By: Nada Badawi
The US Senate is considering an emergency resolution for domestic spending, with five senators, including four Republicans and one Democrat, offering separate amendments to restructure US aid to Egypt.
Since Egypt signed the Peace Treaty with Israel in 1979, Washington has been providing $1.3bn per year in military aid to Egypt.
The US recently announced granting Egypt $250m in budget aid after President Mohamed Morsi promised to make a number of economic reforms necessary to secure the proposed $4.8bn International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan.
The senators, Republican Marco Rubio, John McCain, James Inhofe, Rand Paul and Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, reported to Reuters that “they are not seeking to cut Egypt’s assistance, only redirect it”.
The amendments are among 125 added to the bill, a US domestic spending measure known as a continuing resolution.
Other US lawmakers are studying ways in which they can seize the domestic spending bill to impose greater restrictions on Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood’s usage over the $1bn military aid that Washington sends to Egypt annually.
American lawmakers expressed grave concerns regarding Egypt’s current political status, future policies of Morsi’s Islamist government, Egypt’s relations with Israel and acrimonious comments made by Morsi in 2010 about Jews.
The lawmakers’ restrictions on Egypt’s aid come days before President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel.
“In the 21st century, America’s foreign assistance must reflect our values as well as our interests,” said Rubio.
“The US-Egypt relationship has been a critical one for decades, but it must be adapted to reflect the new political reality the Arab Spring has created. That adaptation process must begin with how our money is being spent” he continued.
Rubio’s amendments would block the payment of additional economic support funds and new foreign military financing contracts until “Cairo begins to enact economic reforms and Obama’s administration certifies it is protecting human rights.”
Rubio also stated that Morsi’s government should seek to protect the rights of “religious minorities, women, a free press and the ability of Egyptian and foreign NGOs to promote civil society, governance and democracy”.
“Our foreign aid is not charity,” he said. “Our foreign aid is used to advance our foreign policy interests; we have a right to be concerned.”
Leahy and McCain’s amendments seek to ensure that military aid is used for counterrorism, border security or special operations, meeting Egypt’s most pressing security needs, not major defence equipment such as F-16 fighter jets or M1 tanks.
Paul’s amendment, co-sponsored by Inhofe, seeks to cut off all assistance to Egypt until “Morsi says, in English and Arabic, that he intends to uphold the Camp David peace accords”.
It is still not clear how many of the five proposed amendments would survive negotiations on a final version. The Senate is expected to vote on a final version on Tuesday or Wednesday.