Nancy Pelosi, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, has reaffirmed her support for an official U.S. recognition of the Armenian genocide and defended her decision not to put a corresponding congressional resolution to a vote last December.
“Together, I joined supporters of the Armenian genocide resolution to try to build the necessary support to pass the resolution on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives,” Pelosi, who now leads the Democratic minority in the chamber, said in a statement issued late on Monday.
“At the end of the day, the resolution (H. Res. 252) had 148 co-sponsors and there was serious concern that the resolution did not have the necessary 218 votes needed for passage,” she said.
The resolution describing the World War I-era killings of more than 1 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as genocide was approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee in March last year. Pro-Armenian lawmakers tried to push the bill through the full Democrat-controlled House during its final session in late December.
The effort failed after Pelosi and the then House majority leader, Steny Hoyer, prevented a final vote on the measure fiercely opposed by Turkey.
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) condemned that stance. “Speaker Pelosi clearly had the majority, the authority, and the opportunity to pass the Armenian Genocide Resolution, yet refused to allow a vote on this human rights measure,” the ANCA chairman, Ken Hachikian, said at the time.
But the Armenian Assembly of America, another influential lobby group, believes that the vote would have been too risky in those circumstances. Assembly representatives say the bill’s rejection by the House would have set back the recognition drive, the main focus of Armenian-American activism, by years.
“While some may disagree, many supporters believe that allowing the resolution to go down in defeat would damage the credibility of the United States on this issue and affirm the false argument that one of the greatest crimes in history did not happen,” insisted Pelosi. “We were not willing to take that chance.”
“Moving forward, we must continue to build support in Congress to pass the resolution and to honor the memories of the victims and the lives of the survivors,” she said.
Hoyer made a similar point when he spoke at a Capitol Hill ceremony commemorating the 96th anniversary of the genocide earlier this month. “Unfortunately, by our count, the votes were not there -- and in our opinion, a loss would have been a set-back cheered by genocide deniers,” he said.
“I believe the day will come when Congress recognizes that truth, as well,” Hoyer told Armenian-American leaders. “You can count on my vote.”