Momentum for Armenian genocide measure is fading

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffMask rules spark political games and a nasty environment in the House CIA says 'Havana syndrome' unlikely a result of 'worldwide campaign' by foreign power The Hill's Morning Report - Biden to make voting rights play in Atlanta MORE (D-Calif.), the resolution’s main sponsor, won’t insist on a vote until he’s certain he has enough support for it to pass, an aide said Monday. There are no plans to bring the measure to the House floor anytime soon, a Democratic leadership aide said Monday.

The resolution has only 137 co-sponsors. That’s well below the 212 who were still signed on to an identical resolution in 2007 even after a similar opposition campaign reduced the number of its supporters and kept it from the House floor.


The dwindling momentum for the contentious measure comes just days after the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the resolution on a 23-22 vote, a tighter margin than the 27-21 vote at committee in 2007. Shortly after its approval last week, reports surfaced that Democratic House leaders had agreed to White House demands to keep the resolution off the floor.

A Democratic official is not aware of any agreement made with the Obama administration to keep the resolution off the floor.

Schiff’s aide said the California member is still committed to passing the resolution, but won’t press it until the votes are there.

“Rep. Schiff is not aware of any agreement with the administration on a floor vote. Rep. Schiff is committed to whipping votes and will not request a floor vote until he is confident he has the votes to get it passed,” said a Schiff aide.

The issue is a major test for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who in 2007 strongly backed the resolution for a vote before keeping it off the floor after pressure from Turkish officials and the George W. Bush administration heightened.

After the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week approved the resolution recognizing the killings by the Ottoman Turks during World War I as genocide, Armenian-American groups and allied lawmakers called for a floor vote as well as a renewed push to whip up majority support for the resolution in the House.

But the effort could pit Democratic leadership in the House squarely against the Obama administration as well as a key ally, Turkey, which has recalled its ambassador to the United States as a protest to last week’s vote.

“There are no plans to schedule it at this point,” said a Democratic leadership aide about a floor vote for the resolution.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Affairs Committee referred questions about a floor vote for the resolution to Democratic leadership offices.

The administration came out more forcefully against the resolution shortly before the panel markup. The day before, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke to Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the committee’s chairman. President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaClyburn predicts Supreme Court contender J. Michelle Childs would get GOP votes Progressives see Breyer retirement as cold comfort The names to know as Biden mulls Breyer's replacement MORE also spoke with Turkish President Abdullah Gul, leading a White House spokesman to say Congress should hold off on the resolution.

Since the panel vote, Turkish officials said the resolution threatened a delicate reconciliation process between that country and Armenia, which stills need to be ratified by both countries’ parliaments. Clinton was a key part of getting that reconciliation process up and going, and administration officials have cited the peace accord as a reason why Congress should not move forward on the resolution.

The resolution is a difficult issue for the White House because Obama, Clinton and Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenNorth Korea conducts potential 6th missile test in a month Clyburn predicts Supreme Court contender J. Michelle Childs would get GOP votes Overnight Defense & National Security — US delivers written response to Russia MORE all supported it when they were senators. In addition, the president has not used the word “genocide” to describe the killings since entering the White House, which he promised to do during the 2008 presidential campaign.

But despite the administration’s more vocal opposition to the measure, Armenian-American groups and members such as Schiff are not relenting in their push for a floor vote on the resolution.

Next month, on April 24, Armenia will mark the 95th anniversary of what it views as genocide. Events on Capitol Hill have been planned to commemorate the event, and people will come to Washington during the month to lobby lawmakers on the resolution.

“We are not going to rest on any laurels,” said Bryan Ardouny, executive director for the Armenian Assembly of America. “We are going to continue to push forward for a successful vote on the House floor.”