Wicker says Post report on Egypt effort off-base

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

Sen. Roger Wicker of Tupelo says he had no part in blocking a Senate resolution last year calling for greater freedom and democracy in Egypt, as a Washington Post report claimed.
The Post’s Josh Rogin wrote Thursday in his blog that Wicker and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., were cited by three senior Senate aides who worked on the issue as most active behind the scenes to prevent the resolution from moving forward.
Wicker told the Daily Journal on Thursday that his interest was in improving the resolution, not blocking it.
He said Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russell Feingold, D-Wis., who introduced the resolution, did so without any hearings or briefings, and “then tried to rush it through before the August break.”
McCain and Feingold led the effort to push Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak toward more free and fair elections. The resolution called for “supporting democracy, human rights, and civil liberties in Egypt.”
“I wanted to make sure that it was given due diligence, and I made suggestions to improve the resolution,” Wicker said. “At no point did I oppose the resolution or place a hold on the resolution. My staff and I talked with representatives of a wide array of groups that had interest in the resolution, trying to get the most well-rounded understanding of this complex issue. Even though it was non-binding, it was still important.”
Wicker said by November, he had concluded that a “good faith effort” was made to improve the resolution and “passed this message” to McCain and Feingold staffs.
The Egypt democracy resolution died in December, Rogin wrote, because of a “fatal mix of divided loyalties, lobbying influence and secret Senate holds.”
A “hold” is an informal practice by which a senator can prevent a bill from reaching the floor for consideration. Rogin wrote that two unidentified Democratic senators held up the resolution in that way.
National security issues
Feinstein, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, reportedly had concerns about the resolution’s effect on the U.S. relationship with the Mubarak government and worried that it would jeopardize U.S.-Egyptian cooperation on a range of sensitive national security issues.
The aides quoted by Rogin said Wicker worked against the resolution’s passage in part because his former House colleague Bob Livingston, whose firm was being paid by the Egyptian government under a years-long lobbying contract, personally called Wicker to ask him to help stall the measure.
An aide to Wicker told Rogin that the senator was simply doing his due diligence to make sure the resolution was not pushed through hastily and “to make sure that Egypt was recognized as an ally and a partner.”
Neither Wicker nor Feinstein formally objected to a pared-down version of the resolution when it circulated during the lame-duck session.
Contact Patsy Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com.