The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a bill today that would ensure that the Egyptian government continues to receive U.S. aid, provided certain conditions are met.
Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) introduced the Egypt Assistance Reform Act of 2013 to attempt to clarify what aid could be disbursed by the U.S. after a government is deposed. The bill comes as Egypt is turning to other countries, from Gulf states to Russia, after the Obama administration blocked certain defense aid as punishment for the toppling of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi.
“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,” Menendez said. “Assistance however is not a blank check; it should be used for programs that support the Egyptian people as they pursue political and economic reform.”
The bill requires “a suspension of arms sales, transfers, and delivery of defense articles and services to Egypt until the President certifies to Congress that assistance is in the vital national security interest of the United states, and the Government of Egypt continues to implement the peace treaty with Israel; is taking necessary steps to counter terrorism; is supporting a democratic transition process; is respecting and protecting the political and economic freedoms of all Egyptians; and is respecting the freedom of expression and due process of law including taking measures to address violence against women and religious minorities.”
Egypt would also have to allow U.S. armed forces to “transit the territory of Egypt” and permit nongovernmental organizations and civil society groups to operate freely.
If Egypt is unable to meet the conditions, no less than $75 million of previously appropriated U.S. economic support funds will be allocated to democracy and governance programs in Egypt.
“Our foreign policy programs have to advance America’s values as well as our interests, and this action brings us one step closer to ensuring that Egypt does not get a free pass,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “Encouraging a stable Egypt at peace with its neighbors remains in our national interest, but we cannot look away when we see cases of persecution of religious minorities and women or democratic backsliding.”
“This bill will help ensure that the assistance we provide to Egypt encourages democratic reforms and that Egypt takes action to address these issues of concern.”