Bernie Sanders Grills Trump Budget Director: "Savings Means Cuts, Reform Means Massive Cuts"


Senator Bernie Sanders strongly denounced President Trump's 2020 budget proposal during a hearing Wednesday with WH Budget Director Russell Vought before the Senate Budget Committee.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: When your budget or the president's budget proposes $1.5 trillion in cuts to Medicaid and $845 billion cuts to Medicare, when you proposed that you obviously studied how many people would die as a result of lack of access to health care. What conclusion did you reach? How many thousands of people do you think will die because of massive cuts to Medicare and Medicaid?

RUSSELL VOUGHT, OMB: Those numbers that you cited are not accurate. We do not cut Medicare by $850 billion. What that doesn't account for is the fact that we take things outside of Medicare such as uncompensated care to non-Medicare beneficiaries. We move that outside of Medicare. We're going to spend money on uncompensated care for non-beneficiaries. When you adjust where we put it back in other parts of the budget, there's no cut at all. Medicare is going up every year. Also, $517 in savings instead of the number you cited.

SANDERS: It's going up every year in nominal dollars. I understand that. But you will concede that health care inflation is higher than general inflation. If you are not even keeping up with health care inflation, it is a real health care cut. I mentioned earlier, the very alarming concern that hospitals have about the devastation these cuts will do for senior citizens. When you cut -- you knock, including in your calculations, the fact that there are more people who will be in the Medicare program. I suspect Medicaid, despite the administration's effort, will continue to expand.

But you did not answer my question. There are studies out there which suggest that many thousands of Americans die every single year because they don't get to a doctor when they should. Did you, in your calculations about massive cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, come up with any number how many Americans will die or maybe get sicker because they don't have health care they need?

VOUGHT: We don't think any of those scenarios will result. We look at the current situation. We look at a tragic scenario where a young boy in 2007, 2008, died because of the fact that he had a toothache because of the wait line within Medicaid. We say that's a fundamentally broken system. We want a different system. We want states to have more control over --

SANDERS: With less money. You want to throw -- this president tried to throw millions of people off of Medicaid. Giving a block grant to a state with less money means massive cuts. Let's be honest. Let me ask you this question. President Trump campaigned about not cutting Medicare, not cutting Medicaid. And he is making massive cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. What should the American people think about that?

VOUGHT: This budget's title is, "promises kept and taxpayers first." The president kept his promises to the American people in this budget. We do not cut Medicare, Social Security, or Medicaid.

SANDERS: I would respectfully suggest that's a dishonest answer. I think that's absolutely inaccurate. It's unfactual. You will have to explain to somebody, not to me, why the hospitals in this country are scared to death about the impact that your budget and President Trump's budget will have on them. Please tell me why it is a good idea to extend tax breaks for the wealthiest people in this country who are already doing phenomenally well and then cut back on the ability of kids to get a college education or senior citizens in this country to stay warm in the wintertime? What is your logic about that one?

VOUGHT: We think it's important that families keep more of what is their own money.

SANDERS: What percentage -- the tax breaks that you passed last year, 83% of those benefits went to the top 1%. In fact, millions of Americans paid more in taxes. What you are doing here is giving tax breaks to the wealthiest people who are doing phenomenally well. Then you cut back on education, making it harder for kids to go to college. You are cutting back on new electrician -- do you not have a conscience? Do you know people, children, seniors --

VOUGHT: We are not cutting back on nutrition programs?

SANDERS: You are not cutting the SNAP program?

VOUGHT: We have reforms.

SANDERS: Ohh, reforms. How much are you cutting back on these programs?

VOUGHT: We have $200 billion in savings.

SANDERS: Oh, savings, I see. To listen to these hearings, fellow Americans, you need to get a dictionary. Savings means cuts. Reform means massive cuts. Let's be clear what this budget is. This is a budget that benefits wealthy campaign contributors. It goes to war against the working families of this country. This really is a disgraceful budget. I'm happy to say that there will be few people, even Republicans, who will vote for this terrible budget.

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