After Thursday afternoon’s open public town hall at Park University in Parkville Senator Claire McCaskill (D) took questions from the press:
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): …But I am confident, because, behind the scenes there are Republicans in the Senate that are just as committed as Democrats to getting all the facts out. And some of them serve on the Intelligence Committee. So, even if the chairman, uh, would veer off course and neglect to go after an area of evidence that is crucial I believe the Democrats and a few of the Republicans that are on the committee would be able to right that, um, that trajectory. And I also am very confident about [Senator] Lindsey Graham, who’s the chairman of a subcommittee on the Judiciary Committee. He said, in public at a hearing, that, on a committee that I’m on, in no uncertain terms, everybody needs to realize next time it’ll be the Republicans. This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans. This is about whether or not we allow Russia to try to break the backbone of the most important Democracy in the world. [crosstalk] That’s what he said.
Question: Senator, what do you…Senator, what do you, what did you mean by I want to get to the bottom of the op, opioid industry?
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): I want to find out why we have five percent of the population and eighty percent of the opioids. Uh, that doesn’t happen by accident. They came from somewhere. Why do we have such an over prescribing in this country compared to other nations?
Question: Are you suggesting that these companies were not truthful about the addictive nature?
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Well, we have anecdotal evidence that at least one of these companies actually said at one point, uh, that less than one percent of the population will be addicted by his drug. Um, that is totally factually incorrect. And we want to find out if this was going on a wide scale basis, what it is was an individual salesman that said something inappropriate, that’s why we need all the documents we’ve requested from these companies. And we [voice: “Are you getting them?”] …We’ve made a formal request. It’s a long list so we’re gonna give them some time. But, we’re not gonna stop until we do.
Question: Senator you mentioned, uh, that, having conversations with colleagues in Washington encouraging them not to look down on Trump voters. Uh, what does the party have to do nationally and what do you have to do specifically to help persuade those Trump voters, what you are talking about, that we’re the ones fighting for you on these issues? Obviously you’re gonna, you’re going into a tough fight in twenty-eighteen and you’re acutely aware of that. So, if could you speak about both yourself and the party nationally.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Well, I think it’s important that I, I’m comfortable in the role of underdog. Um, I’ve been here many times before. I think it’s also important that I’m not afraid to go anywhere in this state and encounter people who disagree with me. Uh, you know, if you want to hide behind a spokesman or if you want to hide behind talking points or some, by some technology that’s not a good substitute for getting out into these small communities, looking folks in the eye, and say, talk to me, I respect you, talk to me. What can I be doing better? How can I improve? Uh, what can I be fighting for that you’re really frustrated by? And I think doing that matters and that’s what I’m gonna do.
Question: So does that make this the unofficial start of the, the reelect campaign? I mean if somebody like Brian or I would say, you know, unofficially this, it, it started here. Would be, would we be wrong?
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Well, I, you know, I think, um, you know, when you’re hired by the public then you have an obligation to the public throughout your tenure. So, if you want to be rehired you need to do a job, a good job for your entire tenure. So, I hope I’ve been doing that kind of work, uh, since Missourians elected e in twenty-twelve. But, I’m certainly gonna continue to do that kind of work the next eighteen months and then we’ll let the chips fall where they may.
Question: The unofficial start then?
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Uh, that’s your words, not mine. [crosstalk] You’re not gonna get me to say it.
Question: You said, you did say at one point that, um, there’s a tea party type movement going on in the Democratic Party. Can you elaborate on that?
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): I, I don’t think I used the word tea party but I do think there’s [crosstalk]…
Question: So there’s something like [crosstalk] the tea party going on?
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Yeah, there’s a, there’s a, there’s an energy that is different. Um, we’ll be releasing our fundraising numbers for the first quarter and, uh, in a few hours and, um, it [laugh] it, it’s, it’s different, it’s different. People are really engaged. People are showing up. People are speaking out. People want to be organized. They want to do more.[voice: “That’s a good thing.”] Uh, and that’s a great thing. I, I, I’m tickled pink about that.
Question: When you talked about the Democratic Party in particular and factions in the party that might make it hard for a, a centrist like you who works across both sides of the aisle.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Well, you, I think that’s a reality I need to acknowledge. Um, I am not afraid to call myself a moderate. And I’m not gonna change who I am. I’m not gonna shift with the polls, I’m not gonna shift with the wind. I’m a moderate. And that means sometimes as you saw today I give answers that some of the people in the base of my party are not happy with. But I’m hoping that overall they see that I stand up, uh, when I need to, that I’ve had some guts and I’ve had the courage of conviction to take on some really hard problems. And I think they also realize Missouri’s a tough state for somebody who has a D behind their name.
Question: What were some of the, uh, questions that you were expecting to hear versus what you heard out in the town hall today?
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Um, I certainly am getting questions about health care everywhere. Um, I think people are very worried about losing their health care. Uh, I think Missourians particularly, um, we’re a state, for the life of me I’ll never figure out why, uh, the governor of our state is not doing what the governor of Indiana did, Governor Pence. He said, I’ll take the federal tax dollars that Indianans are due and I’ll devise our own Medicaid program. Why doesn’t Missouri do that? Why are we allowing other states to spend the money that Missourians have paid in in their federal taxes? And by the way, that’s where opioid treatment comes from. Most of the opioid treatment in this country is Medicaid. So, they, they want to talk about what a serious problem opioids are and they won’t even take the money that we’re due when they can design their own program. It’s very frustrating for me and, um, so I think that’s one of the reasons health care always comes up. I’m a little surprised we haven’t had more on foreign policy and the conflicts that are ongoing in Syria and, obviously, today, um, we had a, uh, a very large bomb dropped in Afghanistan which is out of the ordinary for what we have been doing in Afghanistan. So I’m a little surprised we didn’t have more foreign policy questions. [crosstalk] I don’t know enough about it yet. I just found out about it before I walked in here. So as a member of the Armed Services Committee I’ve learned the hard way don’t talk about it until you know about it.
Question: Senator you’ve always been a big supporter of labor. Does it concern you now that Missouri has decided to go with right to work.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Yeah. I’m, by the way we’ve created more jobs in Missouri over the last several years than surrounding states that were right to work. I think this idea that if, uh, we take away the right of people to bargain for a wage, workers to bargain for a wage, that somehow that makes us less attractive to, to companies. I, I just think it’s silly. It’s not true. Um, look, you know, bargaining for good wages and benefits is pretty all American. I mean it’s one of the things that built the middle class in this country. And as we try to focus on workers and helping workers and people who are trying to get ahead why in the world would we engage to a race to the bottom on wages? The only thing we know for sure about right to work it means everybody’s gonna take a cut in pay. And, now, maybe it helps the guys at the top of the company do better, but it doesn’t help the people that are struggling, um, that are trying to raise a family and trying to send kids to college. And so I’m gonna try to help repeal it, um, on the ballot next year. We’re gonna try to get it on the ballot repeal it. There’s a provision to do that. We’re gonna work really hard to get it done.
Question: Senator, do you have any opportunity to talk to Governor Greitens since he’s been sworn into office about some of these issues like health care that do involve both federal and state policymakers?
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): I have not. Um, he did reach out to me one time after he was elected, but we haven’t talked since then. I was, um, gratified to see that he announced a big broadband program, uh, uh, a week ago when he said Missouri’s putting six million dollars in it. And I thought, started thinking I’m pretty sure that most of that money is federal. He didn’t mention that, but thirty-two million of the money is federal money. Um, so what he’s doing is leveraging, which is by the way what we do with Medicaid, Missouri puts in ten cents and the federal government pays ninety. So he’s putting in twenty cents and the federal government is putting in eighty for the broadband program. The more we can work together on those projects, we got no heads up that he was doing that, um, the more we can work together the more efficient and effective those programs will be. And I’m really worried about REAL ID. Um, I’m worried that Missourians aren’t gonna be able to get on a plan a year from now because the Missouri legislature has not given Missourians the option of getting an ID that will be compliant to get on an airplane.
Question: Your two thousand nine, uh, town hall tour was very similar geographically but, uh, the tone is very different. What do you attribute that to?
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Yeah. It, this is different. Um, you know, I think some of my Republican colleagues are hiding and don’t want to come out and do town halls. Especially the members of Congress. It is shocking to me that there’s members of Congress that have never done a town hall. Um, I want to tell them you should have come with me in two thousand nine, um, it would have been easy to hide under the desk in two thousand nine because people were really upset. And I knew when I went out there I was gonna get yelled at. And I did. But I learned. And I think that people understood that I was willing to encounter conflict and people who didn’t like me, people who disagreed with me. I think it’s important. And, but this is different. This has been, um, if somebody would have told me, I don’t know if you remember the town hall that I did in Hillsboro, Jefferson County in two thousand nine. But it was tough. And yesterday I walked in to a standing ovation, so it was a little bit like here. I don’t know what’s up, but it’s kind of fun.
Question: Are you referring to either Representative [Anne] Wagner of Representative [Vicky] Hartzler, people who have been mentioned as possible opponents[crosstalk]…
Senator Claire McCaskill (D): I, I, all of them. I’m not aware of any of them. Have any of them done town halls that you know of? I don’t think any of them have done a town hall. You know, if you can’t do a town hall I’m not sure why you would run. I think you’re supposed to be serving the public. I’m pretty sure, so.
Anybody else? Thanks guys.