Feb 19 2004

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said he was pleased to hear that Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham has written to the Chairman and ranking members of the Senate Armed Services Committee certifying the MOX fuel fabrication facility to be constructed at Savannah River Site is still on track to convert weapons-grate plutonium into commercial nuclear fuel by January 2009. The written certification to Congress was one of the requirements that Graham, while serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, and former U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond pushed into law in December 2002. The Thurmond-Graham language also included fines of up to $100 million a year if plutonium is not being converted to fuel under strict timelines and a legal requirement to remove plutonium from the state should the program fail. “I’m very pleased with the Secretary’s certification,” said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “This is an important program, taking the weapons of the Cold War and turning them into fuel to make electricity. I have confidence that the Bush White House will continue to work with us to ensure this program is a success. “Certification was one of the important provisions the Thurmond-Graham legislation contained to protect the state,” said Graham. “I’m glad we passed it into law as it gives us protection from program failure and also serves as a valuable tool to help keep pushing the program along.” In his letter, Abraham noted the U.S. and Russian Federation have disagreed on liability provisions for work done in Russia on the MOX fabrication facility. The disagreement has resulted in the interruption of work in Russia and slowed work in the U.S. as the programs are to proceed in “rough parallel.” “We are determined to resolve this issue in time to prevent slippages that will prevent us from meeting our 2009 commitments,” wrote Abraham. “While the start of construction will be delayed due to our ongoing disagreement with Russia regarding liability, we are confident that we will be able to meet overall program objectives – the elimination of weapon-grade plutonium for thousands of nuclear weapons.” Graham noted he has recently spoken with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and other key parties handling negotiations with the Russian Federation over the liability provisions. “We’re going to get a deal, it’s just a matter of time” said Graham. “Everyone understands the importance of this program to world security and knows there’s a lot at stake. The quicker we can get agreement the quicker we can move both the U.S. and Russian programs forward.” #####

Feb 18 2004

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today announced an $86,670 grant to North Augusta Department of Public Safety. “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.” Assistance to Firefighters Grants help the fire departments improve their training, wellness and fitness programs; purchase new firefighting equipment and personal protective equipment; and, make modifications to fire stations and facilities. The Assistance to Firefighters grant program awards one-year grants directly to local fire departments, enhancing their ability to respond to fire and fire-related hazards in the community. The program supports departments by providing them the tools and resources necessary to protect the health and safety of the public and their firefighting personnel. Grantees share in the cost of the funded project at a percentage based on the population of their respective jurisdiction. Grantees that serve jurisdictions of 50,000 or fewer residents are required to provide a non-Federal cost-share of 10 percent while grantees that serve jurisdictions of over 50,000 provide a 30 percent cost-share. The match must be in cash without the use of in-kind contributions. In addition, the maximum amount of federal funds that an applicant can be awarded is $750,000 during any fiscal year. The grants are made by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. ####

Feb 17 2004

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and U.S. Representative Gresham Barrett (R-South Carolina) today announced Westminster will receive $1.6 million in federal funds for water system improvements. The money will be used for water treatment plant upgrades and construction of a new elevated 500,000 gallon tank. “This is great news for Westminster,” said Graham. “Infrastructure improvements create jobs, encourage business investment, and play a vital role in future economic development.” "This is terrific news. There is no doubt this funding will help improve the infrastructure of my hometown," said Barrett. "Westminster has a lot to offer and it is my hope these improvements will help attract new businesses and bring new jobs to the area." Of the total project award, a $1 million grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Commerce and a $600,000 grant was awarded by the Appalachian Regional Commission. ####

Feb 13 2004

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) released the following statement on his decision to vote against S. 1072 the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003: “My decision to vote ‘no’ on the highway bill was motivated by the fact that it busts the budget by billions of dollars, and will lead to larger deficits that our children and grandchildren will have to pay. Unfortunately, this is a continuation of the freewheeling spending practices we were elected to reign in.” “The highway and bridge needs of this country are very real. However, the federal government cannot afford a 43 percent increase in spending no matter how meritorious the projects may be. The 43 percent increase more than doubles the President’s request and is way out of line with any notion of fiscal responsibility.” “I know South Carolinians can use help in upgrading our infrastructure. But, our economy needs fiscal discipline more than new pet projects. Businesses and families have to make hard choices in difficult times, yet the Senate seems to be unwilling or incapable of doing the same.” “I hope President Bush vetoes this bill if it is not corrected in a conference between the House and Senate. If he does so, I will support his veto.” ####

Feb 11 2004

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senators Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) introduced legislation enabling the Federal Communications Commission to increase tenfold the fine on television and radio broadcasters who violate the FCC decency rules. The Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2004 increases the maximum fine for each violation to $275,000 and the total penalty for continued violations could be as much as $3 million. Current law caps penalties at $27,500 per offense. “For many years, I have been a proponent of ensuring that the content released on our nation’s airwaves is free from indecent and inappropriate material,” said Brownback, “Recently, much attention has been given to the FCC and the enforcement of its indecency rules regarding this issue due to a particular expletive used during the live broadcast of the Golden Globe Awards ceremony last year and compounded by the inappropriate Super Bowl Half Time show. This bill will increase, by tenfold, the forfeiture penalties for broadcasting obscenity, indecency or profanity. This will increase the penalties for a single obscene or indecent incident from $27,500 to $275,000. Until the penalties are punitive, there will be little incentive for broadcasters to curb this inappropriate behavior.” Brownback is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and serves on the Communications Subcommittee. “We need to make sure broadcasters air appropriate programming, especially when children are likely to be in the audience,” said Graham. “For too long we have stood on the sidelines and let indecent programming get out of hand. We need to do more to protect the public from indecent programming and this bill will cause broadcasters to think twice before allowing indecent materials on the airwaves. The current penalty is a mere slap on the wrist. It’s time we put a little more sting into the punishment.” Graham testified before the Senate Committee on Energy and Commerce in support of the increased penalties. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. A similar bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last month. Additional Senate sponsors of the bill include Senators George Allen (R-Virginia), Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). The legislation has garnered support from the administration, commissioners at the FCC, and family groups such as Focus on the Family. #####

Feb 11 2004

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today announced more than $147,000 in grants to fire departments in Inman, Johnston and Spartanburg. “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 Assistance to Firefighters Grants will help the fire departments improve their training, wellness and fitness programs; purchase new firefighting equipment and personal protective equipment; and, make modifications to fire stations and facilities. Inman Inman Community Fire Department will receive $60,725. Johnston Johnston Fire Department will receive $37,800. Spartanburg Whitney Area Volunteer Fire Department will receive $48,582. The Assistance to Firefighters grant program awards one-year grants directly to local fire departments, enhancing their ability to respond to fire and fire-related hazards in the community. The program supports departments by providing them the tools and resources necessary to protect the health and safety of the public and their firefighting personnel. Grantees share in the cost of the funded project at a percentage based on the population of their respective jurisdiction. Grantees that serve jurisdictions of 50,000 or fewer residents are required to provide a non-Federal cost-share of 10 percent while grantees that serve jurisdictions of over 50,000 provide a 30 percent cost-share. The match must be in cash without the use of in-kind contributions. In addition, the maximum amount of federal funds that an applicant can be awarded is $750,000 during any fiscal year. The grants are made by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. ####

Feb 11 2004

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today announced Dillon County will receive a $25,000 federal grant for a feasibility study on construction of a new general aviation airport. The feasibility study will include a business recruitment strategy, leasing plan, identification of incentives, and a financial feasibility plan. “Community airports play a vital role in growing the local economy by making the area more attractive for economic development and business recruitment,” said Graham. The grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Commerce and will be matched by a $25,000 local contribution. ####

Feb 10 2004

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), disturbed by a 35 percent rise in the projected cost of the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, will introduce legislation to reign in the cost of the program. The new benefit was initially estimated to cost $395 billion over the next ten years when the bill passed Congress and was signed into law by President Bush in December 2003. A mere two months after becoming law, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) revised the figure and projected the bill to cost an estimated $534 billion. Graham said his greatest concern is that the cost explosion is going to be borne by future generations and noted that every dollar spent on the new Medicare prescription drug benefit is borrowed money. “As we try to improve senior’s health care we cannot do it in a way that will doom their grandchildren with debts they cannot afford to pay,” said Graham. “I didn’t vote for the bill last year because I was concerned the projected costs would turn out to be wrong. Even I was surprised at how quickly and dramatically the projected costs of the program spiked. I’m afraid this isn’t going to be the last bit of bad news we receive about the long-term costs of this new entitlement.” Graham proposes controlling the long-term costs of the program by:
  • Placing caps on Medicare prescription drug outlays. The caps would be equal to the estimate of outlays for Prescription Drug Benefit for Fiscal Years (FY) 2005-2013 as estimated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The caps for FY 2005-2013:
    • 2005: $800 million (program not in full effect)
    • 2006: $25.7 billion
    • 2007: $39.0 billion
    • 2008: $44.6 billion
    • 2009: $48.7 billion
    • 2010: $53.7 billion
    • 2011: $58.6 billion
    • 2012: $65.3 billion
    • 2013: $73.1 billion
  • Requiring the President to submit legislation to Congress reducing the costs of the prescription drug benefit upon determination the cap will be exceeded in any fiscal year. The President’s legislation would be considered on a fast-track basis and could not be amended or filibustered. Failure by a President to submit legislation would allow any Senator to move to discharge from the Finance Committee any Medicare reform legislation to lower the cost of the drug benefit.
“I want seniors to have a prescription drug benefit, but I’m not prepared to do it at all costs,” said Graham. “The Medicare prescription drug benefit, as it’s currently structured, allows uncontrolled expansion that will topple the entire system.” “My legislation limits Medicare prescription drug spending to the original $395 billion of borrowed money,” said Graham. “Any year the bill exceeds the original estimate, the President and Congress will be forced to act to reduce the cost. Controlling costs when you have to borrow all of the money is sound fiscal policy. It makes for a winning situation for today’s seniors and future generations of Americans.” ####

Jan 28 2004

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made the following statement on the Department of Energy’s decision to delay the final environmental impact statement for the Modern Pit Facility (MPF). The final report was expected to identify a preferred site for constructing an MPF. Potential sites for the MPF included Savannah River Site in Aiken, Los Alamos and Carlsbad, New Mexico, the Nevada Test Site, and the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas. In Fiscal Year 2004, Congress appropriated $11 million to DOE for continued work on a pit manufacturing capability to address aging stockpile concerns. A pit, made of plutonium, triggers a nuclear explosion in all modern thermonuclear weapons. Graham made the following statement: “I am very disappointed in the decision by Secretary Spence Abraham and Ambassador Linton Brooks, Director of the National Nuclear Security Administration, to delay the site selection for the Modern Pit Facility (MPF).   “Throughout the process, the Department of Energy (DOE) assured Congress that site selection was on-track.  DOE has maintained from the beginning that congressional concerns about MPF would not impact their timing for site selection. “In the future, DOE would better serve the taxpayer by determining whether they plan to go forward with a program before coming to Congress requesting taxpayer dollars. “I’ve always tried to take a balanced approach when dealing with these issues, but this decision damages our relationship with DOE. The news to delay a decision was completely unexpected and frankly, unwarranted, as DOE scientists and engineers are ready to make a MPF site selection. “The indecision on the part of the DOE leadership will have a negative impact on this program and could impact a broad range of other national security programs.   “DOE naively assumes delay will promote broader support for MPF and other programs. I believe their indecision will have the opposite effect.” #####

Jan 28 2004

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), a member of the Armed Services Committee in the Senate, this week introduced legislation to benefit members of the National Guard and Reserves. The National Guard and Reserve Readiness and Retention Act is a comprehensive reform bill to modernize healthcare and retirement benefits for members of the National Guard and Reserves. “The increased demands placed on the men and women who serve this country in a part-time capacity require a modernization of their benefits,” said Graham. “Guardsmen and Reservists will soon make up 40 percent of our forces on the ground in Iraq and over the past decade have seen a dramatic increase in the time they spend on active duty. We must be sure to take care of every person that puts their life on the line to fight for liberty and freedom throughout the world.” “We need to take advantage of the momentum that is building in Congress to ensure Guard and Reserve personnel are fairly compensated for their service, said Graham. “The reform package being introduced today provides better health coverage and a more equitable retirement system for these citizen-soldiers.” Provisions included in the bill: Expand Access to Health Care – All Guard and Reserve members and their families would be eligible for health coverage through TRICARE, the military health system, regardless of their mobilization status. Unlike active-duty personnel, reservists would pay a modest annual premium. This change would improve unit readiness and eliminate the need for reservists and their families to change health care providers when mobilized. In the last session of Congress, Graham secured funding for expanded TRICARE eligibility for unemployed reservists and guardsmen and those that are not eligible for health insurance from their employers. He also won concessions to provide TRICARE coverage to all guardsmen and reservists once they received orders to deploy and allowed reservists and guardsmen to stay on TRICARE six months after deployment to ease the transition back to their private insurance. Provide Assistance To Cover Cost of Private Health Insurance Premiums – During periods of mobilization, reservists who opt to maintain private health coverage for their families rather than TRICARE would receive assistance in paying their health insurance premiums. Since families are also called on to sacrifice during mobilizations, this provision is intended to make it easier for them to maintain their existing health coverage and doctors. Enhance Retirement Benefits – Reservists with long careers could begin drawing retirement benefits as early as age 53, rather than the current minimum age of 60. The age for starting benefits would drop one year for every two additional years of honorable service. For example, benefits would start at age 60 for those with 20 years of service and age 59 for those with 22 years of service. “The National Guard and Reserves are increasingly being called upon to help protect our country and defend American interests,” said Graham. “They are playing a vital role in Operation Iraqi Freedom and are an integral part of the war on terrorism. We must take proactive steps to modernize benefits and improve recruitment and retention. Failure to act will result in a bloodletting in the Guard and Reserves, as many will choose to quit when their terms expire. This would have a devastating impact on the American military.” ####