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Bishop reiterates concern that House budget fails a ‘basic moral test’

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May 9, 2012

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON – The proposed funding cuts in programs that meet the needs of poor and vulnerable people being weighed in the House of Representatives fail a “basic moral test,” said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

 

In a letter to House members May 8, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., reiterated an earlier view that “the budget starts with the proposition that first, Congress must do no harm” and that elected officials must assess every budget decision on “whether it protects or threatens human life and dignity.”

 

Acknowledging that the country’s budget deficit is a serious concern and Congress faces difficult decisions, Bishop Blaire called upon House members to “ensure all policies meet the moral criteria established by the Catholic bishops of the United States to create a circle of protection around programs that serve poor and vulnerable people and communities.”

 

“The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first. Government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times,” the letter said.

 

Bishop Blaire wrote that the framework for future budgets “cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons; it requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly.”

 

The letter cited three programs in particular as having a significant impact on poor families and individuals.

 

Bishop Blaire renewed the USCCB’s opposition to changes in the child tax credit that would exclude children of “hardworking immigrant families.” He also repeated the bishops’ opposition to cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, and the Social Services Block Grant, which aids homeless, elderly and disabled people, abuse victims and children living in poverty.

 

“Deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility efforts must protect and not undermine the needs of poor and vulnerable people,” the letter said. “The proposed cuts to programs in the budget reconciliation fail this basic moral test.”

 

The letter was sent as the House prepared to vote May 10 on a budget plan that cuts billions of dollars in nonmilitary spending. The largest cuts in the Republican-backed 2013 budget plan were aimed at health care and financial markets reforms, but also included billions in Medicaid, food stamps and child tax credit refunds.

 

As the House Budget Committee marked up its budget bill May 7, the House Appropriations Committee introduced a $519 billion Defense Department budget for 2013 and a companion $72 billion measure for military construction. The Defense Department budget represents a $1.1 billion increase over 2012 spending and $3.1 billion more than President Barack Obama requested.

 

Republicans in the House have worked to protect military spending from automatic cuts of at least $55 billion set to occur in January under the Budget Control Act passed by Congress in 2011 in the midst of a heated debate on the impact of the country’s growing financial deficit.

 

The act also called for automatic spending cuts totaling about $43 billion in nondefense spending. The budget being considered in the House already cuts $27 billion from these accounts, meaning that new cuts in domestic spending would total about $16 billion.

 

The budget bill is expected to go nowhere, however. The Democratic-controlled Senate is not expected to consider the plan. Even if the budget passed both congressional chambers, it would face a likely veto from Obama.

 

 

The text of the letter from the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development is available online at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/reconciliation-letter-to-house-2012-05-08.pdf.

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