WASHINGTON (Combined Sources)–Armenian-American activists are making a final push Wednesday to secure a vote by a lame-duck Congress of a resolution recognizing the 1915 Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey.
“We look to Speaker Pelosi to do the right thing and allow a bipartisan majority of her House colleagues an opportunity to vote to end Turkey’s gag rule on American recognition of the Armenian Genocide,” said Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “It’s long past time for the U.S. Congress to honor the victims and the last remaining survivors of this crime.”
Democratic leaders in Congress raised hopes last week that the outgoing House of Representatives will pass the resolution, endorsed by its Foreign Affairs Committee in March, before completing its tenure in early January.
On Tuesday, an unprecedented number of Armenian Americans and anti-genocide activists across the United States mobilized in support of a possible vote on the Armenian Genocide Resolution, H.Res.252, with the offices of the Speaker and House Majority Leader flooded with thousands of phone calls.
Last week, Armenian American celebrities Kim Kardashian and Serge Tankian urged millions of their Twitter, Facebook, and website followers to bring H.Res.252 to the House Floor. These efforts were supported, on the ground in Washington, D.C., by dozens of community and church leaders from around the country, who continue to meet with legislators on Capitol Hill in support of H.Res.252.
Despite the overwhelming grassroots outreach, the House did not debate the bill on Tuesday, and chances of that happening on Wednesday were uncertain.
H.Res.252, which was adopted in march 2010 by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, enjoyed the backing of at least 180 members of the 435-strong House before this week. Support for the draft resolution among U.S. legislators began growing on Monday and its congressional backers outnumbered opponents by a solid margin the next day.
As of Wednesday morning, the House leadership had scheduled a series of votes on legislation, including a measure that would provide additional health benefits for 9/11 first responders.
Aides to the House Minority Leader John Boehner said in a morning letter to other Republican congressional offices that the chamber may still consider the genocide resolution, RFE/RL’s Armenian service reported.
However, according to the ANCA, the House Republican leadership sent out an official notice Wednesday morning alerting Republican members of the House that the Armenian Genocide Resolution should be on their “radar screen” today as a possible vote.
The renewed prospect of the resolution’s passage set alarm bells ringing in Ankara, RFE/RL reported. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Monday that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sent a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama asking him to prevent the vote and saying it could damage ties between the two allies.
“We cannot allow the resolution to hang over Turkish-U.S. ties like a Sword of Damocles,” Davutoglu was reported to tell the Turkish parliament.
According to the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News, Davutoglu discussed Ankara’s concerns with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week. The English-language paper said Turkish officials have been heartened by the Obama administration’s opposition to the draft resolution that was voiced by a State Department spokesman on Friday.
Despite repeated campaign promises given to the influential Armenian community in the United States, Obama has refrained from officially affirming the US record on the Armenian Genocide. He has said only that he has not changed his views on the highly sensitive subject.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs insisted on Tuesday that Obama has not pressed Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other pro-Armenian congressional leaders to block the genocide bill. “I do not believe that the president has made any calls specifically on this, and I think his views on this are known,” Gibbs told journalists.
House Resolution 252, introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and spearheaded by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.), Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), along with a bipartisan base of Congressional leaders from across the U.S. including incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va,), incoming House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and Foreign Affairs Committee Member Ed Royce (R-Calif.). The resolution currently has 149 co-sponsors.
The Armenian Genocide Resolution “calls upon the president to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian Genocide and the consequences of the failure to realize a just resolution.” It goes on to urge the president, in his “annual message commemorating the Armenian Genocide issued on or about April 24, to accurately characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1,500,000 Armenians as genocide and to recall the proud history of United States intervention in opposition to the Armenian Genocide.”