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Sen. Ben Cardin

Cardin blocks military aid for Egypt

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Ben Cardin (D-Md.) announced Tuesday he would block U.S. military aid to Egypt, citing the country’s deteriorating human-rights record.

This is a fascinating development following the indictment of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), whom Cardin replaced as chair of the powerful panel.

Menendez is accused by federal prosecutors of accepting bribes to take official actions to benefit the Egyptian government — including pushing for Egypt to receive U.S. aid under the foreign military financing program.

Without mentioning Menendez, Cardin said it was “imperative that we continue to hold the government of Egypt, and all governments, accountable for their human-rights violations.”

Here’s more of what Cardin said in a lengthy statement released Tuesday night:

Cardin added that his hold will remain in place “until specific human-rights progress is made.”

Under current law, the chair and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs panels have the authority to unilaterally block certain weapons transfers and sales to foreign governments.

The Biden administration views the military aid Cardin is blocking — totaling around $235 million — as essential to security in the region. However, the State Department has held back a small portion of it to push Egypt to improve its human-rights record.

In his statement, Cardin acknowledged that Egypt is a vital U.S. security partner but said that government should cease its widespread crackdown on dissent before its military gets more U.S. aid.

— Andrew Desiderio

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