Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced an extreme bill (HR 2829) that holds UN funding, as well as U.S. leadership, prestige, and influence at the U.N., hostage if her outrageous demands aren't met. Ros-Lehtinen is willing to sacrifice the benefits of U.S. leadership at the UN right at a time when the U.S. is successfully promoting its national security and foreign policy priorities on the world stage.
This is not the first time Rep. Ros-Lehtinen has introduced extreme anti-UN legislation. But this time she has strategically timed the debate on the bill to occur in September during the UN General Assembly's vote on the recognition of Palestine. Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen is blatantly attempting to hijack Americans' support for Israel in the hopes of derailing the United States' relationship with the UN. She is misusing and distorting the high emotions around the Palestine vote to promote her longstanding and extreme anti-UN agenda.
Ros-Lehtinen's bill aims to punish the United Nations as an institution for allowing its members to vote on a symbolic recognition of a Palestinian state. Resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict and the continuing United States' engagement on the world stage are separate issues that Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen is erroneously conflating for cheap political points. Funding for the United Nations should not be cut based on the actions of some of its members. It's like blaming Madison Square Garden for the New York Knicks losing a game.
Ros-Lehtinen's irresponsible bill would slash 50% of the United States' contributions to the UN's regular budget if her unrealistic demands aren't met. It will also weaken United States' influence at the UN and sends the wrong message to our partners. The United States' influence with other nations depends on playing by the rules and meeting our obligations. If the United States doesn't follow the rules of the game, what's to stop others from doing the same?
The American people understand that maintaining our relationship with the UN is important. A recent poll found that a majority of Americans support the United Nations, with 85% of voters saying that it is important for the U.S. to maintain an active role in the UN. Democrats, Republicans and Independents support paying U.S. dues to the UN and UN peacekeeping on time and in full. Ros-Lehtinen, along with her other colleagues supporting the bill, are clearly out of touch with the American people.
Here are only a few of the things that will be held hostage if we withhold contributions to the UN's regular budget: immunizing children from infectious diseases, halting the spread of pandemics like SARS and swine flu, and the sanctioning of nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea.
Contributions to U.N. peacekeeping fund 15 peacekeeping missions around the world, providing stability in conflict-ridden nations, disarming former soldiers, and monitoring of elections. These missions allow the U.S. to promote our foreign policy interests while sharing the costs among partners. Ros-Lehtinen's bill would force the United States to veto new peacekeeping missions or the expansion of existing ones. The need for peacekeepers won't be affected by Congress withholding necessary funding, but the ability of the UN to effectively protect civilians will be.
Threats ranging from nuclear war, terrorism, and the spread of pandemics don't observe borders, and the United States is facing global challenges that even a nation as powerful as ours cannot face alone. National security priorities will suffer for not paying what is owed to the U.N. United States' leadership and contributions have helped to freeze the assets and halt the travel of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, win international condemnation and sanctions against Iran, and thwart efforts to combat terrorism and the spread of WMDs. International cooperation is essential in building a safer, more secure world.
Ros-Lehtinen's bill also prohibits the U.S. from providing funding for the Human Rights Council and bars United States' membership on the Council. The United States is well-equipped as a member of the Human Rights Council to oppose unbalanced resolutions against Israel and our leadership on the Council has kept the spotlight on nations who violate human rights.
Ros-Lehtinen's bill is the absolute wrong approach to promoting changes at the UN. The United States has been most effective at improving how the United Nations operates by staying fully engaged through the payment of contributions on time and in full and using leadership and influence to promote the United States' agenda. This bill is a thinly veiled attempt by Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen to promote an go-it-alone foreign policy and it should be vehemently opposed by the Members of Congress, the Obama administration, and all Americans.