House Speaker John Boehner wants the Conference of Catholic Bishops to rethink its stinging critique of the Republican budget, which it said “fails to meet … moral criteria,” of protecting human dignity, prioritizing the needs of the hungry and homeless and promoting the common good.
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. “When you look at the fact that we have to make hard decisions, it’s about trying to make sure that we’re able to preserve these programs that are critically important to the poorest in our society.”
But the budget itself illustrates that the GOP has different priorities, reflecting the Bishops’ concerns.
It objects both to the GOP budget blueprint, and to its requirement that the House pass legislation cutting food stamps and other domestic programs to offset the cost of rescinding “sequestration” — the across-the-board cuts to national security and domestic spending programs set to take effect on Jan. 1.
Indeed, as illustrated here, the Republican budget calls for preserving high levels of spending on Medicare, Social Security and defense — but since the GOP refuses to increase taxes, it holds down deficits with massive cuts to Medicaid, SCHIP and most of the domestic budget.
The Bishops, an influential interest group on Capitol Hill, aren’t reading Republican priorities incorrectly, or failing to see the bigger picture, as Boehner suggested. And their warnings provide fodder for Democrats, who hope to break the GOP of its anti-tax absolutism.
“Just solutions,” the Bishops say in an official statement, “must require shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and fairly addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs.”
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.