The No. 2 House leaders in each party hedged Tuesday on whether aid to Pakistan should be cut off in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s killing.
While Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) did not come out in support of stripping Pakistan of foreign aid, both suggested Congress should look into the issue of whether Pakistani officials new bin Laden was residing in their country. Some lawmakers have questioned whether the Pakistani government was aware of bin Laden’s whereabouts, and have suggested that aid should be suspended until further details surface about what the country knew regarding the al-Qaida leader.
U.S. forces killed bin Laden Sunday at his compound in Pakistan, nearly 10 years after the Sept. 11 attacks. “We need to understand exactly what the Pakistanis knew and didn’t know as far as the situation unfolded this weekend and then the years leading up to that,” Cantor said at a news conference.
Speaking at his weekly briefing with reporters, Hoyer said “One would wonder how it’s possible how someone like Osama bin Laden, one of the most infamous people in the world, could be secluded there for long periods of time without people knowing about it.”
Hoyer added: “Having saying that, I think it raises questions that need to be looked at.”
Hoyer also said the Pakistani government’s response to information on what they knew regarding bin Laden’s whereabouts prior to his killing could impact whether lawmakers push to cut off foreign aid to the country.
“I think the Pakistanis have a motivation to ensure that terrorists do not either reside in their midst. I think they pose a danger to the Pakistanis, the Pakistani government, the Pakistani administration,” Hoyer said. “I think we need to make a very strong position, and I frankly think if there’s not a strong response it will undermine the Congress’ willingness to pursue policies of assistance to Pakistan itself.”
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) said Monday that Congress should not send additional foreign aid to Pakistan until further information surfaces regarding the country’s intelligence on bin Laden. President Barack Obama’s 2012 budget includes a $3 billion request for Pakistan, including a $1.5 billion request in funds for “security-related programs.”