As events turn rapidly in Egypt, lawmakers weigh stripping Mubarak of U.S. aid

As the Obama Administration tentatively feels its way through the political crisis in Egypt, some key lawmakers on Capitol Hill are sending a strong message to embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the subcommittee that approves foreign aid and who has voiced strong opinions about the official “thuggery” on display on the ground in Egypt directed at protesters and journalists, is proposing that Congress not release the more than a billion dollars in aid the U.S. sends to Egypt each year unless Mubarak steps down. Members of the Colorado delegation have yet to weigh in on Leahy’s proposal.

The Leahy plan sends a message not just to Mubarak but also to the Obama administration. Charged with managing the fraught relationship the U.S. has maintained for decades with the Middle Eastern public and with Middle Eastern dictators, Obama has tread softly as the streets of Egypt have turned into a battleground and as the Egyptian authorities have trained their high-grade American-made weapons on the protesters. The back-stage diplomacy and front-stage brutality have (some would say at last after decades) given rise to frustration, including on the part of the U.S. lawmakers pushing for an end, at least, to our financing the Mubarak regime.

Democrats spearheading the proposal to cut funding from Egypt– Leahy, as well as Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry and Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett– have asked Mubarak to leave office immediately. Leahy said Mubarak had “no credibility” even to oversee a transition.

News coming fast from the streets of Cairo, however, may overtake the Leahy proposal.

Speculation jamming the internet Friday as evening curfew arrived in Egypt was that weary Mubarak would announce any minute that he was in fact stepping aside, but that speculation and the energy it produced now is fading.

Meantime, images from the streets tell the story. Nevine Zaki posting photos at yFrog is pleading with al Jazeera journalists to use her photos in their stories.

This one captures Christian Egyptian protesters forming a human cordon around Muslim Egyptian protesters so they could take time to pray.

And more vivid images documenting the violence.

Zaki’s caption: “@ajelive please use this, the police IS using violence & are hitting people left & right “

“These are not rubber bullets.”

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