In the clearest legislative response yet to the events unfolding in Egypt, the Senate has gone on record joining the chorus of those seeking a quick ouster of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak.
The Senate on Thursday approved a bipartisan resolution calling on Egypt to begin the transition to a democratic political system. The resolution was put forward by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). Kerry is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“I strongly support Senator Kerry and Senator McCain’s bipartisan resolution which passed the Senate tonight. The resolution 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 and to enact reforms to hold free, fair, and internationally credible elections,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says in a statement released after the vote.
Thousands of Egyptian demonstrators have swarmed Tahrir Square for more than a week, seeking an immediate end to Mubarak’s repressive 30-year rule of the Middle Eastern nation. Mubarak, however, has resisted an immediate departure. Officials in the highest levels of the Obama administration also are pushing for Mubarak to relinquish power. Vice President Biden and others reportedly are seeking a deal in Eqypt in which Mubarak’s newly appointed vice president would take over in a caretaker capacity in coalition with opposition groups.
Egyptian organizers of the anti-Mubarak protests have dubbed Friday a “Day of Departure.”
Until the passage of the Senate’s Thursday resolution, Kerry and a few other senators had spoken out individually about the pro-democracy demonstrations that have engulfed Cairo and other Egyptian cities, but the U.S. Congress had taken no unified action.
In his statement, Reid also condemned the violence that overtook the demonstrations in recent days, in which journalists and Egyptian and foreign human rights workers were attacked and rounded up in detention.
“I condemn the recent violence and will stand with the Egyptian people as they demand the opportunities and rights that all citizens deserve. I am also concerned about reports that foreign journalists have been intimidated, targeted, and detained and this resolution makes it clear that the Senate believes in freedom of press in Egypt,” Reid says. “The Egyptian people have sent a clear message that it is time for change. The Senate heard that message and we will continue support the people of Egypt as they determine their future.”
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.