Senate rejects Rand Paul bid to halt aid to Egypt

July 31, 2013 at 6:21 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 31 (UPI) -- An attempt by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to halt U.S. aid to Egypt picked up little support Wednesday, going down to resounding defeat.

Paul's amendment to the transportation spending bill would have diverted $1.5 billion to bridge reconstruction, The Hill reported. A dozen Republicans supported the amendment, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and a group of budget hawks and Tea Party supporters.

Paul argued that Egyptian aid must be withheld because Mohamed Morsi, a democratically elected president, was removed in a military coup. He called for respect for the "rule of law."

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who heads the Foreign Relations Committee, said aid to Egypt should not be dealt with as an amendment to an unrelated bill.

"We need a more nuanced approach, one that speaks to both our values and our interests and which provides the president with the flexibility needed to conduct delicate and discriminating policy in a challenging and chaotic environment," Menendez said.

President Obama has asked two key Republican senators to tell Egyptian military leaders in person their country must quickly shift to democracy, one senator said. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters he will travel to Cairo with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., as early as next week.

He said the logistics and who they'd meet were being worked out by the State Department, but he said he expected they'd meet with Egypt's opposition as well as its military leaders.

Graham and McCain met several times with members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the past.

"We want to deliver a unified message that killing the opposition is becoming more and more like a coup," Graham said.

The Obama administration has carefully avoided referring to the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi July 3 as a coup, which could force it to stop sending $1.5 billion in annual aid.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Sunday Congress should consider suspending the aid in response to an Egyptian security services attack Saturday that killed at least 72 people and wounded hundreds more.

Graham told CNN Tuesday the idea of the Egypt trip first came from Secretary of State John Kerry, who said it was important for military leaders to hear firsthand from U.S. lawmakers, especially members of Obama's political opposition, that key Washington players were on the same page.

He noted having McCain in Egypt on Obama's behalf could be especially symbolic, since McCain is Obama's former opponent for the White House.

"I think it really does demonstrate how democracy works. They didn't put John McCain in jail so he could never come back again," Graham said.

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