At a town hall meeting in St. Johnsbury Thursday, Vermont senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders sought to assure seniors that President Donald Trump will not necessarily get his way on a newly-proposed $1.15 trillion budget.
That blueprint would slash funding for the arts, programs that combat climate change, public broadcasting, and more.
Instead, Mr. Trump wants to invest those dollars in the military and national security, including his border wall with Mexico, insisting, "Without safety, there can be no prosperity."
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Many seniors at the town hall meeting Thursday worried about the president's idea to cut low-income heating assistance and grants that partially fund many communities' meals on wheels deliveries.
“It's horrific,” said Vanna Guldenschuh of the Good Living Senior Center, describing her concern that low-income people and seniors may be harmed by the president’s budget proposals. “I think it's a terrible idea.”
“That's what it costs Trump to go one weekend to Florida, as opposed to feeding all those seniors for a year,” remarked Jim Verrill, who attends a senior meal site in West Barnet, regarding proposed cuts that may affect senior nutrition.
“I know there is a lot of nervousness,” observed Sen. Sanders, an Independent who ran as a Democrat for president, describing the mood in the country right now.
At the meeting, Sanders criticized the Trump administration for what he sees as an attitude to help the richest Americans at the expense of the poorest, through moves such as tax cuts.
Sanders promised to work hard to oppose many of President Trump’s budget cuts. He told the audience he's also working to make prescription medication more affordable and to reduce potential harm he sees from the White House's promised changes to the Affordable Care Act.
“Just because the president wants it, it does not mean it's going to happen,” Sen. Sanders said of sections of President Trump’s “America First” budget blueprint that propose cuts to programs Sanders predicted would affect lower-income Americans. “It does tell you where he's coming from. But I can assure you that there are many, many members of the Senate and the House, including some Republicans, who do not believe in that.”
In his budget blueprint, a letter from President Trump was directed to members of Congress.
“We are going to do more with less, and make the Government lean and accountable to the people,” part of the message to Congress said. “Many other Government agencies and departments will also experience cuts. These cuts are sensible and rational. Every agency and department will be driven to achieve greater efficiency and to eliminate wasteful spending in carrying out their honorable service to the American people.”
Sanders was scheduled to make 12 stops around Vermont Thursday and Friday, talking to individuals, businesses, and organizations about their concerns. Some groups he was meeting with included veterans care providers and renewable energy proponents.
Sanders has another public town hall meeting on his agenda Friday afternoon at 3:00 at Vermont Technical College in Randolph.
Vermont’s other U.S. Senator, Democrat Patrick Leahy, also responded to Trump’s budget proposal.
“Like some of the president’s tweets, the Trump budget is a hasty list of appallingly unbalanced and short-sighted, but also politically-driven, priorities,” Leahy said in recorded remarks. “We don’t ‘Make America Great Again’ at the expense of middle-class families.”
U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, issued the following written statement Thursday in response to President Trump’s budget proposal:
“President Trump’s budget sends a clear message: You are on your own. It doubles down on Pentagon spending at the expense of the middle class, vulnerable families, seniors, clean air and water, scientific research, diplomacy and the arts. President Trump calls it his ‘America First’ budget. I call it an ‘Americans last’ budget. Like the budgets of his predecessors, this one is dead on arrival. Congress will write the budget, not President Trump.”