Rep. Speier, at left, and Rep. Cox

Key Amendments for Armenian and Artsakh Pass House of Representatives with Help from Speier and Cox

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WASHINGTON — On June 18, the US House of Representatives adopted amendments by Representatives Jackie Speier (D-CA) and TJ Cox (D-CA) to H.R. 2740 — the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Legislative Branch, Defense, State, Foreign Operations, and Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act of 2020 — to include $40 million to Armenia for democracy assistance and $1.5 million to Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) for mine clearance efforts, as well as support for regional rehabilitation services, reported the Armenian Assembly of America. Speier’s amendment passed 268 to 152 and Cox’s amendment passed as part of an en bloc amendment by a vote of 231 to 187.

“The images of Armenia’s Velvet Revolution bring a smile to my face every time I think of it… The amazing part of all of this is that this democracy occurred with not one drop of blood being shed. So it is very important at this point in time that we do everything in our power to support this new democracy. Since the revolution, Armenia has held fair and free democratic elections that swept Nikol Pashinyan to power. Recently, his government signed an agreement with the United States providing up to $60 million over two to three years to promote economic growth and good governance in Armenia,” said Speier, the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, while introducing the amendment on the House floor.

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) stated: “The progress made in Armenia’s transition to democracy and the Velvet Revolution is a refreshing development at a time when so many other countries are headed in the opposite direction.” She added: “I am prepared to work to provide the necessary resources to encourage continued progress in Armenia.”

Earlier this year, Armenian Assembly Co-Chair Van Krikorian testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs and called for additional US assistance towards Armenia’s democratic and economic development as well as funding for Artsakh. During his testimony, he urged Subcommittee Chairwoman Lowey to “reward people who have made progress towards democracy.”

Cox’s (D-CA) amendment to ensure “funding for de-mining projects in Nagorno-Karabakh, and support for regional rehabilitation services for infants, children, and adults with physical and cognitive disabilities” was included as part of an en bloc amendment offered by Lowey.

“Children and families in Nagorno Karabakh shouldn’t have to live under the constant threat of a crippling injury or death from exploding mines,” Rep. Cox said to the Armenian Assembly. “My amendment will ensure continued funding for de-mining and rehabilitation projects in Nagorno Karabakh. I’m committed to working to restore communities in Nagorno Karabakh and ensure the region is landmine free.”

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“The Armenian Assembly applauds Rep. Speier for her commitment in support of Armenia’s democracy as well as Rep. Cox’s initiative regarding the safety of the citizens of Artsakh,” stated Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. “In addition, we also appreciate the strong support of Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone, Jr. and Vice Chair Adam Schiff in these efforts,” Ardouny continued.

During consideration of H.R. 2740, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) discussed the need for the US to take a more engaged role to help resolve the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, strengthen the cease-fire, and remove barriers to dialogue. Rep. Pallone also thanked Chairwoman Lowey for being a “champion of the region,” and for supporting Armenia and protecting Artsakh. Earlier this year, Rep. Pallone introduced H.Res.190, a resolution supporting United States-Artsakh relations, which calls for free and open communication, as well as travel between the two nations at all levels of civil society and government.

In addition to its House testimony, the Armenian Assembly also submitted testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee for FY 2020 this month reiterating key priorities including assistance to democracy-building in Armenia and assistance to Artsakh. In its Senate testimony, the Assembly also raised the danger of Turkish President Recep Tayipp Erdogan’s recent justification of the Armenian Genocide, which is a dangerous signal requiring US intervention.

“The Armenian Assembly will continue to advocate for robust assistance for Armenia as the appropriations process moves to the Senate,” Ardouny added.

With passage in the House, the next step in the legislative process is consideration by the Senate before both chambers can reconcile the bill.

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