Congress is debating issues of great moral significance. Amidst the partisan rancor, it’s easy to switch on political auto-pilot: I’m a Republican and therefore I believe [insert party line here]; or, I’m a Democrat and therefore I believe [insert party line here].
There are over 170 million Christians in the U.S. — roughly 70 per cent of all adults. Through their communities, many work to support people who have fallen on hard times. Some may share a meal with those less fortunate at community kitchens.
Others donate to fund affordable housing. Political auto-pilot means these contributions, and the Christian values that underpin them, risk being separated from Christian’s expectations of their elected officials.
Introspective and independent moral deliberation is the harder path. Yet, this moral deliberation is needed if congressional decisions, often impacting the most vulnerable, are going to reflect the Lord’s teachings. Against the back drop of budget negotiations, two issues stand out — healthcare for low-middle income children and deportations of young immigrants raised in the U.S.
Consider Matthew 18: 4 – 6: " . . . whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If anyone causes one of these little ones — those who believe in me — to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."
Or Leviticus 19: 33 – 34: "When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God."
Contrast these biblical sentiments with this statement from Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate majority leader and a Christian: "Democrats have a choice — 8.9 million Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) recipients or 690,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients – this should be a no brainer."
I’m not aware of the bible verse demanding such a choice.
On DACA, Democrats deserve their share of blame. Between January 2009 and January 2011, Democrats controlled the presidency and had majorities in both houses of Congress. Despite efforts to pass the DREAM Act in 2010, including having the Bill passed by the House, they fell five votes short. Five Democratic Senators voted against the Bill.
Democrats failed to provide a path to citizenship for the young people, known as DACA Dreamers, who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children. After losing their House majority in 2011, President Obama issued the DACA executive order. This allowed Dreamers to receive a renewable 2-year period of deferred action from deportation.
Today, Republicans control the presidency and have majorities in the House as well as the Senate. They have controlled both chambers of Congress since the beginning of 2015. President Trump rescinded President Obama’s DACA executive order in September of 2017. Since then, Trump has rejected a bipartisan deal that protected DACA recipients while increasing border security.
With the right leadership, a similar biaprtisan deal could still be brought forward. Otherwise, as of March 5 this year, young people who grew up in the U.S., including those who serve in the American military, are at risk of being deported. Hardly akin to treating the foreigner as your "native born."
In relation to CHIP, to the Republicans’ credit, in April of 2015 they voted in favor of reauthorizing funding for two years. Such support is unsurprising given the original 1997 legislation was sponsored by a Republican and funding is targeted at working parents.
Republicans knew, however, CHIP funding would end on Sept. 30 2017. This means immunizations, medicines, and routine check-ups for low and middle income children are in jeopardy. Given children cannot choose their parents, the freedom for American children to have the best possible opportunity to succeed is at stake.
Yet on this occasion, prior to CHIP expiring, Republicans brought forward no bills to renew funding for a few more years. There were no attempts to make CHIP funding permanent and prevent American’s little ones from stumbling. Unlike U.S. House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan’s precious corporate tax cuts, we haven’t seen stirring speeches putting children and families at the center of the Republicans’ platform.
After CHIP funding expired, though, the political bargaining commenced. Paul Ryan, a devout Catholic, pleaded with Democrats "do not jeopardize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program." Sadly, only political convenience is promoting Ryan’s return to Scripture.
Rather than put forward a stand-alone Bill, children are being rendered political bargaining chips. Ryan and his Congressional Republican colleagues have tied CHIP funding to other controversial legislation.
A House Bill, for example, tied CHIP funding to a decrease in the Prevention and Public Health Fund and other changes that would lead to people losing health insurance coverage. Despite passing tax cuts that cost $1.5 trillion, the $75 billion CHIP price tag was seemingly too much for fiscally prudent Republicans to bear.
In the pursuit of their ideological crusade, Paul Ryan and many of his Christian colleagues have lost sight of the Lord’s teachings. Instead they have put their faith in President Trump to lead the Republican flock.
The majority of American Christians lean Republican. The future of America depends on these people asking two questions. First, what would the Lord command if he was here today? Second, is the Republican Party adhering to these commands? In the words of the Lord, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom in heaven."
Matt Tyler has worked for the last decade across the private, public, and academic sectors. Currently he is focused on improving social services primarily working with governments to improve child welfare, criminal justice, and homelessness. Matt is a former management consultant where he supported executives develop and implement strategy working with large companies in financial services, telecommunications, manufacturing, postal services, and retail. Subsequently he worked as an economist for Australia’s foreign service and as a policy adviser to the Federal Australian Labor Party on economic and social policy. He holds a Master of Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School, Bachelor of Economics (Honors) from Monash University, and a dual degree in Arts (Psychology)/Commerce (Finance) from the University of Melbourne. He tweets as @matt_b_tyler. To read more of his reports, Click Here Now.
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