Senator McCaskill And The Budget

I e-mailed Senator Claire McCaskill a couple of days ago. Here’s what I wrote:

Please—please—do not make any more cuts in the budget (Democrats have made plenty) without getting something in return from the Republicans, like some concessions on taxes.  We can’t balance the budget without addressing the shortfalls in revenue.

Republicans have starved the government, causing a lot of the “crisis” today.

And as a Democrat, you have to believe that we can’t balance the budget by drastically reducing spending important to your constituents, particularly the most vulnerable among them.

I ask you, therefore, to lead the way in defending the least among us, as well as working and middle class Americans. Compromise with the Republicans, yes.  But don’t cave in.  Get a commitment from them that revenues have to be on the table before you agree to any more cuts.

And as the President suggested today, force them to remove the non-fiscal nonsense from the spending bills.

Thanks

Because this is the Internet, I have the luxury of posting her complete reply below (I also left in the writing errors), which was designed not as an answer to my specific question, but as a generic answer to “the way things are run in Washington.”  In other words, this response is a political response, which I fully understand with an election looming next year.

However, while I didn’t expect a personal reply from a busy U.S. Senator, I also didn’t expect a reply that essentially boasts about her lack of loyalty to the Democratic Party and misrepresents why people like me voted for her in the first place.

You will also notice that nothing in her response addresses my revenue concerns, although she does mention her joining together with “Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee to introduce legislation to hold all government spending to 20.6% of gross domestic product (GDP), the historical average over the last 40 years.” 

How hard would it have been, in that context, to at least mention the irresponsible Republican defense of tax cuts for the wealthy?

In any case, read it and weep liberals.  But remember that the moderate Senator McCaskill is the only horse we have in the upcoming race.  The alternative is unthinkable.

March 11, 2011 

Dear Mr. Graham,

Thank you for contacting me regarding the way things are run in Washington.  I appreciate hearing from you, and I welcome the chance to respond.

Missourians do not want a rubber-stamp for any President or party leader.  They want their representatives in Washington to represent their interests.  We are the Show-Me State, after all. As your Senator, I have worked to be an independent voice for Missouri.  I think my record bears that out; I vote against my party more often than almost any other Senator.

Most importantly, Missourians sent me to the Senate with a clear priority: address the size of our federal government and Washington’s runaway spending.  Missourians, like me, recognized that political jockeying had led to billions of dollars in pork-barrel spending, and that Washington was continuing to push off making tough decisions to put America on stable fiscal footing.  That is why since day one of my time in the Senate, I have fought on behalf of Missourians to get our Nation’s fiscal house in order.

One of the first priorities I set in Congress was to end the corrosive and corrupting practice of political earmarking of federal dollars.  I’m one of only a few Senators who has have never requested an earmark and one of only two Democrat Senators who refuse to seek them today.  For years, the earmarking process has been shielded from oversight and accountability, with funding for pet projects often being awarded based on political influence instead of merit.  I frequently oppose spending bills that are bloated with earmarks and have introduced legislation to ban earmarks.  I voted against the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008 and opposed an omnibus appropriations bill initially offered to fund government for this year that was, astonishly [sic], laden with earmarks.  In fact, I have never voted for one of these combined “omnibus” appropriations bills that spend too much and are packed with earmarks.

Since 2007, I have also consistently voted to reform and, more importantly, end earmarking. Most recently, in November 2010, I joined Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK), John McCain (R-AZ), and Mark Udall (D-CO) in forcing a vote on legislation that would ban earmarks through FY 2013.  In a landmark breakthrough, as a result of efforts like this and a clear message from Americans like you to end earmarking, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye recently announced that no earmarks will be included in appropriations bills this Congress.  Congress needs to be honest when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars, and this is a good first step towards that goal.

You will also be interested to know that I have worked hard over the last few years to install controls in the Senate to reign [sic] in spending in a broader way.  In 2009, I introduced a Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) bill (S. 1600) that would trigger across the board spending cuts unless all new direct spending or tax cuts are deficit-neutral (in other words, if politicians want to spend more, they can only do it if they can identify resources to pay for it).  I am pleased that the Senate went on to enact a similar version of my bill.  Also, early in 2010, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama and I joined together to introduce legislation to impose caps on discretionary spending for the next three years.  Unfortunately, this bipartisan bill, fell one vote shy of the 60 votes needed to move it forward.  Senator Sessions and I felt so strongly about this amendment, however, that we forced the Senate to vote on it four times and will continue to seek to get it passed — the Senate cannot be let off the hook on controlling spending and just like long term and consistent efforts to end earmarks have finally led to success, I hope a similarly sustained effort will lead to victory on capping spending on a bipartisan basis.

I was also pleased to support efforts to create a fiscal task force to study spending and our deficit.  This ultimately led to the creation of a bipartisan Fiscal Commission.  The report and recommendations of that commission, which won significant bipartisan support and was praised as courageous, represents an important marker in establishing a path to addressing the fiscal crisis in America and I am closely studying the recommendations.  I was particularly pleased to see the commission provide a comprehensive path to fiscal order.

As the 112th Congress opens, I will continue to fight to pass spending caps and work to see the recommendations of the Fiscal Commission fully considered.  Earlier this year, I also embarked on another bipartisan effort to limit spending when I joined Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee to introduce legislation to hold all government spending to 20.6% of gross domestic product (GDP), the historical average over the last 40 years.  This would decrease our federal spending by nearly $400 billion.  I am proud that the bill also eliminates oft-used budget gimmicks in order to take into account the true reality of our fiscal situation. I assure you that I will continue to seek other ways to address federal spending, with Republicans and Democrats who are willing to work together to address our nation’s debt crisis.

If the government is going to live within its means, I also believe we need to cut waste out of federal spending.  I have taken a hard line against any waste, from earmarks to no-bid contracts.  That is why, as Missouri’s former state Auditor, I came to the Senate and set my sights on fighting fraud, waste and abuse in government contracting.  In 2007, I worked alongside my colleauge [sic], war-hero Jim Webb, to create a modern day Truman Commission that would root out waste in war contracting.  The Commission on Wartime Contracting has been hard at work for three years now and the final report of their investigation is due this year.  In 2009, I was also made Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, a new Subcommittee I worked to create because of the clear need for more investigation into abuses in federal contracting.  From this post, I initiated an investigation into the waste and abuse at the hallowed ground at Arlington National Cemetery and demanded improved accountability of spending in Iraq and Afghanistan, among many other things.  I have been to able to pass legislation as a result of these efforts to address the crisis at Arlington, provide controls on private security contracting and limit loopholes in law that provide for unlimited sole source contracting to certain companies and this work continues.

I have supported other anti-waste initiatives as well, such as co-sponsoring a bill to create a line item veto and voting to establish “sunset commissions” to identify and eliminate government programs that are no longer effective.  Finally, I have worked consistently to protect whistleblowers both within and outside government who expose wasteful spending and to empower our nation’s primary fraud fighters, inspectors general.  In my first year in the Senate we, in fact, won a major strengthening of whistleblower laws for those who report waste at government contractors working for the Defense Department.

I want you to know that it hasn’t been an easy fight.  My fiscal reforms have received criticism from Senate colleagues and countless special interest groups since the day I arrived in the Senate in 2007.  But Missourians didn’t send me to Washington to make the easy choices. They sent me to be an independent voice for Missouri, and they are loud and proud about the need for fiscal responsibility.  Well, the buck stops here, and I will continue to fight tooth and nail to reign [sic] in our out-of-control federal spending.

Again, thank you for contacting me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance to you on this or any other issue.

Sincerely, 

Claire McCaskill
United States Senator

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