Tags: Lindsey Graham | budget vote | national security

Lindsey Graham to Newsmax: Budget Vote Critical to National Security

By    |   Sunday, 14 Dec 2014 12:48 AM

Sen. Lindsey Graham told Newsmax that he dismissed opposition by Sen. Ted Cruz and other conservatives and supported a $1.1 trillion bill to keep the government running because it included billions to fight the Islamic State and to help contain Ebola in the United States and abroad.

"I would have a hard time, given the threats that I'm aware of, of de-funding the Homeland Security Department, because the enemy is trying very hard to hit us in our own back yard," said the South Carolina Republican, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Homeland Security oversees immigration and would implement the executive orders President Barack Obama announced last month to give deportation relief and grant work permits to as many as 6 million illegal immigrants.

The department's funding was at the center of objections raised by conservative Republicans to the funding bill in both the Senate and the House.

"Anybody who believes that we are going to successfully attack the executive order of the president by cutting off funding with a Democratic-controlled Senate is not attached to reality politically," Graham said. "The best way to attack these executive orders is next year when we have majorities in both the House and Senate."

After a long, tough struggle that culminated in a rare Saturday session in response to challenges by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the Senate voted 56-40 to approve the funding bill that was passed by the House on Thursday.

The measure lifts the threat of a government shutdown, allowing Congress to finish a two-year legislative session that has been marked by bitter partisanship and few major accomplishments.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law before an extension of federal spending authority expires at midnight on Wednesday.

Under the legislation, most of the federal government will be financed through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Homeland Security, however, would be funded through Feb. 27.

By then, Republicans will be in control of both chambers of Congress — and they will be in a better position to defund any efforts to carry out Obama unilateral action.

The GOP will hold a 54-46 majority in the Senate and will enjoy a larger margin in the House. Democratic cooperation will be necessary on some bills in the upper chamber, where 60 out of 100 votes are needed to advance most major legislation.

The budget bill also contains about $74 billion for overseas military operations and diplomatic efforts by the State Department to combat terrorism, including $3.4 billion to continue the air campaign against Islamic State militants,  $1.6 billion to train the Iraqi military and $4.1 billion to train and equip Afghanistan's military.

It also includes $5.4 billion to help fight the Ebola crisis in the United States and West Africa.

"We have money in this bill to better contain Ebola. We have money in this bill to do infrastructure projects that are in desperate need of repair," Graham told Newsmax. "None of that would be possible without an omnibus bill."

The House also struggled with the funding bill, passing it 219-206 after Democrats battled over provisions in the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation passed in 2010 that would weaken regulations over the trading of derivatives and over campaign finance laws that would allow larger campaign donations to political parties.

The drama in the Senate over the legislation began Friday and centered on objections by Cruz and two other conservatives — Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Jeff Sessions of Alabama — to funding Homeland Security because it would allow the agency to implement Obama's executive actions.

The senators bitterly attacked the bill and argued that the provisions should be stripped before it moved forward.

Cruz argued that the immigration elements raised constitutional issues, including the separation of powers and circumventing the Congress. The objections scuttled a bipartisan deal to pass the budget bill on Friday and to block as many as 40 of President Obama's nominees for judicial and administrative posts.

"If you believe president Obama's amnesty is unconstitutional, vote yes," Cruz said on the Senate floor shortly before the Saturday vote. He had raised a constitutional point of order on the legislation. "If you believe president Obama's amnesty is consistent with the constitution, then vote no."

Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid had called the Saturday session in response to Cruz's attacks and, through a series of procedural votes lasting nearly nine hours, started the process to get 24 of the nominees confirmed. Voting begins on Monday.

"I have never seen Harry Reid smile this much in years," Graham told Newsmax in slamming Cruz's opposition. "Not a very good experience. This is a major misstep. "By employing these tactics, he gave the Democrats the chance to back out on a deal that had successfully blocked Obama's nominees.

"Senator Cruz's insistence that we have a vote on the constitutionality of this bill allowed Harry Reid to back out of the agreement that blocked some of the most radical nominees," Graham said.

He called Vivek Murthy, who was nominated to become U.S. surgeon general, "the most radical of them all."

"This surgeon general nominee had been successfully blocked by the agreement we had negotiated, but Senator Cruz's refusal to go along with the agreement gave the Democrats an opening," Graham said. "They took advantage of it — and too bad for America."

He blasted Cruz's constitutionality argument — "that theory doesn't hold water with me — and described the first-term senator's actions as "a way to get attention on an issue that we're all agreed upon."

"I have not heard of one Republican who believes that President Obama's executive action to give legal status to millions of illegal immigrants is constitutional or sound policy.
"We all agree on that as much as we agree on repealing and replacing Obamacare," he said.

Cruz's efforts to defund the healthcare law last year led to a 16-day partial government shutdown that cost American taxpayers $1.4 billion.

"I am 100 percent opposed to President Obama's executive action," Graham told Newsmax. "However, this bill does not address that issue and does many things that are necessary in my view.

"To say that my unwillingness to bring this bill down makes me a supporter of President Obama's executive action on immigration is not only disingenuous — I find it offensive."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham told Newsmax that he dismissed opposition by Sen. Ted Cruz and other conservatives and supported a $1.1 million bill to keep the government running because it included billions to fight the Islamic State and to help contain Ebola in the United States.
Lindsey Graham, budget vote, national security
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2014-48-14
Sunday, 14 Dec 2014 12:48 AM
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