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July 19, 2015 Issue

Religious leaders to Obama: protect poor in budget efforts

Religious leaders urge Obama to protect the poor in budget efforts

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- After a July 20 meeting with President Barack Obama, leaders of the faith-based Circle of Protection came away reassured about his commitment to protecting assistance for the poor in impending budget cuts. But they remain worried that a deal to raise the federal debt ceiling and head off the economic crisis will include drastic cuts to services for the poor and might halve or eliminate some entire programs that provide aid to some of the world's disaster zones such as drought-stricken eastern Africa. "There is a movement on to eliminate all emergency aid. ... It will cost lives," said Tony Hall, a former Democratic congressman from Ohio and now director of the Alliance to End Hunger. Hall also previously served as ambassador to the U.N. Agencies for Food and Agriculture. "There are no votes there" among the world's poor, said Hall in a July 21 teleconference that included most of the participants in the meeting with the president. "Members of Congress can write it all off and they don't suffer for that when it comes to election time. The only voice they have is people like us." The 40-minute session with the president "was very enlightening and energizing," said Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, N.M., a member of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, one of the participants in the White House meeting. "It was wonderful to see the president so engaged," the bishop told Catholic News Service in a separate interview. "He seems to accept our message."

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