WASHINGTON — This week, the House of Representatives defeated a measure that singled out Turkey for preferential treatment to engage in economic development projects on tribal lands in the United States, reported the Armenian Assembly of America. The measure did not receive the two-thirds majority required and failed by a vote of 222 in favor to 160 against.
Representatives Doc Hastings (R-WA), Tom Cole (R-OK), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), James Moran (D-VA), Dan Boren (D-OK) along with Delegate Eni Faleomavaega (D- American Samoa) spoke in favor of the bill, HR 2362, the Indian Tribal Trade and Investment Demonstration Project Act of 2011, while Representatives Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and John Sarbanes (D-MD) led the charge against the legislation.
During the debate, bill sponsor Cole noted that he was approached by the Turkish Coalition of America about the legislation. According to campaign contribution records, Cole has received $6,000 in Turkish PAC money this cycle while Foxx received $10,000. Cole argued that HR 2362 does not grant Turkey preferential treatment.
Armenian Caucus Co-chair Pallone, who indicated his support for “efforts to bring economic prosperity to Indian Country,” voiced his strong opposition to the bill: “To put it quite simply, there is no good reason for passage of this legislation. In fact, there are a whole host of reasons why this legislation should fail today.” Citing a litany of concerns, including Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide and “illegal occupation of Northern Cyprus,” Pallone urged his col- leagues to vote against it.
Hellenic Caucus Co-chair Maloney called the bill unnecessary, given that Congress has already adopted a more comprehensive measure, the Hearth Act (HR 205).
Further, Maloney recognized the opposition of the ranking members of the House Natural Resources and Foreign Affairs Committees, Representatives Edward Markey (D-MA) and Howard Berman (D-CA), respectively, and also raised concerns about Turkey’s human rights record and restrictions on religious freedom.
Sarbanes closed the debate for oppo- nents of the bill stating he did not believe that providing preferential treatment to one country, Turkey, can be “justified.” Echoing the sentiments of Representatives Pallone and Maloney, Sarbanes raised concerns about Turkey’s increasingly hostile actions to US allies, including Israel, Cyprus and Armenia and called for a recorded vote. Sarbanes also cited that two years ago, while serving as a member of the United
Nations Security Council, Turkey voted against sanctions on Iran to thwart its nuclear weapons program.
In addition to speaking on the House floor, Sarbanes spearheaded a letter along with Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) as did Representatives Berman, Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Markey, Pallone, Maloney, Nikki Tsongas (D-MA) and Brad Sherman (D-CA).
“We commend our friends and sup- porters, especially Representatives Markey, Pallone, Sarbanes and Maloney for leading the charge against this Bill,” stated Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. “We also appreciate the strong support of Representatives Ackerman, Berman, Berkley, Engel, Sherman and Tsongas. Today’s vote upholds our cher- ished values and reaffirms America’s commitment to human rights.”