By Alexander Bolton - 04/13/11 04:05 PM EDT
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has vowed to bring the Senate to a standstill unless congressional leaders agree to allocate $40,000 for a federal study on deepening the Port of Charleston.
Graham says one out of five jobs in South Carolina stem from trade through Charleston’s busy port, and he warns the entire state economy will suffer unless the port is overhauled.
Graham said he will not block the budget agreement to keep the government funded through the end of September but that he will hold up all other business until the matter is resolved. He said he would not delay the stopgap spending measure because it includes funding for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But his stand could delay the confirmation of nominees and completion of small-business legislation that has languished on the Senate floor for weeks.
An aide to Graham stressed the $40,000 request is not an earmark.
"The language that the senator wants to have in the CR gives the Army Corps [of Engineers] money to go forward with projects currently in progress. This will allow the Corps to tap into that money for our study," said the aide in reference to the continuing resolution to keep the government funded for six months.
Vice President Joe Biden called Graham on Tuesday to negotiate a possible deal.
“I’m getting people’s attention, I hate to do it this way but it’s the only way — the administration, the vice president called yesterday. He’s wanting to help me. It’s not too big of an ask. We’re talking about a $40,000 need in Charleston to make sure the port doesn’t fall a year behind,” Graham said.
Graham’s stand plays into the Democratic argument that infrastructure spending creates jobs.
“I would say that putting the money into infrastructure that creates jobs is a good thing to do with taxpayer dollars,” he said. “No one has ever suggested that deepening the Port of Charleston would not be an economic benefit to the region and the nation as a whole.
“If you do want to double exports, which is a good idea, you’ve got to have the infrastructure that meets the times we live in,” he said.
Graham argues that super-sized cargo ships will dominate the shipping industry in the near future and that ports along the east coast will have to deepen their channels to accommodate the deep-draft vessels.