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S.C. bill aims at keeping the Senate in GOP hands

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A Republican lawmaker has introduced a bill that would guarantee GOP control of the U.S. Senate should 98-year-old Sen. Strom Thurmond not be able to finish his term.

The measure would require the South Carolina governor to fill Senate vacancies with a person of the same party as the previous senator. Thurmond is a Republican; Gov. Jim Hodges is a Democrat.

If Thurmond couldn't finish his term that ends in 2003, Hodges could appoint a Democrat and break the 50-50 Senate split. Republicans control the Senate because Vice President Dick Cheney casts the tie-breaking vote.

Hodges has refused to commit to appointing a Democrat, saying only it would be someone who would not run for re-election to a full term. Again Thursday, he would not discuss the issue.