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Protesters clash outside Rep. Hanna's office

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Protesters clash outside Rep. Hanna's office
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Protesters in Cortland take a stand outside Congressman Richard Hanna's office. They say the health care cuts he voted for will hurt the most needy Americans, including many of his constituents, but as our Tamara Lindstrom reports, the crowd met with some fierce opposition.

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Protesters had this message for Congressman Richard Hanna as they rallied outside his office Wednesday.

"They call him hard-hearted Hanna, he ain't no Pollyanna. He's the meanest man in town," sang members of the group.

"Not only am I a senior myself, and my husband is as well, I'm retired," said Janet Steck. "But I'm also concerned about my children and their children and other people's children."

The crowd gathered in opposition to Hanna's recent budget vote; a republican proposal to cut health care funding by about two trillion dollars.

"To actually privatize Medicare, to end Medicare as we know it, turn it into a voucher system and raise the age of eligibility to 67," said Mary Clark of Citizen Action New York. "We shouldn't have to work until we die. You have more people on social security than any other congressional district in upstate New York."

The congressman said the current health system is unsustainable, and drastic cuts are needed to combat the federal deficit.

"No matter how you feel about the programs that we have, and everybody would like to keep things as they are, we've passed the point where we can do that," said Rep. Richard Hanna, (R) 24th Congressional District. "Social security, Medicare, Medicaid, so many pension programs around the country, they're going to change and they're not all going to change for the better."

"The cold hard facts are simple. We don't have the money to keep going down this road. The entitlements that we've enjoyed over the years are coming to an end soon," said Hanna supporter Erich Demunn.

"The trillion dollars that they're saving, they're not turning it around to help the program or to solve the budget crisis," Clark said. "They're giving tax breaks, a trillion dollars of tax breaks to the richest of Americans and to lower corporate tax rates."

The protesters called on Hanna to reconsider his position. Outside, the group was met by some of Hanna's supporters, making for a heated exchange.

Demonstrators shouted chants at one another, and some of the counter-protesters compared the protesters to Nazis and accused them of being Marxist.

While Hanna says he's pleased his constituents are voicing their opinions, the bitter words are just that.

"It's not helpful and it doesn't add any value. If you're going to solve a program, you need to work together."

Something he says both concerned citizens and Congress could work on.

Hanna wasn't at the Cortland office at when the protesters arrived, but offered to set up a meeting with them. The congressman said this is just the beginning of a long budget process, and he's open to hearing ideas.

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