Liberal House Dem to Obama: Use threat of cutting all Egypt aid

A liberal House Democrat is calling on the White House this week to cut off all financial help to Egypt unless President Hosni Mubarak takes immediate steps to install a democratically elected replacement.

In a letter to President Obama, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) says the Mubarak regime shouldn't get "one more cent of American money until he begins the peaceful, orderly transition to a democratically elected government today."

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"He should begin by immediately lifting the restrictions on the press and social media," Doggett wrote in the Feb. 2 letter.

In a speech Tuesday, Mubarak said he won't run in Egypt's scheduled September elections, but gave no indication of plans to step down before then, as the White House has urged.

The announcement did little to appease the tens of thousands of anti-government protesters, who also want Mubarak to cede power immediately.

On Wednesday, the largely peaceful protests turned violent when Mubarak supporters stormed Cairo's Tahrir Square wielding rocks, whips and firebombs, according to numerous reports.

The violent turn of events "makes clear," Doggett wrote, that keeping Mubarak in power "only risks further destabilization and loss of life."

"As he has done repeatedly in the past, Mubarak has again responded to his people's demand for an open and democratic society with a big stick — with the view that he can beat that spirit out of them with fear and intimidation," wrote Doggett, a senior member of both the Budget and Ways and Means committees.

"Families in Egypt, America, and across the globe are safer when our tax dollars are not used to finance oppression. America is the beacon of democracy to the world. We must lead by our deeds and our words."

The United States currently supplies Egypt with roughly $1.3 billion in foreign aid each year. Much of that comes in the form of military support, including weapons and equipment manufactured by U.S. companies. In a much-reported case, some tear-gas canisters being used by riot police in Cairo bear the label "Made in U.S.A." Because the aid supports domestic industries, the call to cut off the aid spigot to Egypt might meet with some opposition on Capitol Hill.

Still, the violence in Cairo is leading more and more lawmakers to condemn continued American support for Mubarak. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on foreign affairs, threatened Wednesday to cut off all aid to Egypt unless Mubarak steps down before September's elections.

"There is nobody, Republican or Democratic in the Senate and I suspect in the House, that's going to vote for an aid package for Egypt under these circumstances," Leahy told MSNBC.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) delivered a similar message Thursday morning.

"In no way can America turn a blind eye to this ruthless assault on ordinary citizens," Merkley said on the chamber floor. "If we see a repeat of this violence, America must send a very strong message: There will we no further aid to the Mubarak government."

There are early signals that Mubarak is ignoring the warnings. On Thursday, his supporters intensified their crackdown by attacking international journalists and human rights workers, according to reports.