House delays vote on Armenian Genocide

October 25, 2007
Source: The New York Times

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- House sponsors of a resolution that would label as genocide the 1915 killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks have asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi to delay a vote on the measure because they feared it would fail.

Support for the resolution deteriorated this month, after Turkey recalled its U.S. ambassador in protest and several lawmakers said they feared it would cripple U.S.-Turkey relations.

"We believe that a large majority of our colleagues want to support a resolution recognizing the genocide on the House floor and they will do so, provided the timing is more favorable," the lawmakers told Pelosi in a letter on Wednesday.

The letter was signed by four primary sponsors of the resolution: California Democrats Adam Schiff, Anna Eshoo and Brad Sherman, and Frank Pallone, D-N.J.

The group said they would continue to work with leadership "to plan for consideration sometime later this year, or in 2008."

The resolution had inflamed U.S. tensions with Turkey, which says the death toll has been inflated and was the result of civil unrest, not genocide. A member of NATO, Turkey is considered a rare Muslim ally to the United States in its war on terrorism. A U.S.-run air base there has facilitated the flow of most cargo to American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The measure, approved earlier this month by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also came at a sensitive time. In recent weeks, the U.S. has called for Turkey's restraint in dealing with attacks by Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq.
The House resolution "would really damage our relations with a Democratic ally who is playing an extremely important strategic role in supporting our troops," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a House panel on Thursday.

Among the critics are many Democrats, including Rep. John Murtha, who chairs the subcommittee on military spending. Last week, Murtha, D-Pa., said his party's leaders had miscalculated support for the resolution and predicted it would fail easily.
On Thursday, Schiff agreed the votes weren't there.

"I think the Turkish lobby has, regrettably, earned their money," he said in an interview. "I think they were successful in a campaign that was persuasion and coercion. Unfortunately it was aided and abetted by our own State Department."
Schiff said it is hard to say when he'll try again.

"We want to make sure that when the measure is brought to the floor, we're confident the votes are there," he said. "I think the worse thing would be that you take it up and you're not successful, and Turkey argues that it's a denial of the genocide."

A spokesman for Pelosi said the speaker "respects the judgement" of the lawmakers.

Republican Leader John Boehner, who opposes the resolution, called the debate a "debacle" by Democratic leadership.

"This entire situation calls their judgment into question," said Boehner, R-Ohio.