COLUMBIA, S.C. — Several Republican members of the South Carolina congressional delegation gave their opinions on a variety of topics at a South Carolina Chamber of Commerce town hall meeting Wednesday.

Sen. Lindsey Graham along with Congressmen Mark Sanford, Joe Wilson, Jeff Duncan, Mick Mulvaney and Tom Rice (who represents much of the Pee Dee and Florence County) took questions from an audience.

The most frequent questions from the business crowd of some 200 attendees focused on issues in the business environment, such as infrastructure funding, offshore oil exploration and the economy.

To improve infrastructure in the state, a priority among state lawmakers, Rice said that improvements could be funded through oil and gas exploration off the coast.

“Unfortunately those alternative energy sources are not ready yet. We still need to use fossil fuels,” Rice said. “So if we are going to use fossil fuels, we are far better off as a country if we use our own and retain our wealth in this country and use that wealth to build own infrastructure rather than sending it overseas and allowing other people to build their infrastructure with our wealth.”

Graham said funding the Highway Trust Fund, funded off gas taxes, needs to be redesigned due to higher mileage and alternative energy vehicles. He believes that if some of the $2 trillion in overseas earnings by American corporations are repatriated and taxed, money could go toward infrastructure —with bipartisan support.

“I believe there is growing bipartisan support to bring some of that money back into the country and dedicate the revenue to be generated for infrastructure,” Graham said. “Roads, bridges and ports and some of that money may go into the Highway Trust Fund.”

Graham, who is facing a field of six Republican challengers in the June 10 primary, noted that defense cuts under sequestration — the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts designed by a deadlocked Congress in 2011 — would drastically affect the military, which would see $1 trillion cut from now through 2021, according to a new report from the Pentagon.

“The consolidation required by sequestration of reducing overhead through bases is BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) on steroids,” Graham said. “You will be absolutely gutting the defense infrastructure in this country and South Carolina will pay a heavy price, because there is no way to avoid our bases being affected.”

The report, commissioned by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, outlines a number of weapons systems that will be eliminated or reduced along with reduced troop levels that the report finds will have a negative impact.

“If sequestration-level cuts persist, our forces will assume substantial additional risks in certain missions and will continue to face significant readiness and modernization challenges,” the report reads. “These impacts would leave our military unbalanced and eventually too small to meet the needs of our strategy fully.”

Sen. Tim Scott, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. 4 and Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. 6, were invited but did not attend the Washington Night in South Carolina event at the Columbia Marriott. Every member of the delegation is up for re-election this year.

Rice is facing off against Democratic candidate Gloria Bromell-Tinubu in November. He defeated Tinubu in 2012 to become the first congressman for the newly formed 7th Congressional District.


“My No. 1 priority is to get Savannah River Site straightened out. It is devastating. The president’s budget to the site, it could stop the MOX program and that’s just an unacceptable outcome.” — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham

“I think the most important issue in my district, the most important issue in this state, the most important issue in the country is jobs and the economy. There are way too many people out of work. We’re now six or seven years after the Great Recession. The economy continues to move slow and unacceptable pace, and I believe the biggest thing holding us back is Washington.” — U.S. Rep. Tom Rice

“The biggest single threat as I see in Washington, D.C., oddly enough, is the balance of power as configured by the Founding Fathers. I think whether Republican or Democra,t you’ve seen editorial edict for a long time, but it’s going to a new level now that is really, really distressing.” — U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford

“The primary function of national government is national defense. We have an extraordinary problem. This administration has reduced the defense budget by $100 billion, then it came back and reduced the defense budget by $482 billion and then with defense sequestration, that’s an additional $650 billion. This will hollow out the military.” — U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson

“South Carolina can be a player in the energy independence realm and I think that is a great way to put Americans and South Carolinians back to work. The first domino is to allow offshore exploration and drilling to happen in South Carolina. The other domino to fall are all the jobs created to support that.” — U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan

“We know what is coming. We know what is inevitable. (Rep.) Paul Ryan calls it the most inevitable crisis in American history. He’s absolutely right, yet we continue to stick our head in the sand and think that growth is going to solve our problems and it’s simply not going to happen. We have to break this addiction to spending.” — U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney