The Senate tonight passed a bipartisan resolution from a pair of influential lawmakers calling on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to immediately start transferring power to an interim government.
The Senate resolution was offered by John Kerry, the Democratic chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and John McCain, R-Ariz. A handful of other senators, including Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., quickly signed off on it. While the move was merely symbolic, it indicates a growing concern in Congress about the situation in Egypt.
“This is a resolution which expresses the deep concern of the United States Senate over the events that are taking place in Egypt at this time,” Kerry said on the Senate floor.
“Sen. Kerry’s and my resolution urges the Egyptian military to demonstrate maximum professionalism and restraint and emphasizes the importance of working to peacefully restore calm and order while allowing for free and nonviolent freedom of expression,” McCain said. “We do not want the Egyptian military to encourage thugs. We do not want the Egyptian military to be a party to increased violence.
“We are concerned about an interim government,” he added. “That interim government must be representative of all democratic forces within Egypt. We call on in this resolution President Mubarak to immediately begin an orderly and peaceful transition to a democratic political system, including the transfer of power to an inclusive interim caretaker government in coordination with leaders from Egypt’s opposition, civil society and military.
“Egypt is the heart and soul of the Arab world, and what we have been watching unfold in the last week has grieved all of us and concerned all of us,” McCain said. “And there is every possibility that this crisis lurches into a genuine massacre, and we cannot afford that, and we must do everything in our power to see that it stops.
“What is happening here is a seminal event and how it turns out will affect the future of the 21st century,” he said. “If Egypt turns to radical Islamist extremism and other countries as well, it poses not only a threat to America’s national security but to the well-being of tens of thousands of people.
“Stop the bloodletting. Let’s start a peaceful transition to a free and open society and to a government that can regain and hold the trust of the people.”
“Tomorrow,” he warned, “could be a very very very critical day in the history of the Egyptian people’s struggle for freedom.”
Graham promptly echoed those sentiments.
“To the army, I doubt that you’re watching C-Span, but you have a chance to bring order out of chaos,” said Graham, adding that “it is in our national security interest that we have a stable Egypt.”
Both Kerry and McCain have been critical of Mubarak in the past week.
In a New York Times op-ed article on Tuesday, Kerry wrote, “Egyptians have moved beyond his regime and the best way to avoid unrest turning into upheaval is for President Mubarak to take himself and his family out of the equation.”
In a statement released Wednesday, McCain said, “The rapidly deteriorating situation in Egypt leads me to the conclusion that President Mubarak needs to step down and relinquish power. It is clear that the only institution in Egypt that can restore order is the army, but I fear that for it to do so on behalf of a government led by or involving President Mubarak would only escalate the violence and compromise the army’s legitimacy.”
The text of the resolution is below:
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
Mr. KERRY (for himself and Mr. MCCAIN) submitted the following resolution:
Supporting democracy, universal rights, and the peaceful transition to a representative government in Egypt.
Whereas the United States and Egypt have long shared a strong bilateral relationship;
Whereas Egypt plays an important role in global and regional politics as well as in the broader Middle East and North Africa;
Whereas Egypt has been, and continues to be, an intellectual and cultural center of the Arab world;
Whereas on January 25, 2011, demonstrations began across Egypt with thousands of protesters peacefully calling for a new government, free and fair elections, significant constitutional and political reforms, greater economic opportunity, and an end to government corruption;
Whereas on January 28, 2011, the Government of Egypt shut down Internet and mobile phone networks almost entirely and blocked social networking websites;
Whereas on January 29, 2011, President Hosni Mubarak appointed Omar Suleiman, former head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate, as Vice President and Ahmed Shafik, former Minister for Civil Aviation, as Prime Minister;
Whereas the demonstrations have continued, making this the longest protest in modern Egyptian history, and on February 1, 2011, millions of protesters took to the streets across the country;
Whereas hundreds of Egyptians have been killed and injured since the protests began;
Whereas on February 1, 2011, President Hosni Mubarak announced that he would not run for reelection later this year, but widespread protests against his government continue;
Whereas on February 1, 2011, President Barack Obama called for an orderly transition, stating that it ‘‘must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now.’’ He also affirmed that: ‘‘The process must include a broad spectrum of Egyptian voices and opposition parties. It should lead to elections that are free and fair. And it should result in a government that’s not only grounded in democratic principles, but is also responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people.’’;
Whereas despite President Hosni Mubarak’s pledge in 2005 that Egypt’s controversial emergency law would be used only to fight terrorism and that he planned to abolish the state of emergency and adopt new antiterrorism legislation as an alternative, in May 2010, the Government of Egypt again extended the emergency law, which has been in place continuously since 1981, for another 2 years, giving police broad powers of arrest and allowing indefinite detention without charge;
Whereas the Department of State’s 2009 Human Rights Report notes with respect to Egypt, ‘‘[t]he government’s respect for human rights remained poor, and serious abuses continued in many areas. The government limited citizens’ right to change their government and continued a state of emergency that has been in place almost continuously since 1967.’’;
Whereas past elections in Egypt, including the most recent November 2010 parliamentary elections, have seen serious irregularities at polling and counting stations, security force intimidation and coercion of voters, and obstruction of peaceful political rallies and demonstrations;
Whereas any election must be honest and open to all legitimate candidates and conducted without interference from the military or security apparatus and under the oversight of international monitors: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate—
(1) acknowledges the central and historic importance of the United States-Egyptian strategic partnership in advancing the common interests of both countries, including peace and security in the broader Middle East and North Africa;
(2) reaffirms the United States’ commitment to the universal rights of freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of access to information, including the Internet, and expresses strong support for the people of Egypt in their peaceful calls for a representative and responsive democratic government that respects these rights;
(3) condemns any efforts to provoke or instigate violence, and calls upon all parties to refrain from all violent and criminal acts;
(4) supports freedom of the press and strongly condemns the intimidation, targeting or detention of journalists;
(5) urges the Egyptian military to demonstrate maximum professionalism and restraint, and emphasizes the importance of working to peacefully restore calm and order while allowing for free and non-violent freedom of expression;
(6) calls on President Mubarak to immediately begin an orderly and peaceful transition to a democratic political system, including the transfer of power to an inclusive interim caretaker government, in coordination with leaders from Egypt’s opposition, civil society, and military, to enact the necessary reforms to hold free, fair, and internationally credible elections this year;
(7) affirms that a real transition to a legitimate representative democracy in Egypt requires concrete steps to be taken as soon as possible, including lifting the state of emergency, allowing Egyptians to organize independent political parties without interference, enhancing the transparency of governmental institutions, restoring judicial supervision of elections, allowing credible international monitors to observe the preparation and conduct of elections, and amending the laws and Constitution of Egypt as necessary to implement these and other critical reforms;
(8) pledges full support for Egypt’s transition to a representative democracy that is responsive to the needs of the Egyptian people, and calls on all nations to support the people of Egypt as they work to conduct a successful transition to democracy;
(9) expresses deep concern over any organization that espouses an extremist ideology, including the Muslim Brotherhood, and calls upon all political movements and parties in Egypt, including an interim government, to affirm their commitment to non-violence and the rule of law, the equal rights of all individuals, accountable institutions of justice, religious tolerance, peaceful relations with Egypt’s neighbors, and the fundamental principles and practices of democracy, including the regular conduct of free and fair elections;
(10) underscores the vital importance of any Egyptian Government continuing to fulfill its international obligations, including its commitment under the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty signed on March 26, 1979, and the freedom of navigation through the Suez Canal; and
(11) ensures that United States assistance to the Egyptian Government, military, and people will advance the goal of ensuring respect for the universal rights of the Egyptian people and will further the national security interests of the United States in the region.