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Graham wants spending bill vetoed but own earmarks kept
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Sunday March 8, 2009


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President Obama has been catching flak for his intention to sign a $410 billion omnibus spending bill if it passes the Senate on Monday. The bill includes some 9000 earmarks, distributed among members of both parties, and Republicans like Senator John McCain have been condemning it as pork-laden.

"Should the president veto this bill?" NBC host David Gregory asked Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Sunday.

"I'll leave that up to the president," Graham replied. "I wish he would veto the bill. We'd get back together and come up with an earmark reform process."

Obama campaigned last fall on a promise not to sign any legislation that was loaded with earmarks, but his administration apparently believes that arguing over the details of the stopgap bill -- which was originally written under the Bush administration to authorize spending for the current fiscal year -- would be a distraction from focusing on next year's budget.

"We want to just move on," budget director Peter Orszag recently stated. "Let's get this bill done, get it into law and move forward."

Orszag did go on to insist, "We want to make sure that earmarks are reduced and they're also transparent. We're going to work with the Congress on a set of reforms to achieve those,"

Graham similarly told Gregory that he is not opposed to "members designating money to be spent in their state as long as it has a federal purpose, is transparent, and people understand what the money's going to be spent for."

Gregory then pointed out that Senator John McCain has been railing on Twitter about Graham's own earmark of $950,000 for a convention center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

"I voted to take all earmarks out, but I will come back in the new process and put that back in," Graham insisted, saying that the convention center is important to stimulate the local economy. "I think I should have the ability as a United States senator to direct money back to my state as long as it's transparent and it makes sense."


This video is from NBC's Meet the Press, broadcast Mar. 8, 2009.




Download video via RawReplay.com


Partial transcript

GREGORY: Now, Senator McCain pointed out this is a bipartisan disease, 40% of the earmarks are from Republicans. At $7 billion. should the president veto this bill?

GRAHAM: I'll leave that up to the president. We do need earmark reform. I wish he would veto the bill, get back together and come up with the reform process. Senator McCain does not object to members of Congress designating money to be spent in their state as long as it has a federal purpose, is transparent and equal to understand what the money is going to be spent for. We'll have a say about whether or not it's a good idea. That system doesn't exist. I think it would be good for the country if the president and Senator McCain could meet soon -- sooner rather than later, to come up with a package.

GREGORY: And yet Senator McCain has given you a hard time. He's on twitter. Number six on his list of pork barrel spending $950,000 for a convention center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. You want the president to veto the spending bill?

GRAHAM: I voted to take all earmarks out but I will come back in the new process and put that back in. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, we're trying to build an international airport, an international convention center, and open up a new interstate highway to diversify Myrtle Beach's economy. This came through the Small Business Administration.

GREGORY: You have 37 earmarks. Do you think they're more important than other people's projects?

GRAHAM: I think I should have the ability as a United States Senator to direct money back to my state as long as it's transparent and makes sense, yes.



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