Brad Sherman (D-CA-30)
District: California’s 30th Congressional District which includes San Francisco Valley
Committee/Leadership Assignments: Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade (Ranking Member), Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government-Sponsored Enterprises, Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance
Contact: (818) 501-9200, (202) 225-5911
Regarding the state of the US economy, what are the prospects for recovery, and how soon?
The United States unemployment level is currently at its lowest point in five years and the stock markets reached new highs over the last year. It’s safe to say we have seen improvement since the recession, but too many Americans are still struggling.
One of the ways we can spark improvement is by supporting an increase in the minimum wage. We also need to focus on trade policies that will reduce our trade deficit, which has caused significant job losses and depressed wages.
What are some of the particular challenges that you are facing in your district?
I am focused on increasing and sustaining employment opportunities in the San Fernando Valley, improving transportation and ensuring a quality education for students in my District.
What would you say is the state of our democracy in these challenging and unusually polarized times?
There is no doubt that Congress has become too partisan in recent years, but I believe we can work together to solve problems. I often work “across the aisle” on bipartisan issues with Members of Congress from the Republican Party. One example of this is my work with Representative Gary Miller, a Republican from San Bernardino County, to stress the need for higher loan limits for home mortgages in high cost areas, like my District. This will provide for lower interest rates and higher values for homeowners. Of course, I have worked very closely with GOP colleagues on issues affecting Greece and Cyprus. Improving relations between the United States and these countries is one area that does enjoy bipartisan support. We need to work harder to bring that type of cooperation to other domestic and foreign policy priorities.
In various polls conducted throughout the U.S. Congress hasn’t fared well with the American people. Why is that, in your opinion, and how do you address this issue as Congressman?
There are many challenges facing the nation today and Americans are justifiably concerned about them. One of the most concerning issues is the economy and the availability of jobs. One way to address this issue is to decrease the trade deficits we have with various countries, such as China. I have also worked to increase tax incentives for the entertainment industry, which is a significant source of jobs in my district.
Would you encourage more active voter participation in your decision making as Congressman, using the advances of technology, like the Internet and other forms of communication?
I welcome participation from voters in my decision making and encourage my constituents to express their views to me in several ways. I have held over 170 town hall meetings where the majority of my time is spent taking questions from constituents and answering them. I frequently include a “federal issues questionnaire” in my communications to constituents so that I can get a sense of where they stand on some of the issues facing Congress. I review phone calls, e-mails and letters I have received from my constituents, as well.
How did you become interested in the Greek-American community, and who introduced you to them?
I have had the pleasure of representing the Greek-American community of the San Fernando Valley for the last 17 years. I take pride in having a strong relationship with both local and national leaders of the Greek-American community. I frequently attend Greek-American events, including the annual Greek Festival at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Northridge, California.
What are your thoughts on the Cyprus issue and what are some of the things you’ve done to support settlement efforts?
Ever since coming to Congress in 1997, I have opposed Turkey’s illegal occupation of Cyprus. I believe that Ankara’s occupation of Cyprus is contrary to U.S. foreign policy goals – including peace, stability, and security – in the Mediterranean. In 2012, I cosponsored H.Res. 676, a resolution to supporting the end of Turkey’s illegal occupation of northern Cyprus and exposing and halting the Republic of Turkey’s illegal colonization of the Republic of Cyprus with non-Cypriot populations. The U.S. should do more to ensure that all of our national security tools are used to achieve our foreign policy goals. Turkey is attempting to colonize Cyprus by sending hundreds of thousands of its citizens – who are culturally distinct from Turkish-Cypriots – to live permanently in Cyprus. I have called on successive administrations to do more to counter Turkey’s unjust colonization efforts. As a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I will explore all avenues and U.S. national security tools to pressure Ankara to change its course.
In the 112th Congress, I was a cosponsor of HR 2597, the American-Owned Property in Occupied Cyprus Claims Act, which authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to establish a claims fund for the payment of unsatisfied claims of U.S. nationals against Turkey. The bill also grants U.S. district court jurisdiction for civil actions against any private person by a U.S. national who owns property in the Turkish-held portion of Cyprus. We should enable U.S. citizens to make claims for their property in occupied Cyprus. I cosponsored this bill the last time it was introduced (in the 110th Congress) as well – and my opponent did not. I have and will continue to support restrictions on U.S. assistance to Turkey for its harmful policies and actions. I believe the United States should make the protection of religious and cultural property in illegally-occupied Cyprus a much greater priority in our bilateral relationship with Ankara and would support legislation to increase pressure on Turkey for its unacceptable and illegal actions in Cyprus.
Do you consider Turkish provocations in the Aegean a threat to regional stability and international peace? Also, what actions have you taken or do you plan to take to encourage the US to take a stronger stance against this kind of irresponsible behavior?
First and foremost, Washington is obligated by U.S. law to carry out the 1947 treaty’s provisions. I support requiring the State Department to recognize territorial boundaries in the Aegean Sea as set forth by that treaty. Turkey does not hide its desire to be a growing regional power in the Mediterranean. For too long, Turkey has harmed our interests with intimidation against our allies. I have called upon the Administration to review our overall relationship with Turkey given its bellicose behavior.
Are you aware of the state persecution against the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Turkey and what have you done to address this issue in Congress?
I am an active member of the International Religious Freedom Caucus. I strongly support tough legislation to press Turkey to reopen the Halki Patriarchal School. In 2011, I cosponsored H.Res.506, the Halki Resolution, calling upon the Government of Turkey to facilitate the reopening of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Theological School of Halki without condition or further delay. This resolution passed the House Committee on Foreign Affairs unanimously in June 2012. The continued closure of Halki is deeply unjust. Turkey must reopen the Halki Theological School to allow the Church to train future generations of Orthodox clerics. The Turkish government should also grant the Ecumenical Patriarchate the legal status that would allow it to own property, employ church officials, and manage church finances.
I was also an original cosponsor of H.Res.306, a resolution urging the Republic of Turkey to safeguard its Christian heritage and return confiscated church properties to their rightful owners. This resolution passed the House unanimously in December 2011.
The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, passed into law, makes it a policy of the United States to incorporate the principles of religious freedom – a human right – in our foreign policy. I believe that the President and State Department should use the important tools provided by the International Religious Freedom Act to press countries like Turkey on egregious religious freedom violations. In particular, we should hold Turkey accountable for its treatment of Christians and the Orthodox Church.
Since the Bush Administration recognized FYROM as “Macedonia”, the country has become more intransigent when it comes to territorial and cultural irredentism against Greece who is a major financial supporter in the region. What kind of action on the part of the US would you promote in order for a mutually acceptable solution to be facilitated?
In 2005 and again in 2007, I cosponsored House resolutions urging the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to observe its obligations under the 1995 U.N.-brokered Interim Accord. Time and again, I have urged the FYROM to work, within the framework of the U.N. process, with Greece to reach a mutually-acceptable official name for the FYROM. I have urged the State Department to work with our ally Greece to ensure a mutually acceptable official name for FYROM.
Reports in recent years reveal that students in FYROM are still being taught that parts of Greece, including Greek Macedonia, are rightfully part of the FYROM. Some textbooks, including a Military Academy textbook published in 2004 in FYROM, contain maps showing that a “Greater Macedonia” extends deep into Greece to Mount Olympus and to Mount Pirin in Bulgaria. This is dangerous and highly worrisome. Any solution to this dispute must preserve the territorial integrity of Greece. Irredentism and revisionist attitudes toward Greece’s sovereign lands are unacceptable. I believe that we should not invite FYROM to join NATO before a mutually-agreed solution to the name-recognition issue is achieved. I also believe that any solution must preserve the security and the territorial integrity of our ally Greece, as well as reflect historical and cultural truths. In May 2012, I joined my colleagues in urging the senior State Department officials overseeing this issue – then Assistant Secretary Gordon and then Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Kaidanow – to expand the administration’s ongoing efforts to ensure that a mutually acceptable name for FYROM is settled before that nation can join NATO.
[sws_blue_box box_size=”630″] Neo Magazine and the public policy/lobbying firm of Manatos & Manatos in Washington, DC have come together to present a monthly profile of “Hellenic and Orthodox Champions in the US Congress.” [/sws_blue_box]