Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 13, 2016

Congressman Seeks to Cut Egypt Aid After Press Crackdown

Schiff, left, and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., arrive for the House Armed Services Committee and House Intelligence Committee joint closed briefing on Syria in the Capitol Visitor Center in September. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Schiff, left, and Peter King, R-N.Y., arrive for the House Armed Services Committee and House Intelligence Committee joint closed briefing on Syria in the Capitol Visitor Center in September. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 6:05 p.m. When the House Appropriations Committee goes to vote Tuesday on the annual funding bill for the State Department and foreign aid, a member of the panel will try to chop and reorganize Egypt aid, after the country handed down jail sentences Monday for three reporters.

The seven-year sentences for the Al Jazeera reporters on terrorism charges have been met with international outrage, with the White House and Secretary of State John Kerry both criticizing the court decision.

One of the U.S. lawmakers who released a statement chastising Egypt over the decision was Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., who co-chairs the Congressional Caucus for the Freedom of the Press. The decision was “absolutely unacceptable,” he said.

“Being a journalist should never be considered a crime and reporters must be allowed to report the news, regardless of whether the government agrees with their editorial decisions or not.  Journalism should be celebrated as an expression of a country’s devotion to freedom of information and democracy, and this is not the way a democracy, or even a country in transition back to a democracy, should act.”

According to the congressman’s office, when the Appropriations Committee takes up the spending bill Tuesday, Schiff will offer an amendment that “would cut and restructure American aid to Egypt – slicing nearly a third from the security assistance package that is currently the centerpiece of that aid and putting much of the savings into economic assistance, including enhanced support for education, democracy and civil society programs, assistance for independent media and targeted aid for the Sinai peninsula.”

Under the bill, Egypt would be slated to receive $1.3 billion in military aid and $250 million in economic assistance.

(For subscribers, Jonathan Broder spelled out the overall picture on the Hill for Egypt aid under both the House and Senate spending bills, including the conditions attached to receiving it and what appropriators expect from President Barack Obama on Egypt.)

Update — Rep. Schiff commented on his amendment:

“The conviction of the Al Jazeera English journalists is one of a string of disturbing signs that Egypt is not undergoing the hoped-for and promised reforms, and is backsliding towards a reprise of the Mubarak era – when Islamists were repressed and secular opponents crushed underfoot.  Egypt is too important to the region and to the world for the United States to stand idly by.  The amendment I will offer tomorrow will give Egypt the incentives it apparently needs to return to the democratic path.”

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