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MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid"s saying he thinks he has found the answer on health care, but can he convince 59 other senators he"s right? And can they, in turn, convince 218 Democrats in the House of Representatives? In a minute, U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich is going to be here, but first Democratic senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. She sits on the Commerce Committee and the Aging Committee.
I haven"t seen you in a while, Senator, so I"ve got to get an update.
First of all, I want to quote you a couple quotes of your colleagues. Here"s Dianne Feinstein of California, coming out of that caucus you had yesterday. "There was no explanation, it was sort of a, Go team, go," she described the meeting. Ben Nelson of Nebraska said, "General concepts, but nothing very specific at all."
So given, well, whatever you"ve got at hand, are you hopeful that you could vote for the health care bill that comes to the floor eventually, Senator McCaskill?
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: You know, I"m pretty optimistic. You know, we"re all waiting for the financial analysis because at the end of the day, that"s what this is all about. It"s about saving money for Americans on health care costs and saving money for our government in the deficit on health care costs. So we"ve got to look at the numbers, and as soon as we get the numbers, then I will make an analysis then. But I"m pretty optimistic. This is hard, though. This is really hard.
MATTHEWS: OK, how will it change America for the better to pass a health care bill? I"m going to give you half a minute here, but what is so good about this, the promise delivered of the Democratic Party for all these years going back to FDR? What are you going to deliver to the American people here?
MCCASKILL: We"re going to reverse a trend that is killing most families in this country, and that is they"re having to go in their pocket for more and more money for health care every year. We"re going to reverse that trend. We"re going to reverse the trend that is absolutely devouring us in terms of the deficit.
And we"re also going to bring some insurance companies to heel here. We"re going to stop some of the practices that have been so unfair, that have preyed upon people, make the system more competitive and more cost-efficient. So--but this is not easy stuff.
And by the way, people need to remember we are the governing party because we have diversity of opinion in our party. We"re not pure. We have moderates and we have more progressives. And the reason we"re governing right now is because we defeated moderate Republicans with moderate Democrats. And people need to be patient about that and realize that compromise is not evil.
MATTHEWS: How will it be different in the hospitals in America? Will we--after this bill is passed, as you see it now, will we still have a lot of poor waking people waiting in emergency rooms for regular general medical care?
MCCASKILL: Over time, we will see more and more of those people at clinics. We will see more and more of those people with a primary doctor and with affordable coverage so that we"re not paying the hidden tax that everybody"s paying now for those people in the emergency room. The most expensive care we can give right now, we"re giving those Americans without insurance. It"s kind of stupid that we"re fighting the notion that we want to quit paying a hidden tax and be up front about covering people in a way that is cost-effective.
MATTHEWS: Well, you represent the middle of the country, the heartland. I don"t think you get any closer to the center than Missouri. Are the people of your state behind you on this?
MCCASKILL: You know, there"s a lot of misinformation out there, Chris. The people are angry and cynical, in many instances for good reasons, and they are believing some of the stuff they"re hearing, that the sky is going to fall. I mean, this place is full of Chicken Littles right now. The sky is falling, if you listen to the Republicans.
But we"re going to pass this bill and the sky is not going to fall and things will be OK. And besides that, in Missouri, it"s a 50/50 state, so I"m kind of used to half the state being mad at me.
MATTHEWS: Well, let"s talk about the Democratic Party. You know, you have real progressives in that party, liberals. You even a socialist in there, an independent socialist, Bernie Sanders, who calls himself that. How do you keep that wing of the party happy without giving them what they want, which is really--what they really want is the start of, basically, national health insurance? They want the start of the government taking a hand in providing health insurance. That"s what I think. And they say so, some of them. How can you make them happy, the people that really want the government to begin to run some of this health care?
MCCASKILL: Well, no one"s going to be really happy here. That"s the process of legislating. It"s about compromises.
And I think the president really helps here. You know, people need to step back and remember, so many things this president is doing is what he campaigned on. This is what he said. And he said no universal health care, no single-payer health care. He said that during the campaign, that he was opposed to single-payer.
So, I think, as we have worked through the compromises in our caucus, the progressives understand that everybody"s going to have to bend a little to get to that final product that we can get across the finish line for the American people.
MATTHEWS: Will the president have a health care bill to sign come the new year?
MCCASKILL: Yes, I believe he will. Now, you know, we have no margin of error here. And everyone"s tired. And tensions are high. And it is a partisan food fight.
You know, this is a rip-roaring partisan food fight. So, I hope that everyone stays calm. But what I have been encouraged about is, everyone wants to stay and work. No one is complaining about staying here on weekends. And people are even willing to stay through Christmas, if we have to, to get this done.
MCCASKILL: And that"s a good thing.
MATTHEWS: Well, merry Christmas, Senator.
MCCASKILL: Merry Christmas to you.
MATTHEWS: Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, thank you. Thank you. for coming on HARDBALL.
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