Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013—Motion to Proceed—Continuedby Senator Marco Rubio
Posted on 2013-03-12
RUBIO. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order
for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Ms. Warren). Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. RUBIO. Madam President, I rise today to speak about an amendment to the pending matter, an amendment I intend to file when it becomes procedurally appropriate to do so.
The amendment I intend to file is about foreign aid to the nation of Egypt. But let me start by talking about foreign aid in general because there is a lot of debate about that and a lot of concern around the country about foreign aid. In fact, a lot of places I go people ask me: With things so tough here in the United States, why do we give money to other countries? Why are we giving money to other countries? That is a very good question to ask. First, I would say, and I would caution people, that foreign aid is not 20 percent of our budget. It is not 30 percent of our budget. It is actually, on some days, less than 1 to 3 percent of our total budget.
Secondly, I would say that foreign aid has a very useful role. Just to set the table, I think people need to understand that our foreign aid has accomplished a tremendous amount of good around the world. For example, the USAID programs to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa has helped save millions of people. Millions of people are alive today because of the generosity of the American taxpayer.
It has helped to alleviate poverty. I think you should look at some of the great examples of foreign aid like the Marshall Plan or the work we undertook to rebuild Japan and the alliances we have today as a result.
One of the great stories of foreign aid is South Korea, a nation that was long a beneficiary of foreign aid--and not just from the United States but from the world--and today it is a donor in many of these forums.
So that is the good news about foreign aid--and foreign aid is important because it increases our influence. It is part of how we can influence what is increasingly a global economy. I think it is important to understand when people talk about the American economy, we don't just live in a national economy anymore. We live in a world where, increasingly, things that happen to you on a daily basis--the price of things that you are buying--some of these things are set halfway around the world not just halfway down the street or halfway across the city. So foreign aid is important because it deals with America's influence around the world and, in particular, our ability to influence things toward our national interests.
Foreign aid is not charity. Although it may be charitable, and although it may be motivated by us and our efforts to advance our principles and the things we think are right, foreign aid is not charity. Foreign aid is designed to further our national interests. That means every single dime we give in foreign aid should be conditioned toward our national interests, should be about furthering our national interests. And I think that is true all over the world, everywhere we give it, whether it is military aid or economic aid.
I think today we have one example of a place where we should start to examine how we give our foreign aid and examine it in a way that allows us to maximize our national interests. That country I want to talk about today is Egypt, and there is a lot of concerning things happening in Egypt.
We have all been witness to the amazing Arab spring and all the changes that it brought about to the region, potentially democracy, et cetera. And Egypt, obviously, has been a prime example of that, a country where all this has been occurring. It has brought to power a government that largely is governed today by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Here is the good news. The good news is these changes have occurred, and, theoretically, there is a more open society. The bad news is some of the people who have been brought to power bring with them an ideology that at times is troubling and, in fact, in practice has been deeply troubling.
For example, we have seen efforts in Egypt to undermine democratic institutions. We have seen efforts in Egypt to undermine the judiciary. We have seen open examples in Egypt of the freedom of religion being undermined. We have seen women and women's rights regress. We have seen irresponsible economic behavior in Egypt. And we can talk about the causes of all this, but this is the reality of what is going on in Egypt.
In addition to that, we should be deeply concerned about Egypt's ability or willingness to live up to their security arrangements with their neighbors, particularly our strong allies in Israel. They have a commitment they made years ago to securing the Sinai, to preventing weapons and terrorists and others from crossing through the Sinai and into the Gaza Strip and into Israel. This is a commitment and an obligation they have, and we should be [[Page S1694]] concerned about their unwillingness or inability, or both, to live up to these commitments.
So what I am asking for in this amendment is for us to reexamine the way we give foreign aid to Egypt, not to get rid of it because there is a real danger that we can start to lose some of these foreign aid programs. The American people are fed up with story after story of countries that are benefiting from our generosity, and then they open the newspaper and they read inflammatory comments that are made about us. They open the newspaper or turn on cable television, and they see reports from these countries where democracy is being undermined, where the rights of women are being trampled, where religious minorities are being persecuted, and they have a right to ask: Why are we giving so much money to these countries? We actually have a record in Egypt of working very closely with their military organizations, and we hope that can continue. But we also want to ensure that Egypt continues to move toward a direction of true democracy.
Democracy is not just having elections. Having elections is one part of democracy. You have to govern like a democrat. You have to govern in an open process where you allow people to speak out, opposition parties to organize, have a court system that doesn't skew things in your favor and against the opposition. You don't just have to have elections to have a democracy; you need a lot more than that.
We saw last week where former Senator Kerry, now Secretary of State, awarded a sum--by the way, we have given over $70 billion of aid to Egypt since the 1940s. That is not an insignificant sum. But we look now at the $250 million in aid they received last week, and I believe that was unfortunate.
We have significant interests in ensuring that Egypt remains at peace with Israel, that the Morsi government does not undermine the democratic process, and that human and political rights of all Egyptians--including that of religious minorities and women--are respected, and our foreign aid should reflect that.
So what this amendment which I intend to propose does is a few things. Let me begin by saying this is not about canceling foreign aid to Egypt per se. This is about restructuring it in a way that lines up with the national interests of the taxpayers of the United States of America. I will have more to say about this amendment when the appropriate time to file it comes up, but let me just briefly describe it, and I hope to gain support from my colleagues and the public at large.
First, it would block the disbursement of additional economic support funds and new--not the existing but new--foreign military financing contracts until Egypt begins to enact economic reforms and the administration certifies that Egypt has done a few of the following: It has adopted and implemented legal reforms which protect the political, the economic, and religious freedoms; it is not acting to restrict the political, economic, and religious freedoms and human rights of the citizens and residents of Egypt; it is continuing to demonstrate a commitment to free and fair elections and is not taking any steps to interfere with or undermine the credibility of such elections.
Another condition is that it has lifted restrictions in law and practice on the work and the funding of Egyptian and international NGOs--nongovernmental organizations--comprising those in human rights and democracy fields. Those include the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, and Freedom House; that it is fully implementing the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty; that it is taking all the necessary actions to eliminate smuggling networks and to detect and destroy tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip--tunnels that are used to smuggle weapons and terrorists into the Gaza Strip-- and is taking all other necessary actions to combat terrorism in an increasingly ungovernable space of the Sinai.
The second thing it does is it begins to recalibrate the U.S.- Egyptian security relationship toward Egypt's actual security needs.
Now, let me say this: It does not appear--and I don't know of anyone who would disagree with this--that Egypt has any imminent threat of being invaded by any one of their neighbors. It is not going to happen. Egypt's real security needs are its ability, No. 1, to live up to its obligations to stamp out terrorism within its borders and, in particular, to secure the Sinai, to close those tunnels that lead to Gaza. But the second security need it has is internal--in particular, street crime.
One of the ways Egypt is going to be able to rebuild its economy is through tourism, and I am not a tourism expert, but I think muggings, murder, and kidnappings are not good for tourism. People don't usually visit countries where these things are happening. This is the actual aid that Egypt needs in terms of its security.
It doesn't need tanks, it doesn't need jet fighters. It is not going to be invaded by a foreign country. That is not its real threat. I understand their desire to have those things--and, by the way, there are existing contracts to give them those things. But their real security needs are largely internal, and we want to recalibrate our military aid in the future to Egypt to meet their actual needs.
To that end, the amendment would require an analysis of Egypt's security requirements, produced by the Department of Defense in consultation with the Egyptian Government, and to be shared with the relevant congressional committees both in the House and the Senate. We also want the administration to certify that the Department of Defense has allocated a portion of Egypt's foreign military financing--no less than $100 million--toward counterterrorism tools, including the equipment and training related to border security, and to address the instability in the Sinai.
We also want a report on all FMF contracts the Department of Defense has carried out over the last 10 years, as well as the Department's plans for contracting over the next decade. I think it is wise to look at what we have done in the past, to fully understand the contributions the American taxpayer has made to Egypt's security in the past. But we also need to see the contracts that are pending move forward. All of these need to be aligned so we can ensure the aid we are giving them isn't just what they want, but it, in fact, is what they need, within the confines of what is in our national security and in our national interests because, once again, this is our money.
We should begin to shift U.S. assistance away from military programs and increasingly toward civilian assistance. So what this amendment would do is require the administration to begin a dialogue with the Egyptian Government and with the Egyptian civil society about the need to rebalance our system away from its current, almost obsessive focus on military aid by reallocating economic funds not provided to Egypt during periods when certification is not in effect toward democracy and governance programs, including direct support for secular, democratic, nongovernmental organizations, as well as programming and support for rule of law and human rights, good governance, political competition, consensus building, and civil society.
We should look at transferring the interest earned in Egypt's account. They have an account where this money sits when we give them this aid. Those accounts have a lot of money and generate a lot of interest. We should be able to take that interest that is generated from these funds and make it available and allocate these funds for democracy and for governance efforts.
Last but not least, we should require the President to submit a report to the Congress describing the specific results of an Egyptian policy review that includes a dialogue with the Government of Egypt and also civil society on how to rebalance the U.S. military and economic assistance.
Now, as most of these bills will have in them, this is going to have a national security waiver. In essence, if the Secretary of State comes to us and says: It is in our national security not to implement or fully implement this amendment at this time, as they do with almost all aid programs, they would have the right to do that. But they are going to have to do it every 180 days, at least twice a year, so we can be sure we are keeping up with the transition that is going on in Egypt.
Let me briefly address a few of the arguments that are going to come [[Page S1695]] against this potentially. One is that we have this incredibly strong relationship with the Egyptian military, and we don't want to undermine that. This is not intended to do that. We value that relationship. We hope it will continue to grow stronger. But the reality of it is, No. 1, these are hard-earned taxpayer dollars. At a time when the United States of America really doesn't have a lot of money to throw away--in fact, it has no money to throw away--we have to ensure the aid we give is aid that is effective, that is actually doing what it needs to be doing, not simply going to a wish list of some general or military official somewhere. This is not about cutting off the Egyptian military; this is about recalibrating our relationship with them to ensure that what we are making available to them is not just what they want, but it is what they need. That is the first thing I would say in that argument.
The second argument I would have--and we hope this day will never come--but as Egypt continues to transition, we don't know what the Egyptian military is going to look like 2 years from now, 5 years from now, 10 years from now. In fact, many of the top people we have been dealing with in the past aren't in those positions anymore. They have been replaced by the new government. And I would tell you, history is a lesson.
If the Morsi government and the Muslim Brotherhood take Egypt in a direction that is not in our national interests, that is not in the best interests of the region or our allies in the world, they are not going to be able to do that unless they replace the military leadership with people who agree with them on these things. So while we hope that never happens, we hope to do everything we can to prevent that from happening, we hope the Egyptian military will continue to be governed and run by professional men and women. But we can't guaranteed that, and we don't know what the Egyptian military will look like 5 years from now or 3 years from now.
That is why it is so important this waiver provision require the Secretary of State to do so twice a year, so we can keep up on the recent events. Who would have predicted 3 years ago that the events that happened in Egypt would have happened in our time? Yet they did. So we can't predict what Egypt is going to look like 3 years from now. We hope it will be better, but we don't know.
The other argument I have heard is, well, this is going to offend their sovereignty. They don't like us to tell them what to do with the aid we give them. The Egyptians are not going to take kindly to the idea of the United States dictating to them.
I, quite frankly, don't understand that argument because this is our money. They don't have to take our foreign aid. They don't have to accept it. But our foreign aid has never been--or should never have been--a blank check. This idea that somehow the money we are going to make available to people should be unconditional, quite frankly, doesn't make sense to me. This is our money. If they don't want the aid, they don't have to take it. But if they are going to accept our aid, we should have some say in it.
If it is the U.S. dollars of the U.S. taxpayer that are going toward this program, shouldn't the American people, through their elected representatives and their government, have some say--if not a predominant amount of say--over how these dollars are spent and on what these dollars are spent? And shouldn't we ensure those countries are headed in a positive direction, not in a direction that acts against our national interests? I believe in foreign aid. I think foreign aid is important for the United States. But it needs to be done the right way. I think it needs to be done the right way across the board, in all of our aid programs. But this is one that is pressing, that is right in front of us.
I recently took a trip to the Middle East. I went to Jordan. I went to Israel. In many places where I went, I heard over and over again a lot of concern about the direction Egypt is headed. They are going through a balancing act right now, is what it appears. On the one hand, you have a deeply seated ideology that I think many people would find offensive. We have heard some of the past comments of the President of Egypt. We have heard some of the past comments of some of the leadership in the Muslim Brotherhood. It is downright offensive, and that is their ideology. We have seen some of that seep through in their public policymaking.
We also understand there is a pragmatic argument going on. They know they cannot survive in government and in power if they don't have an economy. They know--at least, I hope they know--they have to take steps to reform their economy. They have to take steps to increase their security so tourism will return. They know they need to do these things, and right now they are calibrating those two things: the pragmatism of needing to secure their country and needing to provide for economic growth versus their ideology.
In the ideological base of the Muslim Brotherhood that is calling for a rapid expansion of Islamist-type rule, you can see those pressures building within Egyptian society in and of itself. I think U.S. aid has an opportunity to tilt that conversation toward pragmatism. If we are smart about how we use our foreign aid, we can actually help tilt that conversation away from the ideology and toward pragmatism, toward security that is not designed to crack down on internal dissent, that is not designed to one day wage war against their neighbors in Israel or anywhere else, but in fact is designed to provide security against common street crimes, security against terrorism, to seal those tunnels in Gaza, to live up to their international obligations.
I think if we condition this the right way, we can help encourage them to take on the kind of economic reforms that Egypt needs to have the kind of economy they need. After all, that was the heart of the Arab spring, the heart of the Arab spring where hundreds of thousands of unemployed people--starting in Egypt particularly--were desperate for a better future and didn't think they could find it. Then they looked at a government that they saw as repressive and corrupt, and they wanted to replace it. But not with this.
The reason I feel so strongly about this is that as the Egyptian leaders are undertaking this cost-benefit analysis--should they lean more toward ideology or should they lean more toward pragmatism-- through our foreign aid we actually have an opportunity to push them, to nudge them, to encourage them toward pragmatism.
I hope I can achieve bipartisan support for this amendment. I hope people will find it to be thoughtful and insightful. In the days to come, I look forward to addressing more questions that my colleagues may have on it. We are going to put some releases out about this, and I hope my colleagues will become interested in helping us achieve its passage.
Madam President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.