AIKEN — Congress should hold hearings to determine “what we can do” to improve railroad safety after the fourth major accident in the last two months, Sen. Lindsey Graham said Monday.
“We can call in folks and say, ‘What’s happening and what do you need from us,’” he said just before addressing the Aiken Rotary Club.
“The bottom line is that after Graniteville, we lost our focus,” he said, referring to the Jan. 6, 2005 accident in which a Norfolk Southern Corp. freight train carrying chlorine crashed into two locomotives and two rail cars parked on a spur line killing nine people and sending more than 250 to hospitals.
Graham also said he wants a special counsel appointed to investigate allegations of bias against President Trump in the probe of whether he colluded with the Russians.
“The FBI is made of great men and women but some things went wrong there,” he said. “The FBI had their thumbs on the scale. That should scare everybody. Whether you like Trump or not, you can’t let law enforcement people tip an election.”
But Robert Mueller should be allowed to complete his investigation into collusion, Graham said.
“Mueller’s the right guy. Leave him alone and let him do his job,” he said.
He covered a range of topics in his speech to Rotarians, including the future of Savannah River Site.
He said SRS is poised for growth and promised to work to preserve the MOX waste-reprocessing facility and to gain the mission to produce plutonium pit “triggers” for nuclear weapons now at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
He said Trump wants to rebuild the military, including nuclear weapons, and that would benefit SRS.
“Our nuclear arsenal is in decline. We’re going to do more, not less on the nuclear side,” he said. “Our friends at Los Alamos are really good at R&D, but they don’t make stuff. We make a lot of stuff. So if you’re going to make new pits for your nuclear deterrent force, that’d be a good thing to do here.”
Similarly, he said, MOX is the best option for the country to deal with its nuclear waste, and no one has come up with a better idea yet.
“If you’re going to replace MOX, you better have a plan and if you can’t come up with a plan to replace it, finish it,” he said he tells his colleagues in Washington.
Graham said he spoke with Energy Secretary Rick Perry after their visit to SRS last week and Perry wants to build a small modular reactor – which he considers the wave of the future – at SRS.
“Why here? Charleston and Greenville don’t understand nuclear power like Aiken does,” he said.
On other topics, Graham predicted a deal on the so-called Dreamers, young people brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents, would be made by March 5, and would be a “down payment” on a broader solution to stem illegal immigration and boost merit-based legal immigration – “Where we pick who we want from all over the world, not just Mexico.”
He said he’s optimistic that Republicans could find Democrats willing to help them fix the current broken system.
“The game is to find the center. There are plenty of people in Washington who will find the middle ground if you’ll talk to them,” he said.
Acknowledging that detractors call him “Lindsey Grahamnesty or Lindsey Gomez,” he said he’s not going to stop trying to “solve a problem somebody else should have solved a long time ago.”
“I’m up (for re-election) again in 2020 and I’d like to run again. I’m not afraid to lose. I want to be the best I can while I’m here,” he said. “I’m going to be humble enough to know I don’t have all the answers, and I’m going to be smart enough to reach across the aisle when it makes sense because that’s the only way you move the country.”
He said the possibility of another government shutdown Thursday, when the last continuing resolution expires, is “50-50.”
Asked about the health of his close friend Sen. John McCain, Graham said: “He’s doing good. I talked to him last week and he’s getting stronger.”