Obama administration stole funds to combat Zika to pay for UN climate change fund

What's the point in appropriating money for specific budget items if the Obama administration is going to take money earmarked for one program to fund another?

Senator James Lankford writes in The Daily Signal that the administration has taken $500 million that could have been spent combating the Zika virus and turned it over to the UN fund that pays for climate change.

The money came from an economic aid program that Congress also allowed the administration to spend on virus epidemics. Instead, the money went to the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund.

In a floor speech last week, I also shed light on the fact that Congress last December provided the Obama administration with authority to pull money from bilateral economic assistance to foreign countries.

They can use those funds to combat infectious diseases, if the administration believed there is an infectious disease emergency. In the middle of the Zika epidemic, the administration did use their authority to pull money from foreign aid and spend it, but they didn’t use it for Zika.

You might ask—so what did the administration spend the infectious disease money on earlier this year?

You guessed it… climate change.

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.

While I understand that intelligent people can disagree on the human effects on the global climate, 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.

Unfortunately, it gets worse.

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.

So, the administration found a way to offend our ally Israel, delay the Zika response and, if Congress allows him, add another billion dollars to our national debt. That is a busy month.

The White House should not throw money at the U.N. while a vaccine for a virus known to cause severe, debilitating neurological birth defects is put on the back burner.

Zika is an important international crisis, but every crisis does not demand new “emergency funding” that is all debt. If there is a way to avoid more debt, we should take that option, it is what every family and every business does every day.

Lankford points out that the "Department of Health and Human Services, Department of State, and International Assistance Programs currently have about $80 billion in unobligated funds." This money could be used to completely fund Zika programs. Instead, the administration demanded a billion dollars from Congress to address the crisis. 

This is not the first time that the administration has played a shell game with taxpayer money. Obama funded the Obamacare rollout using HHS funds not dedicated for that purpose. The problem is that while the Constitution grants the power of the purse to Congress alone, there is wide leeway given the executive in how that money is spent. 

A fig leaf of legality to be sure. But this is what happens when we have a president that follows the Constitution with a wink and a nod rather than "faithfully execute" the responsibilities of his office.