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McCaskill: Dems need to be clearer to public that it's the GOP who are playing games

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 27, 2010 - U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said today that President Barack Obama and his administration will continue to try to work with Republicans in Congress.

But she added that the White House needs to do a better job of telegraphing those cooperative efforts to average Americans, so that they know who's trying and who's not.

The Obama White House "tried to cooperate or cajol, and not say, 'My way or the highway,' " McCaskill said in a conference call today with Missouri reporters.

She expects the administration to continue to attempt bipartisanship. "I think he'll continue to try to compromise,'' McCaskill said, adding that's in the line with what the public wants to see.

"People want us to work together,'' she said.

Still, McCaskill acknowledged that "some games'' are being played by her Republican colleagues, especially since they've seen election gains by blocking Democratic proposals, and asserting to the public that Obama and the Democrats controlling Congress are blocking any Republican input.

She was particularly critical of Republicans who had co-sponsored her proposal for a deficit-reduction commission, but then bailed on the final vote. The measure fell seven votes short Tuesday of the 60 votes needed for passage.

McCaskill asserted that the defecting GOP co-sponsors, including 2008 presidential nominee John McCain, R-Ariz., "abandoned" their principles and promises.

“If they were at the Winter Olympics and they were doing the slalom ski jump in terms of a flip flop, they would have gotten a '10,' " she said. "There were six of them I believe that were co-sponsors of the legislation and then walked away from it."

She continued that she feared those Republicans switched sides solely because they thought it was better to make Democrats look bad, than to support deficit-reduction efforts.

During the eight years that Republican George W. Bush was president, McCaskill said, Senate Republicans killed off the congressional deficit-reduction procedures in place -- such as "pay as you go'' -- that had been used in the 1990s by Democratic President Bill Clinton's administration and the GOP-led Congress to produce federal budget surpluses.

But after eight years of a GOP spending binge, she said the same senators now are shouting that something needs to be done by cutting spending.

What Americans need to be reminded by Democrats, McCaskill said, is that the Republican approach under Bush didn't work. "The tax cuts to the very wealthy didn't produce job growth," and less regulation of banks "led to a near meltdown" of the nation's economy.

If the GOP success hinges on "the failure of President Obama,'' McCaskill continued, then such politicking is "a hollow exercise and not what we were elected to do."

"I'm an optimistic person. I don't believe the American people are going to put up with that,'' McCaskill said.

If the Democrats and Obama make it clearer to the public that it's the Republicans who are not cooperating, McCaskill said she was confident that voters would wise up and reject Republicans at the polls.

On other issues, McCaskill said:

-- The Democratic-led effort to pass a health-care bill isn't dead, but she advocates that Congress focus on delivering scaled-down changes if the House isn't going to OK the Senate bill as written.

McCaskill said she would support "reconciliation,'' a procedure that requires only 51 Senate votes, only for broadly supported health-care proposals like barring insurers from using pre-existing conditions to deny care to children.

-- She supports the confirmation of Ben Bernanke for another term as head of the Federal Reserve. His tenure expires Sunday, and some senators in both parties want to block a second term because they blame Bernanke for some of the nation's economic troubles. Sixty votes are need.

However, McCaskill said that the Federal Reserve needs to operate in a more transparent manner, so the public has a better understanding of what the Reserve is doing, and why.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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