McCain call to suspend Egypt aid gets tepid support in Senate

Arizona senator calls on administration "to remain true to our values" by halting aid to Egypt after military overthrow of Morsi.

July 9, 2013 19:11
2 minute read.
US Senator John McCain

US Senator John McCain 370 (R). (photo credit: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

WASHINGTON – Sen. John McCain has received measured responses from colleagues after calling on them to reconsider America’s aid package to Egypt.

McCain (R-Arizona) can no longer support the aid – averaging $1.4 billion annually – he said Monday, after the Egyptian military executed a coup against the country’s democratically elected government.

“This is an incredibly difficult decision, but we have to learn the lessons of history and remain true to our values,” McCain said.

In a long statement, the senator explained that his suggestion is not intended to punish Egypt, and that he believes the developments of last week’s military overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi might ultimately benefit the Egyptian people.

“Current US law is very clear about the implications for our foreign assistance in the aftermath of a military coup against an elected government, and the law offers no ability to waive its provisions,” he said. “I do not want to suspend our critical assistance to Egypt, but I believe that is the right thing to do at this time.”

McCain’s colleagues in the Senate have been slow to follow his lead, but Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan), the chairman of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, came out in support of the move late Monday evening.

“We ought to suspend aid until the new government shows that it is willing to – and in fact does – schedule elections and put in place a process to come up with a new constitution,” Levin said, adding that Congress could act on its own without White House consent to cut off aid.

“By saying that the aid would continue, the administration is therefore – I guess necessarily – saying that they don’t consider this a coup.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) also supports a suspension of the annual aid. Leahy, who oversees the Senate subcommittee on foreign aid, warned that the “law is clear” on funding in situations of military coups within benefactor countries, issuing a statement as the coup was still taking place.

“Part of the aid that we supply is in support of the treaties,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said on Fox News Sunday. “It seems to me that what we should be looking at is how the military and how the country itself handles this transition. We need to encourage that. I think trying to jump to what we’re going to do relative to support at this moment is not the place that we need to be.”

On NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the US should be “using our assistance as leverage” to foster a mature, stable democracy in Egypt.

“We’ll have to make sure that the military gets a very clear message that we want to see a transition to civilian government as quickly as possible,” Menendez added.

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