Obama Illegally Diverts Money Needed to Fight Zika to UN

President Obama raided $500 million needed to fight the Zika virus, and instead illegally gave it to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) describes how in the Daily Signal. The Obama administration had the money to pay for a Zika response from existing agency budgets, but chose not to, instead demanding that Congress pass a new spending program instead.

Zika poses an acute threat to pregnant women and their unborn children, sometimes causing severe birth defects like microcephaly.

As Lankford notes, “In March, President Obama gave the United Nations $500 million out of an account under bilateral economic assistance to fund the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund. Congress refused to allocate funding for the U.N. Climate Change Fund last year, so the president used this account designated for international infectious diseases to pay for his priority.” He did this even though, as Lankford points out, “it is hard to imagine a reason why the administration would prioritize the U.N. Green Climate Fund over protecting the American people, especially pregnant women, from the Zika virus.”

Moreover, doing so was illegal, as my colleague Myron Ebell earlier explained. Sen. Lankford confirms that “the U.N. Green Climate Fund is connected to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an affiliated organization of the United Nations. The UNFCCC recently accepted the ‘State of Palestine’ as a signatory, which should trigger a U.S. funding prohibition. U.S. law forbids any taxpayer dollars to fund international organizations that recognize ‘Palestine’ as a sovereign state.”

Having drained the money needed to deal with the Zika crisis, the Obama administration then belatedly demanded more money from Congress. But federal departments and agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of State, currently have around $80 billion in unobligated funds at their disposal. A small fraction of this could be directed to Zika virus response without adding any additional debt. As Lankford observes, “This is exactly the type of authority the Obama administration asked for in 2009 during the height of the H1N1 virus scare.”

But the Obama administration refused to seek Congressional authorization to redirect any of those unobligated funds to address the crisis, which could have been done more quickly than creating a costly new spending program.

As Myron Ebell noted on May 13, the Obama administration has dug in its heels, and persists in illegally funding the UN’s Green Climate Fund: “the State Department replied to a letter signed by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and 27 other Senators that it wasn’t going to pay any attention to the law and the Obama Administration would continue to fund the UNFCCC. The introduction of S. 2930 is only the first step in what is likely going to be a long effort by the Congress to force compliance and defund the UNFCCC, which includes the Green Climate Fund.”