State senators say 'no' to proposed federal budget
Both of South Carolina's senators voted on Tuesday not to approve the proposed federal budget. The budget is the next step in securing funding for the Savannah River Site.
In route to the Senate approving the budget, U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Tim Scott, R-S.C., voted against it. The two joined 31 other senators who voted against the budget.
Sixty-seven senators voted yes, which is more than the 60 votes required to move towards a final passage that only requires 51 votes.
In an email newsletter to constituents, Scott expressed his satisfaction in the Senate coming together to push for legislation as well as in his reasoning for voting against the proposed budget.
“I'm encouraged by the willingness we've seen from both sides to sit down and negotiate a budget agreement for the first time in years, but the details of this plan make me unable to support it,” Scott wrote in the newsletter.
Specifically, Scott said the proposal asks too much of the men and women in the military. He added that estimates show a 42-year-old retiring as an enlisted E-7 could lose more than $70,000, and a lieutenant-colonel retiree of the same age could lose nearly $110,000.
“These heroes defend our freedom day after day, and we shouldn't ask them to sacrifice even more,” Scott said.
Graham could not be reached on the issue; however, he echoed Scott's sentiments on Twitter after the voting process.
“Voted against ending debate on budget bill which cuts retirement benefits for current and future military retirees,” Graham tweeted on Tuesday afternoon.
Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce President and CEO J. David Jameson traveled to Washington, D.C., last week along with Will Williams from the Economic Development Partnership and Rick McLeod from the SRS Community Reuse Organization. The three met with the two senators and other congressional leaders and spoke about funding for SRS.
Jameson said the senators are still fighting for SRS despite their voting against the budget proposal.
“The senators did what they felt they needed to do. Now, the real work begins on appropriations. Sen. Graham's office has already contacted me about ways they can help SRS during this process,” Jameson said.
Williams added, “Their votes did not surprise us. But moving forward, I think they will work towards what is needed for SRS.”
Both senators will be part of another vote – the Defense Authorization Bill – which could potentially pass as early as today.
Locally, the bill will look to provide $360 million for the MOX facility, which is $40 million more than the budget proposal. The House approved both the budget bill and the defense bill last week.
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard. He joined the paper in June.
He is originally from Vidalia, Ga., and a graduate of Georgia Southern University. Follow him on Twitter @DerrekAsberry.