COLUMBIA — At her town hall forum Wednesday afternoon at Columbia's City Hall, Sen. Claire McCaskill picked residents' questions out of a wicker basket to decide which ones to answer.
This was the second of three town hall forums McCaskill is hosting across the state this week to collect Missourians' input on ways to bring more transparency to Congress. The senator stopped in Washington, Mo., on Monday and will be in Blue Springs on Thursday.
Sen. Claire McCaskill's proposals for "cleaning up" Congress and bringing transparency to Congressional processes included the following proposals, mentioned on a pamphlet she provided at the town hall forum:
New accountability for Congress
- Creating an independent watchdog for the Senate
- Reforming government-paid travel
Addressing the budget crisis
- End annual automatic Congressional pay raises
- Return at least 10 percent of office funds to the United States Treasury to help pay down our debt
The discussion was dominated by residents' concerns about the recent federal budget cuts and the economy. Below is a sampling of the questions and answers:
Aline Kultgen: What do you think about reducing the military budget significantly?
McCaskill said cuts have to happen in the discretionary domestic budget as well as in the discretionary defense budget. McCaskill insisted on the need to make cuts in the Pentagon budget of $550 billion a year. She said cuts need to be spread because forecasters predicted the country's debt will equal its gross domestic product in 15 years.
Missouri Association for Community Action: The House cut the community service budget last week by 44 percent, which means about $7.5 million less for Missouri. Do you think the Senate will be able to come to a compromise where that cut won't be quite that big?
McCaskill said she couldn't give a straight answer to this question even though she said she recognized her role was to reassure people. She said over the next years, citizens should assume funding they receive from the federal government will shrink significantly. However, McCaskill said she will work to make sure the efforts won't be made at the expense of the working poor and middle class.
Hamid El-Tayash: What is the administration in Washington doing to put pressure under the Libyan government right now?
McCaskill said the United States has to monitor the situation and express its displeasure about the violence in the Middle East without interfering in internal affairs. Such interference would cause negative reactions, McCaskill said. She said she was confident about the actions taken behind the scenes to make sure the young protesters who stood against Gadhafi's regime would be protected.