The White House is rejecting calls to cut off aid to Egypt while it transitions to a new leader and will not label the ouster of the country’s former President Morsi a coup d'état – at least for now.
President Obama’s spokesman Jay Carney on Monday said Obama administration officials “do not think it would be in our interest to make a precipitous decision to change our assistance program right away.”
Carney condemned the violent protests taking place to try to quash any attempt by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood supporters to reinstate him or hold onto any claim to power. He said the Obama administration would work with Congress to determine whether Morsi’s removal was a “coup” and whether the U.S. should cut off aid in response.
Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., has called on the United States to suspend foreign aid to Egypt.
“This is an incredibly difficult decision, but we have to learn the lessons of history and remain true to our values,” he said in a statement Monday, repeating a sentiment he expressed Sunday on CBS’s “Face The Nation.”
On Sunday, McCain said what happened in Egypt is a coup, and he blamed the chaos on Obama’s failure to exert leadership in the region.
The Egyptian military removed Morsi from the presidency last week amid escalating protests about his failure to respond to deep economic divisions in the country during his one year in power. The Obama administration has repeatedly insisted that it is not aligned with any one group and has avoided calling Morsi’s ouster a coup.
Labeling the forced removal of a president as a coup would trigger cuts in U.S. aid to Egypt. The United States provides more than a billion dollars a year in assistance to Egypt, most of it going to the military.
“It was a coup and it was the second time in two-and-a-half years that we have seen the military step in,” McCain said Sunday. “It is a strong indicator of a lack of American leadership and influence.”
The White House pushed back Monday saying that the U.S. relationship with the Egyptians is not limited to American assistance to them.
“We do not pick Egypt’s leaders,” Carney said. “…We support a return to democratic governance and a cessation of violence in Egypt.”