By John Jabaghchourian
In a sudden and unexpected move, House Speaker Denis Hastert pulled the Armenian Genocide resolution, House Resolution 596, off the House floor in response to a letter sent by President Clinton just moments before the bill was to be voted on during the October 19 session of Congress.
Meanwhile, as the United States government continues to brush off the recognition of the Armenian Genocide conducted by the Ottoman Turkish government, France and Italy passed similar legislation through their government bodies on November 8 and 17, 2000.
In President Clinton’s letter, he urged Speaker Hastert to take H. Res. 596 out of consideration in the House, stating that the bill could impact the current situation in the Middle East between the Israelis and Palestinians and could endanger American lives.
“We have significant interests in this troubled region of the world: containing the threat posed by East and West Asia, stabilizing the Balkans, and developing new sources of energy. Consideration of the resolution at this sensitive time will negatively affect those interests and could undermine efforts to encourage improved relations between Armenia and Turkey,” President Clinton wrote in his letter to Speaker Hastert.
The unexpected part of the resolution’s withdrawal was Speaker Hastert’s willingness to follow the President’s request; a request that was against the Speaker’s alleged interests in the resolution.
Back in August during a campaign dinner for fellow Republican, James Rogan (CA-27), Speaker Hastert promised to bring H. Res. 596 to the House floor for a vote.
In a press release, the Speaker stated, “I support this resolution and I supported bringing it to the floor. I believe that the Armenian people suffered a historic tragedy and that this resolution was a fitting condemnation to those events.”
However, with all of his support for the resolution, Speaker Hastert readily abandoned the resolution at the request of the President. If he were truly committed to bringing the resolution to the floor, where he believed it had the support of the majority, would he have pulled it?
Speaker Hastert, as well as the House International Relations Committee, were well aware of the objections and threats used by the Administration’s State Department well before October 19th and continued to push the bill onto the floor.
Back in the last issue of the Hye Sharzhoom, I was skeptical of the Speaker’s intentions, and felt he may abandon the resolution once on the floor, hoping he had done enough to get Rogan re-elected.
It turns out he did abandon the bill but Congressman Rogan, representing Glendale and Burbank, lost the election to Democrat challenger and California State Senator, Adam Schiff. However, Hastert and the Republicans did maintain a slim majority in the House, and Hastert will likely retain his position as speaker.
President Clinton has demonstrated a weak response to threats by foreign governments, in this case the Turkish government, and has allowed these threats to influence American policy.
“I am disappointed with this outcome – I put a lot of hard work into this resolution,” local representative and co-author of H. Res. 596 George Radanovich (CA-19) said. “But if I am fortunate enough to be re-elected in November, you can count on me taking this issue head-on once again in the 107th Congress.”
Congressman Radanovich was re-elected on November 7, so the process has to start from scratch starting next year. While a new Congress and Administration will be in place the political climate has not changed much in favor for a similar resolution.