WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives on Tuesday advanced legislation aimed at pressuring Egypt to improve its human rights record by withholding some military aid until progress is made.This appears for now to be essentially a threat, albeit a highly symbolic one:
The House Appropriations Committee approved a wide-ranging foreign aid bill for next year that would hold back $200 million in military funds for Egypt until the close U.S. ally takes steps to curb police abuses, reform its judicial system and stop weapons smuggling from Egypt to Gaza.
"The $200 million cut is substantial," said Rep. James Moran (news, bio, voting record), a Virginia Democrat on the House panel. "Our ally is not upholding the principles that define us."I was in Washington a few weeks ago and interviewed several Egypt-watchers there -- including administration officials -- who did not think this would happen, and hence I tend to see this as a threat that is unlikely to actually be implemented. I have also received the same impression from Congressional staffers and other senior American officials I've recently spoken to on the subject. More on this in the morning...
Rep. Nita Lowey (news, bio, voting record), a New York Democrat who will steer the foreign aid bill through the House, said she hoped Egypt would quickly get the message from Congress and make progress on human rights matters before lawmakers finish work on the legislation later this year.