There is no shortage of U.S. Representatives to thank for last October’s 405 to 11 passage of H.Res.296, the Armenian Genocide Resolution.
We can start with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who scheduled the vote, and – of course – the resolution’s bipartisan authors, Reps. Adam Schiff and Gus Bilirakis. There’s Congresswoman Anna Eshoo – whose passion and relentless pressure moved the leadership to action, and Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs, Reps. Jackie Speier and Frank Pallone who spent years tirelessly fighting this noble battle. Chairman Jim McGovern played a vital role in passing a favorable “rule” through his Rules Committee. We appreciate the role of Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy for helping ensure near-unanimous bipartisan passage. And we can never forget all those who, over so many decades, championed this cause – leaders like former Representatives David Bonior, Bill Broomfield, Tony Coehlo and Ed Derwinski.
There is one man, though, who deserves our special thanks—a legislator who I am proud to say represents our local Armenian American community in the northern reaches of the Bronx and the southern half of Westchester County. He’s an old friend and has always been a strong ally of Armenian families from Scarsdale and Mount Vernon to Yonkers, New Rochelle and Rye. That man is Eliot Engel. And he serves as Chairman of the influential U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee.
As Chairman, Congressman Engel was the strong, steady, guiding hand behind the near-unanimous passage of H.Res.296, Armenian Genocide Resolution – a historic vote that effectively ended Congressional complicity in Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide. It was this overwhelming victory in the House that set the stage – a few weeks later – for unanimous passage by the U.S. Senate.
What I have come to understand – but many may still not know – is that H.Res.296 was fast-tracked to the U.S. House floor only as a result of Chairman Engel’s leadership. Typically, a resolution like this would need to go through the committee process – very likely with a full hearing, an extensive “mark-up,” then be opened to possible amendments, and finally a vote of the panel. This could have taken weeks, or longer, allowing the Turkish lobby a chance to derail the measure or sabotage it with hostile amendments. Delays would have given Erdogan time to mend his relationships with Washington, or, conversely, to bully Congress into backing down.
Thankfully, Chairman Engel saw his opportunity, and he took it—striking while the iron was hot at the right time and in the right way. He worked overtime – with both Democrats and Republicans – doing all the backroom consensus-building needed to successfully shepherd the resolution that he had long supported in all its forms, straight to the House floor. It looked easy, almost inevitable, but it wasn’t. We needed Chairman Engel holding the gavel to get the job done, and we need him to stay in Congress to continue leading on all the issues we care about as Americans of Armenian heritage.
That’s where you come in. Chairman Engel is facing a serious challenge in the Democratic primary, and he needs our help. We cannot afford to lose such a great friend – a legislator who chairs a major committee, a legislator with seniority, a legislator respected by his peers, a legislator able to work across party lines. We saw what he can do last year, and we need to do all we can so that our community can work with him for years to come.
A longstanding friend, with deep ties to our community reaching back decades, Chairman Engel has consistently gotten A+ grades from the ANCA. He has stood with us in every battle we’ve waged on Capitol Hill. He even traveled to Yerevan in 2014 to commemorate the 99th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. But his support does not end with the Genocide. He has also been a champion of our foreign aid priorities and the co-author of the Royce-Engel Proposals to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its attacks against Artsakh and Armenia. Now is the time for us to stand with him during the greatest electoral battle of his political career. We can do that as voters (if we live in NY’s 16th Congressional District) as donors (no matter where in America we live), or even as campaign volunteers.