House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday shot back at Republicans criticizing the Obama administration after the fallout of the Libya Consulate attacks, pointing out that they withheld hundreds of millions of dollars the State Department had asked for last year for embassy security and construction.
House Republicans wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggesting that the Obama administration was negligent in providing security for the consulate in Benghazi where four U.S. diplomats were killed in an attack on Sept. 11 and asked Clinton for more information. Noting that the investigation into what happened is still ongoing, Pelosi, in an interview with CNN, asked, “how can you ask the secretary to come before the information is known?”
The Minority Leader then pointed out that it was Republicans who may have some responsibility in the matter, as they turned down the administration’s request for nearly $300 million for embassy security:
PELOSI: It’s also important to note that the Republican appropriation in Congress gave the administration $300 million less than it asked for for the State Department, including funding for security.
BLITZER: Are you suggesting that there was a financial aspect to what happened in Benghazi, Libya. That the U.S. was not enough money to protect American diplomats?
PELOSI: No what I’m saying is Congress has the right of oversight but it also has the power of the purse. … We also have to look to ourselves for that funding question. $300 million less than what the administration asked for.
Watch the clip:
CAP senior fellow and budget expert Scott Lilly noted last month that in the last two years, Congress has cut the Obama administration’s request for funding to increase diplomatic staffing and boost embassy security:
[E]ven more inexcusable are the repeated and deep cuts made to embassy security and construction. Thousands of our diplomatic personnel are serving overseas in facilities that do not come close to meeting the minimal requirements for security established by the so-called Inman commission’s report on overseas diplomatic security to President Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state more than two decades ago.
Nor is it likely to change anytime soon. In the 2011 continuing resolution, Congress, at the insistence of the House of Representatives, slashed the president’s request for embassy security and construction and forced another cut in fiscal year 2012. Altogether Congress has eliminated $296 million from embassy security and construction in the last two years with additional cuts in other State Department security accounts.
Lilly notes that more funding cuts for the U.S. Foreign Service are set to come under the sequestration required under the Budget Control Act. “Those cuts are largely the result of the draconian and unrealistically low budget caps placed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) on all discretionary spending,” Lilly said.