Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has officially joined the ranks of Senate Republicans saying they will support Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) plan to place a two-year moratorium on earmarks in today’s Republican Conference vote. His remarks — much like those of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) yesterday — hint at his inherent uneasiness with the plan, however, as well as the possibility that some GOP senators may later find it in their interest to renege:
I know that while some earmarks have been employed for important purposes, like my funding request for the production of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored vehicles to protect our troops in battle, there have been abuses. These abuses have led many to question our willingness to get our nation’s fiscal house in order. [...]
I respect the spirit in which this moratorium has been agreed to and hope it will lead to a better use of taxpayer dollars. However, I maintain the right to seek funding to protect our national security or where the jobs and economy of South Carolina are at risk. If the Obama Administration and their bureaucrats in the federal agencies take action against the best interests of South Carolina, I will take swift action to correct their wrongs.
With both Republican senators from South Carolina now on board with the idea, Graham is essentially trying to hold onto an escape clause should he feel his state is in dire need and the Obama administration is giving it the cold shoulder. His concerns mainly focus on a single project for which he’s advocated tirelessly in the past — deepening the harbor of the Port of Charleston — and his vow (included elsewhere in his statement) to “use every option at my disposal to ensure funding is made available” for the project illustrates nicely how the earmark moratorium will likely generate conflicts for a number Republican senators during the next Congress. Graham, who feels the port is essential but fears a Tea Party challenge as well, is now caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to advocating for the project, and it will be interesting to see if he manages to keep both sides happy.