At a press conference today, Democratic members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs spoke out against the Trump Administration’s budget proposal, which would cut the international affairs budget by nearly a third. The members underscored that cutting diplomatic and development efforts would harm American security and diminish American leadership on the global stage. Earlier today, all the Committee’s Democratic members wrote to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, urging him to reject the draconian cuts sought in the President’s budget.
Highlights from today’s press conference…
Ranking Member Eliot L. Engel: “If we don’t make adequate investments in our diplomacy and no adequate investments in development, what does that say to the American people—particularly to our men and women in uniform? It says that we’re not willing to spend pennies on the dollar to prevent a crisis tomorrow. That we’d rather wait and see what happens, even if events unfold in a way that comes at a high cost in American blood and treasure.
“We also say to the rest of the world, ‘The United States is taking a step back.’ We cede the role as the world’s champion of democracy, freedom, and justice. And what happens then? Who steps in to the void? Probably a country that doesn’t share our values or priorities. Think Russia or some other country like that.
“With the budget the Administration released today, the Administration is clearly, unfortunately, willing to take that risk. We’re all here to say: we are not going to take that risk. We’re not going along with a budget that undermines American leadership and puts American lives at risk.”
Rep. Brad Sherman: “It appears as if Trump listened to General Mattis and misinterpreted it. When General Mattis said if you don’t fully fund the state department, I need to buy more ammunition, he thought what a great idea. Let’s underfund the State Department and buy more ammunition.”
Rep. Gregory Meeks: ”It’s not hard power against soft power, it’s smart power against dumb power…. When we look at the reality and totality of what it is, you will see that the less-than-one percent that we have invested in other countries has the greatest return on investment, as opposed to spending the billions of dollars on defense spending that does not have the same return on investment.”
Rep. Albio Sires: “Last weekend, I traveled to Honduras and Guatemala… to see firsthand some of the social programs that were conducted in those countries to make sure we don’t have the same situation that we had in 2013 and 2014, where we have the migration of youth coming to our borders. These programs need to be sustained, and to have a cut of on third from the State Department, it’s going to impact very much the Western Hemisphere.”
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly: “There are people who benefit from the United States’ diplomatic efforts and foreign aid efforts, who are fighting for democracy as we speak, putting their lives on the line counting on us to be their partner when almost no one else would help. From Mongolia to the Ukraine to the Altiplano of Bolivia. This is not the time to retreat and that’s what this budget does, and the men and women who are here pledge themselves to provide an alternative vision and we’ll fight this budget for the sake of that shining city on the hill.”
Rep. William Keating: “By these cuts taking place… there will be a vacuum that’s created that will be filled with terrorists and extremists. The incubation areas where poverty is so high, where criminal activity is so high, we won’t be able to go into those areas, and mitigate those areas, and have the U.S. be a presence in that respect. That not only hurts us in terms of our global threats of terrorism… but it causes a greater threat for us, radicalizing people back home.”
Vice Ranking Member Ami Bera: “We need to listen to the rest of the world. They don’t want America disengaging. They want us engaging on our values, our values of democracy, and that comes through diplomacy.”
Rep. Lois Frankel: “I wish the President would spend more time talking to the generals, because they would tell you that pencils can be as persuasive as cannons, and food can be as powerful as a tank.”
Rep. Norma Torres: “The world is depending on us to continue to be its leaders. They are depending on us to ensure that we continue to address the issues—human crises—that women and children have had to bear for centuries.”
Rep. Adriano Espaillat: “Many have called the Trump budget the ‘skinny,’ a very skinny budget. I say that not only is it skinny, it’s also anemic. It lacks the substance, the energy that many, many need across the world, particularly that the State Department and our initiatives rely on for so much help across the world.”