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April 16, 2011

Port of Charleston

[Page: S2493]  GPO's PDF 

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Mr. GRAHAM. I ask unanimous consent to enter into a colloquy with my good friend, the majority leader.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, a lot of Members now understand the problem we have with the port of Charleston in 2011. There is no money in the President's budget to do a scoping study. Under the new rules concerning earmarking, it has been very difficult to find a way forward. With the help of the majority leader and his staff and the people on Appropriations--the staffs of Senators Feinstein and Lamar Alexander--we came up with

[Page: S2494]  GPO's PDF
language that would allow 12 different ports to have studies completed in fiscal year 2011, if the Corps chose to engage in those studies. It was not a requirement, and it had no sums required in terms of what the Corps had to spend. It was purely discretionary. Unfortunately, our House colleagues did not accept that language.

My problem is that in fiscal year 2011, there is no mechanism as of yet to allow a scoping study to be done for the potential deepening of the Charleston harbor to accept supercargo ships coming through the Panama Canal in 2014. This harbor, along with others, has to be deepened to accept these new ships. The amount of money is $40,000 on the Federal side to be matched by the State. People ask me: Why can't you come up with the money? Boeing, BMW, Michelin, the State of South Carolina?

I would do the $40,000, but I can't. You cannot have a private entity take over a Federal Government responsibility. So this is one of those situations that is a catch-22. It is an anomaly in the law. The Vice President's office and Congressman Clyburn, a lot of us, Congressman Scott, have been working diligently, with the assistance of the majority leader, to find a pathway forward within the current system. We are very close to finding a way to get this study done because it was a previously authorized program under current law.

I have put a hold on everything I could put a hold on.

Now I believe we are making progress. The majority leader has some needs, and I want to let him know I am willing to work with him and others to end the Senate well before we go out on Easter break. I thank him for the help he has given me to take care of a problem that no one could have anticipated. But it is a real problem for the people of South Carolina. I wish to let him know I appreciate the effort.

The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Begich). The majority leader.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, I say to my friend the distinguished Senator from South Carolina, I am aware of the 12 ports that need help. But out of the 12, there is none more needed--and we as a country would get such a bang for our buck--to do what is necessary than the port of Charleston. I first compliment the Senator from South Carolina for his proposed solution to a challenge facing the State. He is dogged in representing the State of South Carolina. This is an issue that is important to the people of his State. His solution would not in any way violate any of the rules we have in the Senate. It is something that would not be part of congressionally directed spending in the true sense of the word that has been not approved by people in recent years. I have been part of the Appropriations Committee since I first came to the Senate.

I love that committee. I know the good things it can do for our country and has done for our country. This merit-based competitive port fund that has been suggested would not be limited to South Carolina, even though I think it is the most needy of the 12. This would not guarantee that the port study in Charleston would go forward but would provide the Corps the opportunity to move forward should they choose.

Mr. President, I not only have been a member of the Appropriations Committee, but for a long, long time--a long time--the Senator from New Mexico, Mr. Domenici, and I--that was our subcommittee, Energy and Water, and that is where this money comes from.

This is so necessary to be done. I understand the Corps' obligations. This is something we have to do. And even though my friend acknowledged this vote we just took care of the funding until the end of this year--but that is the end of this fiscal year. There are going to be other pieces of legislation to come to this floor. We could, at any time--any time--move forward on this. I thought we had a solution because of the anomaly we found ourselves in to work this out with the House of Representatives.

It is not often that I am a cheerleader for pieces of legislation that are suggested and moved forward by Republicans, but I was on this one. This is something that is merit-based and is fair. I am going to continue to do everything I can for my friend from South Carolina to see if before the end of this fiscal year we can get something done. It is important to him. It is important to our country because of the value that port has to our country.

Mr. GRAHAM. I thank the majority leader very much. It is appreciated on behalf of all of us in South Carolina. And I look forward to finding a solution for the country as a whole.

(Senate - April 14, 2011)

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