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Our previous coverage of the Jefferson City health care reform town hall on Wednesday evening:

Senator Claire McCaskill (D) – health care town hall – Jefferson City

The press conference after the town hall:

….Question:…Well I guess first, what are you hoping that actually comes out of these? A lot of times we see these forums and if, people kind of come with their mind set and don’t leave with, with much changed. Are, do you think that this is making a difference on people that disagree with you.

Senator Claire McCaskill: Well, that’s really not the point. The point is, is this is my job. You know, I work for the people of this state whether they agree with me or disagree with me. And I have an obligation to get out and listen to them and try to answer questions. I think you’re probably right, the vast majority of people who were here probably had their minds made up. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important…

“…there were clearly a lot of people here that were more interested in disrupting and showing their anger than listening or having any kind of discourse…I feel for the people who come that want to listen. They can’t when people start screaming out and, it is bad manners. And by the way, I don’t think it’s particularly persuasive. I don’t think, being the loudest doesn’t make you right. And it generally doesn’t work very well in terms of convincing other people….”

Question:…I think at one point I heard you say quietly up there, “You guys may go down as the most impolite yet.” Did they?

Senator McCaskill: It was close.  Close. You know, they, there were clearly a lot of people here that were more interested in disrupting and showing their anger than listening or having any kind of discourse. But that’s okay. You know, this is, we have this great big giant healthy First Amendment in this country. I just, I feel for the people who come that want to listen. They can’t when people start screaming out and, it is bad manners. And by the way, I don’t think it’s particularly persuasive. I don’t think, being the loudest doesn’t make you right. And it generally doesn’t work very well in terms of convincing other people. So, but they have a right to do it, and I respect their right to do it, and, you know, there were moments of very, did you notice, there were times it was very quiet? I got the sense that maybe people actually were learning some things they didn’t know and even if there are just a couple of those it certainly makes it worth it.

Question: Any of the questions either here or at any of the other forums actually caused you to come to some new policy position in this health care debate yourself?

Senator McCaskill: Well, I, I think that there have been, there has been a lot of information I’ve gotten, particularly from some of the providers about the mix between insured and uninsured, Medicaid, Medicare, and how these hospitals are dealing with it that frankly I didn’t have enough detail on before I began some of these meetings. But, you know, I had a one in Kansas City…where the people that wanted health care reform outnumbered the others by huge numbers. And then others, they’re fifty fifty. So you can’t really judge what the people of Missouri are thinking based on what happens at town hall meetings. I think most Missourians want some form of health care, they just want us to be careful and fiscally responsible and not allow the government to have too much of an intrusion into their lives.

Question: Would that have anything to do with the fact in a city like Kansas City there are a lot of SEIU workers, lot of union people, lot of ACORN people, so they pack the hall, whereas here in mid Missouri we don’t have a lot of folks like that.

Senator McCaskill: No, I gotta tell yah, I mean, there, you know, the same thing was true up in Hannibal…We had a significant, there was significantly more people in favor of reform than against up in Hannibal. I don’t think anybody’s packing anything. I, I spoke out pretty strongly when people in Washington started saying well these people against health care are being manufactured and their being bused in by K Street. I said that was nonsense. What’s really going on here is there are people on the left that are organizing and feel strongly about it and there’s people on the right that are organizing and feel strongly about it. And they’re, they’re showing up at these meetings and I think that’s terrific. But I don’t think, I think some of it may just be that the area in Kansas City is generally considered a fairly more Democratic area than, the last time I checked, Cole County.

Question: Was there any moment of this pre, of this, of this meeting today where you kind of were really, really pushed back by something that was said, or point that was made that really caught you off guard?

Senator McCaskill: No. No, most of the points that have been made have been made over and over and over again. There are some common themes. And there is a lot of common misinformation. That’s why I try to deal with the “death panels” right up front. I mean that is clearly just, you know, just flat wrong and ridiculous. Why would any of us running for office want to, you know, offend the morality of the men and women we love, that are our parents and grandparents, you know, and that this country? So, it is just so silly that we would do something like that and so I think that, you know, I’ve, after doing a number of these you, you get the same thing over and over and over again.

Question: Senator, question on the, on the legislation itself. If you provide a public option and empower millions of people to have health insurance and they start going to doctors and hospitals do you feel that there’s enough medical people or professionals to handle that influx.

Senator McCaskill: Oh, one of the concerns I do have is on primary care doctors. Because one of the goals here is to get people in to preventative care. And to make sure they’re getting their check ups, that they are, you know, doing what they need to do to avoid the onset of diabetes and I don’t think right now we may be as equipped as we need to be with primary care doctors. But that’s, you know, that may be a consequence we have to look at down the road. But I know this, if doctors feel like they can practice medicine and not have to arm wrestle insurance companies all the time, I have to believe more people are gonna be interested in practicing medicine. ‘Cause a lot of doctors right now are very unhappy with how constrained they feel in the way that the payment systems work now.

Question: …Talk about the loss of Ted Kennedy as a, as a big figure in the Senate, not only personally, but how that might change the political landscape of the debate that’s going on.

Senator McCaskill: Well, you know, the, the irony of Ted Kennedy is that he has been billed in this country as kind of the, the leading liberal, the evil liberal, and kind of a, almost a caricature. The truth is that he was probably better at bringing about compromise in negotiation than any other senator. And if you asked the Republican senators what senator they wanted to work with in finding common ground in getting legislation done the vast majority of ’em would say that Ted Kennedy was their favorite. So, I was surprised when I went to the Senate. And I realized that why he may have some positions on issues I disagreed with, what he was really remarkable at doing was finding that compromise, driving that negotiation. And time and time again in his career he’s done it
. That’s why the Republicans have so much respect for him and that’s why he’ll be missed. Because at the end of the day, we only pass things after we compromise and negotiate.

Question: And does his loss, does his loss kind of push forward this health care in a way that it might have not without kind of that moral push behind it?

Senator McCaskill: I hope so. But I don’t know. You know, the Senate, you know the, our founding fathers designed this, this, this Congress, to make the House more efficient and quickly. They designed the Senate for everything to go there and die as it relates to legislation. And so I, I think that it will be hard for us to get it done, just because of Ted Kennedy, but I can assure you that if we get it done it will be called the Kennedy Health Bill.

Staffer:…We can take one more. [crosstalk]

Question: And this, this particular case, this House bill seems to be one causing all the problems. Why not more focus on the Senate version. It seems as so the Senate version is a little more, worded a little bit better, six hundred, you know, fewer pages. So why hasn’t there been more focus on the Senate bill.

Senator McCaskill: Well, I think what happened, honestly, is that the President didn’t want to put a plan out there ’cause he knew it’d be a piñata. So he wanted the, the, the health care legislation to grow organically in Congress. And he when he did that then it allowed that vacuum to be filled with misinformation. And the House bill was the first bill out. So the opponents of health care reform began trying to dissect that bill and got a lot of misinformation out there. And that’s what the Internet kind of focused on and it was the talking points on Fox and so forth, you know, that this was all the stuff in this bill. And then everyone kind of forgot that, first of all, it was one bill out of five and we are a long way from any bill that anybody’s gonna vote on. And they completely ignore the fact that, I’m, I’ve had people like angry at me, “Well, have you read the bill?” And I said, “Well no, I won’t vote on that bill.  I’ll vote on the Senate bill. I’m gonna read the Senate bill.” So I just think it was people not realizing that we were early in the process and that that was just one proposal out of many proposals that we’re gonna be looking at.

Question: …Is this a problem between Democrats? [inaudible] We see Nancy Pelosi [inaudible] saying no public auc..option, we’re not gonna vote for this thing. And yet people on the right like Byron Dorgan saying, “No we’re not gonna have that.” So, how, where, where the Republicans fit into this, it seems as though they’re on the outside looking in and it’s you guys are gonna have to make decisions.

Senator McCaskill: Well, I, I think you’re correct in, first of all, as I’ve talked about in there the republicans have been very involved in drafting this legislation. They just don’t want to claim it after they draft it. But it, I think that you’re right in that people forget that especially in the Senate that moderate Republicans got replaced by moderate Democrats. It wasn’t as if there was a really conservative Republican replaced by a really liberal Democrat. Or, you know, that doesn’t happen. These are all states where there is a lot of moderates and, so their policies are not that different. You look at Ben Nelson and you look at Blanche Lincoln and you look at Evan Bayh, these are moderate, Claire McCaskill, these are moderate Democrats. So that’s what makes it hard, is you have, it used to be harder in the Republican Party, it’s not hard in the Republican Party anymore. I think they have two moderates left. And the only ones left out there are really, really conservative. So that’s why they’re not fighting among themselves as much anymore because the moderate Republicans have all been defeated. Anybody else?

Question: I do have one quick question.

Senator McCaskill: Yeah, sure.

Question: The Medicaid part of it and raising it, the minimum, the one hundred and thirty three percent. What is your take on that? There have been a lot of governors who expressed grave concern about the effect on the budget, some of them Democratic governors. Would you vote for something like that?

Senator McCaskill: I, I, you know, first of all I think it’s gonna be very hard for us to go that high and, and keep the bill deficit neutral in a way that will get enough votes to pass it. So, I would be shocked if it stayed that high. And I would certainly support it ratcheting down slightly. Okay.

Question: Thank you Senator….

[Discussion of tours of health care facilities]

….Question: That’s been a little more useful for you, it sounds like, than the town hall forums as far as actually you, helping to shape your position on the bill.

Senator McCaskill: Well, I’ve learned a lot. You know the health care forums are, you know, are more about the active public participation in a Democracy. And that’s always great, and I’ve, I’ll tell you what I have learned. Let me put it this way, I’ve been reminded that in Missouri we have all different opinions. And a lot of them are held very strongly. Which is good. Which is great.