WASHINGTON, DC – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Robert Menendez (D-NJ) asked for a “unanimous consent” vote to immediately adopt the Armenian Genocide Resolution (S.Res.150), the Senate version of the resolution the House adopted 405 to 11, establishing ongoing American remembrance of this crime, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
Sen. Menendez took to the floor an hour after Turkey’s President Erdogan appearance in a joint White House press conference with President Trump, during which Erdogan attacked U.S. House passage of Armenian Genocide Resolution, noting that this vote “hurt deeply the Turkish nation.” Erdogan asserted that Turkey has “nothing to hide” and that the matter should be left to historians. “I believe the Senate will take the United States out of this vicious cycle,” said Erdogan.
Sen. Menendez sent a clear and resounding message to President Erdogan that while he is being welcomed to the U.S. by President Trump, he does not get to continue his gag-rule on U.S. foreign policy.
“I ask unanimous consent that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee be discharged from further consideration of S. Res. 150 and the Senate proceed to its immediate consideration. I further ask that the resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate,” said Menendez. The “unanimous consent” request, if unopposed, would allow for an immediate Senate vote on a resolution.
Opposing the measure was South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, who, in his remarks, cited his recent meeting with Erdogan as the reason to not pass the Senate resolution saying that in view of the current crisis in Syria, as well as discussions with Turkey on its purchase of Russian weapons, the Senate should not move forward with the affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.
“Are we so afraid to stand up to history and the truth? Are we so afraid about Turkey?” asked Menendez in response to Graham’s opposition.
“Who’s the superpower? Who’s the superpower? I’m beginning to wonder. Because every time Turkey threatens to do something, we cower. Well, as far as I’m concerned, they don’t get to dictate the views of the Congress of the United States. They don’t get to dictate the views of this Senate,” added Menendez, saying the he “will prick the conscience of the Senate and to ultimately reveal who supports recognizing the Armenian Genocide and who does not? Otherwise these words about never again, they’re just hollow.”
ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian welcomed Sen. Menendez’s actions, noting, “As much as he might like – as much President Trump may have led him to believe – Recep Erdogan doesn’t get a vote in the U.S. Senate. The ANCA hails Sen. Menendez’s call for immediate passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution – a powerful rebuke to Erdogan’s century-long obstruction of justice. It’s clear – in the wake of near-unanimous, bipartisan U.S. House passage H.Res.296 – that the Senate would also pass this resolution overwhelmingly. Senator Graham knows this and – understanding that this would further isolate the Trump Administration – is blocking his colleagues from an up-or-down vote on this measure. If Senator Graham has a problem with S.Res.150 he should vote against it, not prevent his Senate colleagues from voting their conscience on this human rights measure,” added Hamparian.
Led by Senator Menendez and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), the Armenian Genocide Resolution (S.Res.150) currently has over 25 cosponsors, with four Senators—Michael Bennet (D-CO), Bob Casey (D-PA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Jackie Rosen (D-NV) – registering their support during Erdogan’s visit to Washington DC.
President Trump and President Erdogan met for some four hours at the White House prior to the press conference, with Armenian, Hellenic, Kurdish, and religious freedom groups protesting throughout. The protest was organized by the ANCA, in cooperation with the American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA), Hellenic American Leadership Council, American Hellenic Institute, In Defense of Christians, Armenian Youth Federation and American Rojava Center for Democracy – all calling attention to a wide array Turkish transgressions from Ankara’s recent invasion of northern Syria to its ongoing crackdown against Kurdish communities, occupation of Cyprus, oppression of Christian and other minority communities, crushing of dissent, jailing of journalists, blockading of Armenia, and denial of the Genocide committed against the Armenian, Greek, Assyrian/Syriac/Chaldean and Maronite nations. Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD) was on hand to support the protesters.
“Two years ago, Erdogan’s visit to DC was defined by foreign goons attacking and beating US citizens on American soil,” said AYF Washington Ani Chapter’s Nareg Kuyumjian. “Today, the foreign dictator was welcomed by hundreds of protesters organized by the AYF in coalition with a broad diversity of allies rallying around the permanent recognition of the Armenian Genocide in the House with H.Res.296. We will continue to build a movement around the momentum created with the passing of H.Res.296 to put an end to authoritarian oppression and genocide around the world.”
Earlier in the day, a small group of AYF and HALC members confronted Erdogan’s motorcade on its way to the White House.
Hellenic American Leadership Council Executive Director Endy Zemenides noted “As an American, I am very discouraged that President Trump would set aside both American interests and values to roll out the red carpet for Erdogan. At the same time, I am encouraged by the diverse alliance of Americans who combined forces to protest in favor of those values and interests.”
The protest was cast live on the ANCA Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube Channels.
U.S. Secret Service and Metropolitan Police were are high alert following the May, 2017, Erdogan-ordered attack on peaceful protesters across from the Turkish Ambassador’s residence, leaving many on the ground bleeding during most of the attack and send a dozen to the hospital. One Turkish American attempted to instigate a riot during the protest – flashing the ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves sign – but was quickly pushed out by police. Armenian and Greek groups went to Sheridan Circle, committed to standing up for First Amendment rights of peace protesters.
“In Defense of Christians joined the protests today to send a clear message to Turkish President Erdogan that we will not sit by and allow him to commit atrocities against Christians and Yazidis in Northeast Syria,” said IDC Executive Director Peter Burns. “Congressional recognition of the Armenian Genocide was only the beginning. We hope that he received the same message from the Trump Administration during their meetings today,” noted Burns.