Published April 28, 2016
The House approved a resolution Monday that declares the Islamic State is committing genocide against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East -- putting even more pressure on the Obama administration to do the same ahead of a deadline later this week.
The resolution, passed the House with a unanimous vote of 383-0.
The resolution came to a vote just days after the release of a graphic new report by the Knights of Columbus and In Defense of Christians on ISIS' atrocities. The report made the case that the terror campaign against Christians and other minorities in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East is, in fact, genocide.
“When ISIS systematically targets Christians, Yezidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities for extermination, this is not only a grave injustice—it is a threat to civilization itself,” Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., said in a statement. “We must call the violence by its proper name: genocide.”
The resolution was voted on ahead of a congressionally mandated March 17 deadline for Secretary of State John Kerry and the White House to make a decision on whether to make such a declaration. The measure is an effort to force the administration's hand on the issue, as the administration has so far declined to take an official position.
There is a similar measure in the Senate that has yet to be voted on.
“Christians, Yezidis, and other beleaguered minority groups can find new hope in this trans-partisan and ecumenical alliance against ISIS’ barbaric onslaught,” Fortenberry, who is co-chairman of the Religious Minorities of the Middle East Caucus and represents America’s largest Yezidi community, said in the statement.
The measure also received the backing of House Republican leadership, with Speaker Paul Ryan calling on the Obama administration to take action in light of recent attacks against Christians.
“Last week, ISIS militants killed 16 people, including four Catholic nuns, at a retirement home in southern Yemen,” Ryan said in a statement Monday. “This is the latest in a string of brutal attacks committed by ISIS against Christian and other minorities. Yet the administration has still not called this what it is: A genocide.”
“We want to label what this is so this never happens and should not happen, and someone has to stand up,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told Fox News’ Bill Hemmer Monday.
It is rare for Congress to make a genocide determination.
In addition to the genocide resolution, the House also voted on a measure to create an international tribunal to try those associated with atrocities by the Assad regime and related groups.
That resolution condemned the "gross violations of international law amounting to war crimes...by the Government of Syria [and] its allies."
The measure passed in a vote of 392 to 3. The no votes came from Reps. Justin Amash, R-Mich, Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii.
In casting her no-vote, Gabbard called the tribunal measure a "thinly veiled attempt to use the rationale of 'humanitarianism' as a justification for overthrowing the Syrian government."
"We all know that [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad is a brutal dictator. But this resolution's purpose is not merely to recognize him as such. Rather it is a call to action... How has our war to overthrow Assad helped humanity?" Gabbard said in a statement.
At least three presidential candidates -- Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz on the Republican side, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side -- have called on the administration to designate ISIS atrocities against Christians as genocide.
When asked on March 1 why the administration has yet to make the determination, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the word genocide “involves a very specific legal determination that has, at this point, not been reached.”
State Department spokesman John Kirby said Monday he did not expect any resolution voted on in the House to be a factor in the decision.
FoxNews.com’s Adam Shaw and Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.