WASHINGTON – Chances for a U.S. resolution calling the mass killings of Armenians that began in 1915 genocide eroded dramatically Tuesday night, as sponsors dropped off in droves and senior Democrats urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to abandon her support.
The number of lawmakers supporting the bill slipped below a majority as four more withdrew from the legislation, making nearly a dozen to do so since Monday. The White House strongly opposes the resolution, saying it will damage U.S. relations with Turkey. Legislators cited those objections, along with warnings from the Turkish government and from Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Baghdad, that the resolution would cause Turkey to scale back its assistance in the Iraq war, as reasons for rejecting it.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the nonbinding resolution on a 27-to-21 bipartisan vote last week, but several of those who voted yes have since switched. Pelosi, who has a large population of ethnic Armenians in her district, reiterated her promise to bring the resolution to the full House for a vote in a conversation with President Bush on Tuesday.
But with the resolution’s chances of passage apparently doomed, senior Democrats were urging Pelosi to declare victory with the successful committee vote and move away from the divisive issue.
Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., who chairs the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and Rep. John Tanner, D-Tenn., chairman of the House delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, wrote to Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Tuesday urging them to drop the legislation.
“We urge you to not bring the resolution before the House for a vote at this critical time for our men and women in uniform in the region, and for the stability of the Middle East,” they wrote.
The pair, along with Reps. John Murtha, D-Pa., Robert Wexler, D-Fla., and Stephen Cohen, D-Tenn., plan a news conference today urging Pelosi and Hoyer to reconsider.
Rep. Allen Boyd, D-Fla., said the defections were fueled by a briefing for several House members by Petraeus, who grimly warned that the resolution would risk Turkey’s assistance in Iraq. Turkey has threatened to cut off U.S. access to a critical air base.
In the run-up to the committee vote last week, all eight living former secretaries of state and three former defense secretaries warned Pelosi that the resolution would endanger national security in the Middle East.