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'This Bill Was Atrocious': Rep. Mark Sanford On Spending Bill


And we've got a bipartisan budget deal this week - hundreds of billions of dollars more in federal spending for the military, domestic programs and disaster relief - passed with Republican and Democratic votes. This House Republican though voted no. South Carolina Congressman Mark Sanford wrote on Facebook if you care about spending and the long-term viability of the way that we spend as a civilization, the bill was atrocious. Congressman Mark Sanford joins us now. Mr. Sanford, thanks so much for being back with us.

MARK SANFORD: My pleasure.

SIMON: And we will get to civilization being in danger, I assure you. But first question - you just heard our interview with our Justice Department correspondent. Is it a good or bad decision not to release the Democratic memo?

SANFORD: I think it's a mistake. I've read the memo. And, again, our entire society is based on, you know, counterpoints. You think this. I think that. And the Socratic process is that the truth falls out as you go through that back and forth. I think it's a mistake not to release.

SIMON: I have to tell you, you're one of the first public officials I've heard quote the Socratic process. I will mark that - which raises the question that you raise, why does this budget deal put civilization in danger?

SANFORD: Because I don't think that financial security should be, you know, a required sacrifice on the altar of military security. I think that if you look at the history of civilizations - Paul Kennedy wrote a fascinating book years ago entitled "The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers." And in it, he talks about how economic supremacy has always been the precursor to military supremacy - that you cannot have one without the other. And so what you see here is an opening of the floodgates - if you want to call it that - with regard to spending that's unsustainable. And unsustainable spending, as was noted by Admiral Mike Mullen, you know, a military leader, is ultimately the biggest threat - he argued - the biggest threat to our nation's security. You know, when asked what's the biggest threat, he says not the Taliban, not the Chinese, not the Russians. His answer was the American debt.

SIMON: Well, there was a time when your party, the Republican Party, was known as a bunch of deficit hawks. How and why did that end?

SANFORD: Well, I hope it hasn't ended. There are some folks that are going to be vigorously descending - and not only on that vote that we took two nights ago, but I think going forward. But you raise a great point. I think we're in an inflection point in terms of where we go as a party. I mean, historically, financial conservativism was a pillar if you will of the Republican Party. What's interesting about this budget is it is 13 percent higher than what President Obama had proposed in his own budget. So there's, you know, a disconnect there. In fact, if you go back to the Ryan-Murray deal of 2013 or the Boehner-Obama deal of 2015, we're looking at a budget deal now that's basically four or five times larger. And what's interesting about those past budget deals was, I mean, literally, the - Boehner arguably lost his speakership over one of those budget deals. Republicans and conservatives decried those budget deals. And yet, we have a budget deal now five times larger. I think we're at a real inflection point as a party.

SIMON: Republicans have promised a debate on immigration and the future if there is one of the DACA program. Do you believe that's going to happen? Is it important?

SANFORD: Yeah, I think that's what's next. You're going to have debates on DACA and immigration. You're going to have a big debate on transportation. I hope that the debate on spending is not left behind.

SIMON: And I have to ask, Mr. Sanford, you - South Carolina - I believe at one point - as I recall, my statistics had the largest number of people serving in the U.S. military. Your district certainly has a lot of people serving in the military. What are your thoughts on President Trump's call for a military parade?

SANFORD: I'm not particularly big on it because historically - though there are, you know, weekly parades on military bases across our country - big parades, in terms of something down the way in Washington or New York, have come in the wake of World Wars. And that's not the case. So I don't quite understand it. I do think that there are a lot of patriots in South Carolina. I think on a per capita basis, we're way up there in terms of service.

SIMON: South Carolina Representative Mark Sanford, thanks for being with us, sir. Good to talk to you.

SANFORD: My pleasure. Take care, sir.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.