(AP) Congress split on cutting off aid to Egypt
By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER
Members of Congress are split over whether the U.S. should cut off military aid to Egypt, highlighting the difficult choices facing the Obama administration amid spiraling violence on the streets of an important Middle East ally.
Democratic leaders have generally supported the president’s approach. But on Sunday, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., said he would end aid to Egypt. Ellison is the first Muslim elected to Congress and is co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said funding for Egypt remains under review.
Among Republicans, there were growing calls to eliminate military aid to Egypt. But others were more hesitant.
Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., said curtailing aid could reduce U.S. influence over Egypt’s interim government, which controls access to strategic resources, including the Suez Canal.
King said there are no good choices in Egypt. Ousted President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was democratically elected. But, King said, the group has not demonstrated a commitment to democracy.
The split among members of the same political party illustrates the uncertainty facing President Barack Obama as he tries to navigate volatile developments in Egypt, where crackdowns last week left more than 600 people dead and thousands more injured.
Obama has denounced the violence, canceled joint military exercises scheduled for September and delayed the delivery of four F-16 fighter jets. But the White House has refused to declare Morsi’s removal a coup _ a step that would require Obama to suspend $1.3 billion in annual military aid. The president insists that the U.S. stands with Egyptians seeking a democratic government. But he says America cannot determine Egypt’s future.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona renewed his call Sunday to stop aid as the Egyptian military continues to crack down on protesters seeking Morsi’s return.
The military ousted Morsi July 3 after millions of Egyptians took to the streets to demand he step down, accusing him of giving the Brotherhood undue influence and failing to implement vital reforms or bolster the ailing economy.
But Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said he supports the president’s approach.
Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said Congress should give the president flexibility in dealing with Egypt.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said U.S. aid to Egypt was more likely to “buy a chateau in Paris” for an Egyptian military leader than “bread in Cairo” for the poor.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., had resisted calls to cut off aid. But on Sunday, he switched positions.
Corker said he expects Congress to debate next year’s aid this fall, after lawmakers return from their summer recess.
McCain spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union,” King and Paul made their comments on “Fox News Sunday,” Reed spoke on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Engel, Ellison and Corker appeared on ABC’s “This Week.”
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