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McCaskill Warns GOP Not To 'Overreach' On Keystone, Other Issues

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., says she learned a lot from her unsuccessful run for governor in 2004.
Sen. McCaskill's Flickr page

With Republicans moving quickly to show Americans the GOP can be both productive and bipartisan in leading Congress, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said Wednesday that if Republicans go too far in amending the Keystone XL pipeline bill, she might be forced to abandon her support for the measure.

While McCaskill differs with President Barack Obama and many in her party in backing the pipeline, she said that she would look closely at amendments Republicans might add to the pipeline bill. 

If Republicans try to “basically take all power away from the EPA or do some other really damaging things to the environment through the amendment process," she said, " it will be a very difficult decision in terms of final passage.”

In a conference call with Missouri reporters Wednesday morning, McCaskill said Republicans should not “overreach” on their first effort to get bipartisan results out of the Senate. "Overreach" is a word frequently used by U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and other Republicans when criticizing the administration’s rules on energy and the environment or the president’s use of executive orders.

In December, McCaskill voted against final passage of the $1.1 trillion federal spending plan, even though it contained several provisions she supported, after Republicans included amendments increasing the amount wealthy donors may contribute to political parties and reducing protections against Wall Street businesses practices some consider risky.

Environmental Groups, including 350KC, the Kansas City chapter of the larger climate action group, is hoping to persuade McCaskill, and other Senate Democrats who voted for the pipeline last November, to consider changing their position.

On watchdog role

McCaskill says she’s pleased to be back at work in Washington even though she’s “worried to some extent” over what she called the “obstructionism” of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, now the majority leader, when the Republicans were in the minority.  She says she hopes those “habits” have not become permanent.

On other issues, McCaskill says she hopes to work cooperatively with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine,  the new chairman of the Senate Committee on Aging. McCaskill is now the committee’s ranking member.

McCaskill says she also intends to continue what she called her “aggressive role of oversight” on such issues as reverse mortgages and prescription drug scams. “Sen. Collins and I are unified in terms of our desire to have a very productive work product.” 

McCaskill also says she plans to continue looking into wasteful spending as a member of the Armed Services Committee and a member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee. 

On immigration

McCaskill said she thinks it would be “terrific” if the House were to move on immigration legislation early in the new session. She noted that in the last Congress, the Senate sent the House a bipartisan immigration bill, which the House never took up.

The Senate bill was “one of the few strong bipartisan accomplishments, and I stay strong because everybody didn’t like it,”  said McCaskill, noting the bill went further than anyone had ever thought lawmakers would go in terms of border security.

“It required penalties and punishment for anyone who had broken the rules or the law; it required people to go through a lot of steps before they could go to the back of the line – not the front of the line.  It was thoughtful and was hammered out with a large bipartisan majority and the House never even bothered to debate it,” said McCaskill.

It is likely that Republicans will tie immigration legislation to future funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration. Lawmakers provided funding for the department only through March when they passed a funding plan for the rest of the government in the closing days of the 113th Congress.     

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