Republican legislators fumed Saturday over Gov. Mark Sanford's affair and questionable travel, though they stopped short of trying to force his resignation or impeachment before they return to the statehouse in January.
Still, the House GOP Caucus that dominates the lower chamber with 73 of the body's 124 members made two things clear – they want Sanford gone, and they want to act soon. However, lawmakers are waiting to make any decisions until the state ethics commission finishes its investigation. And starting impeachment proceedings now could require a costly and special session.
In all, 56 members were on hand, and not one raised a word to defend Sanford, who shocked state residents by disappearing for five days in June to rendezvous with his Argentine lover. Since then, investigations by The Associated Press and a state senator have prompted state Attorney General Henry McMaster to call for an ethics investigation. The probe has been under way for about a week.
Since news of his affair broke, three Associated Press investigations found Sanford used state aircraft for personal travel, violated state requirements by using high-priced air fare and didn't report use of private aircraft.
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Sanford has said the news reports reflect “cherry-picking” of his records and that he only followed the practices set by other governors. He's also brushed aside other criticism and investigations as politically motivated.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, said he's been telling Sanford for weeks legislators and the public are angry. On Saturday, he urged the GOP caucus to hold off on any action involving an impeachment resolution until the state Ethics Commission wrapped up its probe.
“Members of the caucus are disappointed in him, angry with him and in some ways disgusted by the whole thing, and they want to deal with it and they want to deal with it as quickly as possible,” Harrell said.