S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford might not have even known he was in the wrestling ring, but House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn delivered an emphatic takedown.
Taking advantage of his increased legislative muscle – thanks to expanded Democratic control and a new president who shares his views – Clyburn moved to blunt Sanford's ability to prevent South Carolina from getting federal stimulus funds.
Just before the House passed President Obama's economic stimulus bill Wednesday, Clyburn quietly inserted an amendment empowering state legislative leaders to accept the aid if the governor fails to act within 45 days of the enactment.
A General Assembly vote wouldn't be required – merely “a statement submitted by its leadership,” Clyburn's amendment says.
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The stimulus measure would deliver at least $3.2 billion to South Carolina, but it faces hurdles in the Senate and could undergo significant changes.
Sen. Jim DeMint said Thursday he will help lead Senate opposition – and hopes to stir the kind of national outcry he galvanized in summer 2007 to defeat immigration reforms.
Separate Clyburn provisions increase stimulus funding to the nation's poorest counties and boost aid to historically black colleges and universities.
Clyburn's imprint on the economic recovery package – and his ability to deliver on longstanding commitments to the rural poor – show how his post as the No. 3 House leader has bolstered his clout with a larger Democratic majority and election of the first black president.
Clyburn, a Columbia Democrat, said he became alarmed about Sanford's potential blocking of the money after learning of the governor's confrontation with Obama last month at a meeting of the nation's governors in Philadelphia.
“I happen to know that …a lot of constituents of mine need this kind of assistance,” Clyburn said Thursday. “Some of the counties that I represent – Marion County, Williamsburg County – that have been in double-digit unemployment since I came to Congress, they are being hit even harder now during an economic recession.”
Sanford, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, wrote Obama a follow-up letter detailing his opposition to using more federal deficit spending to revive the economy.
Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer said Thursday that the governor shouldn't be cut out of the decision-making process.