House GOP fails again on suspension vote, this time on UN funding

Republicans on Wednesday failed for the second time in 24 hours to pass a bill under suspended House rules. 

In a 259-169 vote, the House fell short of a two-thirds majority needed to move legislation under the suspension of House rules. 

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The House failed to meet this requirement on H.R. 519, which would instruct the administration to insist the U.S. be repaid $179 million in money it has overpaid to the United Nations.

This follows a Tuesday vote in which Republicans also could not get a two-thirds majority to approve the extension of three Patriot Act surveillance authorities.

Wednesday's vote was probably less stinging to Republicans because only two members of their party voted against leadership. 

In Tuesday night's vote on the Patriot Act provisions, 26 Republicans voted against their leadership.

The GOP needed scores of Democrats to vote with Republicans to move the U.N. bill, but only 23 Democrats supported it. 

Republicans who supported the bill said the United States should be repaid the money. In a brief statement toward the end of the debate, Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) said it is a "disgrace" to fund the U.N. at all, given how its efforts "hinder progress instead of help it."

One of the two Republicans to vote no on Tuesday, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), called for the overpayments to be used for security improvements. 

"This is a matter of life and death," he said. "This is a serious matter."

The other Republican to vote against the measure was also from New York: Rep. Michael Grimm.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-Calif.) said the Congressional Budget Office found the bill would not save any money. He also argued that the U.N. needs the money to improve security at its New York headquarters, that these security improvements are an obligation of the host country and that pulling money out would put the United States in arrears.

"So we're not saving money, we're spurning the important security requests, and we are going back into a pattern of arrearages that undermines our efforts at the U.N.," Berman said.

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) summarized his assessment: "It's stupid," he said. "Vote 'no' on stupid."

Supporters of the bill, led by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), have argued the U.S. has been overpaying into the U.N.'s income tax reimbursement fund for several years now. She says the Obama administration has failed to reclaim that money, which the U.N. now wants to use for items such as security improvements.

But Berman said Wednesday that the administration and the U.N. have already gone ahead with plans to spend $100 million on security improvements. He said this was done in part because Congress did not pass any spending bills last year that might otherwise have been used to fund needed U.N. security improvements. As a result, he said the bill is "poorly crafted" because not all the money is in the U.N. fund to be returned.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said the New York City Police Department thinks use of the U.N. funds for security purposes is critical and "will save lives." Another Democrat, Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), charged that the Republican vote is part of an "anti-U.N. strategy" by the GOP.