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 DurbinSenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions To combat domestic terrorism, Congress must equip law enforcement to fight rise in white supremacist attacks MORE (Ill.), Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallDemocrats, environmentalists blast Trump rollback of endangered species protections Republicans should get behind the 28th Amendment New Mexico says EPA abandoned state in fight against toxic 'forever chemicals' MORE (N.M.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyAppropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions Graham moves controversial asylum bill through panel; Democrats charge he's broken the rules MORE (Vt.) and Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyHobbled NRA shows strength with Trump Overnight Defense: US, Russia tensions grow over nuclear arms | Highlights from Esper's Asia trip | Trump strikes neutral tone on Hong Kong protests | General orders ethics review of special forces White House eyes September action plan for gun proposals 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 CardinAmerica is in desperate need of infrastructure investment: Senate highway bill a step in the right direction Financial aid fraud is wrong — but overcorrection could hurt more students Democrats denounce Trump's attack on Cummings: 'These are not the words of a patriot' 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."