Lindsey Graham comes up with a shakedown plan

LINDSEY GRAHAM COMES UP WITH A SHAKEDOWN PLAN…. Last year, Sen. Richard Shelby (R) of Alabama came up with a little scheme popularly known as the “Shelby Shakedown.” It was petty GOP politics at its most inane — Shelby placed a blanket hold on several dozen administration nominees, including offices related to national security, holding them hostage until he was paid off in earmarked pork.

Eventually, enough of Shelby’s ransom was paid and he backed off, but apparently, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has decided to emulate his Republican colleague.

Funding to study deepening of the Port of Charleston wasn’t included in the Congressional continuing spending resolution, Sen. Lindsey Graham said today.

Graham, a South Carolina Republican, expressed extreme disappointment and said thousands of jobs associated with the port’s needed expansion were at stake. He said he would fight back, attempting to “tie the Senate in knots” and hold up Obama administration nominations.

“The squeaky wheel seems to get the oil,” Graham said at a press briefing in Charleston where he was joined by Rep. Tim Scott, also a Republican.

I just love this story. At issue here is a $400,000 earmark for the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a feasibility study at the Port of Charleston. Locals, including right-wing opponents of public spending, have endorsed the federal funds, because they consider it good for the economy. And they’re right — without port expansion, South Carolina would likely lose billions of dollars in commerce and thousands of jobs.

It’s a familiar dynamic, isn’t it? A hard-right “red” state with a delegation dominated by debt-obsessed Republicans hates spending taxpayer money — except when it comes to the spending they like for the constituents back home.

The budget deal struck by President Obama, Harry Reid, and John Boehner, however, the details of which were released today, doesn’t include the funding for the Port of Charleston. So, this morning we saw two far-right Republican lawmakers — folks who are constantly railing against public investments — throwing a fit. In Graham’s case, he intends to deliberately make the Senate even more dysfunctional until he gets the government spending he wants.

The GOP senator will end his tantrum when he gets his money.

It is, in other words, another Republican shakedown, and a reminder that (a) talk about spending cuts is easy, acting against your own community’s interests is hard; and (b) the Senate really needs fundamental changes in how it conducts business.