House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) admitted this morning that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had a moral point to their letter criticizing the House GOP Budget drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) for its cuts to safety net programs valued by the poor saying, “Yes,” but he wished “they’d take a bigger look and the bigger look is if we don’t make decision these programs won’t exist.”
Yesterday the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sent letters to various House Committees asking them to “resist” some of the trillions in dollars of cuts called for in the Ryan Budget. In a letter to the House Agriculture Committee the bishops said to members “resist for moral and human reasons unacceptable cuts to hunger and nutrition programs.” The letter continued “if savings need to be achieved, cuts to agricultural subsidies and direct payments should be considered before cutting anti-hunger programs that help feed poor and vulnerable people.”
When asked by NBC News about the letters, 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.”
Boehner, though, also acknowledged the importance of America’s social safety net, calling it "critically important."
“And so, when you look at the fact 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 for the poorest in our society," he said.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wading into policy fights on Capitol Hill is nothing new. The group was steadfastly opposed to healthcare reform unless there was a guarantee that no taxpayer money could be involved in subsidizing abortion.
Earlier this year, the bishops actively opposed the Obama administration’s ruling that contraception should be covered in the insurance plans of religiously affiliated employers who may be opposed to such methods of birth control.
Catholic Democratic members have been critical of the bishops in the past for not focusing enough on another tenet of Catholic doctrine, the aiding of the poor. One House Democrat of the Catholic faith who asked not to be named, told NBC News, “I’m glad they’re finally being consistent lobbying for Catholic teaching.”