JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Senate committee on redistricting approved two congressional maps Tuesday, sending them to be debated in a chamber where several members take issue with how the lines are drawn.
A map passed by the House last week that would likely retain Missouri's current partisan alignment of six Republicans and two Democrats was approved, as well as an identical Senate version that contains an emergency clause enabling it to go into effect more quickly.
Republican members pushing for a different map that would cut out the blue 5th district and likely send seven Republicans and one Democrat to Washington, D.C. dominated the hearing, grilling the House map's sponsor and other members of the committee who supported his map.
Sens. Bill Eigel, Bob Onder and Denny Hoskins, of Weldon Spring, Lake St. Louis and Warrensburg respectively, have been vocal in calling for a more dominant Republican map. They have described the process as a critical moment for the GOP majority to maintain representation on the federal level, arguing that the current map would allow Democrats to compete in the suburban 2nd district.
"I think we should draw the best possible map that we can, but I don't believe this is it," Onder said.
Proponents of the House map, including its sponsor Republican Rep. Dan Shaul of Imperial and Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden, say it follows the metrics laid out in the state constitution and will avoid any potential court interference.
After about three hours, the committee voted 9-5 to approve both maps. Eigel, Onder and Hoskins were joined by two Democrats in voting against both.
The hearing immediately began with a tense back-and-forth between Shaul and Eigel, as the latter continually asked whether Shaul had consulted with members of Missouri's congressional delegation while drawing the map and which measures he had taken into account.
Shaul, who is running for state Senate, largely avoided answering specifics but said he did not use partisan data or information in drawing the map's lines.
"I never really care about who won the president(ial election) by how many points (in a district)," Shaul said. "I think we have good candidates in every district. ... Is that not what this is supposed to be about? Are we supposed to draw districts based on who we're wanting to run in the future?"
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Divisions among the majority party on the redistricting issue have reached a fever pitch in recent days.
Prominent Republicans running for U.S. Senate in Missouri, including former Gov. Eric Greitens and U.S. Rep. Billy Long, have come out in favor of the more aggressive 7-1 map.
Members of the Senate Conservative Caucus, who have recently sparred with party leadership on several issues, have criticized other Republicans' willingness to pass Shaul's map, calling them "Republicans in name only."
Onder has referred to the proposal as the "Pelosi Map," indicating his belief that it would strengthen Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats' position on Capitol Hill.
"More and more Republican groups and officials are calling on (Rowden) to stop lying about the MO redistricting process," Eigel wrote on Twitter last week. "I knew we would have to fight the Dems on this — I didn't think we would have to fight our own floor leader."
The House, prior to approving Shaul's map last week, rejected another version of the 7-1 map.
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Missouri Senate committee approves congressional redistricting maps