Along with his colleagues in the bipartisan U.S. House Democracy Partnership, Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., spent the first week of the congressional recess visiting Arab Spring countries Egypt and Libya.
The five-year-old partnership brings together U.S. lawmakers and those from blossoming democracies, but the delegation's meet-and-greet with Kharyat el-Shater, the new presidential candidate for Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, surprised some international observers who link the Muslim Brotherhood to the country's old regime -- and a possible roadblock to the country's embrace of democracy.
Lawmakers cautioned against placing too much significance in the meeting, because it was scheduled before el-Shater -- the party's chief sponsor and advisor -- decided to enter the presidential race. The delegation, including Paulsen, told news agencies they were impressed with the country's transition to democratic government.
"As we see some people walk away from the constitution's discussions, we found a willingness from to people to work together,' Paulsen told thedailynewsegypt.com.
The United States delegation also met with Egypt's parliament to discuss developing a free trade agreement between the two countries, which played to Paulsen's legislative responsibilities: the former business analyst is a member of the U.S. House Subcommittee on International Monetary Policy and Trade.
After leaving Egypt, Paulsen and his colleagues also visited Kosovo and Macedonia.