This vote was on an amendment by John Ensign, R-Nev., that would strike language in the underlying bill increasing the U.S. share of UN peacekeeping operations from 25 percent to just over 27 percent. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds the Department of State and foreign operations in fiscal 2008.
Ensign said the United States has traditionally committed to a 25 percent share and that it should not be raised; in fact, Ensign said he would prefer to see it lowered. He said that each percentage point above 25 percent will cost U.S. taxpayers $50 million annually.
“Despite scandal after scandal, the U.N. has neglected to adopt any reforms that would address the abuse, misconduct, mismanagement, and corruption that have plagued its peacekeeping operations and the body as a whole. United Nations peacekeepers are reported to have committed such egregious crimes as the rape and forced prostitution of the women and young girls they are sent to protect, all under the protection of the blue helmet. Peacekeepers have also been accused of torturing and murdering prisoners in their efforts to smuggle gold and arms to the rebels they were charged with disarming. Tell me how these actions such as these are worth more money,” Ensign said.
Ensign echoed a common thread of discontent with the United Nations among Republicans. Many Republicans view the UN as a corrupt organization that often endorses political and military views that are at odds with their preferences – a prime example being the UN’s reluctance to endorse a full-scale war with Iraq under Saddam Hussein.
Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Ensign’s amendment should be voted down because “we can’t ask the U.N. to carry out peacekeeping missions unless we pay our dues.”
“For example, this Congress pushed very hard to have the U.N. do a peacekeeping mission in Darfur just last month. After we pushed for that, they agreed to it. Now we have to do what our own Ambassador says, what President Bush has said, and what the Secretary of State has said: We have to pay our share of peacekeeping operations,” Leahy said.
By a vote of 30-63, the Senate defeated Ensign’s amendment. All but one Democrat present voted against the amendment (Ben Nelson of Nebraska). Of Republicans present, 29 voted for the amendment and 18 voted against it. The end result was that the measure went forward with its language that would increase the U.S. percentage of UN peacekeeping efforts from 25 percent to just over 27 percent.