On “Meet the Press” the other day, David Gregory asked House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) a question that’s often ignored in the Benghazi debate. The host reminded the congressman about the attacks on U.S. diplomatic outposts abroad and asked, “[I]sn’t this Congress’s job to spend the money to beef up security?”
Issa delivered a rambling, 240-word response that never answered the question. Frank Rich noted that if Issa keeps pushing the pseudo scandal, “he’ll need an answer, not a filibuster,” as to why Congress cut funding for U.S. security at embassies and consulates.
A Democratic senator is thinking along the same lines.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said House Republicans needed to “look in the mirror” on who is to blame for the “Benghazi scandal.”
“Start by looking in the mirror,” Boxer said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “Admit that you cut too much from embassy security.” […]
“It takes funding to protect a consulate,” Boxer said. “Who cut the funds from embassy security, the Republicans in the House … so I think the ‘Benghazi scandal’ starts with the House Republicans.” […]”They cannot stand the heat so they turn it on Secretary Clinton and that is wrong,” Boxer said. “It starts with the fact that there wasn’t enough security and there wasn’t enough security because the budget was cut.”
I’ve never understood why this doesn’t come up more. Republicans certainly see the attack in Benghazi through a lens that filters out all kinds of relevant facts, but if we made a list of all the things both sides agree on when it comes to the incident, near the top would be the consensus about inadequate security at the consulate.
And that necessarily means there should be some kind of conversation about congressional Republicans and their responsibility.
After all, the facts are unavoidable.
Dana Milbank wrote about this way back in October, though the basic issue – inadequate diplomatic security is the direct result of Republican budget cuts – seems to have slipped down the memory hole.
For fiscal 2013, the GOP-controlled House proposed spending $1.934 billion for the State Department’s Worldwide Security Protection program – well below the $2.15 billion requested by the Obama administration. House Republicans cut the administration’s request for embassy security funding by $128 million in fiscal 2011 and $331 million in fiscal 2012. (Negotiations with the Democrat-controlled Senate restored about $88 million of the administration’s request.) Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Republicans’ proposed cuts to her department would be “detrimental to America’s national security” – a charge Republicans rejected.
Ryan, Issa and other House Republicans voted for an amendment in 2009 to cut $1.2 billion from State operations, including funds for 300 more diplomatic security positions. Under Ryan’s budget, non-defense discretionary spending, which includes State Department funding, would be slashed nearly 20 percent in 2014, which would translate to more than $400 million in additional cuts to embassy security.
The Republican line on Benghazi – well, one of them anyway – is an emphasis on accountability. Four Americans were killed abroad, and GOP lawmakers want to know who deserves the blame.
If there’s going to be on ongoing conversation, by what reasoning should the Republicans’ budget cuts be left out?