Sanford casts no votes on veteran-related bills

Earlier this week, two bills focused on the rights and benefits afforded to veterans passed the U.S. House of Representatives.


Earlier this week, two bills focused on the rights and benefits afforded to veterans passed the U.S. House of Representatives.

U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, a Republican who represents South Carolina's First District, voted "no" on both bills. Afterward, he took to the blog on his official web page (http://sanford.house.gov/) to explain why.

The first bill, the Fairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment Act, passed 285-138 and would give veterans a portion of the federal highway funds that are currently set aside for small business funding (the other demographics for which the bill provides are women and racial or ethnic minorities).

"At first glance, I planned to vote yes because veterans deserve privilege given the risks they have taken on our behalf," Sanford wrote. "They should get the benefits they need and be given a fair shake when they get back to civilian life. The least a society can do to honor their sacrifice comes in supporting them when they get home."

But when Sanford spoke to veterans about the bill, they weren't sure the bill was "the best way of honoring their services."

"I have always been leery of set-asides for specific populations for the way they can raise the cost to all taxpayers, and they reminded me of all I have said in the past on this front," Sanford said. "Affirmative action efforts oftentimes end up amounting to political earmarks, whose costs are not borne by the political class dedicating them but by regular folks paying taxes each day."

The second bill would mandate the hiring and training of veterans to work on curation and preservation projects overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers.

"To a great degree, it fell in the same category as the bill before it with reasoning that said veterans are good, so this government program to allegedly help veterans must be good too," Sanford wrote. "No one wants to be perceived as voting against veterans, so bills like this do not get the debate and consideration they deserve."

Sanford pointed out the program, which has been in existence since 2009, costs $4.5 million annually. To date, 210 veterans have received assistance through the initiative, which means $170,000 has been spent to help each of them.

"I suspect if you gave veterans a choice between spending time dusting artifacts and a check for $170,000, many of them would take the check," Sanford said. "Do we really want government in the business of creating jobs that cost $170,000 a veteran as the way in which we help veterans? Are there not more efficient ways of helping a disabled veteran? With that in mind, I voted no, but the bill passed 422-3."

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