WASHINGTON – The chairwoman of the House committee that oversees foreign aid is blocking $450 million in U.S. assistance to Egypt.
Rep. Kay Granger, a Republican, said Friday that the State Department had notified Congress of plans to transfer the money to the new government of President Mohammed Morsi, a move that Granger said she would stop.
"This proposal comes to Congress at a point when the U.S.-Egypt relationship has never been under more scrutiny, and rightly so," the chairwoman of the Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations said in a statement. "I am not convinced of the urgent need for this assistance and I cannot support it at this time. ... I have placed a hold on these funds."
The relationship between the United States and Egypt has been rocky since the overthrow of U.S. ally President Hosni Mubarak last year. The Egyptian government angered Washington when it cracked down on numerous democracy advocates and groups, including three U.S.-funded nongovernmental organizations, earlier this year.
More recently, demonstrators breached the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to protest an anti-Islam video, and some in Congress have called for cutting off aid. The United States provides Egypt with $1.55 billion annually -- $250 million in economic aid and $1.3 billion in military aid. The cash transfer came from money that had already been appropriated.
A senior State Department official said the United States remains committed to a democratic transition in Egypt and still sees support for economic growth as a vital way to protect peace and security. The official said the administration would work with Congress in the next days and weeks to make the case that the budget is in U.S. interests.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the individual was not authorized to speak publicly about ongoing negotiations with Congress.
Last December, Congress made foreign assistance to Egypt, including the military financing, contingent on a determination that the government "is supporting the transition to civilian government including holding free and fair elections; implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association, and religion and due process of law."