Congressional Hellenic Caucus Sits Idly By as Greece Struggles

By on July 20, 2015

While Greece was facing literal financial collapse and possible expulsion from the eurozone— its allies in the United States Congress sat idly by and watched.

“We’re involved, but it’s really only on a limited basis,” said Representative Gus Bilirakis of Florida, whose father was one of the original founders of the caucus which now numbers about 120 members of U.S. Representatives claiming to support Greek issues in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Hellenic caucus is made up of lawmakers of Greek descent as well as those representing districts with many residents of Greek descent.

The group has been effective in the past, focusing on issues like U.S. aid to Greece and Cyprus, relations with the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, advocacy for religious freedom in Turkey and other developments in the Aegean.

But during the debt crisis, they’ve been largely quiet. Not a single letter of encouragement, or any type of influence peddling that is well-known in Congress amongst special interest caucuses like this one.

Of course any potential talk of a U.S. bailout is just that— it isn’t happening, the lawmakers say. The U.S. has $18 trillion in debt of its own, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) says, “Republicans have passed legislation called sequester, so that would be difficult.”

Still, the limitations of what the members of the caucus can do now are frustrating for a group that has seen its previous battles draw praise from groups outside of Congress.

“The biggest thing over the last 10 years was their work to help get Greece included in the visa waiver program,” said Basil Mossaidis, executive director of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association in an interview with Bloomberg News.

The program permits nationals from certain countries who are traveling to the U.S. for tourism or business to stay for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.

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