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Sen. Lindsey Graham defends foreign aid to Pakistan in omnibus spending bill


'Pakistan is a place I really worry about'

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday defended foreign aid spending included in the $2.3 trillion spending package Congress passed Monday night, arguing foreign aid is necessary to compete with China for influence abroad.

Appearing on Fox News' "Fox & Friends," Graham faced questions about the massive spending package, which members of Congress were given with fewer than eight hours to read before it was brought up for a vote. Critics have slammed the bill, which was sold to the public as a coronavirus relief package, for containing several provisions seemingly unrelated to the pandemic, including funding for Pakistan's "gender programs" and other bits of foreign aid.

In reality, the $900 billion coronavirus relief package was tied to a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill Congress needed to pass to keep the government open. The criticized provisions were mostly part of the omnibus bill, not the COVID-19 relief package.

Host Brian Kilmeade asked Graham if he was disappointed with how the vote turned out.

"So the bottom line is they wanted $3 trillion for the pandemic last year, we wound up with $900 billion," Graham said, referring to congressional Democrats' demands for more spending. "You could've gotten this package in July, Mitch McConnell is right about that. They refused to even talk to us before the election because they thought a relief package would help President Trump."

"If you think this bill is bad, lose Georgia and see what happens," Graham said ominously, referring to the state's upcoming runoff elections for U.S. Senate.

Those Senate races will determine which party has control of the U.S. Senate — for Republicans their only hope to thwart President-elect Joe Biden's agenda and for Democrats their chance to advance long-sought after policies like repealing President Donald Trump's tax cuts and expanding Obamacare.

Graham went on to praise other provisions of the omnibus bill, including military spending and funding for the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

"The foreign aid budget is 1 percent of all American spending," Graham said, responding to critics of foreign aid. He went on to defend the provisions related to Pakistan, which included $15 million toward "democracy programs" and $10 million distributed to "gender programs."

"Pakistan is a place I really worry about. Eighty-five countries a woman can't open up a bank account without her husband's signature, she can't inherit property. If you're a young girl in Pakistan life is pretty tough, so we're trying to make life better for women throughout the world," Graham said.

"One percent of all federal spending is foreign assistance, China is everywhere. We've got to compete," he added.

As for the coronavirus relief, Graham asserted that the $600 stimulus checks assigned to every American will be a boon after months of economic hardship inflicted by state coronavirus restrictions.

"I like the COVID package in the sense that it is targeted. If you're a family of four you get $2,400 bucks out there. If you're about to lose your small business, you can get another round of PPP loan. And there's $38 billion to get the vaccine in a place near you so you can actually take it," Graham said.

To those still skeptical, he encouraged them to vote.

"So this is sausage-making, but the Democrats have a say," Graham said. "They run the House. And if they ever get the House, the Senate, and the White House it will be a financial disaster for this country, so vote in Georgia."

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