Jun 03 2004

SRS Cleanup Efforts Move Forward in the Senate

Effort to Remove Graham Provision on Accelerated Cleanup Falls Short

WASHINGTON – Efforts to cleanup the millions of gallons of nuclear waste stored in aging tanks at the Savannah River Site were given a boost today when the U.S. Senate rejected an amendment by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Fritz Hollings (D-SC) to strip the cleanup provision from the defense authorization bill. The vote was 48-48. To pass, the Cantwell-Hollings amendment needed a majority vote. Under the provision, accelerated cleanup efforts to remove the more than 37 million gallons of liquid waste at the Site, which have been on hold for almost a year, would be allowed to again move forward. Ninety-nine percent of the waste would be removed from the tanks and turned into glass logs for eventual shipment to the permanent long-term storage site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Some residual waste, less than two inches deep, will remain in the tank and be mixed with concrete and grout. Removal of this material is impractical and poses dangers to worker safety. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) would be given “veto” power over residual waste left in the tank and would determine when the tank is clean enough to be closed. “This is a big day for environmental cleanup in South Carolina,” said Graham. “The agreement between the state and the Department of Energy, now approved by the U.S. Senate, ensures the tanks will be cleaned up in an environmentally friendly and cost-effective manner.” “Because of this agreement, we’re looking to do it 23 years ahead of schedule and at a cost savings to the taxpayer of almost $16 billion,” said Graham. “It is a good plan for the Site, state, and the nation.” Graham noted the cleanup provision was supported by Governor Mark Sanford, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), Attorney General Henry McMaster, Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives David Wilkins, Democrats and Republicans in the Aiken County legislative delegation, the mayor of Aiken, the chairman of the Aiken County Council, the mayor of Jackson, the SRS Retiree Association, and local Chambers of Commerce. “The cleanup efforts at the Site have been at a virtual standstill,” said Graham. “It’s long past time we get the cleanup efforts moving forward again to protect our environment. Every day we delay just increases the risk to the local community and the Savannah River that these tanks, some of them fifty years old, will leak and create even greater problems down the road.” “I’m very pleased the Governor and state officials came together to allow the site to be cleaned up decades earlier than expected,” said Graham. “Governor Sanford deserves much credit for allowing new ideas that make environmental and economic sense to become reality in spite of special interest demagoguery. He is a thoughtful and courageous political leader.” After the Senate gives final approval to the defense authorization bill it will go to conference with the House of Representatives. “I will continue to fight in the House-Senate conference to ensure this provision becomes law,” said Graham. “We’ve come too far in our efforts to clean up the Site, using good science and sound economics, to be deterred by special interest politics.” #####

Jun 02 2004

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate today approved U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham’s (R-South Carolina) amendment to the defense authorization bill making members of the National Guard and Reserves eligible to enroll in the military health care system TRICARE. The vote in the Senate was 70-25. Members of the guard and reserves, regardless of their activation status, would be eligible to enroll in TRICARE for a modest annual premium regardless of their deployment status. Premiums would be about $530/year for individual coverage and $1,860/year for families. The government would also cover a portion of the health care premiums for those reservists and their families who opt to maintain their private health care coverage when they are called to active duty. “I’m pleased the Senate agreed to this important change in the benefits package for members of the Guard and Reserve,” said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “It was an overwhelming vote in support of giving our reservists better health care benefits. We’ve got more work to do before this becomes law, but this was definitely a big step in the right direction.” “We’re calling upon the Guard and Reserve at the same tempo level we did during World War II,” said Graham. “On a percentage basis, it’s even greater. So now is the time to increase benefits for Guard and Reserve members.” When fully phased in the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the provision would assist more than 300,000 reservists and their family members. CBO estimates the costs of the benefit at $5.4 billion over the next 5 years, about one-half of one percent of the entire Department of Defense budget. Graham said that in Iraq Guardsman and Reservists have rotated with the active-duty forces, increasing the reserve component share of the total U.S. forces to more than 40 percent. The reserves have also been charged with taking control of the entire peacekeeping mission in the Balkans. “Better health care benefits will help our recruiting, readiness and retention efforts,” said Graham. “They need it and I think based upon what they have been asked to do, particularly since 9/11, they’ve earned it. We’re going to continue to fight for better benefits for them.” “Guardsmen and Reservists are citizen-soldiers,” said Graham. “Increasingly they are being called up to duty, taken away from their work and families, and being sent to far-away lands for long tours of duty. We need to ensure the benefits they are receiving are equal to the sacrifice they are making to protect our country and interests around the world.” The Senate will now go to conference with the House of Representatives to reconcile the differing versions of the legislation. ####

Jun 01 2004

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today pushed for better health care benefits for members of the National Guard and Reserves. Graham has sponsored an amendment, expected to be voted on in the next few days, allowing National Guard and Reserve personnel to purchase health care coverage for themselves and their families, regardless of their activation status, through the military health system TRICARE. “We’re calling upon the Guard and Reserve at the same tempo level we did during World War II,” said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “On a percentage basis, it’s even greater. So now is the time to increase benefits for Guard and Reserve members.” Graham noted that under current law when a Guard or Reserve member is activated they and their family go into the military health care system (TRICARE). If they are not activated they remain in private employer-sponsored health insurance or forego health insurance altogether. “When Guardsmen and Reservists are called to active duty they have to leave their civilian network of doctors and hospitals and go into the military network,” said Graham. “When they are deactivated, they have to go back into their old network.” “Unfortunately, a significant number of people called to active duty from the Guard or Reserves are unable to go on active duty because of health care problems,” said Graham. “I believe it is long overdue to make sure every Guardsmen and Reservist has the opportunity to become a member of the military health care system.” Graham said that in Iraq Guardsman and Reservists have rotated with the active-duty forces, increasing the reserve component share of the total U.S. forces to more than 40 percent. The reserves have also been charged with taking control of the entire peacekeeping mission in the Balkans. “Better health care benefits will help our recruiting, readiness and retention efforts,” said Graham. “They need it and I think based upon what they have been asked to do, particularly since 9/11, they’ve earned it. We’re going to fight for better health care for them.” “Guardsmen and Reservists are citizen-soldiers,” said Graham. “Increasingly they are being called up to duty, taken away from their work and families, and being sent to far-away lands for long tours of duty. We need to ensure the benefits they are receiving are equal to the sacrifice they are making to protect our country and interests around the world.” The Congressional Budget has estimated the cost of the benefit at $5.4 billion over the next 5 years. ####

May 28 2004

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today announced the Medical University of South Carolina has been awarded three grants for over $579,000. The money will be used to support medical research. MUSC will receive $365,000 to conduct blood disease research, $141,400 for digestive disease and nutrition research, and $73,000 for cancer cause and prevention research. “South Carolina’s colleges and universities are on the cutting edge of medical research,” said Graham. “The work they do helps improve and save lives.” The grants were awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ####

May 28 2004

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today announced the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded South Carolina $44 million in grant money for fiscal year 2004. The awards consist of $27.82 million for the Community Development Block Grant Program; $13.45 million for the HOME Investment Partnership Program; $1.44 million for the Emergency Shelter Grant Program; and $1.38 million for the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS Program.
  • The Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) develops viable communities and provides housing and a suitable living environment by expanding economic opportunities for low and moderate income households.
  • The HOME Investment Partnership Program creates affordable housing for low-come households. It allows communities to design and implement strategies tailored to their own needs and priorities.
  • The Emergency Shelter Grant Program provides funds for the rehabilitation or conversion of buildings for use as emergency shelter for the homeless and for homeless prevention activities.
  • The Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS Program addresses the housing needs of low-income persons diagnosed with AIDS.
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May 26 2004

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today announced the Little River Medical Center in Little River will receive a $1.772 million grant and Beaufort-Jasper Comprehensive Health Services in Ridgeland will receive a $6.042 million grant. The funds will be used to provide comprehensive primary and preventive health care services to the medically underserved population in the communities. The grants were awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ####

May 26 2004

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today announced Lake City will receive a $50,000 grant and a $50,000 loan to help purchase a 75-foot ladder truck for the Lake City Fire Department. The Department does not currently have a ladder truck. “Firefighters risk their lives everyday to protect South Carolinians,” said Graham. “They deserve the best equipment money can buy. This new truck will allow the Lake City Fire Department to better serve the businesses and residents of the city.” The grant and loan were awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. ####

May 25 2004

WASHINGTON--U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today announced Lander University will receive a $248,525 grant to support the university’s Montessori program. The funds will be used for several purposes including:
  • an increase in the number of low-income children served by the preschool program;
  • adding elementary certification to the Montessori Teacher Education Program;
  • collaborating with local school officials in establishing a Montessori magnet school; and
  • conducting research on the effectiveness of Montessori education for kindergarten and elementary-aged children.
The grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Education. ####

May 25 2004

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today announced the town of Chesterfield will receive a $617,000 grant and a $205,900 loan for water and waste disposal improvements. The funds will be used to bring Chesterfield’s waste disposal facility into compliance with new DHEC regulations. The money will aid the town in correcting problems associated with dissolved oxygen, OD5 and ammonia levels currently not in compliance. The grant and loan were awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. ####

May 24 2004

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made the following statement on President Bush’s address to the nation. “I strongly believe the President’s decision to address the nation provides clarity and details regarding the transformation of Iraq. It was extremely helpful and comes at a critical time. “It is now time for Iraqis to become stakeholders in their own future. The President’s efforts to bring that about, beginning June 30th, are sound and will signal the beginning of a new Iraq. America’s blood and treasure will still be required, but the President’s plan spreads the burden and opportunity to a larger group. “The President’s call on the United Nations to play a larger role is appropriate and our key allies in NATO can be extremely supportive of efforts to transform Iraq. The combination of international assistance empowering Iraqis to determine their own future and a continued American presence to provide security is the essence of the President’s plan. If executed properly, it can be a winning combination to secure a peaceful democratic Iraq out of the ashes of a brutal dictatorship. “The President’s transformation plan not only empowers Iraqis to set their own destiny, it requires it. “The Iraqi people must be willing to sacrifice for their own freedom. Without that willingness, efforts to bring democracy to Iraq will fail. Americans know from first-hand experience that to secure and maintain freedom requires constant sacrifice and unwavering resolve. Those are qualities we all hope to see exhibited by a free, democratic Iraq. “The President is right that insurgents and foreign fighters will increase their efforts to destabilize Iraq. Unfortunately, it may get worse before it gets better. The terrorist’s worst nightmare is the ballot box where the Iraqi people can freely express themselves about their future.” ####