Senator hears from concerned constituents

CHILLICOTHE- Sen. Claire McCaskill concluded a three-day swing around Missouri yesterday, hearing from voters in what she called being accountable for her actions.
“You have the right to know why I’ve voted the way I have,” McCaskill told an overflow crowd of about 100 people in Chillicothe Thursday morning.
McCaskill said crowds have been double of what she was expecting, including a crowd of more than 700 in Independence on Wednesday.
McCaskill took about 15 questions from the audience on their concerns. Those interested in asking a question wrote their contact information on a card that was drawn from a basket. She said her staff would answer questions not asked.
One woman in the crowd became upset after the more than hour-long session when she did not get picked to ask a question. McCaskill spent about 10 minutes debating with the woman before wrapping up the talk.
Many of the questions posed to McCaskill came from farmers. One farmer indicated that he was the only dairy farm left in Caldwell County. McCaskill said she doesn’t support methane taxes or animal identification regulations that are restrictive to farmers, but leaves a loophole for large operations.
“We can’t find the resources to secure our border for people, but we think we can tag every bunny and chicken in America,” McCaskill said. “I find that kind of ironic.”
Another dairy farmer asked for support on a program that would enhance exports of dairy products. McCaskill said she supports more exporting and said working on building back a relationship with Cuba will help. She said Cuba is a market that American agriculture needs to break into.
“You’re seeing this administration begin to move towards a more reasonable policy towards Cuba and that’s huge for Missouri agriculture,” she said.
Another issue facing rural Missourians was a ban on the sale of all-terrain vehicles (ATV) because of concerns of lead paint being used on toys. McCaskill said several entities were at the table during the discussions including the ATV industry. She said what was lacking was common sense. Shesaid the bill has been put on hold for at least a year so the problems can be worked out.
“The problem is we didn’t have any Missouri common sense in the room,” she said.
Some in attendance expressed anger at what they believed to be wasteful spending in Washington. McCaskill said she was one of three Democrats that voted against the Omnibus bill that continued funding the federal government through the end of this fiscal year.
McCaskill also defended the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus bill. One person in attendance asked why the money could not have been placed back into the pockets of taxpayers. McCaskill said this bill was designed to spend money to generate the economy. She said putting money in some people’s pockets might get spent and it might not.
“It wasn’t designed to fix the ills of America. It was designed to fix the economy,” she said. “Some people, if they get it in their pocket, they don’t spend it. If MoDOT gets more money, they’re going to spend it.”
McCaskill also addressed carbon emission standards and cap and trade. She said any regulations that are installed need to be phased in over a long period of time to reduce the impact financially. She said states that will be affected by the standards also need to see some help.
“I want to make sure all of you and your friends and neighbors aren’t digging into their pockets for extra money to pay for this,” she said. “Consumers are going to have to get rebates. Businesses are going to have to get rebates or I won’t be for it.”
Some in attendance expressed concerns over the banking system and fraud. McCaskill said she blames the financial crisis on insurance companies and the big banks for the fraud. She said local and community banks are strong and consumers should have no worries.
“They’ve got folks looking over their shoulders pretty good,” she said about the banks.” We’ve got to come back in and find how we regulate without doing harm. That’s tricky because we can go too far and squeeze the lifeblood out of the economy.
“The vast majority of our neighborhood banks were not the problem and people need to realize that and they are getting painted with a broad brush that isn’t fair,” she added.
McCaskill also took a chance to scold Missouri lawmakers for turning down federal money intended to help insure the poor.
“You want to talk about a hidden tax, that’s a hidden tax,” she said. “They’re raising your health insurance every time they turn down money from the federal government to help insure more people.”
McCaskill also has been touring the state holding stimulus forums to let local leaders know how to apply and access money. The latest forum was held in Columbia yesterday.
Photo: Sen. Claire McCaskill responds to a question posed to her Thursday morning at the Litton Agriculture center in Chillicothe. (Photo by Dennis Sharkey/The Daily News)

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