A day after his White House meeting with President Obama, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon raised congressional hackles by calling the United States a "deadbeat" donor to the world body.
Mr. Ban's criticism Wednesday of the U.N.'s single-biggest backer irked some members of the House Foreign Relations Committee. They were generally supportive of his leadership but voiced concern about U.N. efforts in areas from Sudan to Somalia.
"He used the word 'deadbeat' when it came to characterizing the United States. I take great umbrage [to] that," Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the panel's senior Republican, said after an hourlong, closed-door meeting.
"We certainly contribute a whole lot of U.S. taxpayer dollars to that organization. We do not deserve such a phrase."
Interviewed after the session, Mr. Ban said he had wanted to draw attention to the fact that the U.S. agrees to pay 22 percent of the U.N.'s $4.86 billion operating budget, but is perennially late with its dues - and now is about $1 billion behind on its payments.
That figure is "soon to be $1.6 billion," Mr. Ban emphasized. Asked whether he had used the word "deadbeat" during the meeting, he replied, "Yes, I did - I did."
Mr. Ban also urged Congress to adopt climate-change legislation to boost chances for his top goal this year: clinching a global climate deal. The hope is for accord at a U.N.-sponsored conference in Copenhagen in December.
Mr. Ban generally got a "very respectful" reception from the House committee, said Rep. Bill Delahunt, Massachusetts Democrat, who chairs a subcommittee that oversees U.S. participation in the United Nations.
"Clearly they have an interest in the United States meeting its responsibility. In terms of peacekeeping, we're about $670 million behind, and I think the argument is well stated," Mr. Delahunt said.
He noted America backs U.N. peacekeeping operations -- and said it loses credibility if it doesn't provide financial support.
"And at the same time, we have to recognize that there are no American troops involved in the 17 different venues where there are peacekeeping operations," Mr. Delahunt said.