Originally created 11/27/05

GOP senators see eye-to-eye



COLUMBIA - South Carolina's two Republican U.S. senators have voted the same way 91 percent of the time since January, increasing the Palmetto State's influence in Washington.

For years, South Carolina's senators canceled each other out as Republican Strom Thurmond and Democrat Ernest "Fritz" Hollings served lengthy tenures on opposite sides of the aisle.

Sen. Jim DeMint and Sen. Lindsey Graham have seen eye-to-eye on approving President Bush's judicial nominees, opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, signing off on spending cuts and tightening rules on declaring bankruptcy, among other issues.

They differed on the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Mr. Graham opposed the measure, and Mr. DeMint supported it.

When Mr. Graham and Mr. Hollings served together in 2004, before Mr. DeMint's election, the state's two senators voted alike only 42 percent of the time.

"There's a huge difference" between the state having two Republicans and having senators from opposing parties, Mr. Graham told The (Columbia) State.

"Politics is still basically a team sport. Jim and I generally have a very common view of where we would like to take the government on a federal level."

But he said that on issues specific to the state, such as funding for road projects, the senators' partisan alignment makes no difference.

"We're following the Thurmond-Hollings model," he said. "We work with the whole delegation. We put partisan differences aside."

State GOP Chairman Katon Dawson called the disparity between the voting records of the Graham-DeMint duo and the Hollings-Graham pairing "a landslide."

But having its two senators in sync on major issues is not always a good thing for the state, said Hastings Wyman, a former Thurmond aide.

"There are times when it would be good to have a good entry into the minority party," Mr. Wyman said. "And it would be especially good if the White House changes hands."

Lachlan McIntosh, the executive director of the state Democratic Party, said having senators from two different parties gave the state more credibility.

Republican U.S. Sens. Jim DeMint, left, and Lindsey Graham have voted the same way 91 percent of the time.