Rep. John Murtha, a prominent Democrat, said Wednesday that his party's leadership underestimated opposition to a resolution on Armenian genocide and predicted that such a vote would easily fail.
Murtha's comments came as President Bush urged Congress not to infuriate Turkey, considered a key U.S. and NATO ally that has facilitated the flow of critical cargo to American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The House proposal, which would label as genocide the killing of Armenians a century ago by Ottoman Turks, has inflamed U.S. tensions with Turkey, which says the death toll has been inflated and was the result of civil unrest. Support for the nonbinding resolution deteriorated this week after Turkey recalled its U.S. ambassador to Ankara and congressional opponents including Murtha, D-Pa., warned their colleagues that it would cripple U.S. relations with Turkey.
Murtha is considered an influential voice among Democrats on military affairs. Chairman of the panel that oversees defense spending, Murtha helped House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lead anti-war efforts this year.
"If it came to the floor, it would not pass," with some 55 to 60 Democrats opposing the measure, Murtha told reporters. As of Thursday, House Democrats will hold a 233-200 majority.
Pelosi, D-Calif., is expected to hold off on a vote until she gets a better idea of how many House members will support it—a task assumed behind the scenes by the resolution's primary co-sponsors, including Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. More than a dozen lawmakers withdrew their sponsorship of the measure this month.