The full House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to censure Governor Mark Sanford Wednesday, after a seven-member subcommittee did the same last week.
Censure amounts to a public record that the governor was admonished. But the resolution does contain some pretty strong language, stating that Sanford brought ridicule and shame to the state.
What the committee did not do is vote to impeach the governor. That failed 18-6.
When the full House meets in January, the impeachment issue could be brought up again, but even proponents of impeachment say the votes are not likely to be there to even take up the resolution for discussion.
Richland County Democrat Todd Rutherford took the focus away from Governor Sanford and onto himself momentarily when it appeared that he called lawmakers considering the case “idiots.”
“And let me tell you what offends me,” said Rutherford. “The members of this committee, this kangaroo court, as members of this body have said, have met a total of four times, used $130 of taxpayer money or whatever it is. You idiots can’t do any better, to meet four times to talk about something as serious as impeachment? We meet today and we’ll be done today. If this goes to the House floor, we’ll be done in a day, us kangaroos who can’t do any better, who can’t focus on anything better, who can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. We will talk about fishing bills and striped bass longer than we will talk about this and we will do so because we are apparently the idiots that everyone thinks that we are.”
When Rutherford was finished with his comments, Chairman Harrison told him that he was close to being in trouble himself–specifically that his behavior bordered on serious misconduct. Rutherford said he was misunderstood, that he was trying to communicate that others thought of House members as idiots.
(Harrison-Rutherford in committee) MP3 1:27
Representative Leon Stavrinakis says his constituents got tired of hearing Sanford appologize, but he said most of them did not want to see an impeachment. “I’ve represented a lot of people who lied to police and to SLED officers,” said Stavrinakis, “and they pay a heavy price when they do it, you know. I worry about the standard we’re setting, but at the same time I care about my constituents and what they think about their government. And I know most of them don’t want to see this circus go on any longer.”
Greg Delleney, who drafted the impeachment resolution, reminded lawmakers that South Carolina is among a handful of states that has the option of “address” as well as impeachment. Delleney says he saw address mentioned in a New York Times article and he had a professor research it. “The South Carolina constitution gives unusually broad removal powers to the legislature,” he said. “Not only can a legislature impeach a governor for serious crimes or conduct, it can also remove an officer in a process called ‘address’ for any willful neglect of duty or other cause, which isn’t sufficient cause for impeachment.”
Sanford released a statement following the meeting, saying that he concurred with the Committee’s “reasonable decision” to reject impeachment. Sanford also wrote, “As we’ve consistently said, this Administration has tried to be a stalwart ally of the taxpayer, and will remain so for the next 13 months.”
Attorney General Henry McMaster continues to review the report from the state Ethics Commission concerning Sanford’s trips, considering whether or not the governor should face criminal charges.