- As Delivered –
WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks at a press conference with Democratic committee members to discuss the threat to American security and leadership posed by the Trump Administration’s proposed draconian cuts to the international affairs budget:
“I’m pleased to be joined by a number of my Foreign Affairs Committee colleagues to discuss the President’s plan to cut nearly a third of our international affairs budget.
“In my view, that would be a disaster. It would undermine American leadership in the world. It would put Americans at risk.
“We believe in diplomacy. Diplomacy saves lives. That’s all there is to it. It’s not glamorous, and it doesn’t often get a lot of attention. The conflicts that get resolved over conference tables don’t get a lot of headlines. But when you stop a crisis before it starts, that crisis doesn’t need to be resolved on the battlefield.
“In the same way, development makes the world more stable. It helps countries become good partners on the global stage—partners who share our American values and priorities. Many of us believe helping to alleviate poverty, promote education, and support human rights is the right thing to do. But that’s not the whole story.
“These efforts also create stronger, more productive, more vibrant communities and countries. On the other hand, poverty and lack of opportunity are fertile grounds for violence, crime, corruption, and terrorism.
“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.
“Congress is a coequal branch of government. We write the checks. And we will continue to push for a robust international-affairs agenda that gives diplomacy and development their due.
“This cannot be allowed to stand. This is a disaster waiting to happen. I’ve been in Congress for nearly 30 years; I have never seen anything so reckless when it comes to State Department authorization, when it comes to things that we should do.
“President Trump campaigned and talked a lot about America having a strong voice in the world. These steps take us steps backwards. American diplomacy will shrink, and American ideas will shrink from the world. And again maybe Russia or China or some other country will pick it up and move into the void. All I know is that it diminishes America. It diminishes what we stand for. It diminishes our help and aid to other countries in the world, which in turn help keep those countries friendly and appreciative of all the help we have given to them.
“I can think of nothing more reckless. All you need to do is travel around the world and see our embassies and see how understaffed they are, how good American workers get along and try to do the best they can with what they have, but it’s not enough. And this will be making it even worse. It will be a disaster.
“So, we’re here as the House Democrats on the Foreign Affairs Committee to say we reject the President’s budget. We won’t sit idly by and allow it to happen. We control the power of the purse of the House, and we’re going to make sure that what we feel prevails. At least, I’ll tell you our colleagues on the other side of the aisle know that this is bad as well.”