Faith Leaders Blast House Vote on Budget Cuts

Faith leaders expressed disappointment after the House passed a $50 billion budget bill on Saturday that would hurt hundreds of thousands of America's poor.

"Woe to you legislators of infamous laws … who refuse justice to the unfortunate, who cheat the poor among my people of their rights, who make widows their prey and rob the orphan," said Jim Wallis, Convener of Sojourners and Call to Renewal, quoting the prophet Isaiah.

A long string of calls and letters to congressmen from religious heads failed to keep House Republican leaders from approving the budget measure in a 217 to 215 vote. The measure would impose new fees on Medicaid recipients, eliminate some agriculture support programs, and raise the bar on eligibility for food stamps.

"We are disappointed that the House made cuts to the Food Stamp Program and are poised to cut taxes for the wealthy," said the Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. "Their choice takes food from families struggling to make ends meet and puts more money in the pockets of those who need it the least."

Bread for the World just released its annual hunger report this week, where it illustrated the rise in the number of families participating in the Food Stamp Program since 2000. Half of all Americans will at some point live in a household receiving Food Stamps, according to the report. In 2005, more than 25 million Americans were receiving monthly Food Stamp benefits.

Reacting to the House cuts, Beckmann said, "This is morally wrong and will make Thanksgiving bleaker for hundreds of thousands of hard-working families."

"The faith community is outraged and is drawing a line in the sand against immoral national priorities," said Wallis. "It is time to draw that line more forcefully and more visibly."

The bill now faces reconciliation with the more modest Senate measure that avoided cuts in food stamps and other social programs for the poor.