- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Sen. Lindsey Graham offered an emphatic endorsement Wednesday of a global-assistance fund that makes up less than 1 percent of the federal budget and combats poverty and diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria, saying it’s the best use of federal dollars that exists.

But Mr. Graham, South Carolina Republican who may run for president, warned that mandatory “sequester” caps on spending could devastate the so-called “150 account,” which has drawn support from music legend Elton John and U2 singer Bono.

“This account makes us richer,” Mr. Graham said. “This account, I believe, is the smartest use of federal dollars of any place within the federal government.”

Republican leaders have promised to abide by the sequester caps, which the parties agreed to in 2011, as they implement the fiscal 2016 budget they approved late Tuesday.

But GOP members warn that sequestration caps are hamstringing defense, while The White House and Democrats want dollar-for-dollar increases to both defense and domestic spending.

Mr. Graham, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee’s foreign operations panel, is holding a hearing on the funds, which combat diseases that are increasingly rare in the United States but continue to wreak havoc in the poorest corners of the world.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, said the United States had a moral obligation to help countries that cannot help themselves.

“We’re talking about countries where that money is not there,” he said.

Mr. John was scheduled to testify before the panel, but Bono couldn’t make it after sustaining a serious bike accident in New York City, according to Mr. Graham.

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