WASHINGTON — Rep. Tom Cole said Tuesday a bill he wrote to help foreign businesses invest in American Indian tribes failed because of “grievances” in some ethnic communities about Turkey.
Cole's bill, which would have established some test projects for foreign investments on Indian land through an expedited process, garnered well more than a majority of the House members voting on Monday night. But the 222-160 vote didn't reach the two-thirds threshold necessary for bills on the fast-track process.
In an interview Tuesday, Cole, R-Moore, said he would try to reintroduce it next year. The opposition, he said, was rooted in “grievances with Turkey that have absolutely nothing to do with the legislation.”
Cole, a Chickasaw who is among the strongest advocates in Congress for American Indians, crafted the bill to help Turkish businesses invest in Indian country. Turkish officials, he said, have been the only representatives from any country to approach him about economic development on Indian land.
Kinship with tribes
Many Turks feel a kinship to American Indians, he said, believing that they share the same Eurasian origins.
However, after Cole met some early resistance from lawmakers who have serious problems with Turkey, he changed the bill. Though it still mentions the country, the legislation doesn't favor any of the 155 member nations of the World Trade Organization, Cole said.
But some lawmakers contended Monday night that the legislation still created trade preferences for Turkey, which they said was guilty of human rights violations.
Many lawmakers, including House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, have strong allegiances to Armenians, who were the victims of genocide at the hands of the of Turkey early in the 20th century.
The Armenian Assembly of America praised the defeat of Cole's bill and said the vote “upholds our cherished values and reaffirms America's commitment to human rights.”
In the debate on Monday, some lawmakers who advocate for Greek American issues raised the issue of the Turkish invasion of Cypress in 1974.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, said that Turkey “has systematically destroyed the island's Christian heritage and colonized the area with more than 200,000 settlers and 40,000 troops.”
Some lawmakers also contended that Congress recently passed a bill that would achieve the same goals of Cole's legislation on Indian land.
Cole said Tuesday that he respects the views of his colleagues but that they weren't relevant to his particular bill aimed at creating jobs in some of the nation's most impoverished communities.
“This is not something that's undoable, particularly if we work harder,'' he said.