(Corrects spelling of Harf in final paragraph.)
* Desire to maintain ties to Egyptian military
* Bill seeks steep cuts in overall foreign programs budget
* Other countries pledge billions for Cairo
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON, July 18 Leaders of the U.S. House of
Representatives panel in charge of foreign aid proposed on
Thursday that military aid for Egypt be kept at $1.3 billion
next year, one of few programs left unscathed in a bill seeking
steep cuts in international spending.
The draft spending bill from Republican leaders of the House
Appropriations committee puts conditions on the military aid,
including that the government in Cairo plans and holds elections
and honors its 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
Reflecting Washington's struggle to respond to the upheaval
in Egypt, the legislation does not include the annual $250
million in economic assistance that has been appropriated for
the most populous Arab nation in recent years. That money was
not included for fiscal 2014, which starts on Oct. 1, but has
not been specifically prohibited, an aide said.
Overall, the proposed State and Foreign Operations
Appropriations bill totals $34.1 billion, which is $8 billion -
or 19 percent - below last year's level. It is even $6 billion
below the current level of spending, reflecting the steep
government spending cuts, with contributions to some
international programs, such as the U.K. Population Fund,
The House state and foreign operations subcommittee begins
debate on the bill on Friday, clearing the way for its
consideration by the full committee next week, before eventually
making its way for a vote by the full House.
An appropriations subcommittee in the Democratic-controlled
Senate is due to begin debate on its version of the measure
later this month. The House and Senate bills would have to be
reconciled before going to Obama for his signature.
Washington has been grappling with the thorny question of
how to handle the aid it sends to Egypt since the military
ousted elected Isla mist President Mohammed Music this month.
U.S. law bars aid to countries where there has been a
military coup, a determination that must be made by President
Barack Obama's administration, not Congress. But many U.S.
officials want to preserve ties to Egypt's military and do not
want to risk contributing to further upheaval.
The proposed House bill requires that Egypt "demonstrate a
commitment to a pluralistic and inclusive democracy," including
planning and conducting free and fair elections and protecting
freedom of expression, assembly and religion.
The White House has made clear it is in no hurry to cut off
aid to Egypt. Its options range from putting off the decision on
whether there was a military coup, to finding that a coup took
place but winning authority from Congress to keep the money
Washington still plans to deliver four F-16 fighter jets to
Egypt in the coming weeks despite Music's ouster.
Other countries have pledged large amounts of aid for Cairo.
Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have each
promised $4 billion.
Cuts in the overall spending bill include slashing funding
for operational costs of the State Department and related
agencies to $14.6 billion from $17 billion last year.
However, the bill fully funds the Obama administration's
request for $4.8 billion for embassy security, to help avert
more attacks like the one in Ben ghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, which
killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
House Republicans were criticized in the wake of the attack
for having proposed diplomatic security cuts.
The bill would slash bilateral foreign assistance by $5.8
billion to $17.3 billion. Multilateral foreign assistance is cut
by 61 percent to $1.2 billion from $3 billion last year.
A State Department spokeswoman said the proposed cuts would
cause harm around the world, including dramatically reducing
assistance to countries like Afghanistan, Somalia and Burma.
"These proposed cuts, which would be devastating if put into
effect, would hurt our ability to stand up for American
interests and values around the world. The U.S. can't lead if we
retreat in this way," said deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf.
(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton.; Editing by