Summary of House Debate on UN Funding


As previously posted, the House debated the State, Foreign Ops appropriations bill yesterday. Included after the jump are some pertinent moments from the debate.

During debate on Representative Virginia Foxx’s amendment to reduce the appropriation for contributions to international organizations by $203,082,000, which failed by recorded vote 137 to 287:

Ms. FOXX. The purpose of my amendment is twofold. First, it would help bring accountability to organizations that have demonstrated limited effectiveness. Second, this amendment would help control the out-of-control Federal deficit…

I wonder what our constituents would think if they knew they were being forced to pay millions for perpetual, never-ending funding increases for organizations such as the International Bureau for Weights and Measures, the International Coffee Association, the International Copper Study Group, the International Hydrographic Organization, the International Lead and Zinc Study Group, the International Rubber Study Group, and the World Organization for Animal Health.

Given the tremendous amount of funding contained in the bill for the United Nations, I am particularly interested in encouraging that body to reexamine its spending habits so it can be more effective at fulfilling its mission….

As most would agree, the purpose of the United Nations is to help promote peace and security throughout the world. However, it has obviously failed miserably in that respect. Iran’s nuclear weapons program is still chugging along at a rapid pace, threatening Israel and the entire region. Genocide persists in Sudan. All of the minds at the United Nations can’t even agree on a definition for the word “terrorism” in an age where terrorism remains one of the biggest threats to humanity and civilization….

Furthermore, despite the implicit purpose of the United Nations Human Rights Council to promote global human rights, this body has among its membership notorious human rights abusers such as Angola, China, Cuba, Egypt, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Iran serves as the Vice Chair of the U.N. Disarmament Commission, Syria is the Rapporteur of the U.N. Disarmament Commission, Zimbabwe is the Chair of the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development, and Sudan serves on the Executive Committee of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees….

And if that wasn’t enough, an examination of a ranked list of countries subject to the most U.N. condemnation for human rights violations in 2006 reveals Israel ranking first, having received 135 actions, nearly twice as many as Sudan, the next country listed, and more than the number of actions directed at Iran, China, Colombia, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and Syria combined. The United States ranks fourth on this list, having been subject to 38 actions. This indicates that the United Nations is more interested in condemning Israel and the United States than it is in horrendous human rights abusers throughout the world.

Mrs. LOWEY. This amendment fails to realistically address the effect our arrears have on our standing in the world community. At a time when the United States is increasingly relying on international organizations to further our security interests around the world, shortchanging our treaty-obligated contributions to these organizations undercuts our foreign policy goals and undermines our reputation around the world.

It also countermands our new Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s call to pay our dues in full and on time. As of today, the United States is $291 million in arrears at the U.N. for regular budget contributions alone. The United States has chosen to belong to each of these organizations. They leverage U.S. taxpayer dollars and advance a wide range of U.S. foreign policy objectives, including monitoring nuclear proliferation through the IAEA, creating norms for international telecommunications through the ITU, and fending off global pandemics through the WHO….

This amendment has no appreciation of the influence this increasing trend of paying late and underfunding international organizations has on our ability to sway others and it is difficult to justify why our priorities should be given full consideration when we chronically pay our dues late. Paying these international organizations late is counterproductive to achieving United States international security goals. The increasing trend of paying late and underfunding international organizations confounds U.S. demands for better management in them.

An example of this detrimental effect is seen at the World Health Organization which reports that the arrears owed by the United States are preventing well-managed budgets and resulting in programs not reaching optimal effectiveness for a year or more after they were planned to be fully operational.

Further, other dues-paying countries take note when the United States fails to honor its commitments in these international organizations. As a result, our influence on making budgetary and policy decisions in them is lessened.

For example, the U.S. consistently wants the Food and Agriculture Organization to increase its capacity to set worldwide food and plant standards, yet it is very difficult to justify why U.S. priorities for the FAO should be given full consideration when the U.S. is chronically paying its dues there about a year late.

Ms. FOXX. The U.N. is an ineffective and corrupt organization and our continuing to provide much of its funding implicitly endorses that corruption and ineffectiveness. If we put this to a vote of the American people, they would say, fund nothing of the United Nations. Keeping this at level funding is the right thing to do.

Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Well, here we go again, cutting a multilateral account that allows us to hold our head up high in the international community as we organize the international community in the global war on terror in favor of unilateralism.

To fight the war on terror, we must be multilateral and not unilateral. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Khalilzad said pay our dues on time and pay it in full. Every time there’s a crisis that confronts our country, we run to the U.N., we run to the international community demanding their involvement to help provide security for the American people.

Mr. WOLF. I rise in opposition to the amendment. Everyone has frustrations. I think the U.N. could do certainly a lot more on Darfur and many of the other things. They stood by and frankly didn’t do very much in Rwanda, either. But what this amendment would do, I think, is people have to look at it. This would actually cut NATO fees, and NATO is sort of the backbone of what we’re doing in Afghanistan and many other places, but particularly $41 million out of this fund goes to NATO.

Also, on the World Health Organization with regard to avian flu and things like that, this is not the time to do that. Also, there is another issue that I have personally made a cause, of funding the war crime tribunals to bring people to justice. This would cut the war crimes tribunal in Rwanda where over 800,000 people have died between the Hutus and the Tutsis and that whole issue. Also the former Yugoslavia where after the genocide that took place, Milosevic was brought to the court.

So for those reasons, I understand what the gentlelady is trying to do. But I think this would be the wrong place to kind of do it, from NATO and IAEA and the World Health Organization and the war crimes tribunal.

During debate on Representative Scott Garrett’s amendment to reduce funding for international organizations by $20 and transfer the money to anti-terrorism programs, which failed by recorded vote: 192-232.

Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. Despite the fact that the world is in the throes of the violence of terrorism, the U.N. has done so very little to fight this threat on humanity.

The U.N. marks progress against terrorism by how many committees they have formed and how many documents have been signed. We need a world body that does not consider an expanded bureaucracy as success. We need a world body that is a partner in the war on terror.

Instead, the U.N. spends its time passing toothless resolutions on counter terrorism that even countries such as Iran, Libya, and Syria can support. These nations will continue to funnel money to terrorist organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Mahdi Army knowing that there will be absolutely no repercussions from the U.N.

If the U.N. is unwilling to join the fight against terrorism, we should reallocate our dollars, reallocate a portion of the funds intended for them to programs which are truly working to bring real peace to the world.

Mrs. LOWEY. This amendment would cut $20 million from the contributions for international organizations. The question posed by this amendment is straightforward: Do you want to take funds away from an account that is saving lives every day around the world?

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last year told Senate appropriators that U.N. peacekeeping was an example of the benefit of empowering partner nations, and it would cost the United States taxpayers almost eight times as much.

Mr. GARRETT of New Jersey. What we are trying to do is not, as in a subsequent amendment where we will be taking funds from the peacekeeping mission, which is what the gentlelady was referring to here, instead is to take money from the U.N. international organization line and redesignate those $20 million to join us in the fight against terrorism.

Mrs. LOWEY. I do think that your offset, taking money from U.N. dues, is actually unwise and not a very good policy decision.

Many people have criticized the U.N., want to disband the U.N., want to cut off dues to the U.N., and then when we need the U.N., they wonder: What are we going to do if we didn’t have a United Nations?

I look forward to working with the gentleman from New Jersey in strengthening the committees of the U.N. and working together to face the tremendous challenges we have internationally. So I support the gentleman’s concerns about nuclear nonproliferation, and I look forward to working with the gentleman; but I strongly oppose taking the money from U.N. dues.

Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Mr. Chairman, let me be clear, we are in opposition to the gentleman’s amendment. I understand that the gentleman is going to withdraw his amendment, but let me be clear, the various international organizations for which this account is designated and the dues that we pay not only to the U.N. but to other member organizations that our country is a part of, believe me when I tell you, the State Department has made it very clear in each of those organizations that we are in a global war on terror and our contributions to those organizations, part of our mandatory obligations to those organizations for which the gentleman seeks to cut funding, would quite frankly undermine our ability to maintain our own status within those international organizations as we try to direct the global war on terror…

Sufficient in this bill are the resources to advance democracy activities and demining activities, but by cutting aid to international organizations and contributions, cutting our contribution, our mandatory contribution to those organizations, is something that I believe the chairman and the majority would reject.