The State Department on Friday said it will not label the overthrow of Egypt's democratically-elected government a coup, arguing the law does not require it to make a formal determination.
Administration officials notified lawmakers Thursday of the decision, which will allow about $1.5 billion in mostly military aid to Egypt to continue uninterrupted.
“The law does not require us to make a formal determination – that is a review that we have undergone – as to whether a coup took place, and it is not in our national interest to make such a determination,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. “We have determined we are not going to make a determination.”
She vehemently denied that the administration was skirting the law with its apparently unprecedented choice to avoid a decision.
“Given that our legal team was an important part of this process, certainly, I would refute any notions that we were flouting the law,” Psaki said.
U.S. law requires that aid be cut off if the military overthrows a democratically elected government, but the administration wants to be able to continue sending aid to the Arab World's most populous country despite the toppling of Egypt President Mohamed Morsi.
After their briefing Thursday, several lawmakers demanded that Obama make a determination.
“My feeling is we should look and make a determination, is what took place a coup,” Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense & National Security — Senate looks to break defense bill stalemate Senate GOP moving toward deal to break defense bill stalemate Overnight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table MORE (Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said after meeting with Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns. “In the event that it should be necessary, it would be very easy to pass a law to give a waiver."
A growing number of senators have called for President Obama to label Egypt a coup, but to seek a congressional waiver so the United States can continue providing foreign aid to the country. The State Department however indicated that it has no intention of revisiting the issue.
“Certainly, abiding by our legal obligations is always a priority to the United States and always something we're focused on. But there is a greater context here in terms of our national security interests, in terms of the millions of people who've expressed their grievances in Egypt,” Psaki said.
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