Following last week's unanimous
vote by the Senate in support of political reform in Egypt, a group of
House Democrats are calling on Speaker John
Boehner (R-Ohio) to follow suit and pass an emergency resolution on Egypt.
"In view of the tragic violence unfolding in Egypt, we write
to request that the House take up an emergency resolution in support of the
Egyptian people and their struggle for freedom and democracy as soon as
possible upon returning to session," wrote Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.), John
Conyers (D-Mich.), Raul Grijalva
(D-Ariz.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and Keith Ellison (DFL-Minn.) in a Feb. 7 letter
The lawmakers said the resolution should call on the
Egyptian government to halt the violence, stop blocking communications
inside Egypt (which the regime already largely did last week), and call on the
military to intercede on behalf of the civilians.
Egyptian President Hosni
Mubarak's regime has "exhausted its credibility," the lawmakers wrote, but stopped
short of calling on Mubarak to step down immediately. Our sources report that
the letter was crafted so as to have the best chance to build widespread
bipartisan support, in the hope of moving ahead with House action at the
"This is a new day not only for Egypt and the Middle East,
but for democracy worldwide," the lawmakers wrote. "The House of Representatives
has an opportunity to show its support for the Egyptian people during their
time of need and further their efforts to achieve freedom by passing the
Boehner supported the Obama administration's handling of the
crisis in his most recent remarks about Egypt on Feb. 4. However, he also
warned about empowering some groups that are part of the opposition, such as
the Muslim Brotherhood. "What we don't want are radical ideologies to take
control of a very large and important country in the Middle East," he
The Obama administration's message on Egypt and the
fate of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
has been evolving ever since protesters took to the streets of Cairo on Jan.
25, but conflicting messages from different parts of the administration are
complicating the U.S. stance going forward.
The White House has been sending out the message
that the U.S. is pushing the Mubarak regime to keep making further concessions
to the opposition and that the transition to new leaders must begin immediately.
Meanwhile, the State Department and its handpicked envoy have been more
supportive of Mubarak and his new vice president, Omar Suleiman; and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton now has explicitly endorsed Suleiman as the man to oversee
the transition process.
The latest sign of this split inside the administration
came over the weekend when it was announced that Mubarak's son, Gamal Mubarak, would
step down as head of the ruling National Democratic Party.
"As the President has repeatedly
said, Egyptians will be the ones that decide how this transition occurs. We
welcome any step that provides credibility to that process," Tommy Vietor, National Security Council
spokesman told reporters via email.
view this as a positive step toward the political change that will be
necessary and look forward to additional steps," a senior administration officialsaid, indicating that this official
wanted the regime to do more to satisfy the opposition's grievances.
Those comments stand in contrast to statements over
the weekend by Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton and her handpicked unofficial envoy to Mubarak, Frank Wisner, who was revealed
to be working with a the lobbying firm Patton Boggs,
which has Mubarak as a client.
"There are forces at work in any society, and particularly one that is
facing these kinds of challenges, that will try to derail or overtake the
process to pursue their own specific agenda," Clinton told the
Munich Security Conference over the weekend. "Which is why I think it's
important to support the transition process announced by the Egyptian government, actually headed by now Vice President Omar Suleiman."
At the conference, Wisner went even further than Clinton, endorsing not only
the leadership of Suleiman but also outwardly calling for Mubarak to stay in
power throughout the transition process.
"We need to get a national consensus around the preconditions for the
next step forward. The president must stay in office to steer those
changes," Wisner told the conference.
"I believe that President Mubarak's continued leadership is critical -- it's
his chance to write his own legacy."
an interview with NPR on Feb. 6, Clinton was forced to distance herself from Wisner's
remarks. "He does not speak for the American government; he does not reflect
our policies," Clinton said. She also refused to weigh in on the future of
Mubarak: "Now, again, this is up to the Egyptian people."
even Clinton's comments at the conference, supporting the process put forth by
Suleiman, go further than what the White House has said, and further than what Obama
said in his Sunday interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly.
"The Egyptian people want freedom, they want free and fair elections,
they want a representative government, they want a responsive government. So
what we've said is, you've got to start a transition now," Obama said.
spoke on Feb. 5 with Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik and emphasized "the need to ensure that the legitimate
aspirations of the Egyptian people are met, and that a broad cross-section of
political actors and civil society have to be a part of the Egyptian-led
process," a State Department readout of the conversation stated.
the weekend, the National Security Council continued to hold 8:30 a.m. morning
meetings with senior officialsfrom several agencies at the White House, and
President Obama continued to call leaders around the world over the weekend to
discuss the situation in Egypt, including
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of
the United Arab Emirates, Prime Minister David
Cameron of the United Kingdom, and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.
noted that the administration understands that there is a limit to the
influence it has with regard to how the Mubarak regime will engage the new
process of reform. But, at the very least, the administration must defend the
ideas that all stakeholders are included and that the reform process is
legitimate and based on sound democratic practices.
"What's most important is for us to have a set of
principles for an Egyptian government to support," said Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for
Near East Policy.