Aug 11 2004
Wes Hickman (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said he was very disappointed with fellow Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) saying he opposed opening Yucca Mountain as the long-term repository for nuclear waste. Kerry’s position puts him at odds with the entire South Carolina delegation which voted unanimously in 2002 to open Yucca Mountain. South Carolina is home to an estimated 37 million gallons of liquid waste at Savannah River Site and also growing stockpiles of spent nuclear fuel stored at commercial nuclear power plants in the state. The nuclear waste is slated to be moved from South Carolina and sent to Yucca Mountain for long-term storage. “John Kerry wants to abandon Yucca Mountain and store millions of gallons of nuclear waste in South Carolina,” said Graham. “His position is simply unacceptable. “Yucca Mountain was chosen as a national repository for nuclear waste over twenty years ago and Congress ratified the decision in 2002,” said Graham. “Kerry’s opposition to opening Yucca Mountain will leave South Carolina with no outlet for thousands and thousands of tons of nuclear waste. “From an environmental and national security perspective, it is imperative we have a central repository to store our nuclear waste,” said Graham. “Outside experts and Congress have looked at this problem for years and we know Yucca Mountain, Nevada is the appropriate location. “John Kerry’s action would destroy over two decades of work on a national repository to provide secure, long-term storage of nuclear waste materials,” said Graham. “I hope all Republicans and Democrats in South Carolina will condemn this action and let Senator Kerry know we don’t agree with his position. We don’t appreciate him trying to pull the rug out from under us.” ######
Aug 11 2004
Graham Speaks with Secretary of Navy about Squadron Decommissioning at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort
Wes Hickman (202-224-5972) or Kevi Bishop (864-250-1417)WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) made the following statement after speaking with the Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England and Second District Congressman Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) about last weeks announcement that Strike Fighter Squadron 82 based at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort would be decommissioned. Graham is a member of the Armed Services Committee in the U.S. Senate. He said: “After speaking with Secretary England, I have been assured and am confident the squadron decommissioning will not hurt us during the upcoming BRAC process and the decision has nothing to do with a lack of community support. “This decision is the result of three years of integration between the Navy and Marine Corps resulting in the need for fewer aircraft. The squadron will be the third of five that have been designated for demobilization. I believe the Navy and Marine Corps are making a sound decision by reducing the inventory of aircraft given their integration successes and advancements in technology. “According to Secretary England, Beaufort is a vital and indispensable part of the Navy-Marine Corps tactical aviation capability and they could not be more pleased with the surrounding community.” #####
Aug 09 2004
Wes Hickman (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made the following statement on news the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has awarded slots to Spirit Airlines to provide one new daily round-trip flight between Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR) and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). On July 15, Graham along with South Carolina Senator Fritz Hollings, Congressmen Henry Brown and James Clyburn sent a letter to DOT Secretary Norman Mineta encouraging him to award the slot to Myrtle Beach and Spirit Airlines. Earlier this year Graham announced MYR will receive over $3.5 million in federal grants to help construct a new terminal and rehabilitate a taxiway. In addition, he helped the airport secure their own TSA director instead of having to share one with Charleston and pledged assistance for the airport when it begins applying for a designation as a port-of-entry, a distinction requiring the federal government to pay for customs handling. “Air travel is very important to Myrtle Beach and the tourism industry. People love visiting Myrtle Beach and the more convenient we can make it to get there the better. “I appreciate Secretary Mineta making this designation which will prove to be beneficial to Myrtle Beach, Spirit Airlines, and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The lack of convenient, daily nonstop service to Washington was a glaring gap in Myrtle Beach’s air service. Washington is an important market for bringing tourists to Myrtle Beach and the addition of this new air service will provide significant benefits to the local community. “I've been very impressed by the growth of air travel in Myrtle Beach. We must continue to build the necessary infrastructure to allow the airport to grow. There's no doubt in my mind that increased air travel will tremendously enhance economic opportunities in the Grand Strand.” According to DOT, Spirit must begin its service to Myrtle Beach by October 31. ######
Aug 05 2004
National Guard, Reservists and their Families Receive Access to Affordable Health Care
Wes Hickman (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham’s (R-South Carolina) drive to provide better health care benefits to members of the National Guard, Reserves, and their families has finally come to fruition – at least for a few months while Congress continues its work to make the benefit long-term. Graham said the final Fiscal Year 2005 Defense Appropriations bill contains as much as $683 million for the Department of Defense to launch a new program giving reservists and their families access to affordable health care coverage. President Bush signed the bill into law today. Appropriations Committee leaders told Graham and co-author Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) they would provide the rest of the funding later, if the Graham-Daschle amendment is adopted during House-Senate conference committee negotiations on HR4200, the Defense Authorization Bill. “For the first time, Congress will provide health care benefits to members of the National Guard and Reserves regardless of their activation status," said Graham, a member of the Armed Services Committee and a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserves. Graham is the only Senator to serve in a Guard or Reserve unit. "This is a step forward and I’m appreciative of the work that went into making this happen. However, our fight for better health care for reservists is not finished," said Graham. "The program will be funded in full for at least four months while we continue to work for the necessary congressional authorization and further appropriations.” Members of the guard and reserves will 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. 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. The Government Accountability Office estimates that 40 percent of the National Guard's junior enlisted personnel and 20 percent of all reservists lack health care coverage. Last year, Graham successfully enacted a one-year program that provided access to TRICARE to members of the Guard and Reserve without employer-based health care. Meanwhile, several recent reports have raised concerns about the declining number of reservists.
- USA Today has reported that the “Army National Guard is having increasing difficulty recruiting soldiers…. Experts say it’s easier for the active-duty Army to recruit because it offers more benefits.”
- The Los Angeles Times has written, “In the corridors of the Pentagon, a major concern is that the tempo of deployments since the Sept. 11 attacks will ultimately take its toll on retention and recruitment…. Thus far, the Army has been able to meet recruiting goals for the active force, but is falling short of its 2004 target numbers for the National Guard.”
- The Washington Post said the Army’s pool of “delayed entry” soldiers has shrunk to its lowest level in three years and quoted a Missouri Congressman who said retention in his state’s National Guard “is sliding downhill very, very fast.”
- Adjusting the retirement structure of the Guard and Reserves to more accurately reflect the needs of the troops. For every two years a member serves after twenty years of honorable service, that individual’s eligible retirement age will be reduced by one year. Under current law, the retirement age is 60. Under this legislation, if an individual serves for 22 years, they are eligible for retirement at 59. An individual entering military service at 18 and serving for 36 years could retire at 52.
- Providing tax breaks for employers that make up the difference in civilian pay and reserve pay while members are on active duty. Employers can receive up $25,000 per qualified employee in tax breaks for relieving this disparity.
Aug 04 2004
Wes Hickman (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today announced nearly $1.2 million in grants to fire departments in Ehrhardt, Eutawville, Inman, Lancaster, Lugoff, Marion, Moncks Corner, Monetta, Union, and Williamston. “Firefighters risk their lives to protect others, and they deserve the best equipment and training available,” said Graham. “Firefighters are some of the heroes in our midst.” The grants are awarded in one of three program areas:
- Operations and Firefighter Safety Program: The funds may be used for training, wellness, and fitness programs; the purchase of firefighting equipment and personal protective equipment; and modifications to fire stations and facilities.
- Fire Prevention Program: The funds may be used for public education, awareness, and fire code enforcement activities; fire inspector certifications; the purchase and installation of smoke alarms and fire suppression systems; wildland fire mitigation; and arson prevention and detection activities.
- Firefighting Vehicle Acquisition Program: The funds may be used for the purchase of firefighting vehicles including pumpers, brush trucks, tankers, rescue vehicles, ambulances, quints, aerials, foam units, and fireboats.