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Rand Paul Tries Killing Foreign Aid Softly

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

“Though a portion of aid is provided for foreign military assistance, the majority of it remains for humanitarian assistance. While the intention to lift poor nations out of poverty is benevolent, often the assistance is counterproductive to increasing economic prosperity, as well as liberty and freedom,” Paul’s budget says.

Last month, only 16 of 47 Senate Republicans voted in favor of approving the Kentucky Republican’s budget, which would have balanced the budget by cutting spending significantly across the board and eliminating Medicare.

Moreover, it doesn’t appear Paul’s budgetary or country-by-country efforts will inspire a tectonic shift in how Republicans view foreign assistance.

“It always resonates with a certain element of the Republican Party. There’s an isolationist element of the Republican Party that has always been there and always will be,” Senate Armed Services  ranking member John McCain said.

The Arizona Republican added that he doesn’t believe the efforts to curb aid in specific countries will result in a larger shift on the issue within the party. “I think they’re entitled to their views and entitled to debate those positions and I respect them, but I just don’t agree with them,” he said.

Where there has been some evolution on the issue of foreign aid is on the campaign trail.

In an October GOP presidential debate, now-presumptive nominee Mitt Romney launched an attack on foreign aid based on domestic economic and budget conditions.

“I happen to think it doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to borrow money from the Chinese to go give to another country for humanitarian aid. We ought to get the Chinese to take care of the people that are taking that borrowed money today,” Romney said. “Let me tell you: We’re spending more on foreign aid than we ought to be spending.”

Despite some buzzy sound bites from last fall, Paul concedes that he doesn’t think many Republicans will join him in his campaign to end military and humanitarian spending abroad.

But true to his tea party roots, Paul paints the issue in terms of a Beltway-Main Street disconnect, saying that lawmakers see foreign aid as an issue of great importance, but voters do not.

“I always tell people that I think it’s the opposite here as it is with the public. ... Really, the legislature here lags greatly behind the public on foreign aid,” he said.

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