Ben Cardin is considering an Egypt aid pause after Bob Menendez’s indictment.

Ben Cardin is considering an Egypt aid pause after Bob Menendez’s indictment.

Senate Foreign Relations Chair Ben Cardin said Thursday he is weighing whether to delay $235 million in military aid to Cairo in the wake of federal charges that Sen. Bob Menendez accepted bribes in exchange for influencing that aid.

“I am looking at my options,” Cardin (D-Md.) said at his first press conference since the indictment forced Menendez to relinquish the job of committee chair.

Day two: Cardin, on his second day on the job, said he was still getting up to speed on the Egypt issue and others. He said he wants to discuss the Egypt aid with staff, the administration and several lawmakers.

Aid and allegations: Cardin is also considering calls to probe Egypt’s activities in the alleged Menendez affair but said he first wants to consult with the Justice Department. Federal prosecutors announced allegations last week that Menendez met with members of the Egyptian intelligence services to discuss the aid.

Backstory: The U.S. each year allocates $1.3 billion to Cairo to buy American-made military hardware, but the delivery of roughly $300 million of that money is conditioned on Egypt’s progress on human rights issues, and the administration had withheld that portion of the aid for the past two years.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken this month notified Congress he intended to release $235 million of that $300 million portion, but the military hardware involved has not been specified publicly. The waiver prioritized U.S. national security interests over human rights concerns, a move that sparked opposition from Cardin and other lawmakers.

“I was very open in my disappointment in the administration using the waiver on the use of funds, but I want to have a chance to meet with the administration,” Cardin said.

Egypt influence: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who chairs the panel’s Mideast subcommittee, has said he hopes committee leaders, who have authority to hold the money, will delay it and probe allegations of Egypt’s illicit involvement.

“I have been clear publicly that this is the right move to press pause temporarily on the money to understand what the Egypt influence operation looked like,” Murphy said. “I think Congress will ultimately need to let this money move, but for the time being, let’s be careful and figure out exactly what Egypt has been up to.”

Turkey F-16s: Beyond Egypt, Cardin was also not ready to say whether he would continue Menendez’s hold on the U.S. sale of F-16s to Turkey before speaking with the administration. “There are human rights issues in Turkey that I will put on the table,” he said.

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