Senator Claire McCaskill (D) held a town hall in Concordia, Missouri at the Community Center Gymnasium on Tuesday, August 10th. Approximately sixty people attended.
The first part of the transcript for the audience question and answer session follows:
….Question: Hi, Senator McCaskill. Thanks so much for coming out today. I was just wondering, with oil spill wreaking havoc in the Gulf, what do you propose to do to make sure that a disaster like this never happens to us again?
Senator Claire McCaskill Um, there will be a, um, the question was, uh, with the oil that has spilled into the Gulf, what are you gonna do to make sure that a disaster like the BP disaster never happens again? Um, you, I see your t-shirt. You probably aren’t gonna like this answer, some parts of it. Uh, we will not be considering a bill this year to place a price on carbon. And these ladies in the green t-shirt are almost as unhappy with me as [redacted] in that I have disappointed them because I refuse to be supportive of a, a price on carbon. I’ve, I’ve been, I have been, um, reluctant to support a price on carbon, um, for a cap and trade bill. On the other hand there is gonna be an energy bill that we will debate when we get back in September that will do three things. The first is accountability for BP, making sure that there’s not an artificial lid on what they would be responsible for in terms of the clean up. My job is to make sure taxpayers do not pay for their mistake. And so we want to make sure we remove the lid so BP has no artificial limit on what they would be required to pay to clean up the Gulf, to make those business whole, to make sure the families down there have not suffered because of their carelessness and negligence. Uh, it does some other things, like making sure that the companies that are doing offshore drilling have relief wells before they begin. Um, this problem was, it was never a relief well required. Truth be known, the oversight of oil and gas drilling in this country kinda was in a coma. Uh, and this goes for both administrations. They had not really been doing an aggressive job. And there has been a complete housecleaning over at that, in that regulatory area in the Department of Interior. So, we’ll be happy to get you all, you probably have it, as active as you are, you may have all the details of what’s in that bill as it relates to oils company accountability for negligence in offshore drilling that’s in the bill. The other thing that’s in the bill is a incentive to convert eighteen wheelers from, uh, diesel to natural gas. And the final part of it is a homestar provision which provides incentives for homeowners to weatherize their homes. Allow them to do things that will make their homes more efficient and spend less on their utility bills which is a win-win, uh, in terms of carbon emissions and also win-win, obviously, for homeowners in their electricity costs. Those are the three things that will be in the energy bill that we will debate before the end of the year. But I do not believe that the price on carbon will be coming up.
Question: Thanks for your time.
Senator McCaskill: Thank you.
…Senator McCaskill: [reading the question] Are you, as you cut spending in education, what will you do with No Child Left Behind provisions?
Um, education traditionally in this country has been a state and local responsibility. About forty years ago the federal government began helping with state and local education. And then during the Bush administration passed probably the most seeping requirements from Washington [inaudible crosstalk] as relates to No Child Left Behind.
[inaudible crosstalk] Sir, we’re not gonna do this, we really aren’t. [inaudible crosstalk] We’re not gonna debate the, we’re not here to debate. [inaudible crosstalk] I’m here to answer people’s questions. [inaudible crosstalk] And I don’t want to be rude to you. [voice: “That was, that was Carter, was it not?”] That, actually, the first funding for local education was not under Carter, it was before Carter. But I’m not here to try to say it was a D or an R, sir, I’m not here, I’m trying just to answer the woman’s question. [inaudible crosstalk] It is not gonna be fair if you keep interrupting. [inaudible crosstalk] No Child Left Behind was a mandate from Washington that frankly I think that just about everybody I’ve talked to in the education community, parents, teachers, superintendents don’t like, uh, teaching to a test, uh, an arbitrary number that people have to reach. So, it will not be authorized as it is.
The other thing that’s beginning to happen is I don’t think there’ll be as much money coming from Washington for state and local education. Now keep in mind, um, how many of you are aware that, um, there was eight hundred million dollars cut out of the state budget, a lot of, some of which is going to education in terms of education cuts? Okay. Keep in mind that had the stimulus not been at the state level that figure would have been three point two billion that would have been cut. They have been balancing the budget for the last two years with the stimulus money that we sent from Washington. Because we were clearly not excited about the idea of a whole lot of teachers and other public sector jobs being laid off, especially the teachers. There is another bit of help that’s coming if the House votes for it today. I didn’t vote for it the first time ’cause it wasn’t fully paid for, but we voted on it last week and it was fully paid for. And that will bring another four hundred million to help, to, to try to keep teachers from being laid off in Missouri at the state and local level. But this is a warning. For all of the federal programs, whether it’s CDDG, whether it’s state and local education, all of that, I think over the next twenty years there will be less and less money coming out of Washington and more and more reliance will have to come from the state and local governments. Because we cannot continue on the trajectory we’ve been on for the last twenty or thirty years in terms of the increase in spending for functions that were originally designed and traditionally have been borne by the states and local governments. [inaudible crosstalk]
Absolutely. And that’s the problem. No Child Left Behind was a federal mandate that didn’t have a lot of money with it, that frankly, I mean I bet if I asked everybody in here who your favorite teacher was you can remember. Right? And my favorite teacher that I remember, that really motivated me, they did it with imagination. They did it by being creative in the classroom. And the people who were the best teachers go into it because they want to be creative in the classroom. And the problem is [inaudible] No Child Left Behind was squeezing that creativity right out of the classrooms and forcing everyone just to teach to a test. That’s not how we’re going to compete globally in terms of bringing up our education standards. So, there is a very, very [applause] wide support for doing away with the way, and what we should be doing is measuring progress, not doing apples to oranges. Um, making sure that kids are making progress and that we are and that [inaudible] give credit that we do have a President who, and you’re probably a teacher. Are you a teacher? Yeah, superintendent. Yeah, you know, we have somebody who’s beginning to take on some of the teachers unions as it relates to performance pay, um, you know, not ninety percent of the teachers, a few of the teachers may not be as good as the others. And we’v
e been very bad in the education system in terms of weeding them out. And we need to do better at that. I mean the vast majority are wonderful, but the ones that aren’t great, uh, we need to have a way we can not keep them in the classroom, um, because that’s really gypping our kids.
So, next question.
Senator McCaskill: [reading the question] Have you read the entire O, Obamacare bill?
Yes, I have. [voice: “Two thousand nine hundred pages.”] I have. In fact, I’ve read parts of it twice. [voice: “Really?”] Yes, I have. [inaudible crosstalk] And I read the financial reg bill, too. In fact, I’m co-sponsoring with Tom Coburn in the Senate, Dr. Tom Coburn, a bil, um, that will require all of the bills before we can vote on anything to be on the Internet for a minimum of seventy-two hours. [inaudible crosstalk] [inaudible] On the health care bill… [inaudible crosstalk] Okay. Section nine zero zero six in the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act amends section three forty-one of the Internal Revenue Code to require businesses to send Form 1099 to each vendor which they buy goods valued at more than six hundred dollars annually. [reading the question] How will health, health care be improved by this requirement?
Well, it was an attempt, which I disagree with, by the way, and there is a move to change this and I will make a prediction that will be removed by the end of the year ’cause there is wide support to remove it. It was put in there to help collect taxes that were owed. It wasn’t put in there to increase taxes, frankly, people are supposed to have taxes owed when they get reimbursed on business expenses over that amount. [inaudible crosstalk] Yeah. [inaudible crosstalk] Well, um, I hope you’re not surprised by them. Um, you know, the bill is public. [inaudible crosstalk] Well, and this is, you know, as I’ve said many, many times, the bill is not perfect, obviously. The bill is gonna need changes and tweaks along the way, it’s one of the reasons why all the provisions don’t go in all at once. They, they are, they are gradually gone in. I worry that some small businesses don’t know that they can get thirty-five percent of their health care premiums back as a tax credit this year. I’m worried that they don’t know that. I’m worried they don’t know that they get fifty percent of it back the following year. So, there’s both good news and bad news in this bill that people may not be aware of. As time goes on I hope they become more aware. This is something that I think is gonna cause more confusion than it is good. It is technically an effort to collect taxes that are owed. But the amount of paperwork that it’s gonna generate doesn’t make sense to me for the amount of taxes that we’re trying to, to collect. You know, all of us want anybody to pay the taxes they owe. I mean, I bet you most of you in this room pay your taxes like clockwork, but there’s a whole bunch of people out there that cheat. [inaudible crosstalk] And so part of this is trying to make sure everybody pays what is owed. [voice: “How about Timothy Geithner…he owed a whole bunch of back taxes? He still got nominated to be Secretary of the Treasury. How do we get by with people like that?”] Well, he paid all those before he was nominated. You’re right, he made mistakes. [voice: “There was six people in the Obama administration who were tax cheats. And there…”] There were definitely some people that were nominated who made mistakes on their taxes… [inaudible crosstalk] have been repaid. [inaudible] I’m sure if you went through every administration you would find some of those. And it’s unfortunate. And I, I hope people don’t make mistakes on their taxes, but it is a problem that people make mistakes and some people intentionally make mistakes. [inaudible crosstalk]
Senator McCaskill: [reading the question] What impact will Proposition C have on the health care initiative nationwide, and two, financially on the State of Missouri, mainly because of the long court battle.
I don’t know that there’ll be long court battle on this. Um, I, I don’t think there will. And it is, uh, basically what the referendum it doesn’t probably have much legal impact. Um, it was, uh, I think, largely political. Um, but, and I don’t think that it will have a huge amount of impact on what actually happens as it relates to the changes in health care that will begin to occur. I mean, people are still gonna get their checks in Missouri this year to help fill in the donut hole. The small business in Missouri will still get their tax credits this year if they’re paying for health insurance. They’ll get it next year. There’ll be a bigger check to help fill in with the donut hole next year. By the way, all that’s being paid for by the pharmaceutical companies who are paying back the government some of the excess profits we gave them on that Medicare D. They’re going to be paying the federal government back three and a half billion dollars next year alone to help pay for some of these things because we bucked them up a lot of excess profits of taxpayer money on Medicare D.
Senator McCaskill: [reading the question] Promoting fiscal responsibility, why pass another bill to cap spending? Several have passed in the past fifty years and none have been adhered to.
Well, actually, that’s not true. Um, there was a cap on spending during the nineties and there was also Paygo. And if you remember during the nineties we actually balanced the budget. [inaudible crosstalk] You know what happened? They let it expire. [inaudible crosstalk] Because the people who voted for it [inaudible crosstalk] the [inaudible crosstalk] I, you know that’s a really good question. I wasn’t there. If I would have been there I would have said, this is a bad idea to let this expire [inaudible crosstalk] ever. [inaudible crosstalk] Well, I, I’m trying to get one passed that’s good for three years. If I said it’s forever I don’t know I could get it passed. But I’m trying, I’m trying, but you keep in mind when these things expired. They had both Paygo and a cap on spending in the nineties and we balanced the budget. And then in the two thousands, in the two thousands they let ’em go. And they took earmarking to a new art form and they never vetoed any spending and they took spending out of control. I don’t know why because we actually had a surplus at the beginning of the Bush administration. [inaudible crosstalk] Boy, me, too. [inaudible crosstalk] I’m one of two Democrats that do not take earmarks in the entire Senate. One of two. [applause] And, um, and I’ll tell you what you ought to watch for. Watch for somebody who’s runnin’ who says they won’t take earmarks this year, but they won’t promise anything about next year. Now that’s insulting. That’s insulting to voters that someone would actually say, you know, in an election year I’m not gonna take earmarks, but I’m not making any promises beyond the election year. Watch out for that. Watch out for that. Um, you can’t, either earmarks are a wonderful thing and you ought to fight for ’em and arm wrestle for ’em and get all of ’em you can, or they’re a bad thing and you shouldn’t do it at all. This is something you can’t be half pregnant on. You’ve got to either decide that you think it’s a good way to pay the taxpayer money or it’s a bad way. I think it’s a ridiculous way to spend taxpayer money because it’s not based on merit. I’m not saying there aren’t meritorious projects that have been funded. I’m sure they’re things within the crow flies ten miles from here, I know things at Whiteman [AFB] that paid for with earmarks that have been helpful to the community. Some of the projects that have been funded are good. But it’s the process by which they’re funded. Because you know how you get to decide how much money you get? I don’t either. It’s some kind of deal that if you’re like on a certain committee you get more. If you’re more senior you get more. If you’re an appropriator you get a lot more. If you’re not on the Appropriations you don’t get as much. If you’re in political trouble you get mo
re. This notion that somehow you’re gonna have people at home vote for you if you’re in trouble and not gonna get elected if you get more earmarks. The way in which the decisions are made on how the earmarks are decided are fundamentally wrong with public money. We should only spend money on projects that have competed on their merit, not on who you know. And the vast majority of earmarks that occur have lobbyists attached to ’em. The vast majority. [inaudible crosstalk] [laughter] Well, they’re not taking personal money, they’re not taking personal money. [inaudible crosstalk] Well, I would just say [inaudible crosstalk] regardless of whether, I mean, in every bushel basket there is a bad apple. In every bushel basket. But I will tell you that the vast majority of the people in Washington, whether they’re Republicans or Democrats, are honest people. They’re honest people. They’re not feathering their own nest. I think they’re doing things they shouldn’t be doing in the way they spend the public money, but the vast majority of, I’m not saying they’re all perfect, we’ve go, I’m sure they’re bad apples there, too, but, um, most of my colleagues that are Republican are trustworthy and most of my colleagues that are Democrats are trustworthy in terms of being politically corrupt or graft. [applause]…
Transcript(s) of the remainder of the question and answer session will follow in subsequent posts.