Republican bill targets UN funding ahead of Palestinian statehood vote

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., talks during an interview with a local television news in her office on Capitol Hill in Washington, in this Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008 file photo.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.

A key Republican lawmaker in House of Representatives is using the power of the purse to pressure the United Nations ahead of a key vote on the future of Palestine.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on Tuesday introduced legislation to significantly change the way the United Nations is funded and pressure U.N. members to vote against Palestinian statehood next month.

The Florida Republican's bill would call for the U.N. budget to be funded on a voluntary basis. It would give the international body two years to make at least 80 percent of its budget voluntary -- if the U.N. failed to meet that goal, the U.S. would withdraw half of its funding until it was reached.

The change would clearly have huge implications for the U.N., given that 22 percent of its budget is paid for by the U.S.

The bill would also allow the U.S. to choose which programs to support and calls for the withdrawal of U.S. funding for any U.N. agency or program that supports giving Palestine an elevated status within the U.N. A summary of the legislation says it "opposes efforts by the Palestinian leadership to evade a negotiated settlement with Israel and undermine opportunities for peace by seeking de facto recognition of a Palestinian state by the U.N."

The U.N. General Assembly is currently preparing to vote on recognizing Palestine as a state, regardless of the outcome of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday that the United States opposes the legislation, the Associated Press reports. Nuland said, "It would seriously undermine our international standing and dangerously weaken the U.N. as an instrument to advance U.S. national security goals."

The State Department has boasted that President Obama's "new era of engagement" has led to concrete results at the U.N., such as the stiffest U.N. sanctions ever against Iran and North Korea.

"We have repaired frayed relations with countries around the world. We've ended needless American isolation on a range of issues," the State Department says in a fact sheet. "And as a consequence, we've gotten strong cooperation on things that matter most to our national security interest."

Ros-Lehtinen's bill may make progress in the GOP-led House, but it is likely to meet opposition in the Democratic-led Senate, as well as from the administration.