Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Bishops Remind Congress That Budgets Reflect Moral Choices

Calling the nation’s spending decisions “not only policy choices but moral ones,” the U.S. Conference of Bishops (USCCB) is urging Congress not to neglect the needs of the poor here and abroad as funding is appropriated for the new fiscal year.
“When setting priorities, Congress should seek to advance the common good of all, which cannot be achieved unless the essential needs of the poor and vulnerable are met,” Bishop Thomas G. Wenski, chairman of the USCCB international policy committee and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, chairman of the USCCB domestic policy committee, wrote in a joint letter to senators.

Specifically, the bishops expressed concern that the Continuing Resolution for FY 2007 may reduce essential funding to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in developing countries. Noting that the United States has become “a leader of a major international effort to address these devastating diseases,” the bishops urged Congress to approve $4.36 billion—the amount proposed by the Senate Appropriations Committee—for morally appropriate HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis programs in FY 2007.

In the past few years, the bishops also write, Congress “has failed to fully fund the operation of the public housing system, leaving many local communities to increase rents for low income tenants, defer maintenance on an aging housing stock, and reduce important services to their residents.”

They called on senators to approve the Senate Appropriations bill funding level of $3.6 billion for the operation of public housing, $15.9 billion for the Section 8 voucher program that serves 2 million low-income families, as well as a new voucher distribution formula that would better serve struggling families. The bishops also urged Congress to provide support for refugees and other vulnerable persons. They requested $833 million for the Migration and Refugee Assistance account, $55 million for the Emergency Refugee Migration Assistance account, and $615 million for the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

“As pastors and teachers, we are convinced that the fundamental moral measure of our nation’s spending policy is whether it enhances or undermines those most in need,” the bishops said. “These are difficult times with few easy choices, but there are some right choices. In a time of war, mounting deficits, and growing needs, our nation’s leaders must ensure that there are adequate resources to protect and enhance the lives and dignity of people who are poor and vulnerable both here at home and around the world.”

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