By Paul Richter
1:05 PM EDT, July 31, 2013
WASHINGTON -- An effort by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to cut off $1.5 billion in U.S. aid to Egypt failed on a vote of 86-13 in the Senate on Wednesday, indicating continued broad support for the argument that the United States will have more leverage over Egypt’s military government by keeping the cash flowing.
Paul, a longtime foe of foreign aid, argued that the U.S. should not be spending money abroad when America’s cities, including Detroit, are crumbling. His proposal won the vote of Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and 11 others among the Senate’s most conservative members, including Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Charles Grassley of Iowa.
Some human rights advocates have also called for a halt to aid, but none of the Senate liberals who typically back human rights causes joined Paul.
Opponents of the amendment argued that, despite the Egyptian military’s bloody treatment of the Islamist opposition, ties with the military are essential for preserving U.S. strategic interests in the region and will enable U.S. officials to push Egypt's generals toward a more moderate course domestically. Opponents also emphasized that Israel strongly favors continuation of the aid to Egypt.
“If you have any feelings at all for our good friends, our best friends in the Middle East -- that’s Israel -- then you can’t consider this amendment,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.).
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was one of the first senators to call for a suspension of aid to Egypt earlier in the month. But in the floor debate, McCain said Wednesday that a cutoff would hurt Israel.
The Obama administration has strongly opposed cutting off aid, although it has held up delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Egypt last week to signal its disapproval of the military’s harsh treatment of protesters.
Proposals to cut off foreign aid generally have strong public support. But proposals to halt aid to Egypt have consistently done poorly. Last year another Paul proposal to cut off aid failed by a vote of 81-10.
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