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Sanders blasts proposed Medicare cuts: These 'will kill people'
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) berated his Republican colleagues on Thursday over proposed cuts to health spending that he said would "kill people."
"These are cuts that will kill people, these are cuts that will hurt people, and these are cuts that should not in a humane society be allowed to take place," Sanders, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said during a markup of the Senate budget.
The exchange came over an amendment sponsored by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) that would prevent the budget's proposed cuts to Medicare.
The Republican-penned budget resolution outlined $473 billion in cuts to Medicare's current spending path over a decade and about $1 trillion in reductions to Medicaid's path.
Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wy.) pointed out that the resolution would not enact the cuts or have the force of law, but critics note that Republicans rely on such cuts for their 10-year budget plan to balance.
The budget does include $1.5 trillion in deficit spending for a tax reform plan that studies show would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy.
"This is not the time to slash medicare. This budget is a statement of our values, and right now, this budget values the top 1 percent far more than it values the everyday American or the everyday Californian," Harris said.
Republicans on the committee argued that based on current projections, health-care entitlements are unsustainable and will eventually overwhelm the entire budget if changes are not made.
"Nobody up here wants to hurt Medicare. Nobody does. But we have to mindful of the costs," said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.).
Others argued that because the spending would continue to increase from current levels, reductions from the projected spending path should not be considered cuts. Many of the projected increases are based on larger populations being eligible for the program and rising costs.
"To use the word 'cuts' I think is to bamboozle the American people into believing that there are actual cuts going on," said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.).
As an example, he said that if his child grew 3 inches instead of the 4 inches he'd expected, he wouldn't say the child was shrinking.
"Only in Washington is a decrease in the rate of increase considered a cut," he said.
"Let me just say something here," Sanders interjected. "Our friends say, 'We don't want to hurt Medicaid, it's not actually a cut because nominal dollars are going up.'"
"You cut Medicaid by $1 trillion, 15 million people lose the health insurance they have."
Sanders said that the House version of the budget reduced costs similarly by raising the eligibility age from 65 to 67, which he said would rob sick people in that age range of health care.
"You go tell those 15 million people, many of them may have cancer or heart disease, life-threatening illness, it's not a cut," he added.