U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford was … and is … a reliable pro-free market, pro-liberty vote in the U.S. Congress. One of the few, actually.  So this website cuts him a fair amount of slack because we know he’s almost always going to vote the right way.

But Sanford has also proven to have a weak spot when it comes to taxpayer-subsidized travel … something we thought he’d have learned his lesson on by now.

Apparently not …

Courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer, Sanford and his son Bolton took a trip to China last week – a boondoggle that featured seven other lawmakers and their “plus ones,” including U.S. Rep. Tom Rice and his wife, Wrenzie Rice.

Ostensibly, the delegation is traveling to study China’s port and transportation infrastructure – which strikes us as a pretty thin rationalization.

It’s no surprise that Rice would participate in such a boondoggle – and bring his wife along with him.  He’s been one of the most fiscally liberal “Republicans” in Washington, D.C. –  just as we predicted he would be.

But Sanford?  Surely he knows that trips like this are precisely the sort of thing that (justifiably) outrage America’s tapped out taxpayers – even if they are but drops in the bucket of the federal government’s Everest-sized mountain of debt.

There’s a case to be made (a weak one) that lawmakers should be permitted to travel abroad on government-subsidized “fact-finding” missions like this.  But in no universe should we be forced to shell out airfare, accommodations or any other travel-related expense for a politicians’ wife or other family member.

That’s simply indefensible … although it’s standard operating procedure at the state level, too.

Accordingly, we would call on Sanford and Rice to reimburse taxpayers for any expenses incurred by their relatives on these trips.  We would also call on the U.S. Congress to stop the practice of subsidizing travel for relatives of politicians.