When the South Carolina General Assembly meets again next week for the first time in six months, the first order of business may very well be the censure of Governor Mark Sanford. The House’s censure resolution will likely pass very quickly, according to House leaders and be passed onto the Senate.
But what will happen then is uncertain.
A House committee voted at the end of last year not to impeach Sanford but to censure him instead. If they had voted for impeachment and that were to be approved by the full House, then the Senate would have conducted Sanford’s trial. As it is, the Senate will only have the censure to deal with.
Censure was a hot item of discussion when a select panel of lawmakers gathered on the Statehouse grounds Thursday to brief members of the press on upcoming legislative issues.
Senate President Pro Temp Glenn McConnell says the senate dealing with the resolution would be a waste of time, if it takes much time. “We’ve got substantive legislation to deal with,” said McConnell. “Unless we can deal with it very quickly, to me, it’s just a waste of time. “Whether you pass it or not, it doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t do anything other than express an opinion. To get the Senate bogged down in it would be a waste of public resources.”
McConnell says the House has dealt with the impeachment issue and the censure resolution as they were supposed to, but allowing the issue to reach the senate floor would interfere with essential legislation like the cigarette tax proposal. “If you get it out on the floor, the language of a concurent resolution is subject to amendments,” said McConnell. “What if we get into adding amendments for this ground and that ground. Then those amendments have to be debated. Then if it’s passed it goes back to the House. And in the end, how will it have changed the day?”
When asked by reporters after his budget presentation Thursday about his opinion on what will happen to his censure, Sanford shrugged it off, saying that it is completely up to the legislators.
Lexington County Republican Senator Jake Knotts says he wants the censure resolution to go to a Senate committee so that it might stand a chance of receiving some real attention. He was not pleased with the attention it received by a House panel. “I’m here to tell you, you cannot cross examine an affidavit,” he said. “If they had brought in witnesses and had them testify, and had members of that panel ask questions, it would have been a whole lot fairer process.”
Knotts says when the House Committee decided not to impeach Sanford, he was willing to let the issue drop. But now that a censure resolution exists, he wants it considered by a Senate committee.
Pickens County Republican Senator Larry Martin says he will ask for unanimous consent for senators to express themselves on the censure, then quickly move on beyond the issue. “I would like to see it resolved, and behind us,” said Martin. “But if it does go to committee, it doesn’t mean a whole lot. Just leave it resting peacefully in someone’s drawer.”