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McCain, Levin Call for Suspension of Aid to Egypt

McCain, right, has called the change of leadership in Egypt a coup and said in a statement it could prevent the U.S. from continuing to send financial aid to the nation. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
McCain, right, has called the change of leadership in Egypt a coup and said in a statement it could prevent the U.S. from continuing to send financial aid to the nation. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 7:09 p.m. | In the aftermath of the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, Sens. John McCain and Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin are reluctantly calling for a suspension of U.S. aid to Egypt.

“I understand that the military’s removal of Morsi from office was undertaken with broad public support in the name of democracy and could ultimately lead Egypt to a more inclusive and representative civilian government. However, it is difficult for me to conclude that what happened was anything other than a coup in which the military played a decisive role,” McCain, an Arizona Republican, said in a statement. “Current U.S. law is very clear about the implications for our foreign assistance in the aftermath of a military coup against an elected government, and the law offers no ability to waive its provisions. I do not want to suspend our critical assistance to Egypt, but I believe that is the right thing to do at this time.”

Levin said the United States should “suspend aid until the new government shows that it is willing to … it does in fact schedule elections that put in place a process to come up with a new constitution.”

The Michigan Democrat said there might need to be a new law or joint resolution to condition aid to Egypt, but he doubted such a bill could pass.

“I don’t know that there’d be a majority for it. I doubt it from the comments I’ve heard that there would be a majority for it, but I was asked what I believe.”

Levin says he wants to see a “time set for parliamentary elections and a process for amending the constitution” before Egypt gets additional aid.

“By saying that … the aid would continue, the administration is therefore I guess necessarily saying that they don’t consider this a coup,” assuming that the law is clear that the aid gets cut off in the event of a coup.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the White House is taking its time in deciding if Morsi’s ouster constitutes a military coup as defined in the appropriations law. Carney told reporters that it would not be in the interests of the United States to cut off aid now, and he said the administration will consult with Congress.

As we reported last week, the action by the Egyptian military greatly complicates $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt, as Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the longtime chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee responsible for the foreign aid budget, said in a July 3 statement.

“Egypt’s military leaders say they have no intent or desire to govern, and I hope they make good on their promise. In the meantime, our law is clear: U.S. aid is cut off when a democratically elected government is deposed by military coup or decree. As we work on the new budget, my committee also will review future aid to the Egyptian government as we wait for a clearer picture,” the Vermont Democrat said. “As the world’s oldest democracy, this is a time to reaffirm our commitment to the principle that transfers of power should be by the ballot, not by force of arms.”

McCain has been among the leading opponents of a long-standing effort led by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to cut off aid to the Egyptian government.

“This is an incredibly difficult decision, but we have to learn the lessons of history and remain true to our values. If millions of Egyptians come to believe that democracy offers them no opportunity to advance their goals peacefully, it will only fuel violence and extremism,” McCain said. “That is a path to civil conflict.”

Paul, for his part, tweeted Monday: “In Egypt, democratic authoritarianism is replaced with military junta. American neocons say send them more of your money.”

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

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