by Alex DeRosier and Ashley Byrd
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill emphasized her position as a moderate Democrat at a town hall meeting in Fulton Wednesday afternoon.
McCaskill answered questions from 127 constituents at the Callaway Senior Center in Fulton as part of a series of eight town hall meetings across the state this week. All are scheduled for Republican-leaning districts.
The senator highlighted her bipartisan work with Republicans, including legislation she said would streamline but not eliminate federal regulations on pesticides used by farmers. The bill is also sponsored by Idaho Republican Senator Mike Crapo.
McCaskill pointed out the potential impact the bitter partisan battle over the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch could have on cooperation between Democrats and Republicans. She said it could mean fewer moderate appointees to the court in the future.
“From now on if the president and the senate are the same party– whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican– you’re going to see much more extreme judges nominated to the Supreme Court,” McCaskill said. “We need to come back to the notion that we need to have votes from both sides of the aisle.”
The senator added she would vote with Republicans to re-establish the 60-vote rule for Supreme court confirmations, which was eliminated earlier this month in order to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.
McCaskill said it was a tough decision to vote against the confirmation of Gorsuch, especially in a state that has heavily favored Republicans in recent elections. She said she decided to vote against Gorsuch because of his ruling in favor of a corporation over a trucker who was fired for abandoning a trailer to survive freezing temperatures. She said she was disappointed by Gorsuch’s justification of his ruling to a Senate Judiciary Committee.
While many participants in the town hall meeting were supporters of Senator McCaskill, one woman came to challenge her on abortion. In a brief, tense exchange, Fulton resident Joanne Schrader criticized McCaskill’s support of Planned Parenthood, calling the organization corrupt and abortion “intrinsically evil.”
Schrader told reporters later that if it weren’t for McCaskill’s stance on abortion, she would be likely to vote for her.
Senator McCaskill says she is still confident that the people of Missouri will support her in the 2018 elections, even in a state that supported Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton by a 19 percent margin in the 2016 Presidential Election.
McCaskill said support for Democratic candidates in Missouri should not be underestimated, even in a state with a Republican Governor and majority in the Legislature. She called the characterization that the Democratic Party is “dead” in Missouri “greatly overstated.”
“I remember in 2004, the chairman of the Republican Party in Missouri said: ‘Color Missouri firecracker red.’ Two years later I defeated Jim Talent,” she said, also reminding reporters that Senator Roy Blunt was re-elected by a slim three percent margin in 2016.
McCaskill also warned voters about corporate influence in politics, saying that up to $100 million will be spent in campaign contributions in the next 18 months leading up to the election. She urged the audience to question advertisements from PACs in the next Senate election, especially from those whose ties are unclear.
“If it doesn’t say paid for by the candidate, don’t pay attention to any of it,” McCaskill said. “You don’t know where the money is coming from, you don’t know why they’re buying it, you don’t know what their motive is.”
McCaskill said at a minimum, voters should know where ads are coming from. She stressed that so-called dark money isn’t just going to Republicans.
“The Democrats are going to do it too; the same kind of dark money is going to be coming in from the other side.”
Claire McCaskill is up for reelection in November of 2018.