ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports:
When the unrest in Egypt escalated last week, members of Congress initially appeared reluctant to weigh in on the situation.
In recent days lawmakers on Capitol Hill have become increasingly vocal in their calls for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down.
“I think it is clear to me that the current situation is unsustainable,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, said at a press conference today.
“President Mubarak has been a moderating influence when it comes to US interests, but those days are coming to an end because his presence is no longer a moderating influence,” Graham said. “What you see in the streets of Cairo are young people, people of all backgrounds, asking for the government to change.”
“The dilemma the United States has here and in other places is how much do we want stability? I think it would be a mistake for the United States to not side with the Egyptian people’s legitimate hopes and desires of having a free and fair election to choose their own leaders to chart a different destiny.”
“To the young women and the young men in that square, if you do have free and fair elections in September I hope you’ll be wise enough and brave enough to say ‘no’ to the forces within your country, the radical Islamist forces, that would take your future and make it as dark as it is today.”
“If this new government is a more radical government that is going to undermine the peace process and create a launching pad for other radical movements, then what good have we accomplished?”
In an op-ed in today’s New York Times, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry went even further in his comments on Mubarak’s future.
“It is not enough for President Mubarak to pledge ‘fair’ elections as he did on Saturday,” Kerry said. “the most important step that he can take is to address his nation and declare that neither he nor the son he has been positioning as his successor will run in the presidential election this year. Egyptians have moved beyond his regime and the best way to avoid unrest turning into upheaval is for President Mubarak to take himself and his family out of the equation.”
Kerry repeated that stance at a hearing on Tuesday morning. His call of Mubarak’s departure echoed the stance of Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL.
"Mubarak’s naming of the head of the country’s intelligence service as his vice president is a step in the right direction, and will satisfy some,” Nelson wrote in an op-ed in The Hill. “But he cannot afford to clamp down again, as he initially tried to do by deploying his security forces and shutting down access to the Internet.”
“Instead, Mr. Mubarak will have to go – but not without an exit strategy that prevents the government from falling and leaving the door open for extremists.”
While pressure has grown from lawmakers such as Kerry, Nelson and Graham for Mubarak to step down, other lawmakers such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have treaded more carefully. Reid has essentially repeated the administration’s position as the situation has developed in recent days.