Blue Dog 'disappointed' controversial genocide resolution didn't come to floor

The 111th Congress adjourned Wednesday without bringing up the latest incarnation of legislation that would have recognized the 1915 killings of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire as genocide.

Lobbying groups were on alert over the weekend on reports that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would bring the resolution to the floor in the final days of the lame-duck session.

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But lawmakers went home for the holidays without passing Rep. Adam Schiff's (D-Calif.) resolution, angering Armenian groups and leaving Turkish groups breathing a sigh of relief.

"[Pelosi's] decision to not move this legislation forward during her four years as Speaker represents a failure of Congressional leadership on human rights and, sadly, a setback to America's standing in the struggle to end the cycle of genocide," Ken Hachikian, chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America, said in a statement.

The Turkish Coalition of America praised the efforts of the Congressional Turkish Caucus in keeping the resolution from coming to the floor.

"Even the sponsors of the resolution realized that legislative trickery and back room tactics is not how Congress should operate," said G. Lincoln McCurdy, TCA president, in a statement.

"We now know that a majority of Congress agrees with President Obama about the importance of the US-Turkey relationship, and expect this wisdom to carry over into the 112th Congress so that we can avoid yet another needless round of bashing our ally Turkey at the expense of our national interests."

This Congress wasn't the first time such a resolution tried to make it through, but its passage in committee angered Turkey to the point that it called its ambassador back to Ankara for a time.

Schiff's resolution, which "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," passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 4 by a slim margin, 23-22.

A similar resolution was approved by the Foreign Affairs Committee in 2007. Just like this time around, the White House came out against the resolution, fearing it would damage relations with Turkey, and Pelosi did not bring the measure to the floor.

Schiff said that he and co-sponsors had launched a "full-press effort" to get the resolution to the floor in the past weeks.

"We believed that Turkey’s burgeoning alliance with Iran, its support for Hamas, and its insincere promise to seek reconciliation with modern Armenia would finally serve to offset Turkey’s shameful campaign of denial," Schiff said in a statement.

The Blue Dog Democrat said he was "deeply disappointed" that Congress recessed without taking up the measure.

“To my many thousands of Armenian-American constituents and friends, I pledge to you that I will continue to press for recognition of the Armenian Genocide until the memory of those who perished from 1915-23 is formally and forever preserved in our national consciousness," Schiff said.

Obama had promised early in his presidential campaign that he would call the mass killings genocide if elected. Beginning early in his term, though, Obama avoided use of the word genocide when asked about his campaign promise during a press conference in Turkey.

In his Armenian Remembrance Day statements over the past two years, Obama has avoided use of the word "genocide."

Schiff's resolution would have called upon Obama to "accurately characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1,500,000 Armenians as genocide" in his annual message.

"Coming in the wake of President Obama's string of broken promises to recognize the Armenian Genocide, Speaker Pelosi's refusal to schedule a vote on the Armenian Genocide Resolution represents a major breach of trust with Armenian American voters," Hachikian said.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent Obama a letter Monday asking him to prevent the vote, warning that it could damage ties between the two countries.

"We cannot allow the resolution to hang over Turkish-U.S. ties like a Sword of Damocles," said Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who also urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday to keep the resolution from passing.