SC lawmakers take credit for shift in Boehner plan

AP News

7/29/2011 7:25:21 PM - AP News

They share a bond that goes beyond their home state _ and collectively they are taking credit for pushing House Speaker John Boehner to a more conservative approach to finding a debt deal even as they all rejected his bill.

The five Republicans in South Carolina's congressional delegation, four of them freshman, have united for months over their conservative ideals, shared religious devotion and desire to push Washington rightward. The state has one lone Democrat in the House, No. 3-ranking Rep. James Clyburn.

Now the GOP lawmakers are taking credit for pushing Boehner for a more conservative plan, even as all five of them voted against legislation that won approval by a narrow, 218-210 vote on Friday night.

"This is an issue we've all talked about a lot," said Rep. Jeff Duncan, one of the four GOP freshmen from the Palmetto State. "And this isn't just us sticking together. We all individually believe in this."

Duncan found his resolve to oppose Boehner's bill after spending time praying Thursday night with two of his colleagues. Walking to the member's chapel alone, the congressman glanced at his phone and saw a text from fellow freshman Rep. Mick Mulvaney who told him to hang on _ he would like to come, too. Along the way, Mulvaney found Rep. Tim Scott, another freshman, and brought him along.

After prayer, they held the line with leadership. Later on Thursday, as the lawmakers were brought into discussions with Boehner, Duncan said, they pushed the Speaker to add language that would make the bill more palatable to conservatives.

The congressmen insist they don't take their cues from one another, just share an ideology and a day job. Along with freshman Rep. Trey Gowdy and fellow hold-out and six-term Rep. Joe Wilson the South Carolina Republicans have been a tightly knit group since the 112th Congress began in January. They often eat together, exercise together and worship together: Thursday's prayer session mimicked a scene one earlier this year, when all four freshmen prayed together before voting against a deal to avert a government shutdown, five of just 28 Republicans to oppose it.

"I think it helps when the soil conditions in each district are consistent with the soil conditions in all districts," said Scott. "It makes it easier to go through the conversation, to come a conclusion that's the same because we're at the same starting point philosophically."

On Friday, with another key vote at hand, the five once again voted as one in opposition to the bill.

Back home, folks are proud of their holdouts.

One conservative radio host, Russ Cassell, took to the air to call the state's GOP congressmen "true patriots."

Eating lunch at The Southern Skillet, a West Columbia, S.C., a restaurant with specialties like fried chicken, tomatoes and okra, insurance agent Woody Altman said the GOP delegation's actions were commendable.

"The spending has to be stopped," said Altman, 56, of Georgetown, S.C. "A line has to be drawn."

Even as he saw a potential for the bill to pass, Duncan said that the South Carolina roadblock was worth it.

"We've all been lobbied, we've all been whipped," Duncan said. "What I can say is we've had an impact on the process and in getting this bill to at least this form. There's no doubt about that."

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Associated Press writers Seanna Adcox and Jeffrey Collins contributed to this report from West Columbia, S.C.