NORTH ADAMS -- U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren visited American Legion Post 125 on Sunday afternoon to talk about national issues and hear local concerns during a stop on the Democrat's tour of Western Massachusetts.
"I believe we're at a moment in history where we're going to make a decision on what kind of country we are going to be," Warren said in opening remarks covering a variety of political issues before opening up the ice cream social to questions from some of those in attendance.
Warren was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of roughly 100 constituents, including state Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield; state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams; and Mayor Richard Alcombright, as well as city councilors Lisa Blackmer and David Bond.
"This lady is my kind of senator," Alcombright said in welcoming Warren and praising her work to hold predatory lenders accountable for the nation's Great Recession.
Warren's address to the crowd touched on topics ranging from legislative "gridlock" in Washington, D.C., to the burden of student debt on the nation's young people.
"What's going on in Washington isn't gridlock. It's a conflict over who we are as a country," Warren said. "The Republicans have said ‘I got mine, and the rest of you are on your own.' The Democrats have said ‘we're better than that.' "
Currently in her first year as a senator, Warren defeated Scott Brown in November 2012, and she is joined in the Senate by the state's junior senator, Edward Markey. The latter was sworn in last month after defeating Republican challenger Gabriel Gomez in June's special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by John Kerry's rise to secretary of state.
Warren also spoke harshly of the profits the federal government currently makes on its student loan programs, despite the Republican-rebuked efforts of the Senate to keep those margins lower.
"This year, the United States government will make -- you ready for this? -- $57 billion off the backs of our kids who are trying to get an education. In one year, that's what we're making off the student loan program," she said. "The student loan program that just passed will make $184 billion in the next 10 years off just the new loans. I think this is fundamentally wrong."
Following the event, Warren also had strong words for the proposed reduction in SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) involved in the U.S. House of Representatives version of the Farm Bill.
" ... To have the House take such an extreme position completely unbalances the whole notion of what the Farm Bill has been for decades," she said. "I fundamentally don't get it when someone says -- as the House Republicans have -- we'll get out there and make sure that millionaire farmers can keep their subsidies, but families that are struggling won't have basic nutrition for themselves and their children. I just think that's wrong."
Warren continues her visit to the area today in Pittsfield with a tour of General Dynamics, and she is scheduled to participate in a public hearing on arts and tourism held by the state Legislature's Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development at the Berkshire Museum. Following the hearing, Warren is visiting Crane & Co. in Dalton.
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