By Russell Berman - 09/12/12 06:20 PM EDT
A group of House conservatives is calling for foreign aid to Libya and Egypt to be stripped from a six-month federal funding bill set for a vote on Thursday.
A handful of lawmakers voiced outrage Wednesday at the Obama administration’s response to the attacks on the U.S. embassies in those countries, and suggested the inclusion of foreign aid could influence their votes.
The House on Thursday plans to vote on a continuing resolution that would extend federal funding through March, preventing a government shutdown before the election or during a lame-duck session of Congress this fall. While conservatives pushed to avoid a shutdown fight, they have also raised alarms about the inclusion of additional welfare funding in the bill.
“It would show a tremendous amount of leadership from this administration, in light of the recent developments, if the president were to come back and demand that the amount of money that is in the [continuing resolution] for Libya and Egypt be stripped. That would be tremendous leadership,” Landry said.
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Lawmakers said they planned to bring up the issue at a meeting of the conservative Republican Study Committee on Wednesday, although they acknowledged it would be difficult to strip the foreign aid in so short an amount of time.
The stopgap spending bill is expected to pass with bipartisan support, including from Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.).
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said that defunding Libya and Egypt in the continuing resolution (CR) would not be possible.
"The CR is closed for changes," he said Wednesday.
The chairman said the Foreign Affairs Committee should take up the matter, and suggested that moving on aid now would be "premature."
In a separate statement Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said continued aid to Libya should be contingent on its government’s help in finding those responsible for the attack on the U.S. embassy.
Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) said the administration should be asking several questions in the wake of the attacks, which killed four Americans at the consulate in Benghazi, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.
“Why is it that the United States is bankrolling some of these countries?” he asked. “Why do we continue to bankroll them at the level that we are? We’re waiting for that discussion from the administration.”
Another senior House Republican, Rep. David Dreier (Calif.), however, said cutting funding to Libya and Egypt would be “a big mistake.”
“Now more than ever it’s essential that we strengthen ties with these fledgling democracies,” said Dreier, co-chairman of the House Democracy Partnership.
The conservative lawmakers calling for cutting funds also strongly backed Mitt Romney’s criticism of President Obama, repeating the GOP nominee’s charge that the U.S. embassy in Egypt initially apologized for an amateur anti-Islam video by an American filmmaker that sparked the protests at the American compound.
“It was just one idiot in the United States, and our president continually apologizes for those things,” freshman Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) said. “It has been his policy from the beginning to go around the world apologizing for America. And it’s about time that somebody stood up, and I’m glad that Romney stood up and said that it was wrong for the embassy to send out a statement apologizing for the thing, instead of condemning what the terrorists did at both embassies.”
Garrett added, “This is the time for our president to show some leadership on foreign policy, where he has been AWOL.”
Landry sharply criticized the administration’s response and questioned whether the Libyan and Egyptian governments sought to repel the attacks.
Both Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strongly condemned the attack in Libya Wednesday morning, and Clinton sought to emphasize that it was not executed by the Libyan government.
“This was an attack by a small and savage group, not the people or government of Libya,” she said. “The friendship between our countries, born out of shared struggle, will not be another casualty of this attack. A free and stable Libya is still in America's interest and security, and we will not turn our back on that, nor will we rest until those responsible for these attacks are found and brought to justice.”
Obama said Libyans joined Americans in fighting back against the attack, and he said the attack "will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya."
Three top backers of U.S. engagement in the Middle East, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to pay tribute to the slain Americans and to urge continued support for Libya and Egypt.
— Erik Wasson contributed.
This story was last updated at 4:23 p.m.