House panel approves bill to slash UN funds

House panel approves bill to slash UN funds

One week after cutting  USD 50 million for a UN organisation that helps women and children in developing countries, the House Foreign Affairs Committee targeted the billions of dollars the United States contributes to the United Nations.

Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the committee chairwoman and a fierce critic of the United Nations, argued that the legislation would give the United States leverage in pushing for change at the UN.

"We will never achieve lasting, sweeping reforms if the US keeps paying in full what the UN dictates to us, with no consequences for the UN's failures," Ros-Lehtinen said. "We need a game-changer."

The panel approved the bill on a party-line 23-15 vote. The action came despite Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's opposition and her vow to recommend to President Barack Obama that he veto the legislation. That may not be necessary, however, as it is unclear when the full House will consider the measure, and it has little chance in the Democratic-led Senate.

Republican New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also opposes the legislation, according to Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat.

Clinton sent a strongly worded letter to the committee this week warning that the legislation would severely limit US participation in the world body, undercut US interests and damage the security of Americans at home and abroad.

"This bill would effectively cede American leadership, creating a void for our adversaries to fill," Clinton wrote. Nevertheless, the panel pressed ahead with the measure, with Republicans taking swipes at the UN.

"They're really our buddy," Republican Rep. Dan Burton said sarcastically. "They vote with us almost never." Republican members said the UN Human Rights Council includes "gross human rights violators" including China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Cuba. A recent conference on nuclear disarmament was chaired by North Korea, and Iran is a member of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

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