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Congress takes up controversial measure

From NBC's Mike Viqueira

Many of us view the goings on here in your US House with bemusement or even disdain. The rap is that the "people's House" occupies itself with naming post offices and passing "sense of Congress" resolutions that are sops to one special interest or another and have no real impact. Everything else -- the important stuff -- gets mired in partisanship.

But a resolution on the floor today demonstrates very clearly that Americans are not the only ones watching what goes on here, and that what our national legislature says and thinks has great influence abroad. Today, the House will likely call on the government of Japan to "apologize and accept historical responsibility" for comfort women -- the young Asian women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. The resolution, though destined for obscurity on these shores, is threatening to cause a rift with one of America's closest allies.

The measure is sponsored by Bay Area Democrat Mike Honda, a Japanese American who spent his childhood in a WWII Japanese internment camp in Colorado. It has been the subject of a reportedly harsh letter from the Japanese embassy in Washington to Speaker Pelosi. Normally forthcoming congressional aides have been secretive about such run-of-the-mill matters as when the bill would hit the floor, announcing just yesterday that it be considered today. So great is the potential impact in Asia that it appears to have been held until the day after Japanese parliamentary elections.

Congressional staff refers to these resolutions as "postcards" that can generate three days of headlines in the country in question, while being completely ignored here. Another extremely controversial example is one dealing with the "Armenian Genocide" of almost 100 years ago, sponsored by California Democrat Adam Schiff, that awaits consideration.