Sen. Graham: We Need Earmark Reform

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," February 25, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: All right, hang onto your seat for this one! Today the House passed a $410 billion spending bill for the rest of the fiscal year, which runs seven months through September. Now, this is separate from the $787 billion stimulus bill. But here is the kicker. Tucked into this new bill, earmarks -- and lots of them.

Now, here's some of the gems -- $59 million for Pacific salmon research, $1.76 million dollars for a honeybee lab in Texas, $400,000 to train teachers how to stop kids from bullying each other and $200,000 for removing tattoos from gang members.


VAN SUSTEREN: Is this just politics as usual, or worse than average? Joining us live is Senator Lindsey Graham. Nice to see you, Senator.


VAN SUSTEREN: Before we get to all these new earmarks, I'm curious, what did you think of the speech last night by the president?

GRAHAM: Well, it's always entertaining to listen to. He's a very gifted orator. But words matter. And this is the same guy who campaigned against John McCain, who said nuclear power's on the table. We're going to be energy-independent if Barack Obama gets to president. That means we're going to have offshore drilling. He talked about energy independence and he talked about climate change and he never mentioned nuclear power and he never mentioned offshore drilling. To me, that's very disingenuous. He campaigned one way, and when it came to explain how he would achieve energy independence and climate change, he gave in to the left because the left doesn't want nuclear power, and they certainly don't want offshore drilling.

So that to me is a sign of the problem we have with this very talented young president. Social Security was a centerpiece of how you get to fiscal stability. It's an entitlement program that's cherished by a lot of Americans. It's helped a lot of people stay out of poverty, and he promised to fix it. Two words about Social Security because the left doesn't want to change the age or do anything about benefit recalculation.

So this speech to me was telling about the difference between the campaigning Obama and the governing Obama. It was to me -- not one word from the mainstream media about how the speech was so different and how disingenuous it was. You cannot have an honest debate about energy independence and climate change if you do not include nuclear power. It was not mentioned for a reason.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so I take it you liked it.


GRAHAM: I like listening to him, but I'm scared.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right...

GRAHAM: I'm scared of where this is going. And let me tell you, as a Republican, we will pursue energy independence. We will drill offshore and we will build nuclear power plants if we have our say. That's one big difference between us and President Obama.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let's talk about earmarks.

Watch Greta's interview with Sen. Graham


VAN SUSTEREN: I thought -- I mean, this bill has not yet made it to the president (INAUDIBLE) I thought we weren't going to have that stuff anymore. I thought we were going to have a change. I thought...

GRAHAM: Well, apparently, this is...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... we weren't going to do that kind of stuff.

GRAHAM: This is Bush's bill. Let me tell you about earmarks. We need a process. We need reform. He promised to bring about earmark reform. He joined with John McCain when he was a senator to come up with an earmark reform bill, and Harry Reid said, "No, come back over here." He left the reform group, went back to the committee and passed a hollow reform bill in the name of earmark reform.

So he's had a habit while a senator of talking a good game and folding at the end. He was in the immigration debate until the unions said, We don't want a temporary worker program. Then he backed out of that bill.

So I'm hopeful, as Steven [Moore] (ph) said about this -- this young president -- he's got a gift, and he should use it. But what he said last night -- it's not the way he said it. That was very pleasing. The fact that he left out the nuclear power component to energy independence and never mentioned offshore drilling, didn't talk about Social Security -- and if you can tell me what his plan is to save banks -- last night, he told us, I'm against CEOs flying around in private jets, and I don't want them to build fancy bathrooms. That's not a game plan to deal with the banking situation, that's just demagoguery and nice-sounding rhetoric. I have yet to understand what is this administration's solution to our banking crisis.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know, we all have to tighten our belts a little bit, and I guess I'm a little bit put off by the fact that it doesn't seem like the representatives are, you know, and whether or not -- I mean, I know -- I want the president to be safe in a plane. I want the Speaker to be safe in a plane. I want them to get around.


VAN SUSTEREN: But I don't see any sort of belt-tightening. All I see are sort of earmarks and spending by a lot of people to keep constituents happy, or whatever it is. So it's, like -- it's not a very good example that's being set for the average American.

GRAHAM: Well, no, there's 9,000 earmarks. I'm looking for a better process when it comes to earmarks. He could veto the bill, if he chose to. But it's saying one thing and to do another. That's what's bothering me, is that in his speech last night, he conveniently took off the table one of the best opportunities America will ever have in your lifetime, in my lifetime, to independent of Mideast oil, and that's to drill off our shore, and one of the best opportunities we'll ever have to clean up the environment and be energy-independent, and that's to build more nuclear power plants, and he didn't say a word about either one.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is he intellectually dishonest?

GRAHAM: I think every word meant something and every word that was not in the speech meant something. I thought it was disingenuous. I thought it's very disingenuous to look the people in the eye with a very articulate-sounding persona and talk about climate change and energy independence and consciously leave off the key ingredient, which is offshore drilling and nuclear power. You cannot get this country independent energy-wise or clean up the environment with windmills and solar panels. You just can't do it. It is disingenuous.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

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