Next month marks the 94th anniversary of the start of the Armenian Genocide. More than a million Armenians died during a campaign of massacres and forced marches directed by the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Empire is now Turkey, an important American ally. Two Congressmen from California are again lobbying for U.S. government recognition of the genocide. KPCC's Washington Correspondent Kitty Felde reports that first, they need to win over the House Speaker.
Kitty Felde: For years, Democrat Adam Schiff of Glendale and Republican George Radanovich of Fresno have co-sponsored a non-binding resolution. It calls on Congress to declare the Ottomans' killing of more than a million Armenians was "genocide." They plan to reintroduce the resolution this spring. But will Speaker Nancy Pelosi bring it to the floor for a full vote?
Nancy Pelosi: When they have what I would consider a critical mass of votes to, I'm sure they will come talk to me. But my position is clear about the Armenian Genocide, whether the House votes on it or not, that doesn't make it so or not so.
Felde: Schiff and Radanovich have been quietly lobbying House members to come up with that critical mass of votes. Turkey reacts sharply when Congress brings up genocide resolutions.
But last session, Schiff and Radanovich got one out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It stalled when the conflict between Turkey and Kurds on the Iraqi border boiled over. At the time, President Bush said the resolution would do "great harm" to U.S. relations with Turkey – home to key U.S. military operations.
Schiff and Radanovich have sent a letter to President Obama. It reminds him that as candidate Obama, he said the country "deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides."