House Speaker Bobby Harrell says a debate to impeach Governor Mark Sanford on the floor of the House when lawmakers return in January is not likely after the full Judiciary Committee voted 18 to 6 against it Wednesday.
“At this point it would take unanimous consent of the House for the bill to actually come to the floor of the House for debate,” said Harrell. “And obviously there isn’t anything like unanimous consent to do that.”
Democratic Representative Todd Rutherford, the Richland County Democrat, who proposed a floor debate during the Judiciary Committee meeting, says the House will certainly censure the governor, but not impeach him.
The full House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to censure Sanford, after a seven-member subcommittee did the same the previous week. Censure amounts to a public record that the governor was admonished. The censure resolution states that Sanford brought ridicule, shame and dishonor to the state.
It sounded during the Judiciary meeting that Rutherford was calling members of the impeachment panel “idiots” but after a verbal reprimand from the chairman, he said that he was misunderstood. Rutherford says he meant that members of the public feel that House members are idiots because they believe that the impeachment meetings were nothing more than a kangaroo court. Rutherford insists that he doesn’t believe that personally.
“No–I was saying that if you read the comments beneath news articles, or talk to people on the street who say we’re whitewashing and not going to do anything, that that was in fact not what happened,” says Rutherford. “For those who thought we shouldn’t make the state look bad by moving to impeach him, we didn’t make the state look bad at all. The person who made the state look bad was Governor Sanford.”
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Harrison, who oversaw the impeachment panel process, agrees that it’s unlikely that the issue will be allowed to come foward in January when state lawmakers reconvene.
“The only way it can move forward is if a majority of the members during the motion period on the floor move to recall it and a majority vote to approve that,” says Harrison. “I don’t see that happening unless some new revelations come out about misconduct.”
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.