House Narrowly Rejects Punitive Cut In Aid To Egypt
Amid conflicting signals from the Bush administration, the Republican-led House narrowly rejected a bid to cut $100 million from U.S. aid to Egypt as a protest of its suppression of political dissent.
The 225-198 vote came as the House pushed toward passage today of a $21.3 billion foreign-aid budget that already rescinds $200 million from prior economic aid for Cairo.
Rep. Jim Kolbe (R., Ariz.), the bill’s manager, argued that to cut more at this stage would “kick sand in the face” of a strategic ally. But 44 Republicans, including House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R., Ill.), backed the amendment, whose chief sponsor, Rep. David Obey (D., Wis.), said State Department officials had signaled more receptivity given their own frustration with the Egyptian government’s performance.
“Egypt is heading toward a precipice,” Mr. Obey said, arguing that Cairo hurts its self-interests by “fencing in and squeezing out” moderate opposition.
The clampdown in Egypt has tightened this spring as President Hosni Mubarak’s chief challenger in last year’s election, Ayman Nour, has been sentenced to five years in prison. Hundreds of protesters have been beaten and arrested by security forces; Mr. Nour’s supporters blame the government for a fire last week that destroyed his headquarters; and Egypt ordered an American pro-democracy group, the International Republican Institute, to suspend work in the country.
Mr. Obey, the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee and a prominent voice on foreign policy, had first proposed cutting $200 million from the $1.3 billion in military aid for Egypt in 2007. Raytheon Co. and other military contractors with sales to Egypt helped block that proposal, so he turned to Chairman Hyde and focused on the $455 million pledged to Cairo in the form of economic-support funds.
To win votes, the amendment called for dividing the $100 million equally among two popular causes: fighting AIDS and famine in Africa. But among the strongest opponents were prominent African-American Democrats, such as Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D.,
Mich.), whose Detroit-area district has a substantial Arab-American population.
The underlying foreign-aid bill represents a $597 million increase over this year, but this belies a major budget-cutting exercise, since the administration requested almost $2.4 billion more than
the bill would provide for the new budget year that begins Oct. 1. The administration is promised $3.4 billion to fight AIDS and tuberculosis, and the White House would get most, but not all, of the money requested for an initiative to fight malaria.
The House floor action came as Republican leaders in Congress reached final agreement on a long-delayed wartime-spending bill to pay for military operations in Iraq as well as Gulf Coast hurricane-recovery efforts. The House Appropriations panel released more detail about a proposed $427.6 billion Pentagon budget for 2007.
Within the $427.6 billion total, $50 billion represents a further emergency expenditure, largely for Iraq, and an ever-larger share of the funding is consumed by the escalating operations costs in the war. The remaining $377.6 billion represents the core
Pentagon budget for the year, and as with foreign aid, cuts are made from the administration’s request. The $81.78 billion provided for procurement is $1.14 billion less than requested and includes a $140 million cut from the Air Force procurement of the
Joint Strike Fighter and $88 million from planned purchases of the Global Hawk unmanned-aerial vehicle.
Here’s an excerpt from the House debate on the issue:
Thursday, June 8, 2006
Provided by Westlaw.
AMENDMENT OFFERED BY MR. Obey
Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.
The Clerk read as follows:
Amendment offered by Mr. Obey:
Page 14, line 1, after the dollar amount, insert the following: “(increased by $50,000,000)”.
Page 19, line 22, after the dollar amount, insert the following: “(reduced by $100,000,000)”.
Page 20, line 3, after the dollar amount, insert the following: “(reduced by $100,000,000)”.
Page 32, line 7, after the dollar amount, insert the following: “(increased by $50,000,000)”.
Mr. Chairman, I am offering this amendment on behalf of myself, the gentleman from Illinois (Mr.Hyde), the gentleman from California (Mr.Lantos), and the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Al Green).
For some time, Mr. Chairman, I have been troubled by the repression of political freedom in Egypt and the lack of democratic reform. But in light of the historical role that Egypt has played in the region and the continuing stability that Egypt brings to an increasingly troubled region, I have appealed for patience and moderation in efforts to alter Egypt’s aid package.
I chaired this subcommittee for 10 years, and during that time I was responsible for providing over $20 billion in military and economic aid to Egypt. In the years since, I have helped to fend off amendments that sought to cut or restrict aid to Egypt.
Last year, during the Full Committee consideration of the bill, I offered an amendment that earmarked some of Egypt’s economic aid for democracy purposes, a move that allowed Congress to fend off yet another attempt to restrict the military aid. But in offering that amendment, I gave notice to the government of Egypt that my patience, and the patience of the American people, was wearing thin, and I hoped and expected that the government of Egypt would get the hint and make some moves to loosen its grip on political freedom and democratic reforms.
Instead, I am sad to say, we have gotten backsliding on municipal elections, an extension of emergency laws, repression of judicial freedoms and a crackdown on demonstrations and rallies.
Most recently, we have seen the appellate court in Egypt reject the appeal of Ayman Nour, a political opponent of President Mubarak who was conveniently arrested just prior to last year’s presidential elections.
Hundreds of demonstrators have been arrested and jailed in recent weeks, many of them young kids in their teens and 20s who have been beaten and bullied. Reporters have been roughed up and intimidated.
Just this week, the government of Egypt suspended the work of the International Republican Institute in Egypt after the IRI country director criticized in an interview the pace of reform as being too slow. *H3538
Now, I am not a naive peddler of global democracy. I am not preaching that we hold elections all across the Middle East and call it a day. I understand that the very free and fair elections in the West Bank in Gaza have resulted in a disastrous consequence for the peace process through the election of Hamas.
But I do fear that Egypt is heading toward a precipice. What is happening in Egypt, Mr. Chairman, is that the government is systematically fencing in and squeezing out its moderate opposition. And if they continue to do that, they are going to wind up with the only viable opposition being the Muslim Brotherhood, the most radical of the forces in the country. That will be disastrous for Mr. Mubarak. It will be disastrous for his government. It will disastrous for the American people, and it will be disastrous for the entire region.
I consider myself a lifelong friend of Egypt, and I have taken a lot of heat on this floor through the years for taking a number of actions that supported Egypt and the rest of the Arab world, sometimes even when I differed with my friends who were supporting various provisions for Israel.
But it seems to me that if you are a friend of Egypt, you will try to make them understand that they are endangering their ability to have a peaceful transfer of power when Mr. Mubarak leaves office.
Now, I have met Mr. Mubarak’s son. I understand that Mr. Mubarak would like to see his son succeed him. I am very impressed by his son. I happen to think he would probably be a good leader. But he is not going to get the chance for very long if the moderate opposition in that country is systematically jailed, beaten up and wiped out, because then you will have only the most radical extreme elements left.
So what we are doing in this amendment is to cut $100 million out of the Economic Support Fund, and we are moving 50 million of that to help refugees in the Sudan, and we are moving another 50 million of it to provide increased funding for the President’s HIV/AIDS initiative. I am not doing this out of anger at Egypt. I am doing this out of a deep and abiding concern for the future of that country.
I respect Egypt. I think the people of Egypt are a wonderful people. And I think that Mr. Mubarak has done many constructive things that have been in the interest of peace in the region and have helped promote our own national interests as well.
But I am speaking as a friend, and I am saying this Congress has an obligation to recognize the problem and to act before it is too late to salvage the situation.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I do rise in opposition to this amendment, and I say so with the greatest respect to my colleague DAVID OBEY. Often on this floor, we say things about each other and we say things because it is the oil that helps make this place move forward, but I do have the greatest respect for him and I believe he has been a great part of this institution, it has been a privilege to serve with him. We just differ on this amendment. We had a very good debate in the full Appropriations Committee on this, and I hope the debate this afternoon will be as constructive and as good as the debate that we had in the committee.
We both agree that Egypt should strive toward greater democracy and greater freedoms, and I believe the approach taken by this amendment is the wrong approach.
Mr. OBEY suggests that we would take $100 million of funding in economic support funds from Egypt. The intent is to take these funds from the amounts that are designated as budget support for Egypt. These are the funds that are transferred to Egypt when it successfully completes certain financial sector reforms. In other words, we have put benchmarks in front and said the money can’t be released until they meet these reforms. As they meet these reforms, the money is then released. This would then take the money away from that, reducing that incentive to make these kinds of reforms.
The funds that are targeted by this amendment support one of our strongest allies in this region. And I say that very carefully, one of our strategic partners, our very strong allies in this region, to help them meet the memorandum of understanding that we made in March of 2005 about these financial sector reforms.
Last month in the same kind of debate that we had in Committee, the Secretary of State said in a letter to the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, “Reducing U.S. assistance would seriously damage our partnership as well as the broader strategic interests of the United States.” And she also went on to state, “We firmly believe the U.S. assistance to Egypt could continue at the full level requested by the administration, and ask your support for that request.”
In the past, the ranking member Mr. Obey has himself recognized this when he has stated on the floor his support for the funding for Egypt. Now, I recognize and he could argue quite correctly, times have changed, there are different things that have happened, and he could say this is a different source of funds perhaps from it. But nonetheless, he himself has recognized the importance of Egypt as an ally.
While it is sometimes important to dispense tough love by withholding or eliminating funds, we also have to ensure that Egypt remains allied with the United States as a leading moderate nation within the Middle East. And I believe that, in this case, any attempt to pressure Egypt into hastening its transition to democracy could push this country away from the United States and allow another foreign power to gain a foothold in the region that could be very detrimental not only to our interests, but to the interest of peace in the region. This certainly would not be good for any of us.
Mr. Chairman, the bill that is before us today already has a $200 million rescission in funds for Egypt in the economic support fund. So for those who want to make this claim, the bill already has sent a signal to the Egyptians, and I think this amendment just simply piles on. It is overkill, in my opinion.
As in the programs that would receive funds with the Obey amendment, he would put some of it to the global HIV/AIDS initiative. I don’t believe that anybody could claim that we have not supported this program or provided all the funds that could reasonably and effectively be spent. In fact, this bill has a total of $3.4 billion for HIV/AIDS programs. The President’s request, $750 million increase over the 2006 level, this is the largest increase in this bill, and that demonstrates how much I think all of us on this committee and in this body care about fighting the HIV/AIDS. To increase it by another $50 million is simply not necessary and doesn’t do anything more to meet in any way, certainly not as much as it detracts from the strategic interests that we have in Egypt.
The second area is in the international disaster and famine assistance, and this is a contingency count for uses when disaster strikes. In this bill there is a total of $348 million, again, the President’s request for this account. The supplemental that 2 days ago was considered by the House and Senate conferees includes an additional $161 million for IDFA to accommodate emergencies that have recently arisen. We have done what I think is the responsible thing in this bill.
Mr. Chairman, I urge my colleagues to vote against the Obey-Lantos amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
Mr. Chairman, my friend and colleague Chairman
Hyde and I are strong friends of Egypt and we are proud cosponsors of this amendment. We are sponsors of this amendment because we are fed up with an Egyptian government that has received well over $50 billion from United States taxpayers in the past quarter century, yet it will not treat its citizens with dignity and respect. We are fed up with an Egypt that suppresses dissent, an Egypt that suffocates the secular liberal opposition, throws its leaders in jail on trumped-up charges, an Egypt that takes out its wrath on a man called Ayman Nour, who finished a distant second in President Mubarak’s landslide victory last year. I am sickened, Mr. Chairman, that Mr. Nour is likely to spend the next 5 years of his life behind bars on transparently manufactured charges when we know his only *H3539 real crime was having the temerity to wage a political campaign against Mr. Mubarak.
We are fed up with and are not fooled by an Egyptian government that stages parliamentary elections, but prevents voters from reaching the polls. We are fed up with an Egyptian government that punishes judges who merely want to insist on judicial independence and ignores its promises to end emergency law and instead extends it. We are fed up with and deeply disappointed in an Egyptian government that suspended the activities of the International Republican Institute in Egypt simply because the local director criticized the pace of reform in Egypt.
We are fed up with an Egypt that is one of the leaders among the so-called group of 77 who are working hard to derail the critical United Nations reforms proposed by Kofi Annan, the Secretary General, which have bipartisan and strong support here in this Congress.
We are fed up with an Egypt that has nearly 500,000 active duty troops in its military, yet can do nothing in the international effort in Afghanistan.
We are fed up with an Egypt whose peace with Israel remains frigid, far colder than it ought to be, as we approach the 27th anniversary of the peace treaty.
Mr. Chairman, I do not denigrate the importance of our alliance with Egypt and I deeply appreciate the importance of the Israeli-Egyptian peace. But I do feel that we deserve more, much more for our generosity than the laundry list of problems I have only partially described.
I want the United States to maintain the strongest possible relations with Egypt. As you know, Chairman
Hyde and I have made efforts in the past to communicate this to Egypt in clear and unmistakable legislative language.
The approach in our amendment is not precisely the approach I would have championed. Nevertheless, I consider it absolutely critical that President Mubarak understand the deep dissatisfaction here with the course of events in Egypt, particularly regarding the decline of human rights and personal freedoms.
It is also critical that the Egyptian people understand that we are taking this action in support of those moderate political parties, human rights advocates and independent judges who are supporting change in Egypt.
I believe this amendment sends a message to President Mubarak and to the Egyptian people in a manner that is loud, clear, friendly and measured. I urge all of my colleagues to join me in supporting this amendment, communicating our deep disappointment in our ally Egypt, and boosting simultaneously the underfunded and critical causes of the tragedy in Darfur and fighting HIV/AIDS globally.
Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
Mr. Chairman, I rise on behalf of and in support of the amendment offered by Mr.Obey, Mr.Hyde, Mr.Lantos and Mr.Green, and I associate myself with the remarks of Mr.Obey and Mr. Lantos.
I believe the alliance between ourselves and Egypt is an important one. I believe that Egypt has played an important role, not as expansive a role as I would have wanted, but an important role in the Middle East.
Mr. Chairman, in his inaugural address President Bush stated, “It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in the world.”
Mr. Chairman, I agree with this unambiguous statement in support of democracy and freedom, and I believe Members on both sides of the aisle agree with it as well. In fact, it is the reiteration of the policy that has guided our Nation from Wilson to Roosevelt, to Truman to Kennedy, to the present day.
Yet today, Mr. Chairman, one of our Nation’s key allies in the Middle East, our friend Egypt, has taken demonstrable steps that raise troubling questions about its commitment to democracy.
Mr. Chairman, I will give examples. Multiparty presidential elections in 2005, as has been stated, were marred by allegations of fraud, voter suppression and intimidation. The leading opposition candidate, Ayman Nour, was arrested and sentenced to 5 years in prison, prompting the State Department to comment, “The Egyptian government’s handling of this case represents both a miscarriage of justice by international standards and a setback for the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people.”
In Egypt, judges who protested the election have been disciplined. More than 600 pro-democracy activists have been arrested, and members of the foreign and Egyptian press have been harassed and intimidated.
Let me add, Mr. Chairman, it troubles me that last year, Egypt voted with the United States of America on contested votes of importance only 8.9 percent of the time. Let me reiterate that. A country to whom we have given $67 billion since Camp David, voted with us in important votes 8.9 percent of the time.
Thus, today, Mr. Chairman, I believe this amendment gives us a clear choice: We can continue to turn a blind eye to the undemocratic behavior of the Egyptian government, which will receive $1.8 billion in military and economic assistance through this foreign operations bill; or, alternatively, through the adoption of this amendment, we can send a message to our friend that the United States of America does not approve of its undemocratic activities, and, indeed, believes those are inimical to Egypt itself. We expect Egypt to abide by its commitments on democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
The Secretary of State’s letter has been referred to by the chairman of the subcommittee. I have read that letter, Mr. Chairman. It sets forth many things that Egypt has done which have had a positive effect on stability in the Middle East.
Mr. Chairman, in my opinion, those actions were in Egypt’s best interests.
They did not do that for the United States. They did it to create stability in the region in which they live. I congratulate them for that. But they did not do it because we gave them aid, assistance.
The bipartisan amendment that has been offered, quite simply, would cut $100 million, as has been said, in economic assistance for Egypt. Like Mr. Lantos, that would not be my choice, but that is the choice of this amendment. Instead, it increases funding for disaster assistance for refugees in Darfur, one of the crisis regions of the world today. In addition, it increases the President’s Global HIV/AIDS Initiative by an additional $50 million
At a time when this Nation has committed itself to promoting democracy throughout the Middle East, we have, it seems to me, a responsibility to expect that the most populous country in the region meets its democratic commitments.
Mr. Chairman, I urge support of this amendment.
I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, my colleagues, I rise in opposition to the amendment and urge my colleagues for a strong vote against this ill-advised initiative.
In debate on the House floor some 2 years ago, some of the advocates of this amendment today rose and very eloquently spoke basically on the other side of the argument, saying that this would be ill advised, it would be unilateral action against a friend of ours.
I thought those remarks were correct at the time. And I am disappointed that some of the advocates of this amendment have changed their minds over 2 years’ time. What has happened in 2 years?
Well, one thing that has happened is they have had a presidential election in Egypt which has represented progress. Now, we were not happy with everything that happened with the parliamentary elections, and it was not exactly a perfect presidential election in Egypt. But they had multiple parties, they had an open process. And I think almost every person who watched this on the international stage said it represented progress. So what has happened between 2004 and now is actual progress in Egypt. I commend them for that. But let’s talk about why we have this bill at all. I meant to get down here for general debate to discuss this. We do foreign assistance for altruistic reasons, certainly for humanitarian reasons, of course. But the main reason we do foreign assistance is we *H3540 do it in the American national interest. This bill is a very important part of our national security package. And let me tell you about the national interest. Those of you who have been to the Middle East know that we do not have a lot of friends over there. But one friend we have in that area is Egypt. Since Nasser kicked the Soviets out, since Sadat helped with Camp David, with the beginnings of that Arab-Israeli peace process up until today, Egypt has been our strategic friend and our strategic partner.
Talk about national interests: When we went in with Operation Iraqi Freedom, some of our allies, Turkey, for example, would not let us through. How much trouble did that cause us, because we were not able to go into Iraq through Turkey?
By contrast, Egypt has allowed us to use the Suez for that purpose. They have allowed us continuous overflights. And just recently, they have been instrumental in helping with the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza. They have helped us when it counted.
How many American soldiers are alive today because Egypt was our friend in Operation Iraqi Freedom? How many billions of dollars have we saved for the American taxpayers because Egypt has been our friend?
An amendment that was stronger than this was offered in the Appropriations Committee, and it was rejected overwhelmingly on a bipartisan basis. The authors of this amendment have attempted to soften it here on the floor. And one of the things that they have tried to do is take the money from Egypt and give it to programs that we all like-AIDS in Africa, Darfur, things of that nature. It is hard to resist. It sounds good.
But my friends, these people in Egypt have stood by us in a tough, tough neighborhood. And I do not think this amendment is the sort of thing we do to our friends. It might make us feel good, but it is terrible foreign policy, and I believe the House of Representatives will reject this amendment.
Ms. KILPATRICK of Michigan.
Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, Members and the world, this is a very important amendment, and we must pay particular attention to it. The Middle East is in turmoil. We are threatened on every side of the Middle East. Sometimes we do not respect the culture. Sometimes we do not respect the religion. Sometimes we do not respect the people for what has happened to this country and terrorism around the world.
But I want for a minute for you to just take a moment and think how important this amendment would be and the signal it would send to our strongest alley in the Middle East. We have had a wonderful relationship with Egypt over the last 30 years. Over 75 million Egyptians, with some of the other countries, Syria, Jordan, Saudi, some of them 7 million, some 10 million, some 12, this is 75 million Egyptians who live in our country today and who live in the Middle East.
Mr. Chairman, it is the wrong signal to send at a time when the Middle East is in turmoil. Leadership is what they must have. And I contend to you that President Mubarak and his administration is the best friend that we have in the Middle East. I am recently returned from the World Economic Forum in Egypt on the Middle East, where countries from that region came together.
We met with them, a good delegation of us. And we interacted with them for the 2, 3 days of that summit. They want to be good neighbors. And what I am here to tell you is that Egypt, with the President and his administration, is leading the effort to make sure that our relationship with them and theirs with the rest of the Middle East is one that is important, that is stabilized, and that it is secure.
Egypt is a critical partner of the U.S. in the Middle East. Egypt is an honest broker with the Palestinians on its issues and on our issues. Egypt is the main protector of Israel, and we need that communication, we need that cooperation. Egypt supports us in the Gaza and the Egyptian border.
Egypt has sent 800 peacekeepers to the Sudan. Egypt also participates in joint exercises with our military. They buy our U.S. military equipment. This is not the time to punish them. No, they are not a democracy like we have. This is the best country in the world. Our democracy is second to none.
But do we penalize our neighbors, sovereign nations, because they are not like us? President Mubarak in the last 12 months has issued many decrees and is about changing how they believe and what they believe in Egypt.
As a result of that, Egypt has seen three bombings, had not seen any in over 10, 15, 20 years. Because it is hard to change from one way of governing, and then come to another. You have people in Egypt rising up against the president and against us too.
It is not time now. The timing is not good for the U.S. to back away from our relationship with Egypt as we help to stabilize that part of the world and remain partners with our country.
Is it possible that some things might not be right? Yes. I would be the first to say that. Are they working to make it better? Yes, they are. Israel needs a strong Egypt. The U.S. needs a strong Egypt. So I implore my colleagues, and I hate to rise any time against my ranking member. I feel so passionately about this that I implore my colleagues to look at what is happening in the world, look at us as our Nation, we are a great Nation, second to none.
Let us not forfeit our partnership with our friends that will destabilize our own country. There was a great act in the Middle East overnight, when one of the terrorists was captured, not only captured but further than that. Do we throw all of that for naught, or do we try to live in a world community where we can live together as brothers and sisters from different nationalities and ethnicities? I contend that Egypt is key in that and that we must continue.
It is not about the money, I must say as I take my seat. The cost of military assistance is phenomenal. The amount that this will deduct from that, it is not about the money; it is about the good will and the partnership.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent for our own security. I contend that Egypt is a partner with us, and we should maintain that bipartisanship, for it is they and us and nations of good will like us that will determine what kind of world your grandchildren will live in. Vote “no” on the amendment.
Mr. PRICE of North Carolina.
Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the Obey amendment, although I have great respect for what my colleague is trying to achieve.
What we are hearing in this debate is two narratives, both of which are important. In the first narrative, we hear that Egypt’s progress toward democratic reform has been far too slow with far too many setbacks; and, my colleagues, that is true.
The Egyptian Government persists in imprisoning political opponents like Ayman Noor. I could add Professor Saad Ibrahim to that list. I worked for several years with colleagues to urge the Egyptian Government to free Mr. Ibrahim, director of an organization in Cairo that promoted democracy and was critical of President Mubarak’s leadership.
Thankfully, Mr. Ibrahim has now been released, but the pattern of imprisoning dissenters continues. These are very real concerns, and I hope the Egyptian Government hears the debate in this Chamber today as a strong alarm signal regarding Egypt’s slow pace of progress.
However, there is a second narrative that is equally compelling. Egypt is one of our most important allies in a troubled region. It has contributed greatly to many efforts critical to our national security, including supporting efforts to stabilize and rebuild Afghanistan; training Iraqi police and troops; helping ensure an orderly withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, including the sending of 750 troops to the Sinai-Gaza border; and policing the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Palestinian territories.
Perhaps most important now, Mr. Chairman, is Egypt’s role as a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Egyptian leaders like General Suleiman have intervened in discussions and negotiations when the U.S. simply cannot do so.
Just this morning, USA Today reported that Egypt had mediated between Fatah and Hamas to secure an agreement under which Hamas will withdraw its 3,000- person militia from *H3541 Gaza and allow it to be folded into the Palestinian security forces.
Egyptian leaders have intervened on several other notable occasions. In an effort to prevent Fatah’s disorganization from enabling a Hamas victory in Palestinian elections, General Suleiman worked with Abu Mazen in December 2005 to try to mediate between splinter parties.
In December 2004, during a period of heavy attacks against Israel, General Suleiman initiated a dialogue with Hamas and the Islamic jihad and other Palestinian militant groups to seek an end to the attacks.
Mr. Chairman, we are facing a critical period in the Middle East. The political crisis caused by Hamas’s victory makes Egyptian mediation more, not less, critical. That is decisive for me. It is a time to build on this second narrative, not to deliver an irresponsible poke in the eye to a critical player at a critical time.
Let me say a few words about the supposed beneficiaries of this amendment. Mr. Obey has cleverly crafted the amendment to distract attention from the cuts to Egypt by directing the money to two causes that many of us believe are of the highest importance, stopping genocide in Darfur and stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS.
I strongly support both of these priorities and would support added funding in this bill for them. However, this amendment does a disservice to those priorities by making them pawns in a political game that is about our support for Egypt, not for support for AIDS and Darfur. I hope we can add funding for efforts to address the AIDS pandemic and the genocide in Darfur, but this amendment is not the responsible way to do it.
Let us not lose sight of the millions of people in the Middle East who are depending on our leadership and our ability to work with Egypt to achieve peace in their troubled region. That is the priority of which we must not lose sight. I urge my colleagues to oppose the Obey amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, what if a member of your family were heading in a direction that was going to cause that person irrevocable harm, a member of your family? Would you stand by and say nothing? Someone you love. Or would you get their attention however you could as subtly as possible but if subtlety does not work then with a little more oomph to get their attention, to get them to change direction because they are going in a destructive direction?
That is what the Obey amendment is about. It is about our friend Egypt, a member of our family, if you will, going in the wrong direction. A friend who we have committed more than $67 billion to, delivered it to them. They have done wonderful things for our national security as well. We are great and good friends, Egypt and the United States, but our friend Egypt is headed in the wrong direction.
Just this past year, President Mubarak’s leading opposition candidate for president was put in jail. Emergency laws which suspend democracy and the rule of law are still in effect. Independent judges have been disciplined for not following in lockstep with what the government says is their agenda. Freedom of the press has been weakened. And just this week, the International Republican Institute, a democracy building program in Egypt that is also funded by our Appropriations Committee, was suspended for criticizing the slow pace of reforms in Egypt.
People around the world, countries around the world, Mr. Chairman, have no hesitation telling us in America when we are moving in the wrong direction. Even in a time of war, other countries who are our friends say, America, you should not do that. You are going in the wrong direction. Well, that is what the Obey amendment does. It says to our friends in Egypt, please, we have tried every subtle way to get your attention, it has not succeeded. We are going to try to get your attention now with this $100 million transfer to two very worthy purposes, by the way, HIV/AIDS relief in Africa and $50 million for Darfur, clearly places where this money will be put to better effect.
Now, again, I view the Egyptian people as honorable and great people, great friends of the United States. I heard somewhere that that somebody said Egypt is defending Israel. By the way, Israel is America’s greatest ally in the Middle East by far and votes with American more than any other country. Egypt unfortunately only votes with us 8 percent. Israel votes with America over 90 percent of the time at the U.N. Israel takes care of itself.
But, Mr. Chairman, we need to send a message to our friend, Egypt, to finally make these changes and show progress this coming year in the rule of law, in respect for democracy and human rights. I support the Obey amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to this amendment and would like to say, first, that I understand that simply by having this debate here today, I think we are sending the appropriate message that needs to be sent to Egypt. And I would point out that already in the bill we rescind $200 million in aid to Egypt, and I think that this particular amendment would be much more punitive than is requisite and needed.
The United States needs to strive to bring reforms to Egypt. We all agree on that. But this is not tough love. This is going over the top in my estimation, and would cause damage for many years in the future if it were to pass. Reducing U.S. aid to Egypt at this time would also be strategically not a good move for the United States. Egypt has facilitated expeditious transit of hundreds of U.S. warships and thousands of U.S. aircraft through the Suez Canal and Egyptian air space since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi freedom.
Egypt has been a close partner. Many of my colleagues before have spoken about that relationship and what it means to the region at such a critical team. So I would urge my colleagues to oppose this amendment because I think it goes just too far.
I thank the gentleman for yielding. I want to correct some statements that were made by previous speakers with regard to the International Republican Institute having been denied the ability to operate in Egypt. I have the privilege of serving on the board of the IRI, and I did speak yesterday to the president of the IRI.
There has been some disagreement, some misunderstanding, I think, really in terms of the registration process for the IRI in Egypt, but it is the belief of the President of the IRI that this is going to be worked out very shortly. But we do not believe it will, in any way, affect the programs of IRI in Egypt.
So I think he would agree, and certainly I would suggest to you that $100 million whack at Egypt over the slowness of registering an organization, an NGO that has engaged in democracy building, is a little bit of an overkill.
That leads me to my larger point, and this has been a bipartisan debate, and we have seen speakers here on both sides of the aisle speaking against this amendment and appreciate my colleagues who have come to the floor to make the points about how important Egypt is as a strategic partner.
That is the bottom line here. Egypt is a strategic partner. Egypt is a country that is in transition as we speak. Everybody knows that we are moving on to a post-Mubarak age. The question is, where do we want to be 10 years from now? Where do we want Egypt to be? Where do we want to be with regard to our relationship with Egypt. I would suggest to you that Egypt which has been since 1979, with the Camp David Accord, the key part of our strategic effort to achieve peace in the Middle East, that this would not be the time, this would not be the way to achieve that, to continue on that path by kicking sand in the face of Egypt.
This is not the right move, Mr. Chairman. This is not the way to go about this. We need to continue this strategic partnership. We need to continue to say to Egypt, we do expect you to reform. We do expect these kinds of political reforms to be made. We will work with you and we will stand with you and we will stand with the people of Egypt to make these reforms. And *H3542 we are glad that you have moved towards the multi-party presidential election. We are glad some of these things are happening. We expect more to be done, but we are not going to achieve that if we do not continue the partnership. If we jerk the rug out from under them, if we take away that partnership, we can hardly expect that to continue.
Last year, I said virtually everything that my good friend is now saying today. The problem is that in the last year they have jailed their main opponents, they have beaten up people who are defending an independent judiciary, they have imposed another round of martial law, and they have continued the very things that are totally opposed to our values.
Now, to me the issue is not whether Egypt is a good friend and a good ally. They obviously are. The question is; Are they going to be around to continue to be that. If they do not change the way they are behaving, they are not going to be succeeded by a moderate government. They are systematically alienating every moderate group in that society, and you are going to wind up with the Muslim Brotherhood running that country unless they wake up before it is too late.
Reclaiming my time, let me conclude by saying that I agree the purposes of this amendment are quite noble and that we as a body and as an institution should be promoting the ideas of reform and we should be intolerant and frustrated, but this amendment goes too far. And we have already taken steps and the mere fact we are having this debate I believe reinforces that message. I urge my colleagues to oppose this amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words. I rise in support of the Obey-Hyde-Lantos amendment.
Mr. Chairman, in years past on this floor and in committee I have noted Egypt’s central role in the Middle East peace efforts and that without those efforts we would have been even further away from peace than we are. That is, I believe, still true today. And clearly Egypt played an important part of Israel’s successful disengagement from Gaza last year, but as central as the Egyptian role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is and as helpful as Egypt has been with ship transits through the Suez and flights over the Suez Canal in support of our efforts in Iraq, in regional peace and security, is not the only agenda that we have with Egypt.
President Bush has called for democratic transformation as a response to the rise of Islamic extremists in the Arab world. In Egypt, the response to that call has been decidedly mixed. Clearly, last year’s presidential elections which for the first time featured more than one candidate on the ballot were a departure from the past practice of an up or down vote on President Mubarak and were a positive step forward. However, the Egyptian parliamentarian elections in December were marred with violence, voter intimidation and allegations of fraud as the ruling party sought to hold not just its majority in the assembly but its overwhelming majority.
While some will point out that a large number of opposition candidates who want seats, the real concern is that so many of them are affiliated with the Muslim brotherhood. No doubt the Egyptian government will look at these results and say again that political reform must proceed slowly.
I would argue that these results are of the government’s own making. It is not democratic reform that produced these results, but the lack of political space for legitimate secular parties to function within Egyptian society. By denying that space, by arresting judges and journalists, by prosecuting legitimate opposition political leaders, by beating demonstrators, by extending the emergency law, the government of Egypt makes more likely the political result that they most fear, a future government of Egypt dominated by radical Islamists.
The choice we have today is to do nothing and hope that with more dialogue and a little more cajoling, that we can get President Mubarak to continue on the path to reform or we can send a clear message that even appreciating how helpful Egypt is on the regional peace and security issues, the Congress will not stand silently by as government thugs beat peaceful demonstrators in the streets of Cairo and with their fists extinguish the hope of a truly moderate, secular democratic future for Egypt.
I thank the gentleman. We were just told this amendment goes too far. The fact is the State Department made phone calls to a number of people here yesterday indicating they would be willing to support this amendment. The only difference was that they wanted $50 million going to added democratization programs rather than going to AIDS. That was the only difference, because the State Department is getting fed up with the conduct that Egypt is demonstrating, and the State Department recognizes that this is a very dangerous slippery slope the Egyptian government is on.
So some may think this amendment goes far, but based on these conversation yesterday, the State Department is not one of them.
Mr. Chairman, I do not think we should regard this as punitive. We should regard this as a signal coming from a friend. Mr. Obey, I think as a lifelong friend of Egypt as am I, would probably as ranking member, or perhaps as chairman, would be the first person to rush to the floor to restore those funds and then some, should Egypt understand this message and rectify its ways and move in a direction that is within its own interests.
Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, I reluctantly rise in support of the Obey amendment and I want my colleagues to know that the decision to support this amendment has not been an easy one for me. I support it out of a deep sense of disappointment and unease with recent actions taken by the Egyptian government.
I returned from Egypt with many of the members of the committee just a couple of weeks ago. Our brief visit there was filled with candid meetings with key Egyptian officials. We heard about Egypt’s support for the Darfur peace process, its pledges of support for a U.N. peacekeeping force.
We heard the fears of Egyptian officials about the prominence of the Muslim Brotherhood, the threats to Egyptian society and industry from terrorism, and that what happened in the Palestinian elections with Hamas could happen to them.
We also heard about the great strides Egypt has made on economic reforms and the difficult reforms still ahead, and we heard about Egypt’s cooperation on the Middle East peace process and Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and on ensuring speedy passage for U.S. military vessels through the Suez Canal.
However, in recent weeks and months, we heard other stories as well, of thousands of riot police being deployed to crush peaceful demonstrations by supporters of judicial independence, of judges being punished for publicly saying that past elections have been rife with fraud, of efforts to quash moderate opposition parties, including through the prosecution, brutal physical abuse and lengthy incarceration of an opposition candidate, of the extension of the sweeping emergency law despite explicit statements that it would not be removed and, most recently, of the termination of democracy-building projects under the auspices of the International Republican Institute simply because IRI’s Cairo director criticized the slow pace of Egyptian reform.
I have such great respect for the chairman and am delighted that he had conversations with the IRI as a board member, and I do hope that there has been a misinterpretation of the public information with that issue, and I do hope it can be straightened out.
I am concerned about these developments, and I just finally came to the conclusion that the U.S. has an obligation to speak out; and to those who say that Egypt is a close ally of the United States and we should deal with these *H3543 issues in private, I believe that we are a close ally, we will remain a close ally. We understand how important the United States-Egyptian relationship is, but I would say that we have dealt with them in private, countless times; but the Mubarak government refuses to acknowledge our messages.
We, as members of the committee, delivered those messages in person. We understand that Egypt is a close, essential, strategic ally which is precisely why we tried to deliver those messages quietly, in private. It did not work. The reports kept appearing. The pictures on CNN when we were even in Egypt kept appearing.
Since 1979, Egypt has received more than $60 billion in military and economic aid from the United States, and I have supported it every time I had the opportunity to vote for that, understanding the importance of Egypt in that very difficult region of the world. This is proof enough of the importance of Egypt’s continued strength, stability, and friendship to the United States.
The Obey amendment is not about devaluing that relationship or causing instability. It is, rather, a strong, unequivocal message that only a friend can deliver, that the way in which the government of Egypt currently approaches its moderate political opposition is simply inexcusable; and for this reason, I do urge my colleagues to support the Obey amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I accompanied the gentlewoman on the delegation to Egypt. Will she acknowledge that we met with Mr. Mubarak, Jr., and that he outlined a roadmap for further constitutional democratization in Egypt that is a positive step and that the gentlewoman was impressed with that? Would she acknowledge that?
Mr. Chairman, reclaiming my time, may I respond to my colleague, I feel strongly that I am not going to tell Mr. Mubarak or his son, with whom we were very impressed, I am not going to tell them whether they should democratize in 1 year, 2 years or 3 years.
The time of the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. Lowey) has expired.
(By unanimous consent, Mrs. Lowey was allowed to proceed for 2 additional minutes.)
Mr. Chairman, in response to my good friend Mr. Wicker, as you well know, we had some very, very solid, powerful dialogue with both President Mubarak and his very impressive son, and we both felt that his words were very strong, very optimistic about the future of the continuance of our relationship and the importance of their role in that region.
I am not even suggesting to my good friend Mr. Wicker that we should tell them they should democratize in 2 years or 3 years. They are living in a tough neighborhood, and they are taking actions that they may think are appropriate in their move towards democratization.
However, I happen to believe, from the bottom of my heart, that those pictures on the camera of 10,000 riot police beating people over the head or the jailing of political opposition for 5 years on forgery charges, and I know we heard that he was not a very good, upstanding citizen, I believe that, however, I am taking this action because of the behavior which I think is inexcusable and because I have confidence that they will continue to move towards the path of democracy.
So I am taking this action not because I am commenting on their slow move towards democracy, but because of the actions that they have taken that I think are inexcusable and, in my judgment, would be problematic if you are moving towards democratic reform.
Mr. Chairman, will the gentlewoman agree that if this Obey amendment passes today, the headline tomorrow in Egypt would be that the United States House has taken a slap at our allies in Egypt and that it might make it harder for moderates in Egypt to continue down that path?
The time of the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. Lowey) has again expired.
(By unanimous consent, Mrs. Lowey was allowed to proceed for 1 additional minute.)
Mr. Chairman, I would hope the headline would emphasize the over $1 billion that we are providing in assistance to Egypt because we acknowledge the very critical role in that region: the critical role they are playing in Darfur; the critical role they are playing in the peace process. And I have confidence that that relationship is so strong that we will continue to work together to make sure that someday, in our lifetime, we will see peace in that region of the world and hopefully it will be based on democratic principles.
I thank my good colleague for your very thoughtful question.
Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas.
Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, one could not help but appreciate the debate that has been carried on this afternoon and particularly the remarks of concern about Egypt’s democratization; and, certainly, the gentleman from Wisconsin and the gentlemen from California and Illinois are individuals that I respect, but I rise this afternoon to again emphasize key elements that we cannot change.
In a letter from Secretary Rice dated the 24th to the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, she said let me first state that our strategic partnership with Egypt is a cornerstone, a cornerstone, of U.S. policy in the Middle East, and the partnership that would continue would be in the U.S. interests.
So although I recognize that this is to, if you will, to say to Egypt that all is not well, I would simply say to my colleagues that this is too important a relationship to create the kind of atmosphere or tone that would say that the alliance between Egypt and the United States has been broken and forever broken.
A few weeks ago, some of us took our passion and our belief to the Sudanese embassy and were arrested, and so of course I have a sense of passion and concern for the dollars that would go to Sudan. But do we realize that Egypt is the first Arab country to support the peace agreement with Darfur that was reached between the government of Sudan and the rebels; that Egypt committed itself to participate in the international forces and post-war reconstruction of Darfur; that just recently Egypt has convinced the government of Khartoum to accept the international peace forces; and that Egypt has increased its participation in the African Union peacekeeping; and that they will welcome the sick and injured from Darfur, including the rebels? They have worked on behalf of this peace agreement.
And then I might say to you that based on mutual agreement between Egypt and the U.S., the ES fund that was allocated is already $40 million less than fiscal year 2006. We have already cut them more than half of the level, cut half of the level of 1998, and particularly this ES fund is targeted for democracy and education. The very complaint that we have will be undermined by the Obey amendment.
I would also say to you that in Secretary Rice’s letter she said again reducing the U.S. assistance would seriously damage our partnership, as well as the broader strategic interests of the United States. Accordingly, we firmly believe, the State Department, that the U.S. assistance to Egypt should continue at the full level requested by the administration.
We frankly have an opportunity to reinforce our friendship. I do not like the incarceration of opposition and the 10,000 police that were, if you will, both misguided and without temperament. They should be chastised, and the Mubarak government has the responsibility to do that. What the world sees, the world believes.
But Egypt is currently undergoing a process of reform. They are undergoing an effort of broadening political participation ensuring freedom of expression. In addition, they recognize that this is a problem with the incarceration of the opposition. I might remind my colleagues that it was a court decision that caused Mr. Noor to be incarcerated.
But nonetheless, any letter to the effect that suggests that this is not the *H3544 right way I will join, but this is not the way to engage in this position. It is true that Egypt is not engaged in active or interactive military conflict as we speak, but there is no doubt that Egypt is a target of terror and terrorism. There is no doubt that they are a strategic body of safety within the region of the Middle East. They are subject to forces of terrorism, militant Islam, and rogue countries that threaten America and Egypt.
I would only ask my colleagues that, yes, it is appropriate to admonish Egypt and to make them realize that we want an encompassing of the ideals of democracy, but having just received the Prime Minister of Israel, they have a relationship with a strong partner of the United States. Let us recognize that Egypt has been a friend; that Egypt’s culture is a culture of great diversity; that Egyptians here in the United States have spent their blood on behalf of freedom of this country; and that the relationship that we have between Egypt and the United States is one to nurture and one to give credence to and one to be able to protect.
Egypt is listening to this debate, and I believe, Mr. Chairman, as they listen to this debate they will correct their ways, but we should not support this amendment. Let us support and nurture the relationship between the United States and Egypt. They are a strategic partner.
Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
In a moment, I would turn to my colleague Mr. Obey in case he has other thoughts to round out his, I think, important case on an important amendment, which I strongly support. The only adjustment that I could possibly suggest would be that some of the money that was of the $100 million be invested in water resources around the world, but I am pleased to step forward.
I am a supporter of the historic agreement that Egypt entered into. I think the $60 billion American taxpayers have invested is justifiable, but I think it is time for us to take a step back and get real. I have listened to the argument that we have heard from a variety of people, including those who have been the most steadfast supporters of Egypt on the floor of this Chamber year after year in terms of patience running thin, in terms of the oppression of people in Egypt, suppression of the democratic process.
I find it a little farfetched to suggest that somehow everything is going to be fine with our relationship with Egypt if we give them $1.75 billion, but if somehow that is scaled down to $1.65 billion that somehow things are going to be upset; that it is a slap in the face; that Egypt is somehow undermined. Who else is going to give them this type of money and provide this type of steadfast support?
It is the wrong use of this money. I think Mr. Obey has suggested higher and better uses. Again, I only wish it was water resources. I think it is an important wake-up call for Egypt, but more important, I think it is an affirmation of our responsibility of how we use these resources to extend our interests in foreign policy. We shouldn’t be trapped in time.
I think Mr. Obey’s amendment is an important step in our exercising our responsibility.
I yield to Mr. Obey if he wanted to elaborate on his defense.
I thank the gentleman. Someone on the other side just said “What will the headline be tomorrow?”; that it will be that there is a slap in the face of the government. That is the point. That is the point.
Our long-term security is tied not just to Mr. Mubarak, but whoever comes after him. And what we are trying to do is to send a message to all levels in Egyptian society that we stand for what we say we stand for, which is a modicum of decency in dealing with your political opponents, absent other trappings of democracy.
And it is important that a lot of people in Egypt besides Mr. Mubarak understand that we are serious about our democratic values, that we are serious about assuming that the country that is more identified with us than any other Arab country, that it is important that they reflect certain norms of decency with respect to the way they treat their population and treat their political opponents.
And it is in the interest of the United States to make sure that every citizen of Egypt understands that, because otherwise, we allow other groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood, to paint caricatures of the United States, which will do us no good in the long run.
I thank the gentleman for the time.
Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
Mr. Chairman, only a few months ago, the Department of State reported on the type of Egypt that would receive more American tax dollars under this bill: ” The government’s respect for human rights remained poor, and serious abuses continued in many areas.” “Security forces killed a number of opposition voters and protestors.” “A systematic pattern of torture by the security forces existed.” “At least seven persons died in custody at police stations or prisons” during 2005. This on top of 120 such deaths in police custody “as a direct result of torture” over the prior decade “among some 420 cases of torture.”
I think Secretary of State Rice was absolutely correct to speak out on democracy in Egypt earlier this year, and she was also correct when she said previously “that for 60 years, it has been the policy of the United States and our allies to turn a blind eye to the absence of freedom in the Middle East.” The only problem is that the commitment of this Administration to democracy promotion is largely determined by its desperate attempt to find more excuses for its other foreign policy failures. And when it comes to Egypt, the Bush administration has merely changed that “blind eye” to a wink.
Yes, just after President Mubarak last month extended emergency rule and dictatorial powers for himself, just after he locked up his electoral opponent, and just as his henchmen were beating peacefully assembled people brutally on the streets of Cairo, Vice President
Cheney winked and accorded Mubarak, Jr. the prestige of a White House meeting. And the Administration advises that President Bush dropped in to say hello to Mubarak, Jr., but briefly because he only wanted to convey his best wishes to Mubarak, Sr.
Well, the Mubarak strategy deserves more than that kind of wink and a nod toward democracy. His strategy has been, from the very beginning, to convince American leaders and American taxpayers to transfer their tax dollars to Egypt because he represents the only alternative to Islamic extremists. And to ensure that his strategy continues to pay dividends, he aggressively suppresses any moderate opposition that emerges.
It is true that he doesn’t boil his opponents alive like Secretary Rumsfeld’s former buddy in Uzbekistan. But to follow the sad path of civic discourse in Egypt is to watch an authoritarian respond to his people’s demand for a more open society with a big stick, with a view that he can beat that spirit out of them with fear and intimidation.
What we need in Egypt, as several people have said on both sides of this debate, what we need is a pragmatic policy, a policy that realizes if we continue to associate ourselves with a corrupt regime, eventually the pressure cooker will explode, and we will have paid to create the very disaster that these dollars are allegedly designed to avoid.
Now is the time to tell President Mubarak, through this amendment, that we have wasted more than enough money propping up tyranny. Ultimately, by approving the Obey-Lantos-Hyde-Green bipartisan amendment, this Congress can say to this latter-day pharoah, “let your Egyptian people go.” Doing that is the best way not only to help the people of Egypt, but also to help American families be safer.
Some have asked about the headline that will likely run about this debate. I will tell you what the headline will be if this amendment is not approved. The headline will be: “We got away with it again.” Clearly, the Egyptian government has not heard the comments given quietly in private during the past. They have paid more attention to the winks they have gotten from this Administration. The only thing they will understand is in dollars and cents and in the votes that are cast for this amendment.
I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan amendment because it will *H3545 not only protect American tax dollars, it will lead to more safety for American families.
Mr. DAVIS of Illinois.
Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of the Obey-Hyde-Lantos-Green amendment to increase disaster assistance funding for Darfur by $50 million and to increase HIV/AIDS assistance by $50 million. In order to pay for this funding, this bipartisan amendment will cut $100 million in economic budget support for Egypt.
Mr. Chairman, when we provide money to any organization or government, we should demand accountability and results in return. However, we have heard over and over again that in just the last year the government of Egypt has imprisoned the leading opposition candidate in their 2005 elections, which were themselves marred by fraud; extended so-called emergency laws despite promises to repeal them, cracked down on pro-democracy groups, harassed and arrested members of the press, and suspended a United States Government funded program to promote democracy. This is simply not acceptable. Perhaps some tough love and leaner times will help refocus the Egyptian government on Democratic reforms.
While our funds are obviously finite, the need for true humanitarian assistance around the world is seemingly infinite. The World Food Program has recently had to cut rations for refugees in the Sudan due to a shortfall in funding. The global HIV/AIDS initiative is funded at $121 million below the President’s request. I am sure that nearly all of us would rather see our taxpayers’ money used to support refugees and children orphaned by AIDS than used to throw dissidents and reporters into Egyptian jails.
Just a day or two ago, I was arrested in front of the Sudanese Embassy as a result of all of the difficulty and the genocide and the instability taking place in Darfur. Certainly a little bit of additional money to help provide resources for those refugees, for those individuals whose lives are disrupted would go a long way. So I urge support for the Obey amendment.
Mr. SMITH of New Jersey.
Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the Obey-Hyde-Lantos amendment because the lifesaving interventions that would be effectuated by the amendment to enhance by $50 million money for PEPFAR and another $50 million to meet the needs for refugees and IDPs in Darfur are compelling.
The money diverted from Egypt, I want to make very clear, will be very well used. I have actually visited camps in Darfur, Mr. Chairman, and they are underfunded. Despite our best efforts and many of the efforts of the international community, people do need more, food, medicines, as well as the shelter and security that ensures that the food and medicines can go to the people.
Let me also point out that the PEPFAR program did not receive in this bill the amount of money that the President had asked for. Some of that money was put into the Global Fund. And I think it is unfortunate that PEPFAR, that has worked so well and is still growing in its capabilities as well as its impact, should be funded at least at the level the President has asked for. This gets us closer to that number.
I recently visited a number of the programs that are funded by PEPFAR in Uganda and saw firsthand how there is behavioral change that is occurring as part of the abstinence, be faithful approach. But especially for those under the age of 30, there is a profound change. The infection rate is dropping dramatically, and has been for a few years now in places like Uganda.
We went out into the bush and into areas where U.S. funded teams are going out two by two to bring the message of health, including testing as well as what needs to be done if one is found to be infected by HIV/AIDS. We also saw that the PEPFAR monies were being used very efficaciously using faith-based initiatives and others to get the antiretroviral drugs to those infected. But clearly, there is not enough medicine available. Whether it be for young people or people who are older, there is just not enough antiretroviral medicine being funded to reach all of those who could get their lives back if indeed that money was there. So this money, at least $50 million of it, will be put there.
Let me also say with regards to Egypt, we all know pursuant to the Camp David agreement, and because of the boycott, the Egyptians did receive significant amounts of money, as they should have, and they do so every year. They continue to do so even if the Obey-Hyde-Lantos language is adopted. But I am very concerned, as someone who spends a great deal of time working on human rights, that there has been a deterioration of human rights in Egypt, Christians and others, the government has not done all it can do to try to mitigate these abuses.
Yes, I like Mubarak. We all like him. He is a very affable and a very effective leader in many ways. But it seems to me much more has to be done on a human rights record that the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices this year again has said is poor, as well as the International Religious Freedom Report with regards to Egypt.
So for all of these reasons, I strongly urge that we support this amendment. It is a good amendment. And, again, we are still, even if this passes, major providers of U.S. taxpayer funds to Egypt, even if this amendment passes. So I urge support of the amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
Friends, it is absolutely true that we need friends in this region, but it is also true that it is not easy to be our friend in the region. It is not easy, first of all, because a lot of folks in that area are not very fond of the United States of America, and Egypt has been an exception and a dear friend in troubling times and in a troubling region.
It is not easy also because, as a friend, we are sometimes rather condescending.
I have listened to some of the language that has been used here. We talk about tough love. Tough love is something you do not do with someone of mutual stature; tough love is something parents do to children. I have heard language like “get their attention.” We have Egypt’s attention. They understand that we care about democracy, but it is presumptuous of us to assume that Egyptians do not care about democracy and human rights as well.
I had the privilege of traveling to Egypt recently with some of my good colleagues. We met with a number of moderates and business leaders who said it would be counterproductive if the House of Representatives seeks to punish Egypt or teach Egypt a lesson by withholding these appropriations. It would be counterproductive. Human rights activists told me that. The reason it would be counterproductive is because Egypt has made a number of reforms that we have asked them to make. They are engaging in economic liberalization. They are engaging in progress towards democracy after thousands of years.
Our own country certainly did not start perfectly. As any African American or woman knows, we passed the Alien and Sedition Acts under John Adams. Our own country had a slow and tortuous progress towards full democratic participation.
Egypt is moving in that direction. If we are condescending and patronizing at this critical time, it will send the wrong message, not the right message.
Egypt has boots on the ground in Darfur helping the refugees. They are operating a field hospital in Afghanistan, treating our own wounded and Afghani civilians. Egypt has been critical to helping negotiate the tense situation with the Palestinian Authority. Egypt has been involved in training the Iraqi troops.
Yes, there are concerns. But goodness gracious, could you not turn on the TV occasionally and see demonstrators clashing with police in our own country? And do we not have other allies in that country and elsewhere on this planet that have treated journalists harshly?
If we expect perfection from our friends or we will punish them or teach them a lesson or engage in tough love, we are going to have precious few friends left in the world. Precious few. We need to treat the Egyptians with the respect their long and proud history deserves. We need to continue to support them with appropriations, and we need to work with them as partners *H3546 with mutual respect and honor in the long tradition that we have established with this great country.
I understand the good motives of the ranking member and the others who have supported this amendment. I understand their intentions and I respect that. I just think it is a strategy that may actually backfire on us in the region, and for that reason I urge rejection of this amendment and we continue to work with the Egyptian Government to encourage and support the many achievements they have made and to support future achievements as they move forward.
That is the message I heard on the ground in Egypt, and I hope my colleagues will share that and reject this amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for this opportunity to support Mr. Kolbe in opposing this amendment to decrease economic support to the government of Egypt.
I think it is important to note that I fully appreciate the concerns raised by the sponsors of this amendment and their commitment to political and human rights reform in Egypt. The imprisonment of Mr. Noor, a presidential candidate, other prisoners of conscience, as well as serious violations of religious freedom, are very serious affronts to human dignity and freedom. I believe that we have a responsibility to raise the issue of reform with the Egyptian Government which the United States has done on numerous occasions and continues to do.
However, it is also important to note that Egypt has borne significant sacrifices for the cause of peace and freedom in the Middle East.
President Sadat paid a very high price for Egypt’s rapprochement with Israel. More recently, Ambassador Ihab al-Sherif paid with his life for daring to defy the foes of peace in Iraq.
When I visited the Sinai as an 18-year-old in the aftermath of the 1973 war, I was struck by the graffiti scrawled on a twisted heap of concrete, a scene so typical throughout the Middle East. The message in Arabic and English read: ” Here was the war. Here is the peace.”
For close to 30 years now, Egypt has stood by a courageous choice, daring to chart a new course. President Sadat could have made another choice. While no government is perfect, this choice has been consistent with a march toward democratic reform. Much is left to do. Many challenges remain. But the loosening of our hand of friendship with Egypt will potentially harm that which this amendment seeks to achieve.
Egypt is one of our most important strategic allies in the Middle East, and a cultural and historical leader of the Arab world. I believe this amendment would achieve nothing short of damaging an important relationship at a critical time.
Mr. AL GREEN of Texas.
Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, I thank God that Members OBEY, HYDE and LANTOS have had the courage to bring this amendment. And I say so because, Mr. Chairman, a human crisis of the highest magnitude exists in Darfur. As we speak, we have had 2.5 million people displaced. Something has got to be done about that. We have had 3 million people put in a position such that they have to exist on emergency assistance. 400,000 people are dead. These are real people; these are real numbers. There is real suffering going on in Darfur.
I do not know what the headlines will read tomorrow in Egypt. I do not know what they are going to read here in my hometown of Houston or here in Washington, D.C., but I know this: at some point on the infinite continuum that we call time, the omniscient, the omnipresent, and the omnipotent will come together and every one of us will have to answer the question: Where were you when there was murder and rape and hunger in Darfur? Where were you when your brothers and your sisters were suffering?
I want to let you know that this is the least we can do for the people of Darfur.
Mr. Chairman, $50 million will go to the World Food Program that needs help. It only has 32 percent of what it needs to meet the demands of this crisis.
Mr. Chairman, we have to ask ourselves the question: If not now, when? When will we give help and aid to those in need?
If not here, where? Where will the help come from?
If not us, who? Who will the help come from?
Mr. Obey, God bless you. You have done the decent thing for people who have been suffering for too long. I thank you for what you have done.
The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Obey).
The question was taken; and the Chairman announced that the noes appeared to have it.
Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.
Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Wisconsin will be postponed.
Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.
Mr. Chairman, I hope in just a moment here that we will be able to have the committee rise and we will have a unanimous consent agreement to propound. But let me say before that moment that I do think this debate that we have just concluded has been a very constructive debate, a very productive one.
As I said in the committee, I hope that our friends in Egypt, whether they are here in the United States or whether they are listening to this abroad, have taken some message from this debate that we have just had on the question of our relationship with Egypt and the support and the strategic partnership which we all recognize as an important one. But I hope the message that our friends in Egypt take from this is that democracy is about this kind of a debate.
In a democracy, you not only allow this kind of debate, you encourage it. What we hope to be able to say to our friends in Egypt is that this debate is an important one, and we have had a very constructive debate that I believe is very important.
Mr. Chairman, I move that the Committee do now rise.
The motion was agreed to.
Accordingly, the Committee rose; and the Speaker pro tempore (Mr.Boozman) having assumed the chair, Mr. Thornberry, Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union, reported that that Committee, having had under consideration the bill (H.R. 5522) making appropriations for foreign operations, export financing, and related programs for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2007, and for other purposes, had come to no resolution thereon.
152 Cong. Rec. H3518-02, 2006 WL 1561584 (Cong.Rec.)