Senate passes resolution recognizing Armenian genocide

Three previous attempts to pass the measure were blocked by GOP senators at the request of the White House, the bill's GOP co-sponsor said.
Image: Bob Menendez
Ranking Member Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., speaks during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the future of U.S. policy toward Russia on Dec. 3, 2019 on Capitol Hill.Alex Brandon / AP file

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By Julie Tsirkin and Dareh Gregorian

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday passed a measure officially recognizing the century-old Armenian genocide — a move that was vociferously opposed by the Turkish government and that had been blocked by the White House.

The resolution passed unanimously after having been blocked three times by three different Republican senators.

"It is fitting and appropriate that the Senate stands on the right side of history," Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., a co-author of the bill who had tried to pass the measure before, said on the Senate floor after it passed. "It commemorates the truth of the Armenian genocide."

"I am thankful this resolution has passed at a time in which there are still survivors of the genocide," Menendez said, pausing as he choked back tears. They "will be able to see the Senate acknowledge what they went through."

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The resolution provides "official recognition and remembrance" of the killings of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire beginning in 1915. That recognition has been long opposed by Turkey, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan complained about the House passing its version of the resolution during a meeting with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office last month.

Menendez's previous attempts to pass the measure were blocked by Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, David Perdue of Georgia and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota.

The other co-author on the bill, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said that the three senators had blocked the resolution at the request of the White House, and that was "a mistake."

No one objected Thursday.

"This is the third week in a row we have come to the Senate floor seeking to pass this resolution, and I'm grateful that today we have succeeded," Cruz said. "This is a moment of truth that was far too long coming."

"From 1915 to 1923, the Ottoman Empire carried out a forced deportation of nearly 2 million Armenians, of whom 1.5 million were killed," Cruz said. "We must never be silent in the face of atrocity."

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called the Senate's move "a victory of justice and truth."

"On behalf of the Armenian people worldwide, I express our profound appreciation to the Senate for this landmark legislation," he tweeted.

The measure's passage was also hailed by the Armenian Assembly of America, an Armenian advocacy organization that's pushed for the measure.

"The Congress of the United States of America has spoken,” the group's executive director, Bryan Ardouny, said. The measure "unequivocally gives meaning to U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide and sends a strong message to the world that the U.S. stands on the side of human rights."

Julie Tsirkin reported from Washington, and Dareh Gregorian from New York.