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Lawmakers split on cutting aid to Egypt

Egypt Timeline Four Days
While some legislators say the United States shouldn't give aid to Egypt in light of the military crackdown, others say the country's strategic importance complicates matters. (AP Photo/Ahmed Gomaa)

Republicans and Democrats are divided on whether to suspend aid to Egypt.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R- N.H. said the United States should stop sending money and military aid to Egypt until a Democratic government is restored.

“I don’t see how we can give them aid in light of what has happened,” Ayotte said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Ayotte joined Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in rejecting further aid to the embattled nation, which is in the midst of heavy civil unrest following the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi. The military crackdown on pro-Morsi protesters has resulted in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries.

Ayotte said providing more help to Egypt sends the message “that whatever they do we will continue our aid.”

President Obama has cancelled joint military exercises planned with the Egyptian military and has only hinted that the $1.5 billion the United States sends annually to Egypt could be eliminated.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.,who also appears on Meet the Press, said the United States “can send a strong signal by suspending aid.”

But Rep. Pete King, a top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, said aide should be maintained because of the strategic importance of Egypt and the need for the United States to hold onto a way to help push for a Democratic government. Egypt’s Suez Canal transports 3 percent of the world’s daily oil supply.

“I’d be reluctant to cut off aid,” King, of New York, said on Fox News Sunday. “We should use it as a bargaining wedge.”

King proposed releasing the aid to Egypt in blocks and used as a tool to influence the Egyptian military, which has been cracking down on protesters.

Rand Paul, R-Ky., who also appeared on Fox News Sunday, said the president is breaking the law by continuing to provide aid because he believes a military coup overthrew Morsi.

Obama, however, has not labeled the ouster of Morsi a coup.

Providing aid is hurting U.S. relations with Egypt, Paul argued.

“When they see American tanks on the streets, shooting at people and running over people, do you think that buys us any friendship with the Egyptian people?” Paul said. “It has to end. It’s counter productive and it shows nothing but American weakness to continue it.”

Democrat Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said even if the United States cuts off aid, it would be replaced with more money from other gulf states. He said aid should be provided, but with conditions attached.