McCain calls for suspension of aid to Egypt, other senators disagree

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) reiterated his call Sunday for the United States to suspend foreign aid to Egypt, even as several other senators declined to take that position.

"Reluctantly, I believe that we have to suspend aid until such time as there is a new constitution and a free and fair election," McCain said on CBS's "Face The Nation."

The Egyptian military ousted Mohamed Morsi from the presidency last week, and a dispute about the country's leadership is ongoing. The Obama administration has said it is not aligned with any particular group and has avoided calling the ouster of Morsi a coup.

If Obama were to describe what happened as a coup,it would trigger cuts in aid to Egypt. The U.S. government provides more than a billion dollars in annual assistance to Egypt, with most of it going to the military. McCain said he does not think money that has already been allocated can be pulled back.

The Arizona senator said what happened in Egypt was a coup, and he blamed it on a lack of U.S. leadership in the region.

"It was a coup and it was the second time in two-and-a-half years that we have seen the military step in. It is a strong indicator of a lack of American leadership and influence," McCain said.

Other senators appearing on the Sunday news shows didn't take up McCain's position that aid should be suspended. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said U.S. assistance should be used "as leverage" to press the military  to pursue a quick transition to a civilian government.

"At the end of the day, while we have already made some obligations on that $1.4 billion, by no means have we made the overwhelming amount of that obligation," Menendez said on NBC's "Meet The Press." "This is an opportunity to have a pause and say to the Egyptians, you have an opportunity to come together. You have to have the military understand that that's what we are looking for."

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, cautioned against rushing into discussions about aid.

"There will be plenty of time to asses the aid issue," Corker said on "Fox News Sunday," later adding,“Trying to jump to what we are going to do relative to support at this moment is not the place that we need to be.”

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said on the same program: “I think on a practical basis we have to look and ask a very simple question: Will cutting off aid accelerate or enhance the opportunities and the chances to have a truly Democratic government? I don’t think so."

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) called the military in Egypt the "one stable factor there." The military "should continue to be rewarded" for its stabilizing presence, Rogers said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Egyptian Ambassador to the United States Mohamed Tawfik reiterated his view Sunday that the ouster of Morsi does not amount to a coup.

“Egypt has not undergone a military coup and it is certainly not run by the military. Today there is an interim president in place,” Tawfik said on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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Sean Sullivan · July 7, 2013