Yesterday, as expected, the U. S. House of Representatives approved the budget reconciliation bill by a vote of 216-214.
Citizens concerned for their low-income neighbors lobbyed hard against the bill's passage, and actually narrowed the final gap by a few votes.
But in the end, poor Americans lost another round with the Congress.
The bill insures that an additional $40 billion will be cut over the next 5 years from efforts designed to lift the poor.
The impact of the bill on the deficit is likely to be negligible, slicing less than one-half of 1 percent from the estimated $14.3 trillion in federal spending over the next five years.
At the same time, the budget plan will adversely impact millions of Americans at the bottom of our increasingly divided economy.
Among those most affected will be low-income working mothers, Medicaid recepients, the disabled, children, women seeking child support payments from absent fathers and students who need loans to continue their education beyond high school.
Thirteen moderate Republicans teamed with 200 Democrats and one independent to vote against the bill.
The Washington Post reported this morning that,
"In recent days, separate Congressional Budget Office documents estimated that Medicaid changes would impose new costs on 13 million poor recipients and end insurance coverage for 65,000 Medicaid enrollees, that cuts to federal child-support enforcement funds would shift costs to the states and eliminate billions of dollars in child-support payments, and that changes made to the Senate-passed budget package saved private Medicare insurers $22 billion over 10 years."
Congress will soon decide on whether to make permanent recent tax cuts and to extend additional tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. The tax cuts will cost at least $60 billion over fives years, more than wiping out the savings achieved in the budget bill just approved.
I think of so many of my friends as I consider this latest example of our nation's slide away from compassion and justice in public policy development.
It is ironic, is it not, for a nation so consumed and concerned with matters of faith and values to turn the economic screws tighter on the lives of the weakest, the oldest, the youngest and the most vulnerable in our nation?
I also think of the Hebrew prophet Isaiah.
Chapter 10's first four verses come to mind immediately.
Pray for the nation.