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Public Statements

MSNBC "Hardball With Chris Matthews" - Transcript

Interview

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REP. MICHAEL GRIMM ®, NEW YORK: Well, I will be honest with you.

It is more of what"s gone on outside than more of what"s been on the floor.

And that"s how much of a buzz and excitement there is from the general public, from America. I think everyone is very excited about this new Congress, and for good reason. You know, there"s a lot of work to be done. And I think the 112th Congress across the board is energized to do the job that needs to get done.

MATTHEWS: Mr. Richmond, your surprise sitting on the floor for the first time today?

REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D), LOUISIANA: Well, I won"t say I was surprised, but I will say it was very humbling, especially when you sit next to great American heroes, like John Lewis and other members of Congress, who really you watched and you read about in the textbooks, and now you"re actually serving in Congress with them.

So, it was a very humbling experience. But I think that--I think that the American people want to see it with all the attention on them, and the fact this they are waking up every day struggling. So, it is just an exciting time to be here.

And I agree that it has been a very wonderful day as a first day with family and friends and really just getting adjusted.

MATTHEWS: Mr. Grimm, Congressman, you go in there today to a--it is a virgin forest for you. You have never voted before in the House. And yet you are sitting around with guys and women who have been there for a long time.

You have made promises in the campaign, I"m sure, about reducing the national debt, reducing spending. All that spending is going on, notwithstanding the presence of all those veteran members. They have never cut it. They have had their chance. They haven"t done it before.

Why will they do it now? Why will you get them to do it? How will you get them to do something they have never wanted to do before, cut spending?

(CROSSTALK)

GRIMM: Well, I actually think the answer is simple.

For the first time, I think even the members that have been here for many years get the fact that this is the last chance. It doesn"t matter whether you"re Republican or Democrat. This is the last chance for Congress to redeem itself and to earn back really the respect of the American people, which it should have. And to do that, they have to simply do what they are supposed to do.

The debt in this nation is crippling us. It"s not just destroying us here. It"s impossible to keep this nation safe with this much debt. So, first and foremost, our job is to keep America safe. So, they have no choice and I think that they realize that and they understand why they"re here.

MATTHEWS: Mr. Richmond, it"s easy to say you want to do the people"s will and I just wonder what the people want. The latest poll we have says they wanted to tax the rich or cut defense. Republicans say they want to cut can entitlements. They want cut discretionary spending.

If you let the American people poll on this, would they cut the budget? Would they actually reduce Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Defense Department? Would they actually cut things? Do you think they would?

RICHMOND: No, actually, I think that especially in my area, that people really defer to the--to our judgment. Now, do I think that there"s a certain percentage out there? Of course, everybody will cut programs that are not important to them.

You will not find seniors in favor of cutting Social Security. You won"t find some people in favor of cutting Medicaid. But that"s what we"re going to have to come here and do. We"re going to have to make some tough decisions.

But the one thing I feel some comfort in is that the fact that I think that most Americans understand that the country is sick right now. We may not like the medicine we"re going to have to take, but we"re going to have to take it to make the country a better country. And I think that that"s what they want. And I know that as freshman coming in, we are a little idealistic in terms of what we can do.

MATTHEWS: Well, that"s good.

RICHMOND: But I do think that we are willing to work across the aisle. I think that we want to do what November 2nd I think taught me that was that American people want this entire conversation back on them. They don"t want to hear about Democrats or Republican. They want to hear about what"s going to change their quality of life.

MATTHEWS: Mr. Grimm, I don"t have a lot of faith in just plebiscites, you just vote the way the latest poll goes, because then you don"t need a Congress, just go with the win.

But look at the latest poll we got. Here is poll that shows that, in "Vanity Fair" and "60 Minutes," it says, cut--tax the rich, 61 percent say do that, 20-some percent say cut defense, cut Medicare, Social Security way at the bottom. The public, if you poll them, want to do the easier stuff, tax the people they aren"t, vet rich; cut defense, they are not in the Defense Department.

Can you just do what the speaker said today, just do what the people want? Do you think the people will vote the way you"re going to have to vote and actually cut programs? Would the average person in Bay Ridge or Staten Island walk into Congress and start cutting Social Security, Medicare and the Defense Department? Would they do that?

GRIMM: I don"t think it"s as simple as that. And I think when they actually look at and look at all the factors, they--you know, most people, what they want is prudence. They want someone to sit down and pragmatically make decisions that are reasonable and are responsible for this nation.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GRIMM: Like let"s talk about defense. You know, if you ask someone, would you cut this defense knowing that it may make us weaker and opens up to another terrorist attack? I think they"re going to say, no, let"s not do that. Remember, that the federal government"s first job is to keep us safe.

MATTHEWS: I agree.

GRIMM: So, you can"t just--

MATTHEWS: It"s hard, isn"t it?

GRIMM: No, this is a tough job.

MATTHEWS: So, where do you cut? Where do you cut?

GRIMM: Well, everywhere you possibly. And I think my colleague said it well. The one thing that I have faith in the people is that they realize that cuts are going to be coming across the board. A little bit from everywhere is going to have to be part of it because everyone is going to have to share this pain.

The reality is like a family--like a family at home. They have to manage the household. So, we in Congress have to manage our household here for the United States.

MATTHEWS: OK. You represent a great district, Mr. Grimm. And so do you, Mr. Richmond. They"re both districts I know well. Just imagine representing Bay Bridge/Brooklyn, what an honor that is. Dewey Carey (ph) had that honor. Paul Attanasio should have had that honor.

Anyway, thank you, Michael Grimm. Thank you, Cedric Richmond. Sir, gentlemen, congratulations.

A program note, by the way, tomorrow morning at 9 Eastern, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs joins Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie on "THE DAILY RUNDOWN." He"s leaving the White House. He"s coming to MSNBC tomorrow morning and we support Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie here.

Up next, with the Republicans control the House, how will they govern? And what does it mean for President Obama with the Republicans running one of the houses of Congress?

This is HARDBALL.

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