Human Rights First applauded today’s bipartisan committee approval
of the fiscal year 2018 State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill, which would not only protect, but also strengthen State Department programs aimed at supporting national security and American values abroad. The bill was approved by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs in what should be seen as a sharp rebuke of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and President Donald Trump’s plans to drastically cut the United States’ diplomatic power abroad. The legislation signals bipartisan congressional support for diplomacy and foreign assistance as key tools of U.S. influence abroad, and will require significant oversight of any re-organization plans to ensure that they do not erode America’s diplomatic and development capacity. The bill is expected to pass the full committee tomorrow.
“Today, members of the Senate from both parties sent a strong signal to President Trump and Secretary Tillerson that they will not stand by as these men undercut the ability of the State Department and USAID to advance America’s interests abroad,” said Human Rights First’s Rob Berschinski. “Congress essentially told the administration that not only can they not weaken the State Department through severe budget cuts, they also can’t act unilaterally to modify its structure. It’s a strong rebuke.”
Earlier this year, the Trump Administration requested a 30 percent cut in the State Department’s funding, which would reduce their annual budget to $37.6 billion, a figure that would severely diminish the agency’s capacity. Today’s press release
from State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Thad Cochran (R-MS), however, indicates congressional support for an FY18 funding bill with a budget of $51.2 billion, which is roughly on par with previous years’ funding levels. The bill specifically mandates maintaining funding for State Department and USAID personnel levels “consistent with prior fiscal years,” and would prohibit using any funds to move the latter under control of the former.