By Russell Berman - 02/14/11 07:44 PM EST
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emerged from a meeting with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) sharply critical of proposed Republican cuts to the State Department budget, warning they “will be detrimental to America’s national security.”
Clinton met with the new GOP Speaker a day before the House begins consideration of a spending bill that would slash the budgets for the State Department and USAID by 16 percent. The cuts, she said afterward, would force the government to scale back its mission in the war zones of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
If the budget cuts were enacted, she said, “we would be forced to scale back significantly our mission in the frontline states of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where we work side by side with the American military. We would also be required to roll back critical health security, climate change, border security and trade promotion efforts abroad.”
Clinton’s appeal amounted to a push for a robust American presence throughout the globe. “We cannot recede from our presence anywhere in the world,” she said.
Noting her own eight years in Congress, Clinton said she understands the tight fiscal environment and the need to trim spending. “But the scope of the proposed House cuts is massive,” she said. “The truth is that cuts of that level will be detrimental to America’s national security.”
Clinton made her public pitch by appealing to areas that have traditionally garnered Republican support, including the war efforts. She said it was “somewhat frustrating” that the State Department and USAID are often classified as non-security spending when civilian personnel are working so often “side by side” with the military in frontline states. “They clearly are part of the national security efforts in these countries,” Clinton said.
She also sought to link her budget plea to the revolution in Egypt, where massive street protests forced longtime President Hosni Mubarak from office. “Events in Egypt show how important it is that we have a global diplomatic presence, a presence that will be ready to handle crises, prevent conflicts, protect American citizens overseas and protect American economic interests,” Clinton said.
“To be successful in these vital tasks, we need the resources to do the job,” Clinton said. “Otherwise we will pay a higher price later in crises that are allowed to simmer and boil over into conflicts.”
Clinton described the meeting as “very productive,” and thanked Boehner for his hospitality and his leadership on Egypt. The Speaker has notably praised the Obama administration’s handling of the crisis there.
Still, there was no indication Boehner is willing to reconsider the cuts in the spending bill. He did not address reporters after the meeting. Asked to respond to Clinton, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel replied: “The American people know we’re broke — we’re borrowing 41 cents out of every dollar we spend. Right now, we need to stop the Washington spending spree so the economy can grow and the private sector can create more jobs.”