United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley defended the Trump administration’s plan to drastically cut America’s spending on the UN Tuesday. She told a House subcommittee that the proposed cuts had sent “shockwaves” through the body — and that such cuts had put the UN “on notice.”
“My job was to go the UN and find value,” Haley told a House appropriations subcommittee. “We want to make sure the U.S. voice is strong, use it for negotiations in every way possible, to push foreign policy… but at the same time the UN has fat around the edges.”
Haley faced tough opposition from Democrats, and even Republicans, who expressed concern at the drastic nature of some of the cuts being proposed to U.S. funding of the UN’s various agencies. The U.S. is commonly the top funder of most budgets, even those with a distinctly anti-American bias.
Democrats, however, blasted the cuts, with Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) calling them “far-reaching and catastrophic.”
“Frankly I cannot understand how this administration intends to influence the UN agenda, help those most in need, and advance UN reform if it disengages and severely cuts our contributions,” Lowey said.
She noted the proposed cuts included a 37 percent cut for international peacekeeping, a 27 percent hit to contributions like the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Health Organization. Other Democrats pointed to cuts to UNICEF, the World Food Program and the UN Populations Fund (UNFPA).
Haley later noted that $70 million was pulled away from the UNFPA as it was associated with a Chinese company that performed forced sterilization. She said that money was redirected to make sure it accomplished the same goals without those aspects that were against U.S. interests.
Haley also warned that some organizations had become complacent with their budgets, something that was not translating to value for money.
“There are many good organizations that do good work for the U.N. and help people around the world,” she said, before noting that some agencies assume the money will always be there. “Are we giving American taxpayers value for their dollar?”
Some Republicans were also disturbed by the prospects of the cuts, specifically if it led to the U.S.’ role being diminished at the UN.
Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) said the cuts were a “shockwave” and asked Haley: “Is the U.S. stepping back?”
“Some of these cuts are massive and they are just devastating,” Granger said. “I would beg you to stand firm in that, of course we need to use our American dollars well but our leadership is irreplaceable.”
Haley responded by saying that American leadership could be shown by forcing the UN to reform its fatty budgets. She agreed with Granger that the cuts had sent a shockwave, but said it was a good thing and that President Trump had sent a message, and that it had put the UN “on notice.”
“The cuts the president and the administration proposed did send shockwaves through the United Nations and it did put everyone on notice, but I do think that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think that if he was intending to send a message he did,” she said.
She added that she now believes the UN is aware that the U.S. won’t be a rubber stamp for the body, and will be watching it “very closely.”
“What we saw in return is they all understand that we won’t be taken for granted any more. They all understand that we expect to find value in the UN. they all and that reforms are needed because it’s been archaic for a while and that they realize they have to support us in that. They do realize we’re now watching the UN very closely so all those things are actually really good.”
Both Haley and UN Secretary-General António Guterres are in Washington this week, with Guterres meeting top lawmakers and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday. Haley, meanwhile, will testify to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
Adam Shaw is a politics reporter for Breitbart News based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY