GOP member warns against funding UN group in omnibus

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) this week is calling on the House to reject a Senate effort to restore funding to a United Nations group that recognizes Palestine as a member.

Ros-Lehtinen says U.S. law prohibits federal funding to any U.N. group that lets Palestine participate. The U.N.'s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) welcomed Palestine as a member in 2011.

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While that has shut off U.S. funding for UNESCO, Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Landrieu oil is changing the world and Washington Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Republican announces bid for Vitter’s seat MORE (D-La.) has sought to include language in the omnibus spending bill that could get a vote next week to allow some funding of UNESCO.

Ros-Lehtinen warned that Congress should reject any attempt to rewrite current law.

"In October 2011, UNESCO chose to welcome Palestine to its membership," she said Wednesday on the House floor. "It did so, knowing full well that this would trigger U.S. laws that prohibit us from funding any entity at the U.N. that grants membership to the PLO or any other organization that doesn't meet the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.

"We must not grant a waiver to UNESCO nor approve any backdoor congressional attempt to provide U.S. funding to UNESCO until it reverses its decision regarding the Palestinian Authority."

Landrieu has pressed House and Senate negotiators on the omnibus spending bill to allow the U.S. to pay some money to UNESCO to help fund the World Heritage Program, which designates historical sites around the world. Landrieu has said this program would help designate a site in her home state of Louisiana.

Landrieu made that push in a December letter to the leading members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

But Ros-Lehtinen says this would start the U.S. on a slippery slope of ignoring U.S. law. On Thursday morning, Ros-Lehtinen said she met with U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power recently, who said that "despite U.S. law that prohibits any funding to UNESCO ... the administration was going to make it a priority to seek waiver authority to continue U.S. taxpayer funding to UNESCO." 

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