Claire McCaskill touts bipartisan record, opposition to earmarks

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill on Tuesday defended her stand against congressional earmarks, calling the system “shockingly flawed.”

In a meeting with The Kansas City Star’s Editorial Board, the Missouri Democrat acknowledged that her stance caused “awkwardness” when she first announced it.

“People were used to the Kit Bond earmark model,” she said. Bond, the former four-term GOP senator, was a champion of earmarking.

McCaskill said she does help Missouri interests compete for planning money and other federal funding grants — and pointed to planning money she helped obtain for commuter rail in the Kansas City area.

She said she’s not hearing as many complaints these days as she once did about her position, which has gained favor with many members of Congress in recent years.

She repeated her stand that many Missourians will be “pleasantly surprised” with the new federal health care law, although she admitted that her position in favor of the new law is like playing with nitroglycerin.

“It’s the most powerful political argument used against me,” she said.

Asked if she’s pleased that her Republican opponent is U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, McCaskill said she would wait until after Election Day before talking about the “gleeful” aspects of the Senate race.

She insisted that Akin supports the original Paul Ryan plan for Medicare, which did not offer seniors a choice of the current Medicare system in the range of insurance options.

“He has not backed off that one iota,” McCaskill said.

And she espoused a track record in the Senate that she said includes lots of bipartisan work with the likes of Republican senators Rob Portman of Ohio and Marco Rubio of Florida.

She vowed to continue her focus on government contracting, which she described as once full of fraud and abuse, and she said she favors a new way of congressional redistricting in Missouri. McCaskill said she backs the Iowa model, which attempts to take partisanship out of the process.