Remember, months ago, how the story of whether the U.S. would call the military takeover of the Egyptian government a coup or not was a big story? Some members of Congress are apparently hoping that you don't, as the House and Senate prepare to release a spending bill that will restore aid funding to the interim Egyptian government. That's despite continued repression of opposition groups in the country, and the U.S's decision months ago to suspend that aid until "credible progress" was made towards an inclusive democracy in the country.
The news, first reported by the Daily Beast, comes days before the country is set to vote on a constitutional referendum. According to Human Rights Watch, at least seven activists in the country have been handed criminal charges, apparently just for attempting to hang posters urging Egyptians to vote against the military-backed proposal.
Apparently, the White House has been asking Congress to restore funding to Egypt for awhile, despite little evidence that the country is progressing toward democratic rule. If anything, the military crackdown on supporters of deposed former president Mohammed Morsi has crystalized. The military-supported interim government declared Morsi's party, the Muslim Brotherhood, to be a terrorist group late in December.
The Daily Beast got an advance look at the portion of the bill that pertains to Egypt aid. It would allow President Obama to give $250 million to the Egyptian government in economic support, along with $1.3 billion of support to the military, handed out in two payments. There are conditions in place, as the Beast explains:
The president must certify that Egypt is “sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States,” and “meeting its obligations under the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.”...Secretary of State John Kerry would have to certify “that a newly elected Government of Egypt is taking steps to govern democratically and implement economic reforms,” according to the text of the legislation. Kerry would also have to submit a comprehensive, multi-year strategic review of military assistance to Egypt and report back to Congress on the trials of former Egyptian leaders such as Morsi.
The bill would also make it easier for the Obama administration to work around a standing requirement that the U.S. withdraw its aid from any military responsible for a coup. The administration has handled this by basically declining to decide whether the military overthrow of Morsi's government was a coup, while suspending much of the aid it provides to the country anyway. The bill, according to sources speaking to the Daily Beast and to CNN, could very well contain a provision allowing the administration to bypass the coup requirement in the future.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a bill that would allow the U.S. to restore some aid to Egypt in December. Today's measure might be similar to that proposal, as CNN's reporting seems to imply. Or, as the Beast reported, it could be an entirely separate measure. According to the Daily Beast, the new measure is the result of White House negotiations with "key House and Senate offices," along with lobbying from "Elements of the pro-Israel lobby."