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Missouri Rep. Ann Wagner (R)

After months of all-out warfare between the Missouri House and Senate and within the Senate, the state’s GOP-run legislature finally passed a new congressional map on Thursday and sent it to Republican Gov. Mike Parson for his signature, a day before the legislative session was set to end.

Had the two chambers not reached an agreement, the redistricting process would have been handed over to the courts, where lawsuits had already been filed due to the ongoing impasse. That looming deadline likely helped bring the long-running feud to an end, along with an ever-present threat by GOP leaders in the Senate to "move the previous question"—a parliamentary maneuver designed to cut off a filibuster, the vehicle that a small band of far-right dissenters had used to thwart earlier attempts to pass a map.

The "PQ," as it's known, is often referred to as the "nuclear option" in Missouri politics and is seldom deployed in the Senate—the threat of it is often sufficient. It also, apparently, has never been used by a party against its own members. Rather than face the possibility they’d make ignominious history, the renegade Conservative Caucus surrendered, and the Senate approved the new map in a lopsided 26-5 vote. (The House had passed it on Tuesday.)

The map preserves the GOP's 6-2 advantage in the state's congressional delegation, as Republican leaders in both the House and Senate had wanted. By contrast, the Conservative Caucus had long demanded a 7-1 map that would carve up the Democratic-held 5th District in Kansas City, but the hardliners eventually caved and allowed a 6-2 map to advance in late March. The House, however, rejected that proposal, with one member accusing the Senate of making tweaks that "took care of some people, some senators down there, that needed it for their political benefit."

One person who might actually benefit from the final product is Rep. Ann Wagner, whose competitive 2nd District in the St. Louis suburbs got shored up by extending it westward into more rural turf and making it considerably redder. Under the old lines, the 2nd was the closest district in the nation on the presidential level, voting for Donald Trump by a margin of just 0.03%, or just 115 votes. The new version instead would have voted 53-45 for Trump, according to Dave’s Redistricting App.

But that may or may not be welcome news for Wagner. Last year, according to Politico, a fellow attendee at an event in D.C. was overheard telling the congresswoman he hoped legislators would draw a safer seat for her. But Wagner, who passes for a pragmatist in today's GOP, reportedly responded, "Then you get those wacko birds." A spokesperson did not deny the report, and the wacko birds might very well like to deny Wagner another term. They'll probably have to wait another cycle, though, as the incumbent hasn't drawn any potent challengers in the Aug. 2 primary.

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Kansas Supreme Court upholds GOP-friendly congressional map

The Kansas Supreme Court upheld a GOP-friendly congressional map Wednesday, reversing a lower court decision that tossed out the map due to allegations of gerrymandering.

With the congressional map now approved by the Sunflower State's highest court, Democrats will have a tougher battle to retain their sole congressional seat in the district held by Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS) than they have had in the past.

"A majority of the court holds that, on the record before us, plaintiffs have not prevailed on their claims that Substitute for Senate Bill 355 violates the Kansas Constitution. Therefore, the judgment of the district court is reversed and the permanent injunction ordered by the district court is lifted," the court wrote.

JUDGE INVOKES BUDDHA AND THROWS OUT KANSAS REDISTRICTING MAPS IN BLOW TO GOP

A lower court ruling last month deemed the map an "intentional, effective partisan gerrymander" and ordered the legislature to go back to the drawing board. However, the high court determined the map did not violate the state's constitution.

The decision clarifies district lines for congressional contenders ahead of the June 10 filing deadline for prospective candidates. Democrat Tom Sawyer, the minority leader of the Kansas House, quickly condemned the ruling.

"Unfortunately, the decision regarding Congressional maps opens a Pandora's box for even worse political gerrymandering in the future," he said. "Because the court ruled the Kansas Constitution was not violated, this decision makes clear it's time for an amendment that clarifies gerrymandering is unconstitutional and prohibited in the state. I call on my colleagues to bring a constitutional amendment to the ballot on this issue."

Republicans hold three of the state's four congressional seats. Seeking to make that a 4-0 seat advantage, Republicans moved roughly 46% of the black population and 33% of the Hispanic population out of the 3rd Congressional District, which is held by Davids. During the 2020 election, the district voted for President Joe Biden by 11 percentage points but would have gone for him by only 4.5% if the election took place under the new map. The map, named Ad Astra 2, notably divides the diverse Wyandotte County for the first time in 40 years, per the Kansas City Star.

Gov. Laura Kelly (D-KS) vetoed the map in February over concerns about diminished representation for minority voters in the 3rd District, but the Republican-led state legislature overrode her veto.

A lawsuit against the map was filed on behalf of Kansans who argued the map diminished the voting power of minorities. The Democrat-controlled state Supreme Court's ruling on Wednesday is its first in a case over gerrymandering and sets a precedent for similar cases in the future, KCUR reported. Previous disputes over congressional apportionment in the state had been handled by federal courts.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

With Kansas's congressional map reenacted, there are only three remaining states without legally binding congressional lines, including Missouri, New Hampshire, and New York. Roughly a dozen states have litigation pending over their maps.

Democrats started the new year with a flurry of redistricting triumphs in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. But Republicans steadily gained the upper hand, securing breakthrough victories in Florida and, more recently, in New York. The party is now poised to gain three to four congressional seats from redistricting, according to several estimates.

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