Friends, supporters, and leaders of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) joined together recently in Los Angeles to honor U.S. Senate champion on Armenian American concerns Robert Menendez (D-NJ), as he vies for his fourth term this November. Senator Menendez is the Ranking Democrat on the influential U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Senator has had strong ties to the ANCA of New Jersey for decades and consistently receives an A+ rating from the ANCA Congressional Report Card.
“Senator Menendez is a strong and steady friend who believes America’s moral compass should be guided by human rights,” remarked ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian. “The ANCA looks forward to working with Senator Menendez for many years to come – especially as he helps chart America’s foreign policy as a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” Hamparian added.
The evening, generously hosted by Peklar and Vera Pilavjian, was co-chaired by Murad and Armine Minasian and Adour and Arsho Aghjayan. Joining Pilavjian and Minasian in offering remarks were ANCA New Jersey advocate Ani Tchaghlasian and ANCA Government Affairs Director Raffi Karakashian.
“Vera and I were pleased to host Senator Menendez in our home. It was particularly exciting to see the broad diversity of individuals who joined together for this event,” said Pilavjian. “It showed the solidarity of the Armenian American community, not only with the Senator, but a renewed commitment to the Armenian issues that are worthy of pursuing in Washington.”
“Armenian Americans in my home state of New Jersey and across the U.S. stand with Senator Menendez – just as he has stood with us – time and again – rallying for justice for the Armenian Genocide, self-determination for Artsakh and stronger U.S.-Armenia ties,” said Ani Tchaghlasian, who has been a longtime ANCA advocate in the Garden State. “Whether it is introducing legislation, speaking out at committee hearings or supporting local initiatives, Senator Menendez has stood by principle. We look forward to his continued service in the U.S. Senate – and to working together to advancing Armenian American priorities and values.”
Speakers recounted Senator Menendez’s stellar record of support on key community concerns, beginning with his election as mayor in Union City in 1986, his time in the New Jersey State legislature from 1988 to 1992, and his 1992 election to the U.S. House of Representatives. As a member of the House International Relations Committee, then-Congressman Menendez voted in favor of the Armenian Genocide Resolution in 2000 and 2005, setting the stage for future House consideration of the measure.
Robert Menendez’s service in the House is perhaps best remembered for his leadership in maintaining the Section 907 restriction on U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan. During an hour-long floor debate in 1997, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Livingston, as part of his pro-Baku drive to lift these restrictions on Azerbaijan, vilified the Armenian American community, questioning its right to participate in the American political process. In response, Congressman Menendez spoke eloquently in favor of maintaining Section 907, stood strong with the people of Artsakh in their quest for freedom, and called efforts to silence the Armenian American community’s voice in the halls of Congress “outrageous.” Chairman Livingston later resigned in disgrace and accepted millions of dollars in lobbying fees from the governments of Turkey and Azerbaijan as their chief mouthpiece in Washington, DC.
Elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006, Senator Menendez often took the lead in questioning U.S. ambassadorial nominees to Turkey and Azerbaijan regarding their positions on the Armenian Genocide and efforts to mediate a lasting peace for the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh). And, when nominees crossed-the-line into Armenian Genocide denial or showed undue bias toward Azerbaijan, Senator Menendez resisted White House and Senate leadership pressure, placing a “hold” on the candidates, ultimately blocking nominee Dick Hoagland from becoming U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, and stopping a full-term appointment for Matt Bryza as U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan.