"Graham Hates The Stimulus, But He’ll Take The Money For South Carolina Anyway: I’m Not ‘Crazy’"
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has been one of Congress’s most vocal opponents of the economic recovery package. In fact, he and several other Republicans — including John McCain — introduced an alternative bill, which focuses mostly on massive tax breaks for corporations.
Yesterday he went on CNN to explain why he voted against the Senate’s economic recovery package. While many progressives criticized the bill because it slashed vital funding for education and state assistance, Graham is objecting because it has too much state funding:
BLITZER: Doesn’t South Carolina need some help?
GRAHAM: Yes. But there’s only one taxpayer. This is not money we found under a tree in Washington. The money we’re sending back to the states came out of the same wallet that the money going to the states came from. So, yes, South Carolina needs help. I’m all for infrastructure spending. But it’s got to be shovel ready. [...]
I’m not for $75 billion slush fund for states that can be spent on anything they want to spend it on including budget problems because we’ve got our own budget problems and you’re rewarding states who have done very little to trim up their own budget.
However, when Blitzer asked him whether South Carolina should “take the money, Graham replied: “I think that, yes, from my point of view, I — you don’t want to be crazy here. I mean, if there’s going to be money on the table that will help my state, but I’ve got a job to do up here, and that is to try to help people and not damn the next generation.” Watch it:
Infrastructure spending is important; it can create jobs that will help pave the way toward a green economy. But states need more than just infrastructure. At least 44 states are facing budget shortfalls, with education and health care — two of the biggest costs — facing the largest cuts. President Obama and progressive lawmakers have pushed to include funding for these priorities in the economic recovery package. While the “centrist” Senate version drastically much of this spending, it was still far better than the proposal put forth by Graham, et al. As Mark Zandi of Moody’s Economy.com wrote, this type of aid is good stimulus:
Additional federal aid to state governments will fund existing payrolls and programs; thus it will also provide a relatively quick economic boost. States that receive a check from the federal government will quickly pass on the money to workers, vendors, and program beneficiaries.
Graham’s right — it would be “crazy” for South Carolina to not take the money in the economic recovery package. But it’s also crazy for people like Graham — and Govs. Sarah Palin (R-AK), Bobby Jindal (R-LA), and Mark Sanford (R-SC) — to put conservative dogma over the realities in their states.
Senator Graham is joining us now from Capitol Hill.
Senator, thanks very much for coming in.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you.
BLITZER: If someone said to me over the past few weeks, you know what, the president is going to reach out to moderate Republicans, mavericks, I always assumed the two senators from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, would be onboard. Arlen Specter, he often goes with the Democrats on sensitive issues.
But I always assumed that John McCain, a maverick, and Lindsey Graham, probably, would be there as well. But the two of you came out swinging. You hate this deal. Why?
GRAHAM: Well, number one, it started in the House very poorly. This bill was not written by a bunch of economists focused for creating jobs written by House appropriators with the attitude we won, we write the bill. You couldn’t pick up one Republican in the House and you lost 11 Democrats. You lost more Democrats than you picked up Republicans. That’s not bipartisanship.
John and I had an alternative that was $415 billion that had tax cuts for business, and tax cuts for individuals. It had spending on food stamps and unemployment insurance benefits and infrastructure projects. The compromise between $415 billion that every Republican voted for in the Senate, in 790, whatever the number is, is not a bipartisan compromise.
So we’re disappointed in the process and the substance.
GRAHAM: This bill creates more new government than it does new jobs.
BLITZER: What does it say to you about the new president of the United States?
GRAHAM: I think what happened in the House kind of threw — I think he should have probably written the bill but the House started with a spending bill that was unfocused on creating jobs. Twenty percent of this bill hits the economy in the first year. If it can’t come out within a year, or 18 months, it shouldn’t be in this bill.
There are a lot of programs in this bill that are policy changes, they’re unrelated in creating a job, and I think we’ve lost the focus. We throw in everything but the kitchen sink in this bill and not focus on creating jobs.
BLITZER: He says, he says, the president, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
BLITZER: Isn’t this better than nothing?
GRAHAM: No. This was worse than nothing. This is a trillion dollars over the next 10 years. And when the economy gets better, the interest on this bill is about $400 billion. I think it would have been better to start with housing. It would have been better to start with banking. We’ve taken about $800 billion in the name of stimulus to grow the government, not create jobs, and we’ve done nothing about the underlying problems with housing and banking.
You’re throwing good money after bad until you fix the banking problem and the housing problem. So I think it had been better to do nothing on stimulus, start with banking and housing where you have a real chance to jump start the economy, then do stimulus.
BLITZER: Listen to what the president said about what this will do. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Governments are sealing — seeing more people filing unemployment claims, signing up for Medicaid, requesting government services. And all the while, people are spending less, earning less, and paying less in taxes. So across the country, states need help. And with my plan, help is what they will get.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Doesn’t South Carolina need some help?
GRAHAM: Yes. But there’s only one taxpayer. This is not money we found under a tree in Washington. The money we’re sending back to the states came out of the same wallet that the money going to the states came from. So, yes, South Carolina needs help. I’m all for infrastructure spending. But it’s got to be shovel ready.
I’m for helping people sign up for Medicaid. There’s $90 billion in the bill. All you need to do is get people eligible for Medicaid in terms of new enrollees is $11 billion. I’m not for $75 billion slush fund for states that can be spent on anything they want to spend it on including budget problems because we’ve got our own budget problems and you’re rewarding states who have done very little to trim up their own budget –
BLITZER: South — yes.
GRAHAM: — and punish states that have done things at home.
BLITZER: South Carolina will get money out of this bill.
BLITZER: Should South Carolina take the money?
GRAHAM: I think that, yes, from my point of view, I — you don’t want to be crazy here. I mean, if there’s going to be money on the table that will help my state, but I’ve got a job to do up here, and that is to try to help people and not damn the next generation. We had a $415 billion package to help people who have lost their jobs, that cut taxes, that create new jobs. We’ve got a spending bill, not a job creation bill. And we’re being all things to all people.
We’ve dug a hole for the next generation of young Americans they can’t get out of. Total cost of this bill is over $1 trillion and it’s not going to create jobs as much as it does throw government and when you send the money to South Carolina, that’s not going to create a job for the national economy. It’s going to help a bunch of politicians balance their books and not create jobs in South Carolina.
BLITZER: One final question. We’re almost out of time, Senator.
BLITZER: Where do you see yourself cooperating with President Obama down the road? On which issues — because in the past you’ve worked with Democrats on comprehensive immigration reform.
BLITZER: On CAFE and finance reform. Where do you see…
GRAHAM: I — I can give you…
BLITZER: What issues will you be his partner?
GRAHAM: Social Security. We can’t do it without bipartisanship. And this bill is not bipartisanship. If this becomes the new definition of bipartisanship, we’ve lost our way. But he’s going to need help from Republicans on Social Security and closing Guantanamo Bay, what to do with the detainees.
I think we can move them back into the United States as long as we’re smart about it. He’s going to need help on earmark reform, budget reform. He’s going to need help on banking and housing. And I want to help him. I want him to succeed but this bill started in the House, it became a monstrosity of a spending bill. It has lost its focus in terms of creating jobs and I can’t help him here and I’m sorry. But this is a bad deal to the American taxpayer.
BLITZER: Lindsey Graham is a Republican senator from South Carolina.
Senator, thanks for coming in. GRAHAM: Thank you.