SC HOUSE SANFORD 5 (copy) (copy)

U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C. File/Stephen Morton/The New York Times

Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford said Monday he plans to vote for the GOP tax plan despite his opposition to a provision that will green-light drilling for oil in federally protected land in Alaska.

The House is expected to vote Tuesday on the final Republican plan to overhaul the U.S. tax code for the first time in three decades. Within the 1,097-page bill is language that would allow for an oil and gas leasing program in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR.

While the bill seeks to lower the corporate tax rate to 21 percent and repeals the individual health care mandate, if passed it would end 57 years of federal protection for the 19.3 million acres covering Alaska's North Slope.

The refuge, which is approximately the size of South Carolina, is also the largest national wildlife refuge in the United States, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"I'm disappointed," Sanford, R-S.C., said Monday. "It's a classic case of buying votes at the end of one of these, you know, countdowns."

Sanford described the provision as a bartering tool for Republicans to "trade this marble for that marble, to pick up a vote."

The Republican vote Sanford said this provision courts is that of Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski. 

Murkowksi proved herself to be a key swing vote for Republicans during the recent health care debate. She also sat on the conference committee responsible for ironing out the details between the House and Senate versions of the tax bill.

Murkowski insists that drilling can be done safely while also ensuring a steady energy supply for West Coast refineries.

Over the weekend, Sanford penned an op-ed in The Hill with David Yarnold, president and CEO of the National Audubon Society. In the piece, the two argued the provision not only goes against conservative values but that drilling in the ANWR would not raise the projected $1 billion in 10 years it claims.

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The two candidates vying to replace Sanford in Congress next year sidestepped the drilling provision when asked about it Monday.

Republican state Rep. Katie Arrington of Summerville and Charleston Democrat Joe Cunningham instead spoke to broader stances they had on the bill.

"South Carolina workers, families and job creators deserve the opportunity to succeed without being punished for their hard work by Washington politicians and their antiquated tax code," Arrington said in a statement.

Cunningham said he is against the plan.

"I oppose this bill because it adds over $1 trillion to the deficit and raises taxes on the middle class. If the same wealthy donors had tried to push this scam in 1994, Mark Sanford would have raised hell. Today, he just raises PAC money. We deserve so much better than this," Cunningham said in a statement as well.

President Donald Trump told Republicans he wants to see a tax bill on his desk by Christmas.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.