JOPLIN, Mo. —
At least two things she saw in Joplin need to be replicated in Washington, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said during a visit last week.
A strong spirit of cooperation among governments, agencies and people is driving Joplin’s rebuilding, she said.
And, after work by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Small Business Administration, AmeriCorps and other groups, the senator said there is a realization “that federal programs have a place.”
The climate in Washington has become particularly difficult in recent weeks, McCaskill said, citing serial standoffs over the debt ceiling and Congress’ inability to work together “on even the most basic issues.”
“In Washington, it’s so hard to get people to come together,” she said. “Joplin is an oasis of cooperation. No one seems worried about protecting their own territory; they’re just getting the job done.”
The senator was in town Wednesday to see the Missouri Disaster Recovery Jobs Program, in which more than 600 people who otherwise would be getting unemployment are working in debris removal and humanitarian jobs in Joplin and Duquesne. She also said she is working to support an application submitted by the Joplin Area of Chamber of Commerce and the Workforce Investment Board for a federal grant to build an information technology training center in Joplin.
She cited examples in Joplin showing “how federal programs really can help people,” contrasting that with calls from some in Washington to dismantle the federal government.
McCaskill said she believes significant cuts are needed in federal spending. But she said the cuts need to be made “carefully and thoughtfully, incrementally, to not disrupt the economic recovery under way.”
She said she and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., co-sponsored a bill to cap discretionary spending through 2014. She said the measure was supported by all the Republicans in the Senate, but it fell several votes short of the support needed from her fellow Democrats for passage.
“We’d be a lot farther along if we could have gotten that passed,” she said.
She said she has never been as discouraged as she currently is about the lack of compromise that is needed in Washington to get things done.
“Our Founding Fathers saw the need for compromise,” she said. “People think compromise is a sin, but it’s not. It’s needed to tackle difficult problems. We can’t even get enough cooperation to reauthorize funding for the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) or for surface transportation.”
She said there is bipartisan cooperation among lawmakers from several states who are working to address issues involving Missouri River flooding. She and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., are members of the group.
McCaskill emphasized her opposition to the long-standing earmarks procedure in which lawmakers get funding for individual home-state or home-district projects.
“I know we’re supposed to bring home the bacon, but I won’t do that,” she said. “Projects need to be evaluated on their merit, not according to what party you’re in or what committee you’re on.”
McCaskill, who is completing her first term in the Senate, acknowledged the Republicans who are lining up to compete for her seat in 2012. Thus far, potential opponents are U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, Ed Martin and Sarah Steelman.
Susan Redden is a staff writer for the Globe. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 417-623-3480, ext. 7258.