April 20, 2005
The Honorable William H. Frist
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Frist:
In February, as Congress began the process of developing the 2006 budget
for the United States government, Bishop William Skylstad, president of
the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged Members to
consider the moral dimensions of the decisions they make when setting
the fiscal priorities for our nation. These decisions will have real
human consequences, which can help or hurt people, strengthen or weaken
family life, and advance or jeopardize the future of our nation.
As the House and Senate turn to reconciling the differences between the
two budget resolutions, we write to share our concern on several key
domestic and international programs found in the 2006 budget. These
recommended actions are based upon our application of Catholic teaching
to these key policy choices that affect those in need both here and
- We are pleased that both the House and Senate overwhelmingly support maintaining the Community Development Block Grant program in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. We urge you to provide enough money to fully fund CDBG and other HUD programs that serve poor and vulnerable people.
- By rejecting reconciliation instructions to the Senate
Finance Committee, the Senate budget resolution maintains our nation’s
investment in programs that protect and support low-income families
and low paid workers. Funding levels for many of these programs, like
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Child Care and
Development Block Grant (CCDBG), and the Social Services Block Grant
(SSBG) have not increased for many years. Many in Congress see the
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) as one of the most effective ways of
assisting low paid workers trying to raise children. We urge you to
follow the Senate’s approach and not include any reconciliation
instructions for these programs that could lead to cuts.
- The House budget resolution requires up to $20 billion in
cuts to the Medicaid program which could have disastrous consequences
for the millions of low-income pregnant women, children, elderly and
people with disabilities who rely on Medicaid for their health
care. Policy changes to Medicaid should be made only following a review
of the program to consider what changes are needed to ensure Medicaid’s
efficiency and effectiveness, not to meet preset budget reduction
goals. The final budget resolution instead should provide funding for
the creation of a bipartisan commission to conduct this comprehensive
review. We urge you to follow the Senate budget resolution by not
including reconciliation instructions requiring cuts in the Medicaid
- Both the House and Senate budget resolutions include
reconciliation instructions requiring the Agriculture Committees to make
cuts to programs in their jurisdictions. We are very concerned that
this could result in cuts to the food stamps and child nutrition
programs, with harmful consequences for those who rely on this funding
to feed their families. To minimize the potential impact on nutrition
programs, we urge that the budget savings for the Agriculture committee
be no higher than the $2.8 billion over five years adopted by the
- We urge that the final Budget Resolution contain adequate
funding for education priorities that serve elementary and secondary
school students, especially those most at-risk for academic failure in
both public and private schools. Specifically, we urge you to fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act at the level long promised by Congress, increasing the state grants by $2 billion over last year’s figures.
Because Catholic school children with disabilities receive IDEA
services only through the federal portion of the funding, the commitment
to fully funding IDEA is crucial to ensuring their equitable
- Additionally, we urge you to include sufficient funding for programs authorized under the No Child Left Behind Act. It is crucial that these funds are included so that Title I will be adequately funded, and smaller programs such as Title V: Innovative Programs, Safe and Drug Free Schools, and Technology Education can continue to reach the students and teachers who depend on them.
The International Affairs allocation in the House-adopted budget
resolution is under-funded at $1.4 billion below the President’s
request. We ask you to support the $33.4 billion budgeted by the Senate
for International Affairs.
We also urge you to support:
- Full funding of the President’s request for the International Affairs
(150) Account and to resist any amendments to reduce these funds. Cuts
in the 150 Account would reduce funding available for humanitarian aid
and development assistance and make the world and our nation less
secure. Other programs should be funded on their own merits and not at
the expense of aid to poor people.
- The Durbin/Santorum Amendment to add $500 million for the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to ensure that critical needs are met and that the United States contributes its fair share to the Fund’s crucial programs.
- The DeWine Amendment to increase funding for Child Survival and Maternal Health by $334 million, which makes up for shortfalls in the President’s request.
- $3 billion for the Millennium Challenge Account, to signal our nation’s full commitment to this targeted aid program for the least developed countries.
- $950 million for the International Development Association to provide adequate levels of support for critically needed investments in developing countries.
- A $1 billion increase over current spending levels for core development and humanitarian accounts for critical needs in countries that do not qualify for targeted aid.
Finally, we reiterate a critical point made by Bishop Skylstad in his
February letter to Congress, concerning the need for government to raise
sufficient resources to meet the needs of society. If government
continues to spend far more money than it takes in year after year, it
could seriously limit its ability to meet our moral obligations to
respond to basic human needs now and in the future. Any new tax
proposals should be evaluated in that light before being adopted. Both
the spending and revenue sides of the budget ledger must be assessed to
ensure that there are adequate resources to protect people who are poor
The federal budget is more than a fiscal plan; it reflects our values as
a people. Your budget choices have clear moral and human dimensions.
In these difficult times, the United States Conference of Catholic
Bishops urges you to work for a budget that does not neglect the needs
of the “least of these” in our nation and the world.
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio
Bishop of Brooklyn
Domestic Policy Committee
Most Rev. John Ricard SSJ
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
International Policy Committee
Most Rev. Bernard Harrington
Bishop of Winona
Committee on Education