Editorial of The New York Sun | October 16, 2011
It looks like the efforts to reform U.S. funding of the United Nations are turning into a significant showdown between two of the most powerful women in Washington — President Obama's state secretary, Hillary Clinton, and the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. This came into focus during a hearing Thursday at which the Foreign Affairs Committee approved — by a wide margin and over Mrs. Clinton’s objections — a bill that would give America much more say over what, if any, United Nations programs it underwrites.
The bill, which is being pressed by Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen, has emerged as the most serious and radical reform effort directed at the U.N. since the institution was incorporated in the late 1940s. Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen began the hearings with an opening statement in which she spoke of the U.N.s bid, in the middle of a fiscal crisis in Washington, for a bigger budget. She quoted the Obama administration’s own envoy to the U.N. budget process as saying, that the budget presented by the U.N. “does not represent a break from ‘business as usual,’ but rather a continuation of it.”
“What are we paying for?” Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen demanded. Then she ticked off the scandals: “A UN Human Rights Council that includes such gross human rights violators as China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and its vice-chair, Cuba. Two years after the Administration joined the Council, the Council still has undergone zero fundamental reforms, continues to pass resolution after resolution condemning Israel, and its permanent agenda item on Israel remains in place. We’re paying for the Durban process, which has been hijacked to spread anti-Israel and anti-Semitic venom.”
Continued she: “Then there’s the U.N. Conference on Disarmament, recently chaired by North Korea. So serial proliferator North Korea presided over the UN’s disarmament body, and Iran, a regime which stones women to death, is a member of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. We’re paying for a U.N. that just appointed as the head of its Kosovo mission an individual involved with the infamous Oil-for-Food scandal, and a U.N. that goes after whistleblowers while protecting the corrupt.”
Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen disclosed that Secretary of State Clinton sent a letter at the outset of the hearings Thursday coming out directly in opposition to the bill. “The Secretary claims, if we move to a system of voluntary funding, it will hurt our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, because other member states won’t do the ‘burden-sharing’ to pay for UN missions in those countries,” Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said. “Does the Administration have such little faith in our allies and in our diplomacy — which they pride themselves on — to think that they would not share the burden of fighting Islamist extremists unless the UN forced them to? And given that the U.S. paid billions and billions of dollars to the UN last year, I think it’s clear who is actually carrying the burden without any say: the U.S. taxpayer.”
The ranking member on the Democratic side of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Howard Berman, offered a substitute bill designed to gut Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen’s reform. Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen argued that, among other flaws, Mr. Berman’s measure would mean “ no consequences if any UN body upgrades the Palestinian status.” In the event, the committee turned aside Mr. Berman’s substitute measure and Mrs. Clinton’s objections and passed the United Nations Transparency, Accountability, and Reform Act by a comfortable margin.
In the full House, the bill has something like 125 sponsors. They are, at least at the moment, all Republicans, according to a dispatch of CNS News. Even if the measure clears the House, it will still have a hard time in the Senate, which is controlled by the Democrats. Mrs. Clinton’s letter to the committee warned that if, by some miracle, the measure does pass, she’ll urge President Obama to veto it. This strikes us as an opportunity for the Republicans to bring the issue of the United Nations into the presidential campaign now under way and so that the American people can let the dictators, kleptocrats, and anti-Semites in the United Nations know where America stands.