WASHINGTON -- Sen. Lindsey Graham was the only Republican in South Carolina’s GOP-dominated congressional delegation who voted for the deal that reopened the federal government.
President Barack Obama signed the shutdown bill into law late Wednesday after the Senate passed it by an 81-18 vote and the House approved it by a 285-144 margin. Three-fifths of the Senate’s 46 Republicans voted for the legislation, while a similar share of the House’s 232 Republicans opposed it.
Graham, a second-term senator facing a contested re-election campaign, broke with Sen. Tim Scott, a North Charleston Republican in his first year as a senator.
“This agreement is far from great news, but it brings to an end, at least temporarily, a disaster,” Graham said. “It stops the bleeding and gives us a chance to regroup. On the positive side, the agreement preserves the spending caps and makes modest changes to protect taxpayers from what will be rampant fraud in Obamacare income-verification procedures.”
Scott, a former House representative named late last year by Gov. Nikki Haley to replace Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, said the deal hammered out by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, did not cut spending enough.
“Ending the government shutdown is a good thing,” Scott said. “However, raising the debt ceiling with absolutely zero offsetting reductions in spending is the poster child for the lack of fiscal foresight that is commonplace in Washington.”
Graham acknowledged that Republicans “could have done much, much better,” but he said McConnell didn’t have strong negotiating leverage.
“Unfortunately, given where we now find ourselves, this agreement was the best Sen. McConnell could do,” Graham said. “By the time we got to this point, we were playing poker only holding a pair of twos.”
The deal funds the government at current levels through Jan. 15, and authorizes the Treasury Department to borrow money through Feb. 7, beyond the current debt ceiling of $16.7 trillion. The package also sets up a bipartisan committee of senators and representatives to try to create a longer-term budget and to replace forced wide-ranging spending cuts already in place under sequestration with more targeted reductions.
Rep. James Clyburn, a Columbia Democrat and the No. 3 leader of his party in the House, said the 16-day shutdown fiasco should not be repeated.
“Going forward, we must get beyond the repeated episodes of partisan brinksmanship that have been so costly to our country,” he said.
Rep. Joe Wilson, a Lexington Republican in his seventh term, said he had previously voted for several measures that would have funded parts of the government during the shutdown. Democrats opposed piecemeal funding of some programs, while others were shuttered. The measures passed the Republican-led House, but the Democratic-controlled Senate never took them up.
“I am disappointed that I could not support tonight’s legislation because it did not reflect my core beliefs of limited government and expanded freedom,” Wilson said late Wednesday.
Rep. Tom Rice, a Myrtle Beach Republican who represents South Carolina’s new 7th Congressional District, said he couldn’t vote for the package to end the shutdown because doing so would have violated a key campaign pledge last year.