Yeah, the lighting and my camera didn’t mesh very well.
In front of 700ish people in the Arts & Sciences Gym at MCC’s Blue River campus, Claire McCaskill held a town hall event. Originally the event was to be held at the Chamber of Commerce building in Independence, but it was moved due to demand, and the “kitchen table” became a cafeteria.
People turned in cards with contact info and questions, then random batches of questions were put at the podium and Senator McCaskill called names.
So here is a summary of the topics discussed. With the added notes that (a) a wireless mic was only found a few questions in and some people started talking without one and (b) I was taking notes and trying to utilize skills I honed in three years of HS Debate. So if more official transcripts are nudged this way, i’d love to see them.
Question #1 asked why HUD couldn’t be used to reinforce mortgages. Claire answered by noting the dilemma of balancing fairness with people being victimized and the people who aren’t. She noted the problem with the Cramdown proposal. Then she mentioned the wide support for the bailout last year and how banking touches everyone before noting the impact of investment bank deregulation in the 1980s.
Question #2 was about social security benefits for railroad workers and teachers. The questioner was an older woman speaking without the aid of a microphone. Senator McCaskill noted that this started in the 1980s, and she expressed doubt about the legislation passing to correct this. But she supports helping out those people and she gets calls on it from teachers all the time.
Question #3 came from someone who didn’t seem to want to be forced to buy health insurance (and she didn’t have a mic either). But Senator McCaskill answered by noting that the bill in question would involve a quasi-public insurance. She noted that the costs of emergency room care get passed on to the insured. Before noting the ideas of improving access and cutting costs for health care. She also said that the reason why no health care reform has been passed is due to the desire to make everybody happy, and that she will cast votes on this that might make people angry.
Question #4 was about the effect of the economic stimulus on schools and quality of education. Senator McCaskill noted a desire to not expand government bureaucracy through the stimulus, and that the spending on the stimulus would be going through Jefferson City. That fact doesn’t comfort people who know of the people running the show in the General Assembly (just my commentary there).
Question #5 involved Senate Bill 683 (which on checking is “A bill to amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to provide individuals with disabilities and older Americans with equal access to community-based attendant services and supports, and for other purposes”, sponsored by Tom Harkin). Senator McCaskill wasn’t familiar with the bill.
Question #6 was done without the aid of a microphone, but involved the Federal Reserve, $12 trillion spent, and Ron Paul. Senator McCaskill noted that she wants more scrutiny for the Fed Reserve. She brought up the message amendments on the Budget Omnibus bill (also noting that Obama is not interested in taking your guns in that process). But anyways, she noted voting against the budget omnibus due to spending, and that the preferred budget will decreased domestic spending (that total, not including Veterans, and something else I didn’t catch).
Question #7 was about greenjobs investment and the environment. Senator McCaskill noted the stimulus spending. Then she said that she is getting fire from the left and right on cap’n’trade but that she wants it to be a global deal and not impacting America disproportionately.
Question #8 involved the cost of college. Senator McCaskill brought up increasing pell grants and voluntary national service for some college-aged kids. No word on if Michelle Bachmann shrieked involuntarily after that came out.
Question #9 brought up the Full Employment Act of 1946 and asked why that couldn’t be dusted off. Senator McCaskill noted a skepticism that the government could achieve that. I forget the transition, but she then talked about earmarks and how she objected to the earmarking system and how it was more about who the Senator/Congressman was over merit or any other factor.
Question #10 brought up clinical laboratories and medicare reimbursements (I think most of this question was done without aid of a microphone, and that’s why my description is so vague). But Senator McCaskill brought up the payment for medical testing. Then she brought up paying when someone is sick and how preventative care would make more of an impact.
Question #11 was about the problems of small not-for-profits which are experiencing funding problems. That question was answered by noting that people should try and reach out for these groups.
Question #12 was a question asking about the Employee Free Choice Act from an opponent who was asking what the big problem was with the current system. In the answer of that, we got a vote via applause which went as follows.
CMC: I support the Employee Free Choice Act
(one group in the gym applauds)
CMC: But I don’t think it has the votes to pass this year
(a separate group in the gym applauds)
But she then brought up that one local business is trying to decertify a union after two years of wrangling by using the cardcheck system. She also noted that the fears of EFCA opponents were unfounded and that businesses are doing some real bad things in trying to stop unionization under the current system. Aw, the joys of EFCA talk when the Democratic base in this area really likes unions, and you have Chamberites in the audience.
Question #13 was about contracting. Senator McCaskill brought up the abuses of federal contracting. She also mentioned visiting Iraq and talking to a contractor whose group was spending $20B for services, and got it down to $17B, and the contractor didn’t know how that happened.
Then in the spirit of bringing us out on an interesting note, Senator McCaskill decided to take her pick of anybody who was still angry, and picked the first hand she saw (see, if you’re that angry, you’d raise your hand first).
The questioneer claimed that the Administration looked like a three-ring circus, asked how Senator McCaskill could be trusted, and brought up a Tea Party at the Liberty Memorial (no word on if tea will be served, but crazy will be).
The answer started by noting disagreements and soon showed one. After mentioning the Obama focus on tax relief for the non-rich, Senator McCaskill brought up the Bush policy on that topic and how it didn’t work. The response from the guy was “It Worked!”.
So that’s where we leave you. With a crowd that has riled up people, people who are concerned deeply about health care and jobs and education, and a few guys with tea parties.
Senator McCaskill doesn’t bat 1.000 in DC, but it was a pretty good event and she’s willing to address critics. So it’s always good to have at least one Senator here who can do that.