Apr 23 2009

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), one of the strongest supporters of nuclear energy in the Senate, today introduced legislation S. 861, ‘Rebating America’s Deposits Act.’

 

Electric utilities have been paying into the Nuclear Waste Trust Fund to construct and operate a permanent federal nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.  The utilities have been charging their costumers a monthly fee in each electricity bill to make these payments.  Through 2008, South Carolina residents alone have already contributed more than $1.2 billion to the fund, which has collected a total of more than $30 billion in fees. 

 

The legislation introduced by Graham would rebate these monies back to electric utilities and consumers.  Seventy-five percent of the amount rebated to utilities would be returned to their customers and the remaining portion will be used to make upgrades to on-site storage facilities.

 

Additionally, the legislation authorizes payments to states currently housing defense nuclear waste scheduled to be transferred to Yucca Mountain.  These payments begin in 2017, the date in which Yucca Mountain was to set to receive shipments of defense nuclear waste.

 

“No one should be required to pay for an empty hole in the Nevada desert,” said Graham.  “The decision by the Obama Administration to close Yucca Mountain was ill-advised and leaves our nation without a disposal plan for spent nuclear fuel or Cold War waste.  It was a political, not scientific, decision.  It is incumbent on the Administration to come up with a disposal plan for this real problem facing our nation.”

 

The major provisions of the Graham legislation include: 

 

  •  Presidential Certification:  The Department of Energy has spent billions of dollars and decades studying the suitability of Yucca Mountain as the nation’s repository for spent nuclear fuel and defense waste.  Consistently, the science has borne out that Yucca Mountain is the best site to dispose of nuclear waste.  Within 30 days of passage, the President must certify that Yucca Mountain remains the preferred choice to serve as the federal repository for spent nuclear fuel and defense-related nuclear waste.
  • Failure to Certify Leads to Rebates:  If the President fails to make the above certification, or revokes the certification at a later date, all funds currently in the Nuclear Waste Trust Fund shall be rebated back to the utilities.  Seventy-five percent of the amount rebated to utilities would be returned to their customers and the remaining money will be used to make security and storage upgrades at existing nuclear power plants.
  •  Defense Waste:  Currently, there is at least 12,800 metric tons of defense-related waste at nuclear weapons complex facilities around the country.  Unlike commercial spent fuel, this waste has no potential future defense or civilian uses.  In many states, the accumulated waste poses the largest potential public health threat.  In order to help mitigate the risk associated with the indefinite storage of defense waste, the legislation authorizes payments of up to $100 million per year if defense waste has not begun to have left the states by 2017. 
  • Waste Confidence:  In order to continue to renew or issue licenses for civilian nuclear power plants, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) must have reasonable confidence that the waste will be disposed of safely.  The legislation includes waste confidence language that allows for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to continue to license nuclear reactors in the event the Presidential certification is not made. 

“Our nation needs real options as a result of the uncertainty created by the Obama Administration’s change in policy,” said Graham.  “I will push this legislation forward and hope to have a vote on it soon.”

 

Co-sponsors of the legislation include Senators Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), Mel Martinez (R-Florida), and John McCain (R-Arizona)

 

 #####

Apr 22 2009

WASHINGTON ­– U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), John McCain (R-Arizona), and Joseph Lieberman (ID-Connecticut) today sent the following letter to President Obama strongly urging him not to prosecute government officials who provided legal advice related to detainee interrogations, and to move forward in a constructive fashion to address the significant challenges our country faces on the detainee issue:   

“We write with concern about proposals to prosecute previous administration officials for their legal analysis related to the CIA interrogation program.  Pursuing such prosecutions would, we believe, have serious negative effects on the candor with which officials in any administration provide their best advice, and would take our country in a backward-looking direction at a time when our detainee-related challenges demand that we look forward.

“We agree with your position that CIA interrogators, carrying out operations that had been deemed lawful by the Attorney General, should not be the subject of prosecution.  Indeed, we addressed such a possibility in the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, which holds that “good faith reliance on advice of counsel should be an important factor, among others,” when considering whether CIA interrogators had good reason to believe that their activities were legal. 

“We disagree, however, with Administration statements suggesting that the lawyers who provided such counsel may now be open to prosecution.  Some of the legal analysis included in the OLC memos released last week was, we believe, deeply flawed.  We have also strongly opposed the overly coercive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, that these memos deemed legal.  We do not believe, however, that legal analysis should be criminalized, as proposals to prosecute government lawyers suggest.  Moving in such a direction would have a deeply chilling effect on the ability of lawyers in any administration to provide their client – the U.S. Government – with their best legal advice.  Providing poor legal advice is always undesirable, and the Department of Justice is currently conducting an internal ethics review of the OLC memos, but that is a quite a different matter from making legal advice with which we may disagree into a crime. 

 “Given the great challenges that face our country in dealing with detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay, Bagram Airfield, and elsewhere, along with detainees that will undoubtedly fall into U.S. custody as the result of future operations, we have every interest in looking forward to solutions, not backward to recriminations.  That is why we do not support the idea of a commission that would focus on the mistakes of the past. “As you have made clear, we are a nation at war.  Appreciating that reality, we look forward to working with you on the panoply of detainee issues, ranging from interrogation standards to the disposition of detainee cases, which will engage our country going forward.  In the interest of national security, it is the future, rather than the past, on which we believe America’s gaze must be fixed.” 

###

Apr 21 2009

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement on the nomination of Chris Hill as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.  Graham voted against the nominee. 

“I believe our nation would have been better served appointing someone who has experience in the region, speaks the language and has experience dealing with the key players.  Former Ambassador Ryan Crocker spent his career studying and working in the Arab world.  He spoke the language, understood the history, and knew the culture.  Our success in Iraq is due in large part to the close partnership of Ambassador Crocker and our military commanders.   

“I respect Chris Hill but I do not believe he is the best fit for this most important assignment.” 

#####

Apr 16 2009

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement on the decision by the Obama Administration to not prosecute CIA officers who were authorized to use harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects. 

 

Graham is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Armed Services Committee.

 

“I support the Administration’s decision to look ahead, not back.  President Obama’s decision to not seek retroactive prosecution of these agents, who were following approved procedures and guidelines, is in the best interests of our nation. 

 

“During the time periods in question, the Geneva Convention did not apply to terrorist detainees and the war crimes statute was so ill-designed that it could not be used for prosecution.  Over the objections of the Bush administration, Congress began to address the gaps in our interrogation laws through the passage of the McCain Amendment in 2005 which prohibited cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.  The Military Commission Act in 2006 further clarified our war crimes laws.  We now have in place a very robust war crimes statute that provides adequate notice to all federal agencies as to what constitutes lawful interrogation.

 

“Water boarding is clearly a violation of current law and in my opinion, constitutes torture.  However, during the time periods in question there was no such clear guidance and the agents were following orders and procedures approved by the appropriate authorities.  As such, these agents should not face prosecution.

 

“To apply current laws retroactively, or to hold CIA agents accountable for following orders from the appropriate authorities, would be unfair and serve no higher purpose. 

 

“Let it be clear that as our nation goes forward, we have new rules and policies in place.  They clearly prohibit water boarding and other techniques that constitute a violation of Common Article III of the Geneva Convention which now applies as well as a newly passed war crimes statute.  These changes in the law are necessary to restore our standing as a nation and to give clear and concise guidance to those who are tasked with fighting this war.” 

 #####

Apr 02 2009

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham’s (R-South Carolina) amendment to the Senate budget resolution protecting middle class taxpayers from legislation increasing the cost of energy passed the Senate today 65 – 33.

 

“The climate change proposal in the President’s budget would create a massive tax increase on every American,” said Graham. “We can deal with climate change without imposing a $3,000 per household energy tax on the families of America that are already having a hard time paying the bills.”

 

Graham noted the President’s climate plan disproportionately hurts the middle class by imposing heavy costs on manufacturers and businesses in states that rely on coal to provide electricity.

 

The Graham amendment creates a budget point of order requiring 60 votes to pass any piece of legislation that would impose an energy tax on individuals making less than $200,000 per year or families making less than $250,000 by increasing the cost of producing, generating, or consuming energy.

 

A vote on final passage of the budget is expected in the Senate late tonight.

 

####

Apr 02 2009

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement after U.S. District Court Judge John Bates this morning cleared the way for three detainees held at United States military prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to challenge their confinement in federal court.  The opinion bestowed upon the detainees the constitutional right of habeas corpus.

 

Graham said:

 

“This ruling is stunning in the precedent it sets for a nation at war.  Never in our nation’s history has a court bestowed habeas rights on enemy combatants being held by our military in a foreign country where battles are still raging.   Never.

 

“These detainees have been given the due process required under the Geneva Conventions and international law and have been found to be combatants in the global War on Terror.  The judge’s rationale that these individuals were not captured in Afghanistan so they are not part of the battle is both dangerous and naive.  The judge obviously does not appreciate the global nature of this conflict; however, the enemy clearly does.  Using this logic in World War II would not have allowed us to capture Nazi operatives anywhere but in Germany.

 

“This decision allows federal judges to micromanage foreign battles and the detention of the fighters our troops have captured in battle.  I cannot think of a more dangerous concept than a federal judge thousands of miles away in the U.S. being able to micromanage military decisions about fighting enemy forces in foreign lands. 

 

“We have thousands of brave young men and women who continue to volunteer their time, service, and lives in defense of our nation’s interests.  We appreciate their service but I fear this decision will make the already difficult task they face even harder.  As our troops continue to fight a vicious enemy in distant lands, the judge now sets in motion a process that will make the job of our forces even more difficult than it already is.

 

“I strongly encourage the Obama Administration to come out firmly against this decision.”

 

######

Apr 01 2009

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement after the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Peter Orszag provided clarification on how the federal government will provide funding to states from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.

Graham had written to OMB on March 18 seeking clarification on whether the state legislature could request the $700 million in education funding if the governor refused to do so.  He also raised 10th Amendment constitutional concerns regarding the legal authority to bypass the governor of a state.

In their response, OMB made clear the governor – not the state legislature -- has the sole authority to submit an application for State Fiscal Stabilization funding:

“…for a State to access its allocation of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, the Governor must submit an application to the Secretary of Education, and there currently is no provision in the Recovery Act for a State legislature to make such an application in lieu of the Governor for a State’s allocation of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.”

Graham said:

“OMB’s opinion is in line with what I believe to be the correct interpretation of the law.  I appreciate their response as it will provide clarity and guidance to the state legislature and governor as they continue working on the state budget. 

“I voted against the stimulus package because it was too large, unfocused, created too much debt and too few jobs.  However, the choice for South Carolina now is whether to accept the stabilization funding or see the money go to another state. 

“We can refuse to accept it, but we cannot refuse to pay it back.  Based on that dilemma, I believe it is in South Carolina’s best interests to apply for these funds.  They will do some good. 

“The letter did not address my constitutional concerns which I think are real and will not be fixed by a mere change in the statute.  Regardless of one’s opinion about the provision’s constitutionality, the Congress will not be able to fix this problem by Friday and allow the state legislature to apply for the funding.  Also, it is unlikely other states would want to pass a legislative fix that would assist South Carolina.  By doing nothing, other states increase the chances they will receive a portion of the funding originally directed to our state. 

“The Governor has legitimate concerns about our state’s long-term debt and the burden we are passing along to future generations.  The legislature has equally legitimate concerns about the impact the deep recession is having on our state, which is second in the nation in unemployment, and how further budget cuts will affect education. 

“Time is of the essence and I am hopeful the governor and legislature can find a compromise which addresses the needs of both current and future generations of South Carolinians.  It is my hope a win-win solution which addresses our state’s needs today while building a solid foundation for future generations can be achieved.”

#####

Click here for a copy of OMB Director Peter Orszag's letter.

Mar 27 2009

WASHINGTON U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement in response to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan planning to reprogram education funding from the stimulus legislation even if the Governor and state legislature do not request the funds.  

Graham said:

"I was shocked by the statements made by the Secretary of Education that he would find a way to spend the $700 million in South Carolina regardless of the requirements of the statute or whether the state requested the funding.

"I appreciate and share his concern for the children of South Carolina. However, federal officials cannot obligate money based on a perceived moral obligation. We are a nation of laws, not individual whims. I cannot think of a more dangerous precedent to be set than allowing an unelected Cabinet Secretary, a federal bureaucrat, to hand out government funds based upon their feelings and not the law.

"The Secretary’s pushing forward with this radical line of thinking would destroy the concept of the Rule of Law, the role of elected officials, and the principles of federalism which have served our nation well for over 200 years. I encourage the Obama Administration to immediately reject this approach. I hope these comments will be written off as just mindless chatter and not a radical new approach to the role and power of the federal government.

"I voted against the stimulus package because it was too large and created too much government. However, I do believe it is in South Carolina’s best interests for the Governor to accept the funding as it will do some good. If South Carolina does not accept the funding, it will go to another state and future generations of South Carolinian will still be obligated to pay it back.

"Additionally, in light of today’s unemployment figures and recent budget projections it will be very difficult for the General Assembly to meet all our state’s obligations. This is clearly a rainy day for South Carolina and these funds can be helpful in our current budget situation.

"Finally, the legal process through which these funds are administered is very important. The process and procedures used will be around long after these funds are spent."

######

Mar 26 2009

WASHINGTON U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement after voting against the Senate Democratic budget proposal. The proposal was passed through the Senate Budget Committee yesterday by a vote of 13-10.

"Former President Bush and the Republican Congress were rightfully criticized for spending too much. But compared to this budget, George Bush looks like Scrooge.

"The Senate Democratic budget, which by OMB Director Peter Orszag’s own estimate is 98 percent identical to President Obama’s proposal, missed the mark. It is irresponsible. The Democratic budget imposes $80,000 of debt on every American family by 2011. It raises taxes at a time when we are trying to get our economy back on track. And we increase social spending exponentially and decrease military spending at a time when the world is more dangerous, not less.

"The Republican Party did not live up to expectations when it came to spending taxpayer dollars. Americans were rightfully disappointed in our actions. But yesterday we witnessed the Democratic budget taking our national debt to new, unsustainable levels.

"The Democratic budget proposal makes it virtually impossible for future generations to enjoy the same standard of living as their parents and grandparents. The American people want change but I fear the Senate Democratic and President Obama budget is change our nation simply cannot afford."

####

Mar 24 2009

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), who serves on the Senate Budget Committee and Senate Armed Services Committee, criticized President Obama’s proposed budget and its affect on national security.  On Friday, Graham expressed concern about the Obama budget after a Congressional Budge Office analysis of the legislation showed it creating trillion dollar yearly deficits.

“I think the first job of any federal politician, particularly the President as Commander in Chief, is to secure the nation, “said Graham.  “This is not the time to go cheap on defense. The intelligence reports we receive show a growing threat from Iran, new engagements in Afghanistan; and a mission in Iraq that is not yet complete.  There is no peace dividend to be had until there is peace. 

Graham noted that over the last 20 years the average spending on national defense, as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been about 4 percent.  When the supplemental spending bills covering operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are added it goes to about 4.5 percent this year.

The Obama budget proposes a reduction in defense spending so that by 2019 our nation only spends 3 percent of GDP on defense.

“When you try to figure out where a political leader really stands -- rhetoric versus reality -- one of the documents I would look at is the budget,” said Graham.  “If you asked a politician to write a budget, it would tell you a lot about what that political leader thought about where the country was and what priorities they would pursue.  Unfortunately, in the Obama budget, I think they've taken a very reckless view of national defense.”

“The interest on the national debt in 2019 will be $806 billion,” said Graham.  “Spending on national defense will be $720 billion.  Ten years from now, under this budget, we're going to spend more on interest on our national debt than we will be on our entire Defense Department.

“I hope the American people will understand that in this guns and butter debate that we've had for a long time in this country, that this budget is really heavy on butter and short on guns,” concluded Graham.

#####