Rene — Hastert slices Turkey bill

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Hastert slices Turkey bill
By Jonathan E. Kaplan
House GOP leaders are vowing to kill a controversial amendment that chastises a key U.S. ally following a successful Democratic maneuver to pass the bill late last week.
Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Appropriations Foreign Operations Subcommittee, exasperated House leaders last Thursday when he accepted a Democratic amendment, which would bar Turkey from lobbying against a Republican-backed resolution that would call the Ottoman Empire’s killings of 1.5 Armenians during World War I “genocide.”
Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-Calif.) amendment would deny Turkey the use of U.S. foreign aid money to lobby against the Armenian genocide resolution sponsored by GOP Rep. George Radanovich (Calif.). If enacted, Radanovich’s resolution would be the first time Congress formally marked the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923.
But House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said he will not schedule
Radanovich’s bill for a vote this Congress even though the Judiciary Committee has passed it.
Schiff, who represents one of the highest concentrations of Armenians in the United States, said he used the appropriations process because Hastert has not scheduled a vote. “Leadership understands the House will vote overwhelmingly to recognize Armenian genocide. … They chose wisely to let it be voice voted,” he told The Hill.
Radanovich told The Hill: “I think [the amendment] was a good way to keep Armenian genocide in front of people,” adding that his bill will never be passed because “of the force of the Turkish lobby.”
Turkey has tapped former House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Livingston, a lobbying powerhouse, as its Washington representative. Livingston’s associate referred calls to the Turkish Embassy,.
“There is a Turkish-American presence here. [But] the Turkish lobby is not considered a very strong lobby,” said Timur Soylemez, a Turkish Embassy official. “We are not putting [this issue] at heart of the Turkish American relationships. Some on the Hill are trying to poison that relationship. I would very much doubt either the Armenians or Turks would call it symbolic.”
Schiff had redrafted his original proposal, which could not have been considered under the House rules. But his redrafted account caught House leaders off guard. During the debate, Kolbe said that was the first time he had seen the amendment and complained that the language was not clear.
Republican sources told The Hill that they did not think the House parliamentarian was going to make Schiff’s amendment “in order” and were surprised when the parliamentarian decided it was. With a few minutes’ notice, appropriators and their aides chose to accept the amendment. The alternative choice was to risk losing a roll call vote.
In a harshly worded statement, Hastert, Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) acknowledged their displeasure with Kolbe and the amendment.
“We are strongly opposed to the Schiff Amendment to the foreign-operations appropriations bill, and we will insist that conferees drop that provision in conference. We have also conveyed our opposition to Chairman Kolbe, and he has assured us that he will insist on it being dropped in the conference committee,” Hastert said.
Kolbe said, “I allowed this because I determined that the amendment had no practical effect. … As the chair of pending conference committee on the Foreign Operations bill, I will insist this meaningless language be removed in conference.”
Armenian genocide has flummoxed Hastert and House Republicans over the past several years. Many lawmakers want the House to acknowledge the genocide even though Turkey, a longtime U.S. ally and NATO member, objects to any such legislation.
In 2000, Hastert promised Schiff’s predecessor, then GOP Rep. Jim Rogan, a vote on a resolution condemning the genocide. But the Clinton administration lobbied against a vote and Hastert yanked the bill minutes before its consideration.
Also that year, George W. Bush said that as president, he would “ensure that our nation properly recognizes the tragic suffering of the Armenian people.”
The White House was less involved this time, said John Feehery, Hastert’s spokesman, simply because House leaders knew the administration’s position.
Even if GOP leaders strip his amendment in a conference committee, Schiff said:
“I think amendment succeeded in drawing out opposition into the open. The battle has been joined.”
Debate over spending bills has grown increasingly bitter as lawmakers push their own projects or gain political points. On the foreign aid bill, lawmakers used the process to object to Bush administration policies toward Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) introduced an amendment that would bar the government from using taxpayer money to have United Nations officials monitor the 2004 elections.