Calls for Obama to freeze Egypt's military aid come from left, right

Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called Thursday for the Obama administration to freeze U.S. aid to Egypt. 

The calls from the left and the right for tougher action highlight bipartisan pressure on President Obama, who earlier on Thursday said the U.S. would cancel joint military exercises scheduled next month with Egypt.

Paul, who has repeatedly called for the U.S. to end $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt, said Obama didn't go far enough. 

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“While President Obama ‘condemns the violence in Egypt’, his administration continues to send billions of taxpayer dollars to help pay for it,” Paul said. "With more than 500 dead and thousands more injured this week alone, chaos only continues to grow in Egypt. So Mr. President, stop skirting the issue, follow the law, and cancel all foreign aid to Egypt.”

Paul argues the Egyptian military's toppling of President Mohammed Morsi was a coup, which under U.S. law would trigger an automatic freeze of aid. The administration has refused to call it a coup in order to continue the aid.

A number of lawmakers accuse the administration of breaking the law, but last month the Senate defeated a Paul amendment ending foreign aid to the country in an 86-13 vote.

Leahy, the chairman of the Senate panel that controls spending for the State Department and foreign operations, shared similar concerns. He said U.S. aid cannot continue until a democratically elected government is in place.

“The legislation reported by my committee last month ties our aid to the restoration of a democratically elected government in Egypt, in a three-stage process,” Leahy said. “In the meantime, while suspending joint military exercises as the president has done is an important step, our law is clear: Aid to the Egyptian military should cease unless they restore democracy.”

Obama signaled Thursday during his first public comments on the crisis that his administration is considering further steps beyond canceling the military exercises in Cairo. Already, the Pentagon has indefinitely postponed the delivery of four F-16s to the Egyptian military.

“While we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back,” Obama said in a 7-minute address Thursday from Martha's Vineyard, where he is on a family vacation.

“As a result, this morning, we notified the Egyptian government that we are canceling our biannual joint military exercise, which was scheduled for next month. Going forward, I've asked my national security team to assess the implications of the actions taken by the interim government and further steps that we may take as necessary with respect to the U.S.-Egyptian relationship.”

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