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Conservative caucus demands Missouri Senate reject talks with House on congressional maps

Members of the Missouri Senate’s conservative caucus made it clear on Wednesday that they would once again derail the chamber with procedural maneuvers in order to block negotiations with the House over a new congressional map.

Republican Sens. Bob Onder of Lake St. Louis, Bill Eigel of Weldon Spring and Denny Hoskins of Warrensburg stalled routine business Wednesday morning to protest a House vote to request a conference committee to work out differences between the two chambers over congressional maps.

The Senate has been mired all year in gridlock as GOP leadership sought to approve a map that essentially locked in the current partisan breakdown of Missouri’s eight congressional seats — six Republicans and two Democrats. They’ve faced resistance from the seven-member conservative caucus, which has pushed for a map that could allow Republicans to pick up seven of the eight seats.

A deal was finally struck last week that allowed the Senate to approve a map, but the House refused to pass it and requested a conference.

Onder said Wednesday that he was confident that whatever map would emerge from conference would be worse that what the Senate approved last week. So he won’t let the chamber move forward unless it formally rejects the House’s offer.

Then, he argued, it will be the House’s decision on whether or not to accept the Senate’s map — or allow the process to be decided by the courts.

“In order for the Senate to proceed with business, we need to reject the House’s motion to go to conference,” he said.

After about an hour of discussion, Onder agreed to sit down and the Senate recessed without taking any action on the House’s request.

The future of the map remains unclear.

A lawsuit filed earlier this month on behalf of Missouri voters by Democratic attorneys asked a court to intervene and draw new maps. Candidate filing for the 2022 elections ended Tuesday.

Responding to Onder, state Rep. Dan Shaul, an Imperial Republican sponsoring the House redistricting bill, refuted the idea blame would rest on the House if lawmakers are unable to finish drawing a new map.

“We don’t accept that it is our fault,” Shaul said, “and we don’t accept that it is going to court.”

Gov. Mike Parson, who faced criticism for not calling a special session last year to focus on redistricting, said he was disappointed that the maps were still not complete.

“At some point you’ve got to do your job,” Parson said Wednesday, “and I think they should have done their job.”

This article by Jason Hancock is published by permission of The Missouri Independent.

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