U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, in Greenville on Monday, applauded President Donald Trump’s stance on North Korea and said he believes the U.S. would take military action if North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un continues to develop a long-range missile program.
Graham called China the key to the rising conflict with North Korea since 90 percent of North Korea’s exports move through China.
“I think he’s convinced the Chinese that if he has to, he’ll use military force to stop the missile program from maturing to be able to hit America with a nuclear weapon on it,” Graham said. “And it’s certainly not in China’s interest for the United States to have to attack North Korea. Only God knows what would happen.”
Graham said Trump has told him that if the U.S. had to take action against North Korea, it would happen there and not after an attack on U.S. soil.
In a media scrum before Graham spoke to the Greenville Republican First Monday luncheon at the Poinsett Club, he took questions on a broad range of issues.
Among them, Graham said he wants states to be able to decide whether oil and gas companies can explore off their coasts.
He favors a five-year exploration period where states could opt-in if they want to participate. Under his plan, which he first introduced in 2012 as the South Carolina Offshore Drilling Act, states could share in revenue. It would create a buffer zone all along the East Coast to protect tourism that would be far enough from shore so oil rigs wouldn’t be visible.
Graham said he understands concerns of tourism officials and coastal residents and he wants states to make the decision, not the federal government.
“Under no circumstances would I kill the goose that’s laid the golden egg, which is the beautiful beaches and great environment,” he said. “But having said that, there are ways to drill offshore that would not affect tourism and would be environmentally sound.”
Repeal and replace healthcare
Graham wants to see a plan that would provide block grants to states to provide insurance for low-income residents and to create high risk pools for people with pre-existing conditions.
“I don’t think any bill’s going to pass that doesn’t deal with people who’ve been sick with pre-existing illnesses,” Graham said.
He wants states to experiment and design their own healthcare systems for their citizens, and to be able to opt-out of receiving block grants.
The past repeal and replace attempt was “no better than Obamacare,” he said.
“The only way you’re going to fix Obamacare is to get it out of Washington and let states handle healthcare in their local community,” he said.
Government funding bill
Graham said he won’t support this weeks’ pending government funding bill unless it inserts tax credits to complete two V.C. Sumner nuclear plant reactors in Jenkinsville and Plant Vogtle in Georgia.
In 2005, Congress passed production tax credits to incentivize the private sector to build nuclear reactors, he said. Stripping those incentives now would threaten completion of those projects, he said.
“This budget doesn’t have those tax credits, which makes it hard for the two plants in South Carolina and the one in Georgia to be successful,” he said. “So I’m going to withhold my vote until we get those tax credits in the bill so we can complete these projects.”
He said he’s pleased with the $1.5 billion increase in military spending but nonplused by the cuts to funding for state department redevelopment plans of liberated areas following military action.
That money is needed once forces fully retake Mosul in Iraq and push on to the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria.
“If we don’t have a developmental plan, ISIL will come right back,” he said. “The terrorists offer a glorious death. We need to offer a hopeful life.”
Graham said he was pleased with Trump’s loosening of the rules of engagement to place more decision-making control with military leaders, saying the military is no longer handcuffed.
He said he would do everything in his power to try to land the military training jet contract with Lockheed Martin in Greenville, noting that after flying Lockheed’s T-50A trainer, the company’s entrant into a competition to win the $8-$10 billion contract, that he felt 61-years-old, not 41 anymore.