Update: Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) office issued a detailed defense of his threats to “tie the Senate in knots” and block all of Obama nominations over $50,000 left out of last week’s 11th-hour budget deal for a study on deepening the Port of Charleston.
For critics who said the state should come up with its own funds for the Army Corp of Engineers’ study to deepen the port, Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop said such an easy solution is actually impossible under federal law.
The South Carolina State Ports Authority, which is responsible for operations of the Charleston Port, is ready to write the check for the state’s share of the the study, but federal law requires Congress to cough up funds to enable the Army Corp of Engineers to move forward with the study. It would be the second step in the process; a first study already determined a federal interest in deepening the harbor.
“The Corps requires virtually all ports around the country to shoulder some of the costs of feasibility studies, engineering, and design on harbor deepening,” Bishop said. “South Carolina is ready to go. Now we’re waiting on the feds to kick in their share. Without that green light, our state is stuck in neutral and cannot proceed.”
Not all Republicans were celebrating Tuesday about the fine print of the $38.5 billion in cuts House Republicans managed to wrangle in last week’s 11th-hour budget showdown. Tea Party loyalists who wanted tens of billions more cut from this year’s spending were shaking their heads, and at least one senator was lamenting a budget omission he said would hit his state’s economy hard.
In fact, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was down right incensed over the decision not to include a mere $50,000 for an Army Corps of Engineers study on deepening the Port of Charleston in his home state and vowed to “tie the Senate in knots” by holding up Obama administration nominations.
Graham started a string of angry tweets about the omission early Tuesday. By the end of the day, he had held a press conference on the issue in Charleston, S.C., and was blaming the Obama administration for failing to include the funding in its budget proposal released in February, arguing that 260,000 jobs are tied to the port.
“Obama Admin made a bad mistake not putting money for CHS port in their budget proposal,” he wrote.
“No nominations go forward in Senate until we address CHS port,” he tweeted, noting that the provision was not an earmark and applied to a dozen ports across the U.S.
“The squeaky wheel seems to get the oil,” he said at a press conference where he was joined by Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC), the GreenvilleOnline reported.
Graham has made deepening the port one of his top local priorities, arguing that South Carolina’s economic future hinges on the viability of the port, which would get bogged down by the expansion of the Panama Canal in 2014. The Panama Canal expansion is expected to double and triple cargo loads.
To support heavier ships, Graham has said Charleston Harbor needs to be deepened from 46 feet to 50 feet, a $350 million project over six or seven years, South Carolina’s Independent Mail reported.
“I’d rather lose my job than lose the port,” Graham said in a speech in early April at Tri-County Technical College.