Senator meets with Barnwell officials
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham met for about an hour with Barnwell officials on Friday, Aug. 11 in Barnwell.
Graham met with Barnwell municipal and county officials at the Barnwell City Hall and covered topics including North Korea, immigration and health care. He also asked what local leadership considered to be needs he could help with.
“I’m trying to go around to the more rural counties during this August break and tell you a little bit about what we’re doing and listen to what you are doing,” said Sen. Graham.
He said Congress is not able to “earmark” funds anymore and the executive branch gets to do that. He said the amount of money available in the coming year “is about what it was this year.”
He asked those present for “no more than one or two” projects where they think the senator can help. “I want to be helpful where I can.”
Several local officials asked Graham about the future of the MOX project and noted the importance of the Savannah River Site to Barnwell County.
County Administrator Pickens Williams Jr. reminded the senator that in the 1950s Barnwell County gave up a third of its land mass to the SRS project.
According to the MOX website, “Once completed, the facility will convert surplus nuclear weapons-grade plutonium into safe, stable fuel for civilian nuclear power generation. This work supports international nuclear nonproliferation agreements in which the United States and Russia will decommission 68 metric tons of surplus plutonium, sufficient for approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons, and will produce enough electricity to power roughly 4,500 homes for three years with one fuel rod.”
The senator said the U.S. Senate wants to stop the MOX project but the House wants to keep it going.
The MOX project, he said, is about 70 percent complete.
“What is it about American that we can’t build reactors and France and Germany and Russia can?” postulated Graham. They’ve built three MOX projects in France and we can’t build one.”
He said the cost of doing business here is too high. “They build reactors in France all the time.”
Graham is also concerned about the announcement by Santee Cooper/SCE&G to stop construction of two nuclear reactors in Fairfield County. Already over $9 billion has been spent on the unfinished construction.
“So, the bottom line is that I’m going to see if we can get someone to work with SCANA and get this thing going again. I don’t want people to pay for a hole in the ground. If we need to sell Santee Cooper, that’s what we’ll do. I’ll support the government, whatever it decides.”
County councilman Don Harper told the senator the decisions made by the Department of Energy “are important here” due to the county’s proximity to the Savannah River Site.
“We have no interstates, no waterways, no rail,” said Harper. “The industries are not here and we need help here.”
The senator’s responded, “Building out Interstate 77 would actually help y’all.”
“The bottom line is that in rural counties is that your tax base is difficult.”
He said he would like to build out I-77 from Columbia all the way to Georgia.
He also said improving the nation’s infrastructure of roads, rail and ports is important to the country. He also said rural counties will benefit as infrastructure will allow companies in small communities to provide support to the ports and large companies such as Boeing.
On the healthcare issue, Sen. Graham stated, “Obamacare is not going to work. You are down to one exchange in South Carolina and you have a 30 percent increase. This is designed to take the private sector out of healthcare. I don’t like that.”
Graham said his plan is “to take the amount of money we’re spending on Obamacare, leave it in place in terms of dollars and block-grant it back to the states. It will allow each state to design a healthcare system unique to their needs,” he said.
He said the states would get the same amount of money from the federal government based on population and his plan would offer “more flexibility, not less.”
“You need to keep people with policies who have been sick, you need to keep young people on their parents’ policies until they are (26 years old), and block grant this money back to the states so they can come up with a system that works for them.”
South Carolina, he said, would receive 129 percent more funding than allocated by Obamacare.
He said community health centers “are worth their weight in gold” and a regional emergency care center “makes sense” for Barnwell and Bamberg counties. “That model will be all over the country.”
He said Republicans “have no one else to blame but ourselves” for not getting Obamacare repealed and replaced. “We have the House, we have the Senate, we have the White House. I am tired of blaming people. Hold us accountable. If you are mad at the Congress, you have every right in the world to be.”
With regards to North Korea, Sen. Graham said, “We live in dangerous times” and “let’s end it and end it now.”
He said he fully supports President Donald Trump as he has stands up to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
“Trump is out of options. The last good option was around 25 years ago. We had the chance to stop the regime from going down the nuclear road” and didn’t, said Sen. Graham.
“The power of the weapons is the power of recognition that North Korea wouldn’t have otherwise,” stated the senator. “We should have figured that out 25 years ago.”
He said North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-Un, is crazy and that “if somebody doesn’t stop him, he’s going to get bigger bombs and more of them; and more missiles, not just one. So, it is in our national interest, I believe, to never allow him to have the ability to hit America with a nuclear weapon.”
“I don’t want your kids and grandkids to worry about a crazy guy who you never know what he is going to do on any given day when he gets out of bed. So, Trump is right to tell him, ‘I will go to war to stop you from creating the capability to hit America’. He (Trump) is dead right about that,” said Graham.
“Everyone before Trump failed,” said Graham. “You can complain about him if you like. I don’t agree with him all the time but he is President. I think he is right to put North Korea - and China - on notice that we are not going to subject our homeland to a nuclear attack from North Korea.”
“If we are going to have a war, it’s going to be over there, not here,” said Graham. “The best way to resolve this is to convince China, which owns 90 percent of the North Korean economy, that we are not going to let Kim Jong -Un to hit every city in America. That is an unacceptable risk and we need you (China) to help with that because it is not good for you.”
He said China will change only when its leaders think the United States is serious about the use of military force.
“I think they are beginning to believe that Trump is serious,” said Graham.
Sanctuary cities and immigration
The senator said “sanctuary cities are a symptom of a bigger problem.”
He said there is a problem with filling jobs “in a certain sector of the economy”.
“The reason we are overrun from people from poorer countries is they come here to work,” said Graham. “Some people come here to commit crimes but the majority come here for jobs. They live in bad places and they want to come to America.”
“You won’t stop this problem until you stop illegal hiring,” said Graham. “As long as there is a job on the other side, they will go under the wall or over the wall.”
“The bad hombres can’t stay. If you commit a felony or three misdemeanors, you are not going to get a second chance. Off you go,” said Graham. “To the rest, raise your hand, come out of the shadows. We will have to biometrically identify you. You will have to pass a background check and you will get fingerprinted. You will have a fine to pay because you broke the law and have three to four years to pay it. You will have to get to the back of the line if you want to become a citizen. You can’t even apply for a green card for 10 years but you can stay and work and you gotta pay taxes. And in year four, you have to pass an English test. That’s what we’ve been trying to do for ten years.”
“That would create order out of chaos,” said Graham. “You are not going to deport 11 million people. That would bring the economy to its knees. Let’s get rid of the bad ones. Let’s keep the good ones and fix the system.”
To also “fix the system”, Graham said, America needs to secure its borders, control who comes into the country and those who break the law “off you go”, and you have a law that allows businesses to find legal labor when they can’t find it here at home. And if they hire illegals, you take the business away from them and put them in jail.”