Dem lawmaker confronts Pompeo over spending cuts to diplomatic security

Dem lawmaker confronts Pompeo over spending cuts to diplomatic security

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch Putin orders response to US missile test The Hill's Morning Report: How will Trump be received at G-7? MORE was grilled about funding for diplomatic security while testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday morning.

Rep. Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksEmbattled Juul seeks allies in Washington House Democrat knocks Trump's Cummings tweet: 'This guy is a terrible, terrible human being' Pelosi backers feel vindicated after tumultuous stretch MORE (D-N.Y.) confronted Pompeo during the hearing about the decrease in spending on diplomatic security under the Trump administration.

“Under the Obama Administration, over $3 billion went to diplomatic security, but once President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE came in, I see it went to down $2.1 billion ... and down to $1.6 billion,” Meeks stated.

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“So where is the concern now about diplomatic security?” he asked Pompeo.

“Diplomatic security is not about dollars and spending,” Pompeo responded, adding that the real task is “being thoughtful about where you put people.”

“We’re going to take risks. We’re going to be an expeditionary State Department,” Pompeo concluded. “I think President Trump demands it; I think each of you do as well.”

Meeks later called Pompeo a hypocrite for saying Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces DHS cyber agency to prioritize election security, Chinese threats ABC chose a debate moderator who hates Trump MORE failed on diplomatic security as secretary of State but not focusing on it now that he is in that position.

“You didn’t give her any courtesy when Secretary Hillary Clinton was sitting in her seat before the Benghazi Committee and you scolded her. You went after her with venom,” Meeks said to Pompeo, adding that he hasn't heard him mention diplomatic security "one single time."

Pompeo, who served on the Benghazi select committee while in the House, wrote in a report that Clinton “failed to lead” after she was warned that the security situation in the Benghazi consulate was dangerous.

“Should we conclude that because you have not mentioned it one time ... should we conclude based on that fact that you do not care about diplomatic security?" Meeks asked. 

“No, you should not conclude that,”  Pompeo fired back, raising his voice while saying that the first briefing he received after assuming the position was on security. “I take diplomatic security very seriously.”

Trump tapped Pompeo, who previously led the CIA, to serve as his secretary of State following Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTrump says No. 2 State Dept. official could become next Russia envoy The Hill's Morning Report - Trump searches for backstops amid recession worries State Dept. extends travel ban to North Korea MORE's ouster from the position in March.

In his first budget blueprint released last year, Trump proposed cutting the State Department budget by 28 percent, a move that White House budget chief Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump's latest plan to undermine Social Security Trump says he'll decide on foreign aid cuts within a week Dick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report MORE conceded at the time was "fairly dramatic." 

However, Tillerson defended the proposed cuts, saying they were needed to fix what he deemed a "historically high" budget.

"Clearly the level of spending that the State Department has been undertaking, particularly in this past year, is simply not sustainable," he said at the time.

Tillerson had also imposed a partial hiring freeze after entering the State Department last year as part of a "redesign" of the agency, a move that drove down morale among career officials at the department.

Pompeo earlier this month lifted the hiring freeze on the Foreign and Civil services. 

--Updated at 12:20 p.m.