By Paul Gable
Congressman Tom Rice (R-SC7) is sinking deeper into a quagmire of his own making as he attempts to explain his way around his vote to impeach former President Donald Trump.
Since voting to impeach Trump a month ago, Rice has been subjected to a continuous stream of criticism from voters in his Congressional District and suffered censure from the state Republican Executive Committee.
Even supposed allies of Rice such as state representatives Russell Fry and Heather Ammons Crawford, who never missed a photo opportunity with Rice in the past, have failed to offer support of Rice when given the opportunity by local media. Likewise, neither has come out with condemnation of Rice’s vote putting them at odds with most other members of the Republican Party as they attempt to hold firmly to the position of ‘fence sitters.’
Fry is reportedly considering a challenge to Rice in the 2022 Republican Primary for the nomination for the 7th Congressional seat. If he decides to challenge Rice, Fry is going to have to get off that fence.
In the month since his impeachment vote, Rice and his advisers have tried to tamp down criticism of his action. But they don’t seem they understand the local sentiment.
In his statements to media and votes in Congress Rice has flip-flopped on the impeachment question. Rice told local and national media that, in the days following the January 6th Capitol insurrection, the more he learned, the more upset he became with Trump’s actions before and during the insurrection.
However, on January 11th Rice issued a statement to local media outlets saying he did not support impeachment of Trump. On January 12th, Rice voted against two resolutions in the House, one calling for using the 25th Amendment to temporarily suspend Trump from the presidency and the other a procedural resolution to bring the resolution of impeachment to the House floor.
Less than 24 hours after voting against bringing the impeachment resolution to the House for a vote, Rice voted for the resolution to impeach the president. What really caused this 180 degree turn in Rice’s actions?
According to a story in a national media outlet, since his vote Rice said he received approximately 5,000 calls against impeachment and 4,000 calls supporting impeachment. But, how many of those 9,000 constituents who reached out vote in Republican primaries?
Rice was censured by the Republican Party for his vote to impeach while immediately after that vote the local Democratic Party in his district issued a statement praising Rice for voting to impeach Trump.
Rice has claimed he voted with Trump 94% of the time in Washington. His campaign adviser Walter Whetsell told media it would be difficult to mount a campaign against Rice “based on Trump factors.”
Whetsell is based in Columbia and doesn’t seem to understand there is only one “Trump factor” that matters to a majority of Republican voters in the 7th Congressional District – Rice’s vote to impeach Trump. Many of the Republican voters in the district are still saying the election was stolen from Trump.
In an attempt to pivot away from the Trump controversy, Rice said he would run for reelection in 2022 based on his record on issues such as beach renourishment, hurricane relief and port infrastructure.
What happened to Interstate 73 and jobs, jobs, jobs, the issues Rice ran on in 2012 and has continuously talked about as his main issues for District 7? He has been singularly unsuccessful in making any headway on either of those issues in his eight years in Washington.
Horry County, where 50% of the District 7 voters reside, is currently experiencing another major flood event, the fourth in the last four years. Where does flood mitigation stand on Rice’s list of campaign issues? As part of the state request for Federal Emergency Management Agency funds after a 2018 hurricane, Rice asked S.C. Governor Henry McMaster to include a request for funds for Interstate 73, a road that exists only on paper, as part of the state’s FEMA grant. How does such a request address the needs of Rice’s constituents for flood mitigation and relief now?
There is the saying “A week is a lifetime in politics.” Based on that philosophy, there are many lifetimes between now and the Republican primaries in June 2022 and the Rice camp is counting on other issues to take center stage before he has to face challengers in the primary.
However, only committed Republican voters go to the polls in primaries in South Carolina and the 7th Congressional District. Those committed Republicans are the ones most critical of Rice’s vote to impeach former president Trump. There is no indication that such criticism or the former president are going to leave the local political landscape any time soon.