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Bad Timing? Congress Set to Clear Billions in Foreign Aid to Egypt

"Our embassies have been attacked. An ambassador has been killed. The Muslim Brotherhood runs Egypt - and we're going to give them money?"

(Photo: Getty Images)

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi

(TheBlaze/AP) -- As anti-American sentiment boils in Islamic countries like Egypt, lawmakers are moving to permit billions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid under a government-wide funding bill set to clear Congress this week.

In the case of Egypt, turmoil since the overthrow of U.S. ally President Hosni Mubarak early last year has delayed the release of hundreds of millions of dollars in economic aid that was previously approved.

A violent mob assault at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo certainly hasn't helped efforts to release already approved funds, but White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday denied a media report that U.S. talks with Egypt to release the aid are on hold until after the election.

"We're continuing to work with (Congress) on ways to support a stable, democratic transition in Egypt that is important for defeating extremism of the very kind that we just recently saw," Carney said. "We provide assistance to Egypt because it's in our interests to help them advance regional security and uphold their treaty with Israel and transition to democracy."

Some in Congress have called for temporarily cutting off aid to Egypt, however, in light of recent events.

Instead, new money will continue to be available under the terms of a six-month government funding bill that passed the House last week and faces a Senate procedural vote on Wednesday. The measure allows for almost $130 million a month in military and economic aid to Egypt since it permits aid to flow at the same rate as current funding.

Conservative GOP Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana mounted a futile protest during House debate on the stopgap spending bill last week.

"Our embassies have been attacked. An ambassador has been killed. The Muslim Brotherhood runs Egypt - and we're going to give them money? I would like to have an answer," Burton said.

Watch Rep. Burton's scathing remarks:

Aid to Egypt would be permitted at an annualized rate of $1.55 billion, though the actual flow of money is supposed to be contingent on the administration's willingness to certify that Egypt has met certain conditions demanded by Congress, including demonstrating that it is taking specific steps toward democracy.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, however, has the authority to waive the congressional conditions if it is deemed important for national security. She issued such a waiver in March.

"America can't turn our back now on these countries," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland insisted on Monday. "We have to continue and deepen and broaden our support so they have a better, more peaceful, more democratic future - a future where people who have grievances express them peacefully, express them to the ballot box rather than having protests turn angry and violent."

Egypt's military aid is used to buy weapons from U.S. manufacturers and has traditionally flowed pretty quickly. Economic aid has advanced much more slowly.

On Tuesday, Egypt's general prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for American Pastor Terry Jones because he promoted an anti-Islam YouTube video.

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