In Rebuke Of Turkey, House To Vote On Armenian Genocide Bill Lawmakers approved a resolution affirming that it is U.S. policy to recognize the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, now modern-day Turkey.
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House Rebukes Turkey With Votes On Sanctions, Armenian Genocide

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House Rebukes Turkey With Votes On Sanctions, Armenian Genocide

House Rebukes Turkey With Votes On Sanctions, Armenian Genocide

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The House of Representatives voted to rebuke the government of Turkey today, passing two pieces of legislation aimed at punishing a traditional NATO ally. Earlier this month, Turkey invaded Kurdish-held territory in northern Syria after the president's announcement that U.S. troops would be pulling out. The last few weeks have seen a bipartisan push to pass legislation to push back against Turkey. Today's House legislation included a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide, a recognition that the Turkish government has long opposed - also, sanctions targeting the Turkish economy. NPR's Tim Mak joins us now.

Hi, Tim.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Hey there.

SHAPIRO: Tell us about the timing of this legislation. What does it say?

MAK: Well, I think it's hard to overemphasize just how frustrated lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are at this Turkish invasion. Just listen to Democratic House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel and his Republican counterpart, Congressman Michael McCaul.

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ELIOT ENGEL: Now the United States needs to make sure that Turkish President Erdogan faces consequences for his behavior.

MICHAEL MCCAUL: I truly believe this will send another signal to Erdogan to stop ethnic cleansing, to stop this aggressive behavior. And I think these two bills together will tie in very well.

MAK: It really illustrates just how irritated both parties are with Turkey's actions. Their legislation sanctions senior Turkish government officials, Turkish financial institutions and prevents the sale of arms to Turkey for use in Syria. It passed overwhelmingly today with more than 400 votes. That's a veto-proof majority in the House. Of course, not every single lawmaker was on the same page. Republican Congressman Mark Meadows, a close ally of the president, was skeptical that sanctions were needed because, in his view, the killing of ISIS' top leader shows that the president is taking necessary steps.

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MARK MEADOWS: With the action in Syria over the weekend and with the president's proclamation that we're going to secure the oil fields, I don't know that the sanctions will be needed.

SHAPIRO: OK. And the House also approved a second measure today aimed at rebuking Turkey, that resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Why is that significant?

MAK: So while the economic sanctions could sting if signed into law, there was this symbolic rebuke as well - an overwhelming vote of 405-211 - to recognize the Armenian Genocide. This has been a big priority of Armenian-American advocacy groups. And they've argued that the United States needs to recognize the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 to 1923. They were systematically killed in the Ottoman Empire, which is now modern-day Turkey. Congressman Brad Sherman has been an advocate for this resolution for more than 20 years.

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BRAD SHERMAN: We should have recognized that genocide again and again long ago, but we didn't because we were told that we had a great alliance with Turkey.

MAK: Previous administrations have prevented movement on this, in part due to fierce opposition from the Turkish government. But it's now come up because so many in Congress feel like the relationship with Turkey has degraded.

SHAPIRO: Are either of these measures going to go anywhere in the Senate?

MAK: You know, that's an interesting question. It faces a skeptical Mitch McConnell. As majority leader, McConnell essentially gets to decide whether it gets a vote. Congressman McCaul - he's the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He says he's been in constant communication with the White House and his counterparts in the Senate. He's confident they can come to an agreement.

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MCCAUL: It'll go through the Senate. And I feel very strongly the president will sign it.

MAK: The president has actually lifted sanctions on Turkey as part of the administration's efforts to broker a cease-fire in Syria, so it will be a heavy lift to convince the president to sign. And the White House hasn't weighed in on this House vote. But the Senate will get a classified briefing tomorrow about Syria, so we'll be hearing more about it soon, no doubt.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Tim Mak.

Thanks, Tim.

MAK: Thank you.

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