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Redistricting floor debate tabled as Senate leadership harshly rebukes Conservative Caucus

After a week of marathon filibusters and rare weekend session time, Senate leadership hit pause on floor debate on congressional redistricting.

In a harsh rebuke Saturday evening, Senate leadership castigated Conservative Caucus members who have held the floor in a marathon debate this week.

“Over the last several weeks, 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,” a statement put out by Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden said. “These senators are also standing in the way of critical policies Missourians are asking for — election reform, banning critical race theory, providing more choice for Missouri parents, and the list goes on.”

The Senate convened for rare sessions on Friday and Saturday, as Republican leaders and activists gathered in St. Charles for the statewide Lincoln Days event, but the filibuster continued.

The Senate leadership statement said: “For the time being, we will step away from this debate on the Senate floor.”

Sen. Onder debates congressional redistricting maps. (PROVIDED/SENATE COMMUNICATIONS)

Conservative Caucus members have held out for a congressional map that would favor Republicans with seven of its eight districts.

Specifically, Sen. Denny Hoskins wants both military bases to remain in the same district. And Sen. Bob Onder has advocated to keep St. Charles County in the same district.

“Sen. Rowden’s statement is offensive,” Onder told The Missouri Times. “The ‘group of senators’ to which he refers has refused to give away one to two congressional seats to progressive Democrats and Nancy Pelosi. He also blames our Republican congressional delegation. In other words, it’s everyone’s fault but his own. If he’s not up to the job, he should step down as floor leader.”

“I expected the conversation about redistricting to be difficult given the national impact of these seats in future elections. I didn’t expect to be attacked by my own floor leader after a week of calls from the broader Republican caucus to set personal blame games aside. Regardless, I’m gonna keep drawing maps and looking for compromise,” Sen. Bill Eigel said.

“The sign on Caleb Rowden’s door says Majority ‘Leader.’ My job is to represent the interests of the people from my district. He signed up to lead all Republicans in not only passing an amenable map for redistricting but also in solving real issues facing Missourians,” Sen. Rick Brattin said. “He is failing miserably on both fronts and passing the blame onto our congressional delegation because he is weak.”

As debate forged on this week, including during a 31-hour filibuster, senators worked behind the scenes to come up with a compromise map. One possible option was building the 2nd congressional district more Republican and tweaking the 1st to move more northwest, a request from Democratic Sen. Steven Roberts.

Sens. Cindy O’Laughlin and Andrew Koenig, in particular, have been putting in the hours to get to a compromise.

“The Senate is working to address each senator’s concerns on the possible map. I feel encouraged by the leadership I’ve seen today from all senators and am hopeful we will soon see a compromise which strengthens our conservative state,” O’Laughlin said earlier this week. “Everyone understands we need to draw our own districts and not abdicate that to the courts.”

But the debate turned particularly contentious this week with some senators getting into an extremely heated exchange while off the floor.

Senate leadership also chastised members of Missouri’s congressional delegation for engaging with senators about the redistricting process. Members of the delegation have conversed with senators, including at Lincoln Days, regarding map proposals.

Additionally, congressional redistricting was a topic during a U.S. Senate candidate forum at the annual GOP event as well.

All four candidates who participated in the forum — Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, Congressman Billy Long, Attorney General Eric Schmitt, and attorney Mark McCloskey — said they would support a 7-1 map. However, Hartzler cautioned against approving a 7-1 map that could ultimately be detrimental to Republicans in future years.

Rowden called on the congressional delegation to “work to unify rather than divide and be a part of the solution and not just add to the problem.”

The Senate adjourned Saturday afternoon with plans to reconvene Tuesday afternoon. A rally in support of a 7-1 map was scheduled for Monday.