican individual in that seat,” Eigel said.
“For you to say that I’ve drawn this map based on a future candidate is completely false,” Shaul said. “I don’t care who runs for those districts. I’m drawing the best possible map for the state of Missouri.”
The disagreement among Republicans is about the Democratic seat in Kansas City, as some call for a map that slips the city into two districts, leaving St. Louis City as the only Democratic district.
No one who attended the hearing testified in favor of the map, but the first to testify in opposition was Klein.
“We’re looking to the Republicans to stand up and fight this battle and get us a 7-1 map,” Klein said. “A 7-1 map is constructional, it is not stupid.”
Sen. Brian Williams, D-University City, who voted against the proposal, was frustrated that abortion became part of the conversation.
“What are we talking about?” Williams asked. “Would somebody answer my question, senator? What are we talking about?”
Following Klein were about a dozen more Missourians also in favor of a more Republican map.
“We need to send as many level-headed, common-sense Americans to Congress and that means a 7-1 map,” Noreen McCann, a volunteer with Missouri Eagle Forum, said.
Earlier this week, a federal court threw out Alabama’s new congressional map, which gives some Missouri Republicans concerns about the current proposed map, if it’s not a 6-2.
“If the court intervenes in this process, to the extent that anybody cares about the partisan makeup of this map, I haven’t found a court yet that cares a whole lot about what Republicans think in Missouri,” Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said.
Thompson Rehder spoke to other committee members, saying just because you follow the constitution, doesn’t mean you’re not pro-life.
“I think that the conversation has gone way beyond what our responsibility is to the constitution of this state,” Thompson Rehder said. “I hope that as members of this body that that is what we are doing, that we are not concerned about the public pressure because my votes for nine years show that I’m 100% pro-life.”
The census data shows the state population grew to 6,154,913 which means each of the eight congressional districts needs an additional 20,000. Both the 1st and the 8th districts lost people, while the 7th gained more residents, meaning lines had to be redrawn.
Over in the House, members failed to pass an emergency clause, which puts the map into effect as soon as the governor signs it, compared to waiting until the end of August when the primaries would already be over, which could affect your ballot.
During the committee hearing, chairman Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, proposed an emergency clause for the Senate, which also passed 9-5. If approved in front of the full Senate, it will head back to the House for another vote.
The map now moves to the Senate floor to be debated and voted on by the entire chamber, which is expected to happen later this week.