Why Did Andy Biggs Vote Against Condemning Genocide in Myanmar?

[image-1]Even in these divided political times, elected officials can generally be counted on to agree on one thing: Genocide is bad.

That is, except for Andy Biggs.

On Wednesday, Congress voted on a resolution condemning the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group in Myanmar. And Biggs was one of only three members of Congress to vote against it.

Every other member of Arizona’s congressional delegation, Democrats and Republicans alike, supported the resolution, which essentially asks Myanmar's government to a) stop killing people and b) allow in humanitarian aid groups.

This obviously brings up an uncomfortable question: Is Andy Biggs saying that he’s okay with ethnic cleansing?

So far, Biggs hasn’t made a public statement one way or the other. We’ve reached out to his office to request an explanation of his vote, and to ask that he clarify whether he condemns the genocide in Myanmar.

The other two members of Congress to vote against the bill, Walter Jones of North Carolina and Thomas Massie of Kentucky, haven't explained their decision, either. Both are Republicans.

Biggs pulled a similar stunt back in September, when he was one of just three members of Congress who voted against a disaster relief bill for victims of Hurricane Harvey. He later explained that he didn’t like the fact that legislation addressing educational programs in developing countries had been tacked onto the bill.

Undoubtedly, adding unrelated provisions to a bill that’s likely to pass is a shady move. But voting against aid for hurricane victims because of your “principled stance” is a bad look, period.

And there aren't any random add-ons to House Concurrent Resolution 90, the bill condemning the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya. You can read the full text here; it’s pretty straightforward and sticks to the subject at hand.

It also doesn't compel the United States government to do anything. There's a call for the White House to impose sanctions, sure, but Congress' decision to pass the resolution is a largely symbolic move, indicating that sanctions might be coming at some point in the future. (Which isn't exactly news — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson already said as much in November.)

So what's Biggs' beef, exactly? Was voting against the bill some kind of accidental oversight? Did a staffer fail to properly brief him about the massive human rights crisis in Myanmar, which even Tillerson agrees is extremely bad? Does he have previously-undisclosed ties to the Burmese government? Could this have anything to do with the fact that the Rohingya are Muslim? Or did Biggs simply have a problem with how the resolution was worded?

We have no clue, because his spokesperson isn't answering our phone calls, emails, or Twitter messages. We look forward to updating this story with an explanation when one becomes available. 
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Antonia Noori Farzan is a staff writer at New Times and an honors graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Before moving to Arizona, she worked for the New Times Broward-Palm Beach.