Senate Dems: State Department is in disarray
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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 DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinTrump praises law enforcement response to shooting at Illinois business Five dead in shooting at manufacturing plant in Aurora, Illinois ‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire MORE (Ill.), Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallHillicon Valley: House panel takes on election security | DOJ watchdog eyes employee texts | Senate Dems urge regulators to block T-Mobile, Sprint deal | 'Romance scams' cost victims 3M in 2018 Dems urge regulators to reject T-Mobile, Sprint merger Dems wary of killing off filibuster MORE (N.M.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph Leahy‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire How the border deal came together Winners and losers in the border security deal MORE (Vt.) and Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyHouse passes bill to end US support for Saudi war in Yemen This week: Border deal remains elusive as shutdown looms Border talks stall as another shutdown looms 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.

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The letter comes amid multiple reports speculating that Tillerson is being overshadowed on foreign policy decisions by some in the president's inner circle, including White House adviser Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law.

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 CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinBipartisan Senators reintroduce legislation to slap new sanctions on Russia Baseball legend Frank Robinson, first black manager in MLB, dies at 83 Biden speaking to Dems on Capitol Hill as 2020 speculation mounts: report 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."