Kaine, who joined five Republican senators on a trip to the Middle East last week, said close U.S. allies in the region strongly advised against halting U.S. funds for Egypt. Four-fifths of the money goes to the military and supports operations that include isolating extremist groups and helping secure Israel’s borders.
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the heads of the Senate Foreign Relations and the House Intelligence committees, respectively, want continued support for Egypt’s military. ‘‘Cut off all aid immediately and you will take an economy that is already floundering and probably drive it into chaos, and that is not in anyone’s national security interests,’’ Menendez told reporters Monday.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was more dismissive, crediting Egypt’s military leaders for doing ‘‘what they had to do in terms of replacing the elected president.’’
Ardent Israel supporters in the Capitol, along with evangelicals who've criticized Morsi for failing to protect Christians sufficiently and foreign policy ‘‘realists’’ who value stability, have refrained from undercutting Egypt’s military. The powerful pro-Israel lobby AIPAC has stressed that while Morsi was ‘‘surprisingly compliant’’ to Israel, of paramount importance now is preventing extremists from using Egypt’s turmoil to carry out attacks or smuggle arms into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
And even as he was calling for an aid cutoff, McCain said the administration and Congress needed to come up with ‘‘creative and lawful,’’ if limited, forms of cooperation with Egypt’s military to fight terrorism, share intelligence and maintain regional peace.
No one in the House or Senate has outlined specific proposals yet with regard to Egypt. And without an administration declaration of a coup, there is little Congress can do about aid already approved through the end of September. Secretary of State John Kerry has waived requirements demanding that he certify Egyptian progress on a democratic transition. Lawmakers would have to rewrite the law if they were to hold up money they've appropriated but the administration hasn’t spent.
That leaves fiscal year 2014, where options are not significantly different. In the unlikely event Congress votes to cut funding to Egypt, it almost surely would need Obama’s approval. And his administration has shown no interest so far in such action.