Sen. Graham follows own path on shutdown deal to open government

James Rosen | Tribune Media

Sen. Lindsey Graham was the only Republican in South Carolina’s GOP-dominated congressional delegation who voted for the deal that reopened the federal government.

President Barack Obama signed the shutdown bill into law late Wednesday after the Senate passed it by an 81-18 vote and the House approved it by a 285-144 margin. Three-fifths of the Senate’s 46 Republicans voted for the legislation, while a similar share of the House’s 232 Republicans opposed it.

Graham, a second-term senator facing a contested re-election campaign, broke with Sen. Tim Scott, a North Charleston Republican in his first year as a senator.

“This agreement is far from great news, but it brings to an end, at least temporarily, a disaster,” Graham said. “It stops the bleeding and gives us a chance to regroup. On the positive side, the agreement preserves the spending caps and makes modest changes to protect taxpayers from what will be rampant fraud in Obamacare income-verification procedures.”

Scott, a former House representative named late last year by Gov. Nikki Haley to replace Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, said the deal hammered out by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, did not cut spending enough.

“Ending the government shutdown is a good thing,” Scott said. “However, raising the debt ceiling with absolutely zero offsetting reductions in spending is the poster child for the lack of fiscal foresight that is commonplace in Washington.”

Graham acknowledged that Republicans “could have done much, much better,” but he said McConnell didn’t have strong negotiating leverage.

“Unfortunately, given where we now find ourselves, this agreement was the best Sen. McConnell could do,” Graham said. “By the time we got to this point, we were playing poker only holding a pair of twos.”

The deal funds the government at current levels through Jan. 15, and authorizes the Treasury Department to borrow money through Feb. 7, beyond the current debt ceiling of $16.7 trillion. The package also sets up a bipartisan committee of senators and representatives to try to create a longer-term budget and to replace forced wide-ranging spending cuts already in place under sequestration with more targeted reductions.

Rep. James Clyburn, a Columbia Democrat and the No. 3 leader of his party in the House, said the 16-day shutdown fiasco should not be repeated.

“Going forward, we must get beyond the repeated episodes of partisan brinksmanship that have been so costly to our country,” he said.

Rep. Joe Wilson, a Lexington Republican in his seventh term, said he had previously voted for several measures that would have funded parts of the government during the shutdown. Democrats opposed piecemeal funding of some programs, while others were shuttered. The measures passed the Republican-led House, but the Democratic-controlled Senate never took them up.

“I am disappointed that I could not support tonight’s legislation because it did not reflect my core beliefs of limited government and expanded freedom,” Wilson said late Wednesday.

Rep. Tom Rice, a Myrtle Beach Republican who represents South Carolina’s new 7th Congressional District, said he couldn’t vote for the package to end the shutdown because doing so would have violated a key campaign pledge last year.

“Instead of addressing our financial problems, Congress put forth a bill that merely postpones another fiscal calamity,” Rice said. “I could not support this bill because it allows the government to run up our nation’s credit card, ignore the ballooning cost of our entitlement programs and does not make America more competitive.”

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a second-term Indian Land Republican, said the deal was “full of pork,” such as extra money to build a dam in Kentucky and more flood relief funds for Colorado.

Mulvaney said the legislation also didn’t lessen what he described as inequities in Obama’s landmark health care law, which he said provides extra subsidies to some large corporations and insurance companies, as well as to members of Congress and their aides.

“The agreement did nothing to address our nation’s addiction to spending,” Mulvaney said. “We have now raised the debt ceiling (by) over $1 trillion this year, without a penny of future savings. This deal allows lawmakers to postpone making the tough choices to get our fiscal house in order.”

Rep. Mark Sanford, a former South Carolina governor who replaced Scott in the House this year, said the legislation contradicted his 20-year fight against the expansion of government spending.

“It does nothing to address our national debt or our spending trajectory,” Sanford said. “It doesn’t make progress towards confronting the ballooning deficits that await us around the corner.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy, a second-term Spartanburg Republican, said the measure “falls short of what we could have done and what we should have done.”

Rep. Jeff Duncan, a Laurens Republican also in his second term, said the deal “did not do enough to address the real problems at hand.” He accused Obama of leadership failures by refusing to negotiate with Republicans for weeks and by cutting off funding to programs to score political points.

By James Rosen
McClatchy Washington Bureau