Woulda Been Nice

By Garen Yegparian

I know you’ll be very surprised to learn that we won’t have passage of a Genocide Resolution–neither HR 316 nor HCR 195–by April 24 of this year. That is of course if you live on another planet.

Both were passed by the House International Relations Committee back on September 15–2005. But they haven’t been brought to the floor of the House of Representatives. Why?

That’s politics. So I decided to contact two of the Congressional champions of this effort–Representatives Adam Schiff and George Radanovich.

Both agreed a resolution was unlikely to pass this year. Both agreed that if a resolution made it to the floor of the House–it would pass. Both agree the Department of State (DOS) is where effort must be expended to change the existing–I would say antiquated and ossified–pro-Turkey orientation.

According to Radanovich–the problem is the White House–and its primary source of direction on this issue–the State Department. The Speaker of the House–Dennis Hastert is unwilling to put the President–George Bush–in a tight spot (remember–the House is controlled by the same party as the White House–although the same thing happened even when Clinton was president).

According to Schiff–there is a division of labor among those pursuing passage of a Genocide resolution. He is working on the State Department while his Republican colleagues work on the Speaker of the House. Radanovich had met with Hastert recently–presumably based on a request for a meeting some months ago. Why the delay? My guess is Hastert’s unwillingness to bring this to the floor despite his promise to do so. I can’t imagine there was such a great delay when former Congressman-turned-Turkish-lobbyist Livingston met–on September 7–2005–with Speaker Hastert–then Majority Leader Tom Delay–Majority Whip Roy Blunt–and (majority) Staff Director Thomas Mooney. I’d love to know exactly what was discussed–but it’s not hard to guess. The legally required filing made by such lobbyists reads:

"Mr. Livingston met with the following [see above] Members of Congress and Congressional Staffer to deliver a package of information on Turkish/Armenian issues–and to discuss possible Congressional consideration of HCR 195 and HR 316:"

Schiff attended a meeting with a Deputy Secretary of State–accompanied by other Congressional supporters’ staffers. There–he tried to secure support–or at least non-opposition–for the resolutions. He would not disclose details–since he’d asked for a candid–and confidential–presentation of DOS thoughts on the issue. He also expressed his concerns regarding the Ambassador Evans situation.

Ultimately–Schiff thinks that if a resolution doesn’t pass by April 24–then a discharge motion may be required. This means at least 218 cosponsors are required on the resolution–i.e. a majority of the Representatives–which then allows it to be brought to the floor–circumventing the Speaker. Radanovich didn’t think this would work–despite his statement that if there were a Genocide resolution to be brought to the floor–enough votes existed for passage. He was a bit rushed–having stepped out of a committee meeting for the interview–but he didn’t explain this apparent contradiction. If there are enough votes–couldn’t those be brought on as cosponsors to bring the issue to the floor for a vote? Perhaps implicit in his commen’s was the matter of party loyalty–and the understandable hesitation some Republicans might have to bucking their leadership.

So what are we to do? Schiff anticipated a massive–unprecedented effort by our community and its supporters to realize passage. Radanovich advocates a slower–DOS-policy changing–White House-converting approach.

Can we get the massive public outcry required for the discharge motion? Have we developed enough support and friends among other constituencies throughout the country who would help in this effort? Would they go to bat for us at this time for this reason? And even if we do–what of Senate passage? Then there’s White House/DOS adoption of appropriate policy.

Do we have the kind of money–or willingness to generate it–that would go head-to-head with Turkish lobbying dollars? If we do–are we willing to stoop to the kind of "buying" of support that has tainted two members of the House leadership? Tom Delay renounced his reelection bid–clearly as a consequence of his indictment and attendant political woes. Dennis Hastert was implicated by Sybil Edmonds–the Turkish language translator–in Vanity Fair–as someone who has received tens of thousands of dollars from Turkish sources in a possibly illegal fashion? What would that do to our moral high ground?

I’m more of a supporter of the people-power approach–but even that takes money similar in scale–though not quite as much–as the lobbyist-using approach. These are our choices as presented by our elected representatives. They are clearly willing to follow our lead. Let’s lead.

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