House foreign appropriations subcommittee calls to cut U.S. funding to United Nations

The State and Foreign Operations panel proposed stripping funding for the U.N.’s general budget in response to alleged anti-Israel bias

Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Security Council meeting on situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question at UN headquarters.

Responding to concerns over anti-Israel and antisemitic bias at the United Nations, the House subcommittee responsible for providing funding for the State Department and foreign programs is pushing to eliminate U.S. funding for the United Nations’ general budget in its 2024 budget proposal.

The House Appropriations Committee’s State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs subcommittee advanced a draft funding bill on Friday that would make significant changes to the U.S.’ posture toward the United Nations, as well as implement a host of other policy reforms governing U.S. funding to the U.N., Iran, and more.

“Israel is routinely attacked and undermined across the entire U.N. system, while the world’s worst human rights abusers remain, frankly, relatively untouched,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), who chairs the subcommittee, said during Friday’s markup. “Therefore, it should come as no surprise that no funds are included in this bill for the U.N. regular budget. The ineffectiveness and the egregious failures of the United Nations and U.N. bodies do not merit support.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), the subcommittee ranking member, described the bill, which came in nearly 25% below the president’s budget request, as “extremely disturbing.” She intimated that the bill would be dead-on-arrival in the Senate. Lee is running for a Senate seat in California.

This bill “views the world in a black-and-white, good-and-evil paradigm. If we don’t like everything about an organization, or can’t control their actions, this bill prohibits funding,” Lee continued. “Believe me, that’s not the approach the government of [China] is taking… This is a deeply political bill that seeks to satisfy some very extreme members of Congress among us, without consideration of the real-life consequences.”

The legislation would also ban the U.S. from providing funding to the U.N. Commission of Inquiry investigating Israel or to UNESCO, which the administration is attempting to rejoin.

It includes a new prerequisite that, before each release of funding to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, the secretary of state must certify to Congress that UNRWA is complying with a range of oversight and accountability measures, including that it is implementing policies to prevent the dissemination of content that promotes antisemitism, violence or anti-Israel sentiments in UNRWA materials. The bill would also add “a new prohibition on funds for assessed expenses for UNRWA,” according to a summary released by the subcommittee.

The House legislation would tighten restrictions on the U.S.’ support for the U.N. Human Rights Council, demanding that the secretary of state provide a “detailed reform agenda, including a timeline” for removing Israel as a permanent agenda and reforming the selection process for the panel, as well as certify that remaining on the council is in the U.S.’ “national security interest.”

More broadly, the bill instructs the administration to seek written agreements with any international organization receiving funding from the U.S. to ensure access to the organization’s financial and investigative records for U.S. inspectors general.

The House draft legislation would mandate that any nuclear agreement with Iran be submitted to Congress as a treaty. It also maintains a provision present in the 2023 appropriations bill barring the administration from revoking the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ designation as a terrorist organization. It further bans funding to any Iranian proxy organizations operating in Iraq. 

The bill includes a rider mandating that the Office of Palestinian Affairs report to the U.S. ambassador to Israel and prohibiting the office from administering or managing any U.S. bilateral assistance funding. The new policy appears to come in response to objections from Republicans to moves by the Biden administration to upgrade the office’s status and allow it to report directly to the State Department.

In anticipation of an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the bill would expand existing restrictions on U.S. relations with the Palestine Liberation Organization, aiming to disincentivize the Palestinans from acting on the court’s opinion.

It would prevent the president from waiving restrictions on the U.S.’ relationship with the PLO if the Palestinians initiate “any further action, whether directly or indirectly, based on an Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice that undermines direct negotiations to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, including matters related to final status and Israel’s longstanding security rights and responsibilities.”

Another provision in the bill would eliminate any special envoys or representatives at the State Department that are not specifically authorized by law or confirmed by Congress, including the special representative for Palestinian Affairs.

The bill also requires a new report to Congress on the Palestinian Authority’s work to counter violent incitement and promote peace with Israel.

The legislation would provide the scheduled $3.3 billion in foreign military financing for Israel as guaranteed under the Memorandum of Understanding, as well as $425 million in military aid and $845.1 million in nonmilitary aid for Jordan and $2.05 billion in military aid for Egypt. 

The draft bill would eliminate human rights-based conditions on military aid to Egypt imposed in recent years. It would also extend the Defense Department’s authority to maintain a weapons stockpile in Israel through 2026.

And it strips out language added in the past two years by House Democrats requiring the secretary of state to consult with recipients of foreign military aid on U.S. law regarding the use of U.S. arms. Some critics of Israeli policy saw this language as a tool to enforce stricter oversight of U.S. aid to Israel.

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered each morning in a must-read newsletter.