Sen. Lindsey Graham Defends Certain Congressional Earmarks for U.S. Military

November 16, 2010 - 7:50 PM


Lindsey Graham

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

(CNSNews.com) -- Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) defended certain spending earmarks that are set aside for the military on Tuesday. Earmarks, specific spending projects for a congressman’s district or state, are viewed as wasteful government spending by some Senate Republicans who are proposing to ban them in the new Congress.

At a Capitol Hill press conference to announce that Graham would be taking over Senator Kit Bond’s (R-Mo.) role as Co-Chairman of the Senate National Guard Caucus, Graham said he supports the proposed Senate moratorium on earmarks but defended his role in passing an earmark for equipment upgrades for troops in the Middle East.

“Earmarks have been abused,” Graham told CNSNews.com. “There’s plenty of examples of times when money was wasted. But I’ll give you one example of where an earmark I think was wisely invoked.  Remember the Up-Armored Humvee debate?”

Graham detailed an instance in the middle of the decade when a program responsible for providing military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan with upgraded armor for their vehicles was in danger of being defunded.

“I had a Marine captain tell me,” said Graham, “that he would get court-martialed before he would send his Marines out beyond the wire in an Up-Armored Humvee. The Marines have access to MRAPs and they have to make them in South Carolina, so I know about them.”  (MRAP stands for Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicles.)

“The Up -Armored Humvee program was taking precedent over the MRAP program and it was going to be terminated,” said Graham.  “Senator [Carl] Levin and myself, in the Defense Authorization bill, had $7 million in the budget to keep that line open.”

Graham repeated that he was not opposed to the proposed moratorium on earmarks except in cases where he thought that the ban would pose a risk to national security or to those serving in the armed forces.

“I’m willing to do a moratorium,” said Graham.  “But if I find a national security issue that’s not being taken care of by the Pentagon and we come together and say, ‘You know what?  Our men and women are going to suffer.’  I’m going to do what’s necessary for our men and women.”

At the press conference, retiring Senator Kit Bond (R-Mo.) also gave an example of how earmarks could serve a positive role in cases involving the U.S. military. He said that a part for a fighter jet that had been funded by an earmark was on the plane responsible for the death of a notorious Al-Qaeda leader.

“Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, if you could ever reach him is a great opponent of earmarks,” said Bond. “We earmarked a lightning pod for the F-16 that took out Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the infamous leader of al Ansar al-Islam.”

“He’s [now] waiting for his 72 virgins,” said Bond.

A transcript of the remarks by Sens. Lindsey Graham, Kit Bond, and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) follows below:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): “Earmarks have been abused. There’s plenty of examples, times when money was wasted.  But I’ll give you one example of where an earmark I think was wisely invoked.  Remember the Up-Armored Humvee debate? The MRAP debate?  I went to Iraq and Afghanistan like these gentlemen do. Kit’s had a son over there in the Marines.  I’m for the moratorium up to the point where it puts my nation at risk.  And I’ve said that in a public statement.  I support the moratorium.  But if there’s a national security issue that the moratorium affected in an adverse way, I will do what’s necessary. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): “The Marines were really down on the Up-Armored Humvee.  I had a Marine captain tell me in 2004 or 05 -- that he would get court-martialed before he would send his Marines out beyond the wire in an Up-Armored Humvee.  The Marines have access to MRAPs and they have to make them in South Carolina, so I know about them.  As a result, the Up -Armored Humvee program was taking precedent over the MRAT program and it was going to be terminated.  Senator [Carl] Levin and myself in the Defense Authorization bill had $7 million in the budget to keep that line open, and when Secretary [Robert] Gates came about a month later, the rest is history."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): “So, I’m willing to do a moratorium but if I find a national security issue that’s not being taken care of by the Pentagon and we come together and say, ‘You know what?  Our men and women are going to suffer.’  I’m going to do what’s necessary for our men and women.”

Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.):  “Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, if you could ever reach him, is a great opponent of earmarks because we earmarked a lightning pod for the F-16 that took out Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the infamous leader of al Ansar al-Islam.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.):  “He never thanked us.”

Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.): “He’s waiting for his 72 virgins.”