Ensuring the Complete and Timely Payment of the Obligations of the United States Government

Floor Speech

By:  John McCain III
Date: Jan. 31, 2013
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I speak in opposition to the amendment evidenced by my friend, the Senator from Kentucky, which would prohibit the sale, licensing, approval, facilitation, transfer, retransfer, or delivery of any defense articles and services to the Government of Egypt, including F-16 aircraft and M-1 tanks.

There are many problems with this amendment. I would like to explain. First, the amendment is not revenue neutral. The Congressional Budget Office has not provided an official score, despite my request, but there is a way to avoid the basic fact that there are numerous costs associated with this amendment. The defense articles the Senator from Kentucky wishes to block and prohibit are manufactured by American workers and defense companies. They have contracts to produce this equipment, and American workers are doing that as we speak.

If the Federal Government steps in, as my colleague's amendment would mandate, those contracts would have to be immediately broken, and U.S. production lines would have to be shut down immediately. There is a cost of breaching a contract in this country, and there should be. That does not change just because the government is the one doing the breaching. This is also as it should be.

So the Senator's amendment would obligate the Federal Government to pay the many costs to American businesses and workers for breaking our commitments to them. Furthermore, many of these defense articles have already been produced. They have already been paid for. They are technically the property of the Egyptian Government already. If the Congress prohibits these defense articles from being delivered to Egypt, they become the responsibility of the U.S. Government. We will have to store them somewhere, and that is not free either.

In short, there are a lot of hidden costs in this amendment. If this provision becomes law in its current form, it will add to the national debt. This is fiscally irresponsible, and I cannot support it on these grounds alone.

Second, and more important than the costs associated with this amendment, it is harmful to America's national security interests. I know as well as anyone that Egypt is beset now with many problems.

I was in Egypt 2 weeks ago with a bipartisan delegation of my colleagues. The Muslim Brotherhood-led government, which I would remind my colleagues was elected by the Egyptian people, has done a poor job of governing in an exclusive and pluralistic way, establishing the rule of law, and building democratic institutions.

The results of the Egyptian Government's failing are plain to see in the awful street violence and expanding unrest in Egypt. President Morsi's government has not been able to stem the violence and has often made matters worse. Egyptian police seem to have neither the capacity nor the legitimacy to restore order. The fact is, despite its flaws, the Egyptian Army remains one of the major stabilizing forces in Egypt today. If, God forbid, the current unrest worsens, and Egypt tips deeper into civil conflict, the one force in that country that might be capable of pulling Egypt back from the abyss is the Egyptian military.

If the Senate were to adopt the amendment proposed by the Senator from Kentucky, we would not only be harming the effectiveness of the Egyptian military, which, by the way, is not objected to by the Israelis, who probably understand better than anyone what defense capabilities might be used someday to threaten their security, we would be rupturing a decades-long partnership and denying and squandering our influence with the leaders of one of the most important institutions in Egypt.

The ramifications of this decision would be enormous, especially when it comes to the ability of U.S. ships, including U.S. aircraft carriers and other vessels, to transit the Suez Canal securely and effectively. I would urge the Senator from Kentucky to call the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and ask him what effect this would have on the U.S. military and America's overall national security.

As I say, this amendment would be even more detrimental to our ally Israel, for which the continuing instability in Egypt is an abiding, clear and present danger. I have seen no objections raised by our Israeli allies to U.S. military assistance to Egypt, nor do I expect to see any. Here too I would urge my colleague to pick up the phone and call the Israeli Ambassador or just recall what I am sure he heard from Israel's leaders during his recent visit there a few weeks ago.

This amendment is absolutely harmful to the national security of our ally Israel. The timing of the amendment is also detrimental because our government is currently engaged in discussions with the Egyptian Government and military about the need to shift our security cooperation more toward the kinds of programs and equipment Egypt needs to combat the threats they increasingly face: porous borders, a rising threat from terrorism, deteriorating conditions in the Sinai, and a security sector in dire need of reform. It is in Egypt's interest to move in this direction, as they are beginning to do. It is in our interest to help them.

If we adopt this amendment, the promise of this entire endeavor will be destroyed. Egypt will suffer, Israel will suffer, and the United States will suffer.

I oppose this amendment because it is uninformed and oblivious to the world challenges America faces and our continuing need to work with America's partners, imperfect and frustrating though they may be, to defend our Nation, our interests, and our allies in an increasingly dangerous world.

Finally, the Middle East is in a period of transition and change that we have not seen practically in its entire history. The Egyptians are key and vital to what happens in that part of the world. It is the heart, soul, and center of the Arab world. One out of every four Arabs who live in the Arab world lives in Egypt. It is the cultural and historic center of all the Arab world.

It is vital we do whatever we can to see that Egypt makes a transition to a free, democratic, and open society. That is in grave danger today. To pass this amendment today and send this message to Egypt in this very unstable and unsure time, I believe, would be exactly the wrong message at this time. I would also point out that this legislation has nothing to do with Egypt. It has nothing to do with Egypt.

A decision of this magnitude, in my view, requires hearings, debate, and legislation that would stand by itself, rather than in a 15- or 20-minute discussion on the floor of the Senate. For that reason alone, I urge my colleagues to overwhelmingly--as we have other amendments of the Senator from Kentucky--reject this amendment.

I yield the floor.


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