AUSTIN – The six-month battle over a Republican-backed congressional redistricting plan (search) that twice sent Democratic lawmakers into voluntary exile ended Sunday when the state Senate approved the map in a third special legislative session.
The bill now goes to Republican Gov. Rick Perry (search), who is expected to sign it into law.
The new map, approved 17-14 in the Senate, likely will give Republicans the majority in the Texas (search) congressional delegation that is now ruled 17-15 by Democrats.
Democrats have opposed every attempt by Republicans to pass a new plan, saying the current congressional boundaries drawn by a court in 2001 should remain in place.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said a redistricting map had finally been created that reflects the voting trends of the state.
"I think this map will lend, will create, new members of Congress being elected in the 2004 elections," Dewhurst said.
Republicans have said they could gain as many as six additional seats in the delegation. Democrats said the map would add seven Republicans.
The bill's passage ends six months of strange twists, including two walkouts by Democrats, three special sessions and harsh Republican infighting.
While the legislative battle over congressional redistricting is over, the feud continues. Democrats have pledged to take their fight to court.
Democratic state Sen. Judith Zaffirini said Sunday the map would disenfranchise millions of minority voters.
"It's also a sad day because it was just a clear blatant abuse of power intended to build the Republican party at the expense of Democrats, " she said.
It appeared the redistricting debate in the Legislature would end last week as the House moved to swiftly approve the map Friday. But the Senate held off its vote to wait for the House to approve an unrelated bill to reorganize some parts of state government.
By the time that bill was eligible in the House on Friday, there were not enough state representatives left at the Capitol for a quorum. The House reconvened Sunday and approved the government reorganization bill, acceding to pressure from the Senate.
Dewhurst previously said the Senate would not approve the redistricting map until the House passed the reorganization bill.
"I do not want to be held hostage by the Senate," said Republican state Rep. Carter Casteel, who helped write the measure. "I am sad that I'm standing here today asking you to vote against a bill that I helped author."