U.S. senators blast 'insane' Trump plan for aid cuts, seek Venezuela plan

WASHINGTON, April 30 (Reuters) - Republican and Democratic U.S. senators blasted President Donald Trump's proposal for a 23 percent cut in the U.S. budget for foreign aid and diplomacy as "insane" and "short-sighted" on Tuesday, and said it would not pass.

"We're not going to approve this budget reduction. It's insane. It makes no sense," said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the State Department and foreign aid budget.

"I don't know who writes these things over in the White House, but they clearly don't understand the value of soft power," the Republican senator, a close Trump ally on many issues, told a subcommittee hearing on the foreign aid budget.

Graham also called the plan "short-sighted" and said the Appropriations panel would restore funding to previous levels, rather than enacting the 23 percent cut Trump proposed earlier this year.

Graham also asked Mark Green, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, to send Congress a plan for how it would assist Venezuela in case of a change in government in the troubled South American state.

The hearing took place on Tuesday against a backdrop of upheaval in Venezuela, where Washington's desire to ship in millions of dollars in foreign aid has been a central theme of the Trump administration's push for a change in government.

The Senate subcommittee's top Democrat, Senator Patrick Leahy, also opposed the cuts, citing the importance of "soft power" like foreign aid to U.S. influence around the world.

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US President Donald Trump (R) jokes with US Senator Chuck Grassley (L), R-Iowa,that he likes Sen. Lindsey Graham(L) R-SC during a meeting with Republican members of the Senate about immigration at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 4, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 04: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump (3rd L) speaks as (L-R) Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) listen during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House January 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Trump met with Republican members of the Senate to discuss immigration. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) scratches his brow as he stands behind President Donald Trump during an event with Republican lawmakers to mark passage of sweeping tax overhaul legislation at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham joins U.S. President Donald Trump for a meeting with some of his fellow Senate Republicans at the White House in Washington, U.S. December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham joins U.S. President Donald Trump for a meeting with some of his fellow Senate Republicans at the White House in Washington, U.S. December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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"Our soft power should not be a partisan issue, it should be an American issue and we're going to try to keep it that way," Leahy said at the hearing, at which Green testified on Trump's proposed budget.

Graham asked if Trump's administration had a plan in place to help the Venezuela people if President Nicolas Maduro's government were to fall. Graham suggested that the administration submit an emergency funding request for Venezuela to his committee, including a plan.

"I think most members of this committee would gladly help you with some resources to stabilize Venezuela when Maduro falls, not if. In that regard, we would very much appreciate any advice you give us about what a good response would look like," Graham said.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle in Washington Editing by James Dalgleish)

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