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South Carolina Sens. Graham and Scott vote against $1.1 trillion spending bill to keep government open; passes anyway

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U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., talks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on June 21, 2016. File/Alex Brandon/AP

WASHINGTON — Both of South Carolina's U.S. senators voted against a $1.1 trillion spending bill Thursday that funds the federal government through the remainder of the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.

Their "no" votes were not surprising given their early reviews of the spending package. The Senate ultimately passed the bill, 79-18.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham approved of the increase in defense spending in the legislation and the military pay raise. Otherwise, he had a host of grievances, among them the decision to continue funding for the Affordable Care Act.

Graham also criticized the exclusion of two provisions he'd been fighting for: The ability of the Export-Import Bank to be able to function without the Senate having to confirm new board members, and the extension of a nuclear production tax credit essential to the South Carolina economy.

In a statement, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott said that despite the boosted defense spending and funding for education priorities, including a school voucher program in Washington, D.C., he has championed, there were too many problems for him to overlook.

"We still saw funding for programs that do not make efficient use of federal funds, like continued financial backing for Obamacare," he said. "I would have preferred to see a more significant shift in how we spend taxpayer money.”

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Earlier in the week, Scott, like Graham, also expressed "heartburn" over the absence of the provision to extend the nuclear production tax credit beyond the current 2020 deadline.

SCANA Corp. recently said extending the deadline could be critical to continuing construction on the V.C. Summer nuclear power plant near Jenkinsville now that its parent company, Westinghouse, has filed for bankruptcy.

There's hope the tax credit can be included in tax overhaul legislation, Congress's next major lift. But there's no guarantee if or when this bill will come to fruition.

Frank Knapp, president and CEO of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Congress, told The Post and Courier the project must be completed regardless of whether the deadline for receiving the tax credit, first authorized by Congress in 2005, gets an extension.

"The federal nuclear production tax credits were not part of the originally approved construction budget for building the nuclear plants at V.C. Summer and they have not been approved for that purpose to this day," Knapp said. "Therefore finishing the plants should not be contingent on the production tax credits being extended by Congress."

Earlier in the week, every South Carolina lawmaker in the U.S. House voted in favor of the bill, which passed 309-118.

Emma Dumain is The Post and Courier's Washington correspondent. Reach her at 843-834-0419 and follow her @emma_dumain.

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