All Michigan U.S. House members join vote to sanction Turkey, recognize Armenian genocide

Smoke rises over the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain, as seen from the Turkish border town on October 15, 2019 in Ceylanpinar, Turkey. The military action is part of a campaign to extend Turkish control of more of northern Syria, a large swath of which is currently held by Syrian Kurds, whom Turkey regards as a threat. U.S. President Donald Trump granted tacit American approval to this campaign, withdrawing his country's troops from several Syrian outposts near the Turkish border. | Burak Kara/Getty Images) (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House on Tuesday passed legislation with broad bipartisan support to impose sanctions against Turkey for its military invasion of northern Syria. 

The legislation passed the House by a vote of 403-16. It comes after the chamber voted earlier this month to approve a resolution condemning President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria.

All 14 members of Michigan’s congressional delegation voted for the resolution. 

3 Michigan reps. don’t vote to condemn Trump’s Syrian troop withdrawal

The bill — sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and the committee’s top Republican, Texas U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul— would impose sanctions on specific Turkish officials connected to the invasion. It would also sanction financial institutions that knowingly bankrolled the invasion and it would bar U.S. defense services from being transferred to the Turkish government if they may be used by Turkey for military operations in northern Syria. 

Ahead of the vote, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused Trump of unleashing “an escalation of chaos and insecurity in Syria” when he announced plans to pull U.S. troops from the region. She warned that Trump had threatened lives, risked regional security and undermined U.S. “credibility as a trustworthy ally.” 

Trump’s critics on both sides of the aisle blame the president for allowing a Turkish incursion into the region that targeted U.S. Kurdish allies. There is also bipartisan legislation in the Senate to impose sanctions on Turkey, but its fate is uncertain. 

Amash, Dems bash Trump for emboldening Turkey, abandoning Kurdish allies

The House also voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night (405-11) to adopt a resolution that commemorates the “Armenian genocide,” when an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed between 1915 and 1923 in the Ottoman Empire, which is now Turkey. All 14 Michigan U.S. representatives voted for it.

“I am pleased that the U.S. House of Representatives took this important step to recognize the facts of the Armenian genocide,” said U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills). “We have an obligation to speak clearly and directly about the heinous crimes committed against the Armenian people from 1915 to 1923. “We must not be complicit in the denial of history.”

Mari Manoogian

State Rep. Mari Manoogian (D-Birmingham) said, “As a descendant of Armenian Genocide survivors, I am heartened that after more than 100 years, Congress has formally recognized the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians and other Christian minorities by the Ottoman Empire.

“Today’s action to end the denial of the truth has brought dignity and solace to generations of descendants of Armenian Genocide survivors. This should not be the end of this critical conversation, but rather the beginning of a renewed effort to enshrine recognition into U.S. law and to ensure future generations learn about the Armenian Genocide, as we do here in Michigan.”

Engel of the Foreign Relations Committee has said the House wants to send a clear signal with its recent actions regarding Turkey.

 “I think some of us are a little bit annoyed with Turkey, and we want them to know how much annoyed we are,” he told NPR. 

The “genocide” label is highly contentious and previous attempts to pass a similar resolution fell through in recent years, due in part to pushback from Turkey. The Turkish Embassy cautioned this week against any attempt by the House “to pass judgment on the events of 1915,” the Wall Street Journal reported

Advance Editor Susan J. Demas contributed to this report.