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McMillan Op-Ed Appears in 'The State'

October 6, 2003

SPARTANBURG, SC – An essay written by Lucas McMillan ’02, assistant to Dr. Larry McGehee, vice president for planning and marketing, appeared in the Saturday, Oct. 4, 2003, issue of The State newspaper.

The essay, titled “Graham's Break with White House Good for S.C.,” discusses how U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham is teaming up with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to seek more health care benefits for U.S. troops in the reserves and National Guard.

Here is the entire essay:

Graham’s break with White House good for S.C.
By Lucas McMillan

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham has been breaking one of his campaign promises.

In his 2002 campaign, Graham said, “I want to go to the U.S. Senate to continue helping President Bush push his common-sense conservative agenda.” Luckily for South Carolinians, Graham has started to break with his commitment to further the view of the White House in the Senate.

Graham announced that he was teaming up with Sen. Hilary Clinton, D-N.Y., in the fight for more health care benefits for U.S. troops in the reserves and National Guard. Currently, reservists and Guard members only qualify for Tricare, the federal health care benefits available to “regular” armed force members, when they are on active duty.

Graham and Clinton are pushing to give these benefits to reservists and Guard members even when they are not on active duty. Their measure received overwhelming support in the Senate this spring, but only as an authorization—not the appropriations authority needed to fund the measure. The Bush administration is opposed to the Graham-Clinton measure, claiming we can’t afford it.

The present debate of $87 billion supplemental for Iraq has produced more evidence of the U.S. military’s reliance on reservists and Guard members. Since few countries have agreed to send troops to internationalize the Iraqi military force, Pentagon officials admitted that 10,000 to 15,000 more reserve and Guard members will likely be deployed to Iraq. South Carolina has about 30,000 members of the National Guard and reserves that deserve Graham’s support.

Our dependence on reservists and Guard members will, I hope, convince Senators to fund the Tricare health care benefits to these dedicated members of the armed forces.

Although National Guard members and reservists should not be granted the same level of benefits owed to people retiring after many years of full-time military service, the Graham-Clinton bill recognizes that the conflict in Iraq has changed the mission and reliance the United States places upon Guard and reserve members.

Instead of overseeing domestic security while full-time members of the armed forces are deployed overseas, the United States has relied upon Guard members and reservists to be deployed to the Middle East. Therefore, the bill offered by Graham and Clinton is right to reward Tricare health care benefits to Guard members and reservists because of the increased dependence the Pentagon has placed upon them and their families.

The White House’s reconstruction proposals in the $87 billion supplemental are somewhat staggering. Two Iraqi prisons are earmarked at a cost of $400 million. Surely the Congress will see that the current scenario in Iraq means our reliance upon reservists and Guard members is not going to end anytime soon—another reason to grant greater health care benefits to Guard members and reservists.

Another example of Graham’s independence came in July. Graham joined Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., in opposing the $250,000 cap in medical malpractice suits favored by Republicans. Graham called the Republican plan a “political document” aimed to “score political points” rather than protect ordinary Americans.

Instead, Durham and Graham offered a bill to give tax credits to physicians and hospitals to help with malpractice insurance costs. The legislation also sought to remove anti-trust exemptions for the insurance industry, give local governments grants to attract doctors in areas with high malpractice insurance premiums, and penalize attorneys filing frivolous malpractice suits.

Graham has shown independence in his voting record before. With these two actions in recent months, he moves closer toward representing the people of South Carolina with an independent voice— much like Sen. Ernest Hollings has done for many years in the Senate.

President Bush’s “common-sense conservative agenda” has flaws that Graham has recently picked up on. This is one case when breaking campaign promises can be a good thing.

Lucas McMillan is assistant to the vice president for planning and marketing at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. He recently completed a master’s degree in international relations.