House GOP warns Egypt aid at risk over embassy attacks

Key House Republicans warned the government of Egypt on Wednesday that Congress will be closely watching how it responds to the attack on the U.S. Embassy earlier this month, and that decisions on foreign aid will likely be based on its response.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said on the House floor that the United States needs to continue working with Egypt as that country builds a democracy. But he said the United States must be "clear that we will not tolerate policies that give any ground to terrorists or undermine our security or that of our ally Israel."

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"American assistance is not an entitlement, and Congress expects Egypt's new leaders to respect the parameters and conditions of our generous aid," he warned.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) was much more specific, and said aid would depend on the response to the embassy attack. Ros-Lehtinen said the governments of Libya and Yemen have been much more forthcoming so far in response to attacks on U.S. diplomats in those countries.

"By contrast, the Egyptian government took over a day to issue a weak statement discouraging violence against foreign embassies, but it was, alas, too little too late," she said.

"This cannot happen again, and Congress will be closely monitoring the ongoing protests and reassessing our assistance packages and our approaches based on the responses of these governments to assaults on our embassies and our institutions."

Cantor and Ros-Lehtinen spoke just days after several Republicans indicated their opposition to a six-month spending bill that they said would allow U.S. taxpayer money to flow into these countries.

The two members were debating a resolution, H.Res. 786, honoring the lives of Libyan Ambassador Chris Smith and three other officials who were killed in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya. The House quickly approved that resolution in a voice vote.

Before the vote, Ros-Lehtinen also disputed that the attacks were in response to an offensive online video. While the Obama administration has defended this theory, Republicans argue that that there were warnings of the attack days before, that there was little response from the U.S. government, and that the attacks appeared to be a coordinated terrorist attack against the U.S. on the anniversary of 9/11.

"The premise that the violence and the protests are solely based on that obscure, hateful video is patently false," Ros-Lehtinen said. "Rather, it is symptomatic of a broader effort by our enemies in the region to foment hatred of the U.S."

She also criticized the Obama administration for responding with a weak defense of U.S. free-speech rights, which she said would only embolden terrorist attacks.

"The hesitation on the part of this administration and schizophrenia in response to this latest crisis is a cause for concern," she said. "The U.S. has nothing for which to apologize, including the exercise of freedom of expression.

"Surrendering our principles before an unruly mob or violent extremists will only embolden the likes of al Qaeda, and reinforce the notion that more attacks against the United States will change core American policies and American principles."