- As Delivered –
Washington—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following opening remarks at the hearing "The State Department’s Foreign Policy Strategy and FY20 Budget Request":
"This afternoon we will hear testimony from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the Trump Administration’s 2020 international affairs budget request and a range of other issues dealing with the administration’s foreign policy and management of the State Department.
"Welcome back to the House, Mr. Secretary, I know you spent so many good days here and I appreciated your reaching out shortly after the election when you were first nominated as Secretary of State I value our open line of communication.
"Welcome to the public and members of the press as well—especially our friends from C-SPAN who are celebrating its 40th birthday this week.
"Let me first of all start with the budget. The administration’s first budget request before you were Secretary, Mr. Secretary, was deeply disappointing—slashing investments in diplomacy and development by nearly a third. It met resounding bipartisan rejection here in Congress.
"The second budget was baffling—after Congress made it clear we would not gut American diplomacy, the administration made essentially the same request to do just that. Again, it was rejected.
"This third budget, which once again in my opinion seeks to hobble the State Department and other agencies, this in my view demonstrates contempt for diplomacy and diplomats and contempt for the Congress, frankly, whose job it is to decide how much to spend on foreign affairs.
"First year, when the budget as sent it was rejected and we came up with our budget, bipartisan one I should say. The second year the Administration came to low ball us once again. And now the third year, the same time when the budget has been rejected twice before. Why would the administration send the similar budget only to be rejected the third time?
"So Mr. Secretary, let me be clear: this budget request was dead the moment it arrived on Capitol Hill. I don’t know whether this Administration really believes we can mount an effective foreign policy—one that advances American interests, values, and security—on a shoestring budget… or if the people calling the shots just don’t care. But Congress won’t stand by and see American leadership on the global stage undermined. And that’s not just our opinion. That’s the power of the purse. That’s what we’re supposed to do.
"That’s the good news. The bad news comes when the Administration shows the world just how little stock it puts in diplomacy and development—in building bridges of friendship… in forging alliances… in resolving conflict and crises. This budget, in my opinion, signals to the world that the Trump foreign policy is one of disengagement… of pulling back from the places where American leadership is needed the most. And we know other countries that don’t share out values—countries like China and Russia and Iran—those countries are more than happy to fill the void.
"It also tells our diplomatic and development workforce that their efforts are not valued. That’s had an impact that we can already see.
"We see it in the plummeting morale at the State Department and the number of diplomats chased to the exits. We see it in report after report after report of politically motivated targeting and harassment of career employees—allegations on which the Department has failed to respond to multiple Committee requests for information. We see it in the drop in the number of civil servants at the Department, and the sharp decline in employee satisfaction, according to the Partnership for Public Service.
"And when I look at this Administration’s policies, I’m left wondering how often if State Department experts are being ignored completely.
"From denigrating our alliances, NATO, to cozying up to strongmen to walking away from our international agreements and obligations…
"From an abortive summit with North Korea to saber rattling in Venezuela to clearing the way for Iran and Russia to run roughshod over Syria if we leave.
"From waging a trade war with China that’s hurting American farmers and consumers to slamming the door on vulnerable people around the world seeking to come to our country.
"These don’t seem like policies, to me, built on the expertise and experience that our diplomats offer. They seem like what I call “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants diplomacy.”
"And so as Congress exercises its constitutional responsibility in rejecting the inadequate budget request, this Committee will also conduct oversight to deal with what I consider major problems in foreign policy and at the State Department.
"I was hopeful that the Department would work collaboratively with us to allow this Committee to carry out its constitutionally mandated oversight duties. But I must say, three months into this Congress, the response from the Department to our requests has ranged from foot-dragging to outright stonewalling. It’s very frustrating and that’s not acceptable. I believe you’d feel the same way, since I know you, if you were still a member of this body. I hope the trend changes. But if it doesn’t, I will use every tool at this Committee’s disposal to get the answers we need.
"And I hope we can get some of those answers today. I look forward to a frank conversation and to your testimony, Mr. Secretary."
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