WASHINGTON - John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Wednesday opposed a bill to withhold more than $130 million in funding to the world body unless it implements congressionally mandated reforms.
In his first appearance before Congress since becoming U.N. ambassador, Bolton warned Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., the powerful chairman of the House International Relations Committee who sponsored the bill, and other members of that panel that the legislation would undercut the president's authority to make foreign policy.
''I've been an executive branch official my entire public career and, for both constitutional and historical reasons, the executive branch appropriately has typically opposed automatic, nondiscretionary directions from all of you esteemed ladies and gentlemen,'' Bolton said. ''That's our position,'' he added. ''I support it emphatically.''
Although Hyde's bill previously faced opposition from the State Department, the White House and the Senate, Republican staffers and U.N. officials said he still hopes to use a parliamentary maneuver to force it through Congress before the end of the year.
But Bolton's remarks, coming from the administration's sharpest U.N. critic, were expected to deal a serious blow to those efforts. They also proved awkward for Hyde, who had invited Bolton to brief Congress on the outcome of a major U.N. summit earlier this month on poverty and reform.
Hyde nevertheless continued to make his case, saying ''withholding dues is a wonderful way to get their attention'' at the United Nations. He received little backing from colleagues, with the exception of Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who told Bolton, ''With all due respect to the executive branch, the purse strings do not belong to you.''