WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following remarks Tuesday at a hearing on the nomination of John J. Sullivan to serve as Deputy Secretary of State:
“Mr. Chairman, first of all let me thank Mr. Sullivan for his willingness to serve our country again. He seems to always want to come back to public service, and we very much appreciate that very talented person who has a distinguished record. And we thank your family for sharing you with our nation, because in the position you’ve been nominated for it will take 110 percent of your time and effort.
“The challenges are great, and as the Chairman pointed out, so much goes through the Deputy Secretary. It is the person who makes sure the personnel systems are working, and that the different regional areas are held accountable. It is a critically important position.
“I’m going to use my time in my opening statement to share some of the comments that we had talked about in our private meeting, because I think that it’s important at this nomination hearing to review a couple areas of concern that we have on the Trump Administration, and get your view as a critical person, if confirmed, in developing the foreign policy of our country.
“The first is what I led off with in our private discussion, American values and American strength. I just came from an ADL [Anti-Defamation League] event where we were talking about what makes America the strong nation that it is. Yes, we have a strong military, and you helped develop our strong military. That’s important. We have a strong economy, and Senator Sullivan was involved in helping develop that strong economy.
“But America’s strength is in our values and ideals. Speaking up for democracy, speaking up for human rights, anti-corruption, and embracing diversity. So I want to start with that because I want to have a dialogue during this nomination hearing today as to how you value the importance of what America stands for.
“It’s in context to Secretary Tillerson’s statement last week that gives me grave concern, where he said that our foreign policy is ‘out of balance’, that our policies and values aren’t the same, and that if we ‘condition our national security efforts on someone adopting our values, we probably can’t achieve our national security goals or our national security interests.’
“That doesn’t just concern a Democratic Senator from Maryland. But Senator McCain, who is well respected globally for his commitment to American values, and let me quote from Senator McCain’s op-ed this week. ‘In the real world, In the real world, as lived and experienced by real people, the demand for human rights and dignity, the longing for liberty and justice and opportunity, the hatred of oppression and corruption and cruelty is reality. By denying this experience, we deny the aspirations of billions of people, and invite their enduring resentment. Our values are our strength and greatest treasure. We are distinguished from other countries because we are not made from a land or tribe or particular race or creed, but from an ideal that liberty is the inalienable right of mankind and in accord with nature and nature’s Creator.’
“Senator McCain went on to state, ‘To view foreign policy as simply transactional is more dangerous than its proponents realize. Depriving the oppressed of a beacon of hope could lose us the world we have built and thrived in. It could cost our reputation in history as the nation distinct from all others in our achievements, our identity and our enduring influence on mankind. Our values are central to all three.’
“So I hope we will have a chance to talk about all of this. This is not a hypothetical discussion. The Russian Federation has made a strategic decision to try and undermine our values as an effort to spread their influence in countries that currently have our values. This is current issue that is of grave concern.
“The second point I want to mention is our respect for involvement internationally. I say that in context to the fact that I led a delegation of 10 senators to COP21 to bolster U.S. leadership and provide calm and confidence in the U.S. commitment to the global effort to fight the existential threat of climate change.
“Now, we may disagree as to what the solution may be. I happen to side where science tells me the solution is, but we may have some different views on that. But the United States must be at the table at these discussions. We need to remain a part of the international family as we talk about these issues because without U.S. leadership, there will be other countries that try to fill it. We’ll be on the side of very few countries, I think Nicaragua and Syria are the only two countries that didn’t join COP21 and that’s certainly not the neighbors we want to associate ourselves with. So I hope we’ll hear your view for the importance of America’s engagement globally, and that it would be wrong for us to sit on the sidelines as the international community discusses major issues.
“In that vein, we will talk to you about the President’s skinny budget of a 36 percent cut in the State Department. We understand that Congress will draft its own budget and I fully respect that and I know the commitment of many members of this Committee on both sides of the aisle to make sure that we have adequate resources to deal with our international commitments. But we want to hear your view as to America’s engagement. Over and over again, we’re involved in Afghanistan, Iraq, and they’re talking about more soft power so we can avoid military engagements in these countries.
“We know in Africa, we need to do more in spreading democracy in that [continent]. We know the famines and the challenges we have to deal with there. So I am interested in hearing your view about how resources can be more efficiently spent and allocated, but that America’s role will be one of increased influence, not reduced influence, in using what’s under the State Department to provide stable neighbors for us to work with.
“And the last point I’ll make is with what the Chairman has said. In our private discussion you made it clear that you would respond to requests by members of this Committee, and I would ask that that also be reaffirmed at today’s hearing.
“Welcome, we look forward to your hearing and we look forward to the continued partnership between this Committee and the State Department.”