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Graham on Trump’s State Department Cuts: ‘Over My Dead Body’

WASHINGTON – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) offered a strong defense of foreign aid and had a direct message for the Trump administration over its proposal to reduce the State Department’s budget, describing himself as a “pretty hawkish guy but I understand the limits of military power.”

Graham also said China has done more in the last 80 to 100 days to “push back” against North Korea than they’ve done in 20 years because of President Trump’s “determination” to prevent North Korea from hitting the U.S. with a missile.

“We’re cutting the State Department’s budget by 29 percent and, over my dead body, that ain’t happening,” Graham told the audience at the Freedom House annual awards ceremony in D.C. on Thursday evening.

“To those that want to get out of the foreign assistance business, who want to take soft power off the table, General Mattis said it better than I could have ever hoped to say it, when he’s a four-star Marine general, he said if you cut the State Department’s budget, you better buy me more ammo,” he added.

Graham revealed the lesson he learned after his trips to the Middle East.

“I have learned a lot going to Iraq and Afghanistan, that this war will never be won by military force alone. You can’t kill enough of these bastards to destroy radical Islam. What you have to do is build up the lives of others who reject the ideology. They just need your help. They’re offering a glorious death. We need to offer a hopeful life,” he said.

“A small schoolhouse in a remote region of Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, educating a poor young girl, will do more damage to radical Islam than any bomb we could drop on their head. And if you don’t get that, you don’t know how to win this war,” he added.

Graham called on Congress to “restore” the State Department cuts proposed by the Trump administration.

“We’re going to win this war and there’s no substitute for America in this struggle. If we’re not for freedom, who will be? To all our allies out there who are wondering who we are and what we believe, I hope in 2017 we can show you America is back. The Republicans and Democrats can work together for the good of mankind starting with restoring the State Department’s budget,” he said.

“I’m a pretty hawkish guy but I understand the limits of military power. To those who support Freedom House, God bless you. To those who are out the field collecting the data at your own risk, God keep you,” he added.

Graham was the co-recipient of the Freedom House Leadership Award with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.).