Dewane: Budget 'moral document'; House bill puts poor in 'real jeopardy'

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. House budget resolution
“will place millions of poor and vulnerable people in real jeopardy”
because it reduces deficits “through cuts for human needs” and by trying
to slash taxes at the same time, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ domestic
policy committee.

“A nation’s budget is a moral document,” said
Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
“Congress should choose a better path, one that honors those struggling in
our country.”

Bishop Dewane’s July 20 statement was issued in response
to the budget resolution that was voted out of the House Budget Committee along
party lines July 19.

The nonbinding Republican measure is a 10-year budget
blueprint that calls for $621.5 billion in national defense spending, provides
for $511 billion in nondefense spending and ties cuts to a major
overhaul of the U.S. tax code.

It makes at least $203 billion in cuts over a decade in
Medicaid, food stamps, tax credits for the working poor and other programs that
help low-income Americans. The bill also would change Medicare into a type of
voucher program for future retirees.

“The USCCB is monitoring the budget and appropriations
process in Congress very carefully, and is analyzing the proposed House budget
resolution in more detail,” Bishop Dewane said. “We note at the
outset that the proposal assumes the harmful and unacceptable cuts to Medicaid
from the American Health Care Act.”

The House May 4 passed the American Health Care
Act to replace the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act. The Senate effort to
repeal and replace the health care law collapsed late July 17.

In the House budget resolution, “steady increases to
military spending … are made possible by cutting critical
resources for those in need over time, including potentially from important
programs like SNAP (Supplemental
Nutrition Assistance Program) that provide essential
nutrition to millions of people,” Bishop Dewane said.

“This would undo a bipartisan approach on
discretionary spending from recent years, that, while imperfect, was a more
balanced compromise given competing priorities,” he added.

Catholic Charities USA also rejected the measure’s
“dramatic cuts in key social safety net programs.”

Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of the national
Catholic Charities network, urged House members “to prioritize and protect
programs that support and uplift the poor and vulnerable in our country.”

“While CCUSA supports the responsible use of our nation’s
fiscal resources and has worked consistently to improve effectiveness in
anti-poverty programs, reforms that seek only to cut our nation’s social safety
net will further strain efforts to meet individual needs and risk pushing more
Americans into poverty,” Sister Markham said July 20.

She made the comments in a letter to Rep. Diane Black, R-Tennessee, who is chair of the
House Budget Committee, and Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Kentucky,
ranking member.

Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity, who is president
and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, also wrote to Black and Yarmuth expressing
her opposition to the budget resolution.

“As an organization guided by the social teachings
of the Catholic Church, we firmly believe that the federal budget should be
informed by moral principles and offer special protections for the poor and
vulnerable,” she wrote July 18, the day the measure was unveiled.

“A budget must be fair and just and cannot be
balanced on the backs of those among us who least can afford it,” Sister
Keehan said. “We recognize that the proper role of federal spending
programs should be to lift up the neediest among us enabling them to active
participants in society.

“Unfortunately, the deep cuts in programs and
services assumed by this budget proposal will severely reduce or eliminate
access to basic necessities such as food, shelter, health care, education and
other social supports that help lift families and individuals out of poverty and
improve their health outcomes,” she said.

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