Speaking on the House floor in support of H.Res.296, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said the resolution “is an important measure to set the record straight on the atrocities suffered by the Armenian people at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century.”
“We know what happened in this dark period of history. Between 1915 and 1923, 1.5 million Armenians were murdered. This was a genocide —and it’s important that we call this crime what it was.”
Turkey has long disputed the term “genocide” to describe what happened, calling the death toll inflated and considering those killed victims of war.
Earlier this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said nations accusing his country of committing genocide had their own “bloody past.”
Resolutions by the U.S. to recognize the Armenian genocide have been introduced multiple times in recent decades but have never reached the floor. Such instances occurred separately under the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations.
Opponents of a resolution say formally recognizing the Armenian genocide risks angering Turkey, whose relationship is crucial to stability in the region. But such apprehensiveness has waned with Turkey’s invasion of northeast Syria earlier this month following President Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from the region.
“I think some of us are a little bit annoyed with Turkey, and we want them to know how much annoyed we are,” Engel told NPR last week.
H.Res.296 is a bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and GOP Reps. Gus Bilirakis of Florida and Peter King of New York.
It passed with 226 yeas from Democrats, 178 from Republicans, and one from an Independent. In all, 11 Republicans voted nay. Two Democrats and one Republican voted present.
H.R. 4695, a separate bipartisan bill to sanction Turkey and condemn its Syria incursion passed 403-16.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.