WASHINGTON — A federal budget framework resulting from dialogue and compromise in Washington drew both praise and caution from the head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
“Millions of working families across the country and around the world struggle to survive and achieve stability,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, after the House approved the bill. “While this agreement is an important first step to accomplishing that, more needs to be done.”
The Senate approved the plan on Dec. 18, sending the bill to President Barack Obama, who voiced his support. The budget plan had previously passed the House of Representatives by a wide margin, drawing support from majorities of both parties.
Negotiated by Budget Committee leaders Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the plan removes some of the forced spending cuts put in place under the “sequester.” It relaxes spending caps while lowering the deficit by some $20 billion in future years. Laying out a spending plan through fiscal year 2015, it also seeks to avoid another potential government shutdown.
Some Republican lawmakers were unsatisfied with the bill, due to its failure to stay within spending caps and reduction of some military-pension benefits. Some Democrats voiced complaints that the bill did not include an unemployment-benefit extension.
However, other members of both parties applauded the move as a compromise after months of partisan stalemate.
Archbishop Wenski, while commending the dialogue behind the plan, also expressed his disappointment that unemployment benefits were not extended, saying that the “recent welcome decline in unemployment levels hides the reality that millions of long-term unemployed workers continue to suffer from an economy that does not produce enough decent work. For most of these families, jobless benefits are the only source of support.”
He stressed the need for “wise bipartisan leadership” as the bill moves forward, calling for protection for the poor and vulnerable, as well as work toward the common good and the promotion of human life and dignity.
“Congress and the administration still face serious and consequential decisions regarding appropriations for fiscal year 2014.”