May 06 2008

As far as I can tell, I am the only thing between you and your degree… In 1492, Columbus…  No, we’ll keep it short.

What a great story from the class president… You know what happened to those monkeys? [Reference to story in senior class president’s speech about monkeys.] Three of them went to Congress… to carry on the tradition of doing things without a purpose. And being an Air Force guy, the other guys went with the Navy.

How many people do we have from out of state?

Whoohoo. Henry [Congressman Henry E. Brown, U.S. Representative], we showed up in the wrong place. We are up for re-election this year.

Welcome. Enjoy your time. Spend money.

There is a lot of tradition in this place. I tell you, this has been an emotional morning already. I took Senator Strum Thurmond’s place in the Senate. Have anyone ever heard of him? Yes. A round for Strom.

Senator Hollings was my senior senator. He was for 36 years a junior senator of South Carolina. He was the senior senator for two years. That does not sound quite right, but I wanted to acknowledge his service to our country. A Citadel graduate. My first two years in the senate, he was indispensable to me, showing me the ropes. I spent most of my time interpreting for Senator Hollings. People would come up and say, “What did he say?” And these are Democrats. There is something about Karl Rove and the tax cuts that he doesn’t quite like, but I really enjoyed my time in the senate with Senator Hollings. He is a great graduate of the school and I have followed two legends.

Senator Thurmond served in the Senate until he was 100, the longest serving member of the Senate in our nation’s history. He was elected in 1954. I was born in ’55—the job did not come open a lot, so thanks for letting me have it. He was a member of the military. He served in World War II. To our friends in the class of ’44, Strom was there with you. What you don’t know is that Strom was a sitting judge. Judge Chandler [Retired State Supreme Court Justice A. Lee Chandler and a member of the class of 1944], Strom was a Circuit Court Judge in South Carolina when the war started. He was in his 40s. He had to get a waiver to go serve. He called President Roosevelt to call in a favor, I guess. But they allowed him to go. He landed in D-day, June 6, 1944, in a glider. He fought throughout the European Theater and headed to Japan before they surrendered. Pretty impressive. Right? It gets better.

Fifty years later on the 50th anniversary of the D-day landing, they are getting up a group from Congress go to represent America at the D-day landing. Well, who did they ask to lead the delegation? Senator Thurmond. He was the oldest … he was actually there. So, they write him a letter requesting that he lead the American delegation to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the D-day landing. He writes back, “Honored you asked. Can’t go. Got a kid graduating from high school.”

It’s a tough act to follow.

Now when I stop talking here in the minute, you are going to get your degree—the class of 2008—and you are going be able to say when asked, “Where did you go to school?” Well, I am a Citadel graduate.” Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? People will be impressed. People all over this country and all over this world will know what that phrase means. I am a Citadel graduate. It means to the rest of us that you have a value-based education. Duty, honor, country, military discipline, roll around superior academics. People will be impressed.

A couple of challenges to you: As you go out into the world and deal with some of the monkeys that have made it, don’t let the world change the values that The Citadel has instilled in you. Instead, change the world by applying those values. The world is in desperate need of value-based leadership. To those of you who go in business, follow Mr. Cathy’s [honorary degree recipient] motto. I will drive across town to eat at Chick-fil-A. I am trying to get some free coupons—maybe I will keep talking. But, he has made it as a businessman, and he has given a lot more back than he has made, and I am just honored to be up here with all of the honorees. But if you go into business, pursue the common good, not just the bottom line. Our business community needs ethical leadership now more than ever. So, if you start a business, make sure that business not only serves your family but that it serves a greater purpose. If you have a family, instill into your children a sense of purpose, self-confidence. Instill in them the values that you have learned here. If you will do that, you will never have to worry about your kids. To those who go in public service, serve a cause greater than yourself. That is exactly what The Citadel stands for.

At this time of the year when we have commencement speeches, the speaker is supposed to pass on some wisdom. This is the good news. This will be the very short part of my speech. I don’t have a lot. When you make 800 on the SAT, the only job you can really go into is politics. As you can tell, math is not required in my business, to the young men from Taiwan [the First Honor Graduate]. But one thing I have learned, as you travel through life, walk with God—it will make it an easier journey. That is the one thing I have learned. A lot of people out there will want to knock you down, but God will always lift you up and let you do things you didn’t think you could do by yourself.

Another thing I have learned is don’t forget the ones that love you the most. As you pursue economic, political, and military success, as you get focused on this material world that awaits you, don’t forget the ones that love you the most. When I was a junior in college, my mom died. Fifteen months later, my dad died. You never know what is coming your way. You have lost five people in your class. It can be a tough old world out there, and the sky is the limit for you.

You got opportunity that is unlimited but no matter where you go and no matter how much money you make, on your deathbed, you are not going to be thinking about what is in your bank account. You are going to be thinking about those that mean the most to you—your family and your friends. So, the only wisdom I can give you, is no matter where you go, remember those that love you the most.

Now, this degree is something special, but it is just a piece of paper on the wall if it doesn’t help people. Your degree, ladies and gentlemen, needs to be put into action and if it serves a purpose greater than yourself and someone other than you can benefit from it, then it truly is something of value.

To the class of ’44, it doesn’t seem quite fair that after all these years, your reward is you get to hear me speak. Sorry about that. Very few classes have a speaker that was born 11 years after you were supposed to graduate.

To the gentlemen of the class of ’44, you won a war against tyranny, you defeated the Nazis, the imperial Japan. You were called to duty as young men to go fight the world that seemed to have been going crazy at the time. You made us all safe. Without you, there would be no me. There would be no us. You came back home. You built a strong country, raised great families. To the class of ’44, well done.

And to those who did not make it, that is why we are here today. We are here today to honor them. To the class of 2008, let me talk about your war. How many are going on that duty? God bless you. Sixty-four years later, we are talking about a world at war, a global struggle against the fanatical enemy who believes that there is only one way to worship God and that there is only a limited role for a woman. Sound familiar? What did Adolf Hitler believe? What did Tojo believe? There is something about mankind that seems to be eternal, good and bad. Well, your enemy has the same desires as the enemy of 64 years ago. They like to take over the world and make us all follow them. Well, you know what? We’re not. We’re not going to follow them. You are going to do what the class of ’44 did, you are going to stand up to them and you are going to beat them.

This is a different war. In many ways, it is harder for you than it was with these guys. I know that that is an odd thing to say. Because when they went off to war, the country was united. The world was united. Everybody was in the fight. Well, in your global struggle, we don’t have a united view of things, and that’s okay. This is a democracy. The enemy you are fighting doesn’t have a country to conquer. It doesn’t have a Navy to sink or an Air Force to shoot down. They do not wear uniforms but they are just as vicious and brutal as anybody we fought in World War II, and we’ve got to win. You know why we’ve got to win? Because if we lose, America is in trouble. If we lose to these hate filled religious fanatics and let them acquire nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons, we will never know peace. Just as the class of ’44 had to beat Adolf Hitler for the good of the world, you have to beat the fanatics of our time for the good of the world in America.

And I can tell you, ladies and gentlemen, after 11 visits to Iraq and numerous visits to Afghanistan, we are in good hands. Your contemporaries, people your age are in the fight now and some of you are soon to follow. Make me proud to be an American. You are all a volunteers. Most of us have not suffered much at all in this war but a few of us wearing the uniform have suffered greatly. I have never been more enthusiastic about being an American as I am now because I have met the best of among those. Those in uniform of your generation, of your age and I find them to be the best among us.

So in closing, I am honored to be here to speak to two classes separated by 64 years, different taste in music and movies probably, connected by timeless values of duty, honor, country. Graduates, soon to be graduates of a school with a history of confronting evil and protecting America. To the class of ’44, you are known as the greatest generation. You earned that title.

To the class of 2008, you are a class of destiny because you are inheriting a world at war, for evil roams the globe and much is at stake. How will it end? It will end in your victory because the way evil has been contained since the beginning of time is for good men and women to meet the challenges of their time. That is the way this war will end. It will be the good men and women of the class of 2008 and your comrade in arms throughout the country that would choose to go to far away places with strange sounding names to confront and defeat the evil that faces us all. It is your destiny to protect America from forces that wish her harm. Just as the class of 1944, you are bound in a tradition and united by challenge. I am honored to speak to you today and I know full well that as with the class of 1944, some of you might not come back.

God bless.

 

May 01 2008

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today said he was very pleased Savannah River Site is in line to receive increased funding under the 2008 Defense Authorization bill.

Graham is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  The bill passed committee unanimously and will now be sent to the full Senate.

“With this budget the federal government can live up to the commitments it has made to the state of South Carolina when it comes to cleanup and new missions,” said Graham.  “I’m very pleased with the work of the committee and appreciate the support of my colleagues in recognizing and rewarding the hard work done at the Site.  I will work with appropriators to fund the important work being done at the Site.”

Among the major Site highlights of the legislation:

  • Overall the Site has been authorized to receive funding of $1.28 billion, $74 million above the President’s budget request.
  • Soil and ground water remediation, nuclear facility demolition and deconstruction, and nuclear material stabilization authorized for $573 million, $74 million above the President’s request.
  • Tank cleanup is fully funded at the President’s request of $706 million including $128 million for Salt Waste Processing Facility (SWPF).
  • The MOX program at the Site is authorized to receive $487 million equal to the President’s request.
  • Oversight of the MOX program has been returned to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is recognition of its role as a critical nuclear nonproliferation program and its strategic importance to the national security of the United States.  Last year, oversight of MOX was transferred to DOE’s office of Nuclear Energy which has oversight of commercial nuclear power.
  • The Russian fissile material program will receive an additional $10 million to continue the joint gas reactor technology demonstration program.  The gas reactor is a more efficient burner of excess plutonium than conventional reactors.  The committee also noted that the Russian Government and the U.S. jointly fund this effort and that Russia’s support for this program will exceed the U.S. contribution.

“MOX is and always has been a national security issue,” said Graham.  “Keeping MOX under the national security umbrella will help in our efforts to obtain future funding and begin operation of the MOX facility.  Turning weapons grade plutonium into nuclear fuel is the ultimate example of turning swords into plowshares.  This budget plan makes clear that my colleagues and I who serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee remain strongly committed to the MOX program.”

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May 01 2008

WASHINGTON-  U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Burr (R-NC), and John McCain (R-AZ) officially introduced S. 2938, the Enhancement of Recruitment, Retention, and Readjustment Through Education Act on the Senate floor this week.

The original co-sponsors include Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), John Cornyn (R-TX), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Mel Martinez (R-FL), Ted Stevens (R-AK), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Susan Collins (R-ME), John Barrasso (R-WY), Pete Domenici (R-NM), Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Jim Inhofe (R-OK).

The Graham-Burr-McCain bill enhances the existing Montgomery G.I. Bill by significantly improving education benefits for both service members who choose to leave the military as well as those who decide to make military service their career. The legislation will help more military personnel attend college debt-free, and allow them to transfer their education benefits to their spouse or children.  It also bolsters recruitment and retention efforts, encouraging service members to continue their military careers.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs James Peake have questioned the effectiveness and implementation of an alternative plan sponsored by Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) while expressing support for the key components of the Graham-Burr-McCain bill.

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What They’re Saying about S. 2938

The Enhancement of Recruitment, Retention, and Readjustment Through Education Act


U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)

“It is time we give back to those who have served and continue to serve our nation so valiantly.  I’m proud to be part of this effort to recognize and reward the sacrifices service members and their families are making on behalf of a grateful nation.  Our legislation increases the monthly benefit for active duty and reserve personnel and greatly expands the education benefits available to service members.  For the first time we ensure that all service members will be permitted to transfer their education benefits to their spouses and children -- a much needed and long overdue improvement.”

Graham is the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee and Member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee


U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina)

“The Montgomery G.I. Bill has been one of the best recruiting tools our military has to offer, but an increase in this benefit is long overdue.   This legislation will help more military personnel graduate from college debt-free and also let them transfer their benefits to their children and spouses.  These improvements will help active duty, veterans, Guard, and Reserves reach their educational goals and help our military recruit and retain the best America has to offer.”

Burr is the Ranking Member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee


U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona)

“We have an obligation to provide unwavering support to our nation’s veterans and service members.   Men and women who have served their country deserve the best education benefits we are able to give them, and they deserve to receive them as quickly as possible.  And that is what our legislation is designed to accomplish.  I am pleased to join in sponsoring this legislation which significantly enhances the Montgomery GI bill and promotes recruitment and retention which is critical to an All Volunteer Military.  Their exemplary service to our nation, and the sacrifice of their families, deserves no less.”

McCain is the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee
 

U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas)

“American servicemen and women deserve our greatest respect and support for their selfless dedication and sacrifice.  Improvements in the G.I. Bill, particularly immediate increases in education benefits and significant increases in benefits for members of the National Guard and Reserves, are critical and long overdue.”

Hutchison is the Ranking Member of the Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee and Member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee


U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-North Carolina)

“For many decades, the G.I. Bill has demonstrated America’s commitment and gratitude to those who serve, including veterans like my husband Bob.  Strengthening the G.I Bill will ensure that our military can continue to recruit and retain outstanding men and women to our armed forces and provide the education benefits they richly deserve.”

Dole is the Ranking Member of the Armed Service Subcommittee on Emerging Treats and Capabilities


U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia)

“Our nation has an obligation to our servicemen and women and their families who make the sacrifice every day for freedom and democracy.  I'm pleased to support legislation that will greatly expand educational benefits available to service members.  We need to modernize the G.I. bill so it reflects the today's cost of education and effectively addresses other quality of life issues.”

Chambliss is a member of the Armed Services Committee


U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman (ID- Connecticut)

“This legislation is an important step towards rewarding our service members who continue to serve so bravely during this difficult period.  Our war fighters are not alone in their hardships however, and this new bill recognizes the sacrifices of our military families.  The measure allows education benefits to be transferred to them incrementally, further rewarding continued service.  This addition will not only improve the standard of living for many service members, but will also increase the health of the All-Volunteer Force.  I am also pleased to see the increase in benefits to National Guard and Reserve forces that have not been activated.  These warriors continue to train and stand ready for any emergency that would face our homeland, and also deserve increased benefits.  I hope the Senate will combine the best ideas from the several proposals into a bipartisan legislative consensus to provide these critical benefits to our bravest citizens and their families.”

Lieberman is the Chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Airland


U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas)

“We need to reward both service members who leave the military and those who decide to make the military a career.  Our troops have answered the call of duty and they deserve no less.”

Cornyn is the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Airland


U.S. Senator Mel Martinez (R-Florida)

“Ensuring that our veterans and active military have access to a good education is a top priority.  While increasing the monthly education benefits, this bill goes further in allowing for the transfer of benefits to family members. That step enhances recruitment and retention. I’m also concerned for the families of service men and women. Their sacrifice should also be recognized through additional educational opportunities.”

Martinez is the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower


U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyoming)

“It is our duty as Americans to ensure our brave men and women receive the best possible education benefits.  This bill goes a long way to updating the G.I. bill, and providing service members and veterans the flexibility they need to continue their education.”

Barrasso is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee


U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)

“Having relied on the Montgomery GI Bill myself, I know firsthand how important these benefits are to veterans.  Congress can and should do more to ensure veterans and military members in active duty, reserve, and guard units receive the maximum benefits possible. This bill is a significant step forward because it addresses the increasing cost of higher education, while recognizing the recruiting and retention needs of America’s all-volunteer military force.”

Stevens is the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense


U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico)

“There is greater recognition that the GI Bill must be updated to meet the modern education needs of our veterans and current service members.  There is momentum growing in Congress to finally get this done.  The Graham-Burr-McCain bill is a good plan based on feedback from our current and former troops that implements needed reforms and also helps with recruitment and retention.”

Domenici is a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense


U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi)

“In 1984, Congressman Sonny Montgomery recognized the need that existed among America’s veterans for a more robust GI bill to assist in paying for higher education.  His efforts enabled the GI Bill to continue until today, and I am pleased to be a part of the current effort to ensure that even more veterans are able to receive adequate education benefits.”

Cochran is the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee


U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee)

“The first GI bill was one of the most successful pieces of legislation Congress has ever passed.  Millions of our Greatest Generation’s veterans received an education that improved their lives and helped strengthen our country.  The bill I’m supporting gives us an opportunity to build on that success.  After meeting with military and guard officials in Tennessee to get their input, I’m even more convinced that this legislation to update the GI bill is fair to our state’s veterans and will support military retention.  Importantly, this bill will ensure that Tennesseans receive the same education benefits as veterans in other states.”

Alexander is the Republican Conference Chairman

 

What They’re Saying About S. 22, the Webb G.I. Bill


Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

“Our first objective is to strengthen the All-Volunteer force.  Accordingly, it is essential to permit transferability of unused education benefits from service members to family.  This is the highest priority set by the Service Chiefs and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reflecting the strong interest from the field and fleet.  Transferability supports military families, thereby enhancing retention.  Second, any enhancement of the education benefit, whether used in service or after retirement, must serve to enhance recruiting and not undercut retention.”

“…In conclusion, for all of these reasons, the Department does not support S. 22.  This legislation does not meet, and, in some respects, is in direct variance to the Department’s above-stated objectives and supporting criteria.”


Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs James Peake

“He (Secretary Gates) indicated that negative retention effects may begin when the value of the monthly education benefit exceeds about $1500.  For that reason, and because of other concerns stated in the lette

Apr 23 2008

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement on General David Petraeus being nominated to serve as the next commander of U.S. Central Command and Lieutenant General Ray Odierno being tapped as the next commander of the Multi-National Forces Iraq.

Graham said:

“I’m extremely pleased President Bush has decided to place General Petraeus and General Odierno in these important positions.  They are excellent choices. 

“General Petraeus and General Odierno deserve great credit for the success of the surge of troops in Iraq. 

“What General Petraeus has done in the last year and a half in Iraq will go down in history as one of the most successful counter-insurgency operations in history.  Working together, General Petraeus and General Odierno have been a dynamic duo spearheading our efforts in Iraq.

“As the new commander of CENTCOM, General Petraeus will oversee the battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq.  I’m confident he will take the vast experience he has accumulated in Iraq and apply it to the situation in Afghanistan.  Winning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are central to our efforts to win the war on Islamic extremism.

“General Odierno is experienced in the situation in Iraq and our troops greatly admire his leadership.  In addition, our Iraqi allies know and respect his work in bringing about a more secure and stable country.

“The jobs General Petraeus and General Odierno will hold are critical to winning the War on Terror.  I have tremendous confidence in them.  They are two of our best commanders.”

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Apr 22 2008

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Burr (R-NC), and John McCain (R-AZ) today unveiled the Enhancement of Recruitment, Retention, and Readjustment through Education Act.

The Graham-Burr-McCain bill enhances the existing Montgomery G.I. Bill by improving education benefits for servicemembers, veterans, and members of the Guard and Reserve. The legislation will help more military personnel attend college debt-free, and allow them to transfer their education benefits to their spouse or children.  It also bolsters recruitment and retention efforts, encouraging servicemembers to continue their military careers.

“It is time we give back to those who have served and continue to serve our nation so valiantly,” said Graham.  “I’m proud to be part of this effort to recognize and reward the sacrifices service members and their families are making on behalf of a grateful nation.  Our legislation increases the monthly benefit for active duty and reserve personnel and greatly expands the education benefits available to service members.  For the first time we ensure that all servicemembers will be permitted to transfer their education benefits to their spouses and children, a much needed and long overdue improvement.”

“An increase in Montgomery G.I. benefits is long overdue,” Burr said.  “This legislation goes a long way in providing servicemembers with the ability to attend college debt-free and improves one of the best recruiting and retention tools the armed forces have.  I am pleased our bill will also allow more family members to take advantage of the education benefits that their loved ones in the military did not use.  This measure is a simple and fair way to help active duty, veterans, Guard, and Reserves attain their educational goals and to encourage military careers.”

“We have an obligation to provide unwavering support to our nation’s veterans, and that is precisely what this legislation does,” said McCain.  “Men and women who serve their country in uniform deserve the best education benefits we are able to give them.  That is why I am pleased to join with Senators Graham and Burr to announce legislation that significantly enhances the Montgomery GI bill and promotes recruitment and retention which is critical to an All Volunteer Military.”

The legislation provides:

  • An immediate increase in education benefits for active duty personnel to $1500 a month, and to improve retention, those benefits increase to $2000 a month after 12 or more years of service.
  • Significantly increased benefit for members of the National Guard and Reserves.
  • Transferability, the ability of service members to transfer their education benefits to dependents.  After 6 years, half of the benefit may be transferred and after 12 years 100% may be transferred to a spouse or dependent children.
  • Student loan repayment.  Allows servicemembers to use up to $6,000 per year of Montgomery G.I. Bill education benefits to repay Federal student loans.
  • Creation of a matching program to help more veterans graduate debt-free.  Up to an additional $3,000 per year could be paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs in return for the school retiring some or all of the servicemember’s debt.
  • Access to Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits for service academy graduates and Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps officers who continue serving.
  • Builds on existing educational benefits program to ensure rapid implementation with minimal additional administrative costs.

“We do not need to reinvent the wheel,” said Graham.  “Our legislation improves benefits and modernizes the Montgomery G.I. Bill education program without creating new levels of red tape and bureaucracy.”

“The Montgomery G.I. Bill education program is an extremely effective tool that creates a more educated workforce and helps our armed forces recruit the best our country has to offer,” Burr said.  “This legislation ensures the MGIB program will continue to help veterans, our military, and our country.”

“We should encourage servicemembers to remain in the military, and they should be rewarded with additional benefits if they do,” said McCain.  “And, we need to ensure that families are not forgotten, which is why our legislation would allow servicemembers to transfer their benefits to their spouses or children if they so choose.”

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Findings

  • The findings underscore the importance of education benefits, particularly the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), in achieving not only successful readjustment to civilian life, but also recruiting and retention within the All Volunteer Force for servicemembers and their families.

Immediately increase education benefits

  • Effective October 2008, increase from $1,100 to $1,500 per month the education benefits provided by the Montgomery GI Bill.  This amount would cover the average cost of a 4-year public college, including room, board, tuition, and fees.
  • Gradually increase benefits to $2,000 per month by 2011 for members who serve on active duty for 12 years or more.
  • Provide $500 per year for books and supplies.
  • Effective October 2008, increase from $880 to $1,200 per month the education benefits for Guard and Reserve members called to active duty since September 11, 2001.
  • For those members of the Guard and Reserves who serve in the Selected Reserve for 12 years or more and who continue serving in the Selected Reserve, gradually increase benefits to $1,600 per month by 2011. 
  • Effective October 2008, double from $317 to $634 the education benefits for other members of the Guard and Reserves.

Allow more servicemembers to transfer education benefits to dependents

  • Provide broad authority to regular components and Guard and Reserves to allow members to transfer their education benefits to their spouses or children.
  • After serving for at least 6 years, a member could transfer up to half (18 months) of their education benefits to a spouse, children, or both.
  • After serving for 12 years or more, a member could transfer all of their education benefits (36 months) to a spouse, children, or both.  This could provide up to $72,000 towards a dependent’s education. 

Allow more servicemembers to access VA education benefits

  • Allow service academy graduates and Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps participants, who currently have no GI Bill benefit, to access benefits, including transferability, under the MGIB.  They would be required to complete their initial period of obligated service and then continue to serve for 5 additional years on active duty to become eligible.
  • Allow certain career servicemembers who enlisted between 1977 – 1985 and who were offered only the inferior Post-Vietnam Era Educational Assistance Program (VEAP),  who were on active duty after 9/11/01 and who retired since then or are currently serving, the opportunity to access Montgomery GI Bill education benefits by contributing $2,700.  This would be for bachelor’s degree only and be non-transferable.

Allow use of education benefits to repay school loans

  • Allow active-duty servicemembers to use up to $6,000 per year of MGIB benefits to repay federal student loans.

Create matching program (College Patriots Grant Program) to help more veterans graduate debt-free

  • If a college agrees to provide supplemental financial assistance to help veterans attend debt-free, VA would contribute up to $3,000 per year (in addition to other VA education benefits) to help meet a veteran’s unmet education costs.  The combined assistance from VA and the school (which could far exceed VA’s contribution) could allow veterans to attend any institution debt-free.

Sense of the Congress and Report

  • Express the sense of the Congress that those who join the All Volunteer Force aspiring to obtain a bachelor’s degree and are willing to serve a career in the military should be afforded the means and assistance to obtain a bachelor’s degree during the course of their military career.
  • Require the Department of Defense to submit a report to Congress on how to accomplish the goal of guiding servicemembers who are motivated to achieve military careers and a bachelor’s degree.

Apr 15 2008

Tax Day -- April 15 -- is dreaded by taxpayers across the country.

 

Whether it's the mountains of paperwork some pore through to file their taxes or the fact some have to send more of their hard-earned money to Washington , few people find April 15 to be an enjoyable experience.

 

I often hear from South Carolinians encouraging me to find some way -- any way -- to make Tax Day less burdensome.

 

Taxpayers are frustrated and with good reason.

 

Congress has repeatedly drug its feet on making the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cut permanent, while the sheer length and complexity of our current tax code is mind-boggling. And calls to move toward a simpler, easier to understand tax system go unanswered.

 

In 2001 and 2003, President Bush brought forward a tax relief package designed to reduce the burden on taxpayers. Tax rates were cut across the board allowing working Americans to keep more of what they earned. We eliminated the marriage penalty, the quirk in the tax code which forced married couples to pay more in taxes than they would if they filed as individuals. Taxes on dividends and capital gains were reduced, encouraging people to invest for the future. The child tax credit was doubled to $1,000 and we put the dreaded death tax on a path to extinction.

 

It was the right medicine for an ailing economy and the results were clear. By lowering taxes, the federal government spurred economic development and actually collected more in tax revenue. Since 2004, tax revenue has steadily increased as a percent of gross domestic product and is currently around historical averages.

 

The tax cuts have been good for South Carolina as well. If the tax cuts expire, the average family would pay an additional $2,300 per year. Seniors would pay $2,200 and small business owners would see their tax bill increase $4,100.

 

I believe some of the uneasiness taxpayers feel today about the economy is driven by concerns they are going to be hit with huge tax increases when the tax cuts expire. The day of reckoning, 2010, is rapidly approaching, and if we don't extend the tax cuts Americans will be confronted with the largest increase in personal income taxes since World War II.

 

Earlier this year I introduced an amendment to the Senate budget resolution which makes the Bush tax cuts permanent. Unfortunately, it was defeated in a near party-line Senate vote of 47-52. I'll pose to you the same question I posed the members of the U.S. Senate. With uncertain economic times ahead, does it make sense to raise taxes on Americans who are already struggling to make ends meet?

 

I'm confident the U.S. Senate's answer is not the same as taxpayers in South Carolina .

 

Making the Bush tax cuts permanent is the short-term goal, but if our nation wants to remain prosperous to come, we need a clear, long-term plan to reform our broken, outdated tax code.

 

The new global economy requires a tax code which makes us competitive.

 

There are many exciting and varied proposals which have been put forward. Many in South Carolina and across the nation favor a Fair Tax, while others support a flat tax. Some express support for a value added tax (VAT) or other system. The proposed ideas are as varied as our state, but the one thing they all have in common is the belief the current tax code is completely broken and beyond repair.

 

Unfortunately, before we can move forward to adopting any of these exciting possibilities, we have to get rid of the current tax code. History has taught us that if we do not impose a deadline and terminate the tax code by a certain date, we will never get to the fundamental tax overhaul that is so desperately needed.

 

The Tax Code Termination Act, of which I am a co-sponsor, is based upon the same premise as the Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) that closed unnecessary military installations. It will sunset the current tax code and create a commission charged with reporting to Congress reform options. All ideas would be on the table.

 

In addition to the flat tax, Fair Tax and other ideas, it would also determine if tax systems in use in other nations could provide a more efficient and fair method of taxation here at home. I believe the Tax Code Termination Act is the first step our nation must take toward fundamental, long-overdue tax reform.

 

It's time for our nation to implement a bold and ambitious tax agenda for both the short and long term future of our country. Working together, I am confident we can lower the tax burden in future years and move our nation toward a tax system which makes us competitive in the global economy.

 

(This oped began running in South Carolina newspapers on April 15, 2008.) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 10 2008

WASHINGTON-  U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today voted in favor of the Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008.  The Senate approved the measure 88-12.

“While not a perfect package, this bill will hopefully provide short-term relief to homeowners facing foreclosure and flexibility to lenders to renegotiate loan terms,” said Graham.  “Additionally it provides incentives for homebuyers to help stimulate the housing market.”

The legislation includes the following provisions:

  • A $7,000 tax credit, spread over two years, for Americans who purchase a foreclosed home
  • A standard property tax deduction for taxpayers who do not itemize on their returns
  • Over $10 billion in bond authority that could be used for subprime loan refinancing, mortgages for first-time home buyers, or multifamily rental housing
  • Extension – from two years to four years – of a provision that allows corporations to apply current losses to previous profits and receive applicable tax refunds
  • An additional $180 million for foreclosure prevention counseling
  • $4 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program

The bill must now be passed by the House of Representatives.

####

Apr 08 2008

Senate Armed Services Committee

April 8, 2008

 

SENATOR LEVIN:

Senator  Graham?

 

SENATOR GRAHAM:

Thank you, both of you, well done.  You know, according to some, we should fire you.  It sounds like, that everything is just -- really nothing good has happened in the last year and this is a hopeless endeavor.

 

Well, I beg to differ.  If I could promote you to five stars, I would.  And if I could -- I don't know where to send you.  You've been to every bad place there is to go, so I'd send you to a good place, Ambassador Crocker.

 

I cannot tell you how proud I am of both of you.


And let's start this with kind of a 30,000-foot assessment.

 

The surge, General Petraeus, was a corrective action -- is that  fair to say?

 

GENERAL PETRAEUS:

That's correct, Senator.

 

GRAHAM:

The reason it was a corrective action is between the fall of Baghdad and January of 2007, all of the trend lines were going in the wrong way: economic stagnation, political stagnation, increased proliferation of violence.  Therefore, something had to be done, and that something was called a surge.

 

Now, I would just ask the American people and my colleagues to evaluate fairly from January 2007 to July 2008, and see what's happened:  The challenges are real, but there are things that have happened in that period of time that need to be understood as being beneficial to this country, that came at a heavy price.  And Al Qaida cannot stand the surge.

 

If you put a list of people who wanted us to leave, the number one group would be Al Qaida, because you've been kicking them all over Iraq.

Now, the reason they came to Iraq is why, General Petraeus?

 

PETRAEUS:

That Al Qaida came to Iraq , sir?

 

GRAHAM:

Yes.

 

PETRAEUS:

To establish a base in the heart of the Arab world, in the heart of the Mideast.

 

GRAHAM:

Are they closer to their goal after the surge, or further away?

 

PETRAEUS:

Further away, Senator.

 

GRAHAM:

OK.  What's the -- if you had to pick one thing to tell the American people that was the biggest success of the surge, what would it be?

 

PETRAEUS:

Probably Anbar province and/or just the general progress against Al Qaida.

 

GRAHAM:

Would it be the fact that Muslims tasted Al Qaida life in Iraq and Iraqi Muslims joined with us to fight Al Qaida?

 

PETRAEUS:

I think the shift in Sunni Arabs against Al Qaida has been very, very significant.  The rejection of the indiscriminate violence, the extremist ideology and even, really, the oppressive practices associated with Al Qaida is, again, a very, very significant change.

 

GRAHAM:

Is it fair to say that when Muslims will stand by us and fight against bin Laden, his agents and sympathizers, we're safer?

 

PETRAEUS:

Absolutely.

 

GRAHAM:

Ambassador Crocker, what is Iran up to in Iraq?

 

CROCKER:

Senator, I described what I believe to be an effort at Lebanizatian through the backing of different militia groups.

 

GRAHAM:

OK.  Let's stop there.  Lebanon kicked Syria out a few years ago, and they tried to create a democracy, some form of democracy.  Hezbollah, backed by Iran , had a say in that endeavor.  Is that correct?

 

CROCKER:

That's correct, sir.

 

GRAHAM:

And they launched an attack from Lebanon against Israel at the time the United Nations was about to sanction Iran for their nuclear endeavors.

 

Is that correct?

 

CROCKER:

I believe so, sir.

 

GRAHAM:

So is it fair to say that, from an Iranian point of view, one of their biggest nightmares would be a functioning democracy in Lebanon, a functioning representative government in Iraq on their borders?

 

CROCKER:

Certainly, their behavior would indicate that that may be the case.  You make an important point because we look at Iraq as a nation in its own terms.  The region looks at it a little bit differently.

 

Iran and Syria have been cooperating over Lebanon since the early 1980s.  Over a quarter of a century they have worked together against the Lebanese and against our interests.  They're using that same partnership in Iraq, in my view, although the weights are reversed With Iran having the greater weight and Syria the lesser.  But they are working in tandem together against us and against a stable Iraqi  state.

 

GRAHAM:

If I can walk through what these laws mean to me, and this is just my opinion:  Provincial elections in October are important to me because it means that the Sunnis understand that participating in representative government seems to be in their interest; therefore, they're going to vote in October of 2008 and they boycotted in 2005.

 

Is that correct?

 

CROCKER:

That's one of the reasons they're important, yes.

 

GRAHAM:

OK.  So the Sunnis are going to come in -- by the millions, we anticipate to send representatives to Baghdad or to the provinces rather than sending bombs, is that correct?   

 

CROCKER:

That is what I would expect, yes.

 

GRAHAM:

OK.  Now the reason the surge has been successful to me, General Petraeus, is that the Anbar province has been liberated from Al Qaida, but we've had a reduction in sectarian violence.  

 

Is that true?

 

PETRAEUS:

That is true.

 

GRAHAM:

OK.  Now, this breathing space that we've been urging to have happened to have better security, from my opinion, has produced economic results not known before January, 2007.  Is that correct?  The economy is improving?

 

PETRAEUS:

That is correct.

 

GRAHAM:

The Iraqis will be paying more over time to bear the burden of fighting for their freedom?

 

PETRAEUS:

That's correct.

 

GRAHAM:

They will be fighting more to bear the burden of their freedom.  Is that correct?

 

PETRAEUS:

Correct.

 

GRAHAM:

Is there any way Iraq could be a failed state and not affect our national security?

 

PETRAEUS:

No, sir.

 

GRAHAM:

What would happen if the policy of the United States began January, 2007 to remove a brigade a month in Baghdad -- I mean, of Iraq ?  What would be the military consequences to such an endeavor, in your opinion, if we announced, as a nation, we're going to withdraw a brigade out of Iraq every month?

 

PETRAEUS:

Sir, it clearly would depend on the conditions at that time.  If the conditions were good and quite good, then that might be doable.

 

GRAHAM:

At this point in time, does that seem to be a responsible position to take, given what you know about Iraq , to make that announcement now?

 

PETRAEUS:

Well, Senator, again, I have advocated conditions-based reductions, not a timetable.  War is not a linear phenomenon; it's a calculus, not arithmetic.  And that is why, again, I have recommended conditions-based reductions following the completion of the surge forces drawdown.

 

LEVIN:

Senator Graham, thank you.

 

######

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 08 2008

WASHINGTON – The 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU) today announced that U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) is one of the few dozen lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives to win the 2007 ‘Taxpayers’ Friend Award.’

 

“While many Members of Congress talked about reducing the size of government last year, Lindsey Graham backed up those words with votes,” said NTU President Duane Parde.  “This award proves that Graham is a staunch ally we can count on in our battle to restore fiscal responsibility to Washington .”

 

The award was presented to Senators who achieved an ‘A’ grade in NTU’s annual Rating of Congress.  The Rating, which is based on every roll call vote affecting fiscal policy, assigns a ‘Taxpayer Score’ to each Senator that indicates their support for reducing or controlling federal spending, taxes, debt, and regulation.  For 2007, 182 Senate votes were selected.

 

“By consistently voting to reduce federal spending, taxes, and the debt, Lindsey Graham has led by example in the fight to ease the burden on taxpayers everywhere,” said Parde.  “This is an achievement for which he should be proud.”

 

From 2006 to 2007, the average pro-taxpayer score in the Senate fell 11 points to 37 percent. 

“If every Member of Congress had voted as responsibly as Lindsey Graham did in 2007, Americans could have enjoyed much lower taxes and less waste in government,” Parde concluded.  “Overburdened taxpayers in South Carolina and across the nation owe Lindsey Graham a debt of gratitude for his work on their behalf.  He has truly earned the title ‘Taxpayers’ Friend.’”

 

NTU is a nonpartisan, nonprofit citizen group founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and economic freedom at all levels.

 

######

 

 

Apr 07 2008

When Gen. David Petraeus testifies before Congress tomorrow, he will step into an American political landscape dramatically different from the one he faced when he last spoke on Capitol Hill seven months ago.

 

This time Gen. Petraeus returns to Washington having led one of the most remarkably successful military operations in American history. His antiwar critics, meanwhile, face a crisis of credibility – having confidently predicted the failure of the surge, and been proven decidedly wrong.

 

As late as last September, advocates of retreat insisted that the surge would fail to bring about any meaningful reduction in violence in Iraq . MoveOn.org accused Gen. Petraeus of "cooking the books," while others claimed that his testimony, offering evidence of early progress, required "the willing suspension of disbelief."

 

Gen. Petraeus will be the first to acknowledge that the gains in Iraq have come at a heavy price in blood and treasure. We mourn the loss and pain of the civilians and service members who have been killed and wounded in Iraq , but adamantly believe these losses have served a noble cause.

 

No one can deny the dramatic improvements in security in Iraq achieved by Gen. Petraeus, the brave troops under his command, and the Iraqi Security Forces. From June 2007 through February 2008, deaths from ethno-sectarian violence in Baghdad have fallen approximately 90%. American casualties have also fallen sharply, down by 70%.

 

Al Qaeda in Iraq has been swept from its former strongholds in Anbar province and Baghdad . The liberation of these areas was made possible by the surge, which empowered Iraqi Muslims to reject the Islamist extremists who had previously terrorized them into submission. Any time Muslims take up arms against Osama bin Laden, his agents and sympathizers, the world is a safer place.

 

In the past seven months, the other main argument offered by critics of the Petraeus strategy has also begun to collapse: namely, the alleged lack of Iraqi political progress.

 

Antiwar forces last September latched onto the Iraqi government's failure to pass "benchmark" legislation, relentlessly hammering Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as hopelessly sectarian and unwilling to confront Iranian-backed Shiite militias. Here as well, however, the critics in Washington have been proven wrong.

 

In recent months, the Iraqi government, encouraged by our Ambassador in Iraq , Ryan Crocker, has passed benchmark legislation on such politically difficult issues as de-Baathification, amnesty, the budget and provincial elections. After boycotting the last round of elections, Sunnis now stand ready to vote by the millions in the provincial elections this autumn. The Iraqi economy is growing at a brisk 7% and inflation is down dramatically.

 

And, in launching the recent offensive in Basra , Mr. Maliki has demonstrated that he has the political will to take on the Shiite militias and criminal gangs, which he recently condemned as "worse than al Qaeda."

 

Of course, while the gains we have achieved in Iraq are meaningful and undeniable, so are the challenges ahead. Iraqi Security Forces have grown in number and shown significant improvement, but the Basra operation showed they still have a way to go. Al Qaeda has been badly weakened by the surge, but it still retains a significant foothold in the northern city of Mosul , where Iraqi and coalition forces are involved in a campaign to destroy it.

 

Most importantly, Iran also continues to wage a vicious and escalating proxy war against the Iraqi government and the U.S. military. The Iranians have American blood on their hands. They are responsible, through the extremist agents they have trained and equipped, for the deaths of hundreds of our men and women in uniform. Increasingly, our fight in Iraq cannot be separated from our larger struggle to prevent the emergence of an Iranian-dominated Middle East .

 

These continuing threats from Iran and al Qaeda underscore why we believe that decisions about the next steps in Iraq should be determined by the recommendations of Gen. Petraeus, based on conditions on the ground.

 

It is also why it is imperative to be cautious about the speed and scope of any troop withdrawals in the months ahead, rather than imposing a political timeline for troop withdrawal against the recommendation of our military.

 

Unable to make the case that the surge has failed, antiwar forces have adopted a new set of talking points, emphasizing the "costs" of our involvement in Iraq , hoping to exploit Americans' current economic anxieties.

 

Today's antiwar politicians have effectively turned John F. Kennedy's inaugural address on its head, urging Americans to refuse to pay any price, or bear any burden, to assure the survival of liberty. This is wrong. The fact is that America 's prosperity at home and security abroad are bound together. We will not fare well in a world in which al Qaeda and Iran can claim that they have defeated us in Iraq and are ascendant.

 

There is no question the war in Iraq – like the Cold War, World War II and every other conflict we have fought in our history – costs money. But as great as the costs of this struggle have been, so too are the dividends to our national security from a successful outcome, with a functioning, representative Iraqi government and a stabilized Middle East . The costs of abandoning Iraq to our enemies, conversely, would be enormous, not only in dollars, but in human lives and in the security and freedom of our nation.

 

Indeed, had we followed the path proposed by antiwar groups and retreated in defeat, the war would have been lost, emboldening and empowering violent jihadists for generations to come.

 

The success we are now achieving also has consequences far beyond Iraq 's borders in the larger, global struggle against Islamist extremism. Thanks to the surge, Iraq today is looking increasingly like Osama bin Laden's worst nightmare: an Arab country, in the heart of the Middle East , in which hundreds of thousands of Muslims – both Sunni and Shiite – are rising up and fighting, shoulder to shoulder with American soldiers, against al Qaeda and its hateful ideology.

 

It is unfortunate that so many opponents of the surge still refuse to acknowledge the gains we have achieved in Iraq . When Gen. Petraeus testifies this week, however, the American people will have a clear choice as we weigh the future of our fight there: between the general who is leading us to victory, and the critics who spent the past year predicting defeat.

The following oped by Senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman first appeared in the Wall Street Journal on April 7, 2008.