In the News
MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Voters in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee had a choice in 2012 to elect the first US representative from newly created District 7 - and voters chose Tom Rice.
WMBF News Reporter Will Whitson: If someone had approached you five years ago and said 'You're going to be a US Congressman, what would you have said?What has he actually done since taking office in January 2013? Will Whitson followed Congressman Rice through a day in the life of a representative to check on his promises versus his progress.
Rep. Tom Rice: I would have said no chance.
But shortly after being elected as Horry County Council Chairman, Rice was campaigning to be South Carolina's first congressman from the 7th Congressional District.
Our day with Congressman Rice begins just before 8:30 a.m. His team's getting the office ready. Rice comes in a little before 9 a.m. and immediately heads to a meeting deep below the actual Capitol building.
"This is underneath the Cannon Rotunda right here. This is a Republican conference we're heading to; there's about 230 Republicans in Congress," Rice directs.
Thirty-four of those Republicans Congressmen - like Tom Rice - are new to Washington.
Will Whitson: Was this a departure from County Council?
Rep. Tom Rice: Oh my goodness, this was absolutely overwhelming for months.
Now Congressman Rice walks these halls with a friendly but aggressive attitude.
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania) comments, "He's done a great job. He's hit the ground running as a freshman.
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-House Majority Leader) admits that his peers "Really, really have a lot of respect for the way Tom comports himself."
Rice made his way to Capitol Hill with three major talking points in his 2012 campaign - Interstate 73, the Georgetown port, and "jobs, jobs, jobs."
There have been a handful of major jobs announcements in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee in recent months like gunmakers PTR Industries, B3C Fuel Solutions, and Startek.
But the rivers that converge in the Winyah Bay where the Port of Georgetown sits still isn't dredged, and I-73 isn't here yet. "Let me start out by saying nothing happens overnight. There are a lot of big burdens that have to be overcome," the congressman says.
When the steel mill first closed down, big ships stopped coming in, and dirt and silt settled at the river bottom, clogging the shipping lanes.
Now the mill's back open, but big ships can't come in. Under current federal laws, the government can't fund a project to dredge and clear out the silt unless big ships are already coming into the port.
"He was very instrumental in the passage of our Water Resources Reform and Development Act," Chairman Shuster says.
"It allows the Georgetown Port to access that Harbor Maintenance trust fund, and Chairman Shuster has told me he will go with me to the Army Corps of Engineers and help me make the case for the Georgetown Port," Rice confirms. "First thing we worked on was 31 and 707, now we're moving onto I-73. We take it step-by-step. We have a checklist of things we need to get done."
Will Whitson: Where are you on that checklist?
Rep. Tom Rice: We're honing in. Hopefully we'll have that permit in the next few months."
So while we may not see a physical end result - I-73 and a working port in Georgetown - Congressman Rice says we're a lot closer than you think. "I feel we've come a remarkable distance in my one year in Congress."
But campaign promises are just one part of the job. Another big part? The meetings: meetings with other congressmen, meetings with Horry County leaders, and of course, meetings with the press.
Sometimes the topic of those meetings is Rep. Rice's STOP Resolution.
The STOP Resolution is Congressman Rice's take on the Executive Branch. It stands for 'Stop This Overreaching Presidency.' Almost 100 other Republicans have signed on to cosponsor the bill, and if it passes, it means President Obama could be facing a civil suit.
"When the President gets up and says 'I'm not gonna wait on Congress to approve my agenda, I'm going to approve it whether they like it or not,' that angers people. What can we do short of impeachment?" Rep. Rice asks.
On his congressional website, Rep Rice cites presidential mandates like the waiver of welfare work requirements and a one year extension of insurance policies deemed 'substandard' as his grounds for the resolution, which still hasn't seen a vote.
"The STOP resolution is not my primary focus here. My primary focus is bringing jobs to this country and our district" Rep. Rice says.
We're halfway through Congressman Rice's first term. He's got to fight for his seat again this November. He promised a road, a port, and jobs to the voters, and he says his goals aren't far out of reach. If he were a student, he'd be one semester down.
Will Whitson: What grade would you give yourself in the year you've had so far, going into this year?
Rep. Tom Rice: I feel very good about it. I'm gonna let the constituents decide what grade I'm going to have.
Congressman Rice has a little space to catch his breath. March 15 is the deadline to file as a candidate in the primary election, and no Republican opponents have stepped forward. Only one Democratic opponent is in the running so far - Gloria Bromell Tinubu. She lost to Rice in 2012.
Congressman Rice says he's leaving his grade up to the voters. Check out the poll in attached to this story and cast your vote on the grade you think Representative Tom Rice deserves.
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