Divided on the United Nations

A riff between the White House and conservative House Republicans on how to bring about reform at the U.N.

By Mark Follman
Published June 16, 2005 6:56PM (EDT)

There's a celebration in San Francisco this month to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. President Bush and Condoleezza Rice were invited. Word is, they won't be attending. A U.S. representative most people have never heard of will show up instead. (Maybe if John Bolton were already confirmed as ambassador he'd be happy to put in an appearance?)

The U.N.'s problems notwithstanding, at least the White House is less interested in snubbing the international governing body when it comes to funding; on Wednesday it lined up against conservative House Republicans who are pushing a bill to withhold approximately $200 million in U.S. dues unless the U.N. enacts several budget and management changes.

"The Constitution gives to Congress the power of the purse, and we intend to exercise it in pursuit of meaningful U.N. reform," said Republican Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, one of the bill's backers. Hyde, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and other allies of the legislation believe that it offers the only way to turn things around. But for the moment, in spite of its Bolton campaign, the administration appears to have a better relative perspective (or just a schizophrenic one?) on playing that kind of hardball.

"We don't want to put ourselves in a position where the United States is withholding 50 percent of the American contributions to the U.N. system," R. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, told the New York Times. "We are the founder of the U.N. We're the host country of the U.N. We're the leading contributor to the U.N."

So, maybe shave off those top ten floors, but keep the money flowing?

Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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