Distrust of Egypt Grows Among House Republicans

Monday, 05 Aug 2013 10:33 AM

By John Gizzi

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Sen. Rand Paul's motion to cut off aid to Egypt drew only 13 votes in the Senate last month, yet scrutiny of the embattled Egyptian government and the move to stop $1.3 billion annually in U.S. foreign aid is almost sure to be pursued by House Republicans in the fall.

GOP lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee told Newsmax to expect full-blown hearings in September on just what has happened in Egypt since the military under Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi deposed President Mohammed Morsi on July 3.

The upcoming debate in the House is the latest act in the Republican drama of libertarian versus international embodied in the recent public clash between the Kentucky senator and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

House Republicans with a record of skepticism about U.S. involvement overseas — such as North Carolina's veteran Rep. Walter Jones, a strong backer of Paul's father Ron for president in 2012 — have weighed in strongly for stopping the package of military assistance the U.S. has provided Egypt annually since 1979.

But this position is not limited to libertarian-minded lawmakers. Freshman Republican Rep. Trey Radel of Florida, for example, is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a supporter of much of the U.S. presence abroad.

Before his election to office last year, the former TV reporter traveled to 50 countries, in his words, "from Colombia to Cambodia."

"We should suspend all aid until Egyptians decide what kind of government they want," Radel told Newsmax, adding that the U.S. and Egyptian military can "keep an open line of communication."

Morsi was headed "toward rule with an iron fist" before he was removed from power, Radel said, and had he remained president, "I would have supported cutting off all aid, permanently.

"Egypt must make a choice for restoration of a constitution with freedom of religion and freedom of speech and elections to choose its next government," he said. "But if they choose to revert to a government run by clerics or dictators, we should have no part of it."

A similar view was voiced by Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, who rode into the House with Ronald Reagan's election as president in 1980 and now is senior Republican on the Foreign Affairs panel.

“It is a coup," Smith told Newsmax, employing the phrase that the Obama administration has so far refused to use regarding the toppling of Morsi.

As for what kind of government the U.S. should be dealing with in Cairo, Smith said: "Laws in Egypt should provide assurances of human rights. They don't."

Smith has overseen three hearings on the persecution of Coptic Christians under Morsi's rule. Among outrageous acts uncovered by these hearings were human trafficking and abduction of more than 2,000 young Coptic girls for forced Islamic marriages.

"I tried to get the administration to raise the issue with [the Morsi government] and sent over a full packet of information to the State Department," Smith said, adding that his efforts were unsuccessful.

Smith said Morsi's government was "indifferent to religious persecution" of Copts and "the military hasn't been very helpful, either."

In refusing to use the word "coup," the administration has so far bypassed the law which bars U.S. assistance to countries whose elected leader is deposed by the military.

Ending the aid to Egypt, as Business Week pointed out recently, "wouldn't be easy or cheap. The aid doesn't go directly to Egypt. Instead, the Pentagon signs contracts with U.S. companies to deliver equipment the Egyptians request. As a result, the U.S, not Egypt, is liable for funds if a contract is broken."

But this may not matter as much to the growing number of "Egypt-skeptics" among House Republicans, whose voices are sure to be heard when Congress reconvenes this fall.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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