Senate panel rejects Trump's 'doctrine of retreat' on foreign policy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A powerful Senate committee blasted the Trump administration on Friday in a report accompanying its spending plan for the State Department, saying its approach to foreign policy weakens U.S. standing in the world.

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On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 31-0 for legislation allocating more than $51 billion for the State Department and foreign operations, nearly $11 billion more than requested by President Donald Trump’s administration.

In the report released on Friday accompanying the legislation, the committee criticized the administration’s request to cut spending on such operations by 30 percent from the year ending on Sept. 30, 2017.

“The lessons learned since September 11, 2001, include the reality that defense alone does not provide for American strength and resolve abroad. Battlefield technology and firepower cannot replace diplomacy and development,” it read.

“The administration’s apparent doctrine of retreat, which also includes distancing the United States from collective and multilateral dispute resolution frameworks, serves only to weaken America’s standing in the world,” it said.

Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican chairman of the State and Foreign Operations subcommittee, which wrote the bill, said on Thursday that he had asked for more details from the White House about its spending plans.

“We’ve got nothing back,” he said.

Senator Patrick Leahy, the top subcommittee Democrat, called the “soft power” work of the State Department “absolutely essential.”

Democrats and many of Trump’s fellow Republicans have blasted his budget request since it was released earlier this year. Congress, not the administration, controls spending.

The administration says the State Department would be more effective if it were run more efficiently, arguing that the country needs to cut in other areas to fund a large increase in military spending.

The bill passed by the Appropriations Committee is still several steps from becoming law. It must pass the Senate, and be reconciled with legislation passed by the House of Representatives, and then signed by Trump - or garner enough votes to override a Trump veto.

The bill passed by the Senate committee on Thursday departed from Trump policy in other ways, including approving funding for the U.N. climate body and rejecting prohibitions on funding for international organizations that perform or provide counseling on abortions.

Those measures, however, stand little chance in the House. Although Republicans control both chambers of Congress, conservative Republicans most skeptical about climate change and opposed to abortion exert more control in the House than in the Senate.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by James Dalgleish