Dec 19 2007

Graham Opposes Omnibus Spending Legislation

Supports McConnell Amendment Providing $70 Billion in Funding for Troops in Iraq

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) last night voted against the 3,417 page, $550 billion omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government.  The legislation passed the Senate by a vote of 76-17 and awaits action by the House of Representatives.  President Bush is expected to sign it into law if it reaches his desk.

“Simply put, the downside was greater than the upside,” said Graham.  “After careful consideration I came to the conclusion there were some worthwhile provisions, but just not enough to justify a vote in support. 

Graham said changes in border security provisions and earmarking were major reasons for his no vote.

Secure Fence Act Undermined by the Omnibus:

Graham noted the omnibus made significant changes to the Secure Fence Act which was signed into law last year.  Earlier this year, Graham secured $3 billion in emergency funding through the Graham Amendment for improved border security and additional border fencing as called for in the Secure Fence Act.  The omnibus, while providing much of the funding sought in the Graham Amendment ($2.7 billion), institutes bureaucratic and policy changes which will make it more difficult to actually construct the fence. 

Among the changes are removing requirements for double-layer fencing and replacing it with single-layer fencing. The omnibus also creates new bureaucratic hurdles including additional reporting requirements from the Department of Homeland Security and approval of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees before funds can be spent on the border fence.

“The legislation makes changes in the planned construction of the more than 700 miles of fencing along our southern border which are troubling” said Graham.  “In the name of providing flexibility, I think we may end up slowing construction.  I want funding for the fence and the ability to build the fence with limited interference.”   

“In the age of terrorism, regaining operational control of our nation’s borders is a national security issue of the highest order,” said Graham.  “The term ‘operational control’ is a military term, and I look at this effort to secure our border as a military operation.  If we are serious about border security, our actions need to match our words.  When it comes to securing our border, the omnibus does not accomplish those objectives.”

Earmarks ‘Air Dropped’ into the Omnibus:

Graham also expressed concern about the sheer number and manner in which some earmarks were included.  The legislation contained over 9,000 earmarks, including 300 which were ‘air-dropped’ into the final legislation.  ‘Air dropping’ means these earmarks were not passed by either the House or Senate during previous consideration of spending bills.  They also were not subject to a point of order, amendment or debate on the floor, or questioning of their merit.

“Earmarks are a legitimate way to ensure funding is included for projects important in our states, but the process must be clear, transparent, and not abused,” said Graham.  “The omnibus did not meet that standard.  The final legislation included several hundred earmarks which were air dropped into the legislation at the last possible minute.  We can and must do better.”

Graham noted the positive aspects of the legislation including the overall spending number was less than previous versions and inclusion of the McConnell Amendment providing $70 billion in funding for operations in Iraq.

“The McConnell Amendment was a major victory for the President’s policies in Iraq,” said Graham.  “General Petraeus and all under his command have earned the right to continue pushing forward in Iraq.  It would have been a huge mistake to withhold or not provide them funding.  Our troops now have the funding they need without strings attached.  I’m pleased we passed the McConnell Amendment and also beat back several Democratic attempts to micromanage the Iraq war.”