Missouri’s redrawn congressional map remains in limbo after 31-hour Senate filibuster

The Senate is expected to continue working on a redistricting plan when it reconvenes at noon

By: - February 8, 2022 7:28 pm

A few stragglers collect their papers in the Missouri Senate after the body adjourned four hours ahead of the constitutional deadline on May 14, 2021 (Rudi Keller/Missouri Independent).

A roughly 31-hour filibuster in the Missouri Senate paused early Wednesday morning, when the chamber adjourned without taking action on the state’s new congressional map. 

Just after 12:20 a.m., Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, motioned for senators to adjourn until noon Wednesday, when the redistricting debate is expected to resume. 

Before the Senate are the House-passed versions of redrawn Congressional districts, which would maintain Missouri’s current partisan breakdown of six GOP seats and two Democratic ones.

Senators returned to the original House proposals after Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, rescinded his Senate version of the map — which was identical to the House’s except for the addition of an emergency clause.

The over 31 hours of discussion left Missouri senators essentially right back where they started when the redistricting debate began Monday at 5 p.m.

It was the first time the congressional map has been formally brought up for debate on the Senate floor this year, and senators are set to let the issue eat into yet another day of legislative work. All of Wednesday’s scheduled committee hearings were canceled as of Tuesday evening.

If no changes are made to the House-passed 6-2 map, then senators could send the proposal to Gov. Mike Parson for approval. If amendments are added by the Senate, the map will need the House’s approval again. 

‘6-2’ vs. ‘7-1’

Following a roughly two-hour break Tuesday night, members of the conservative caucus continued their filibuster, reiterating familiar concerns with the House’s map and advocating for Democratic U.S. Sen. Emanuel Cleaver’s Kansas City district to be split to favor Republicans.

The proposal passed by the House last month would not keep the entirety of St. Charles County within the 2nd Congressional District, like a contingent of Republican lawmakers wanted, nor would it bolster minority representation in the Voting Rights Act-protected 1st Congressional District as Democratic lawmakers advocated for.

“This map also seems to have more county splits versus some of the other maps that I’ve seen, and again, like I said, all the maps start to run together,” said Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, who has advocated for Missouri’s two military bases to be kept within one district.

However, debate quickly turned back to killing time, as Hoskins read song lyrics for over an hour, that ranged from songs by Fall Out Boy to Taylor Swift and Johnny Cash, and Sen. Eric Burlison, R-Battlefield, read from Republican U.S. Sen Josh Hawley’s book, “The Tyranny of Big Tech.”

Senators voted down a proposed 7-1 map Monday night. Republican lawmakers in opposition to the conservative caucus’ call for adding another Republican-leaning seat have warned that a 7-1 map may eventually shift in Democrats’ favor and that such a plan could risk a court intervention.

Sen. Mike Moon, an Ash Grove Republican who is running for U.S. Congress, said passing a 7-1 map would help ensure that Republicans could regain the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Some are asking for a strong 6-2, well how about a weak 7-1 — still a 7-1, it allows the state’s past voting history to be reflected across the state and the congressional districts,” Moon said.

Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, flatly said Tuesday afternoon that there were not enough votes to pass the 7-1 map.

“It engages people that believe a 7-1 map in a bad year could become a 5-3 map,” Schatz said, referring to concerns a Republican seat could sway to Democrats in the future.

Schatz said he had also spoken with a couple members of Missouri’s congressional delegation who were satisfied with the map passed by the House.

Through Tuesday afternoon, supporters of a 7-1 map decried Rowden’s proposal that he cast as a compromise, calling it a “thumb in the eye” and raising whether it was “motivated by personal animus.” They questioned why they had been left out of negotiations.

“It seems like part of the body feels like they got a good compromise,” said Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, who’s proposed 7-1 map was voted down Monday night, “but a significant portion of the chamber has been left out of it.”

Historic filibuster

The redistricting discussion was expected to be contentious, and it remained to be seen if the debate will rival some of the chamber’s longest filibusters.

In 2016, Democrats stalled a vote for 39 hours on a proposed constitutional amendment that would remove penalties for those who cite religious beliefs as the reason for denying certain services for same-sex marriages.

Prior to that in 1999, four Democratic senators had filibustered for 38 hours over a five-day period to oppose an abortion bill, The Associated Press reported.

For more than 27 hours in 2019, Conservative Caucus members blocked the passage of $50 million in tax credits for General Motors, a key plank of Gov. Mike Parson’s agenda that year.

After deliberations continued overnight Monday, Rowden proposed bolstering the GOP’s strength of the 2nd Congressional District, represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, by taking in all of Jefferson County and portions of St. Charles and St. Louis counties.

The proposal would also include a boost in the minority representation of the 1st Congressional District, represented by Democratic U.S. Rep Cori Bush, as Democrats had pushed for by extending westward into Maryland Heights, Creve Coeur and Westwood.

Rowden acknowledged it was impossible to please every lawmaker with the plan.

“At some point you find a meaningful movement in a direction that some folks had voiced support for, in terms of making some changes in CD 2, and you try,” he said.

Sen. Rick Brattin, a Harrisonville Republican who is running for Congress, said he felt the proposed maps were “atrocious” and that there was a disconnect between what was discussed in behind-the-scenes negotiations versus what was rolled out on the Senate floor.

“I just find it to be a little bit of a parody that here we are having to filibuster our own party as a result of that,” Brattin said, before reading articles from the conservative satirical news site The Babylon Bee.

The annual Statewide Lincoln Days, a gathering of Missouri Republicans, is scheduled to be held in St. Charles this weekend, and many GOP lawmakers are expected to attend. But Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, said if needed, he will remain to debate through the weekend.

“When a group of senators… is targeted to be run over, that group of senators will fight back,” Onder said, later adding: “If we’re still going on this map on Saturday or Sunday, I’m okay with that.”

This story has been updated since it originally published. 

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Tessa Weinberg
Tessa Weinberg

Tessa Weinberg covered education, health care and the legislature with the Missouri Independent. She previously covered the Missouri statehouse for The Kansas City Star and The Columbia Missourian, where her reporting into social media use by the governor prompted an investigation by the Attorney General’s office. She also covered state government in Texas for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.