MSNBC "HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS" INTERVIEW WITH REP. GARY ACKERMAN (D-NY); REP. PETER KING (R-NY) INTERVIEWER: CHRIS MATTHEWS
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MR. MATTHEWS: Joining us now, two members of the House Financial Services Committee, Democratic member Gary Ackerman of New York and Republican Congressman Peter King, also of New York.
Gentlemen, thank you for joining us.
What do you make of this, Congressman Ackerman? The agreement apparently is a $789 billion deal between the House and the Senate. It's between Harry Reid and Speaker Pelosi. It's got some compromises in it. There's going to be less spending on education than the House bill had, and health care, less on that. And a greater chunk of the bill, about 40-some percent, is going to be tax cuts.
Let's take a look at what Harry Reid says first, the leader in the Senate. Here's what he said.
SENATE MAJORITY LEADER HARRY REID (D-NV): (From videotape.) Like any negotiation, this involved give and take. And if you don't mind my saying so, that's an understatement. Legislation is the art of compromise, consensus-building. And that's what we did.
MR. MATTHEWS: Congressman Ackerman, are you confident or do you believe that the Democrats, especially the liberals, will go along with this new arrangement, this new compromise?
REP. ACKERMAN: I think so. I think, with some strong, dynamic leadership, which we do have in the House, I think the Democrats will go along with it. We haven't seen all the details. Of course, the devil is in the details. But I think most of us know that you have to have a bill, and we've got to do something, and this is as good a plan as anybody's going to come up with. And we're going to have to provide the votes to do it. Hopefully we'll have enough Republicans to give it some bipartisan support.
MR. MATTHEWS: Do you mean that, Congressman? Do you think the Republicans -- looking at it from your side of the aisle, do you see some moderate eastern Republicans jumping aboard?
REP. ACKERMAN: Well, I'd like to think so. I know when President Bush needed some help and he reached out to the Congress and we had to supply a lot of money, there were a lot of Democratic votes that were there. We tried to act in a bipartisan fashion to do what's right in the history of the country, and hopefully that's what's going to happen. When push comes to shove, we'll see at vote time.
MR. MATTHEWS: Congressman King, three Republican senators -- Specter, Snowe and Collins -- are aboard this deal. They're the requisite number to get that vote up in the Senate, that 60 votes they have to get. How about the House? No Republicans the first time around. Will the compromise deal hold with any Republicans, like yourself?
REP. KING: Like Gary, we haven't seen it. I would say it's probably unlikely, but I really can't speak for others. My own case, based on what I've heard second-hand, third-hand, there's probably still too much spending in it as opposed to actual tax relief and focused infrastructure funding. But again, we have not seen it. This is definitely a deal behind closed doors, and we'll probably find out later tonight or tomorrow what's in it. And I wouldn't expect to see too much Republican support. But again, we haven't seen the details yet.
MR. MATTHEWS: Well, Congressman, let me ask you about -- Congressman King, let me ask you and then Congressman Ackerman. It seems to me if, a year from now -- we can say all we want, but a year from now is the acid test, because the voters are going to vote for Congress next year. They're going to decide whether this thing is turning around or not. And if it looks like it's turning around, I guess the president will get some credit. If it's not turning around, I guess he'll get some blame -- a lot of it.
Where will you be if it does begin to turn around? Won't the Republicans be off-base in not having supported this --
REP. KING: Oh, the --
MR. MATTHEWS: -- if things turn around?
REP. KING: Well, first of all, all of us hope that it does turn around. If the economy does turn around, then the debate will be is it because of the President Obama recovery plan or was it something that was happening anyway? Was it forces that were already in place? And that'll be the debate.
I mean, we had this back in 1993 and 1994 with President Clinton's tax plan at the time, and it actually hurt the Democrats at the polls in '94. But again, Chris, that's really off a year from now. And, you know, I have to do what I think is right now. Gary has to do what he thinks is right. And a year from now, a year and a half from now, we'll have the debate over whose policies were better and what brought it about, which I do hope, sincerely hope there is recovery.
MR. MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Congressman Ackerman, will you blame the Republicans, if you've had a good turnaround next year, for having opposed this only game in town, this economic recovery bill?
REP. ACKERMAN: Well, I think that's up to the public. And I think the public certainly will blame the Republicans if the economy turns around, as Peter and I both hope that it will. You know, it's not really the blame game. The public will draw its conclusions. I know that when we did a lot of tax cuts, which we did under the Bush administration, the question is, how did that work out for the American people? And I think the answer was disastrously.
I think a stimulus package has to have a lot of spending. Tax cuts are not very stimulating, although they're welcomed by the people who get them. We'd all like them. But we understand that we've got to get money into the system and we have to get public confidence up. The blame game is something we do play here in Washington, and we're going to see that at play in spades.
MR. MATTHEWS: Well, let's take a look at Mike Capuano, the congressman from Massachusetts, Tip O'Neill's old 8th congressional district. Here he is whacking the financial industry in New York in today's hearings -- whacking away at them.
REP. MICHAEL CAPUANO (D-MA): (From videotape.) Basically you come to us today on your bicycles after buying Girl Scout cookies and helping out Mother Teresa, telling us, "We're sorry. We didn't mean it. We won't do it again. Trust us." Well, I have some people in my constituency that actually robbed some of your banks, and they say the same thing.
The problem I have is that honestly none of us -- America doesn't trust you anymore. Start loaning the money that we gave you. Get it on the street. And don't say, "Oh, well, we're not using that money for bonuses." Come on. Money is all of a sudden not fungible in your entities. It's fungible everywhere else, but not in your entities. Get our money out on the street.
MR. MATTHEWS: Well, Congressman Ackerman, is that demagoguery, or has he got a point? I mean, it's not like the old days of Mr. Potter at the bank was sitting on a million bucks and deciding whether to lend it or not. From what I understand from the experts, it's the inability of banks to get money to lend.
REP. ACKERMAN: Well, I'm not sure if it was demagoguery, but it certainly was stimulating. And he was trying to stimulate these guys to put the money out. We gave it to them for that purpose. And for them to sit on it, make their balance sheets look better, do bottom- fishing and buy cheaper institutions and other banks so that they can make more money down the end and make their balance sheet look better, is unconscionable when people are hurting.
People are looking at, as he pointed out, to sending their kids to school, and they need college loans. They need to buy cars. They need to lease cars. They need to buy homes. They need to refinance.
They need to pay off their credit card debt and go about life as usual. We provided tens of billions of dollars to do that, and it went into the pockets of a bunch of greedy people. Demagogue away, as far as I'm concerned.
MR. MATTHEWS: But I don't understand. Why would you tell a business person who makes money by knowing how to make money -- that's what they do for a living, by the way, these bank presidents. These aren't honorific titles. They're supposedly good and have some moxie. If they can get 7 percent on a jumbo mortgage right now, that's a pretty good return these days.
Why don't they lend the money? Why do you have to tell them to do it? I don't get this stuff. If there's money in banking and these guys all have nice suits and live well, and they've been smart in the past, why don't they lend the money in their own interest? I don't get it.
REP. ACKERMAN: Well, first of all, they know how to lend money, but what they do is know how to make money. And they're making money for themselves. They're not putting it out in the streets. And what they're doing by raising rates at this critical time, when we're looking to drum up more business and have public confidence, is they're acting like war profiteers.
They're raising the rates. They're lowering people's credit lines. They're taking away lines of home equity that have been well- established by people who have personally done nothing to violate the terms or conditions of their own personal loans and are yet suffering from this. These people have to sometimes be yelled at and scolded. They have to be reminded. They (say they ?) get it.
MR. MATTHEWS: Congressman King -- okay, Congressman King, let's talk about the free enterprise system and the notion we have that smart, rational thinking and, let's face it, self-interest works for the whole country. It's the basic belief of American life that the self-interest of a business person is good for everybody. How come now we don't trust that anymore?
REP. KING: Well, I think we should more than -- I would more than Gary does, put it that way, because the banks -- I'm not here to defend the bankers. They are in a tough situation that the regulators are requiring them to have more reserves before they lend, so they're sort of caught in a Catch-22.
Also we see how difficult this is, because Treasury Secretary Geithner, who was one of the architects of the original TARP plan, has had almost four or five months now and he still has not come up with a plan which can, in effect, force the banks or put more pressure on the banks to loan this money out. So it's not as simple as Gary and some of the others are making it out to be, as Geithner, I think, proved yesterday with his speech.
Also, if I can say, I do look forward to the debate next year with Gary on tax cuts. It was not tax cuts that caused this problem. It was a crisis of credit, and that's a whole different issue. And I look forward to that debate next year.
But on this, no, I think it's unfair to be piling on the banks. Listen, some of their abuses have been horrible. The corporate jets, the extravagant bonuses, all of that is indefensible. But as far as the loaning of the money, one of the reasons they got in trouble was for loaning too much money out. Now we're saying they should loan it, and they're getting pressure from us to loan it and they're getting pressure from regulators not to loan it. We have to come up with a happy medium. And I think that's what Geithner is trying to do, and so far he hasn't been able to come up with a plan that does that.
MR. MATTHEWS: Yeah.
Congressman Ackerman, who do you trust less, bankers or that guy selling peanuts? (Laughter.)
REP. ACKERMAN: If the peanuts are salted, it tastes a lot better. But this is getting pretty bitter. I'm not trusting the bankers. They've not earned our trust right now. They're hording this money. And it really should not be their decision to make. The American taxpayers are putting this money up. It's their hard-earned money coming out of the taxes that they pay, hoping to stimulate the economy and get things jump-started again. These guys are not doing that. It should not be their policy to make. We are making public policy, gave them billions, and they're basically sitting on it and taking it home in bonuses.
REP. KING: Chris, that's why I --
MR. MATTHEWS: Congressman King, I've got to ask you a political question. This is "Hardball," and you're a pal of the show. Are you running for the Senate?
REP. KING: I'm certainly looking at it, and I very well might. It depends. If I think the money is going to be there, I will run.
And again, getting back to Gary's point, though, I look forward to Tim Geithner, what he's going to say, because, again, it is not that easy to get the money out there. If Geithner thought it was, he would have proposed it yesterday instead of backing away the way he did.
As far as the Senate, Chris, I will announce it on your show.
MR. MATTHEWS: Please do. We've just accepted that as an offer. We'll start the show with you.
REP. ACKERMAN: He'd make a great candidate.
REP. KING: Or I may endorse Gary Ackerman. You never know.
MR. MATTHEWS: Okay, Gillibrand versus King. Thank you, Congressman Gary Ackerman, thank you, Congressman Peter King, both of New York.