South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley unwittingly sparked a firestorm among state Senators Tuesday.
As the Senate debated what issues should be taken up when they return for a special session in two weeks, Haley left her office to speak with Sen. Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence) about including government restructuring, which is one of her top priorities. She went into the chamber to get to him, walking up to his desk on the Senate floor. That prompted Sen. Jake Knotts (R-Lexington) to take the stand to question whether she could enter the chamber.
Haley quickly returned to the lobby, with Leatherman and two other senators in tow, as Knotts spoke out against her presence there. However, Knotts’s actions angered fellow Sen. Greg Ryberg (R-Aiken), who furiously accused Knotts of attempting to embarrass Haley.
The Senate broke for an hour-long recess shortly afterwards.
As a former legislator, Haley does have floor privileges. However, governors have traditionally asked permission from senators before heading onto the floor.
Ryberg accused fellow senators of hypocritically attacking Haley, pointing out that another former legislator had been on the floor only moments before her.
I have a little problem with the selective enforcement… What happened here, we could have discussed it quietly. Not by somebody going to the podium and addressing the fact that the governor had come into this chamber.
After the Senate resumed their session an hour later, Knotts said he was merely questioning whether the governor had followed the proper protocol before walking onto the floor.
If they want to see someone, they can walk in, sit down quietly and talk to them or whatever. There’s nothing wrong with that. I want the governor to come in. We had one governor (who) never talked to us. Now, we’ve got one that wants to talk to us, so why in the world do we want to keep her out?
Knotts has been a frequent critic of Haley in the past, infamously calling her a “raghead” during an internet broadcast last year. He and Haley also clashed last year during a hearing on then-Rep. Haley’s roll call voting bill.