Our previous coverage of the Wednesday evening event:
…[Invocation] Reverend John Bennett: God of all people, God of all faiths, father of justice and mercy, seek your guidance as this town hall listening conference proceeds. Prove us to engage in honest and respectful dialog, for all of us are aware of the critical challenge of the health care debate. And we confess our anxiety about its outcome. By your grace you have lead us to a decisive moment in which our nation is poised for health care reform. We are saddened that just at this moment Senator Ted Kennedy has died. For he spent his political life working diligently and forcefully for health care reform guided by his conviction that health care is a basic human right rooted in his belief that you desire health and wholeness, Shalom, for all your people. [loud and exaggerated coughing][laughter] May he rest in peace in your [inaudible]. Now, oh God, empower us to face the challenge of health care reform rooted in the same belief and guided by a holy concern for the common good and by gracious compassion for the most vulnerable among us. Bless Senator Claire McCaskill, our public servant, as she speaks and listens and engages with us in dialog about health care and other matters of public policy. And that as she represents the people of Missouri in our nation’s capital grant her discerning wisdom and openness of mind and heart and the courage of her convictions. Grant, oh God, that this whole process of debate about health care will leave us with a truly reformed health care system which offers quality and affordable access to life giving services for all of your people. God of justice and mercy, bring healing to us in every way that we may join with you in the healing of the nation. Amen.
Leaving out the words “a”, “and” and “the” in the prayer, the rest of words of the prayer really set off the teabaggers. Their conduct at the town hall was all downhill from there.
The opening of the question and answer session:
…Senator Claire McCaskill:…First I want to welcome all of you here and I apologize that we had a bigger crowd than we had room for today. We have done this now a number of times across the state. I think I am out doing this almost more than anybody else who’s been elected to Congress, but that’s okay, this is what my job is. I work for you, I’m accountable to you, I, you deserve my attention and my respect, my deference, and that’s what this is all about. So I want to thank all of you for being here whether you are against what is being proposed or whether you are for it we’re here to participate in the grandest most glorious Democracy that has ever been put on the face of this planet. And as a member [applause] …I’ve had some of my colleagues tell me don’t try to do all these town halls, people are angry and they’ll shout you down. And I said, “You know, in Missouri we have good manners.” And I’m hopeful today that everyone will have a chance to express their frustration and anger, but do so in a way that doesn’t, frankly, make it difficult for other people to be able to hear and participate. So, I hope everyone is, not, it’s okay if you’re mad at me, I get that, I just want all of you to be able to be respectful to one another because you have decided that today is a day you’re gonna participate in your Democracy. And in that we should be united and feel good about it. So, here’s what we’re gonna do. We, we’ve all filled out questions. And I, we try to make this process as transparent as possible. And so what we’re gonna do is, I’m gonna try to identify somewhere in the first couple of rows people who are adamantly opposed to any form of the health care proposals that have been talked about. Adamant opposition to any of the health care proposals. [laughter] All right. Okay, you two gentlemen right here. The two gentlemen, in the red shirt. Would you give them the basket? We’re gonna give you the basket. You own it for the next hour. I was a few minutes late so I’m gonna stay until we get a full hour in. It’ll make me late for my next thing, but that’s okay. I want to make sure we’re here for a full hour. And what these two gentlemen will do is they’ll pull a question out and then [a staffer]…from my staff will take it and hand it to me. And I will call on you. If you’re here I, I, we won’t do it if you’re not here, but the person who’s question we get is here, I’ll call on you and you will then have the opportunity to stand up and ask the question you’ve written or any other question you would like when you stand up. And, and we’ll go from there. And if you want me to read the question, if you are more comfortable with me doing that, I’m happy to do that. Does that sound fair? Are we on board?
Senator McCaskill: All right. See, we’re making progress already. Good. All right.
This is…from Linn, Missouri. Yes sir, would you like to ask your question or would you like me to read what you’ve written? Read what is written. Okay. “Senator McCaskill, If the proposed health care plan doesn’t go through are you going to support the reconciliation strategy of only fifty-one percent in the Senate to strong arm the bill through. If you do, hello socialized medicine. Obama has the death book open, ready to euthanize.” [cheers][applause] I’ll get to both, you got two questions there. One is about whether or not there’s anything in any of the proposals that would encourage any form of lack of respect for someone’s end of life decisions. And the second part is whether or not we would engage in a process, a rule, that would allow less than sixty votes, would allow a majority to decide it as opposed to sixty votes.
Let me take the second, the, the, the death panel one first. And this is dangerous, at the beginning to do this, and I, I gotta tell you the truth here. If you have read the proposal and I have read every page of the Senate proposal that has come out of committee, you will find that the irony of misinformation that is out there is that what the bill is trying to do is the opposite. It is very important that every human being remain in complete control of decisions they want made at or near the end of their life. It is a moral imperative that we do that. It is what we are as a country. And I have an eighty-one year old mother who I love more than life itself. And I would never be a part of any legislation that would diminish her ability to make decisions as to what would happen at or near the end of her life. What we have right now in our system is the ability of families to come together and get information about what they want done at the end of their life. Now keep in mind that if you do a living will or a directive and you are conscious then it has no value. Right? [voice: “Right.”] But what happens sometimes at or near the end of life is people can no longer communicate. And so decisions have to be made when they cannot weigh in and that’s why an end of life plan began. So that someone could weigh in on what they wanted done even if they could no longer communicate. For my mother, she wanted to do it because she didn’t want us to have to make a decision. She wanted to make the decision. She wanted to be in control and she didn’t want that decision to be ours. As a loving gesture, not as a gesture of anybody being disrespectful of someone’s right to do every measure possible to stay alive.
So, what this bill does is it says if you’re a
doctor and you take time, if a patient requests it, and you take time to sit down with them and explain the end of life decisions that might come then you get reimbursed for it. For your time. That’s it. That’s what it says. And the fact that people have said that it says something else is a big whopper. It’s just not true. [applause] [whistling][booing]
Voice: Sit down! [audience shouting]
Senator McCaskill: Second, the second part of the question was about reconciliation. And, I do, first of all, the rule on reconciliation is complicated and it only applies to the budget. You can’t use reconciliation for policy things.
Multiple voices: Yes you can.[applause][crosstalk]
Senator McCaskill: For example, some of the things we want to do for insurance reform in terms of the marketing of insurance and consumer protections, some of those things would be very difficult, and frankly, I think impossible to legally do through reconciliation. So I don’t think it’s likely [crosstalk]…
Voice: That is not true.
Senator McCaskill:…that reconciliation is gonna be an option because frankly, that’s the stuff that almost everybody agrees upon.
Voice: That is not true.
Voice: Are you gonna…
Voice, shouting: That is not true. That is not true.
Senator McCaskill: Ma’am, ma’am, I, I just gotta tell ya, I respect your right to be angry and mad.
Voice: You don’t understand. I’m not (inaudible). I am very angry.
Senator McCaskill: I understand.
Voice: My dad (inaudible).
Senator McCaskill: I respect, I respect your anger and you have a right to be angry.
Voice: I am very angry.
Senator McCaskill: It is very important that everyone’s here, wants an opportunity…[crosstalk]
Voice: Yeah, but thanks for saying it’s not true. We also read the bill. We also got the information out there and I don’t believe you.
Senator McCaskill: Okay, that’s fine. It’s your right not to believe me, it’s your right, it’s your right in a democracy to be angry [crosstalk], but it is also the right, ma’am, with all [crosstalk]…
Voices: Please, please.
Senator McCaskill: …with all due respect ma’am, please, please, the kids that come to this school they are taught these things, respect and tolerance, and all I’m asking you to do…[applause] [cheers] [inaudible crosstalk] [audience shouting] Thank you, thank you for letting other people participate.
Voice: Answer the question. [audience shouting]
Another voice, shouting: Answer the question. [audience shouting]
Voice, shouting: Yes or no.
Senator McCaskill: This is the way I can honestly answer the question. [audience shouting]
Voice, shouting: Constitution (inaudible).
Senator McCaskill: Do you want me to, sir, once again [crosstalk]…
Senator McCaskill: No, let’s do this in a fair way. [audience shouting] Let’s do this in a fair way. Would you all [audience shouting] go ahead and draw another question? [audience shouting] I said it would depend on what was in the legislation. I am more than happy to vote no. I’ve voted no many times against my party leadership, more so than [audience shouting] almost any Democrat in the Senate. [crosstalk]
Voice, shouting: Do it again. [crosstalk]
Voice, shouting: Do it again, vote against (inaudible)…
Senator McCaskill: …from Eldon, Missouri…Where are you…? Would you like me to read it? Okay…
There were long periods of quiet from the audience, but then again, it can be exhausting to sustain vein popping blow a gasket apoplectic rage for longer than a few minutes at a stretch.