Mark Sanford

Sanford showdown is today

Gov. Mark Sanford's day in the General Assembly has finally arrived.

Today, lawmakers will vote on a censure resolution, expressing their disapproval of his actions surrounding his June disappearance and his admission to an extramarital affair.

A bid to impeach the governor failed in late December.

Legislative leaders want an orderly debate and quick decision on the Sanford censure resolution. It is likely to pass overwhelmingly in the House. But some Democrats say they will not support censure, viewing it as an insufficient answer to Sanford's misdeeds, which include visiting his lover during a state-funded 2008 trip to Argentina.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, said Tuesday the House will spend all day today if necessary debating the censure resolution. But the issue must be resolved today, he said.

"We're not going home until we get it done because we don't need to spend more than a day on it. Really," Harrell told Republican House members at Tuesday's caucus meeting.

Lawmakers met Tuesday in regular session for the first time since last summer's Sanford scandal. The General Assembly met in October to pass incentives to land airplane maker Boeing. But the body rejected efforts to take up bids to remove Sanford then.

Harrell and other lawmakers have said it is time to turn attention away from Sanford and toward bills aiming to streamline government and restructure state agencies at a time when lawmakers must figure out how to plug a $500 million hole in the budget.

A censure carries no legal or legislative weight. It is simply a public admonition of Sanford's actions.

Rep. Jim Harrison, R-Richland, who chaired a special panel that weighed impeaching Sanford, said last week he suspects the censure bill will pass the House unanimously. But some House Democrats said Tuesday they do not plan to support censure.

And the bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

Sen. Jake Knotts, a Lexington Republican and Sanford critic, said he might stall the resolution by tying it up in committee. Knotts has said more investigating needs to be done into Sanford's activities and a censure is inadequate.

If a censure resolution makes its way back onto the Senate calendar, Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell said, the Senate will be fully engaged in other, more pressing matters and may not get to it this year.

Some House members cast doubt on whether they will quickly and convincingly pass the censure resolution.

Several House Democrats, in their initial caucus meeting of the legislative session Tuesday, made clear a vote to censure Sanford is unlikely to be unanimous.

"I don't want to censure the governor," said Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, one of Sanford's staunchest critics.

"I will vote for it," Rutherford said, noting he would be equally pleased to move on and let Republican leadership get on to mending the state's problems, which he said their "failed leadership" caused.Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, said Democrats could make a mistake by simply "moving on" and not voting in favor of censure, in part because Republicans authored both the failed measure to impeach Sanford and the censure resolution.

Failure to vote for it could be misconstrued as condoning the governor's "reprehensible" conduct, Stavrinakis said.

Sanford will conduct business as usual today. The governor, according to spokesman Ben Fox, will spend the morning at a regularly scheduled Budget and Control Board meeting and spend the rest of his day taking meetings on his executive budget and preparing for next week's State of the State address.

"Our legislative staff will be around monitoring all happenings upstairs," Fox said.