CHARLESTON, South Carolina - A committee of South Carolina lawmakers voted on Wednesday to censure Republican Governor Mark Sanford, whose political career was tarnished by a sex scandal, but it rejected recommending his impeachment.

By 18 to 6 votes, the South Carolina House of Representatives full judiciary committee discarded impeachment proposals by some lawmakers against Sanford, who has resisted calls to resign since he admitted an extra-marital affair.

The committee approved a motion recommending censure for abuse of power by 24-0 votes, but the rebuke still requires approval from a majority in the state House and Senate.

Sanford, at one time a rising star in the Republican Party, saw his political fortunes tumble when he admitted in the summer that he had an affair with an Argentine businesswoman. His wife, Jenny, filed for divorce last week.

The governor, who will begin his last year in office in January, faces civil misconduct charges, including allegations that he used taxpayer money to fly business class when he should have been in coach, used state planes for personal travel and campaign funds for personal expenses.

In a tearful public confession in June, Sanford admitted to his affair a week after a mysterious disappearance, when his staff said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. He later said he had flown to Argentina to visit his lover.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman James H. Harrison said the governor misled members of his staff, but he added that the committee had very limited grounds for recommending impeachment.

During the committee session, Democratic Representative James Smith sharply criticized Sanford's performance as governor of the southeastern state, citing deep budget cuts and unemployment running at over 12 percent.

Another Democrat, Representative Todd Rutherford, called fellow committee members idiots for not recommending the governor's impeachment.

In a statement, Sanford welcomed the vote against his impeachment and said he was ready to work with the legislature to tackle the state's jobless rate and financial problems.

Last week, the state legislative judiciary subcommittee had ruled that Sanford's action did not meet the constitutional standard of serious misconduct.

Nevertheless, the governor still faces fines for abuse of power on charges brought by the state ethics commission.

Sanford was a prominent opponent of President Barack Obama's economic stimulus bill that sought to boost the recession-hit U.S. economy. He rejected $700 million of stimulus funds for his state.

(Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Anthony Boadle)