Missouri’s candidates for U.S. Senate have shared a stage for the first time, only days removed from a primary election that pitted them against one another. The candidates fielded questions from more than 200 farmers with Missouri Farm Bureau’s Political Action Committee.
Big on the minds of farmers is the passage of the Farm Bill. The incumbent, Senator Claire McCaskill says she has been a strong proponent. “I think it’s an incredibly important thing to get done so you all have some certainty. We will get disaster relief done and it will be retroactive for the cattle. I know that will happen. I was bitterly disappointed that my opponent and some of his colleagues blocked a decision on the farm bill before we left to come home and work for the month of August.”
Congressman Todd Akin says he is comfortable with most of the farm programs in that bill, but he has an issue with what he says is an 80 percent increase in entitlement programs. “I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not so sure that the farm portion of it is reasonable enough that you might be able to just pass that by itself.”
McCaskill says the farm programs and entitlement programs are tied together so that urban legislators who aren’t concerned with farm issues will vote for the whole package.
Both candidates were also asked to discuss the estate tax, that farmers often refer to as the “death tax.”
Akin says he doesn’t believe in the tax. “I just think it’s a bad idea, and to have that death tax … go up to the degree that it is, up to 55 percent, I think that’s crazy and I’ve never voted for that and I support keeping the death tax as low as we can get it. As far as I’m concerned, what’s the right level? Well zero would be just about right for me.”
McCaskill says she cosponsored legislation that would extend the current estate tax rate of 35 percent, with an exemption for those making up to 5 million dollars. As to whether she would vote to eliminate it altogether, she says, “I would possibly vote for that if we could figure out a way to do a whole balanced approach on deficit reduction. If we could do something that would make sense, that we would be cutting spending, figuring out a way to make entitlements responsible and also look at the tax code in a way that doesn’t pick quite as many winners and losers. In the meantime, I basically told my leadership that I wouldn’t vote for anything that took it below five (million dollars).”
Akin beat out former state treasurer Sarah Steelman and St. Louis businessman John Brunner for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Tuesday’s Primary. McCaskill ran unopposed on the Democrat side.
AUDIO: Senator Claire McCaskill’s comments and Q & A with Missouri Farm Bureau members, 32:32
AUDIO: Congressman Todd Akin’s comments and Q & A with Missouri Farm Bureau members, 33:51