Members of Congress are divided on what to do with Egypt’s $1.5 billion in foreign aid as U.S. law requires the suspension of taxpayer funding to countries where a democratically elected government is deposed by a military coup.
Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee told “Fox News Sunday” that funding should continue, and Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island said he is not anxious to kill the foreign spending.
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But Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona is insisting the purse strings be cut in the wake of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi‘s ouster by the country’s military. And House Republican Mike Rogers says the fact that Egypt toppled its president in a coup cannot be ignored.
Florida Republican Rep. Trey Radel said that he also “agrees with Senator McCain” and that aid should be suspended until specific conditions are met, including the establishment of elections and a free press.
“I think we have to be very, very careful in terms of suspending aid or cutting it off,” Reed said.
“Will cutting off aid accelerate or enhance the opportunities and the chances to have a truly democratic government? I don’t think so,” Reed said.
Corker said Congress should not make any rash decisions on funding.
“It seems like Washington always wants to jump to something that really, in many cases, does not matter,” Corker said.
“The aid doesn’t flow on a daily basis. We’ll have plenty of time to assess that. It seems to me that what we should be looking at is how the military and how the country itself handles this transition,” Corker said.
McCain, appearing Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” said pointedly that the military’s action was a coup.
“It was a coup, and it was the second time in two-and-a-half years that we have seen the military step in. It’s a strong indicator of the lack of American leadership and influence,” McCain said. “Reluctantly I believe that we have to suspend aid until such time as there is a new constitution and a free and fair election.”
However, McCain said doesn’t think aid can be pulled back because it’s “in the pipeline. But I hope that the pressure that it brings on the Egyptian military will make for a very rapid transition.”
“Mohammed Morsi was a terrible president. Their economy is in terrible shape thanks to their policies, but the fact is, the United States should not be supporting this coup,” McCain said.
President Barack Obama has not declared Morsi’s ouster by the country’s armed forces a military coup, if such a declaration is made and recognized by the State Department, U.S. foreign end would be eliminated.
Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said that the United States should be involved in ensuring a stable Egypt, but it should not ignore the law requiring it to stop aid when a military coup occurs.
U.S. officials have been taking pains not to call the military’s ousting of Morsi a coup but Rogers says the law is “very clear,” and the United States should not act outside its own laws.
“I think the irony of us not following the law after the Egyptian crisis would be too much to handle,” Rogers said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Rogers suggested making an exemption to the current rule against aid after a military coup.
“The president needs to come to Congress,” Rogers said. “I would not try to circumvent the law by calling this something it is not.”
The Egyptian military is the one stable factor in the area, Rogers said. It did not overreact during the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubark a year ago, and in the current situation was reacting to calls of secularists and more liberal and moderate factions rather than acting on its own, he said.
Still, U.S. actions should be done in a legal way, Rogers said. The United States should help the military and then provide a way for multiple factions to participate in a newly elected government to allow for “a march toward true democracy.”
Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Sunday the United States’ monetary investment in Egypt must lead to “an Egypt for all.”
Menendez told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the $1.4 billion in aid is intended to protect domestic interests while helping Egypt along a path to democracy.
“This country doesn’t have a history of democracy,” the New Jersey Democrat said. “The only way that Egypt will succeed is if it’s an Egypt for all.”
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U.S. leaders should insist on a swift transition to a civilian government, with all parties participating, new elections for the next president and the possibility of a new constitution, Menendez said.
“At the end of the day, while we have already made some obligations on that $1.4 billion, by no means have we made the overwhelming amount of that obligation,” he said. “This is an opportunity to have a pause and say to the Egyptians, ‘You have an opportunity to come together.'”
A column published in Foreign Policy magazine by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, shortly before the overthrow, accused the administration of staying on the “sidelines” during the latest protests.
“In what has to be one of the most stunning diplomatic failures in recent memory, the United States is — in both perception and reality — entrenched as the partner of a repressive, Islamist regime and the enemy of the secular, pro-democracy opposition,” he wrote.
Greg Richter and Amy Woods contributed to this report.
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