AUSTIN, Texas — The months-long struggle over congressional redistricting made it past a major hurdle early Wednesday as the state House gave preliminary approval to a GOP-drawn map, which awaited a tougher battle in the Senate.
For the third time this summer, the House approved a map sponsored by GOP Rep. Phil King that would likely give Texas Republicans as many as 21 seats in Congress.
The final vote was 76-43, after hours of staunch debate from Democrats on Tuesday.
Democrats argued that the map would dilute the voting power of minorities and rural Texans in favor of urban and suburban Republicans.
"This is political gerrymandering at new heights at an unprecedented level," said state Rep. Mike Villareal, a Democrat.
King said his map did not dilute minority districts.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where it will likely be rejected in favor of that chamber's own map.
The GOP is battling for domination of the 32-member Texas delegation in Congress. Democrats hold a 17-15 advantage, but Republicans say existing congressional boundaries don't reflect the state's increasingly Republican voting patterns.
Lawmakers began a third special session on redistricting Monday after the return of 11 Democrats who fled to prevent consideration of the issue.