Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said this week he will block consideration of all new administration officials President Obama wants confirmed until congressional leaders agree to fund a dredging study for the Port of Charleston.
It is the latest effort by South Carolina to win federal support to deepen Charleston's harbor in time to receive the much larger container ships expected to serve deep-draft ports along the Eastern Seaboard once the larger Panama Canal locks open in 2014.
Charleston is competing with nearby Savannah, Ga., as well as other mid-Atlantic ports including Virginia's Hampton Roads, which already has a deep enough harbor for the extra large ships.
Graham reportedly first made his threat April 12 on Twitter and in a Capitol Hill news conference and repeated it the next day on Capitol Hill.
Reports, which variously put the study's cost at $40,000 or $50,000, said Graham issued his threat after finding that last week's budget deal for the rest of fiscal 2011 did not include the money for that study, which is needed before the Army Corps of Engineers can begin any channel-deepening operations.
Already, nominations approved in committee but awaiting Senate confirmation include Obama choices for the Surface Transportation Board and Federal Maritime Commission.
Other GOP senators have also said they will block any trade-related nominees until the president sends to the Hill all three Bush-era bilateral free trade agreements that Obama has held to negotiate extra terms. The president has already sent up an FTA with South Korea and completed negotiations last week to clear one pending with Colombia. He is still working on the final one with Panama.