02.14.12

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On The Paul Amendment On Egypt

As Prepared For Delivery

Mr. President, I want to respond briefly to comments of the junior Senator from Kentucky earlier today, regarding his amendment to cut off all U.S. aid for Egypt.

First, let’s take a step back.

The new conditions on military aid for Egypt, which I wrote with Senator Lindsey Graham and were signed into law just two months ago, require a certification by the Secretary of State that the Egyptian military is supporting the transition to civilian government and protecting fundamental freedoms and due process. 

If the crisis involving the nongovernmental organizations whose offices were raided and are now facing criminal charges is not resolved satisfactorily, there is no way the certification can be made and Egypt will not receive $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid.

But the Leahy-Graham conditions give the Administration flexibility to respond to this crisis.  If we take a leap into the lurch and adopt the Paul Amendment, we risk causing a backlash and the opposite reaction of what we want.

It is ironic that the junior Senator from Kentucky, who is now insisting on a vote on his amendment to cut off all aid – not just military aid but also economic aid – did not even vote for the Omnibus bill that contained the Leahy-Graham certification requirement. 

For him it is all or nothing, but the real world is not so black and white. 

No one disagrees with the goals of the Paul Amendment.  Its purpose is no different than the Leahy-Graham provision in current law that has caused the suspension of military aid.  We are all outraged by the crackdown against the NGOs.  We want the charges dropped and their property returned so they can resume their pro-democracy work.

But the scope of the Paul Amendment is so sweeping that it could backfire and make the situation immeasurably worse:

o   The amendment cuts off all U.S. aid to Egypt – current and prior year – including hundreds of millions of dollars in economic aid and funding for anti-terrorism and nonproliferation programs.

o   Aid that supports the Government of Egypt’s ability to interdict arms shipments to Gaza would be cut off.

There is much at stake: the fate of the 19 American citizens facing criminal charges in Egypt;

Egypt’s continued adherence to the Israeli-Egyptian Peace Agreement could be jeopardized;  over-flights for U.S. military aircraft; access to the Suez Canal; and the potential for further crackdowns against Egyptian civil society organizations.

If the Administration were ignoring the certification requirement in current law I might vote for this amendment.  But they are not.  In fact the NGOs have repeatedly praised the Administration’s efforts on their behalf.  They have applauded the new leverage provided by the Leahy-Graham conditions.

Both the State Department and the Pentagon are intensely focused on trying to resolve this.  General Dempsey was just in Egypt meeting with top military officials about it. 

If, over the coming days or weeks the situation continues to deteriorate, we can revisit this.  But I would urge the junior Senator from Kentucky to withdraw his amendment until such time and to refrain from obstructing other business of the Senate.  

Let us see how things play out.  Hopefully cooler heads will prevail; the Egyptian military will recognize that these NGOs were doing nothing more than supporting the transition to democracy in an appropriate and transparent manner; and the Egyptian military will agree that it is in Egypt’s best interest to preserve close relations with the United States. 

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