HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC (WTOC) - South Carolina's U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham visited his home state on Wednesday.
Sen. Graham covered numerous topics while speaking to the Hilton Head-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce about the state of the region, including healthcare, military and immigration, but being a business lunch, tax reform, hiring a reliable workforce, and the North American Free Trade Agreement were also discussed.
"The state of the region: good," Graham said. "Let's keep it that way. This is an incredible place. You've been recognized the number one island in America, second in the world, and I'm going to have a recount on the world thing. Just a very special place to come to bring your family."
Sen. Graham said the national economy has grown by about 3 percent since World War II. Now, it's growing less than 2 percent. He thinks cutting corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 20 percent would help grow jobs, and consolidating the tax brackets from six to three and doubling the standard deduction would help working people across the country, which is the main focus, he said, for any kind of reform.
"It means if you're making $30,000 to $40,0000 a year, you're going to see your taxes go down," Graham said. "If you're raising a family on $50,000 or $60,000, the man and the wife are working together with a $50-$60,000 joint income, you're going to see your taxes go down. We want to simplify the tax code. We want to cut taxes for working people. We want to make sure we make it less complicated. I think the tax cuts will help the economy, and something needs to grow this economy."
The Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce is one of more than 300 from across the country sending support to the president to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement. Sen. Graham said he's OK with renegotiating NAFTA, but doesn't want to go too far.
"All I can tell you is that it's OK to renegotiate NAFTA, but NAFTA's been a good deal for the state of South Carolina," he said. "Every car that BMW makes sold to Canada and Mexico goes without a tariff. The Boeing 787, the tubing for the 787 made in Charleston comes out of Mexico. NAFTA has been good for South Carolina. We are an export state. So make it better, yes, but don't go too far. This trade agreement, if you cancel NAFTA, it would be devastating to the South Carolina economy."
The healthcare bill bearing Sen. Graham's name was also at the forefront of discussion.
Graham said lawmakers will take up the Graham-Cassidy bill again next spring, and says this alternative will benefit people in his home state. Right now, he said four states get 35 percent of the money.
"Under Obamacare, South Carolina gets left behind," he said. "Under the block grant called Graham-Cassidy, we will get a 40 percent increase in dollars over what Obamacare will provide to the state of South Carolina. We'll have more control over the money, and under this concept, if you don't like your healthcare under the block grant, you can go to your governor and your state House representatives and complain, and they will listen to you because they're in charge and they need your vote. Under Obamacare, I don't know who you complain to."
He said President Trump is "100 percent" behind Graham-Cassidy.
Sen. Graham spoke about the need to grow the U.S. military, tension with North Korea and Beaufort County's essential role as a military hub.
"Beaufort County is the home of some really impressive infrastructure for the Department of Defense," he said. "This community has a welcome mat out to the world, and we're known now as the best island to go to in the all of America. But we were known before that for being a place that welcomed those who serve. This air base is noisy, but that noise keeps you free. To those who serve, you have no better friend than the people in Beaufort County."
He said he wants more military equipment and more members in every branch.
As far as disagreements between the president and other members of his party, which often play out on Twitter, Graham said he told the president to focus on outcomes.
"So, I told the president, 'We've got to deliver on taxes and healthcare reform, and if we fail as a party, we're dead,'" he said. "You won't get re-elected, and we will lose the House and eventually the Senate. So our fates are tied together."
He said Washington could stand to learn from the chamber of commerce about how to work with one's competitors.
"All of you have day jobs where you're competing against the person at the other table or maybe sitting by you," he said. "The chamber bill is not about what you have in difference, but about making this community a great place to live. That means you've got to work together. The chamber's attitude is missing in Washington."
Graham said he's willing to work with Democrats to "give them something they need, so we can get something we need."