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
Local

What New Yorkers need to know about the…

A measles outbreak in New York City has spread further, the health department said Wednesday.

Local

Bloomberg launches $50 million anti-gun violence effort

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to spend $50 million on a grassroots anti-gun violence network to challenge the National Rifle Association.

Local

East Village woman fights off rape attempt from…

An East Village woman fought off an attempted rapist that she woke to find standing on her bed over the weekend, police said.

International

Nearly 300 missing after South Korean ferry capsizes

Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea Wednesday, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years.

Movies

Curtain raiser: The Tribeca Film Festival arrives this…

The Tribeca Film Festival begins its two-week run in Lower Manhattan on Thursday, boasting dozens and dozens of films of all stripes.

The Word

Paul Walker's brothers will replace him in 'Fast…

Ever since a car crash took Paul Walker's life, fans have wondered what the "Fast & Furious" franchise would do without one of its most beloved stars.

Television

'Orphan Black's' Jordan Gavaris talks Felix's Season 2…

Jordan Gavaris plays heroically helpful foster sibling Felix to main clone Sarah on "Orphan Black." We talked to him about what’s ahead for him in…

Going Out

Accomplice Tour: New York (Spoiler Alert)

When I signed up for the Accomplice show tour, I had no idea what I was in for. But every grimy job comes with a great reward.

NHL

Top 5 Philadelphia storylines for Flyers-Rangers

The slate is clean for the Flyers and the Rangers. Which is good news for the Flyers.

NFL

Jets confident despite Chris Johnson leaving with no…

Jets fans clamored for a playmaker on offense all offseason. It looked like they were going to land that player on Tuesday when Chris Johnson…

NBA

Knicks, Nets rivalry never materialized despite national attention

When the NBA schedule was released, the league anticipated an intense rivalry between the Nets and Knicks with all four games slated for national TV.

NBA

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could…

NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could the Mavericks surprise?

Wellbeing

Could a facelift give you the edge at…

It's not just women lining up for procedures.

Home

Steal home decorating tips from Nattystyle blogger Natalie…

Despite the towering ceilings and enviable exposed brick, it’s easy to see how Natalie Decleve’s apartment could be considered a challenge. Perched above the streets…

Home

How to plant a garden in the city

Small on space but big on gardening? You can still have that welcoming oasis of fresh air with an urban garden. Peter Smith, owner of…

Style

Personalize your massage at a private practice

CityTouch customizes spa treatments to meet client's needs.