The Republican chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Tuesday she is "not trying to bash" the United Nations by pushing a plan to withhold or slash U.S. funds to the world body.
Speaking at a Capitol Hill news conference, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen defended her legislation and rejected recent State Department criticism that her effort was "backwards" and would undercut U.S. standing in the world. A frequent critic of the U.N., Ros-Lehtinen says it is plagued by scandal, mismanagement and inaction, and is biased against the United States and Israel.
"This bill is about reforming the U.N. so that it can work again _ not trying to bash the U.N. or take the U.S. out of the U.N," the Florida congresswoman said.
The legislation, which has more than 50 Republican co-sponsors, would pressure the U.N. to adopt a voluntary funding system by withholding 50 percent of the U.S. non-voluntary regular budget contributions if, after two years, 80 percent of the U.N. regular budget is not funded on a voluntary rather than assessed basis.
In the 2010 budget year the U.S. provided $7.7 billion to the U.N. for its regular budget, peacekeeping and other programs, up from $6.1 billion the previous year.
The bill also would block U.S. funds for any United Nations entity that supports giving Palestine an elevated status at the U.N. and ban U.S. contributions to the U.N. Human Rights Council and an anti-racism conference seen as a platform for anti-Israel rhetoric.
The U.N. Security Council may vote next week on a resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood despite vehement U.S. opposition.
Without mentioning Ros-Lehtinen by name, a senior State Department official said last week that the Obama administration's engagement with the United Nations and promise to pay its dues had boosted U.S. influence at the world body that should not be wasted.
"We oppose the backwards calls we again are hearing to withhold U.S. dues, given the impact doing so would have on U.S. influence and leadership across the U.N. system," said Esther Brimmer, the assistant secretary of state for international organizations.
Ros-Lehtinen responded to the "backwards" criticism.
"I don't think it's backwards to demand transparency, accountability and reform. But I do think the adjective `backwards' too often applies to what we're paying for at the U.N. We pay for a backwards U.N. Human Rights Council, where human rights abusers like China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia have hijacked that body and use it to demonize democratic states, like Israel, while real human rights abuses around the world are often ignored," she said.
The committee could finalize Ros-Lehtinen's bill next week, the same time world leaders gather in New York for the meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.
The bill has no chance in the Democratic-controlled Senate.