WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement after confirmation of the first two of President Trump’s cabinet secretaries: Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly.
“Out of respect for the Office of the President, I believe it is appropriate for some cabinet nominees to be confirmed and ready to work on Day One. All presidents need trusted, experienced and ethical Cabinet officials to help them chart a safe and responsible course. These first national security nominees distinguished themselves in their hearings by going on the record with some reasonable positions that run counter to those of their new boss. As ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I intend to hold each of them to their public positions spoken on-the-record in the recent Senate hearings. And when the President or his representatives take actions or espouse positions that run counter to American values and/or our Constitution, I intend to speak out – and speak out loudly – in opposition.”
On Secretary of Defense, James Mattis:
“Mr. Trump has selected a Secretary of Defense who understands that ‘if you don’t provide enough money for the State Department you need to provide more money for ammunition.’ As a former general now stepping into the role as the civilian head of our armed forces, I was encouraged by now-Secretary Mattis’ comments to me that ‘we’ve over-militarized our foreign policy. We need to engage more diplomatically and less militarily.’ My hope is that he will share these thoughts with our new president and convince him that effective national security is run best by putting ‘reason over impulse.’ I will also continue to work to protect the State Department’s critical role in foreign security assistance from an encroaching Pentagon, as I expressed to General Mattis.”
On Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly:
“General Kelly brings useful experience to the table as the head of U.S. Southern Command, where he oversaw operations in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. While we disagree sharply on the need to close down our detention center at Guantanamo Bay, it has been refreshing to hear a Republican, who has had a front-row view of the war against drugs in Latin America, repeatedly say that the best solution is to reduce demand for illicit drugs by Americans. General Kelly also broke ranks by rightly stating at his confirmation hearing that building a wall will not secure our border. I believe the Senate should again take up bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform to fix our broken immigration system, which will make America safer by strengthening border security, deporting violent criminals, and creating a tough fair pathway to citizenship for those living in the shadows. We must continue to strengthen our cybersecurity and nonproliferation efforts in the United States to protect our critical infrastructure, which is under constant attack. At the same time, our government must continue to protect the civil rights and liberties of all Americans. We must continue to welcome refugees fleeing persecution in their home countries, and categorically reject efforts to discriminate against individuals based on their religion, as we stay true to our Constitutional values.”
Cardin added: “I believe America must lead the world by standing up against violations of international law, against war crimes, against human rights violations and by speaking up for democracy and freedom of speech. These core values must be at the forefront of America’s foreign policy agenda. We must be there for our allies and stand firm against illegal aggression. Russia must be regarded as the global bully and adversary that it is and not a partner. Russia has committed cyberattacks against the United States and war crimes in Syria; it should be held accountable and not be permitted to manipulate facts or ignore international norms and the rule of law. We need leaders who will treat climate change as a national security imperative, putting science and the public health before politics. I believe that America should be embracing our diversity while leading the way in support for human rights at home and around the globe. Embracing these values has never been more important than it is today.”