updated 6/18/2005 5:10:28 AM ET 2005-06-18T09:10:28

The House is telling the United Nations to reform or lose U.S. financial support, and signaling the White House to take a tougher stand.

The messages came Friday as the House voted 221-184, with a mostly Republican majority, to withhold one half of assessed U.S. dues — now about $440 million a year — if the U.N. doesn’t accomplish nearly four dozen steps to improve its accountability and root out corruption.

Failure to comply would also result in U.S. refusal to support expanded and new peacekeeping missions.

“History shows that when Congress stands tough, when it says that if you don’t reform we are not going to pay, then change occurs,” said the bill’s author, Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., chairman of the House International Relations Committee.

The Bush administration, while applauding the House for pressing for changes at the U.N., said the automatic withholding of payments could “detract from and undermine our efforts” to work with U.N. members to improve the organization.

The House rejected, on a 216-190 vote, an alternative offered by Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., that would have made similar demands for change but leave it to the secretary of state to decide whether to withhold up to 50 percent of payments.

DeLay on U.N.: 'Apologists for tyranny and terror'
The Senate has no immediate plans to take up the bill and its chances of becoming law are uncertain. But it was clear that the frustrations of House Republicans, who voted overwhelmingly for the Hyde bill, outweighed the urgings of the administration to reconsider the legislation.

World power“Far from promoting justice and respect for international law, the United Nations has become one of the world’s greatest apologists for tyranny and terror,” said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. “The U.N.’s corruption is so breathtaking in its scope as to be almost universal.”

Over two days of debate, speakers slammed the U.N. for what they said was its wasteful bureaucracy, its anti-America, anti-Israel biases, its seating of tyrannical governments on the U.N. Commission on Human Rights and scandals involving the sexual misconduct of peacekeepers and alleged corruption in the oil-for-food program for Iraq.

The House approved some two dozen Republican amendments that pinpointed further ways to improve the U.N. They included directions to suspend member states engaged in crimes against humanity, waive immunity for U.N. officials in connection with the oil-for-food program and make Iran ineligible to receive nuclear material from International Atomic Energy Agency members until it is in full compliance with the IAEA.

Democrats, and their few Republican allies, said there was no dispute over the need for U.N. reform, but argued the Hyde approach was heavy-handed.

“I can’t believe that when our men and women are fighting in Iraq, that we would move forward with legislation like this when we need to draw countries together,” said Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., who cosponsored the Lantos alternative.

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