Hastert slices Turkey bill

The Hill, DC
July 19 2004

Hastert slices Turkey bill
By Jonathan E. Kaplan

House GOP leaders are vowing to kill a controversial amendment that
chastises a key U.S. ally following a successful Democratic maneuver
to pass the bill late last week.

Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Appropriations Foreign
Operations Subcommittee, exasperated House leaders last Thursday when
he accepted a Democratic amendment, which would bar Turkey from
lobbying against a Republican-backed resolution that would call the
Ottoman Empire’s killings of 1.5 Armenians during World War I

patrick g. ryan
Turkey would be barred from lobbying against a bill sponsored by Rep.
George Radanovich (Calif.) under a foreigh-operations amendment.


Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-Calif.) amendment would deny Turkey the use of
U.S. foreign aid money to lobby against the Armenian genocide
resolution sponsored by GOP Rep. George Radanovich (Calif.). If
enacted, Radanovich’s resolution would be the first time Congress
formally marked the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and

But House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said he will not schedule
Radanovich’s bill for a vote this Congress even though the Judiciary
Committee has passed it.

Schiff, who represents one of the highest concentrations of Armenians
in the United States, said he used the appropriations process because
Hastert has not scheduled a vote. `Leadership understands the House
will vote overwhelmingly to recognize Armenian genocide. … They chose
wisely to let it be voice voted,’ he told The Hill.

Radanovich told The Hill: `I think [the amendment] was a good way to
keep Armenian genocide in front of people,’ adding that his bill will
never be passed because `of the force of the Turkish lobby.’

Turkey has tapped former House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob
Livingston, a lobbying powerhouse, as its Washington representative.
Livingston’s associate referred calls to the Turkish Embassy,.

`There is a Turkish-American presence here. [But] the Turkish lobby
is not considered a very strong lobby,’ said Timur Soylemez, a
Turkish Embassy official. `We are not putting [this issue] at heart
of the Turkish American relationships. Some on the Hill are trying to
poison that relationship. I would very much doubt either the
Armenians or Turks would call it symbolic.’

Schiff had redrafted his original proposal, which could not have been
considered under the House rules. But his redrafted account caught
House leaders off guard. During the debate, Kolbe said that was the
first time he had seen the amendment and complained that the language
was not clear.

Republican sources told The Hill that they did not think the House
parliamentarian was going to make Schiff’s amendment `in order’ and
were surprised when the parliamentarian decided it was. With a few
minutes’ notice, appropriators and their aides chose to accept the
amendment. The alternative choice was to risk losing a roll call

In a harshly worded statement, Hastert, Majority Leader Tom DeLay
(R-Texas) and Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) acknowledged their
displeasure with Kolbe and the amendment.

`We are strongly opposed to the Schiff Amendment to the
foreign-operations appropriations bill, and we will insist that
conferees drop that provision in conference. We have also conveyed
our opposition to Chairman Kolbe, and he has assured us that he will
insist on it being dropped in the conference committee,’ Hastert

Kolbe said, `I allowed this because I determined that the amendment
had no practical effect. … As the chair of pending conference
committee on the Foreign Operations bill, I will insist this
meaningless language be removed in conference.’

Armenian genocide has flummoxed Hastert and House Republicans over
the past several years. Many lawmakers want the House to acknowledge
the genocide even though Turkey, a longtime U.S. ally and NATO
member, objects to any such legislation.

In 2000, Hastert promised Schiff’s predecessor, then GOP Rep. Jim
Rogan, a vote on a resolution condemning the genocide. But the
Clinton administration lobbied against a vote and Hastert yanked the
bill minutes before its consideration.

Also that year, George W. Bush said that as president, he would
`ensure that our nation properly recognizes the tragic suffering of
the Armenian people.’

The White House was less involved this time, said John Feehery,
Hastert’s spokesman, simply because House leaders knew the
administration’s position.

Even if GOP leaders strip his amendment in a conference committee,
Schiff said:

`I think amendment succeeded in drawing out opposition into the open.
The battle has been joined.’

Debate over spending bills has grown increasingly bitter as lawmakers
push their own projects or gain political points. On the foreign aid
bill, lawmakers used the process to object to Bush administration
policies toward Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) introduced an amendment that would bar the
government from using taxpayer money to have United Nations officials
monitor the 2004 elections.