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ROBERTS: Greg Palkot for us this morning from Cairo -- Greg, thanks so much.
Joining us now with how the U.S. should respond to Egypt -- Senator Bob Corker. He is the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee. He joins us from Afghanistan this morning.
And Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat. He is a member of the Armed Services Committee and joins us from his home state of Rhode Island.
We should point out just for our viewers' sake, that there will be a significant delay in our communications with Senator Corker because of the satellite hops that it takes to get to Afghanistan.
And, Senator Corker, let's start with you.
You heard about what our correspondent had to say about the mass demonstrations today. Are you worried about a further escalation of violence Egypt? And what are the possible consequences if there is an escalation?
SEN. BOB CORKER, R-TENN.: I think there's no question. I received a call late last night from the administration, and I know they're involved in trying to calm all both sides. I think that's what our role should be right now, John, as obviously something has happened that is going to provoke a lot of unrest for some time. It has implications in other parts of the region.
But what we should be doing right now is urging calmness, urging the military to move through this civilian process as quickly as possible, to ask the Muslim Brotherhood to act with some degree of responsibility as it relates to what's happening.
But our role right now should be one of applying calm, trying to get our partners in the region to do the same thing. Obviously, there's been a lot of problems in Egypt for a lot of time. People are frustrated with that. Our role should be to help in every way we can, to preserve a more calm atmosphere as they try to move through this very treacherous environment right now.
ROBERTS: Senator Reed, you heard what Senator Corker had to say. He thinks that we should appeal to the Muslim Brotherhood to show responsibility there. It would appear, though, that they do not want to listen to us.
Muhammad Badie, who was the supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood said, quote, "May the Lord destroy secular opponents of Islam." Islamic militants killed several members of the Egyptian military. They're protesting outside of our consulate in Alexandria. There's talk of possible civil war there.
Is anybody, do you think over there, with the exception of the people trying to put together the government, willing to listen to the United States?
SEN. JACK REED, D-R.I.: I do (ph). I think there are many who are willing to listen to the United States. I concur with Bob's assessment. We have to be a force of stability, for support, for a very quick transition to fully elected democratic government. So the military has to be clear what their team table is and they have to be inclusive.
One of the problems with Morsi, he was increasingly exclusive. He was increasingly authoritarian. And that view is not going to work for the people of Egypt nor is it going to work for the people of the United States. And in addition to that, we have to engage regional powers, particularly with economic assistance to Egypt.
One of the courses of this popular turmoil was the terrible economic situation as well as the increasing isolation of Morsi from the mainstream of Egyptian politics. So there are people listening. And I think they will be responsible. Ultimately, though, this will be the Egyptians' task, to create a government that is stable, productive and protect the people of Egypt.
ROBERTS: Senator Corker, do you brief that the president has been handling this appropriately? He's come out. He said he is not taking sides here. He has issued some admonitions and warnings to the Egyptian government, but at the same time, he cannot be sad that Morsi is gone.
Do you think he's handling it correct?
CORKER: You know, I'm in a country right now where what we wish to happen and what happens isn't always the same. I just came from Pakistan where numbers of issues exist there. And things that we would like to occur don't always occur.
So I think sometimes people think that just because we are in fact the greatest nation on earth today, that because we want something to happen it will. I think, again, urging calm. We need to remember that the reason we conduct foreign policy, the reason people like me are here and Jack and others do the same thing is we're trying to project our nation's national interest.
And what we need to look at here is what is in our national interest. And calm in that area, obviously, Egypt braking apart is not good for the allies that we have. We do have some treaties that are in place that are very important. We need to keep that in mind.
So, again, I don't know what else our nation can do at this time other than to urge the military to move along in a responsible way, to urge all parties to recognize that they've been part of this process. It's broken down.
We can assess what's happened down the road and who caused all of this to occur, but at present, as a nation, these people who run for office, these parties who have been created to move this country apart, need to realize that right now, breaking that apart is not in their interest, certainly, it's not in our interest. And at present, I'm not sure what else the United States can do other and trying to be a calming voice in doing the same with the rest of the neighborhood.
ROBERTS: Senator Reed, one thing that is talked about that the U.S. could do is cut off aid to Egypt's military. The president has stopped short of calling this a military coup. American law would demand -- require that if the president State Department did declare this a military coup, that aid be cut off.
And certainly, Senator McCain and Senator Leahy have said they think that we should cut off aid.
In fact, let's play what Senator McCain said on Friday.
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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: We have to suspend aid to the Egyptian military, because the Egyptian military has overturned the vote of the people of Egypt.
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ROBERTS: Senator Reed, Senator McCain, quietly there by inference said this was a military coup. Do you agree?
REED: Well, this is a very unusual situation, if not unique. You have military forces acting to essentially carry out widespread popular views in the country against a regime that was becoming increasingly authoritarian.
ROBERTS: But at the same time, a regime that was democratically elected.
REED: Indeed, it was democratically elected. But what was happening and I think this was best manifested by the people of Egypt, is they were growingly concerned about the direction of this government.
And I think on a practical basis, we have to look and ask the very simple question: will cutting off aid accelerate or enhance the opportunities and the chances to have a truly democratic government? I don't think so.
I think, also, there are other strategic issues at play. One is the transit of the Suez Canal, a stable relationship between Egypt and the state of Israel, also ongoing counterterrorism activities.
I think we have to be very, very careful in terms of suspending aid or cutting it off.
I think what we have to do is insist that the military have a very rapid, very clear timeline, pathway to democratic elections, that there's full participation in these elections, and that we also engender much more economic support, not from the United States, from the international community to assist the emerging and hopefully very quickly emerging democratic government in Cairo.
ROBERTS: I want to move on to another topic of health care in just a second, but, Senator Corker, I want to ask one more question.
A lot of conservatives warned the president back in 2011 about the rush to throw Hosni Mubarak overboard. That the transition to election should have been slower, should have led opposition parties together more strength.
Do you think it was a mistake to rush to throw Mubarak overboard two years ago?
CORKER: I do think that our nation sometimes thinks that going to the ballot box is democracy. And I do think that there is a rush from time to time to try to move countries in that direction too quickly.
I don't think Egypt is mature yet in that regard. And I think we need, this right now is an excellent opportunity, another chance for us to work with them in that regard.
But let me go back to the aid issue if I could, briefly.
CORKER: Part of the aid that we supply is in support of the treaties. And, again, we need to look at our national interest. There will be plenty of time to assess the aid issue. You know, it seems like Washington always wants to jump to something that really in many cases that at this moment doesn't matter. The aid doesn't flow on a daily basis. We'll have plenty of time to assess that. And it seems to me that what we should be looking at is how the military and how the country itself handles this transition. We need to encourage that.
I think trying to jump to what we're going to do relative to support at this moment is not the place that we need to be.
ROBERTS: All right. Let me jump to health care now if I could now.
And, Senator Reed, to you, the employer mandate being delayed a year from 2014 to January 1, 2015. Is the whole Affordable Care Act in jeopardy now?
REED: No. Not at all. This was a response to concerns, principally among the business community, that the information and the operational details would not be there.
And as a result, I think the administration wisely decided to postpone for one year the mandate on employers. The exchanges go into effect in October. The coverage goes into effect. And indeed, what they've done, really, affects a very small minority of businesses throughout the country.
But I think --
ROBERTS: Right. But, Senator, this is supposed to all work together economically, the individual mandate coupled with the employer mandate. Now, you're taking one piece of that away. Does that throw a mess into the whole economics of this? And people have been complaining about that anyway.
REED: Well, I don't think it does. I think the key factor is effectively recruiting individuals to join the exchanges, to make the exchanges attractive to companies who might want to come in and get their insurance through these exchanges. We're really talking about a very small fraction of companies.
In fact, the vast majority of companies in this category provide health care already and they'll continue to so.
But I think given the potential confusion, postponing it, not eliminating it, but postponing it for a year makes sense. In fact, this was one of the major concerns of the business community, and in fact, the administration is responding to those concerns.
ROBERTS: And Senator Corker, opponents of the Affordable Care Act is saying, well, let's not stop at delaying the implementation of the employer mandate. Let's repeal that part of the bill. Would you support that?
CORKER: Well, John, I think the point you made earlier is dead on. The all these things are tied together. And I don't know how you could create a mechanism that has more downward pressure on employment than this health care bill. I mean, what it's doing to part-time workers, meaning driving people to the part-time effort, we've seen that most recently in our payroll numbers.
What it's doing to keep employers from bringing on any kind of employee. It's been very damaging. And I think just moving it back a year is not going to undo the uncertainty that people have. So I think the administration is recognizing that this policy is very damaging to the employment in our nation.
And I'm glad they've taken this step. And yes, there's many other pieces of this if not all I'd like to see undone. And let's put something together that actually promotes economic growth in our nation, certainly gives people access to health care.
To me, this was not the way to do it. Jack's aware. There was supposed to be a technical corrections bill at the end of this that never occurred.
And what we're seeing right now is the many flaws coming out in this piece of legislation.
So, yes, I'm glad this has been put off, but I don't think it's going to undo the uncertainty that many businesses across our nation have, nor do I think it's going to do anything relative to the cap that it's putting on employment right now, that we're seeing play out each month when we see the employment numbers released.
ROBERTS: We'll mark that down as a vote in favor of repeal.
Senator Reed, a quick response from you, if we could, from what the senator just said and how do you implement the individual mandate while at the same time delaying the employer mandate, could not in the year between those two things, a lot of employers dump their health care, dump these employees into these private exchanges as opposed to providing health care for them?
REED: Well, first, I think the majority of the companies already provide health care. And they'll continue to that for business reasons, because they believe that their employees rather should have good health care coverage.
I think this delay will give some companies the opportunity to assess what they want to do, and it will give the government the opportunity to be better in terms of reporter requirements. The overall thrust of the legislation is going forward. In my state, Rhode Island, it's got great momentum in terms of establishing these changes, making sure that people have coverage.
We already have seen many benefits from Affordable Care. Parents can keep their children on the plan until they're 26. There are many things.
And I think also, too, in context of jobs we've seen another job growth this reporting period. And we have to continue that. I think really, if we want to talk about job growth, we have to talk about more infrastructure, more stimulus. I think the affordable health care system is on a path to take off on Time this fall.
ROBERTS: All right. Well, at least part of it will, not the employer mandate.
Thanks very much, Senators, for joining us today.
REED: Thank you.
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