Two policies of the Obama administration illustrate an axiom: As government expands, its lawfulness contracts. Consider the administration’s desire to continue funding UNESCO and to develop a national curriculum for primary and secondary education.
In 1994, Congress stipulated that no U.S. funds shall go to “any affiliated organization” of the United Nations that “grants full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.” Last October, UNESCO (the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)voted to confer membership on Palestine. Although there are waiver provisions in most laws restricting executive discretion in foreign relations, the 107 national delegations that voted to extend membership to Palestine were told there is no such provision in the pertinent law. The United States immediately cut off funding, which is 22 percent of UNESCO’s budget.
But President Obama’s 2013 budget seeks $78,968,000 for UNESCO and says: “The Department of State intends to work with Congress to seek legislation that would provide authority to waive restrictions on paying the U.S. assessed contributions to UNESCO.” The administration regards the 18-year-old statute as an evanescent inconvenience — that Congress will obediently tug its forelock and grant a waiver provision enabling the executive branch to slip the leash of law.