Growing number of U.S. lawmakers urge suspension of aid to Egypt

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) watches his colleagues speak during a news conference following their tour of the Arizona-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona March 27, 2013. REUTERS/Samantha Sais
U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) watches his colleagues speak during a news conference following their tour of the Arizona-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona March 27, 2013. REUTERS/Samantha Sais

A growing bipartisan chorus of U.S. lawmakers said on Sunday that the United States should suspend its $1.5 billion in military and economic aid to Egypt following a violent crackdown on protesters that has left nearly 800 dead.

Senator John McCain, a top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he now supported suspending the aid, even though he initially believed it should be continued after the Egyptian military removed democratically elected President Mohamed Mursi from office last month.

“I wanted to give (Egypt’s military leaders) an opportunity to do the right thing after the coup had taken place,” McCain said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. But after the crackdown, aid should be withheld, he said.

“For us to sit by and watch this happen is a violation of everything that we stood for,” McCain said, arguing there are several other steps the United States could also take, such as withholding support for an International Monetary Fund loan or stopping shipments of military spare parts.

“There are many areas where we could exercise influence over the generals, and we’re not doing any of it, and we’re not sticking with our values,” the Arizona Republican said.

Around 800 people have died in three days of violence that has earned Egypt stiff condemnation from Western nations.

President Barack Obama, a Democrat, on Thursday announced that normal cooperation with Cairo could not continue amid the crackdown and announced the cancellation of military exercises with Egypt next month.

But he stopped short of cutting off U.S. aid to Egypt, which lately has been running about $1.55 billion a year, with $1.3 billion of that provided to the military.

The White House declined to comment on Sunday about the growing calls from lawmakers for suspending aid.

Around 800 people have died in three days of violence that has earned Egypt stiff condemnation from Western nations

Untangling the aid relationship with Cairo would not be simple and could be costly for the United States as well as Egypt. A special financing arrangement Cairo uses could leave U.S. taxpayers holding the bill for billions of dollars in equipment Egypt already has ordered on credit, and companies like Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics that build military hardware for Egypt would be affected by aid restrictions.

Also on Sunday, several lawmakers made the point that the security of neighboring Israel and the Suez canal were compelling reasons in favor of continued aid. Since 1979, when Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel, it has been the second largest recipient, after Israel, of U.S. bilateral foreign aid, the Congressional Research Service says.

At issue, too, is the U.S. relationship with key Gulf Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, which have promised the military-backed government some $12 billion in financial support.

Saudi Arabia, which fears the spread of Muslim Brotherhood ideology to the Gulf monarchies, pledged $5 billion alone in aid to Egypt after the Islamist Mursi was ousted.

CHANGED VIEWS

Senator Kelly Ayotte, another Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said she also had changed her view and believed it was now time to cut off aid.

“With the recent violent crackdown, I do not see how we can continue aid. I believe it must be suspended,” Ayotte said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.

There have been calls in the last week from both ends of the U.S. political spectrum for Obama to uphold a U.S. law that triggers an aid cutoff if a democratically elected government is ousted by a military coup.

Senator Jack Reed, a Democratic member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, said Congress should pass legislation cutting off the aid, while giving Obama the flexibility to maintain it if he believes it is in the U.S. national security interest.

“We have to have a policy that expresses our outrage, really, at the military but also gives the president the tools to – we hope – engage them,” Reed told “Meet the Press.”

Senator Bob Corker, a top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also said Congress needs to revisit current law governing aid to Egypt.

“Well, look, I think the actions of the last week, no doubt, are going to cause us to suspend aid. And I think it’s at the same time a time for us to recalibrate and look at what is our national interest,” Corker said on ABC’s “This Week” program.

But since most of the aid for the current budget year has already been sent, “What we’re really talking about … is a debate that will take place this fall as we look forward to next year,” Corker said.

Representative Eliot Engel, a top Democrat on the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, urged caution, saying there were a number of strategic reasons for continuing the aid even though the Egyptian military’s actions were intolerable.

“I think it’s a time to see what the next step should be. Obviously, we cannot let what’s been happening just happen, but I think we have to be careful and not cut off our nose to spite our face. These are very, very difficult choices. I’m very unhappy, obviously, with the crackdown,” Eliot said on ABC’s “This Week.”

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Thousands protest in New York over Eric Garner…

The Reverend Al Sharpton led thousands of chanting but peaceful activists in a march across Staten Island on Saturday to protest the death of Eric Garner.

International

Egypt calls for Gaza ceasefire as fighting rages

Egypt called on Israel and the Palestinians on Saturday to halt fire and resume peace talks, but violence continued unabated.

National

SpaceX rocket terminated in Texas test flight

A Space Exploration Technologies’ Falcon 9 rocket suffered an anomaly shortly after launch on a test flight, triggering its automatic termination system.

Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 22,…

The Percy Sutton Harlem 5K and NYC Family Health Walk-a-thon and Pakistan Day Parade and Fair will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend. Plan…

Music

Arcade Fire concert review, Massachusetts, Aug. 19

Arcade Fire take the opposite approach of "Shut up and play the hits," and it works in their favor on the "Reflektor" tour.

Television

Recap: 'The Knick,' Season 1, Episode 3, 'The…

The third episode of Steven Soderbergh's "The Knick" finds Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) meeting an old flame and other characters embracing self-destruction.

Music

Webcast: Watch Polyphonic Spree live on Sunday Aug.…

Polyphonic Spree singer Tim DeLaughter sits with Metro Music Editor Pat Healy for a chat and then the big band performs live. It begins on Sunday at 9:30 pm

Movies

Matthew Weiner on directing 'Are You Here' and…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner discusses his movie "Are You Here," his history writing comedy and the tiny movie he directed in 1996 you can't see.

NFL

3 things we learned about the Giants in…

The Giants claimed the Snoopy trophy in a battle of MetLife Stadium tenants Friday night. But more importantly, the offense finally showed some life in…

NFL

3 things we learned about the Jets in…

The Jets lost the Snoopy Bowl, 35-24, to the Giants, losing the trophy and local bragging rights.

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

Wellbeing

Asics is giving away free gear around NYC…

Asics wants to see you on the court - and in the stands for the U.S. Open, which begins Monday - by giving away free…

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…