After spending the better part of a year questioning the character and quality of candidate Donald Trump, South Carolina’s senior senator Tuesday said it was time to focus on the positives the president-elect brings to the office.
The Republican Lindsey Graham on election day very publicly announced that he was voting for independent Evan McMullin because he didn’t believe in the vision of his party’s candidate . During the campaign he voiced concerns about what he perceived to be Trump’s lack of understanding of foreign policy, and he questioned the now president-elect’s conspiracy theories, such as the notion that the election was rigged in favor of democrat Hillary Clinton (who lost).
But Tuesday afternoon in a small press gallery in the Capitol, Sen. Graham said that as the votes are now in, it’s time for him to focus on helping Trump become a successful president. Graham is an influential member of the Senate, with a particularly strong reputation on military matters and foreign affairs. On the latter, he hoped the incoming president would learn a bit more about the realities of foreign policy and that his positions would evolve.
But, Graham added, there are areas where the two men can certainly see eye to eye.
Infrastructure, this is what’s most possible
_ U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham on one place where he and President-elect Donald Trump see eye to eye
"Infrastructure, this is what’s most possible," he said of the president-elect’s plans to put millions of Americans to work rebuilding the nation’s shabby roads, bridges, ports and rails. In particular, Graham said he was hopeful Trump would see the wisdom in deepening the Port of Charleston to 54 feet "So it can deal with the new Panamanian ships."
He noted that the ports around the country needed to be deepened to accommodate the new super-sized ships. Beyond that, he said there is an intense need for locks and dams.
"Count me in on infrastructure," he said.
He said that Trump appears to oppose sequestration, and that the senator said he can enthusiastically back any plan to rebuild a military that he said is now being funded "at 2008 levels."
In 2008, U.S. defense spending stood at $666 billion. When sequestration went into effect (as Congress and President Barack Obama couldn’t come to agreement on an overall budget), it was planned to be $613 billion. Without sequestration this year, the defense budget would be $585 billion, though sequestration would further reduce that amount. Defense spending, however, remains the biggest item in the U.S. discretionary budget and triples the spending of China, the next highest spender.
Still, Graham said that right now "We don’t have money for the 8,400 people who remain in Afghanistan." Later, he added, he hoped the president-elect would "invest some money to counter ISIL (the Islamic State)."
Regarding the U.S. Supreme Court, he said the list he’d seen had included qualified people, and that he hoped Democrats would engage in a "respectful discussion" on nominees. While many in the Republican party had refused to consider nominees by President Obama, Sen. Graham said he was asking democrats to do "no more than I would."
He said he had not agreed with nominations by President Obama, but had voted for them because he believed they were qualified.
Still, he had a word of caution for Trump on this: Even with control of the Presidency, Senate and House, it will often take both republicans and democrats to get legislation passed.
On immigration, he said he was reserving comment, as he believed Trump’s positions were evolving. He said, however, that he was a firm supporter of better border control.
"I will not vote for a bill that treats a grandmother and a drug dealer the same," he said. And, he said, he hoped Trump would think hard about the DREAM Act, which creates a path to citizenship for those who entered the country before they were 16, graduated from high school (or earned an equivalent degree) and were of good moral character.
On foreign policy, Graham said he hoped Trump was able to forge a stronger relationship with Russia and its president Vladimir Putin. However, he added, there were serious reasons to worry about Russian intentions these days. He said Ukraine and Syria, as well as Russian cyber-attacks on the United States, were all causes for concern.