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Let"s start with my interview with Vice President Biden on the White
House"s last big push to pass health care reform.
Well, here we are in the Holy Land, Mr. Vice President. And the
president of the United States, your boss, has set a deadline for action
for action on the health care bill. It"s a holy deadline--Passover,
MATTHEWS: You"re laughing, but this is real. He wants this bill out
of the House by the end of next week.
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So do I.
MATTHEWS: OK, how are you going to do it?
BIDEN: I feel confident the Speaker will be able to get these votes.
Look--and everybody talks about this extraordinary process. This is a
bill that passed the United States Senate with 60 votes.
BIDEN: Sixty votes. To ask a majority of the members of the House to
pass it and somehow that be extra-judicial or extra-legislative is just--
this has been blown out of proportion. And it will be reconciled. That"s
you know, this so-called reconciliation process--only in Washington
does the word "reconciliation" mean war. I mean, you know...
MATTHEWS: So you"re confident. What would be the adjective right
now, going into next week, of this sort of last hurrah on this bill, the
Joe Biden, the vice presidential view?
BIDEN: I am hopeful.
MATTHEWS: You are hopeful it"s going to happen. Let me ask you, do
you think he"s succeeded? I could put this a number of ways, but do you
think the president and his people, including you, have done a good job
explaining this bill to the American people? And if so--and here"s the
hook--why are they so resistant to it in the polling?
BIDEN: Because it"s real complicated, Chris. It"s incredibly
complicated. Just explaining what a--the way in which the mechanism is
set up where everybody can buy into an insurance pool, be part of a--I
mean, people are--this is a complicated system.
And one of the things that the Republicans did very well, they spent
the month of August, last August, making a very strong rhetorical case
against it. They talk about death panels. They talk about all these
things that are absolutely ridiculous. When you ask people how they feel
about the bill, taking the constituent parts, they like it. But this is
MATTHEWS: Remember the loaves and the fishes?
BIDEN: I do.
MATTHEWS: The New Testament...
BIDEN: I do.
MATTHEWS: You probably know that story. A lot of people can"t figure
out how you insure 30 million more people, which a lot of the liberals--
and I certainly support that.
MATTHEWS: Everybody likes--I like, every progressive, says, Let"s
get 30 million people. How do you do that and lower the overall cost of
health care in this country?
MATTHEWS: How does that happen?
BIDEN: I"ll tell you how you do it. When you have everybody in the
game, you don"t have those 30 million people showing up in an emergency
room without any insurance to cover them, getting care, and you being
charged for it.
BIDEN: It costs you about a thousand bucks a year everybody has
insurance for those 30 million people.
MATTHEWS: But now they have a doctor. They have primary care.
BIDEN: That"s right.
MATTHEWS: They have dentists. They have all the other costs of
BIDEN: Well, what that does, it also saves billions of dollars in
preventative care. There"s overwhelming evidence that if people actually
didn"t wait to the last minute to deal with a crisis on their hands in an
emergency room, that it"d cost a whole lot less money to maintain their
health. And so, you know, it"s a little bit--let me give you one that
confuses the heck out of people. Why--how are hospitals going to do
this? We"re paying hospitals an extra bonus out of Medicare to take care
of people who don"t have insurance. If everybody walking in the door has
insurance, we don"t have to pay them the bonus and we can save that $100
MATTHEWS: Do you think they"ve done a good job of selling this?
BIDEN: No. We...
MATTHEWS: Why not?
BIDEN: Because it"s complicated!
BIDEN: I need another 20 minutes...
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
BIDEN: ... to explain it...
MATTHEWS: Do you think the White House staff"s been doing a good job
BIDEN: I do.
MATTHEWS: All I do is read these stories about Rahm Emanuel"s up,
he"s down, he"s got friends, he doesn"t have friends. Why are there so
many stories in the Washington press about the White House, looking under
the hood of the White House? Who cares?
BIDEN: Because for the first year, you couldn"t find any problems.
This is the first administration of eight presidents I"ve been with that
after one year, you don"t have stories about the fundamental division
within the White House and among the cabinet and all the rest. So they
didn"t--they couldn"t find it there, go inside. Go inside. You know,
look, this is--this is great theater in Washington.
MATTHEWS: OK, you want great theater?
BIDEN: This is good stuff.
MATTHEWS: Eric Massa"s leaving the House, right? He"s retiring--
from New York. He says that Rahm Emanuel went up to him in the gym when he
was stark naked and put his thumb on him and said, Why aren"t you voting
for the health care bill? That"s theater. Is the guy too tough?
MATTHEWS: Is Rahm Emanuel too tough?
BIDEN: No, he"s not too tough. And I--you know, I...
MATTHEWS: What do you make of that escapade?
BIDEN: Well, first of all, I have no idea if that happened.
BIDEN: All I know is the guy who said it happened has given three
different reasons why he"s leaving the House.
BIDEN: I don"t know! But let me tell you, Rahm Emanuel is smart,
he"s tough and he"s fair. He serves the president very, very well.
MATTHEWS: OK, let"s go to a question I know you care about. You"re a
you"re pro-choice on abortion rights. Ultimately, it"s up to the woman,
but you"re also (INAUDIBLE) with the Hyde amendment. How do we honor that
concern? I mean, a lot of people do fit that description. In fact, the
polls show most people who are pro-choice are against funding. Nancy
Pelosi"s given--made a strong statement during the Blair House summit,
there was no federal money here for abortion. Are you confident? Can you
BIDEN: I am confident. When that comes to a vote on the floor, the
health care bill, I am confident that it will be absolutely prohibited to
use federal funding to provide for abortion.
MATTHEWS: OK, here"s a tough question. The White House staff, you
say, has done a good job or not selling the president"s programs? How
would you describe (INAUDIBLE)
BIDEN: Oh, I think it"s done a good job. But look, I mean...
MATTHEWS: You think they"ve done a good job (INAUDIBLE) Here"s the
question. How come the Republicans bashed the brains into this president,
saying he did the bail-out bill, when Bush did the bail-out? Why do they
confuse the bail-out bill with the jobs stimulus bill and get away with it?
They keep doing this conflation trick they did to get us into war with
Iraq. They keep conflating the bail-out that Bush did with the jobs
stimulus bill, and the Democrats get blamed for it. I"m just asking.
BIDEN: What I keep saying in the White House--patience. Have a
little patience here. Things are beginning to turn around. They"re
beginning to turn around not only in fact in the economy, they"re beginning
to turn around in figuring out the Republicans are for nothing. What are
they for? What have they offered?
And it is true that when you see in the news every single night X
hundred billion dollars for banks, no matter who started it--no matter
who started it--it"s awful hard for the guy sitting at the kitchen table
in North Philly saying, Hey, man, I don"t have a job, and they"re giving
all this money to banks. This is a hard thing to sell until we start
actually every month seeing 100,000 created, 200,000 jobs created, the
economy moving. It"s going to move. Patience.
MATTHEWS: Well, as we say in Northeast Philly, shalom.
BIDEN: That"s not what you say in Northeast Philly! I know what you
say in Northeast Philly. I can"t say it on (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.
BIDEN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you for joining us.
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