Senate Republicans Introduce UNRWA Accountability & Transparency Act

Photo Credit: Ted Eytan / CC

Published July 29, 2021

The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –

U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn and Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led their colleagues in introducing the United Nations Relief and Works Agency Accountability and Transparency Act.  

This legislation outlines a comprehensive approach to cease U.S. contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), a successor entity, or to the U.N. regular budget for the support of UNRWA unless the Secretary of State certifies every 180 days to Congress that UNRWA meets strict accountability and transparency criteria. 

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UNRWA has a history of employing individuals affiliated with Hamas, an Iranian-backed, U.S. designated terrorist organization. Additionally, UNRWA schools have been used to store Hamas weapons and promote anti-Semitic education in their textbooks. 

“Under no circumstances should taxpayer funds support terrorist organizations,” said Senator Blackburn. “While the UNRWA was established nearly 70 years ago with the intent of assisting refugees, it has evolved into a cash funnel for Hamas and a mouthpiece for anti-Semitism. We cannot remain complicit in these egregious abuses of funds provided by the international community. I am glad to join my colleagues in the Senate to introduce legislation to cut off terrorist organizations from siphoning money from the United States.” 

Senator Ricsch said, “It is unacceptable that U.S. taxpayer dollars are being used to fund this agency, which is why I’ve introduced legislation to cease U.S. contributions to UNRWA unless the administration can certify without a doubt that the agency has no affiliation with U.S. designation FTOs and does not support anti-Semitic rhetoric. The American people deserve better, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on holding both the administration and UNRWA accountable until meaningful reforms are made.” 

Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) states that the UNRWA now practices activities far beyond its intended scope, including engaging in antagonistic behaviors toward Israel. 

“American taxpayers should not have to continue footing the bill to fund an agency linked to foreign terrorist groups or using and promoting anti-Semitic material, ” said Crapo. 

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The Trump Administration stopped funding UNRWA in 2018. The Biden Administration restarted funding and has thus far provided more than $280 million to UNRWA without securing any reforms. 

“In his haste to undo anything associated with the previous administration, President Biden has put American taxpayers in the unacceptable position of supporting groups that work directly against the United States and its allies, namely Israel and the Jewish people,” said Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith “Congress is well within its rights to restrict the use of any U.S. funding until the United Nations reforms its flawed Palestinian refugee program.  This legislation deserves broad bipartisan support.” 

Senator John Boozman, a Republican from Arkansas echoed Hyde-Smith by stating, “The Biden administration’s decision to restore funding to UNRWA absent critical reforms that ensure it no longer supports or aids U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations and ends promoting the destruction of the Jewish state is irresponsible. I’m proud to join my colleagues seeking to put a stop to it.” 

Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) states that the legislation will help protect U.S. tax dollars from going to the organization until critical reforms are made. 

“Instead of just caring for refugees, UNRWA supports – and even employs – members of the terrorist organization Hamas, funds anti-Semitic and radical Islamic instruction, and undermines efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” said Young. 

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said, “I’m proud to join Ranking Member Risch in introducing this bill, which would withhold funds from UNRWA until the U.S. Secretary of State certifies that the organization adheres to multiple commonsense requirements.” 

Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) encourages his colleagues in Congress to pass the bipartisan, bicameral bill so that accountability and transparency can be brought to the agency. 

“Reform of UNRWA is necessary to ensure the organization does not support terrorism and that they are not endangering the security of Israel or promoting anti-Semitic ideology,” said  Portman. 

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) stated that the bill, if passed, would help promote peace in the region and ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars are being used appropriately. 

Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) said, “Just a few months ago, we saw Hamas terrorists attack our great ally, Israel, American taxpayer dollars should never be used to fund terrorist organizations like Hamas through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. It’s common sense.” 

The UNRWA Accountability and Transparency Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), and John Thune (R-S.D.). U.S. Representative Chip Roy (R-Texas) also led 27 Republican colleagues in introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives. 

Text of the bill can be found HERE

In April, Senator Blackburn joined Senator Risch and colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging the administration to cease assistance to UNRWA until critical reforms are secured.

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 About the Author:

Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative 

Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career.  Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others.  He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History.  Contact Jason at

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