Democrats, Republicans combine to override Nixon's redistricting veto

Wednesday, May 4, 2011 | 3:57 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri House leaders wasted little time voting Wednesday to override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto this past weekend of a proposed congressional redistricting map.

Four Democrats joined the entire 105-member Republican House caucus in supporting the override, which gave GOP leaders the minimum two-thirds majority required to overcome the Democratic governor's objections. The House approved the override 109-44, and it now will be up to the Senate to decide whether to reject Nixon's objections and put the new congressional map into effect.

Senators were not scheduled to be in session until mid-afternoon Wednesday after an all-night debate the previous day, but Republican President Pro Tem Rob Mayer said previously that he too would like to pursue a veto override. More than two-thirds of senators supported the map when it initially passed last week.

Missouri's redistricting proposal would merge two Democratic congressmen into the same St. Louis district to help consolidate Missouri's nine current congressional districts into eight. Missouri lost a U.S. House seat after the 2010 census because the state's 7 percent population growth failed to keep pace with the rest of the nation. The new map also must account for population shifts within the state, including an exodus from St. Louis to its outer suburbs.

House Speaker Steven Tilley defended the proposed new U.S. House map after the vote Wednesday to override the veto.

"We're happy with the result," said Tilley, R-Perryville. "We think it's a fair map. We think it's representative of the state. We look forward to seeing action taken in the Senate."

Among the Democratic lawmakers that supported the veto override was Rep. Jonas Hughes,D-Kansas City, who earlier this year had criticized another congressional redistricting plan. Lawmakers made changes to the proposal Hughes criticized, but they followed the same general outline.

Shedding tears during the override vote Wednesday that he wiped away with a navy blue handkerchief, Hughes said he feared the courts could end up drawing new congressional districts if the veto were not overridden. He said people he spoke with in the Democratic Party at the federal level supported the redistricting map.

"It was a tough decision in terms of how I felt in terms of dealing with the party and things of that nature because it was contrary to the party," said Hughes, D-Kansas City. "Sometimes it hurts to stand up for what you think is right."

Another Democrat that supported the veto override, Rep. Michael Brown, of Kansas City, said he was trying to make sure his congressman was protected. Democratic U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver represents Kansas City.

House Minority Leader Mike Talboy, who praised Nixon's veto, said future congressional redistricting should be handled by a nonpartisan commission in future years.

"There really needs to be some looking out for the citizens of this state and not just looking out for the political advantages that one may have," said Talboy, D-Kansas City. "We need take a hard long look at that so we don't have the same thing happen in 10 years regardless of who's in charge."

The legislative maneuvering on congressional redistricting started last week when lawmakers gave their map final approval. Nixon rejected it this past Saturday and urged lawmakers to come up with a new plan to that better represents "all regions of the state" before the end of the legislative session May 13. In his veto letter, Nixon said the Legislature's map "does not adequately protect the interests of all Missourians."

Instead the Republican-led Legislature has moved to override Nixon's veto.

Under the congressional redistricting proposal, the city of St. Louis would be put entirely into the 1st Congressional District now held by Democrat William Lacy Clay. The city currently is split with the 3rd District represented by Democrat Russ Carnahan.

Carnahan's district would be divided among Clay's district; the suburban St. Louis district held by Republican Todd Akin; an overhauled district held by Republican Blaine Luetkemeyer of central Missouri; and the southeastern Missouri seat held by Republican Jo Ann Emerson.

Jefferson County, near St. Louis, would be split into the districts of Akin, Emerson and Luetkemeyer.

In the Kansas City area, Cleaver's district would be extended farther east to pick up several rural counties while a swath of Jackson County would be carved out and added to the district of Republican Sam Graves whose district would spread across the northern half of the state.

Southwest Missouri, currently represented by freshman Republican Billy Long, would see the least change, because its population grew faster than most regions of the state.


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