McCaskill speaks out on Libya, budget cuts at town hall forum

The Missouri senator believes the U.S. is helping Libya "behind the scenes."
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., answers questions on topics ranging from the new national budget to the bank bailout during her town hall meeting Wednesday at Columbia City Hall. McCaskill held town hall meetings across the state this week to answer questions and listen to Missourians voice concerns.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., advocated reducing the deficit and defended President Barack Obama’s policy on Libya at a town hall forum Wednesday in Columbia City Hall.

She said increased contracting oversight and cuts in military spending are necessary to balance the budget.

“Cuts have to happen,” McCaskill said. “They have to happen in the discretionary domestic budget, but they also have to happen in the discretionary defense budget.”

Ahmed El-Tayesh, who attended the forum and has family in Libya, asked McCaskill what she and the Obama-Biden Administration were doing to put pressure on Moammar Gadhafi, the Libyan dictator of 42 years who is engaging in violent crackdowns against protestors in the country.

“I’m not asking for troops," El-Tayash said. "I’m just asking for America to take a strong stand and Obama to take a strong stand against a dictator, a tyrant, a killer, a murderer of innocent people.”

McCaskill avoided specifics but said she was sure the administration was taking action behind the scenes. She explained she thinks the Obama Administration is doing its best to solve the complicated problem of Middle East conflict.

“The entire situation in the Middle East is very tricky, because the United States needs to monitor it, the United States needs to express its displeasure over innocent people ever having to suffer bloodshed because they want to be free, but at the same time we cannot be seen as meddling or trying to dictate to all of these nations what happens,” McCaskill said.

She went on to say it is important to help people who want freedom, but the U.S. government’s main focus should be on its own security.

“While we really want to protect the people of Libya and Egypt and Yemen and all of these places that want freedom, we also have to stay focused on our number one priority, and that’s our national security,” McCaskill said.

McCaskill said she thinks such events are best handled outside the public’s view.

“Sometimes, exerting political pressure is more effectively done in the area of foreign policy over the phone and in rooms far away and not on the front page of the newspaper,” McCaskill said.

She said she would rather see budget cuts to the Defense Department than tax cuts for the wealthy, but said she recognizes the deficit requires everyone to make sacrifices.

“Over the next 10 years, you should just assume that if you’re receiving funding from the federal government, it’s going to shrink,” McCaskill said. “You should assume that it’s going to shrink significantly, and I will be someone working to help it shrink.”

McCaskill said we cannot afford to do all we are doing now and budget cuts need to be made, but said she disagreed with the House’s recent budget cuts which are on their way to the Senate.

“Everybody needs to share the pain,” McCaskill said. “I am not somebody who believes that all has to come at the expense of the working poor and the middle class, which is essentially what most of the cuts they did were at the expense of.”

Jim Lambert expressed concern to McCaskill about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed last year with virtually no Republican support.

“While I certainly agree that health care needs to be reformed, it just seems like this bill has passed in a fast moment of time within the Senate without really debate or discussion, and essentially got shoved down people’s throats,” Lambert said.

McCaskill said the bill was debated extensively in the Senate and includes many positive provisions which people who have not read the bill are not aware of.

She said House Republicans were essentially shoving their proposed budget cuts down American’s throats by passing it without bipartisan support. She said she thinks both parties should work together to support the working class and make decisions that help all Americans.

“They voted on a partisan basis, not one Democrat voted for what the Republicans did in the House of Representatives,” McCaskill said.

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