Pro-Turkey lawmakers gather opposition to genocide resolution

A trio of House lawmakers are encouraging their colleagues to stop a genocide resolution before a key committee vote this week.
 
In a February 22 letter to House Foreign Affairs Committee members obtained by The Hill, Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Kay Granger (R-Texas) and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) ask their colleagues to reject a resolution that would recognize the killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks during World War I as genocide. The panel is scheduled to mark up the resolution Thursday.
 

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“A vote on this resolution will do nothing to rectify the tragedies of the past, but it will most certainly have significant negative consequences on current and future relations with Turkey,” the letter says. Cohen, Granger and Whitfield are all co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on U.S.-Turkey Relations.
 
The three lawmakers are also working on a separate letter to Reps. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the committee chairman, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the panel’s ranking member, opposing the resolution. The trio is gathering members’ signatures and 14 lawmakers have signed onto the letter to Berman and Ros-Lehtinen. Aides are expecting many more to sign on before that letter’s release on Tuesday.
 
Turkey lobbies heavily against the resolution every Congress it is introduced, hiring some of K Street’s biggest names in lobbying and public relations. In turn, Armenian-American groups push for the resolution’s passage and, like Turkey, are trying to bolster their support on the House Foreign Affairs Committee before the key vote next week.
 
Leaders of four groups — the Armenian Assembly of America, Armenian General Benevolent Union, the Eastern Diocese Armenian Church of America and the Western Diocese Armenian Church of America — wrote a February 25 letter to Berman, urging him to support the resolution.  Doing so will “send a powerful message that America is committed to the fundamental principles of human rights and basic freedoms around the world,” the letter says.
 
The resolution has a good chance of passing the committee with Berman already supporting it. Including the California Democrat, there are 16 lawmakers on the 46-member committee that are listed as co-sponsors. Overall in the House, the measure has 137 co-sponsors.
 
The question remains as to what happens to the resolution if it passes the committee. In 2007, the resolution squeaked by the panel with a close vote of 27-21 in its favor. But after intense pressure from Turkey, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) decided against bringing the resolution to the House floor after originally promising to do so.
 
A spokesman for Pelosi did not say whether or not the House leader would bring the resolution to the floor for a vote if it passed the committee again.
 
“It’s important to take it one step at a time and see what the committee does next week. Following their action, we can have a discussion with the chairman and others about next steps,” said Nadeam Elshami, Pelosi’s spokesman.