THE WHITE HOUSE: This week, both the House and Senate returned to Washington and assembled on Tuesday for a bicameral session to receive the President of the United States for the annual State of the Union speech. Addressing Congress and the American people, President Obama proclaimed, “America doesn’t stand still – and neither will I,” as he looks to use his arsenal of executive actions to circumvent Congress in the coming years. The question on the minds of Armenian-Americans is will President Obama apply this tactic toward stemming human rights violations, expanding civil liberties and preserving justice, including fulfilling his 2008 campaign promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide “as President.” Technically speaking, President Obama has until January 19, 2017 to issue an executive order proclaiming the Office of the President of the United States officially recognizes the 1915 Armenian Genocide, although most historians and human rights advocates would like to see this recognition come before the centennial. Coincidentally, his last day in office will be the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink.
CONGRESS: At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Congress finally agreed, albeit with a few bumps along the road, to a 2-year budget deal (FY2013 and FY2014) earlier this month. Details of future U.S. appropriations to Armenia and Arstakh will surface in the coming months as Congress looks to lay the groundwork for FY2015 spending this summer. President Obama has delayed the release of his budget proposal, now set for March 4, which will officially kick-off budget season in the capital.
There is some optimism on Capitol Hill these days as legislators agreed to a 5-year farm bill this week, in addition to the latest budget breakthrough. The next big hurdle will be when America runs out of credit sometime in early February. Raising the debt ceiling again will be a true test of the ability of 113th Congress to do the peoples’ work without impasse. With the 2014 mid-term elections 277 days away, Congress is also looking at passing some elements of immigration reform and may look to take steps towards tax reform.
WHAT YOU MISSED: In a clear signal to Turkey, the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed into law by President Obama on December 26, 2013, contained a provision barring U.S. funds from being used to incorporate Chinese missile defense systems with U.S. or NATO missile defense infrastructure. Last September, Turkey announced its intention to procure a missile defense system from a Chinese company under U.S. sanctions, obviously alarming the U.S. and NATO allies. In a typical fashion, Turkey has yet to finalize the procurement process it says China has won, and has extended the deadline for U.S. and European companies to amend their proposals to one more favorable to Turkey.