“Happy Sequestration Day” U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham jokingly declared here Friday, drawing a round of nervous laughs.

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“To me, sequestration in Latin means ‘dumb politics.’ ”

Friday marked the official launch of sequestration, $85 billion in domestic and military spending cuts that lawmakers from both parties once said would be avoided through negotiation.

Thus far, negotiations have failed.

But Graham, a Seneca Republican and South Carolina’s senior senator, sounded an optimistic note Friday as he marked the groundbreaking for a new Upstate inland port project.

“How do we get out of this mess? The same way the country has survived and thrived for the last 200 years, finding common ground. Trying to find a way to make everybody a winner instead of everybody a loser.”

He continued, “America is one big deal away from dominating the 21st century. I intend to do everything I can to make that big deal a reality.”

Responding to a report that the sequester could threaten deepening of the Port of Charleston, Graham acknowledged that it could, along with other infrastructure projects across the country.

Graham offered few specifics on what a “big deal” would include, beyond making the tax code more efficient to generate more revenue to pay down debt, along with reforming entitlements.

And Graham said his “common ground” to address sequestration won’t include voting to raise taxes, a key point for President Barack Obama and Democrats.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was originally scheduled to attend the Upstate groundbreaking but canceled, citing the expense of traveling to South Carolina.

“Some of this is theater, some of this is real,” Graham said when asked about LaHood’s decision.

Graham’s junior GOP colleague, new U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of North Charleston, said the most likely short-term resolution to the sequester is through a continuing resolution in the U.S. House.

That scenario could provide a vehicle to reduce spending to sequestration levels but the flexibility to “use a scalpel as opposed to a knife to make sure that the cuts are the smartest they can be,” Scott said.

“The fact that we have people caught in the cross hairs is a major problem that can be solved with some flexibility.”

Reach Stephen Largen at 864-641-8172 and follow him on Twitter @stephenlargen.