By Shannon Dininny Associated Press
RICHLAND — Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul made a stop Friday in a community reliant on federal money to clean up the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site and said again that he would cut federal spending by $1 trillion in his first year in office.
“There’s one group that wants to cut welfare for the rich, the other wants to cut welfare for the poor,” the Texas Republican said. “They have not agreed to cut anything.”
Paul previously called for cutting the Department of Energy, which manages cleanup at the Hanford nuclear reservation that was contaminated by decades of plutonium production for atomic weapons. More than 1,000 federal and private workers labor at the facility, where the annual cleanup budget is about $2 billion.
Despite the stance by Paul, more than 1,000 people cheered his message of cuts to spending and taxes.
Paul is the second Republican to hold major public events in Washington. He made multiple stops in Washington and Idaho this week. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was in Olympia and Tacoma on Monday.
Washington’s caucuses in the GOP primary are scheduled for March 3.
Paul’s stop in agricultural Eastern Washington coincided with President Barack Obama’s visit to a Boeing Co. assembly plant west of the Cascades.
Paul did not focus his speech on the president, his GOP opponents or his standing in the polls, saying the enthusiasm of his followers boosts his campaign. Instead, he largely focused his speech on his belief in small government and economic freedom.
“I have every reason to be encouraged, excited, because the enthusiasm is growing — sometimes out of necessity, I think, because people are realizing the system is failing right now,” he said.
Paul decried the federal government’s Wall Street bailout and the influence of special interests in Washington, and said he would bring home the country’s soldiers as soon as he could “get the ships there.”
He also reiterated that he would cut five federal departments “as a starter” to his planned spending cuts.