WASHINGTON — The most powerful members of the South Carolina congressional delegation are unable or unwilling to take the steps necessary to secure emergency funding to save the jobs of 2,600 public school teachers in the state.
Time is running out as Congress rushes to finish its lame-duck session by Dec. 17. Anti-spending Republicans will take over the House and wield more power in the Senate when the new Congress convenes next month, making it unlikely South Carolina could recoup the lost money for teachers.
Aides to U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said late Wednesday that U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint has blocked the Democrat's legislative language that would restore $143 million in public education money intended for South Carolina.
The House on Wednesday passed a third temporary funding measure
to fund the federal government for the current fiscal year that began Oct. 1. That measure, like its two predecessors, didn't contain the Clyburn fix even though Clyburn, the No. 3 House leader, said Democratic and Republican appropriators who negotiated the continuing resolutions had accepted it.
'The continuing resolutions have been pre-negotiated by the House and Senate,' said Hope Derrick, a Clyburn spokeswoman. 'During the negotiations for the (first) CR passed in September, it is our understanding that the South Carolina education language was not included because of an objection by Senator DeMint.'
In order to streamline the special funding measures, negotiators try not to include controversial matters that could stall them in either chamber.
A spokesman for DeMint, a Republican, vehemently denied he is blocking the Clyburn fix.
'The baseless accusations from Congressman Clyburn's office are absurd,' said Wesley Denton. 'As one of the top Democratic leaders and a former Appropriations Committee member, he holds great sway over how they will write the year-end spending bill, with huge Democrat majorities in the House and Senate. ... It's a convenient fiction to blame Republicans for a problem Democrats created and now evidently aren't capable of fixing, but Senator DeMint has not been part of these Democrat negotiations.'
The stalled federal money — because of South Carolina's state budget cuts of $110 million in higher education funding — is caught up in the high-stakes spending and tax deal between President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders, and criticism of the accord by some lawmakers.
Until that problem is resolved, Congress won't decide how to fund the government for the next nearly 10 months. Election-year politics prevented Congress from passing any appropriations bills, leaving lawmakers in a bind. Now, Democrats are trying to push through an omnibus spending measure while they hold large majorities in the House and Senate.
Republicans, by contrast, want to pass only the most necessary appropriations bills until they take over the House and hold more Senate seats next month.
Clyburn claims to have persuaded House appropriators to accept legislative language that would release the $143 million
, but he says the Senate is blocking the deal.
The only thing that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, DeMint and Clyburn agree on is that Clyburn's claimed fix was excluded from three House measures to fund the federal government temporarily since the Oct. 1 start of the 2010-11 fiscal year. The senators noted that they voted against the $26 billion state aid bill in August — but are now being asked to help correct unforeseen mistakes in what was a Democratic measure.
Clyburn said Graham had pledged his help.