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Calls grow in Congress to reconsider Egypt aid

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Calls are growing in Congress to reconsider U.S. aid to Egypt.

Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the chairwoman of the foreign operations subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, said Tuesday that a recent crackdown in Egypt on pro-democracy groups "calls into serious question their commitment to democracy and their partnership with the United States."

Referring  to the Egyptian government’s prosecution of American and local pro-democracy workers, including Sam LaHood, the son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, she added, "Not one more dollar should flow to the government of Egypt until the secretary of state can assure the American people that this issue is resolved.”

On Monday, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said the United States should “re-evaluate the status of our bilateral relationship” with Egypt.

Cardin, who chairs the Senate subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, said in a statement that "this is not the way an ally should be treated” and called for the re-evaluation of the relationship with Egypt during its democratic “transition period.”

Egypt, which elected a new parliamentary government last month with the Muslim Brotherhood-sponsored Freedom and Justice Party claiming a majority, is continuing its democratic transition from the stewardship of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement Tuesday that the Egyptian government’s recent actions "warrant punitive actions against certain Egyptian officials and consideration of a cutoff of U.S. assistance to Egypt."

Ros-Lehtinen said that "the Egyptian government must immediately return all assets and funds seized in the raids to the NGOs, and allow them to reopen their offices. It must also end the politically motivated investigations and prosecutions of these NGOs and end the media campaign against them."

Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the senior Democrat on the same committee, stopped short of calling for a cut in assistance, but said the prosecution of the aid workers was "intolerable."

"Egypt must walk itself back from this dangerous precipice," he said in a statement.

The United States provides roughly $1.5 billion in foreign assistance to the Egyptian government. Congress passed the foreign assistance for Egypt at the end of 2011 with several restrictions in place that could allow for the aid’s suspension if Egypt was not taking particular steps to ensure democracy in the country.

The assistance dates from Egypt’s 1979 peace accord with Israel and is conditional on its observance.

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