WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) chastised Catholic bishops at a Wednesday news conference on Capitol Hill, saying they needed to look at the bigger picture after they complained that the GOP budget plan fails to meet "moral criteria."
The bishops had written letters to Capitol Hill, arguing many elements of the Republicans' budget proposal, such as cuts to food stamps, harmed the poor while the wealthy benefitted.
"At a time of great competition for agricultural resources and budgetary constraints, the needs of those who are hungry, poor and vulnerable should come before assistance to those who are relatively well off and powerful," stated one of the letters.
"Just solutions ... must require shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and fairly addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs. The House-passed budget resolution fails to meet these moral criteria," they declared in another document.
Boehner, who is a Catholic, acknowledged the bishops' moral authority but suggested their focus was too narrow as they scolded Republicans over cutting assistance to those who are poor, hungry and homeless.
"I want them to take a bigger look," Boehner said. "And the bigger look is, if we don't make decisions, these programs won't exist, and then they'll really have something to worry about."
Boehner gave a detailed defense of the GOP plan, which to achieve most of its savings would cut billions from programs helping poor Americans.
"What's more of a concern to me is the fact that if we don't begin to make some decisions about getting our fiscal house in order, there won't be a safety net," Boehner said.
"There won't be these programs, and I don't know how often some of us have to talk about the fact that you can't spend $1.3 trillion more than what you bring in -- that's what's going to happen this year, $5 trillion worth of debt over the last five years -- and think that this can continue," Boehner said.
"When you look at the fact that we have to make hard decisons, it's about trying to make sure that we're able to preserve these programs that are critically important for the poorest in our society."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to John Boehner as the House Majority Leader.
Michael McAuliff covers politics and Congress for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.