Congress appeared divided Sunday over suspending U.S. aid to Egypt after its elected leader was overthrown, amid calls to cut off support on the grounds President Mohammed Morsi was removed in a military coup.
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has led the call to suspend the $1.5 billion in annual aid to Egypt, citing long-standing U.S. law that funds be cut off when an elected president is removed in a military coup.
"It was a coup," he said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation," restating comments similar to those he first made Friday. "Reluctantly, I believe we have to suspend aid, until free and fair election."
Later in the day, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker said the United States should first focus on trying to restore calm in Egypt, where street demonstrations and clashes between members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood political party and Morsi opponents over the past several weeks have resulted in at least 36 deaths.
“Our role right now should be one of applying calm,” Corker, the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told “Fox News Sunday.”
He also urged Muslim Brotherhood members to “show some responsibility” in reacting to their leader being removed from power last week.
Sen. Jack Reed, D- R.I., agreed with Corker later on the show.
“We have to be a force of stability,” he said.
The Obama administration has not taken sides in the power struggle. Officials ordered a review of U.S. aid on Wednesday, the day the Egyptian military removed Morsi, but they have stopped short of calling the move a "coup.”
Corker said some of the money goes toward long-standing treaties and that he didn’t think immediately cutting off aid is the best strategy.
“We’ll have plenty of time to assess that,” he said.
Reed said he didn’t think cutting off aid would help.
“We have to be very, very careful," he said.
McCain received support Sunday from congressional Republican and Democrat, despite Mohamed Tawfik, Egypt’s ambassador to the United States, emphatically telling ABC’s “This Week” that a military coup had “absolutely not” taken place when Morsi was removed, then replaced with Adly Mansour.
California Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff told Fox’s “America’s News Headquarters” that Morsi’s removal was a “popular” coup, but it also was a military one, as McCain has suggested.
Florida Republican Rep. Trey Radel said on the show that he also “agrees with Senator McCain and Representative Schiff” and that aid should be suspended until specific conditions are met, including the establishment of elections and a free press.