Washington: The US House of Representatives on Wednesday defeated a largely symbolic bill demanding repayment of surplus contributions to an obscure United Nations fund amid a broader battle over cuts to overseas aid.
Lawmakers voted 259-169 for the legislation, falling well short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass the measure, the latest effort by Republicans to signal they are serious about tightening Washington`s belt.
The bill sought the return of US overpayments into the UN Tax Equalization Fund, which serves to reimburse UN workers for taxes paid on their salaries, for a one-time savings of USD 180 million.
The effort had reportedly drawn fire from a senior Republican, House Homeland Security Committee chairman Pete King of New York, because about USD 100 million of the excess has been repurposed for security upgrades at UN headquarters.
King was one of two Republicans to join 167 Democrats to vote against the measure, while 23 Democrats joined most Republicans in backing the bill.
The remainder of the funds was expected to go towards future US dues payments.
It was not immediately clear whether Republican leaders would attempt to pass the measure under rules requiring a simple majority.
Republicans, who won sweeping victories in November 02 elections, have vowed to slash US government spending at a time when the national debt has reached USD 14 trillion and the annual deficit is projected to run 1.5 trillion.
But while some of their most conservative members have vowed drastic steps like abolishing the US Agency for International Development, some Republicans and many Democrats have fired back that US aid properly belongs among national security outlays that Republicans are expected to leave largely untouched.