- As Delivered -
WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following statement at a full committee hearing with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Mr. Secretary, welcome to the Foreign Affairs Committee. We always pride our committee in being the most bipartisan committee in Congress and always say that when we believe when we talk about foreign policy, partisanship should stop at the water’s edge. It doesn’t mean that we won’t have disagreements, and some of those we’re going to discuss today. But I think that this committee, perhaps more than any other committee in Congress, has worked very effectively to set up bipartisan majorities.
“So welcome Mr. Secretary, you’re no stranger here. And we look forward to what you have to say, obviously, today.
“After the Administration sent its 2017 budget request, which we were very disappointed with, Congress’s message was clear: cutting diplomacy and development by a third was unacceptable. We sent that message through letters and statements—and finally with the 2018 funding bill. And let me say once again, bipartisan majorities stopped those draconian cuts from going forward.
“But this Administration has ignored that message unfortunately and rejected the will of Congress.
“The White House wants to cut $334 million as part of the so-called ‘rescission’ package. How short-sighted is this request? The day after we received these proposed cuts—including cutting a quarter billion dollars from our Ebola response—reports surfaced of an Ebola outbreak in the DRC. The reason we fight pandemics overseas is so we don’t have to fight them here at home. The American people—whether in New York or in Kansas—are concerned about things like Ebola because diseases don’t respect borders. We cannot allow another outbreak to go unchecked because the White House considers arbitrary budget cuts to be good politics.
“Now, the State Department—and I realize this is all happening before you came, Mr. Secretary, so I’m hoping that you can work with us in trying to change these things and to right the wrongs—the State Department has now sent us another budget that would slash diplomacy and development efforts that promote our security—that keep Americans safe. It’s frankly insulting that the Administration would send us another request like this when we rejected it last year. So I predict that Congress will reject this budget just as we did last year’s. Again, Congress on a bipartisan basis rejected the budget. Fortunately, Congress has the final say on how much we spend on international affairs.
“But whatever the size of the check Congress writes, it’s obviously the Administration’s job to make policy and manage departments. And Mr. Secretary, I worry about what you’ve inherited at the State Department.
“The Administration’s first priority was an ill-conceived reorganization effort. It cost millions of taxpayer dollars for private consultants but resulted in absolutely nothing beyond a demoralized and depleted State Department.
“On your predecessor’s watch, the Department lost more than 200 Foreign Service Officers—many among our most senior diplomats—some of the very experienced diplomats you once called ‘incredibly professional.’ The Department will soon have only a single official with the rank of Career Ambassador—the highest rank of our diplomats. A staggering number of senior positions remain vacant.
“Perhaps most troubling are the allegations from whistleblowers who have reported to this committee that the Administration has targeted career employees because of their perceived political beliefs.
“This is potentially a violation of laws governing State Department personnel. It also strikes at the idea that politics should stop at the water’s edge—that the way we carry out foreign policy should put American interests first and leave partisan interests and concerns behind. It’s how we run this committee.
“But that principle has been under attack recently. I think you can draw a line from moment straight back to the most egregious example in recent memory of playing politics with foreign policy—and with a tragedy: I know the Benghazi Select Committee on which you sat. The creation that was set up to tear Hillary Clinton down, as the Majority Leader admitted—that was used to impugn the character of one of your predecessors.
“Partisanship has no place in the halls of the State Department. I’m glad the Inspector General is now looking into those whistleblower allegations—as Senator Menendez, Mr. Cummings, and I advised. But the Department has not produced the required documents that would allow Congress to conduct effective oversight, despite a commitment from the spokesperson to do so. So I hope, Mr. Secretary, that you’ll help to get us those documents, and that you’ll leave behind any political considerations in the way the Department is run under your leadership.
“Unfortunately, after 16 months, we’re feeling the effects of a foreign policy that has marginalized diplomacy and made Americans less safe.
“The President has alienated our friends, doubted the value of our alliances, and undermined American credibility around the world.
“The result? A recent Gallup poll put America’s global approval rating at an historical low 30 percent, nearly 20 percent lower than the previous year. At the rate we’re breaking our word and unwinding our country’s commitments, I imagine we’ll see that number dip even further.
“The Administration’s slogan of ‘America First’ it’s looking unfortunately more like ‘America Last’ and ‘America Alone.’ An America by itself in the world—where we don’t nurture alliances and cultivate new friendships; where we don’t put our values at the center of our politics; where we don’t help countries become stronger and more stable partners on the global stage—an America in that world is an America that’s less safe.
“Perhaps this, the worst example that the Administration has blatantly ignored is our ongoing threat to our security, which is Russia’s attack on American democracy.
“As you said when you served as CIA Director, we’re staring another Russian attack in the face. I agree with you.
“I’m worried that the President is just going to let it happen. I’m worried that even if we did want to push back, the State Department is so hobbled and hollowed-out, that we won’t be able to. I’m worried that the Administration is giving Russia a pass because Putin supported President Trump over Hillary Clinton. If we allow foreign interference in our elections so long as it supports our political objectives, then we’ve put party before country and put our democracy in crisis. I would be just as outraged if the Russians helped Hillary Clinton. I think the Russians should stay out of our democracy.
“There are so many other issues I could get into, but I want all our members to have a chance to ask questions today. There are tough questions, Mr. Secretary, but I look forward to working with you, and I know that your service here in the House will do you well in working together with the House to effectuate better foreign policy for our country. Thank you.”
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