A group of Senate Democrats are raising concerns that the State Department is unable to handle its workload and being left out of key foreign policy decisions.
Democratic Sens. Dick DurbinDick DurbinLawmakers reintroduce online sales tax bills Democrats exploring lawsuit against Trump Senators warn of 'dangerous' cuts to International Affairs Budget MORE (Ill.), Tom UdallTom UdallOvernight Energy: Trump orders review of national monuments, claiming ‘egregious abuse’ Dem vows to fight Trump 'every step of the way' on national monuments Senate Dems want Trump to release ethics waivers, visitor logs MORE (N.M.), Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyLawmakers talk climate for Earth Day, Science March Poll: Sanders most popular senator in the US Senate Dems offer bill to restore internet privacy rules MORE (Vt.) and Chris MurphyChris MurphyDemocrats exploring lawsuit against Trump Senators get North Korea briefing in unusual WH visit Hoyer not insisting on ObamaCare subsidies in spending bill MORE (Conn.) sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warning that his department is nearing a "tipping point."
"The Department of State is experiencing significant management challenges, being cut out of important administration foreign policy decisions, and facing potentially devastating budget cuts," they wrote in a letter obtained by The Hill.
They added that the department's stature "will be severely eroded" if no changes are made, which could have consequences for the U.S. foreign policy.
Tillerson's department is also facing a steep spending cut under Trump's forthcoming budget, with the president expected to propose a 37 percent budget cut to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The senators noted that Tillerson wasn't involved last week in the release of the Human Rights Report, and there are reports that he is being left out of foreign policy decisions.
"The department has reportedly been excluded from calls and meetings with key foreign leaders, and critical policy discussions are occurring without meaningful input from the Department of State," they wrote.
The senators added that the department "appears unable to respond to the myriad of foreign policy challenges facing our nation."
Though the Senate has confirmed Tillerson, many of the department's top positions — including the No. 2 spot — remain unfilled as the Trump administration debates who to nominate. Tillerson reportedly wanted to appoint neoconservative Elliott Abrams for the deputy job but was overruled because Abrams criticized Trump during the presidential race.
Staffers for Sen. Ben CardinBen CardinDemocrats exploring lawsuit against Trump Overnight Finance: Dems explore lawsuit against Trump | Full-court press for Trump tax plan | Clock ticks down to spending deadline Sanders on skipping WH Korea briefing: 'I did not want to be part of a photo op' MORE (Md.), the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, separately told reporters that including ambassador nominations there are more than 200 vacancies currently at the department.
Cardin, who didn't sign the letter, said he wasn't sure if Tillerson is being sidelined. Still, Cardin stressed that he hopes the secretary of State will be the leading designer of U.S. foreign policy.
"There's been visible meetings that he hasn't been present at with world leaders. That is of concern," he said, asked about concerns raised in the letter. "I don't know the reasons so I'm not going to totally judge that."
He added that the "secretary of State has the capacity within the career people and the resources that he has and the tools that he has to be principal architect of the foreign policy of his country."