Rand Paul unveils bill to block Egypt aid

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Thursday unveiled legislation to end U.S. aid to Egypt, calling last week’s takeover by the military a “coup.”

“The overthrow of the Egyptian government was a coup d’état, and the law is clear that when a coup takes place, foreign aid must stop,” Paul said. “But the President still plans to continue to send aid to Egypt.”

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“By the President’s refusal to call the situation in Egypt a ‘coup’ and continuing the flow of foreign assistance to Egypt, he is forthrightly saying, ‘I am ignoring the rule of law,'” he added.

Last week, Egyptian military officers deposed democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi. The Obama administration is still weighing whether to label the move a coup, a decision that would trigger laws freezing the $1.3 billion in annual aid to Egypt.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that the administration was still assessing the situation. 

“We will take our time and the time necessary to make determinations regarding what happened last week and the change in leadership, the removal of President Morsi from power,” he said.

It is unclear how much support Paul’s measure would have, as most lawmakers have expressed caution about punishing Egypt’s military or losing U.S. leverage over the Arab nation.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on Sunday said that Egypt aid could be used as leverage to press the military to transition more quickly back to civilian rule.

The ranking member on the panel, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), said the administration should urge “calm” in Egypt, amid violent clashes between Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood supporters and opponents.

Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), however, have urged that the administration call the action a coup and suspend aid.

Paul was particularly infuriated by reports that the Pentagon has decided to continue with the scheduled delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt in the coming weeks as the administration makes its determination. 

Earlier this year, the Senate defeated by a 79-19 vote a Paul amendment to a debt limit bill, which would have banned the administration from providing F-16s and other weapons to Egypt after legal charges were introduced against 43 nongovernmental organization workers, including 16 Americans.