Aid cut to Egypt leaves lawmakers in the dark

The Obama administration's decision to cut military aid to Egypt has infuriated top lawmakers who said they were left in the dark.

ADVERTISEMENT
The White House announced Wednesday that it was shelving plans to send planes and tanks worth hundreds of millions of dollars in response to the military-installed government's crackdown on the opposition. The about-face comes after the State Department declined to call the ouster of Egypt's elected president a coup, leaving lawmakers confused.

“I am very concerned that the Administration has announced the suspension of certain assistance for Egypt without consulting the Congress,” Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the chairwoman of the House Appropriations panel that funds the State Department, said in a statement.

“Pulling away now may undermine the ability of the United States to work with a critical partner. Egypt is going through a difficult transition, and while it does, the United States must preserve this partnership that has been so important to our national security, Israel’s security and the stability of the entire Middle East.”

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was “disappointed” with the cut. 

“During this fragile period we should be rebuilding partnerships in Egypt that enhance our bilateral relationship, not undermining them,” he said in a statement. “I am also frustrated that the Administration has not adequately consulted with Congress regarding U.S. policy towards Egypt. I urge the Administration to work together with Congress and Egypt’s leadership to better address the serious security and economic challenges Egypt currently faces.”

Not everyone agreed.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs subpanel on the Middle East, told The Hill that she was mystified by the administration's policy rollout after the White House categorically shot down a CNN report Tuesday evening that it was cutting all aid. But she said she agreed with the decision.

“We should not – we must not – be funding Egypt as it's going through all this turmoil, when there is no elected body, when there are no respected institutions, when human rights are being trampled,” she said. “Yes, I agree.”

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Foreign Assistance, also supported the move. 

“In August, I called on the Administration to suspend aid to Egypt's military pending a thorough policy review due to indiscriminate violence against the Egyptian people perpetuated by a military-supported interim government,” Kaine said in a statement. 

“Today, after conducting this review, the Administration announced an altered aid package for Egypt focusing on our core national security interests and assistance directly for the Egyptian people. I welcome the announcement, and as Chairman of the subcommittee for the Middle East and South and Central Asia, I look forward to working with the Administration closely on this new aid relationship, and further discussing the broader contours of our entire aid package with Egypt over the coming months.”

Please send tips and comments to Julian Pecquet: jpecquet@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter: @TheHillGlobal and @JPecquetTheHill

More in Senate

Senators: Without US aid, Afghanistan turns into narco-state

Read more »