D.C. lawmakers split on whether to cut funding to Egypt

Senators seemed to be turning against continuing such financial aid to the longtime U.S. ally

Along with most of the civilized world, President Obama has condemned the bloody crackdown imposed by the Egyptian government against supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. On Thursday Obama called off a planned joint military operation in protest over the clashes.

But he didn't announce mention the only serious piece of  leverage that that the U.S. government theoretically possesses over the Egyptian government - the annual $1.5 billion sent to the Middle Eastern nation, the most the U.S. sends to any foreign nation save for Israel on an annual basis.

On Sunday a whole slew of lawmakers went on the public affairs talk shows to give their opinion on the issue.

Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) said such funding should be cut, but he's argued that line in the past. More significantly, New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) now agrees with him.
"Now with the recent violent crackdown, I do not see how we can continue aid. It must be suspended. Because unfortunately I think the military has gotten the impression, particularly with the president not asking for aid to be suspended when he spoke this week, that whatever they do we will continue or aid. So I do support suspending aid at this time," Ayotte told NBC's David Gregory on
Meet The Press.

"The best way to marginalize the Muslim Brotherhood, not through arrests and killing people. In fact you're just going to encourage them to martyr them, rather than just defeating them at the ballot box,"Ayotte added.

On the same program, Rhode Island Democratic Senator Jack Reed agreed, saying the U.S. government did need to "change our aid." He said that President Obama should be given more flexibility with Egypt. "If we should pass legislation, it has to have a waiver so the President can be able to engage or attempt to engage the Egyptian government."

On Fox News Sunday, Rand Paul said President Obama was in "defiance of the law" by not pulling funding from Egypt, since the Morsi government was taken over in an undemocratic coup last month. 

"I don't think we're buying any love of the Egyptian people when they see an American tank on the street, when someone is shot down or rolled over by a tank that was purchased with American money, do you think that buys any friendship with the Egyptian people? Paul asked.

Paul has been a frequent critic of foreign aid since being elected to the Senate, and has been on the losing end of two previous votes to cut funding to Egypt earlier this year. "Those who want to continue this aid they say 'we're projecting American power,' we're projecting exactly the opposite. They're projecting American weakness, because it shows that we're so weak that we will not even adhere to our conditions on this aid, and it's not modulating behavior, because the Egyptians just keep doing the same thing.."

John McCain echoed Paul, saying by not cutting off aid, the administration is “not sticking to our values.”.

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) explained on Fox News that in fact, the $1.5 billion has already been allocated for this year. He said the U.S. should condition future aid on specific steps towards the rule of law, the return of democracy and respect for minorities and women. "So that the aid is released in blocks that are conditioned on those steps."

Long Island based GOP Congressman Peter King admitted the obvious. "There are no good choices." But he said that 
he would be reluctant" to suspend aid, saying that such a move could reduce U.S. leverage over the interim government and harm access to the Suez Canal and other strategic resources in the region. 

Scroll to read more News Feature articles
Join the Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected]