WASHINGTON — The Senate last week killed an effort to end U.S. funding for Egypt until democracy is restored, following a military action last month that unseated the country’s unpopular president.
An amendment by. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., would have redirected $1.5 billion in aid for bridge repairs and highway construction in the United States.
“Do you care about repairing American infrastructure or do you care more about sending money to a dictatorship in Egypt?” Paul said during debate. He said President Barack Obama has declined to trigger a law that requires U.S. military aid to be withheld from countries that overthrow an elected government.
The amendment, Paul said, “is just obeying the law.”
The amendment drew opposition from both parties.
“It might make us feel good, at least for a moment, but in the long run it would threaten to undermine vital national security interests and set back our values,” said Rep. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said pulling aid from Egypt would diminish U.S. influence in the Middle East, threatening its major ally, Israel.
“If Egypt goes, the entire region blows up,” added Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. U.S. financial withdrawal that leads to further chaos in Egypt “would be the biggest boost to radical Islam I could think of.”
The Paul amendment was tabled, 86-13. Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., voted against the amendment.
GOP bills tighten reins on government
The Republican-controlled House passed several bills to pull the reins on the government. They were unlikely to be taken up by the Democrat-controlled Senate, and the White House said they would be vetoed in any case.
Voting 232-183, lawmakers passed legislation to require federal agencies to obtain congressional approval before enforcing “major rules,” defined as ones that are likely to cost more than $50 million or would have “adverse” economic impact.
The bill would give Congress “a much-needed tool to check the one-way cost ratchet” coming from the Obama administration, said Rep. Robert Goodlatte, R-Va.
Democrats said waiting for Congress to act essentially means no regulations would ever go into effect, including rules designed to improve health and safety.
Reps. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock and Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro voted for the bill.
The House also passed a bill to block the Internal Revenue Service from playing a role in enforcing the new health care law. The vote on the Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act was 232-185.
Beginning next year, the IRS under the law will enforce the rule that most individuals must have health insurance, levying fines on people who don’t. But critics say the agency, which earlier this year acknowledged subjecting conservative groups seeking nonprofit status to detailed investigations, can’t be trusted.
Democrats said the bill, destined to be ignored by the Senate, was a waste of time. It marked the 40th vote Republicans have called in an effort to kill or delay full rollout of the health care law.
Womack, Cotton, Griffin and Crawford voted for the bill.