President Trump’s proposal to cut diplomatic funding sharply in fiscal year 2019 drew a quick stiff-arm from a top House Republican on Monday.
“A strong, bipartisan coalition in Congress has already acted once to stop deep cuts to the State Department and Agency for International Development that would have undermined our national security,” House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., said in response to the White House budget request. “This year, we will act again.”
Trump’s team outlined a $39.3 billion diplomatic budget for 2019, down from the $51 billion congressional appropriators favored for the 2018 fiscal year. Royce’s statement, following an administration briefing on the budget, is an early indicator the new budget proposal will meet a similar fate.
“As I’ve said, diplomacy helps keep America strong and our troops out of combat,” Royce said. “Our country faces urgent threats from North Korea, Iran and terrorists around the world. Programs that are vital to our national interests should be prioritized.”
The administration’s plan for how to implement those spending cuts is already drawing skepticism on Capitol Hill. The budget request proposes a $1.67 billion cut to United Nations peacekeeping activities, a Republican aide to the Foreign Affairs committee noted, as well as a $680 million reduction from fiscal year 2017 spending on embassy security.
"This funding level includes the Department’s share of the $2.2 billion requested Government-wide in the Budget for new, secure embassy construction, as recommended by the Benghazi Accountability Review Board report,” the White House budget document emphasized.
“This would continue the upward trend of housing overseas personnel in safer diplomatic facilities. With the proposed level of funding, the Department of State would continue to protect American personnel representing more than 30 agencies, as well as provide services to Americans overseas, in a safe and secure environment.”
That argument failed to prevent bipartisan opposition. “That's an area that's rocketing to the top of our list here,” the aide said.
The full effect of Trump’s proposal remains to be assessed, however, as lawmakers are still working to flesh out the details of two-year spending deal that Congress agreed to last week before passing a short-term bill to avoid an extended government shutdown.
Royce won’t discard the entire proposal, in any event.
“That said, this budget proposal does outline some much-needed reforms,” he said. “I especially welcome the president’s commitment to modernize U.S. development finance. ... Promoting enduring growth in the developing world is key to U.S. job creation and to our national security.”