June 13, 2017

Corker Credits Secretary Tillerson for Unprecedented Outreach

WASHINGTON – At a hearing to consider the State Department’s fiscal year 2018 budget request, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, credited Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for unprecedented outreach to the committee. He also thanked Tillerson for setting strategic priorities for operations of the State Department while emphasizing that Congress will ultimately determine spending levels for diplomacy and foreign assistance in the next fiscal year.

“I want to thank Secretary Tillerson for being here. I want to thank him for what I believe has been unprecedented outreach to this committee and others who have wanted to give input.

“I share with people all over the country that, obviously, this administration is new. Some of the approaches have been very different. But one of the things that Secretary Tillerson has been willing to do and wants to do and seeks to do is to get input from the committee, and I appreciate that very much with all that you've got to do to organize. That's been unprecedented.

“I do want to say in addition to that I know some people are going to be taking shots, that's what happens in a budget committee meeting, especially one like this one.

“I’ll speak for myself, and I know others feel the same way. I am very thankful that you’re serving as secretary of state. I am very thankful that Secretary Mattis is serving as secretary of defense. I am very thankful that Mr. McMaster is serving as national security advisor. And I just have to tell you that around the world people are thankful that you are in these positions.

“And I think that in spite of the fact that they may disagree with some of the policies that are coming forth, the fact that someone like you who is as seasoned as you are in this position gives me and a lot of people here and a lot of people around the country and a lot of people around the world a lot of comfort. I want to thank you for your willingness to serve in the capacity that you are.

“On that point, I will say we sat down yesterday in the middle of the Russia sanctions negotiations. I took some time out to sit down with my staff, and we began going through the budget that you're presenting today. And after about five minutes, I said, ‘This is a total waste of time. I don't want to do this anymore.’ And the reason it's a waste of time is I think you know that the budget that's being presented is not going to be the budget we're going to deal with. It's just not. And, I mean, the fact is that, you know, Congress has a tremendous respect for the diplomatic efforts that are underway, the aid that we provide in emergency situations, and it’s likely – and by the way, this happens with every presidential budget. Every presidential budget. This one in particular, though, it is likely that what comes out of Congress is likely not going to resemble what is being presented today. And so I felt it was a total waste of time to go through the line items and even discuss them because it's not what is going to occur.

“I say that with all due respect. And pointing out that really, over the last 17 years, you know, our nation has been unwilling to deal with the fiscal issues that we face. And so, 70 percent of the budget is off budget. We are heading towards a fiscal calamity. Everyone knows it, sees it coming. And I realize that this president took an inordinate amount of cuts in this particular area to demonstrate that he was trying to address fiscal issues because, in fairness, he was unwilling to address all the other issues that are driving spending so much. We understand that. It's happened on both sides of the aisle for at least 17 years. And, you know, that's kind of where we are. Until we have a person who runs for president who says they'll going serve one term, and they're going to try to deal with these issues, unfortunately, we’re heading to a place that, to me, is a fiscal calamity.

“What I do appreciate about what you're doing today and what you're doing within the department, the fact that you ran a major company that had about the same amount of employees as the State Department has. What I appreciate is what you're doing today is bringing forth a debate that we've needed to have for a long time and that is not focusing on everything we can do but what we should be doing as a nation. I appreciate that very much.

“Since Congress is likely to write its own appropriations bills and spending, what I hope we’ll spend most of our time on, instead of taking pot shots – although everybody will do whatever they wish, I know – I hope you'll help us lay out some of the things you really think are appropriate for us to look at and different ways of approaching, whether it's international organizations, which many of us support, or whether it's how the State Department is going to be run. We thank you for being here today. I respect you very much. I respect the role you're playing for our nation. And with that, I'll turn to our ranking member, Senator Cardin.”

Click here for complete testimony and video footage of the hearing.