Previewing a likely political argument heading into 2018, Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen says the proposed reductions in President Donald Trump’s budget would disproportionately hit more rural, Republican areas.
“I think this is going to be a wake-up call to a lot of people who supported Donald Trump that his budget is betraying them,” Van Hollen, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said at a Thursday afternoon news conference on Capitol Hill.
“Actually, if you look at the areas where Donald Trump did especially well, they get especially hard hit by this budget. Rural areas get badly hurt in this budget,” he said.
“They cut the Department of Agriculture by 17 percent, including a lot of the rural economic development programs, including the funding for wastewater and water treatment in rural areas,” he added.
Speaking with reporters, Van Hollen specifically highlighted bipartisan support for the Chesapeake Bay Program, including from Republican Rep. Andy Harris, who represents communities along Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
“We disagree on a lot of things, but [Harris] has said that he supports the Bay program, because I’ll tell you: If we don’t have a healthy Chesapeake Bay, Maryland’s tourism would be devastated,” Van Hollen said. “Our boating industry would go down the tubes, and people who make their living off the bounty of the bay — the watermen and the other people who fish for a living — they obviously get badly hurt.”
He also noted the target placed on an economic development program aimed at people on the opposite end of the Old Line State.
“In a local example very important to West Virginia and Western Maryland and other parts of Appalachia, they wipe out something called the Appalachian Regional Commission,” Van Hollen said.
Asked about the longstanding support of the Appropriations Committee for programs such as the Appalachian and Denali (Alaska) commissions, Van Hollen said he was not sure whether the Trump administration was “totally out of touch” with legislative reality, or if “they recognize that this is … not a real effort.”