Secretary of State Rex Tillerson answered tough questions from United States Senators of both parties on Tuesday. In the process, he revealed just how much President Donald Trump's foreign policy will receive pushback from the legislative branch.
In two days of rigorous testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Tillerson was grilled by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. Clearly frustrated by the Trump administration's plans to gut the diplomatic agency's budget, senators grew only more agitated after learning that the secretary of state would be unlikely to fully staff the department until 2018.
According to a report by The New York Times, when discussing how the State Department would be reorganized so they could ascertain its funding needs, Tillerson said that "hopefully we will have some clarity around what that looks like by the end of this year. Early next year we’ll begin implementation."
When Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee asked if Tillerson was referring to the fiscal year, the Secretary of State clarified that he meant "this calendar year."
Senators also challenged Tillerson on the plans to cut the State Department budget by 29 percent. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina asked Tillerson how the State Department could fight wars in Syria and Afghanistan, take on ISIS, and achieve other goals with its reduced budget, while Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey asked how the administration could "support of democracy and human rights" with a budget that "completely zeros out assistance for democracy assistance."
Tillerson also responded to concerns that President Donald Trump might veto a Russia sanctions deal that is expected to pass on Wednesday, according to a report by Politico. According to Tillerson, the United States and Russia "have some channels that are open where we're starting to talk, and I think what I wouldn't want to do is close the channels off with something new."