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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript

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REP. JACK KINGSTON ®, GEORGIA: You know, Chris, I think it"s Nancy Pelosi"s last hurrah on the way out the door, pushing policies that have already been soundly rejected by the American people. The president, as you have pointed out, is starting to negotiate with Republican leaders and Democrat leaders in the Senate, some of the more responsible ones, and we"re trying to figure out, Well, what can we do? Where can we find a compromise?

But in the meantime, Speaker Pelosi on her own tear (ph) has decided, We"re going to bring this bill up on the floor, we"re going to get the Republicans one more time and play "I gotcha" politics, which is not what the American people want right now.

So it"s very disappointing to us, but we"re going to stand by principle. We believe this is about jobs, not about tax cuts for the wealthy.

MATTHEWS: Congressman Weiner, is that right?

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Well, if you"re in favor for a tax cut for people less than $250,000 a year, you vote yes. That"s the way it is. The problem is with my Republican friends, they don"t know when to take yes for an answer. You know, Jack Kingston, I think, supports the idea of giving middle class people a tax cut. That"s what we are going to put up to a vote.

Now, the only debate here is how you deal with tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires and people over $250,000. Let"s figure that out later, but for now, let"s stand up for the middle class in this country and let"s give them the one thing we all agree upon.

I don"t know what the problem is with that. The Republicans have gotten so used to saying no on every single thing, they"re even saying no on things that they essentially agree with, which is providing tax relief for people who make less than $250,000 a year.

MATTHEWS: You know, the people watching this might get the idea that this is for real, Congressman Kingston, but the fact is, we all know the Senate holds the veto card. The Republicans in the Senate can say, You"re not getting the vote, it"s not going to happen until we get the full vote. And I"m going to get to that. These senators--all the Republican senators have put out a statement last night, no vote on anything until you get a vote on a complete tax cut for everybody. Is that your position as a party?

KINGSTON: Yes. And the reason why, Chris, is because--and number one, I want to point out very emphatically that the White House is working with the Republicans in the Senate on this. And while they might not agree with everything, they do understand this is about jobs. And 750,000 of those people in that category are small businesses. These are sheet rock contractors and masonry people, people who sometimes work out of their house, sometimes work out of the back of a pickup truck. They have three or four employees, sometimes 15 employees. But we don"t want to increase their taxes. This is about jobs, and that"s why we"re making a line in the sand about it.

MATTHEWS: How do you deal with that Senate veto? I know you guys in the House have an attitude about the so-called upper house, as they see it, but how do you deal with that veto over there? If they say you"re not going to get a vote before the holidays, are you, Congressman Weiner, willing to have the House adjourn this year without getting the deal with these tax cuts? In other words, letting people--everybody"s taxes go up, if it comes to that. Would you fight that game of chicken right to the end?

WEINER: Well, you know, frankly, I"m sick and tired of hearing people in the Senate say, I"m going to hold my breath until I get what I want. If they"re going to filibuster, make them...

MATTHEWS: How"re you going to stop them?

WEINER: Make them filibuster--to start with, make them filibuster every step of the way. Look, I only have the ability to deal with one House at a time. And what we"re trying to do here--and I, frankly, agree with Jack. I"m OK to having a conversation about how you deal with people over $250,000. But let"s do the stuff we agree on first.

As far as the Senate, this is, frankly, a harbinger of what we have to come for the next two years, petulance on the side of Republicans who say, I want it my way or the highway. It"s--I"m sick and tired of this! The American people don"t want what the Senate Republicans want, so I say hold them up and make sure that they actually have these filibusters. I will wait here while they filibuster. But this whole idea--I think we"ve got to call their bluff once and for all.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you, Congressman Kingston, are you willing to go Christmas break or holiday break at the end of the year without having gotten a tax cut for everybody? Would you be willing to face recess, just walk away and say, If we can"t get the tax cuts for everybody, we"re walking? Are you willing to take that position?

KINGSTON: Yes. And I think we will come back on December 26th or whatever it takes to try to turn this economy around. You know, Chris, the reason why we"re here is because of the failed Obama/Pelosi economic plans, a stimulus bill of $800 billion that left us with 15 million people unemployed. You know, to paraphrase the name of a very popular TV show, this is the town of hardball.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KINGSTON: And the reason why--and I think Anthony and I together could probably cut a deal...

MATTHEWS: OK...

KINGSTON: ... but the reality is, in this town, if we say, Let"s just do the middle class right now, we"ll never get around to those small businesses that fall in that other category.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, let me ask you...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: What about the unemployment rate? I got to go to the jobless. We got two million people, I"m told, are going to lose their jobless benefits, Congressman Weiner, by the end of the year. I know you guys care about it, the Democrats" side, those jobless people. If this happens, if you don"t get a deal of some kind, the Republicans won"t let you vote on it in the Senate--and you say you don"t care what the Senate does. They"re screwing around over there. Make them stay with the cots, come in and sleep there all night through Christmas. Fine. But if they hold this fight to the fire as long as they intend to, you could go to Christmas break with no unemployment benefits for two million people, with taxes going up for every single voter who pays taxes. Is this a fight that you"re willing to take that far?

Again, back to my question, if you want to win the game chicken, you have to be willing to drive your truck right down the center lane, don"t you?

WEINER: Yes, but here"s the problem that we face. We as Democrats know that come January, Mr. Kingston, who might be the chairman of the Appropriations Committee--they"re going to be in charge. We"re trying to use whatever leverage we have. We believe--we were elected for two full years.

But I would just say to your viewers, understand this unemployment insurance that people are getting is way less expensive than what states are going to have to pay for people who become poor and can"t afford health care...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

WEINER: ... way, way less expensive than providing food stamps...

MATTHEWS: OK...

WEINER: ... for people, for example. The fact of the matter is, the Republican Party say they care about the unemployed, and then they say no unemployment insurance. That"s insane.

MATTHEWS: Well, not every Republican"s on board, but you just describe it in sort of cartoon terms of what Republicans are. Here"s moderate Republican senator Olympia Snowe today in a statement. Quote, "In urging Senate leadership to take up legislation to prevent a tax increase, I also call upon leadership on both sides to ensure that the expiration of unemployment benefits is seamlessly addressed so that there are no gaps for those individuals looking for work but unable to find jobs."

Congressman Kingston, isn"t that what the Democrats have against you guys? If you guys insist on a tax cut for the very wealthy people before you do anything else, aren"t you holding hostage the unemployment benefits of people who"ve been out of work for a long time?

KINGSTON: Well, first of all, remember, we"re not in the majority in either body at this time. It"s still a Democrat town.

MATTHEWS: No, but you"ve got the veto in the Senate. You"ve got the filibuster.

KINGSTON: Well, OK, that being the case, I think we could come together on extension of unemployment if it is properly offset. I would like to take the unused stimulus money, which is about $60 billion, and pay for it. And we do not need to continuously keep digging the deficit deeper and deeper. So there are ways we could get this thing done.

I think tying it into small business, not raising taxes on small businesses, which is what the Democrats want to do--I think that"s proper because the small business machines are what creates...

MATTHEWS: OK...

KINGSTON: ... most of the jobs in the economy.

MATTHEWS: Well, that"s like--you know, Congressman, with all due respect--you"re going to be chairman of Appropriations, as Congressman Weiner said--that sounds like a Democrat saying, All we need to do to reduce the deficit is to go back to the public option fight. That"s not on the table. The public option is off the table right now.

Let me go back to Congressman Weiner because I (INAUDIBLE) where you"re coming from. The president of the United States seemed to be going last night, after all those meetings yesterday, the kumbaya meetings, with something like a temporary extension for the rich people, a permanent extension of the tax cuts for people under $250,000, a complete extension of unemployment benefits and get back on the track with new START with the Russians. It looked like a deal was in the works there. Were you happy, at least willing to put up with that kind of a deal?

WEINER: Yes, I"d be open to that kind of a deal. But here"s what President Obama doesn"t understand, but I think the three of us in this conversation get. The Republicans aren"t going to say yes to anything. Their singular objective is not letting President Obama and the Democratic Congress have any accomplishments. They don"t care who suffers. As soon as President Obama understands that, I think we"ll all be a lot better off.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I don"t think you"re right because McCain is showing a little looseness here about new START. You"re beginning to hear people like Olympia Snowe getting nervous about unemployment benefits being denied people. I don"t know, I"m not as absolutist as you are. Are you absolutist over this, Mr. Kingston? Do you really believe that the other party is absolutist, that there isn"t going to be a deal before the recess, before Christmas?

KINGSTON: I don"t, either. You know, this is my 18th year up here. You two have been here many years. Chris, you"re here longer than either one of us.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

KINGSTON: We all know that--but you still look younger!

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

KINGSTON: The last two minutes of the basketball game is when the points are really added up and when the game is finalized. It"s the same thing in politics. And I"ve seen it under President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, Speaker Foley, Speaker Gingrich, Speaker Hastert...

MATTHEWS: OK...

KINGSTON: When we"re going home, that"s when the deals come together.

We"re going to get this thing done.

MATTHEWS: OK, what"s the...

WEINER: I just want to say...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Mr. Weiner, you"re the sharpest knife in the drawer, as far as I"m concerned, Mr. Weiner, so let me ask you the question. What"s the best deal you, as a liberal Democrat, think you can get going out for the holidays on these four issues--tax cuts, unemployment benefits, new START, whatever else you have on the list? What"s the best deal a liberal can get this year, given what we"re facing?

WEINER: I don"t know. I"ve come increasingly to the place that--you know, this is not a game. And I know Jack didn"t mean it like that. These are real people"s lives. We had people like Jon Kyl right from the beginning on the START treaty. Now he"s a no. We"ve got people like McConnell saying their singular objective is to make sure Obama doesn"t have a second term.

I think if we believe there"s going to be cooperation on anything from the Republicans, lesson after lesson after lesson have told us that is just artifice, it ain"t going to happen.

MATTHEWS: Well, it"s December 1st...

KINGSTON: Anthony, it will happen.

MATTHEWS: December 1st--we got a few weeks of this hell to pay before--by the way, I notice the Christmas advertisements all up, but the Christmas mood hasn"t quite arrived yet. Anyway, thank you, guys. Congressman Anthony Weiner, thank you, sir. Happy Hanukkah, sir. And thank you...

WEINER: Happy Hanukkah. Thank you.

MATTHEWS: And thank you, Mr. Jack Kingston, who"s about to--I just heard it. You"ve just been dubbed chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

KINGSTON: I"ve got Anthony"s vote.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well...

WEINER: I don"t think you want it.

MATTHEWS: Then you"ve got them all.

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