Larsen backtracks on genocide bill

Reluctant to offend Turkey, Second District Congressman Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens, has withdrawn his co-sponsorship of a bill that would describe Turkey’s treatment of Armenians in the early 1900s as “genocide.”

Larsen was one of more than 200 co-sponsors of the House bill, which was backed by the Democratic leadership. But after Turkey, a NATO ally of the U.S., made its virulent opposition known, Larsen joined a number of other Congress men and women in backtracking.

“Turkey has been a key NATO ally for 55 years, and is currently working with the United States on a number of important issues. We need to hold the perpetrators of genocide accountable, but this is not the right time for this resolution,” Larsen said in a statement released Wednesday.

Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were killed as the Ottoman empire dissolved during World War I. Armenians claim it was genocide, while Turkey describes it as a tragedy of the times.

As of Thursday, the proposal had not come up for a House vote. Turkey declared that passing the bill would harm relations with the U.S., which needs Turkey’s help with the Iraq situation.

Also this week, Larsen called for his colleagues to help override a veto by President Bush of legislation to preserve health care coverage of millions of children currently covered by the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and extend it to millions of other children in families with higher incomes. In vetoing the measure, Bush called it too expensive.

According to estimates from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, the president’s veto of The Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007 (H.R. 976) could mean that thousands of children in Island, San Juan, Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties won’t get the health care coverage.

In Island County, approximately 338 children may not receive the health care coverage. In Skagit County 835 children may not receive the coverage, and in Snohomish County 963 children could be affected.

The House voted on Thursday and failed to get the two-thirds necessary to override the president’s veto.

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