GOP budget bill to cut youth programs by 'tens of billions', says child advocacy group

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Opponents of the GOP budget are ramping up pressure on lawmakers. The First Focus analysis comes as members received a letter from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops saying that the budget fails a "basic moral test."

Votes are scheduled for Thursday.

Cuts likely to be endorsed by the House GOP at that time include $36 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food for 20 million U.S. children, according to First Focus.

Another proposal, from Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, would allow states to cut their budgets in ways that leave children without health insurance under Medicaid, says the report.

Republicans have said that cuts to government spending are necessary to ward off a fiscal disaster. On Monday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) argued that "compassion for those in need" should be measured with "outcomes," not "inputs."

"Are these programs working? Are people getting out of poverty?" he said in committee.

"[The Office of Management and Budget] told us that last year Medicaid made $22 billion in improper payments. … That's more than my state's budget in wasteful spending. So the program is not working."

Though the bill is not expected to move in the Senate, it provides a preview of arguments Republicans will make during the campaign season and in the lame-duck session over taxing and spending issues. 

It also splits members of the Catholic Church, such as Ryan.

A committee chairman with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops warned Tuesday morning that budgets "cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons."

"As you pursue responsible deficit reduction," Reverend Stephen E. Blaire wrote to members of Congress, "the Catholic bishops join other faith leaders and people of good will urging you to protect the lives and dignity of poor and vulnerable families."

Blaire leads the Conference's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

His letter specifically identified cuts to SNAP, as well as plans to deny the Child Tax Credit to some families, as harmful.

Moral criteria established by U.S. Catholic bishops requires a "circle of protection around programs that serve poor and vulnerable people and communities," Blaire wrote.

He added: "The proposed cuts to programs in the budget reconciliation fail this basic moral test."

Ryan has defended his approach and spoken about its relationship to his Catholic faith in the past.

"The preferential option for the poor, which is one of the primary tenants of Catholic social teaching, means: Don’t keep people poor. Don’t make people dependent on government so that they stay stuck at their station in life," he recently told the Christian Broadcasting Network.

"Having a civil society … where we interact with people as a community — that’s how we advance the common good," said Ryan.