US Legislators Debate Possible Aid Cutoff to Egypt

The debate on whether to suspend U.S. aid to Egypt or continue it still rages in the U.S. Congress as violence escalates in the African nation.

Since Jan. 25, Egyptians have been taking to the streets to topple President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, has called for the cancellation of aid to Egypt unless Mubarak immediately steps down.

“If he doesn’t leave, there will not be foreign aid; I mean, it’s as simple as that,” Leahy told Bloomberg Television in an interview on Feb. 2. U.S. aid funding “will not go to the Mubarak administration,” Leahy said, adding, “that’s a pipeline that can easily be turned off.”

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) has made a similar call.

“I would cut it all off. Immediately,” Ackerman said of withdrawing U.S. aid to Egypt, but noted that funding for humanitarian needs and political transition should be exempted.

“I think events are making our choices very stark and clear: either stand with the Egyptian people, or stand with Mubarak and his thugs. That’s an easy one; I’m with the people,” Ackerman, who is a ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, told CNN on Feb. 2.

A bipartisan group of former U.S. officials and foreign policy specialists are also pushing for the suspension of U.S. military aid to Egypt unless Egyptian troops assist a peaceful, democratic transition, Laura Rozen of Politico reports.

“Until unrestrained thug violence began on February 1, the Working Group was hopeful that the Egyptian military would play a positive role in safeguarding a peaceful transition,” according to a Feb. 3 statement from the group, which include the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Michele Dunne and the Center for American Progress’s Brian Katulis.

Meanwhile, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who serves at the House Appropriations Committee, has urged caution in deciding what to do with U.S. aid to Egypt.

“We’ve got a very solid relationship with Egypt, and the aid that we’ve rendered over the years has been one of the things that has given us some leverage and some stability,” Cole said in an interview with Bloomberg. “I don’t think it’s the time to be making threats or to be suspending what I think has been a very productive, 30-year relationship.”

Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) have raised similar concerns on keeping U.S. assistance to Egypt, while Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, insisted that the U.S. government to use its USD1.3 billion annual military aid to the Arab nation to force Mubarak to step down.

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  • Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.