S. M. Buyukataman Reporting From White House
Senate passes Armenian genocide bill in move likely to infuriate Turkey
The Senate passed a resolution via unanimous consent Thursday formally recognizing Turkey’s genocide of the Armenian people.
Why it matters: The previous three attempts by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to pass the resolution were blocked by Republican senators at the request of the White House, which feared that its passage would infuriate the Turkish government during a tense period of U.S.-Turkey relations.
- Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) previously objected to the resolution, but indicated that they were not willing to do so again.
- Mendendez, who has championed the cause since arriving in the Senate in 2006, became emotional on the Senate floor as he spoke following the passage of the resolution.
“By passing my Armenian Genocide resolution, the Senate finally stood up to confirm history: What happened from 1915 to 1923 was — most assuredly — genocide. There is no other word for it. There is no euphemism. There is no avoiding it. To overlook human suffering is not who we are as a people. It is not what we stand for as a nation. We are better than that, and our foreign policy should always reflect this.”
— Bob Menendez
The big picture: Turkey and its NATO allies, including the U.S., have clashed recently over Turkey’s purchase of a Russian S-400 missile system, as well as its military assault against U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in northern Syria. Bipartisan senators have introduced a bill to implement sanctions against Turkey for its S-400 purchase.
What to watch: Turkish spokesperson Fahrettin Altun tweeted a warning in response to the resolution’s passage, as well as the sanctions bill advanced by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday.
“The behavior of some members of the U.S. Congress is damaging the Turkish-American ties. The sanctions bill that passed yesterday in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Armenian resolution that passed today in the Senate endanger the future of our bilateral relationship. … History will note these resolutions as irresponsible and irrational actions by some members of the US Congress against Turkey. They will go down in history as the responsible party for causing a long lasting damage between two nations.”
Go deeper: Sen. Cramer blocks Armenian genocide bill at request of White House
StoriesZachary Basu, Jonathan Swan
Scoop: Sen. Cramer blocks Armenian genocide bill at request of White House
The White House directed Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) to block an effort by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Thursday to pass a resolution via unanimous consent formally recognizing Turkey’s genocide of the Armenian people, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
Why it matters: This is the third time that the White House has directed a Republican senator to block the resolution, a symbolic measure already passed by the House that would infuriate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
- Cramer said on the Senate floor that he doesn’t think this is “the right time” to pass the resolution, noting that President Trump has just returned from meeting with Erdoğan at the NATO summit in London, and that the resolution could undermine the administration’s diplomatic efforts.
Cramer’s objection is especially noteworthy given that he was a co-sponsor of a similar resolution during the last Congress.
- Cramer tweeted a picture in September 2017 thanking actor Dean Cain for visiting Capitol Hill to “raise awareness on the Armenian genocide.”
- He stated on the Senate floor Thursday that he does not intend to continue objecting to the resolution.
Sen. Kevin Cramer
Once a Superman, always a Superman. Thank you @RealDeanCain for coming in yesterday to raise awareness on the Armenian genocide.
253· Washington, DCTwitter Ads info and privacy
The backdrop: As Axios has previously reported, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was asked to block the resolution on Nov. 13 after meeting with Erdoğan at the White House.
- Graham told Axios at the time that he was trying to “salvage the relationship” between the U.S. and Turkey, which has been under considerable strain in the wake of Turkey’s military invasion of northern Syria.
- He added: “I’m not going to object next time.”
The following week, the White House asked Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) to block the resolution.
- A Perdue spokesperson told Axios: “Senator Perdue objected due to concerns that passage of the resolution would jeopardize the sensitive negotiations going on in the region with Turkey and other allies.”
The big picture: Trump clashed with France’s Emmanuel Macron at a NATO summit in London this week over Turkey’s role in the military alliance. Macron criticized Turkey for its assault on U.S.- and French-allied Kurdish forces in northern Syria, as well as its purchase of a Russian S-400 missile system over the objections of its NATO allies.
- Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) both called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to sanction Turkey over the S-400 purchase.
- Trump said at the NATO summit that he has a “very good relationship” with Erdoğan, dodging a question over whether he’d approve the sanctions.
Sen. Cramer’s office and the White House did not provide a comment.
- More on the White House directing Lindsey Graham to block the resolution
- Trump and Macron spar over Turkey’s role in NATO
- Trump praises Turkey’s Erdoğan as “great ally” despite Syria tensions