Momentum For Armenian Genocide Measure Is Fading

By Kevin Bogardus

The Hill
March 9 2010

Rep. Adam Schiff (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 Obama 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 Biden 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."