Speaker Boehner v. The Bishops

Boehner Says the Bishops Just Don’t Get It

As you may recall, Republicans recently held up the Catholic Bishops as the ultimate moral authorities in the country, at least when it came to their mutual commitment to limiting access to birth control.  Now, however, when it comes to another important part of Catholic teachings — caring for the needy among us — House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) isn’t so eager to follow the Bishops’ advice.

Here’s the rundown.

A Moral Budget?

Just as he did last year, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that his Catholic faith guided him in crafting the Republican budget — the one that includes draconian cuts to programs for the poor, elderly, and middle class in order to pay for massive tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations:

Those principles are very very important, and the preferential option for the poor, which is one of the primary tenants of Catholic social teaching, means don’t keep people poor, don’t make people dependent on government so that they stay stuck at their station in life, help people get out of poverty out onto life of independence.

Catholic religious leaders, however, immediately denounced the Republican budget as an “immoral disaster” that “robs the poor.”

This week, as it became clearer just how draconian some of the Republicans’ proposed cuts would be, particularly $34 BILLION in cuts to food stamps (now known as SNAP) over the next decade, the Catholic Bishops weighed in:

Cuts to nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and workers who cannot find employment. These cuts are unjustified and wrong.

Rather than respond to the substance of the Bishops’ criticism, Ryan instead resorted to simply invoking debt hysteria and making the audacious assertion that shredding the social safety will somehow “repair” it:

“The president’s policies, by the administration’s own admission, accelerate a debt crisis, hurting the poor the first and the worst,” Ryan said in a statement to The Hill. He said his own budget “lifts this crushing burden of debt, repairs our broken safety net and tackles our generation’s defining challenge of ensuring opportunity for generations to come.”

Separately, the Bishops also called out Republicans for relying on a spending cuts-only approach to budgeting:

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.  A just spending bill cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to the poor and vulnerable persons; it requires shared sacrifice by all.

Boehner Says Bishops Aren’t Looking At the Big Picture

During his weekly press conference today, Boehner seemed to dismiss the Bishops’ criticism when asked about by reporters:

Boehner, a church-going Catholic, said America’s debt was what distressed him. “What’s more of a concern to me is the fact that if we don’t start to make some decisions about getting our fiscal house in order there won’t be a safety net,” he said. “There won’t be these programs.”

Earlier in the day, Boehner also claimed that trillions of dollars in cuts to safety net programs would somehow have no impact on the poor or safety net programs:

I don’t believe that our budget will hurt the poor in any way.  I don’t think it will hurt the safety net in any way.

IN ONE SENTENCE: The Catholic Bishops do get the big picture — that it’s not right to give each millionaire another quarter-million dollar tax break while slashing funding for the programs that care for the neediest members of our society.

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Advocacy Team