The scene: The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
The event: The S.C. State Society Inaugural Ball
Attendance: More than 2,000
Menu: Shrimp and grits, tiny sweet potato pies
Cost: $160 for an open bar, plenty of snacks and a live band
South Carolina Republicans got a jump on President Donald Trump's inauguration Thursday night, partying, dancing and mixing with the few Democrats who dropped by — Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg included.
Republicans from Alabama, including that state's governor, Robert Bentley, were even allowed to crash since they didn't throw their own party this year.
Inside the National Portrait Gallery the guests had access to portions of three floors where they could wander through some of the exhibitions. Party-goers had particular fun posing for photos in front of a giant painting of the four women who have served on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster arrived at the ball from a special reception held in his honor, in his capacity as the governor-in-waiting and as one of Trump’s earliest supporters. He said Gov. Nikki Haley did "very well" during her confirmation hearing to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Palmetto Politics spotted South Carolina U.S. Reps. Jeff Duncan, Mick Mulvaney and Tom Rice. U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, who brought his mother as his guest, was the celebrity politician of the night and cheerfully posed for photos and selfies. U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson and his son, S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson, were also on hand.
The Citadel’s Summerall Guards in their uniforms were going strong as the night wore on, despite having a big day ahead of them as participants in the inaugural parade along Pennsylvania Avenue. They said they didn’t have to report until 9 a.m., though, a reasonable hour, all things considered.
Ed McMullen, Trump’s South Carolina campaign chairman and a member of his transition team, came late after the traditional Inauguration Eve dinner at Union Station honoring the incoming president.
McMullen said he had been invited by Trump to attend the morning service at St. John’s Church across the street from the White House, ride over to the Capitol in the presidential motorcade and sit on the platform overlooking the crowd on the National Mall, near the speaker’s podium.
Democrats stopped by as well. U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat and most senior black lawmaker in Congress, was seen mainly in the area of the ball reserved for VIPs.
Mayor Tecklenburg and his wife made an appearance on the early side of the festivities. They were in town for the U.S. Conference of Mayors and thought they’d swing by the party. Tecklenburg said they were heading back to Charleston on Friday morning, steering clear of the swearing-in ceremony.
Duke Energy and S.C. Blue Cross Blue Shield were among the sponsors.
Graham loses out on Russia probe spot
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham was supposed to be the chairman of a new subcommittee on cyber threats – an opportunity for him to aggressively pursue allegations the Russian government ordered hackers to interfere in the 2016 elections.
As it turns out, the South Carolina Republican won’t be at the helm of that panel, to be housed within the Senate Armed Services Committee. And Graham won’t serve as chairman of any subcommittee on the Armed Services Committee.
For outside observers, this would appear to be a slight against a senior lawmaker who has been at the forefront of calls to hold Russia accountable for misconduct. In reality, the decision was not personal. Instead, Graham found himself running up against Senate rules regarding how many committees a member can serve on and how many subcommittees a lawmaker can chair.
Graham serves on the Committees on Armed Services, Budget, Appropriations and Judiciary.
He said he's happy with his current committee work, and that he’ll use his Judiciary subcommittee to go after Russia instead.
Mulvaney hearings Tuesday
Upstate Republican U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney will have two confirmation hearings Tuesday toward becoming White House Office of Management and Budget director.
His Senate Budget Committee confirmation hearing is at 10:30 a.m. in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. His Homeland Security and Government Affairs hearing is at 2:30 p.m., also in Dirksen.
Mulvaney, of Indian Land near Rock Hill, is founding member of the conservative bloc House Freedom Caucus. The group has been a source of discord among congressional Republicans and Democrats.
He will also likely have to answer questions about not paying $15,000 in payroll taxes for a family nanny more than a decade ago.