COLUMBIA, S.C. — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham on Monday called on the U.S. government to send more money to Middle East countries in turmoil to push them toward democracy.
Speaking to the Columbia Rotary Club, Graham — the ranking Republican on a Senate foreign policy subcommittee — said he is working on a $1 billion package of aid for Egypt before that country’s November elections.
“Egypt is the prize to be won,” said Graham, R-Seneca. “Foreign aid is a very complicated, controversial topic, particularly when you’re broke. But ... it is good for the American people and the American government to reach out and help those who live in peace with us.
“Find me an example where two democracies went to war,” he added. “Democracies have a way, through the rule of law, of working out their problems.”
Graham also called on President Barack Obama to release $30 billion in Libyan oil assets to help that country’s new government after rebels chased dictator Moammar Gadhafi from power.
It appeared Monday Obama was working to unfreeze those assets.
“Our diplomats will work with the (LIbyan Transitional National Council) as they ensure that the institutions of the Libyan state are protected, and we will support them with the assets of the Qaddafi regime that were frozen earlier this year,” Obama said from Martha’s Vineyard, according to a transcript of his speech provided by the White House. “Above all, we will call for an inclusive transition that leads to a democratic Libya.”
Graham said he has met members of Libya’s Transitional National Council. He described them as educated in U.S. universities. “But they’ve got a challenge on their hands — creating a democracy out of the ashes of a dictatorship.”
Graham’s 30-minute speech began and ended with Libya. In between, he touched on the U.S. debt and unemployment crises.
Earlier this month, Graham voted against an agreement that raised the country’s borrowing limit to avoid what would have been a historic default on U.S. debt.
Graham said again Monday that he opposed that deal because it did nothing to reform government spending on entitlement programs — including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Those programs make up 57 percent of the country’s budget, while aid to foreign countries — which Graham wants to expand — makes up 1 percent.
Graham’s solution is to slowly increase the retirement age to 70 in the belief that most Americans under 55 would be willing to give up some promised benefits “for the good of the country.”
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