SC Sen. Lindsey Graham blocks Senate vote on MIT physicist Ernest Moniz to be energy chief

WASHINGTON – Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is blocking a Senate vote on President Barack Obama’s energy secretary nominee to protest proposed budget cuts to a nuclear processing facility in Graham’s home state.

The Senate was expected to vote as soon as this week on physics professor Ernest Moniz’s nomination to lead the Energy Department. The Senate Energy Committee endorsed Moniz in a 21-1 vote last week.

South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott cast the only dissenting vote. Like Graham, Scott opposes Obama’s plan to cut about $200 million from a project to turn weapons-grade plutonium into nuclear reactor fuel. The plant is being built at the Savannah River nuclear site.

A spokesman confirmed that Graham has placed a “hold” on the nominee and plans to meet with Moniz.