WASHINGTON — South Carolina's four new Republican congressmen were sworn into office Wednesday and pledged to move quickly to slash federal spending, cut the deficit and reduce the size of government.
With more House freshmen than any other state save Florida and New York, the South Carolina congressional delegation took on a new look after the defeats of incumbent Reps. John Spratt, a Rock Hill Democrat, and Bob Inglis, a Travelers Rest Republican.
Hundreds of friends and relatives traveled from South Carolina to watch Tim Scott, Mick Mulvaney, Jeff Duncan and Trey Gowdy take the oath of office on the floor of the House of Representatives.
"I'm overwhelmed, humbled and have a profound sense that there's a lot of work to be done," said Gowdy.
Gowdy, a Spartanburg prosecutor, defeated incumbent Bob Inglis last year in the June Republican runoff primary and then sailed to victory Nov. 2 in the conservative Upstate.
The four new GOP lawmakers from South Carolina hosted a reception Wednesday evening for their visitors at the National Republican Club of Capitol Hill, across the street from the Library of Congress.
In more signs of Scott's rising national profile, GOP House leaders named the North Charleston Republican a deputy majority whip and also gave him a coveted seat on the House Rules Committee.
The powerful panel, on which few first-term lawmakers have served, vets all bills before they move to the House.
"It puts me in a position where the chairmen of all the committees have to come to us as they bring their legislation to the floor," Scott, a former S.C. House member who replaces the retired U.S. Rep. Henry Brown, told McClatchy.
"If you want to have your fingerprint on legislation throughout Congress, where you want to be is on the Rules Committee," Scott said.
Scott, who'd chaired the Charleston County Council before joining the General Assembly, emerged from a crowded Republican primary in the 1st Congressional District and then cruised to victory in the Nov. 2 general election.
Duncan, who'd served with Scott in the state House and succeeds Gresham Barrett in Congress after Barrett's failed gubernatorial run, was also named a deputy majority whip.
"It gives the constituents I represent a voice at the table," said Duncan, a Laurens Republican. "With 87 new Republican members coming in, it's a historic time. I'm encouraged by talking with these guys and ladies and understanding their resolve to make some real changes in how this country is governed."
Attention focused as well on Mulvaney, an Indian Land Republican, because his defeat of Democratic incumbent John Spratt made him one of three challengers to defeat House committee chairmen.
Mulvaney, a former state senator who has a bachelor's degree in international economics from Georgetown University, nabbed a seat on the House Budget Committee, which Spratt chaired for the last four years of his tenure.
"To the extent more people might know who I am because of who I beat, that's a little bit helpful," Mulvaney said. "But pretty soon all this stuff from the election is going to fall away, and we're going to get down to the business at hand."
Mulvaney was reading a 400-page federal economic analysis provided him by new House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
"Most people think of economics as the dreadful science, but it's what I studied, so I'm fascinated by this stuff," Mulvaney said.
Mulvaney's defeat of Spratt left Rep. Jim Clyburn of Columbia as the only Democrat among South Carolina's six U.S. House members, with Rep. Joe Wilson of Lexington the sole Republican veteran.
"My top three priorities for the 112th Congress are jobs, more jobs and many more jobs," Clyburn said.
Clyburn and Scott give South Carolina two African-American representatives in Congress for the first time.
Scott and Rep. Allen West of Florida are the first two black Republican House members from the South since Reconstruction.
The Washington Post on Wednesday named Scott and West as two of seven incoming lawmakers, from the House freshman class of 96, most likely to become political stars.
"If the definition of a star is making sure you serve your constituents in a way that meets their needs, that's good," Scott said. "Stars don't produce victories — teams do. My hope is to be part of a team."
Scott's mother, two brothers, an aunt, a nephew, several cousins and various friends were among 75 people on hand from South Carolina for the festivities.
"I'm very excited and happy," said Frances Scott, the new congressman's mother. "This is an awesome day. It's a beautiful day — a very blessed day."