House votes to withhold U.N. dues
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The House of Representatives voted Thursday to retaliate against the United Nations for its vote last week stripping the United States of its long-held seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
In a measure opposed by the Bush administration because of concerns it might damage relations with the world body, the House voted 252-165 to withhold back dues the United States recently agreed to pay.
Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, said the House voted on the measure despite White House concerns because "there's an injustice there that needs to be addressed. The House and the Congress has a right to work its will."
The amendment -- co-sponsored by Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Illinois, chairman of the International Relations Committee, and Rep. Tom Lantos, D-California, the ranking Democrat on the panel -- is attached to a bill that authorizes spending by the State Department. The bill authorizes a $582 million payment to the United Nations in 2002 but puts a hold on the following year's third and final back payment of $244 million unless the United States regains its seat on the commission.
Both Hastert and Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Missouri, said they support the bill.
Despite the angry tone of debate over the situation, two senior congressional aides told CNN the bill is more about symbolism than substance.
"Members need an opportunity to express their outrage over what happened last week," one said, "The Hyde-Lantos amendment allows that."
The second aide explained that the State Department authorization bill, which is usually filled with controversial amendments, has not even been signed into law since 1993.
The aide said the bill speaks to the natural tensions between the executive branch, which wants a free hand to run international policy, and the legislative branch, which wants to load up the authorization bill with various mandates on how U.S. international policy should be conducted.
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