A pair of legislative bills introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate seek to punish the United Nations after the passage of a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories.
The Senate version would withhold funding until the resolution is repealed. The House bill goes further and paves the way for the U.S. to leave the United Nations.
“The Security Council’s resolution is only the latest example of the U.N.’s long history of obsessive hostility towards Israel and we must not let this shameful action stand,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., in a statement introducing the bill co-sponsored by Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “Congress must hold the U.N. accountable and use our leverage as its largest contributor to push for the repeal of this resolution, making it clear to the world that Congress stands unequivocally against efforts to undermine Israel.”
Cruz and Graham’s bill prevents the U.S. from making any voluntary or assessed contributions to the U.N. until the resolution is repealed. The resolution passed with the support of 14 out of the 15 Security Council members in late December. The U.S. did not exercise its veto and was the lone abstention vote – a decision criticized by some members of Congress.
The two senators announced shortly after the resolution passed that they would introduce legislation to punish the U.N. They made good on that promise with the bill’s introduction in mid-January. It came ahead of the transfer of power from a president who vocally supported the U.N. to one who is skeptical. President Donald Trump expressed reservations about the U.N. during his election campaign and shared more doubts after the resolution vote.
“There is such tremendous potential, but it is not living up,” Trump told reporters in late December. “When do you see the United Nations solving problems? They don’t. They cause problems. So, if it lives up to the potential, it’s a great thing. And if it doesn’t, it’s a waste of time and money.”
The Senate bill leverages U.S. power to undo a resolution, a nod to the importance of the institution and need to participate.
The House bill aims to permanently weaken the United Nations. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., and three co-sponsors quietly introduced the “American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2017 on Jan. 3.” It repeals the United Nations Participation Act of 1945, leading the U.S. to leave the body.
“The President shall terminate all membership by the United States in the United Nations in any organ, specialized agency, commission, or other formally affiliated body of the United Nations,” the bill states. “The United States Mission to the United Nations is closed. Any remaining functions of such office shall not be carried out.”
If passed, the U.S. would leave the U.N. two years later. All contributions would stop and the U.N. would be evicted from its home in New York City. The bill also ends U.S. participation in the World Health Organization and enacts an across-the-board repeal of all U.N. conventions and agreements. Rogers characterized the U.N. as an “inefficient bureaucracy” and a “complete waste of American tax dollars” in a statement explaining the bill.
“Why should the American taxpayer bankroll an international organization that works against America’s interests around the world?” Rogers said . “The time is now to restore and protect American sovereignty and get out of the United Nations.”
The U.S. pays for roughly 22 percent of the U.N.’s annual budget. Dues for next year will total around $600 million. Supporters of the international body worry that the temporary elimination of the funding would cause short-term harm, but leaving the U.N. would cause lasting damage. It would affect programs like peacekeeping efforts in South Sudan and humanitarian work in Syria.
“Cutting funding to the U.N. over a single vote of the 15 member security – a vote in which the USA did not even oppose – is a kind of self-abnegation that would not only cede the mantle of global leadership, but allow global threats, diseases, starvation, abject poverty and conflict to fester unresolved,” Mark Goldberg wrote in the U.N. Dispatch. “And it would be only a matter of time until the fallout from those ills reach America’s shores.”