Rangel: Government Has 'Moral' Obligation to Avoid Budget Cuts

By Elizabeth Harrington | December 9, 2011 | 4:08 PM EST

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.,walks to his office on Capitol Hill office in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(CNSNews.com) – Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) led a group of religious and congressional members on Thursday to champion the “moral” obligation of the government to avoid budget cuts in order to “protect the most vulnerable.”

“No one can challenge the fact that the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and all of those things that have made this a better country never would have happened if it was not for the leadership of our faith leaders and our spiritual leaders and our religious leaders,” said Rangel, flanked by Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Donna Christenson (D-Virgin Islands) and several religious leaders at a press conference at the House Triangle.

Rangel called for “social justice.”

“What has been missing is the collective voices of those ministers, rabbis, and imams, that have been screaming out in the communities that have decided to come together,” he said.

The Democratic members stood with religious leaders, invoking the Bible and Jesus Christ while castigating the Republican majority for opposing extensions in unemployment insurance and the payroll tax extension unless fully paid for.

“We’re in a situation here, where now the clear majority has really forgotten what we are here really for,” said Johnson.

Christensen said budgets are a representation of values.

“Cuts in programs to our children, threats to Medicare and changes in Social Security that would hurt our seniors and people with disabilities, prohibitions on regulations that protect the public health and attempts to defund the Affordable Care Act slam a door that’s just being opened for millions, are not reflecting our values,” Christensen said.

“Our values of a nation that was founded on—founded and remains under God,” she said.

“You know this country was built on the premise that we do indeed care about our vulnerable,” said Johnson.

“So when we talk about saving Social Security, saving Medicare, or saving Medicaid, those are programs that were put together to adjust some type of equalization for people to exist that don’t have means otherwise,” she said.

Christensen quoted Matthew 25:40, which states, “Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.”

“I want to be judged as a good and faithful servant, and therefore, I will stand with my Democratic colleagues on these issues and stay here until we do take care of those who are considered the least of these,” she said.

“And I can’t believe as we are in the season of advent, the celebration of the birth of our Savior. He came, yes to bring salvation, but also to bring equity and justice into the world, that we would be so heartless and unChristian,” Christensen said.

She added, “It goes against the precepts of all religions and even every human value that we would end unemployment insurance.”

“We have to remember that this is not only the economically prudent thing to do because once we have more consumers, the economy of course will get much better, but we also have to remember this is a moral issue,” said Lee of extending unemployment insurance, which was previously extended under a compromise to extend the Bush tax cuts last December.

“We as Americans have always known to be people to step up to the plate and to recognize that there are those in the 99 percent who really do deserve our support and assistance,” Lee said.

Rev. Dr. Donald Robinson called for “this government to be merciful, to be kind, to be gracious.” Robinson also spoke on behalf of the “Wednesday Clergy Fellowship,” which he said meets weekly “to pray, to lead, to organize and mobilize around social justice issues.”

Rabbi Jack Moline, director of public policy for the Rabbinical Assembly, said “My hope, my deep hope, is that those who would equate the expenditures for the vulnerable in this budget with the expenditures to protect the rich and the privileged will look in the face of a single hungry child…and that their compassion will be stirred and that we will not face this crisis for the most vulnerable among us.”

Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network, an interfaith group that works toward social justice, and Greenfaith, said, “Yesterday I stood on K St. and I got arrested to protest the corruptive power of money and power in politics,” referring to the “Take Back the Capitol” union protest that blocked traffic on the famous street of Washington lobbyists, resulting in 62 arrests.

Rev. Anthony Evans, president of the National Black Church Initiative, described a version of the divine right of kings for politicians in Washington.

“I am here to declare unto America that this Congress serves at the privilege not only of the citizens of this country, but it serves as a privilege of God,” Evans said. “They have been appointed by God, so, the Bible is very clear, if you are appointed by God and you serve at his privilege then you should do what God wants you to do, simply you should be fair, and this Congress has not been fair.”

Evans argued the government must “protect the poor.”

“We will not ever abandon the poor, and come this election season, we will register all of our members, all 15.7 million, and we will answer them that way.”

“It is very clear that we, the church, has one job, and that is to protect and sustain God’s people of all stripes, black, white Jew, Gentiles, Protestant and Catholic, straight and gay.  We love them all the same, and we will stand to fight for their rights.”

After the conference, Rangel met with the ministers in the Rayburn House Office Building.

“I want everyone to know this is just the beginning,” said Rangel. “And as we as legislators stay here to protect the vulnerable, we know we have the prayers and the support of the clergy.”