Fair Game Overtime: Sanders and Welch on Egyptian Aid | Off Message

Fair Game Overtime: Sanders and Welch on Egyptian Aid

Sanders says he believes an Egyptian coup was, in fact, a coup, but he won't say whether he believes the U.S. should withdraw aid.

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As we wrote in this week's Fair Game, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) believes U.S. law clearly states that foreign aid "is cut off when a democratically elected government is deposed by military coup or decree." And, according to spokesman David Carle, he believes the toppling of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi last week constitutes a coup.

But asked whether that means Leahy believes the U.S. should cut off $1.3 billion in annual aid to the Egyptian military, Carle wasn't quite so clear.

"It's a fluid situation at the moment and he understands the Administration wanting to wait for some clarity," Carle told us. "The situation in Cairo is cloudy, but the law itself is clear."

We focused on Leahy's stance in the column because the guy plays a central role in the debate: As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs (phew, now that's a name!), he writes the budget for U.S. foreign aid programs.

But where does the rest of Vermont's congressional delegation stand?

Congressman Peter Welch's (D-Vt.) position is pretty straightforward.

"The Egyptian military removed from office the democratically elected — if failed — leader of Egypt," he said in a written statement. "By any definition of the word, this was a coup and it appears, under current law, that future American assistance to Egypt is prohibited."

As for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), his answer to our first question — whether Morsi's toppling constituted a coup — was crystal clear.

"Yes," he said in a written response. "When the military overthrows a democratically-elected government it is called a coup."

But asked in a follow-up email whether that means the U.S. should withdraw its aid to Egypt, as the law stipulates, Sanders declined to answer.

"I'm not sure we're going to have any more at this point," Sanders' spokesman, Michael Briggs, responded.

Oh. Okay.

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