Oct 09 2004
Wes Hickman (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Tom Daschle (D-SD), Mike DeWine (R-OH), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) today announced Congress has approved a plan to expand TRICARE benefits for members of the Guard and Reserve and their families. TRICARE is the military health system. The program was included in the FY2005 Ronald Reagan Defense Authorization Bill. “This is another step forward in our effort to ensure that every Guard and Reserve member and their family have year-round access to military health care,” said Graham, the only U.S. Senator to currently serve in a Guard or Reserve unit. “It’s sad but true that a significant number of Guard and Reserve members called to active duty are unable to serve because of medical problems. Guardsmen and Reservists are the only part-time federal employees who are currently ineligible for federal government full-time health care benefits. It’s my goal, in a bipartisan manner, to alleviate this inequity and this bill takes another step toward that goal.” "I was proud to work with Senator Graham and this bipartisan group to move forward toward the ultimate goal of permanent access to affordable health coverage for Guard members, reservists, and their families. We have made much progress on behalf of those troops who are defending this country--and we will continue to work in a bipartisan manner to build on this success," Senator Daschle said. "In my home state of South Dakota, 90 percent of Guard members, roughly 4,000 men and women, have been mobilized since September 11. Because of this legislation, they now will be eligible for benefits from the military health program." “For too long we have neglected the healthcare needs of the Reservists and National Guardsmen who stand ready to accept the call of duty," Senator DeWine said. "By extending TRICARE coverage that we secured for unemployed and uninsured members of the Reserve Component, we are easing the strain of deployment on Service members and their families and increasing readiness of our troops.” “After fits and starts, we are finally getting a TRICARE health insurance program underway for the men and women of our Guard and Reserves,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT.), co-chair of the Senate National Guard Caucus. “We are asking our Guard and Reserves to do more at home and abroad, and we need to do our part to meet their basic needs. When our troops and their families are healthy, our entire military is stronger, and that’s why affordable health insurance is both a critical readiness issue and a fairness issue. Now we have achieved a program for reservists who have already been mobilized, and I hope we can soon expand this program to other reservists.” “I applaud this expanded TRICARE provision which will provide healthcare coverage for our reserve service members for an extended period of time after they are deployed," said Chambliss. "Health care is the single benefit that means and matters the most to members of the Reserve Components, and I am proud to play a part in expanding this benefit for all Guardsmen and Reservists.” "Members of the National Guard, in New York and elsewhere, are serving their country with honor and distinction and making incredible sacrifices. TRICARE for Guard and reserve members is an idea whose time has come," Senator Clinton said. "This bill is a positive step towards providing them and their families with insurance coverage and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the future to take further steps toward that goal." The program significantly increases the length of time that eligible Reservists are able to receive TRICARE coverage. Under the new eligibility requirements, Guardsmen and Reservists who serve on active duty under federal orders for 90 consecutive days will be eligible for one year of TRICARE coverage. For every additional 90 days of service they will be eligible for an additional year of health care coverage. The Department of Defense will pay 72 percent of the cost and the reservist will be responsible for paying the remaining 28 percent. Currently, members of the Reserve Component and their families are eligible for TRICARE only while on active duty. In August, Congress approved funding to provide enhanced TRICARE benefits to guardsmen and reservists. The details of the program were negotiated over the past several months, resulting in the program approved today. “The goal next year will be to appropriate the proper funding amount to allow every member of the Guard or Reserve to participate in TRICARE,” said Graham. “It will help retention, readiness and be a long overdue benefit upgrade.” Also included in the bill is a provision that continues the expansion of pre-and-post deployment eligibility guidelines for TRICARE the Senators championed last year. Guardsmen and Reservists become eligible for TRICARE upon receiving their activation orders and can remain on the healthcare system for 180 days after they are deactivated. This provision applies to all members of the Guard and Reserve regardless of the length of time activated. “Providing health care will be a tremendous benefit, as one-fifth of Guardsmen and Reservists do not have health care in the private sector,” said Graham. “Of all the issues I have worked on this has achieved the most bipartisan support. When Tom Daschle, Hillary Clinton, Pat Leahy, Mike DeWine, Saxby Chambliss and I -- representing every end of the political spectrum -- come together, that shows the broad appeal of this issue.” The bill will now be sent to President Bush for his signature. The Department of Defense will then have 180 days to locate and notify eligible Guardsmen and Reservists. ####
Oct 09 2004
Wes Hickman (202=224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham's (R-South Carolina) long drive to increase loan forgiveness for qualified teachers is about to become law. Today the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation increasing the amount of loan forgiveness available for teachers in critical areas from $5,000 to $17,500. The legislation has already been approved by the House of Representatives and President Bush is expected to sign it into law. “There is a drastic shortage of qualified teachers in critical needs areas,” said Graham, a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP). “This loan forgiveness program is an important first step in eliminating the shortage. It’s a great recruitment tool that rewards teachers for working in underserved areas of the profession. It is an important investment in the future of children and the country.” Graham first began pushing loan forgiveness for teachers in 1998 when he served in the U.S. House of Representatives. On previous occasions, the legislation passed the House only to not be taken up by the Senate. Graham also won high praise for his work on the issue including supportive comments from President Bush and Laura Bush who viewed the loan forgiveness issue as an important component of their effort to provide a quality teacher in every classroom. Under the loan forgiveness expansion passed today, math, science, and special education teachers who teach in Title I schools can qualify to have up to $17,500 of their student loans forgiven. Critical and widespread shortages exist in these disciplines, particularly in inner city and rural communities. "While I am pleased this expansion of teacher loan forgiveness looks like it will become law, I will continue to work toward a comprehensive expansion of the current program,” said Graham. “I support loan forgiveness for all disciplines, but the funding simply was not there to expand the program fully at the time. I am hopeful this can occur in the coming years." “This would not have happened without a big push from President Bush,” said Graham. “Loan forgiveness has been one of his and the First Lady’s signature issues. I truly appreciate their assistance in turning this idea into law.” “I also would like to thank Senator Gregg and Representative Boehner for helping to push this through Congress with an overwhelming majority,” said Graham. “This idea will truly make a difference in our rural and urban poor schools. A quality teacher in every classroom is exactly what I want.” Funding for the loan forgiveness program will come from an adjustment in existing law that allowed excessive profits for companies lending money to college students. Under current law, the federal government guarantees a handful of lenders and note holders a 9.5-percent interest rate for student loans. The guaranteed yield on other federally subsidized student loans is a much lower rate -- roughly 4 percent. The federal government had been making up the difference costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. The legislation provides an immediate, one-year solution to the problem, and paves the way for a permanent fix during re-authorization of federal higher education programs next year. The government will use the anticipated savings of approximately $270 million to pay for the teacher loan forgiveness plan. ####
Oct 08 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 the 2nd presidential debate. "The challenger must make the case the incumbent should be fired and they are capable of meeting the challenges of the office they are seeking. Tonight, John Kerry failed on both accounts. "President Bush commanded the room demonstrating leadership qualities in the domestic and foreign policy arena that fit the troubling times we are in. He convincingly demonstrated that his domestic and foreign policy accomplishments and goals have America moving in the right direction to make us safer and stronger. "Senator Kerry tonight, and through 20 years of service in the Senate, constantly embraced a domestic agenda couched in class warfare and big government liberalism. His foreign policy agenda relies on failed U.N. policies which do not comprehend the nature of our enemy. He also does not strongly embrace the concept that democracy and freedom are the only antidotes to terror. "By belittling of our allies and the sacrifices of the Iraqi people who are dying for their freedom, he sends the wrong message at the wrong time." #####
Oct 08 2004
Wes Hickman (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)WASHINGTON – Cleanup efforts at Savannah River Site (SRS) scored a big victory as a House-Senate conference committee on the defense authorization bill adopted language allowing the efforts to continue. SRS is currently home to more than 37 million gallons of liquid waste. 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 will remain in the tank and be mixed with concrete and grout. The state of South Carolina, in consultation with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), will have oversight over the low-level material. South Carolina will also have the final authority to issue or deny a permit for the tank’s closure. Two of the Site’s 51 tanks were closed in a similar manner in the late 1990’s under the Clinton Administration. The provision also calls for a third review, this one conducted by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), on the cleanup process. The NRC and Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFS) have already completed reviews and determined the process to be safe. “This is a big day for environmental cleanup in South Carolina,” said Graham. “The agreement between the state and the Department of Energy 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. It’s a good plan for the Site, state, and the nation.” Graham noted the cleanup efforts had been supported by a broad coalition of South Carolinians including 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. “Tank 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 state leaders came together to allow the site to be cleaned up decades earlier than expected,” said Graham. “"Governor Sanford deserves much credit for supporting policies that make environmental and economic sense to become reality. He is a thoughtful and courageous leader." “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 groups who want to put cleanup on hold,” said Graham. The House of Representatives and Senate are expected to overwhelmingly approve the legislation and President Bush is expected to sign it into law. #####
Oct 06 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 the debate between Vice President Dick Cheney and U.S. Senator John Edwards (D-North Carolina.) “Last night’s debate was not only a contrast in styles but also of substance. Senator Edwards is a gifted lawyer and if one needed to be represented in a North Carolina courtroom, he would be up to the task. “However, if the need is to have someone explain to the nation and the world the War on Terror, its roots, and solutions, then Dick Cheney is the clear choice. In ninety minutes, he demonstrated a depth and experience level unmatched in the history of the Vice Presidency. “In the most important moment of the debate, Vice President Cheney turned toward Senator Edwards and forcefully stated that Senator John Kerry and Edwards have totally discounted the Iraqi’s contribution to their own freedom. They have been dying in droves trying to free their country from terrorists. “The Vice President made the most compelling case yet that for the last thirty years Senator Kerry has been on the wrong side of history when dealing with foreign policy matters. His statement in the 1970’s that America should never go to war without United Nations approval is dangerous and naive. His one-man effort to dismantle President Reagan’s military build up in the 1980’s will be viewed in history as out of touch with the times. His decision to vote against a war resolution authorizing the removal of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991 was not only a dangerous misunderstanding of the threat we faced, but demonstrated a lack of resolve to deal with tyrants. “Finally, the Vice President provided an accurate and telling description of Senators Kerry and Edwards no votes regarding the $87 billion funding request to provide our troops the means necessary to fight in Iraq as a politically motivated reaction to Howard Dean. It was the most damaging evidence that Senator Kerry does not have the conviction to make the hard decisions to fight a ruthless enemy. “If last night proved nothing else, it’s that whining pessimism for ninety minutes is not the makings of a great nation. Realistic optimism is essential to rally the nation and world to win this war on terror. “Senator Edwards’s attacks were over the top in their pessimism and factually incorrect. The Vice President’s realistic assessment of progress being made against this ruthless enemy is not only justified, it is the winning formula to bring this enemy to account.” #####
Oct 05 2004
Wes Hickman (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today announced Chester and Clarendon County Schools will receive Safe Schools/Healthy Students grants.
- Chester County School District will receive a $956,753 grant.
- Clarendon County School District Two will receive a $954,017 grant.
Oct 04 2004
Wes Hickman (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) has introduced legislation making human traffickers eligible for the death penalty. The U.S. Department of State estimates more than a million women and children are trafficked around the world each year, generally for the purpose of domestic servitude, sweatshop labor, or sexual exploitation. The practice generates an estimated $9.5 billion a year. “Traffickers, just like alien smugglers, through unabashed acts of profiteering, endanger the lives of countless aliens while compromising the integrity of our immigration laws,” said Graham, chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Corrections and Victims Rights. “Make no mistake, the incentives for human smugglers are enormous.” Graham’s subcommittee held a hearing on the issue last July. At any given time, the State Department estimates thousands of people are in the smuggling pipeline, with the United States being the primary target. Smugglers and traffickers deliver some 50,000 aliens here annually. “Traffickers kidnap their victims, move them across borders, and then enslave them,” said Graham. “We must ensure the punishments for trafficking crimes are such that the risks of apprehension, prosecution and punishment far outweigh the payday. The best way to do that is the vigorous prosecution and harsh punishment.” Under current law, a person found guilty of alien smuggling where death results is subject to the full range of punishments including the death penalty. However, if death results from a trafficking offense, the defendant is not subject to the death penalty. “We must not allow otherwise innocent men, women, and children to be abused and killed by those who seek to profit from the desperation of others,” said Graham. “We should bring the punishment in line with this horrendous practice.” ####
Sep 30 2004
Wes Hickman (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today announced grants to Blacksburg, Greenville, and Reevesville. “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 two program areas:
- Firefighting 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.
- 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.