Engel Statement at State Dept. Budget Hearing with Secretary of State Tillerson
WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today offered this statement at a full committee hearing on the Trump Administration’s Department of State budget request:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
“I know that the shooting in Alexandria this morning is on all our minds. It's shocking. We're all hoping for the best for our colleague Steve Scalise, the police officers, and others who are victims of this attack. We wish them a speedy recovery and we're thinking of their loved ones this morning.
“We're also reminded of how deeply, deeply grateful we are to the Capitol police who put their lives on the line to keep us safe, to keep staff safe, to keep safe the millions of people from all over the world who visit the Capitol every year. I'll say the same for the Diplomatic Security Service, Mr. Secretary, whom members of this Committee know well from overseas travel. You all have our thanks today and every day.
“Mr. Secretary, we’re glad to have you here at last. We have a lot to cover, so I’ll get right to it.
“I am deeply skeptical about this budget, which, in my view, is part of a foreign-policy strategy that would cripple American diplomacy and development efforts around the world.
“This strategy has been carried out first and foremost through inaction. With an initial purge that pushed out some of our most senior and accomplished career diplomats, this Administration has eliminated years of expertise and experience in one fell swoop. And with few exceptions, the President simply hasn’t nominated anyone to help you run the Department.
“Mr. Chairman, I ask that my graphic be displayed.
“This is an organizational chart of the State Department. The three dark green boxes are President Trump’s confirmed nominees. Light green boxes are officials in place from the last Administration. Yellow boxes are nominees awaiting Senate action. And all the red boxes are positions for which the President hasn’t submitted a nomination.
“That’s a lot of red boxes—far behind where Presidents Bush and Obama were at this point—and this doesn’t cover the dozens of vacant ambassadorships. We should all keep this in mind next time he sends a false tweet about obstruction in Congress.
"Now, career diplomats keeping the seats warm are capable and devoted public servants, but they aren’t able to direct our foreign policy.
“What is the Trump approach to Russia’s hacking our election? Or nonproliferation? Or human trafficking? Or Africa? Or the Arctic? When will we have the undersecretaries and assistant secretaries and ambassadors-at-large to put those policies in place?
“The second indication of the Administration’s view of the State Department is this document. The 2018 State Department budget—submitted to Congress by the Secretary of State—by you, sir.
“It calls for a 32 percent cut to our international affairs budget. I have never seen a budget proposal so reckless, so insulting to our personnel, and so quick to hit bipartisan opposition.
“Mr. Secretary, you told me that you hoped to put the State Department on a ‘glide path’ to reduced spending levels. A one-third cut is more like a nosedive.
“Imagine being an American diplomat, learning that this is the value the Administration places on your service. Imagine waking up every morning in a dangerous place on the other side of the world, knowing that the officials responsible for your safety haven’t even been nominated, and that America’s top diplomat—the captain of the team—was going to Congress to ask for a 32 percent budget cut.
“So, what are the impacts of all this on the Trump foreign policy?
“Some are obvious: sidelining our diplomats has coincided with a string of diplomatic missteps and embarrassments.
“The White House trying to establish a back channel to Russia and to return confiscated Russian safe houses while getting nothing in return, insulting phone calls to the leaders of Mexico and Australia, abandoning our role as a global leader on climate change, with France and Germany backing away from the United States, the White House editing out language on our commitment to NATO Article 5, a canceled trip to the United Kingdom, parroting Chinese talking points, embracing dictators. The list goes on.
“Some consequences of this budget will hit us down the road. If we fail to invest in diplomacy and development now, the conflicts we don’t prevent will come back to us as the wars we’ll need to fight. Senator Graham said it well: ‘If we implemented this budget, we’d have to retreat from the world and put a lot of people at risk.’ He said we would have ‘A lot of Benghazis in the making if we actually implemented the State Department cuts.’ He’s right: your budget cuts embassy security by more than a billion dollars—62 percent.
“Fortunately, on this point, Congress retains the power of the purse, so we’ll have the last word on that issue.
“Finally, there are the consequences we can’t know about, because this Administration seems to be operating under a cloud of secrecy. We know the President is entangled in a sprawling array of foreign business ties, that this White House is under investigation by a Special Counsel, and that foreign governments are rushing to spend money at Trump properties in apparent violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.
“But we don’t know the details. We don’t know where the President’s investments are, who his partners are, who has lent him money.
“So while some of the consequences of the Trump foreign policy are clear—and deeply worrisome—I’m just as concerned about the consequences that remain hidden: whether the Trump foreign policy is designed to advance America’s interests, or Trump business interests. Until we have a full disclosure of the President’s overseas business interests, until we have total clarity on the Russia scandal from the special counsel’s investigation and an independent commission, we cannot have confidence in what’s driving the Trump agenda overseas.
“I think this Committee should keep pressing these issues until we have the answers we need.
“Thank you Mr. Chairman. I yield back.”