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Sanders looks for fair spending cuts

March 3, 2011

NEAL P. GOSWAMI
Staff Writer
BENNINGTON — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said Thursday he will continue pushing for more equitable budget cuts as Congress looks to trim spending.

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sanders, an independent, was one of only nine senators to vote against a continuing resolution Wednesday that will avoid a shutdown of the federal government for at least two more weeks. The stop-gap spending measure, which passed the Senate 91 to 9, trims $4 billion from the current budget.

Republicans and Democrats are miles apart on a longer-term spending plan, however, that will fund government through September. The GOP-controlled house, pushed by a new class of Tea Party-backed members, passed a spending plan last month that cuts the budget by
about $60 billion.

Sanders said he will not support that plan, or any similar plan that looks to balance the budget “on the backs of people already suffering from the recession.”

“Our friends in the house, the Republican leadership, has come up with, in my view, a disastrous proposal, which would have profound negative impact on Vermont and the country,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Sanders said the House GOP spending plan cuts $1.1 billion from the Head Start program, $1.3 billion from community health centers that provide primary care for 11 million patients and $1.3 billion from Social Security.

“These guys want to make major cuts in many of the advances that I helped bring about,” Sanders said.

Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats, said he does not fully support President Barack Obama’s proposed budget either, but said it is “much better than theirs.”

“It is basically insane to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, the kids, the sick, the poor, at exactly the same time the Republicans are fighting for tax breaks for the richest,” Sanders said “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”
Despite voting against the temporary spending measure that keeps government running, Sanders said he strongly against a shutdown. “No one wants to see a shutdown,” he said.

However, Sanders said he is hoping to force more equitable cuts into the budget. “Do we need responsible cuts? Yes, we do, but responsible cuts that do not hurt the most vulnerable,” he said.

The country should look to reduce its military spending, he said. And more revenue needs to be raised, particularly from those doing quite well, Sanders said.

“The issue cannot simply be cut, cut, cut. The issue has got to be raising revenue as well. So, to my mind, instead of cutting back … you have got to start asking the wealthiest people in this country, whose taxes have gone down, to start helping more,” he said.

Sanders said Democratic caucus in the Senate was set to meet Thursday to discuss a spending plan. Vice President Joe Biden and other White House officials, meanwhile, have been tasked by Obama to help foster negotiations between the GOP-led House and the Democratic-led Senate to avoid a potential shutdown when the continuing resolution passed this week expires.

Contact Neal P. Goswami at ngoswami@benningtonbanner.com

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