Armenian News Network / Groong

Status of House Resolution 398 / 596

Genocide Bill Gathers Bi-partisan Support, Headed for a Vote in US Congress

Dates Events
  • October 19, 2000
H.Res.596 Killed from Schedule of 106th Congress
  • October 12, 2000
H.Res.596 Pulled from House Floor Calendar
  • October 3, 2000
House Committee on IR Votes in Favor of the Measure
  • September 28, 2000
Opponents Force Delay of House Committee Vote
  • September 21, 2000
House IR Subcommittee Voice-votes in Favor of the Measure
  • September 14, 2000
House IR Subcommittee Hears Testimony and Statements


Speaker Hastert Removes H.Res.596 from 106th Congress Schedule
Thursday, October 19 2000

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) pulled H.Res.596 from the agenda of the remainder of the 106th Congress, thus killing the resolution. The Speaker cited "national security concerns" brought forth by President Clinton relating to the ongoing Middle East Peace process.

"I have asked the Majority Leader to take H.Res.596 off the schedule for the remainder of the 106th Congress," said Hastert in his statement.

In a statement on the House floor following announcement of the Speaker's decision, Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) expressed sharp disappointment with the Speaker's decision, noting that, "If America is going to live up to the standards we set for ourselves, and continue to lead the world in affirming human rights everywhere, we need to stand up and recognize the Armenian catastrophe for what it was - the systematic elimination of a people.

Commenting on the Speaker's claim that he was pressured into withdrawing the resolution, Rep. Pallone said, "if the House of Representatives cannot speak to our historical experience because of threats from a foreign government, then what message do we send to our friends and enemies alike?"

House Set to Consider H.Res.596 on 10/19/2000
Thursday, October 19 2000

The House floor agenda today calls for the possible consideration of H.Res.596. The house Convenes at 10 am, and voting is possible throughout the day, but this issue is expected to come up toward the evening, 8-10pm Eastern time.

On October 11, Rep. George P. Radanovich (R-CA), told the House Rules Committee that the resolution is necessary to set the historical record straight. "This has nothing to do with the current government of Turkey," he said, "if Turkey wants to be part of the world community, they need to start growing up and facing the facts."

Opponents of the Resolution, with heavy pressure from former congressmen turned paid lobbyists for Turkey, cite political and economic reasons in their continued denial of the Armenian Genocide.

H.Res.596 Pulled from House Floor Calendar
Thursday, October 12, 2000

H.Res.596 was pulled from House floor calendar on Thursday, October 12, 2000 but will probably reappear on next week's schedule. The Rules Committee on Wednesday agreed to a one-hour debate on the issue but the measure disappeared from the calendar the next morning.

Members said it was pulled for scheduling reasons, not because of an effort to kill it, though there is a heaving lobbying effort against it from Turkish lobbyists, including former Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert L. Livingston, (R-LA) (1977-1999), who attended last night's Rules Committee meeting to observe the debate on behalf of Turkish interests.

The co-sponsor of the non-binding resolution, James E. Rogan (R-CA), said he expected the measure to be considered on Thursday, but was not disappointed at the postponement, because it's unclear if there are enough votes for passage. "This is the hardest bill I've ever had to whip," he said. "I've never seen anything like it."

Rogan said he was aware of the intense opposition to the resolution from the White House and State Department. Combined with pressure from Livingston and other prominent former members, - Stephen Solarz (D-NY), and Gerald Solomon (R-NY), - passage is all the more difficult, he said. "Armenia doesn't have a big lobbying presence," Rogan said, though at least one former member is working to get the resolution passed.

Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), who chairs the House International Relations Subcommittee in which the measure originated, said that pressure from Turkey and its lobbyists might have the opposite effect. He noted that threats from Turkey that U.S. access to airfields from which the United States monitors the no-fly zone over Iraq might have turned some members against Turkey and toward the measure.

Rep. George P. Radanovich (R-CA), said he has assurances from leadership the measure will be considered on the House floor. "The Speaker has made the commitment that it's coming to the floor, and that's a solid commitment," Radanovich said. "I'm convinced it will pass."

Third Markup of H.Res.398
Tuesday, October 3 2000

House Committee on International Relations Votes 24-11 in Favor of the Measure.
H.Res.398 is now known as H.Res.596. Read the full text and its accompanying House Report 106-933.

After a second day of extensive debate and delaying tactics by opponents, and ignoring Turkish threats, condemnation and warnings from the Clinton administration that Ankara would deteriorate relations with the US, the House International Relations Committee voted overwhelmingly to approve the non-binding H.Res.596, saying the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by Turks in 1915 was genocide.

The panel, by a bi-partisan vote of 24 to 11, rejected intense pressure from the Turkish Government - represented by a delegation from the Turkish Parliament - and its lobbying team led by former Congressmen Bob Livingston, Stephen Solarz, and Gerald Solomon - who are being paid 1.8 million dollars for their work. Two members voted "present;" eleven were not present for the vote.

H.Res.596 is now on track for a vote by the full House but will not be sent to the Senate or the president.

The debate, perhaps the longest on any single issue before the International Relations Committee this term, included testimony from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss (R-FL) and Turkish Parliamentarian Mehmet Ali Irtemqelik. Rep. Goss argued against the resolution, noting that it could harm U.S.-Turkey relations. Turkish Parliamentarian Irtemqelik, echoing earlier the Turkish government's revisionist stance by noting "I want to insist on one point: Genocide didn't happen." Irtemqelik also reiterated the Turkish threats that relations between Turkey and the U.S. will worsen. Turkey has been threatening to shut down the NATO airbase at Incirlik, in Southern Turkey, which is used to enforce the No-Fly Zone over Northern Iraq.

Ranking Democrat Sam Gejdenson (D-CT) and resolution co-author George Radanovich (R-CA) were joined by a bi-partisan group of legislators including International Operations Subcommittee Chairman Chris Smith (R-NJ), and Representatives Steve Rothman (D-NJ), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Tom Campbell (R-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Edward Royce (R-CA), and William Delahunt (D-MA) spoke forcefully against those seeking to misrepresent the atrocities committed by the Ottoman Turkish Government.

Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), a consistent opponent of the resolution, again joined California Democrat Tom Lantos in arguing strenuously against the measure. Rep. Lantos read extensively from statements from current and former Administrations officials opposed to the resolution. Also speaking against the measure was American Samoa Delegate Eni Faleomavaega (D).

In a renewed effort to dilute the legislation and divert the Committee from voting for its passage, Rep. Burton introduced an amendment regarding Turkish-Armenian relations. It failed on a record vote of 15 in favor and 19 opposed, with a number of Members indicating that the Armenian Genocide Resolution should be considered on its own merits. Speaking in favor of his amendment, Rep. Burton argued that the adoption of the underlying resolution would create difficulties for Armenia, though he did not provide any specifics. An amendment offered by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) replaced a mention in the resolution of the "Young Turk Government" with "Government of the Ottoman Empire." This amendment was adopted by a vote of 34 to 0.

Turkey reacted angrily, urging the full House to drop the bill, and continuing a string of official threats aimed at everyone, and high-level phone calls to Washington. Turkish president Ahmet Sezer has called US President Bill Clinton four times explicitly stating that he and Turkey expected Mr. Clinton's personal involvement to stop the measure's approval on the House floor, or preferably to stop it from even getting to the House floor.

The Turkish ministry of foreign affairs has published multiple websites of "facts" about "the allegations in the resolution" where they talk about mass killings of Turks by Armenians and Turkish culture. Meanwhile the Turkish parliament has sent a delegation and written protest letters to the US Congress.

Some in the Turkish press are blaming their government for sleeping on the job and letting western prejudice against Turkey and Armenian lobbyists overtake them. Others are calling for the enactment of the harsh measures in the multi-point "plans of actions" published, while still others are calling for an opening and examination of the archives to settle the truth.

Armenian Genocide specialist, Turkish scholar Taner Akçam derided the amorality of the Turkish press and government for arguing the issue on the basis of playing a numbers game. In a powerful article to his compatriots, Akçam calls for Turkey to stop playing games with the issue and regain its humanity by admitting its guilt.

The final vote was as follow:

  • Gary Ackerman (D-NY)
  • Cass Ballenger (R-NC)
  • Howard Berman (D-CA)
  • Doug Bereuter (R-NE)
  • Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
  • Kevin Brady (R-TX)
  • Tom Campbell (R-CA)
  • Dan Burton (R-IN)
  • Steve Chabot (R-OH)
  • Richard Burr (R-NC)
  • Joe Crowley (D-NY)
  • Pat Danner (D-MO)
  • James Davis (D-FL)
  • Eni Faleomavaega (D-Amer. Samoa)
  • William Delahunt (D-MA)
  • Earl Hilliard (D-AL)
  • Elton Gallegly (R-CA)
  • Amo Houghton (R-NY)
  • Sam Gejdenson (D-CT) - Ranking Democrat
  • Tom Lantos (D-CA)
  • Ben Gilman (R-NY) - Chairman
  • Matt Salmon (R-AZ)
  • Joe Hoeffel (D-PA)
  • Barbara Lee (D-CA)
  • John McHugh (R-NY)
  • Mark Sanford (R-SC)
  • Cynthia McKinney (D-GA)
  • John Cooksey (R-LA)
  • Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
  • George Radonovich (R-CA)
  • Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
  • William Goodling (R-PA)
  • Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
  • Paul Gillmor (R-OH)
  • Steven Rothman (D-NJ)
  • Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
  • Edward Royce (R-CA)
  • Henry Hyde (R-IL)
  • Brad Sherman (D-CA)
  • Peter King (R-NY)
  • Christopher Smith (R-NJ)
  • James Leach (R-LA)
  • Tom Tancredo (R-CO)
  • Donald Manzullo (R-IL)
  • Gregory Meeks (D-NY)
  • Donald Payne (D-NJ)
  • Earl Pomeroy (D-ND)
  • Robert Wexler (D-FL)

House Resolution 596 now heads to the House floor where a vote of the full House of Representatives is expected in mid-October.

Second Markup of H.Res.398
Thursday, September 28 2000

Opponents of H.Res.398 Force a Delay of Committee's Vote on the Measure

Following over three and a half hours of debate, opponents of the Armenian Genocide Resolution forced a delay in the House International Relations Committee's vote on the measure.

Opposition to the resolution was led by Congressmen Dan Burton (R-IN) and Tom Lantos (D-CA), who worked to introduce amendments and bog the effort down in procedural tactics to delay a vote. Chairman of the panel, Ben Gilman (R-NY), in recognition of the fact that the majority of Members would be leaving Washington, DC to return to their districts, announced that consideration of the resolution would be postponed until the week of October 1st.

The Committee adopted an amendment, introduced by Congressman Thomas Tancredo (R-CO), indicating that the "modern day Republic of Turkey did not conduct the Armenian Genocide, which was perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire." The Chairman ruled out of order an amendment by Rep. Lantos, who is a holocaust survivor, to strike any mention of the Armenian Genocide and substitute general language on "man's inhumanity to man."

In addition to Congressman Radanovich, other members speaking in support of the resolution included Ranking Committee Democrat Sam Gejdenson (D-CT), and International Operations Subcommittee Chairman Chris Smith (R-NJ), and Reps. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Steve Rothman (D-NJ), Ed Royce (R-CA), Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Tom Campbell (R-CA), Howard Berman (D-CA), and Mark Sanford (R-SC). Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), indicated his support for Congressman Radanovich's efforts and voiced opposition to the Lantos amendment because it would have eliminated any reference to the Armenian Genocide.

Joining Reps. Lantos and Burton in opposing the measure were Reps. Doug Bereuter (R-NE), Cass Ballenger (R-NC), Jim Davis (D-FL), Earl Pomeroy (D-FL), Kevin Brady (R-TX), Matt Salmon (R-AZ), and Robert Wexler (D-FL). Commenting on various amendments without taking a firm stand either for or against the resolution were Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Tom Tancredo (R-CO). Barbara Lee (D-CA) discussed her record on human rights issues, including her support for the California public school curriculum on the Holocaust, slavery in the United States, and abuses against native Americans. In her remarks, she did not, however, clearly indicate either support or opposition to the Armenian Genocide Resolution.

In an effort to accommodate the concerns raised by several of his House colleagues and to build broader bipartisan support for the measure, Congressman Radanovich had revised the text of the resolution and reintroduced it as H.Res.596.

Meanwhile, official Ankara continued its irrational fury, leaking to the press a "5-point" and a "34-point action plan," which included everything from denying NATO use of airbases on Turkish territory to closing the Turkish air corridor for flights and humanitarian aid to and from Armenia, denying entry visas to citizens of Armenia, and taking other "more active measures" suggesting solutions as extreme as "solving the Armenian problem" by dispatching troops to Yerevan.

First Markup of H.Res.398
Thursday, September 21 2000

House International Relations Subcommittee Voice-votes in Favor of the Measure

The House International Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, voice-voted in favor of a measure which calls on President Bill Clinton and future presidents to ensure that US diplomats dealing with human rights are educated about the Armenian Genocide and use the word "genocide" to refer to it. The legislation known as H.Res.398 is now due to be debated on Tuesday by the full House International Relations Committee. A favorable vote in the committee will help move H. Res. 398 to the House floor for a vote.

Subcommittee chairman Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) opened the hearings by saying "My own view is that this resolution deserves to pass, because at its core it simply reaffirms that United States foreign policy should begin by telling the truth."

The subcommittee vote provoked an angry reaction from Ankara, with Turkish leaders warning of a deterioration of relations with Washington, its number one military ally, and Yerevan. Turkey has threatened to close down the humanitarian air corridor which links Armenia to the western world, and hinted at possibly shutting down the Incirlik air base which US and NATO warplanes use to monitor and bomb Iraq from.

Turkish Minister Bulent Ecevit described the vote as a "sad and ugly event," while President Ahmet Necdet Sezer called on the Clinton administration to block the bill's passage.

Unnamed diplomatic source in Ankara say that by continuing to encourage the efforts by Armenian-American lobbying groups, Yerevan complicates the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia. Turkey has refused to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia until the latter recognizes Azerbaijani sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh and gives up all effort toward recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

The Armenian government, for its part, has welcomed the latest development in the US Congress. In his speech at this month's UN "Millennium summit" President Robert Kocharian reiterated Yerevan's intent to seek international recognition of the 1915 genocide.

Turkish officials vehemently deny that the mass killings and deportations of the Ottoman Armenians were masterminded and perpetrated by the regime of the Young Turks. Foreign Minister Ismail Cem stood by that interpretation in a recent interview with Milliyet, a leading Turkish daily.

A prominent Turkish journalist, Mehmet Ali Birand, wrote in the Turkish Daily News on Saturday that possible approval of the genocide resolution by the US Congress would deal a severe blow to Turkish foreign policy. He said: "Our relations with Washington will be damaged almost beyond repair... This will be followed by European countries' parliaments following suit and recognizing similar bills. We will be on the floor with no chance of getting up."

Birand argued that the authorities in Ankara are also to blame for how far the Armenians have gone in having the international community pick up their cause. "They said the [Ottoman] archives would be opened; they were not. Not enough scientific or popular research has been carried out. The gentlemen in Ankara figured they could ride this one out by uttering phrases such as 'strategic importance,' 'the importance of the military' and 'great allies.' Come on gentlemen, time for action. If we are right, let us prove we are."

Hearing on H.Res.398
Thursday, September 14 2000

House International Relations Subcommittee Hears Testimony and Statements

Congressman Christopher Smith (R-NJ) chaired a four and a half hour sitting of the House International Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, to hear testimony and statements regarding House Resolution 398, authored by Representatives George Radanovich (R-CA) and House Democratic Whip David Bonior (D-MI), and currently co-sponsored by over 140 representatives.

H.Res.398 affirms the United States record on the Armenian Genocide and

  1. Calls upon the President to ensure that U.S. diplomats dealing with human rights are educated about the Armenian Genocide, and
  2. Urges the President to properly characterize the Armenian Genocide as genocide in the President's annual April 24th address.

Professors Roger W. Smith, Professor of Government College of William And Mary, and Prof. Robert Melson of Purdue University, a specialist on Genocide and Holocaust studies, testified before the subcommittee.

Prof. Smith said "The costs that denial of Genocide by Turkey since 1915 has inflicted upon the world: 1. lack of respect for the victims; 2. sending signals to would-be perpetrators that they can commit genocide, then deny it, and get away with it; and 3. cutting us off from knowledge that might help prevent future genocides." He continued: "The evidence for this being a centrally planned, systematic genocide comes from many sources and consists of different types of evidence, which converge in a single direction. The evidence of intent is backed by explicit Ottoman documents..." Prof. Smith's full testimony is available here.

After affirming the facts, Prof. Melson stated "Turning to the last point [of the resolution] allow me to speak as a proud American citizen, not only as a scholar of genocide. I find it thoroughly dishonorable that knowing what we know about the Armenian Genocide, we persist in using euphemisms like "tragedy," "catastrophe," and "massacre" when referring to the mass-murder for fear of offending Turkish sensibilities. Would we abide such behavior from a Germany that denied the Holocaust? Indeed, could Germany ever have evolved into the vibrant and powerful democracy she is today without confronting her past? The answers are apparent, and they should be apparent in our relationship to Turkey as well." Prof. Melson's full testimony is available here.

Defending the denial of the Armenian Genocide was Pro-Turkish historical revisionist Justin McCarthy of the University of Louisville in Kentucky. One of the most ardent opponents of the Genocide was former Turkish Ambassador to the US Gunduz Aktan, who said that if the Genocide bill passed Congress, "the first loss will be in the Cyprus issue."

Chairman Smith condemned this threat by the former Turkish diplomat saying "In all candor, your testimony was a threat and I say that with all due respect. You have come to this committee and we appreciate you being here, but ... Let me just say, that frankly makes me more suspicious of the Government's efforts to suppress this information."

Also expressing a viewpoint and presenting the official State Department position on the matter was Deputy Secretary of State and former US Ambassador to Turkey Mark Grossman, who said that the passage of the resolution would hinder US-Turkey relations.

Congressman James Rogan (R-CA), a co-author on this bill, delivered a strong statement in support of H.Res.398, who emphasized that this issue is not a political one, but a moral one. Rep. Bonior noted that acknowledging the Armenian Genocide would lead to improved relations among neighbours in the Caucasus and open new doors.

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