News broke late Wednesday afternoon that a confirmation hearing for South Carolina state representative Bobby Cox to become the inaugural director of the newly created S.C. Department of Veterans Affairs (SCDVA) had been postponed. According to multiple sources in the S.C. Senate – which is responsible for approving Cox’s nomination – the delay was due to paperwork issues in the office of S.C. governor Henry McMaster, who tapped Cox for the position last month (and has been encouraging him to resign his House seat prior to his confirmation).
It is a good thing Cox did not listen to McMaster.
Sources familiar with the situation tell us a “serious issue” has arisen in relation to Cox’s nomination – one which is likely to keep him from ascending to this cabinet-level post anytime soon.
That would be a body blow to McMaster, who hailed Cox during his 2020 State of the State speech – delivered just last week.
“We must ensure that our veterans – and their dependents – receive the benefits and services that they have earned over a lifetime of protecting our country and that they have the opportunity to utilize their talents in the civilian workforce,” McMaster said. “I was proud to work with the General Assembly to support legislation creating the South Carolina Department of Veterans’ Affairs to be led by a secretary to act as their advocate on the state and federal level.”
“That man is here tonight: a top graduate of The Citadel with four combat tours in Iraq and service in the South Carolina House of Representatives,” McMaster said, acknowledging Cox and his family – who stood to thunderous applause from the lawmakers’ colleagues.
Now, Cox is the second cabinet nominee facing headwinds – following a recent delay in the confirmation of Reggie Burgess, his nominee to lead the S.C. Department of Public Safety (SCDPS).
To be clear: The problem is not with Cox, a 39-year-old lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and former Ranger who served four tours in Iraq (where he won the Bronze Star, among other honors). An emerging leader in the S.C. House, Cox is universally regarded as a perfect fit to lead this new agency – which was created by Act 26 of 2019.
(Click to view)
(Via: Bobby Cox for S.C. House)
According to sources familiar with the situation, several staffers in the S.C. Senate have raised an issue related to Cox’s eligibility. Specifically, they have found a provision of state law forbidding members of the S.C. General Assembly from taking the reins of a state agency created during the same term as their tenure in the legislature.
Cox was elected to S.C. House District 21 (.pdf) in 2018, thrashing incumbent Republican Phyllis Henderson by a nearly two-to-one margin in the GOP primary that year prior to running unopposed in the general election.
The text of that provision (§ 2-1-100) is as follows …
No Senator or Representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, be elected by the General Assembly or appointed by any executive authority to any civil office under the dominion of this State which shall have been created during the time for which such Senator or Representative was elected to serve in the General Assembly.
Amid concern over this statutory provision, efforts were reportedly made to install Cox on an interim basis pending a more formal appointment next year – when he would no longer be a state lawmaker (and the restriction would thus no longer apply). However, we are told senators were leery of such an interim appointment – fearing it might invite another fiasco like the one involving former state representative Mike Pitts.
Last spring, Pitts was forced to withdraw his name from consideration as the nominee to lead the S.C. Conservation Bank after Senators questioned the ethics of his appointment.
Pitts resigned from the S.C. House of Representatives for the expressed purpose of taking the six-figure position.
Cox was also preparing to resign his House seat, we are told – and reportedly received repeated requests from McMaster’s administration that he do so.
Again, it appears as though it was a good thing he didn’t listen.
This news outlet has reached out to S.C. Senate staff – and to Cox – in the hopes of gaining additional clarity on the matter.
Stay tuned for more …
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