Boehner vs. the Bishops

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has seen the GOP budget plan -- and they don't like it.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has seen the GOP budget plan -- and they don't like it.
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The House Republican budget plan is simply brutal towards the poor, with most of its budget cuts targeting programs that benefit struggling families. Funding for food stamps, health care, housing assistance, and education would all face severe cuts.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a group Republican leaders like to consider an ally, is not at all impressed with the plan (via Dan Nejfelt at Faith in Public Life).

In a letter sent to the House Agriculture Committee on Monday, the bishops say the budget fails to meet certain “moral criteria” by disproportionately cutting programs that “serve poor and vulnerable people.”

A second letter sent Tuesday to the Ways and Means Committee criticizes a provision that makes it more difficult for illegal immigrants to claim child tax credits. The bishops called the credit “one of the most effective antipoverty programs in our nation.”

“Major reductions at this time of economic turmoil and rising poverty will hurt hungry, poor and vulnerable people in our nation and around the world,” the Rev. Stephen Blaire, bishop of Stockton, Calif., and the Rev. Richard E. Pates, bishop of Des Moines, wrote for the conference. “A just spending bill cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to the poor and vulnerable persons.”

I’ll look forward to Allen West explaining why the bishops are part of a larger communist plot.

The criticism is politically problematic for GOP leaders, and not just because it’s unhelpful for religious leaders to criticize Republicans for trying to punish poor families during difficult economic times. There’s also the context of recent events – Republicans just got finished arguing that those who disagree with the bishops on contraception are guilty of waging a war on faith.

Are those who disagree with the bishops on food stamps, immigration, health care, education, and housing assistance equally anti-religion? And isn’t this especially problematic for House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) who is both Catholic and the one who said his faith helped shape his budget plan?

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who is also Catholic, is aware of the bishops’ concerns, and has come up with a response: they just don’t understand.

Brian Beutler reported yesterday:

At his weekly Capitol press availability, Boehner cast the GOP’s budget as a plan to preserve key federal support programs, which he said are growing unsustainable and will cease to exist without far-reaching reforms.

“What’s more of a concern to me is the fact that if we don’t begin to make some decisions about getting our fiscal house in order, there won’t be a safety net, there won’t be these programs,” Boehner said.

Hmm. So as far as John Boehner is concerned, he has to cut food stamps while giving tax breaks to millionaires because, without these steps, there won’t be any more food stamps.

It’s unlikely the bishops will be persuaded by such nonsense, and Jonathan Cohn explained why: “As Boehner surely knows … the only reasons the programs can’t survive under Republican budgets is that Republicans insist on using some of the money to finance tax cuts for the wealthy – and because Republicans keep opposing attempts to control health care spending by reforming the system itself, rather than simply reducing support for the sick and elderly.”

Catholic Bishops, John Boehner and Budget

Boehner vs. the Bishops