(RNS) — U.S. Catholic bishops applauded House passage of the omnibus appropriations package, which contained many of their legislative priorities, funding programs supported by the bishops to help the marginalized but excluding federal funding for abortions.
In other words, the bishops got exactly what they wanted.
The $1.5 trillion bill, passed with a bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives on March 9, covers government spending for fiscal year 2022, which is already five months old.
Both parties had to compromise to get bipartisan support. Democrats got a 6.7 percent increase in nondefense funding — less than they wanted but more than Republicans wanted. Republicans got a 5.6 percent increase in defense spending — less than they wanted but more than progressive Democrats wanted.
The package also includes $13.6 billion supplemental funding for Ukraine.
The bill will now be considered by the Senate.
“We applaud Congress for including provisions in the omnibus appropriations package that uphold the sacred dignity of human life and will support and assist many vulnerable people here and abroad,” said five bishop chairs of the major committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The bishops were especially pleased by inclusion of “the Hyde, Helms, and Weldon Amendments that prevent our tax dollars from paying for the tragedy of abortion and protect people from having to participate in abortion against their consciences.”
Elimination of these longstanding amendments has been a major goal of prochoice advocates who have condemned Democratic leaders for including the amendments as part of a legislative compromise.
The bishops also welcomed bipartisan support for critical humanitarian assistance for the victims of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Other episcopal priorities in the bill included programs pushed by the Democrats, including “improvements to maternal health care, investments that will support refugees and other vulnerable migrants, affordable housing and food security, environmental provisions including PFAS remediation and climate resilience, and more,” said the bishops.
They singled out “the inclusion of provisions that address the unique vulnerability of pregnant and postpartum mothers impacted by the U.S. immigration system, as well as critical services for other at-risk populations.”
The bishops remained silent on defense spending, neither cheering nor condemning.
The bishops once again showed their ability to stay independent of partisan agendas. They went with the Republicans on the Hyde, Helms and Weldon Amendments but went with the Democrats on social programs that helped the poor and marginalized.
The bishops aligned themselves with Pope Francis, citing his Lenten message, “let us take special advantage of this Lenten season to reach out to our brothers and sisters who lie wounded along the path of life (cf. Lk 10:25-37) … (and) put into practice our call to do good to all, and take time to love the poor and needy, those abandoned and rejected, those discriminated against and marginalized (cf. Fratelli Tutti, 193).”
“We echo the Holy Father’s appeal,” said the bishops, “by asking all elected officials to continue seeking solutions that support mothers and their children, victims of violence and war, vulnerable migrants and refugees, and all those in need of our support. By doing so, we can advance a culture of life and peace that truly builds up the common good.”