The Assembly Agenda: This Week in Washington, D.C. – May 30, 2014

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By Taniel Koushakjian

May 30, 2014

HOUSE: The House was in session on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week but will be out all next week in observance of Memorial Day. The House will return on Monday, June 9.

The House Appropriations Committee has not yet scheduled a date to approve the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, which covers U.S. economic, humanitarian and military assistance to Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh, and Azerbaijan. It is most unlikely that the House will pass all 12 appropriations bills separately, as both time and history would predict. Add to that the fact that it is an election year, Congress will probably end up passing the SFOPS bill as part of a mini-bus or omni-bus spending package sometime before the month-long August recess. In early April the Assembly submitted testimony to the House Appropriations Committee outlining nine key priorities for U.S. assistance to Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh and Kessab Armenians. The full testimony is available here.

SENATE: The Senate is out on recess this week in observance of the Memorial Day holiday and will return on Monday, June 2. The Senate Appropriations Committee has also not yet schedule a date to approve the SFOPS bill for FY2015.

WHITE HOUSE: President Obama recently announced that he will release the Armenian Orphan Rug for public display sometime later this year. However, such a commitment has not been put in writing and no details of the event, such as time, date, or location, have been revealed. The Assembly welcomes this announcement and expects the President to honor his commitment and to release the rug for public display this year.

MAKING MOVES:

AMBASSADORS ROTATE – Former Prime Minister of Armenia, Tigran Sargsyan, is headed to Washington, D.C. as Armenia’s next Ambassador to the United States. He will soon replace Tatoul Markarian who has held the post since 2005.

– U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, Francis Ricciardone, has been tapped to be the next Vice President of the Atlantic Council and will serve as the director of their Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, according to a press release. Ricciardone is slated to begin his new role in September. According to a report in Todays Zaman, President Obama is expected to nominate John R. Bass to replace Ricciardone in Ankara. Bass is currently the Executive Secretary of State and served as the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia from 2009-2012. 

OBAMA NOMINATES ARMENIAN-AMERICAN AS AMBASSADOR – On May 20, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the nomination of Nina Hachigian to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). President Obama nominated Hachigian to the post in January. The author of several books on foreign policy, Hachigian previously served as a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress.

STAFF ROTATIONS On May 12, Max Gleischman, former communications director for Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), began his new job as director of communications and spokesperson for Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. A longtime supporter of Armenian American issues, Durbin voted YES, as a member of the Senator Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), on S. Res. 410, the Armenian Genocide resolution, which passed the SFRC with bipartisan support on April 10, 2014.

Amit Jani, a legislative fellow in the office of Armenian Caucus member Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), is returning to her native New Jersey to work as a field representative for Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) in Long Branch.

AZERBAIJAN BRINGS ON MORE LOBBYISTS, SPENDS BIG IN 2013: In April, the Embassy of Azerbaijan hired former Massachusetts Congressman Bill Delahunt for strategy, communications and legislative outreach. According to the FARA contract, Delahunt “will hold internal meetings with client and foreign principal, will assist with strategizing and discerning appropriate U.S. government-relations strategy, and communicate with U.S. officials and possibly U.S. media.” Delahunt becomes the second hire for Azerbaijan in April.  The nonprofit Assembly of the Friends of Azerbaijan also hired APCO Worldwide last month for communications work. According to a recent report from the Sunlight Foundation, Azerbaijan spent $2.3 million dollars in 2013 to influence Washington, D.C., making it the 10th largest foreign spender in Washington. Delahunt left Congress in 2011 and was the first Massachusetts Congressman to ever vote against an Armenian Genocide resolution. Delahunt voted NO when the genocide bill came up in the House Foreign Affairs Committee in 2010, but it ultimately passed 23-22.

ELECTION WATCH: This week, voters in Texas’ 4th congressional district ousted Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX) in the Republican primary, who becomes the first incumbent to loose re-nomination this cycle. The dean of the Texas delegation and the oldest serving member of Congress (he’s 91), Hall is also the first Republican in Texas state history to loose re-nomination. Many people aren’t aware, but Hall was a friend of Armenia and supporter of U.S. reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide. Here’s a photo of Congressman Hall with Assembly staff and constituents in his Rockwall, TX office on April 25, 2008.

DAYS UNTIL ELECTION: 159

ARMENIAN CONGRESSIONAL TRIVIA: Name the Senator who is retiring at the end of this year that previously introduced the Armenian Genocide resolution in Senate? The first person to correctly respond will get a shout out in the next edition of Inside the Assembly.

Send tips, suggestions, comments, complaints and corrections to taniel@aaainc.org. If you don’t already, please follow me on Twitter @Taniel_Shant and follow the Armenian Assembly of America @ARAMAC_DC

About Armenian Assembly of America

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.
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