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Sen. Claire McCaskill (D): showing up is more than half the battle (March 17, 2014)

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D): press Q and A – March 17, 2014 (March 18, 2014)

“… most of the people who have, show the most vitriol about Obamacare are people who are not even interacting with it. Um, they’ve just probably watching a lot of Fox. And, um, so, I think as time goes on, um, it, it, we may discover that trying to, to just have one policy change as your only political talking point may be overplaying your hand…”

Over the course of this week Senator Claire McCaskill (D) has held six open town halls (and several other events) across the state. The fifth town hall was held early this afternoon in Kansas City on the campus of UMKC. After most of the town halls Senator McCaskill made herself available for questions from the media in attendance.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D) speaking to the media after her town hall on the campus of UMKC in Kansas City – March 19, 2014.

The transcript of the press availability after the Kansas City town hall:

Senator Claire McCaskill (D): ….Happy to answer any questions anybody has….


Question: …I didn’t understand the, the gambit, uh, of bringing the money back from the international corporations. How’s that gonna work?

Senator McCaskill: How it would work is, you’d have fifty billion dollars worth of bonds and they would, over a period of time, be up for sale. And the people who would be eligible to buy these bonds would be corporations who would agree to bring the same amount of money back in money from overseas that they are buying of bonds. In other words, they’ve used the money overseas to buy the bonds. But, whether or not they’ve got the bonds would depend on what rate of tax they were willing to pay. So let’s say you had a block of five billion dollars, um, you might have ten corporations bid on buying five billion dollars worth of bonds which will allow them to bring that five billion back into the United States. They would all bid against each other without knowing what everybody else was bidding, what tax they were willing to pay. And whoever was willing to pay the highest tax on that money coming back would be the one that could buy the bonds.

Question: Ah, okay.

Senator McCaskill So, it’s kind of an elegant way to have discreet funds for infrastructure without hitting the treasury or hitting the taxpayers and not giving corporations a free pass on bringing the money back without any taxation.

Question: Yeah. Well, plus, they could sell their, uh, their civic duty, uh, you know [crosstalk] and [inaudible]…

Senator McCaskill: There you go, there you go, there you go….

….Question: Senator, my understanding is that you met with some of your colleagues , I think it was an earlier town hall meeting, uh, this week where the, the issue of marijuana and, and Colorado came up and law of unintended consequences. Um, you still feel that should be a state issue as far as Missouri is concerned or are you kind of wait and see?

Senator McCaskill: Oh, I think it should be a state issue. I mean, this is gonna be an issue if the, if other states, um, follow Colorado’s lead, uh, that will not surprise me. But it would shock me if there was a federal decision on this issue without a lot more states weighing in. So I look, I think there’ll be a lot of initiatives on this around the country and we’ll see how people vote. But, meanwhile I think Colorado’s under a microscope as everyone’s looking to see how it’s working there, if it is actually living up to the positives that were, uh, promoted when it was, um, passed versus the negatives that, um, people warned about.

Question: [inaudible] mentioned in the audience about using, uh, cannabis for treatment of PTSD. Uh, should we, uh, should more be done in the area of medical marijuana in Missouri and, really, nationwide?

Senator McCaskill: Well, I, I think we look to the medical community to advocate for that. Um, and I, I’ll circle back, I had never heard, we have an awful lot of experts on PTSD right now, um, and it, it is a diagnosis we understand now and we are administering care to tens of thousands of people. And frankly, I think that almost every sexual assault victim, uh, suffers from PTSD and it’s gone undiagnosed for decades. So, I’ve never seen them advocate that as something they really believe could make a huge difference in PTSD. Um, so, I’ll, I’ll follow up on that and see if they agree that that would be something that would be medicinally helpful.

Question: One of your colleagues told me a few days ago that you, you have sort of amped things up a little bit on your looking into war profiteering with private contractors in Iraq, Afghanistan. Could you, could you kind of bring us up to speed on that?

Senator McCaskill: Well, I, I continue, um, to look at contracting. It’s gotten to the point that I beginning asking agencies on, when I’m having hearings on contracting, if they hired a contractor to help them prepare for the hearing. And believe it or not, we have found that agencies have become so contractor dependent that they hire contractors for a hearing on contractors. Uh, so, what I’m trying to do, and we’ve made some progress, what I’m trying to do is make sure. I’m not against private contractors. We have some great ones in the federal government that are providing good services at good value, and good products at good value. But every contract needs to have the kind of cost benefit analysis so that we’re sure we’re saving money. Um, they haven’t done that in many, many instances. In fact, going back and trying to reconstruct the figures it appears that many instances we’re having contractors do work that we could do more cheaply with federal employees. So, and then, how is the contract scoped and then, is the contract managed? And if someone doesn’t perform well, the recent hearing I had was that when we have bad actors we’ve been miserable at keeping track of them. And, invariably, because one agency doesn’t know that they did very badl at another agency, they hire ’em again. So we’ve got to get a system, a data system, that is interoperable so federal agencies can track bad performing contractors so we’re not wasting our money on ’em again.

Question: is it more widespread in military applications, or do you find this kind of waste and abuse pretty much [crosstalk] wholesale.

Senator McCaskill:  It’s, it’s, you know, I started out and probably spent eighty percent of my time on this on contracting and contingencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. But I will tell you it is like shooting fish in a barrel. Um, there is huge problems with it at Homeland Security, uh, Department of Energy, we’ve done another, number of hearings about contractors. We just did one, uh, this week, uh, two weeks ago on Hanford, uh, nuclear waste, uh, we’re trying to vitrify, turn into glass, nuclear waste at Hanford, Washington. This is where we did all the, uh, uh, the plutonium enrichment for the bombs in, in World War Two. And, you talk about a contract out of control, um, in, the problem is we’ve got some retaliation going on with whistle blowers. And so, it’s a never ending job, no matter which agency, to try to. I’m not gonna, it’s kind of like being State Auditor in this, and frankly, prosecutor, you’re never gonna run out, I’m never gonna run out of work, uh, doing contract oversight.

Question: Senator, uh, as you’ve done these town halls across the state have you noted, noticed any, uh, differences in the types of questions you’re getting or in the, sort of, preponderance of questions [crosstalk] in various subjects?

Senator McCaskill: You know, I, I gotta tell you I, um, there’s clearly a lack of tea party presence in my town halls this time. Um, and typically my town halls are overflowing with, with tea party, uh, members that want to talk about the evils of the federal government and that the federal government is the enemy.  Really haven’t had that much, we have, we’ve had a sprinkling of Obamacare questions. But most of the people who have talked about Obamacare, and this woman today is an exception, ’cause clearly she’s trying to interact with Obamacare, most of the people who have, show the most vitriol about Obamacare are people who are not even interacting with it. Um, they’ve just probably watching a lot of Fox. And, um, so, I think as time goes on, um, it, it, we may discover that trying to, to just have one policy change as your only political talking point may be overplaying your hand.

Staffer: We’ve got time for one last question, guys.

Question: On, on this, uh, town hall meeting in terms of, uh, what, what number is this and kind of what’s the overall theme in questions that people are coming up with?

Senator McCaskill: You know, this, um, this is the fifth one I’ve done in a few days. I’ve got another one this afternoon, so I’ll be doing six of ’em this week.  Um, and it’s all over the board. We’ve had, um, you know, like today, this was very typical. We had everything from public education, to, uh, alternative programs for offenders, to immigration, to health care, uh, marijuana. Marijuana does keep coming up. Now, I could make a joke about why marijuana keeps coming up, but I won’t.

Question: What is the State of Missouri doing to, doing to help students afford college?

Senator McCaskill: Well, um, the State of Missouri, um, is going to finally increase some funding for higher education this year and it primarily is a state function. But we have raised the amount of the Pell Grant at the federal level. We did that a couple years ago. So I’m really pleased that we were able to do that. We’ve been able to hold on to that. Um, and we just, in fact, appropriated the Pell Grant money just a few months ago when we did the appropriations bill. So, we, we took a, and we did that without adding to the deficit by taking the middleman out of the student loan process, who was making money with no risk. And now the money is going directly to students and that money we took and put into more money for Pell Grants.

Staffer: We gotta wrap, guys. Thanks.

Senator McCaskill : Sorry, guys.