Senator Lindsey Graham says he has asked congressional researchers to look into the constitutionality of allowing the South Carolina General Assembly to override Governor Mark Sanford, should Sanford decide to divert more than $300 million in federal stimulus funds to pay off state debt. The White House has responded to a request from Sanford, saying that it does not have the authority to allow the governor to divert the funds. Graham says the Tenth Amendment is at issue, and he says he has been asked by the media about Congressman Jim Clyburn’s inclusion in the stimulus bill of a provision that would allow state lawmakers that power. Senator Graham says the Governor is designated as the only entity which applies for federal education funding, even though state lawmakers can demonstrate a need for that funding.
Graham says the Obama Administration needs to think clearly about what it is doing. “Now there’s an issue bigger than the $700 million. Put everybody on notice, this is a very big deal in the short term for South Carolina and in the long term for the United States of America.”
Graham says he did not vote for the stimulus bill, but adds that he would want South Carolina to have the money now that the measure has passed, instead of it going to another state. Graham says he believes that if the stimulus bill allows a general assembly to override a state’s governor, that it represents a big change and he says this case could set an important legal precedent concerning the relationship between the federal government and different state governments.
Graham says he doesn’t have all the answers, but he wants everyone to weigh in, beyond their interest in the stimulus package. “This has implications far beyond the stimulus package,” said Graham. “If this passes muster then what can the government do to bypass the governor in the future and do we really want to do that? Is this something wise for the country as a whole? We’re making a major decision, in my opinion, about changing the relationship between the governor and federal government (and) the governor and the state legislature.”
Congressman Jim Clyburn says the intent of the law is clear and unambiguous to him. He says he finds nothing in the Congressional Research Service report which questions the intent that states which need the stimulus funds should receive them. He says anyone with constitutional concerns should raise them in court.