Just hours before President Trump’s first address before Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) came out against the deep cuts to the State Department proposed in the President’s budget blueprint.
McConnell bluntly told reporters Tuesday on Capitol Hill that a budget with such cuts could “probably not” pass the Senate.
“Just speaking for myself, I think the diplomatic portion of the federal budget is very important, and you get results there a lot cheaper than you do on the defense side,” he said. “I’m not in favor of reducing what we call the ‘150 account‘ to that extent.”
McConnell said he has not yet communicated those concerns to President Trump. Several retired generals have, though, arguing that reducing spending on diplomacy puts the nation at risk.
The Trump administration has proposed slashing a full third of the State Department’s funding—targeting in particular foreign aid and the staffers who work on anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other human rights issues. These reductions, combined with deep cuts to other government agencies, would help fund a $54 billion increase in military spending proposed by the President.
McConnell may be the most high-profile Republican to criticize the President’s budget, but he is far from the only one. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) called the proposal a “disaster” on Tuesday and said it will be “dead on arrival” in Congress.
On the House side, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) told TPM that the proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency trouble him as well. “Much of what they do is state and local grants for clean water and clear air and that kind of stuff,” he said. “I don’t know if you want to cut that.”
“There is more to our government than just defense,” he added. “Congress will make their voice known on this. The middle-of-the-road people want to see government work.”
On Tuesday, McConnell emphasized that whatever the President ultimately proposes when he releases his budget blueprint in March, it would undergo significant revisions before becoming law.
“Budgeting is done on a bipartisan basis,” he said. “Democrats as well as Republicans will have the chance to weigh in.”
Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.