There was one thing members of Congress and advocates for UN reform all agreed on at the House Foreign Affairs Committee discussion on UN funding today: the United Nations is an expensive disaster. Not only are some of its committees used as platforms to vilify Israel and undermine U.S. interests, but the American taxpayers are also subsidizing this equivalent of a frat house for totalitarian leaders.
Each year, the U.S. finances 20 percent of the UN’s total budget, plus billions in additional funds. And while some have proposed that the U.S. withhold an amount of money that’s equal to the budgets of committees that work against our interests — such as Human Rights Council and the Relief and Works Agency — this would be a largely symbolic move. Currently, these committees are funded out of the main contribution we give the UN, so any cuts would be spread around to all the programs and dull the financial blow.
In his testimony before the congressional committee, the Heritage Foundation’s Brett Schaefer suggested that the U.S. lobby for these committees to be spun out of the regular UN funding so that Congress would be able to target them easier.
This appears to be the best proposal, but it will also require a lot of support from Congress. Despite the U.S.’s significant contributions to the UN, its vote on budgetary matters doesn’t hold any more weight than other member countries. So the task at this point would be to increase the U.S.’s voting power at the UN.
And getting that done might require putting more pressure on the UN than some Democrats are comfortable with — including cutting our contributions significantly or defunding it completely. But based on House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s statements today, this sounds like a fight that Republicans are eager to have.
“In the past, Congress has gone along by willingly paying what successive Administrations asked for — without enough oversight,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “This is one of the first true U.N. reform hearings held by this Committee in almost 4 years, but it won’t be the last.”
Ros-Lehtinen said that she would be introducing legislation that would allow Congress to defund the UN entirely, so that “U.S. taxpayers can pay for the U.N. programs and activities that advance our interests and values, and if other countries want different things to be funded, they can pay for it themselves.”
And with the renewed Republican focus on fiscal issues, a proposal like this is likely to resonate with both GOP lawmakers and the conservative base.