WASHINGTON — Sen. Deb Fischer was among a bipartisan group of senators visiting the Middle East last week when news broke that Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi had been removed from power by that country’s military.
The Nebraska Republican was meeting with top officials in Jordan who were already concerned about the civil war raging in Syria. Suddenly they had another concern: the growing instability in Egypt.
During her weekly conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Fischer declined to describe what happened in Egypt as a “coup.”
“I think it’s up in the air right now,” she said. “It’s a very tense situation.”
The Obama administration has bent over backward to avoid using that coup label. One reason it’s a pressing question is that U.S. law calls for cutting off all aid to any country where the government has been installed by coup.
Asked if she supports cutting or suspending aid to Egypt, Fischer noted that most of the aid for this fiscal year already has been handed over and that by the time the next payment would occur there could be new elections in Egypt.
“This whole situation dealing with the aid just might resolve itself,” Fischer said.
Fischer also said that U.S. allies in the region seemed to “breathe a sigh of relief” to see Morsi removed from power after his abuses of power.
“It’s never good when a democratically elected president is removed in that way,” she said. “But this was a president who was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Last week’s trip also included a stop in Turkey, where the senators visited a camp for refugees who have fled the fighting in Syria. Fischer said she was moved by the plight of those in the camp and their poor living conditions.
The senators also traveled to Afghanistan, where they visited with military commanders and the troops, including some Nebraskans.
Fischer is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and said her conversations with those in uniform will help her this fall as Congress debates U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan following the withdrawal at the end of 2014.
“They don’t hold back,” she said. “They’re very straightforward. They gave me the lowdown on things.”