Thursday, August 22, 2013

Are Members of Congress committed to upholding U.S. laws?

Consideration of Senator Paul’s recent amendment to declare the Egyptian military’s takeover a coup d’état generated a discussion that adds serious doubts about whether Members of Congress are committed to upholding U.S. laws. The majority view among Senators held that while the U.S. is a nation of laws, some laws should simply be ignored because protecting human rights is a hindrance to the pursuit of ‘U.S. interests.'

Of course this same absurd logic has long applied to Israel, which routinely commits prima facie violations of U.S. laws but is rarely held accountable by Members of Congress.

Senator Paul’s amendment failed by a vote of 86 to 13 and most of the votes in support of the measure were from Tea Party affiliated or very conservative Senators.  It is worth noting that many of the Senators who supported the amendment were not doing so in the interest of human rights.  

Below are some notable quotes from the debate.

Senator McCain:
“I think the amendment has even larger implications than that of whether we should cut off all assistance to Egypt. By the way, my friends, I don’t think it’s an accident that AIPAC, our friends there who represent the interests of the State of Israel, have opposed this amendment.”

Senator Paul:
“When there’s chaos and blood running in the streets, when there’s millions of people protesting, ya think it’s a good time to send more weapons? Ya think it’s a good time to send more weapons when millions of people are in the street? "

"What about human rights, what about dignity, what about trials?"

"If we choose to ignore our own laws, can we with a straight face preach to the rest of the world about the rule of law?”

Below is the text of the amendment, here is a link to the debate.

SA 1739. Mr. PAUL submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by him to the bill S. 1243, making appropriations for the Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2014, and for other purposes; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows: At the end of title I, insert the following: Sec. __XXX. (a) Congress makes the following findings:

(1) On June 30, 2012, Mohamed Morsi was elected President of Egypt in elections that were certified as free and fair by the Egyptian Presidential Election Commission and the United Nations.

(2) On July 3, 2013, the military of Egypt removed the democratically elected President of Egypt, arrested his supporters, and suspended the Constitution of Egypt. These actions fit the definition of a military coup d'état.

(3) Pursuant to section 7008 of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Act, 2012 (division I of Public Law 112-74; 125 Stat. 1195), the United States is legally prohibited from providing foreign assistance to any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by a military coup d'état, or removed in such a way that the military plays a decisive role.

(4) The United States has suspended aid to countries that have undergone military coups d'état in the past, including the Ivory Coast, the Central African Republic, Thailand, Mali, Fiji, and Honduras.

(b)(1) In accordance with section 7008 of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Act, 2012 (division I of Public Law 112-74; 125 Stat. 1195), the United States Government, including the Department of State, shall refrain from providing to the Government of Egypt the assistance restricted under such section.

(2) In addition to the restrictions referred to in paragraph (1), the following restrictions shall be in effect with respect to United States assistance to the Government of Egypt:

(A) Deliveries of defense articles currently slated for transfer to Egyptian Ministry of Defense (MOD) and Ministry of Interior (MOI) shall be suspended until the President certifies to Congress that democratic national elections have taken place in Egypt followed by a peaceful transfer of power.

(B) Provision of defense services to Egyptian MOD and MOI shall be halted immediately until the President certifies to Congress that democratic national elections have taken place in Egypt followed by a peaceful transfer of power.

(C) Processing of draft Letters of Offer and Acceptance (LOAs) for future arms sales to Egyptian MOD and MOI entities shall be halted until the President certifies to Congress that democratic national elections have taken place in Egypt followed by a peaceful transfer of power.

(D) All costs associated with the delays in deliveries and provision of services required under subparagraphs (A) through (C) shall be borne by the Government of Egypt. (c) Any amounts retained by the United States as a result of implementing subsection (b) shall be made available to the Secretary of Transportation to carry out activities under the heading ``BRIDGES IN CRITICAL CORRIDORS''.