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Former U.S. Senator James Jeffords of Vermont passes at 80

September 2, 2014

By Taniel Koushakjian
AAANews Blog

On August 18th, the political world was saddened by the death of former
U.S. Senator James Jeffords of Vermont. His death was widely noted as he
represented a principled voice in United States national politics for over
30 years before retiring in 2007 because of health problems. Those
familiar with modern American politics recall when in 2001 the Senator left
the Republican Party to become an Independent, effectively handing control
of the Senate to Democrats in the first year of President George W. Bush's
administration. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont who declined the
opportunity to run against Senator Jeffords but later succeeded him after
his retirement stated, `Jim was one of the most popular elected officials
in the modern history of the state - serving at the local, state and
federal levels. Vermonters admired him because of his low-key and
down-to-earth qualities, and because of his obvious and strong love of the
state and the Vermont way of life. He was an effective champion of
education, disability rights, the environment and the arts - and millions
of Americans have benefited from his efforts."

For Americans of Armenian descent, however, Jeffords was also a part of a
different political history. In the 101st Congress, Senator Jeffords was an
original cosponsor of S.J.Res. 212, a bill marking the 75th anniversary of
the Armenian Genocide reaffirming the U.S. record. In 1990, S.J. Res. 212
made it to the floor of the U.S. Senate. Introduced by Senator Robert Dole
(R-KS), the bill garnered 54 cosponsors. From February 20-27, 1990 a
lengthy debate and two votes to invoke cloture on Senator Dole's motion to
proceed took place. During that week, national and international media such
as ABC News, CSPAN, and the Associated Press were covering the bill's
prospects while openly discussing the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Even though
he did not have a large Armenian constituency in Vermont, Senator Jeffords
supported the resolution and opposed efforts to deny the United States' own
history to help save the survivors of the Armenian Genocide. Senator Robert
Byrd (D-WV) opposed the bill with a filibuster and ultimately blocked
passage of this important human rights issue. But, the entire Armenian
American community and their friends took note of Senator Jeffords' help
and willingness to stand up for what was right. Armenian Americans
remember his legacy and mourn his passing.

After Jeffords became an Independent in 2001, he also signed consecutive
letters to President George W. Bush calling on him to officially
acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.

For more on the life of Senator James Jeffords please click here to read an
excellent profile published by the Associated Press shortly after his death.

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