In a move made almost explicitly on behalf of Egypt’s military junta, the Obama administration worked with allied Senators to draft legislation that would “give the White House flexibility to decide if, and how, to maintain aid” to post-coup military regimes. That legislation just successfully passed a committee vote.
On Wednesday, the Egypt Assistance Reform Act sailed through the committee in a 16-1 vote. Its key backers, Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn), said the bill allows the U.S. government to maintain ties with strategically important countries like Egypt while imposing strict restrictions on any financial or military aid to their governments.
“This legislation reaffirms the enduring U.S. commitment to our partnership with the Egyptian government by authorizing continued assistance and endorsing the importance of ongoing cooperation,” said Menendez, chairman of the committee.
But opponents criticized it for lifting restrictions on U.S. aid to unelected military juntas. The committee “voted to weaken existing law and give the president more authority to send billions in aid to countries who violently overthrow their governments and engage in violence against their own citizens,” Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) told The Cable in a statement.
If it makes it into law, the bill would theoretically prevent the awkward situation the Obama administration found itself in this summer when it refused to call the Egyptian military’s overthrow of its democratically-elected government a coup. The administration avoided making that determination because of Section 7008 of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Law, which prohibits aid to post-coup countries. The White House feared that cutting off all aid to Egypt would further diminish U.S. influence in the country, so instead of calling a coup a coup, the administration remained silent.
President Obama recently, and reluctantly, suspended most (not all) U.S. aid to Egypt’s post-coup government, something he dragged his feet on for months. Few people, I think, were fooled that it was some kind of principled decision to not support anti-democratic forces in a country long subjected to U.S.-backed dictatorship.
But this legislation seals the deal. How proud Obama and his Democratic devotees must be to have undone laws on the books that block U.S. aid to post-coup governments. How Nobel-Peace-Prize-winner of him!
Do you think Egyptians are chuckling at the irony, given what Obama said in his much-lauded speech in Cairo in June 2009? It went something like this: “No system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by another.”