McCaskill calls ‘vacation’ a chance to visit state, people

Over the years, some Capitol observers have complained that Congress takes vacation time instead of getting things done in Washington.

But U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said Friday she’s doing plenty of work these next few weeks during the August recess.

“There’s always a long list of ‘to-dos,’” she said. “I think people — who think that, when we come home from Washington we put our feet up — don’t realize how many obligations we field, to move around to visit schools, businesses, groups that have asked to speak.”

McCaskill met with reporters after delivering the keynote address to the Jefferson City NAACP’s 50th annual Freedom Dinner.

“I’ll be doing a lot of speeches and moving around the state, trying to be accessible and answer questions,” she said, “and, hopefully, shape some debate over some of the important issues that we’re grappling with right now.”

Those conversations with Missourians will be helpful during debates when she returns to Washington next month, McCaskill said.

“We will have the National Defense Authorization bill that will occur sometime in September and October,” she noted. “We have the Energy Efficiency bill that, I think, has good, bipartisan support. I think both of those bills will move through the Senate with broad support from both Democrats and Republicans.

“But, these days, that doesn’t mean that problems are going to get solved, because the House of Representatives has developed a very bad habit of refusing to take up these bipartisan bills and put them on the floor for a vote.”

Among the Senate-passed bills languishing in the House are postal reform, the Farm bill and immigration, she said.

And, while McCaskill hopes the House will begin debating more bills that already have cleared the Senate, she said she’s “not as optimistic as I’d like to be, because we also have big challenges in trying to fund the government.”

McCaskill acknowledged House members make the same complaint — that House-passed bills have little chance of getting debated or voted on in the U.S. Senate.

But, she said: “Most of those bills are not bipartisan. Most of them are ideological message bills.”

Although they have many philosophical differences, McCaskill said she and Missouri’s other senator, Republican Roy Blunt, agreed on most of the bills sent to the House, “so these are bills where compromise has occurred ... the way we used to do things.”

McCaskill said relations between senators of different parties are better this year than last. She thinks “a lot of the Republican senators figured out that just being obstructionist is not going to win them a lot of elections.”

She said her visits with Missourians convinces her that most want to be known as moderates, who want lawmakers to find solutions and compromise.

“They don’t want the far left or the far right hijacking these bills to make political points,” she said. “They want us to solve problems for them.”

McCaskill acknowledged the debate over the Affordable Care Act — also known as “Obamacare” — continues even as many of the law’s provisions kick in next January.

“I would love us to all work together, to improve it,” she told reporters Friday. “But the Republicans have been much more interested in using it as a political 2-by-4, to make political points, than they have been concerned about delivering accessible and affordable health care to 30 million more Americans who will get health care, under these provisions.”

McCaskill said Americans should be concerned about the growing Middle East tensions that forced a shut-down last week of U.S. and other nations’ embassies throughout the region.

“I think everyone needs to realize that national security is complicated in this era,” she said. “It is not about sovereign nations. It is about an ideology that is violent, and wants to cause our country harm.

“That’s why we’ve got to do whatever reforms we do in our intelligence gathering ... in a way that reassures America that we’re looking after their freedoms and their liberties.

“But we’ve also got to realize that Americans expect us to catch these guys.”

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