JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After hearing testimony ranging from the rapture to abortion, the congressional redistricting fracas in the Senate continued Tuesday with a fiery, nearly three hours-long hearing that resulted in the committee passing out legislation.
Two Democrats sided with the Republican majority in passing out both the Senate and House versions of the redistricting map 9-5. Democratic Sens. Brian Williams and Steven Roberts sided with the three conservatives, Sens. Bill Eigel, Denny Hoskins, and Bob Onder, in opposing the bill.
It was an unusual move for the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting to vote out the bills right after hearing testimony — something even Chairman Mike Bernskeotter noted but said was needed because of the looming congressional filing deadline.
The maps will now head to the full Senate for consideration.
As predicted, members of the conservative coalition grilled Rep. Dan Shaul about the congressional map that is purported to lean in favor of Republicans 6-2.
Conservatives in the upper chamber have said they want to see a 7-1 map proposed and have vowed to fight for such a map during the legislative process with tensions already fraught in the upper chamber.
“Really what’s going on here is not a discussion of the numbers and what the numbers actually say. It tells me that there’s politics and partisanship going on. I’m surprised by the degree of the slanted partisanship coming from the leadership of this chamber,” Eigel said.
Shaul, a Republican from Jefferson County, said he avoided partisan data when drawing the map.
“I drew the map that made sense for the state of Missouri,” Shaul said.
While no one testified in favor of the proposed congressional map aside from Shaul, several people testified in opposition of any map that is not considered to be 7-1, including Missouri Right to Life Executive Director Susan Klein.
But Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden, who has said he supports a 6-2 map, pushed back on a 7-1 map.
Rowden suggested the way the 7-1 proposal has been drawn would make it easier for out-of-state, liberal organizations to get pro-choice measures on the ballot through the initiative petition process because they could gather signatures from more urban areas and less rural communities.
Both redistricting bills passed out of the Senate committee Tuesday are identical except the upper chamber’s version includes an emergency clause. House members did not have enough votes to attach an emergency clause to the lower chamber’s version.
The only changes that have been made to the original proposal were keeping Ray County intact and using the Missouri River as a natural boundary to put Carroll and Chariton counties in the 6th congressional district.
It’s not just the Conservative Caucus upset about the map: Democrats have eyed how the 1st congressional district is drawn. According to Sen. Steven Roberts, it should be drawn more to the northwest in order to ensure protections under the Voting Rights Act.
Democrats, including Williams, have also said a 5-3 map in favor of Republicans would be more representative of the state.
More committee hearing fireworks
A particularly kerfuffle moment came when Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder questioned representatives from Missouri Right to Life and the Phyllis Schlafly Eagles. She asked both if a Republican would be considered not to be pro-life if he or she supported a 6-2 congressional map.
“We just heard that following the constitution of our state somehow makes you not pro-life,” Thompson Rehder, a Republican, said. “I think that the conversation has gone way beyond what our responsibility is to the constitution of this state. … What our requirement is is to follow the constitution. I hope that as members of this body, that is what we’re doing, that we are not concerned about the public pressure because my votes for nine years show that I’m 100 percent pro-life. To say that based on what happens in this room or on this map makes you not pro-life is absurd.”
Noreen McCann of the Phyllis Schlafly Eagles shot back: “I don’t think that Republicans who would vote for a 6-2 or 5-3 map are not pro-life, but I do think they are in the wrong job. I think this takes real courage and backbone and willing to push back and that’s not for everybody.”
In a rather bizarre moment of the hearing, a woman claiming to be a prophet testified against the redistricting bill as well and warned against an imminent rapture.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.