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U.S. lawmakers may ease 'coup' ban on aid to Egypt

US lawmakers to vote on continuing aid to Egypt next week

Reuters, Friday 12 Jul 2013
Views: 1598
Views: 1598

U.S. lawmakers will begin to vote as soon as next week on legislation that could continue aid to Egypt even if the Obama administration determines that the ouster of elected

President Mohamed Morsi was a military coup, lawmakers and aides said on Thursday.

The United States currently sends $1.3 billion in military aid and $250 million in economic aid to Egypt each year, but the military coup label would cut off the flow under a U.S. law dating to the 1980s.

As a result, the White House and State Department have so far refused to characterize Morsi's ouster as a coup, with administration officials often resorting to verbal gymnastics to avoid using the word.

Republican U.S. Representative Kay Granger, chairwoman of the House of Representatives subcommittee in charge of the aid, said her panel was considering allowing more flexibility, such as language that would allow the aid to continue if doing so were deemed to be in the U.S. national security interest.

The law as currently written bans the administration from waiving the restriction, even if the administration judges it to be important for national security.

"There is not a waiver (provision) in the coup legislation," Granger told Reuters in an interview. "That could be changed, however, if the Congress says we are going to allow a waiver."


Congress approved President George W. Bush's request to allow aid to Pakistan's government after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, despite the ouster of its government in a coup.

Lawmakers said a similar bill was one possibility for Egypt. They said another possibility would be rewriting the law on foreign aid to allow waivers for national security reasons more routinely.

The House subcommittee is due to begin considering aid to Egypt this month, possibly as soon as next week.

The Senate subcommittee also expects to vote on its version of the legislation this month, likely during the week of July 23, aides said.

After the state and foreign operations subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations committees debate and vote on their versions of the bill, the measures will be voted on by the full committees before being sent for a vote by the full House and Senate.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate panel, has said he considers Morsi's ouster a coup, although the ultimate determination is up to the administration.

A spokesman said the Senate panel is not now considering a provision in its legislation to waive the coup requirement.

However, Senator John Boozman, a Republican subcommittee member, said he was open to the possibility of a waiver, depending on the situation in Egypt, noting the long-term close relationship between U.S. officials and the U.S. military.

"With the situation as it is now, I would certainly be open to having that discussion," he told Reuters. "And right now my tendency would be to vote for the waiver and, again, we'll just have to wait and see what happens."

President Barack Obama asked Congress to appropriate $1.55 billion in aid for Egypt for fiscal 2014, including $1.3 billion in military aid and $250 million in economic assistance.

Committee members and aides from both panels said it was too soon to comment on whether they would approve that level of aid, because the situation in Egypt is changing so rapidly.

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Sam Enslow
12-07-2013 05:16am
US Internal Politics
Egyptians always seem to claim that Americans do not understand Egypt and its politics. I can assure you that Egyptians do not understand US politics. I often hear Egyptians say, "Why doesn't Obama do..." One reason he doesn't is that he cannot. Obama has far less power in the US than say Mubarak had in Egypt. He must build a consensus for his actions. For example all spending by the US government is not controlled by Obama but by the US House of Representatives who must introduce all 'money bills." But even they are curtailed by the Senate which must also pass such bills which can be vetoed by the president or declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. We elect presidents - not kings. It is sloppy, but it works out in the end.
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