Mr. PITTS. Mr. Chairman, I commend the chairman for his work on these complicated issues but I rise to raise an issue that we just heard about from the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Hoyer) and which we have heard about in past years from the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos). I think the time has come to say enough is enough.
Since 1979 Egypt has been the second largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance. Each year Egypt receives about $2 billion in economic and military aid. The money goes to support our strategic ally in the Middle East. But I think this money is largely misspent today on a nation that refuses change and excuses oppression.
The State Department tells us that Egyptian police routinely use torture to extract confessions and detain suspects without charge or trial. Egyptian authorities harass and imprison opposition party candidates on trumped up charges. The government is engaged in an unwarranted and dangerous military build-up. It oppresses religious minorities. It violates human rights. It obstructs democratic reforms. It censors the media. In fact, the media is controlled by the government there and they permit
a lot of anti-Semitism and hate speech. It continues to arrest Christian converts who leave Islam. I could go on and on.
Egypt is an ally. But we can no longer afford to excuse oppression with the rhetoric of stability and the politics of fear.
We can no longer afford a wholesale subsidizing of such huge violators of basic human rights and basic freedoms.
My amendment would take some of the money that we spend to underwrite the Egyptian military and send it to programs that fight malaria by increasing USAID's Child Survival and Health Account for other infectious diseases, particularly malaria. Malaria kills as many as 3 million people each year. Up to 90 percent of these deaths occur in Africa and 90 percent are children under the age of 5. And though it is difficult to accurately assess the scale of the disease, the WHO estimates that 40 percent
of the world's population is at risk of malaria, and there are between 350 and 500 million clinical cases every year.
Malaria disproportionately affects the poor. Fifty-eight percent of malaria deaths occur in the poorest 20 percent of the world's population, a higher percentage than for any other disease of major public health importance.
Reducing Egypt's military subsidy by $750 million will serve to send a strong message. Money sent to a nation, even a strong ally like Egypt, that refuses to make the necessary political, democratic and human rights reforms should be redirected to a place that better represents our values. In this case I can think of no better use for this funding than to treat and prevent malaria in Africa.
According to the CBO, this transfer will result in a savings of $400 million in FY 2006 in net outlays. A vote for this amendment is a vote for more responsible Federal spending. It is a vote for American values. It is a vote for kids. It is a vote against the status quo of Egypt's dictatorship.
Mr. KOLBE. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment. Mr. Chairman, I do rise in strong opposition to this amendment. Our assistance to Egypt has been longstanding and Egypt remains an important ally in the Middle East.
I would be among the first in this body to admit my concerns about Egypt's actions or sometimes their lack of actions when it comes to building programs of democracy in that country. And we have had a lot of discussion at both the subcommittee and full committee levels regarding ways to address these concerns.
I accept the amendment offered by the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Obey) to fence $100 million of our economic assistance to Egypt and to put an earmark around those or to fence it so they could be used specifically for democracy and education programs. That is the first time that we have ever done that in this earmark for Egypt.
I think that sends a very strong message to Egypt. So this amendment, however well-intentioned, is not going to be constructive.
The relationship that we have with Egypt goes back 2 decades. We should not forget that prior to the Camp David agreement Egypt and Israel engaged in several wars and Egypt was an ally of the Soviet Union. That changed when President Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Begin negotiated a peace agreement in 1978 with the help of the United States.
As part of that agreement and in an effort to bring stability and security to the region, the United States agreed to provide major economic and military assistance packages for both Israel and Egypt. Six years ago, the Committee on Appropriations under the leadership of my predecessor, former Congressman Sonny Callahan, initiated a policy to begin a phase-down of economic assistance for both Israel and Egypt. This resulted in a decision to phase out Israel's economic assistance by $120 million
per year over 10 years, while increasing military assistance by $60 million. Egypt's economic assistance declines $40 million per year with no increase in military assistance.
The agreement reached 6 years ago modifying the Camp David funding formula was agreed to by the parties involved, including the administration. An amendment that would help to impose a new funding regime, a new funding formula on this money, this carefully balanced money that goes to the partners in the Camp David accords, not as a result of any discussion or negotiations with them, but by unilateral action by this body, would undo the delicate balance of economic and military assistance and
would be diplomatically disastrous for the United States.
It would not be wise for Congress to disrupt any cooperation that exists between Israel and Egypt by cutting the military assistance to Egypt; and I can assure my colleagues, this is certainly not supported, though I do not speak for them, I feel quite certain in saying this is not supported by the Government of Israel.
Mrs. LOWEY. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, the gentleman raises important issues. For the last several years, I have joined many of my colleagues in expressing concern about the composition of the U.S. aid package to Egypt. Why, at a time when Egypt has no major enemies, should we be providing over $1 billion each year in military assistance? Why, when Egypt lacks economic prosperity, should we maintain such a high level of military aid even as economic assistance levels drop?
In Cairo last week, Secretary of State Rice announced a new commitment to human rights in the Arab world, imploring the Egyptian Government to hold free and transparent elections and end human rights abuses, and I was very pleased to hear her remarks. For too long, we have coddled undemocratic regimes, looking the other way as democracy and freedom have been stifled.
Despite President Mubarak's pronouncements to the contrary, Egypt is a hotbed neither of democratic reform nor respect for the rights of the opposition.
In late May, members of the Egyptian movement Kifaya, which means ``enough'' in Arabic, were beaten and dragged through the street by a government-organized mob. Police stood by as women were sexually assaulted; and in some cases, police actively participated in beating and arresting protesters. What radical agenda does Kifaya have? Free, fair, and transparent elections.
Or consider the case of Ayman Nour, leader of a small Egyptian opposition party, who was jailed on charges of faking signatures to form his party. In the weeks leading up to his arrest, Nour had called for a constitutional overhaul to restrain Mubarak's powers. [Page: H5299]
Nour spent 42 days in prison being beaten and held under inhumane conditions and is awaiting a trial that will start next week.
The Egyptian record on human rights is rivaled by its record on incitement in the media. Even as diplomatic relations between Israel and Egypt continue to progress, with the recent return of Egypt's ambassador to Israel, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic attacks in the official Egyptian media persist, with claims of Holocaust exaggeration, Zionist-Nazi collaboration, and anti-Semitic canards.
The amendment sends the message that the status quo is not okay. Baby steps toward political reform are unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated. Tepid efforts to stop smuggling along Egypt's border with Gaza are not enough. Disclaimers that the Egyptian press is free and cannot be influenced by the government will not be believed.
The tide in the Middle East is turning toward democracy and freedom, toward rights for women and educational opportunities for children. The tide is turning toward peace between Israel and its neighbors, toward economic cooperation and coexistence.
Egypt has been part of this turning tide. It was the first Arab country to make peace with Israel, and it is a needed partner in closing any peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. But too often we have seen this powerful player in regional affairs place stumbling blocks in front of progress instead of easing the way.
We know Egypt is listening to our debate today. A lot is at stake. So the one message I have is this: great nations recognize when the changing times will leave them behind, and they stay ahead of the curve. I hope we will see the pace of reform quicken and the quality of cooperation increase in the coming weeks and months.
Mr. OBEY. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.
Mr. Chairman, as this amendment is considered, I think it would be useful to remember what the committee has done with respect to our assistance to Egypt. As the gentleman from Arizona has indicated, the committee adopted an amendment offered by me which earmarked ESF funds for Egypt, doubling the amounts spent on democracy, governance, and human rights and providing additional funding for education within that account.
The amendment earmarked $50 million in ESF for democracy, governance, and human rights and $50 million for education. Both categories were projected at about $25 million in the administration request. So this essentially doubles that amount.
The reason for that has already been stated. We were looking for a way to send a clear signal to Egypt that we find their human rights record to be an embarrassment without thoroughly upsetting the administration's ability to continue to negotiate in that region, to try to move what is left of the peace process forward.
I have no idea whether the administration will be sufficiently serious about the issue. I have no idea whether or not they will be successful if they are serious, but I do just want to say one thing. I think every Member of this House would like to be able to vote for this amendment because we like where the money would be put; but we also have a responsibility, regardless of party, to try to see to it that in the attempt to send messages we do not blow things up in different regions of the world.
So I have absolutely no doubt that this amendment would produce a most irresponsible result in the region, but I think it will be interesting to note who supports the administration's position on this roll call and who does not. I intend, for one, to watch very carefully to see whether or not the leadership of the President's own party is going to be sticking with the President or not, and whether they do or not will send an interesting signal to those of us on this side of the aisle.
Mr. LEWIS of California. Mr. Chairman, I very much appreciate my colleague yielding.
Indeed, this issue was discussed extensively in our full committee. There is little doubt that the committee, in a totally nonpartisan way, is interested in sending this message; and we are laying the foundation here to reflect the reality that America is at its best when we express ourselves overseas in as close to a bipartisan way as possible.
I must compliment the gentleman for his own statement at this time, but also in the full committee. I think we laid the foundation to let people in the Middle East know how serious we are about a clear message, and this message will be carried forward to the conference with other body as well.
So I appreciate my colleague yielding.
Mr. OBEY. Mr. Chairman, if I could just say, I would be most curious to know what the administration is clearly saying on this subject. I have just received a message which indicates that the administration is pleased with the language in the committee bill. I hope that they continue to clarify their position to make clear exactly where they stand on this amendment. If they do not, they will be the ones who have to explain the consequences.