U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., held a town hall meeting in Farmington on Friday afternoon before a crowd of around 80 people who, for the most part, seemed to be middle-aged to older Democrats ready to cheer on the two-term lawmaker who will be facing her next run for reelection to the Senate in 2018.

In fact, if anyone in the audience pushed back against the centrist message McCaskill brought to Long Memorial Hall, it was a row of Bernie Sanders fans who several times expressed their displeasure with McCaskill's unwillingness to support single-payer health insurance, as well as what they saw as dishonest favoritism within the Democratic Party in choosing Hillary Clinton over Sanders as its 2016 presidential candidate.

"I know that you won't like what I'm about to say, but I don't think the federal government can afford to provide single-payer health insurance," she said. "There are Republicans I'm working with in the Senate who are trying to take a bipartisan approach to fixing Obamacare and stabilizing the insurance markets."

In most of her remarks, McCaskill took a decidedly bipartisan tack in which she often spoke of working behind the scenes with her Republican colleagues to work on areas like health insurance and tax reform.

"We definitely work on the tax code and lower the corporate tax rate," she said, "but the focus shouldn't be on just helping the wealthy 1 percent, but helping out the middle class that really needs it."

McCaskill spent the hour answering random questions selected from those provided by the audience prior to the start of the meeting, the vast majority focused on healthcare and the future of Obamacare ... but there was also a question asked about unions — she favors them — and government regulations, which she feels are often necessary, but overall, too great in number.

Surprisingly, McCaskill directed her strongest criticism toward the EPA, whom she said too often "overreach" with their regulations.

"They had one where they were trying to control dust on farms," she said. "Come on, anybody who's been on a Missouri farm in the middle of summer knows you can't do anything about the dust."

She also noted the EPA's failed attempt to regulate "navigable waters" in which the federal agency asserted that it could prevent a landowner from doing anything with a wetland that was near a ditch that eventually drained into navigable water.

As far as clean air and water regulations, she basically told the audience they were out of luck until there was another U.S. Congress, another president and perhaps even different Supreme Court justices.

When the town hall was over, McCaskill broached several other topics, including the nuclear impasse between the United States and North Korea.

"I think that the President unfortunately has elevated [North Korean Supreme Leader] Kim Jung-Un now," she said. "What he wants is to be seen as a world stage player and now we've kind of made him one.

"I know people say the rhetoric wasn't stopping the advancement of their weapons, but we're tracking it and we have the technology to intercept.

"I've traveled and (seen) the anti-ballistic missiles that we have in Alaska, South Korea, Guam as part of my service on the Armed Services Committee. I feel very comfortable with the technology that we have."

Asked her opinion of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, McCaskill said she learned as a federal prosecutor not to speak on a case until all the evidence is in.

"And all the evidence isn't in on this yet," she said.

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com


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