SC legislature vote to force Sanford's hand

The South Carolina legislature has voted to force Gov. Mark Sanford (R) to accept $700 million in federal stimulus dollars that the Governor has so far refused.

Sanford refuses to accept the money, earmarked for education and other social services, unless he can use it to pay down the state's debt. The White House has denied that request.

Sanford has defended his position to voters in ads airing in the state.

State legislators have urged Sanford to accept the money anyway, arguing it's needed to fund important programs. Last night they passed a budget that included an amendment to force Sanford to take the federal dollars.

The amendment orders Sanford to "take all action necessary and required by the ARRA and the U.S. Secretary of Education in order to secure the receipt of the funds recognized and authorized for appropriation pursuant to this section." ARRA stands for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the formal name of the federal stimulus package.

But that doesn't end the controversy. Both the White House and Sanford's lawyers say only the governor has the discretion to accept or refuse the funds. This move by the legislature will likely drag the issue into court.

The state's highest court refused to hear an earlier case on the matter (filed by a teenager), because the legislature had not yet passed a budget included the disputing funds. The problem was solved last night.