More than 400 business leaders from around South Carolina gathered in Columbia Tuesday for an annual symposium with the state’s Washington delegation, sponsored by the State Chamber of Commerce. At the heart of it all was a heart-to-heart debate between House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, and Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, over the stimulus money that Governor Sanford has not agreed to take. Clyburn had added a rule to the stimulus package that attempted to give state lawmakers the ability to override governors like Mark Sanford who said they didn’t want a portion of the money. Graham said that, while he would take the money if he were Sanford, that he questioned Clyburn’s trying to give the decision to state lawmakers.
Graham says it’s unconstitutional to interfere with a governor’s right to make such decisions. He said such practices would ruin federal power. “Imagine a governor running for President. Imagine the mischief you(Congress) could do in that state, if we start passing every kind of law you can think of to put him at odds with people in his state. I want Mark to take the money, Jim, and I think he will. I just don’t want us to engage in emotional politics, and the Obama Administration agreed with me.”
Clyburn defended his attempt to control the direction of the stimulus funds, particularly in his own state, and said that opponents were not correct to say that the money would be used to enhance educational programs. “That’s what this is about, not enhancing anything, but stabilizing the government. If you lay off all the police officers, all the firemen, and houses get burned down…this is not asking the governor to improve education or quality education.”
Clyburn drew attention to the fact that it was the opinion of officials that his amendment was more a violation of the state constitution, than the U.S. constitution.
U.S. Senator Jim Demint sided with Sanford, saying that the money should not be spent on programs when the funding is only temporary. “Everyone’s saying they can’t live without money they didn’t know existed three months ago. We’re getting addicted to this government money, but we’ve got to have sustainable spending at the state level. So hopefully, and I know Mark has said, we find a way to spend the money so it doesn’t go somewhere else, but don’t do it in a way that’s going to cost us more two years down the road.”