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Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GRAHAM. I thank the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. First, I would like to associate myself with the remarks of the Senator from Florida. Now is the time to be creative with our assistance to Egypt to try to change things while there is still hope of things changing in a positive direction.

I certainly understand. Why should we be selling F-16s to people who behave this way? The administration has put on hold the four F-16s that were due to be delivered to Egypt, trying to find out what is going to happen next. That makes sense to me. But why are we selling weapons to Egypt? It is because if we do not, someone else will. I want them to have F-16s and come to our pilot training bases. I want Egyptian officers to come to our military training academies. I want a relationship with the Egyptian military that can be beneficial to our national security interests. I want the people who build F-16s in America to get the business from Egypt to get some of our money back.

If they buy MIGs or Mirages we lose that. It is not a question of if they are going to buy fighter planes; it is a question of who they are going to buy them from. We have every right to withhold sales. We have every right to put them on hold temporarily. But to just sever this relationship now would be a huge mistake.

In fairness to Senator Paul, he says we would resume aid once they get their act together and move back toward democracy. I think that is something worth noting. That is an understanding on his part that he is looking for an outcome that we can be more supportive of. The difference I have is that if we cut off aid now, then I cannot tell you the consequences of what that would mean in terms of moving in the direction we would all like.

Unintended consequences to the decision jump out pretty clearly in my mind, and most of them are bad. Is it a coup? It certainly looks like one. It certainly sounds like one. But at the end of the day, if we are moving toward democracy and the military steps back and democratically elected leaders take over, I think that is the goal for all of us.

I wish we did not live in a world like we do. I wish things were easier. I wish the Arab Spring had been more successful. But the one thing I can say is that what happens in Egypt really does matter to us. If the largest country in the Arab world, the heart of the Arab world, Egypt, becomes a failed state, I promise you it will affect our national security interests for decades to come. It would be a nightmare for Israel, and it would take the whole region down a path that would be at best chaotic.

Can we prevent a failed state in Egypt? I think we can. I don't know for sure what is going to happen, but I do know this: If America does not try, if we do not stay engaged and shape history rather than observe it, we will pay a heavy price as a nation. So part of this amendment takes money that would be going to the Egyptian military and puts it on projects in the United States. I think one is a bridge in Kentucky. I have no doubt that there is a need for bridges in Kentucky and South Carolina. I would love to get my port deepened.

But to the people of Kentucky and to the people of South Carolina, if we stop the 1 percent of our budget--it is $50 billion. That is no small sum. But if we cancelled it all out and just left $3 billion for Israel--it seems everybody likes that idea. If we had $3 billion to spend on affecting the world, is that smart?

How much of the debt would be retired if we canceled all foreign aid and brought it back into the United States? Not a whole lot. But here is what I believe would happen. If America withdrew our foreign assistance, a lot of bad things would happen to us. Having a say, having influence in a world that is increasingly dangerous seems to me to be a good idea. I am tired of having to resort to the military as the only solution to affect things.

The people in Egypt, the government particularly, wants a relationship with us. They have to earn it, as Senator Rubio said. But to cut off our relationship with Egypt at this critical time, I think, would be extremely ill-advised, and the consequences to the people of Kentucky and South Carolina and every other State in the Union would be significant.

To my colleagues, when you cast your vote today about pausing, not terminating aid, but trying to reconstruct aid, I don't know how that fits in a 30-second sound bite. It is probably easier to explain the ``no'' vote than it is a ``yes'' vote. But I do know this: Your country would be well served if you decide today to pause and wait to find out the right answer in Egypt.

I do know this: If Egypt goes, the entire region blows up. The biggest fear I have is radical Islamists are closer to getting nuclear weapons and chemical weapons than any time in my lifetime. If Egypt becomes a failed state, that is one more problem for us to have to deal with, rather than focusing on the Iranian efforts to march toward a nuclear weapon.

Radical Islam has not forgotten about us. The question for us is have we forgotten about radical Islam. If we wish to stop this march in the Middle East of radical Islam getting stronger and stronger and stronger, let's try to hang on to our relationship with Egypt. If it becomes a failed state, and the Sinai becomes one of the great safe havens for terrorist groups--and the Egyptian Army, to their credit, is now involved with the Sinai--the cataclysmic effect of a failed state in Egypt would be the biggest boost to radical Islam I could think of. It would do a lot of damage to our national security and our best friend in the region, Israel.

I have a letter from our APAC. I asked them to comment on this. They state:

Dear Senators Menendez and Corker:

We are writing to express our concerns over the Paul amendment to the Transportation/HUD Appropriations bill that would eliminate military assistance and sales to Egypt. We do not support cutting off all assistance to Egypt at this time, as we believe it could increase the instability in Egypt and undermine important U.S. interests and negatively impact our Israeli ally.

As you know, Egypt is the largest Arab state in the Middle East and has played a vital role in advancing key U.S. interests in that region. Citing just two examples, the government of Egypt has maintained the peace with Israel and is taking important steps to address the instability in the Sinai. Events in Egypt are rapidly evolving, and we believe that for now the United States should avoid taking any precipitous actions against Egypt such as cutting off all assistance. We look forward to continuing to work with you on these critical issues.

One final thought: Maybe one day I will agree with Senator Paul in saying we have to sever our ties with the Egyptian military and the Egyptian people. Maybe one day I will come and cosponsor the Senator's amendment or maybe come up with one of my own.

I can tell you if that day ever comes, it will be one of the saddest days of my life because that would mean Egypt is gone. If Egypt is gone, all hell is going to break loose.


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