U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill voiced her opposition to “Medicare for all” legislation and a reluctance to back a censure of President Donald Trump as the Missouri Democrat continued her town hall tour through a state that went for Trump by double digits.
The first question McCaskill faced at a town hall Thursday at the American Legion in Warrensburg was whether she would support censuring the president following controversy about Trump’s response to violence by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va. last weekend.
The president has said that the “alt-left” also bears responsibility for the violence and has opined that there were “fine people” on both sides of the conflict, which left three dead.
“My job isn’t to fight the president. My job is to fight for you,” McCaskill said, contending that if Congress made opposition to Trump its sole focus it would impede its ability to pass legislation to improve the daily lives of Missourians.
The issue of growing racial tension in the country resurfaced a half hour later when a constituent, who identified herself as “a white, conservative woman,” asked McCaskill about the push to remove Confederate statues around the country and complained that conservatives are being stereotyped as racist in the media.
The conflict in Charlottesville stemmed from a decision by the city to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Days after the clash in Virginia, protesters in North Carolina illegally toppled a Confederate monument in Durham.
McCaskill said that people who destroy public property such as statues should be prosecuted, but also stated that local communities should have the ability to determine which statues to put up or take down.
She warned against stereotyping on both sides of the issue and assured the woman that no one in the room thought she was racist, which drew some jeers from the crowd.
McCaskill repeatedly emphasized bipartisan work and criticized the media for not highlighting “any of the good stuff” happening in Washington.
She noted that the previous day Trump signed her legislation that was co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, to ensure World War II veterans who were experimented on with mustard gas can obtain their benefits.
Republicans have repeatedly accused McCaskill of posturing herself as a moderate on her town hall tour only because the election looms a little more than a year away.
“She’s widening the umbrella,” said Robyn Kuhlmann, a political scientist from the University of Central Missouri, who observed the town hall. “That’s normal. She’s coming on an election. … She already has her far-left supporters. They’re not going to go anywhere.”
The Democrat’s willingness to venture into Republican-leaning strongholds like Warrensburg was touted by Larry Province, the American Legion post’s board member who introduced her.
“She’s got a reputation for going anywhere in the state, listening and getting chewed on, whatever,” said Province, who praised McCaskill as the most candid woman in Washington.
McCaskill rejected the progressive policy goal of enacting a “Medicare for all” system to provide universal health coverage as financially unrealistic.
“We have a huge debt in this country. It is irresponsible of us to expand the program that is driving the debt the most in a way that is unsustainable financially for this country,” she said.
McCaskill faces a primary challenge from political newcomer Angela Earl, a 31-year-old Democrat from St. Louis County who is building her campaign around her support for a single-payer health care system.