House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Thursday dismissed criticism from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), falsely claiming the group did not represent all Catholic bishops.
Referencing Matthew 25, the USCCB called on Congress to put the poor first in budget priorities and rethink cuts to programs that benefited the least among us.
"These are not all the Catholic bishops, and we just respectfully disagree," he said on Fox News after being questioned about the bishops criticism of his budget plan.
The USCCB later responded to Ryan's comment, informing The Hill that they represented "all of the U.S. bishops on key issues at the national level."
Ryan has said that his Catholic faith helped shape his budget plan. But Catholics have questioned his admiration for the libertarian novelist Ayn Rand, who advocated the "virtue of selfishness" and called Christianity the "the best kindergarten of communism possible."
Ryan's House-approved budget for 2013-2022 would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides food stamps, by $133.5 billion over the next decade. Approximately 2 million individuals would be cut off from the program entirely, according to the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities. Another 44 million would see their benefits cut.
In a letter to House Committee on Agriculture members, Bishop Stephen Blaire, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, described the proposed cuts to the program as “unjustified and wrong.”
“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,” he continued. “Given current high commodity prices and federal budget constraints, subsidies and direct payments can be reduced and targeted to small and moderate-sized farms.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who is also Catholic, has dismissed the bishops' criticism as well.
While Republicans sided with the USCCB during the debate over contraceptive mandates for health insurers, they have ignored the bishops call to repeal Alabama’s harsh Republican-backed immigration law.
“If enforced, Alabama’s anti-immigration law will make it a crime to follow God’s command to be Good Samaritans,” the bishops said in a lawsuit. “[T]he anti-immigration law runs counter to the Christian spirit of compassion. The law is unconstitutional and a direct affront to the recognized and accepted word of God.”