The House and Senate Tackle Egypt Assistance

Three weeks ago Emily Hawthorne wrote a post on the Security Assistance Monitor blog discussing the future of U.S. assistance to Egypt after the July 3rd removal of President Mohammed Morsi. Since then, a number of developments indicate that U.S. assistance to Egypt will continue, despite Section 7008 of the FY2012 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act that prohibits U.S. assistance to any “government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d’état.”

First, the Obama administration concluded on Thursday (7/25) that it is not legally obligated to decide whether the Egyptian military’s actions constituted a coup. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki stated, “We have determined we are not going to make a determination.” The U.S. can now legally continue the over USD 1.5 billion given annually in assistance to Egypt – USD 1.3 billion in military aid and about USD 250 million in economic assistance (PDF).

Meanwhile, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees both discussed their versions of the FY14 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill last week, and both chambers’ bills would allow the assistance to continue in some form.

The House version of the bill, approved by the Appropriations Committee on July 24, maintains the USD 1.3 billion dollars in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to Egypt, but leaves out the USD 250 million in Economic Support Fund (ESF), a significant concern given Egypt’s deep economic problems. This is after two influential Congress members called U.S. foreign assistance “a critical investment in global stability” and the administration’s request for FY14 ESF funds to Egypt specifically stated that the funds aim to “support a successful transition to democracy while assisting the Egyptian Government to address obstacles to sustainable economic growth and recovery.” Remarking on the absence of the USD 250 million in ESF funding, Reuters writes, “that money was not included for fiscal 2014, which starts on October 1, but has not been specifically prohibited, an aide said.” Therefore, it is possible that this funding will be reintroduced in the conference between the House and Senate versions.

Meanwhile, Section 7042 of the bill would require that prior to making the funds available, the Secretary of State must certify that Egypt is meeting its Camp David obligations, demonstrating a commitment to a pluralistic and inclusive democracy, taking action to eliminate smuggling networks between Egypt and Gaza and combating terrorism in the Sinai. While last year’s House Foreign Operations bill would have placed similar conditions on the assistance, a Project on Middle East Democracy analysis of the current bill highlights that the FY14 bill “does not include a national security waiver for any of these conditions, a significant departure from previous practice.” Both Secretaries Hillary Clinton and John Kerry used this waiver to permit assistance to Egypt to go through in 2012 and 2013, though Kerry did not do so publicly.

The Senate version of the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, approved by the Appropriations Committee on July 25, would keep both the USD 1.3 billion in FMF and the USD 250 million in ESF in FY2014, however it divides the aid into four blocks. Writing about the Senate version in a separate article, Reuters summarizes: “It would send one-fourth of the military aid immediately, but the next tranche would be conditioned on State Department certification that the Cairo government is supporting an ‘inclusive’ political process and releasing political prisoners. The rest of the aid would depend on a democratic election being held and a new government taking steps to protect the rights of women and religious minorities.” The Senate bill would grant the Secretary of State partial waiver powers on national security grounds, though the installment of aid tied to protection of the rights of women and minorities must be tied to a certification.

In similar news, here are some additional stories about U.S. assistance to Egypt from the past week:

  • A Washington Post article describes why it may very difficult to curtail military aid to Egypt, due to a unique provision in assistance to Egypt.
  • The Department of Defense announced it is delaying the scheduled delivery of four F-16 fighters to Egypt, saying it is not “appropriate to move forward at this time.”
  • Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) proposed an amendment to the Departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill invoking Section 7008 and prohibiting assistance to Egypt that is restricted under that section. The amendment did not pass.
  • Representative Thomas Massie’s (R-KY) amendment to the House’s Defense Appropriations Act, which prohibits DOD assistance to Egypt’s military and security forces, passed.

One comment

  1. […] Both the Senate and House Appropriation Committees marked up their versions of the Foreign Operations Appropriations bills this week. The Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) drafted notes from both mark-up hearings (Senate, House) as well as in-depth analysis of the House bill. For analysis of the House and Senate’s treatment of aid to Egypt, please see our latest Security Assistant Monitor blog post. […]

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