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Activists Gather at the Capitol to Denounce Trump Budget

Members of Congress joined civil rights leaders and activists at the Capitol yesterday afternoon for a “Hands Off” rally and press conference to denounce damaging cuts to life-saving programs in President Trump’s new budget proposal.

Speakers and attendees urged that the administration keep their “Hands Off” programs like Medicaid, food assistance, and disability benefits, asking individuals to add to the movement by sharing what parts of their lives are threatened by the cuts using the hashtag #HandsOff. Many of those in the audience carried signs saying “Hands Off My Groceries,” “Hands Off My Medicaid,” and “Hands Off My Education.”

Appearing alongside House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Tianna Gaines Turner, a 38-year old mother from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, explained how the Trump Budget would devastate her family. Both Turner and her husband work multiple jobs to provide for themselves and their three children, all of whom have special needs. But, it is not enough.

Gaines Turner and her family rely on Medicaid and the food assistance program, SNAP, to help ensure that their children are healthy and that there is food on the table. She worries that without these programs she would not be able to care for her children and would have nowhere to turn.

Gaines Turner is not new to Capitol Hill. In 2014, she testified before the House Budget Committee at a hearing on poverty in America. She was the only person testifying who had ever, personally, experienced poverty. Reflecting on that experience recently, Gaines Turner wrote that if she had the opportunity to speak again to now House Speaker Paul Ryan, she would ask, “Do you really believe that my life, and the lives of my children, are worth less than a tax break for the wealthy?”

That question appeared to be on everyone’s mind at the rally yesterday, and seemed a fitting one to ask President Trump himself in light of his proposed cuts to Medicaid, disability benefits, food assistance, child nutrition programs, housing assistance, and more. Many speakers called these cuts “cruel.”

Leader Pelosi noted, “This budget takes food out of people’s mouths, housing away from seniors, and Medicaid away from millions.” Congresswoman Barbara Lee called it “an assault on hardworking families.”

Many in the crowd were moved to tears when Marta Conner shared the story of her daughter, Caroline, who has a chronic health condition. Conner explained that Medicaid allows Caroline to access the skilled nursing services she needs in order to live at home, instead of in an institution. Without Medicaid, Conner and her family could not provide the type of extensive care that Caroline requires to stay alive.

Conner saw the Trump Budget as a betrayal. Holding a handmade sign with a picture of her daughter, Conner told the President, “You promised you would not take away Medicaid.”

The Trump Budget proposes drastic cuts over ten years to domestic programs that provide a lifeline for millions of middle- and low-income people in the United States. The budget includes more than $600 billion in cuts to Medicaid, presumably on top of the over $800 billion in cuts envisioned in the American Health Care Act (also known as TrumpCare). It would defund Planned Parenthood, cut almost $200 billion from the food assistance program, cut over $70 billion in disability benefits, and cut billions from the welfare program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).

Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 5/23/17; Washington Post 4/4/17