Republican senator John McCain and Senate foreign relations committee chairman Robert Menendez. U.S. lawmakers are divided on the issue of suspending aid to Egypt after Mohammed Morsi was removed from presidency in the country. Photo by: Aaron Webb and Benedikt von Loebell / World Economic Forum / CC BY-NC-SA

Less than a week after Mohammed Morsi was removed from power in Egypt, the country’s top donor is still debating whether or not it should suspend aid.

U.S. lawmakers are divided on the issue, while $1.3 billion in military assistance and $250 million in development aid hangs in the balance.

Leading those who advocate for immediate aid suspension is influential former presidential candidate and Republican senator John McCain, who on Sunday called on President Barack Obama to suspend aid until a new constitution is drafted and a fair and free election is held in Egypt. 

McCain blamed Morsi’s removal — which he called a coup — on America’s lack of leadership in the region and lamented it will be hard to freeze money that has already been allocated.

Senate appropriations subcommittee leader Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, seems to be on the same page regarding whether aid should be cut or not despite a constitutional mandate and as Devex analysis shows, recent similar experiences in Pakistan, Mauritania, Madagascar and Mali

“Egypt’s military leaders say they have no intent or desire to govern, and I hope they make good on their promise … In the meantime, our law is clear: U.S. aid is cut off when a democratically elected government is deposed by a military coup or decree,” Leahy said on Thursday.

The Obama administration has so far not acknowledged that Morsi’s ouster can indeed be called a coup.

At the same time, Senate foreign relations committee chairman Robert Menendez disagreed with McCain and Leahy, suggesting Washington use aid as leverage to coax the Egyptian military into making a swift transition to a civilian government: “This is an opportunity to have a pause and say to the Egyptians, you have an opportunity to come together.”

Similar caution was also urged by Republican congressman Mike Rogers, who said on Sunday the U.S. should support Egypt’s armed forces because they are the only stabilizing force that can end the political feuding in the country.

For now, U.S. lawmakers seem to be focusing on military aid, which makes up the bulk of the close to $1.5 billion provided each year by the United States to Egypt. However, economic assistance has also been under scrutiny in the past few months, and even more so recently after dozens of aid workers employed by several U.S.-funded NGOs were convicted for allegedly conspiring to overthrow the Mubarak regime in 2011.

Devex has learned that other top donors to the country like the World Bank or the European Union intend to continue their projects in Egypt.

Read more on U.S. aid reform online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.

About the author

  • Carlos Santamaria

    Carlos is a former associate editor for breaking news in Devex's Manila-based news team. He joined Devex after a decade working for international wire services Reuters, AP, Xinhua, EFE ,and Philippine social news network Rappler in Madrid, Beijing, Manila, New York, and Bangkok. During that time, he also covered natural disasters on the ground in Myanmar and Japan.

Join the Discussion