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"Which is more important: educating our children or more money for the Koch brothers?" Sen. Jeff Merkley asked White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney during a hearing on Tuesday. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP)

'An Administration By and For the Powerful': Merkley Nails Mulvaney Over Trump Budget

"What's more important, Mr. Director: the heating program or the tax cut to Wells Fargo, which has defrauded hundreds of thousands of people across this country? Which is more important: educating our children or more money for the Koch brothers?"

Jake Johnson

"Everything we see in this budget is about help to the powerful and an assault on working Americans."

"Which is more important: educating our children or more money for the Koch brothers?"
—Sen. Jeff Merkley

That was how Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) characterized President Donald Trump's newly-unveiled 2019 spending plan during a fiery exchange with White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney, who appeared before the Senate on Tuesday to take questions on the details of the administration's fiscal blueprint.

"Let's give $1.5 trillion in a tax bill to the wealthiest Americans and proceed to cut our health, our commitment to our seniors on health as well, cut the affordability of college, because the rich are okay, they can pay for their college, don't worry about the rest of Americans," Merkley said, summarizing the priorities expressed by the White House budget.

"Oh and by the way, the hungry in America? Too bad. Let those children go hungry," Merkley added. "They're from poor families, they don't matter. What kind of message does this send about this administration?"

With a sign headlined "Trump Priorities" positioned behind him, Merkley went on to list the corporate gifts doled out by the Trump administration—including tax breaks to Wells Fargo and the Koch brothers—compared to the deep cuts the White House proposed for life-saving safety net programs.

As Mulvaney attempted to respond by claiming that he was "not even sure" about the numbers being pulled from the budget he helped craft, Merkley retorted, "That is the amount in your budget and you should be aware of that when you come to testify here."

Merkley plowed ahead, asking, "What's more important, Mr. Director: the heating program or the tax cut to Wells Fargo, which has defrauded hundreds of thousands of people across this country? Which is more important: educating our children or more money for the Koch brothers?"

With his time coming to a close, Merkley concluded: "This is an administration by and for the powerful, and about undermining the opportunity for ordinary families to thrive."

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