Congressional Leaders Join Together to Support Diplomacy and Development

June 19, 2017 By Jessica Mulligan

Last week, the chorus of voices in support of America’s diplomacy and development programs reverberated across Capitol Hill as Cabinet officials testified on the Administration’s proposal to cut the International Affairs Budget by a draconian and disproportionate 32%. From the Freedom Caucus to the Progressive Caucus, lawmakers on key committees joined together to defend State Department and USAID programs that are vital to protecting our national security, strengthening our economy, and projecting the best of America’s values overseas.

Congressional leaders highlighted their concerns about the wide-ranging consequences of cuts to development assistance, global health funding, humanitarian aid, and international organizations. Below are just a few key quotes from last week’s hearings, which serve as a powerful marker of Congress’ bipartisan commitment to protect funding for programs that advance American global leadership.

  • Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “Slashing our foreign operations and foreign assistance makes the world more dangerous for Americans and for America…The budget takes a penny-wise pound-foolish approach that will cost lives and endanger Americans here at home. The proposed cut to the State Department and foreign assistance budgets suggested by you and by the Trump administration will fatally undermine our ability to renew and revise our leadership, and will leave us less safe and less secure in an increasingly complex world, unable to advance our ideals or to secure our prosperity.”  (June 13, 2017)
  • Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI): “I think it’s very clear that the devastating cuts proposed in this budget would make it nearly impossible for America to lead the world. And it’s why it has been decried by virtually every serious diplomat, scholar, and development expert.” (June 14, 2017)
  • Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE): “I think the growing threat we’ve seen, the attack on our democracy by Russia, the destabilizing acts of North Korea, the nuclear program, and the world’s worst humanitarian and refugee crisis since the Second World War call for us to invest more in diplomacy and development, not to dramatically cut it.” (June 13, 2017)
  • Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA): “When President George W. Bush was in office, he and his people often talked about a national security strategy that was three-headed: diplomacy, defense, development. I shared that view, I think that’s important. In my view, this budget seems a bit too focused on hard power, not enough on soft power and the tools that you have in the development and diplomacy realms.” (June 14, 2017)
  • Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee: “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 Lindsay Graham said it well, and I quote him. ‘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.’” (June 14, 2017)
  • Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee: “I think I speak on behalf of all of my colleagues when I say we endorse the marriage of hard and soft power, military capability, and diplomacy, to assure our national security.” (June 15, 2017)
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations: “If you don’t believe me, listen to the generals, that the State Department’s role in the war on terror is very important – to me, just as important as any military power we have… if you eliminated the State Department you would not even begin to move the debt needle. The question is, if you cripple the State Department – it’s not about debt to me, it’s about security and American values being impeded… We cannot sit on the sidelines and let the State Department be seen as retreating at a time when we need more soft power and not less.” (June 13, 2017)
  • Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM): “I want to associate myself with the views of 16 former senior military leaders, who submitted a letter today in support of foreign assistance and specifically they made the following point: ‘Proactive conflict prevention strategies are far less expensive in terms of resources and lives expended than reactive use of our armed forces’. And this is signed by a number of folks we’ll all recognize from General Breedlove to Admiral Mullen to General Petraeus to General McChrystal.” (June 13, 2017)
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations: “The administration’s proposal to slash approximately 30 percent from the State Department and foreign assistance budget signals an American retreat, leaving a vacuum that would make us far less safe. This proposal would bring resources for our civilian forces to a third of what we spent at the height of Ronald Reagan’s peace through strength years. It would be internationally irresponsible, distressing our friends, encouraging our enemies and undermining our own economic and national security interests.” (June 13, 2017)
  • Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee and the Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations: “Slashing development and diplomacy will not put America first. It will put American lives in danger, a fact underscored in a recent letter by 120 three- and four-star generals…We have heard from faith leaders, heads of businesses, military authorities, foreign policy experts, Congressional colleagues on both sides of the aisle who all agree a comprehensive national security strategy is only possible when defense is supported by diplomacy and development.” (June 14, 2017)
  • Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ): “History has proven that over the long term, governments around the world with strong democratic institutions that respect the human rights of all their citizens are more stable, more prosperous, more resilient to the tentacles of radicalization and stability, and ultimately make better partners for the United States.” (June 13, 2017)
  • Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS): “Investment in the State Department’s programs, when they are reduced, it gives other countries the opportunity to advance their causes if we leave any gap unfilled…China just last month pledged $124 billion for a new global infrastructure program. We are reducing USAID missions and eliminating economic development assistance to 37 countries around the globe… others will take advantage of our absence.” (June 13, 2017)
  • Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee: “The president’s proposal increases defense spending, but it also eliminates $17.3 billion from the State Department’s efforts to prevent wars and forge peace. Which is the very kind of spending that Secretary Mattis has said is so crucial to our military efforts.” (June 13, 2017)
  • Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations: “The sweeping cuts proposed to the State Department and our international assistance programs are deeply concerning. Many of us share the views articulated so well in the last couple of days by Admiral Mullen and General Jones in their recent op-ed entitled ‘Why Foreign Aid is Critical to the U.S. National Security.’” (June 14, 2017)
  • Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL): “I’m strongly against the proposed zeroing out of democracy and governance programs, especially in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, where civil society is facing increasing repression.” (June 14, 2017)
  • Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee: “Leading takes resources. Sufficient resources are needed for our military, for sure, but also for our diplomats working to end the many conflicts impacting our security. That’s what the generals say. In today’s well-connected age, in which threats can come from anywhere, we need a very broad diplomatic presence. That takes resources too, especially to keep our diplomats safe…Resources are also needed to support our humanitarian relief, development, and health specialists. Their work abroad benefits Americans at home.” (June 14, 2017)
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL): “I’m a big believer in foreign engagement because it certainly has paid extraordinary dividends…And I think South Korea’s a success of that. You know, people forget 35, 40 years ago, South Korea’s economy was smaller than North Korea’s. It was a dictatorship. And today, I believe it’s the 11th largest economy in the world, the strongest American ally, a vibrant democracy. And nothing illustrates that better than that famous Google Earth picture of the darkness on the North Korean side and all the lights on the South Korean side: American engagement.” (June 13, 2017)
  • Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC): “With so many global challenges, the rogue nation North Korea continues to push against international norms, and threatens our nation’s security and the security of our allies. I’m concerned that large cuts in our foreign affairs budget will leave us at a disadvantage in the distinct national security role played by our diplomats so capably.” (June 14, 2017)Photo Source: Flickr / CC