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MSNBC "Hardball With Chris Matthews" - Transcript

Interview

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First of all, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, this new poll out is fascinating. "The New York Times"/CBS poll asked, "Do you think most members of Congress have done a good enough job to deserve reelection or do you think it"s time to give new people a chance?" While 8 percent said most members of Congress deserve reelection, 81 percent said it"s time for new people. Does that hurt the Democratic majority, that poll?

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Well, fortunately, voters don"t actually vote for generic members of Congress, Chris. They vote for real, live, flesh-and-blood members of Congress, and voters decide whether they like the job their member of Congress is doing on election day.

And we have members of Congress all over this country in all kinds of different districts who are reaching out and communicating with their constituents about the job we"re doing to move this country in a new direction. And they"re doing an effective job at that, and their individual polling shows that they"re getting support from their constituents. So the generic ballot never really means too much when it comes--compared the head to head.

MATTHEWS: Well, why--well, help me out here. Why do people say they don"t like Congress, they don"t like most members? Why do they keep saying that? Like, 81 percent say they don"t like the Congress people. Why would they keep saying that if they don"t mean it, or it"s meaningless?

REP. CHAKA FATTAH (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Chris, because they keep hearing...

SCHULTZ: No, I"m not...

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Congressman Fattah.

FATTAH: Chris...

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Congressman Fattah.

FATTAH: Chris, that"s because you keep hearing from people who are saying that we"re not getting anything done. Now, the truth is, you take someone who knows the Congress, a congressional scholar like Norm Ornstein, who says that this Congress has had a greater level of productivity than any Congress in the last 40 years, that the 125 bills we passed into law, the stimulus, the children"s health care bill, on and on and on, that this president has had a greater legislative success in terms of significant legislation than Lyndon Johnson or Ronald Reagan.

But nobody hears that. What they hear is the constant back-and-forth about we"re not getting anything done, and mainly that we haven"t gotten health care done yet. Now, we do know that it"s taken 100 years, seven presidents, and that this is the closest we"ve ever been, and a lot of us believe we"re going to get it done. But there"s this constant harping. And because the public is misinformed, their judgments are reflected in these polls based on wrong information and bad information.

MATTHEWS: Well, who"s this Democratic official...

SCHULTZ: I think...

MATTHEWS: ... who is quoted--Congresswoman, let me ask you this. There"s a Democratic official--I don"t know what that means--quoted in "The Politico" today that says that some Democratic House members actually believe that the White House wouldn"t mind at all having a foil. In other words, a Republican majority in the House that would serve their political purposes going into 2012. In other words, they"d like to see what happened with Bill Clinton back in "94 and "96. He lost the House in "94, but he won reelection in "96 running against the Republican Party Congress led by Newt Gingrich.

Is there any talk like that on the Hill, that they think the White House people--might be Rahm Emanuel (INAUDIBLE) Clinton White House--might be thinking, Hey, it"s smarter to run against Congress than have to defend it?

SCHULTZ: There really isn"t. I mean, that"s just absolutely ludicrous. That sounds like a staff person who"s a bit power hungry, who likes to draw some attention to themselves and curry favor with reporters.

As you know, I"m the vice chair of the DNC, spend a lot of time talking with the folks in the executive branch. As the vice chair of the DCCC, I spend quite a bit of time talking with my colleagues. There really isn"t the frustration that is being hyped in the media.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

SCHULTZ: We obviously--you know, the Founding Fathers, Chris, set up three branches of government, naturally, where there is some friction. And we"re not going to agree on everything.

But I mean, Chaka is absolutely right--Congressman Fattah is 100 percent correct. I mean, add to the list that he went through of "Cash for clunkers," which gave folks $4,500 back on purchase of a new car. You had a $700,000 jump in car sales. You"ve got additional funding for veterans. We have--in addition to the Recovery Act, we have statutory pay-go, which ensures--which was signed by the president today, ensures that the government can"t pay--can"t spend more than we take in. And that was shunned and actually allowed to lapse under Republican administrations.

So you know, now we"re going to be able to be in a position functionally and fiscally...

MATTHEWS: So...

SCHULTZ: ... to get back on our fiscal footing.

MATTHEWS: So Congressman Fattah...

SCHULTZ: That"s what people want to see...

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULTZ: ... the House, when you get in the cloakroom and you"re talking before--the congressmen and congresswomen on the House side, the Democrats, are not frustrated by the fact that you were forced to try to--force-fed the Senate bill on health, that you passed cap-and-trade only to know that the Senate wasn"t going to do it, that you"ve been left hanging, having voted for these tough measures that do have their enemies in the industry, and you took the steps of voting for health care, for cap-and-trade and things like that only to see those bills die in the Senate.

You"re saying there"s no frustration with that on the part of the Speaker.

FATTAH: No, I think what you heard when the president gave the State of the Union, he consistently applauded the House passage of the jobs bill, of the pay-go rules, on and on. If you go through the speech, there are probably a dozen times where he complimented the House for stepping forward.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FATTAH: And that"s what actually took place. See, some of these reporters, because of the snow, they"ve had to kind of create stories. The notion that the House...

MATTHEWS: You guys are unbelievable!

FATTAH: ... or the Speaker--that the Speaker...

MATTHEWS: The staff people and the press and the ignorant masses that are guilty of all this misperception.

(CROSSTALK)

FATTAH: Now, Chris, Norm Ornstein is one of the greatest...

MATTHEWS: OK.

FATTAH: ... congressional scholars. He wrote "The Broken Branch"...

SCHULTZ: But see, this is...

FATTAH: ... which went through the problems in the Congress. He"s not someone who"s uninformed. When he says we"ve been the most productive in decades, I think everyone has to...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FATTAH: ... take another look...

MATTHEWS: OK...

FATTAH: ... at this notion that we"ve done nothing.

SCHULTZ: You know, I mean, I think, though--Chris, I think House

Democrats recognize that our constituents are frustrated, though. It"s not

I do understand that Norm Ornstein is a respected individual and his opinion is valued. But our Democratic members have their fingers on the pulse of their constituents, and whatever frustration they have is directly related to the fact that we really feel an urgent need to focus on creating jobs and turning the economy around.

And you know, the--any frustration on the part--that is sensed on the part of the executive branch or the Congress is a result of that sense of urgency that we want to get there. We"ve got light at the end of the tunnel. We had, you know, unemployment at 9.7 percent...

MATTHEWS: OK...

SCHULTZ: ... under 10 percent now, 5.7 percent growth in the GDP. We"re moving in the right direction. But it is obviously frustrating because we have a long way to go.

MATTHEWS: So "The Politico" report stated as follows. Tell me this first, Chaka Fattah, and then--then Debbie. Let me ask you both these questions. This is what the report said finally. Quote, "What you"re seeing now in public has been building in private, said a top House Democratic official. House members did their work. They did everything the president asked of them, and it gets stuck in the Senate or the Senate screws it up."

Is that accurate, Mr. Fattah?

FATTAH: I think there"s been a lot of frustration about the pace in the Senate. But it"s because, as the president said, the Republicans have used the filibuster more times in one year than they"ve done over the last 30 years.

We understand the bottom (ph) there. We just want the Senate to maybe go to something kind of more American, like a 51-vote majority process, where they can move this...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FATTAH: ... move these issues along, versus a filibuster that allows the minority to stop even the simplest of measures to be able to move through the Senate.

MATTHEWS: Congresswoman...

SCHULTZ: But Chris...

MATTHEWS: ... Wasserman Schultz, do you agree with that, we should get rid of the filibuster rule and let simple majority rule make decisions on important things, even important things like health care reform? Should that be open to a majority vote?

SCHULTZ: I think the Republicans" abuse of the process of the filibuster in the Senate definitely gives me cause for concern, enough to say that it should be reviewed and maybe only used for certain kinds of votes because they"ve absolutely abused the process, gone way beyond what the Founding Fathers...

MATTHEWS: Yes. OK.

SCHULTZ: ... envisioned when they set up the legislative process.

But at the end of the day...

MATTHEWS: OK...

SCHULTZ: ... you know, we"ve gotten a lot done all the way through to the president, and signed into law. So as frustrating that it might be that the Senate isn"t doing everything we want the way we want it, we have gotten a lot done for this country and we"re going to go out and talk about it. And I think House Democrats will be rewarded for it in November.

MATTHEWS: Well, you"re hard-working guys. Thanks so much for coming on this late Friday night in a week that everybody...

FATTAH: We need to play a little hardball! Thank you.

MATTHEWS: You"re both great people. Thank you, Congressman Chaka Fattah. Thank you...

SCHULTZ: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: ... Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

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