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Public Statements

MSNBC "The Ed Show" - Transcript

Interview

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Let"s bring in Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts.

Good evening, Congressman.

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Good evening.

HAYES: What is your feeling right now about what the ultimate outcome of this? We"ve sort of been down this road a bunch of times just in this year. What do you thing political dynamics are at play and are we going to avoid a shutdown?

FRANK: I don"t know. Clearly, John Boehner doesn"t want a shutdown as he indicated, but the problem is, as I"ve said before, if the president and Senator Reid were negotiating with speaker Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell, it would be one thing. They are, in fact, negotiating with Boehner, McConnell, the white rabbit and the mad hatter.

And when you get people in there--and by the way, the issue we have here is not simply the number of Tea Party people. We just heard Michele Bachmann who was seriously delusional, this notion that the Democrats have a goal of a shutdown is just bizarre. That"s on par of inaccuracy of the battles of Lexington and Concord into New Hampshire.

But you have more than just the Tea Party themselves but most Republicans who are terrified of losing in a primary to somebody who is a little crazy and this is the problem. Many Republicans would like to have a compromise but it"s not clear in the end that their fear of losing to an extremist in a primary will give them the ability to do it.

And from the standpoint of the Democrats, these people won the last election. I wish they hadn"t. They did. They are entitled to a lot of influence.

They are not, in the American Constitution, entitled simply to write the bill. Ironically, these Tea Party people seem to think they"re in England where on election day, if you win a majority in the House of Commons, you are in total control. But under the American Constitution, we have checks and balance. You have two-year, four-year and six-year terms. At any given time, it is people from several elections who have the right to govern.

And so, when you look at the extremism of what they are asking for and the constitutional invalidity of their issue, there"s a limit, obviously, to what we can do. And I was encouraged to hear that the public is prepared to give them some of the blame.

So, I honestly don"t know all the logic, all the rationality is that you don"t have a shutdown. But logic and rationality unfortunately are not governing the Republican Party today.

HAYES: But I want to ask you about this mad hatter dynamic, because that seems like the sort of core of the issue here. There is--Boehner has this kind of negotiating lever which is borne of precisely that fact. That"s a sizable part of his that appears to be quite extreme, unreasonable, perhaps, that people are cowered by these primary threats.

Hasn"t that already sort of delivered him concrete gains in the negotiating thus far?

FRANK: No, not necessarily. That group won the last election decisively. And so, that"s what you are seeing.

But it is interesting about John Boehner. He--I heard him criticize the president for lack of leadership. The most feckless leader in Washington today is John Boehner. Time and time again, he has said something and the Tea Party people back him down.

And no, that is not giving him any--as far as we"re concerned, I think frankly it"s fear that he"s going to be driven by these extremists into an unsustainable position and pay a price for it.

HAYES: Congressman Mike Pence has said that this is not the same environment as 1995. And that"s, obviously, the sort of touchstone for everyone in this.

How do you see the politics playing out of this, just in terms of the dynamics of the two caucuses in the House if we actually come down to the brink and there is a shutdown?

FRANK: Well, let me agree with him in one sense that I think goes against what he would like to do. And he"s talking about a shutdown.

We are in several wars. Now, I wish we weren"t. But we should be out of Afghanistan, we should be out of Iraq. We should not have let ourselves be the primary initiator in Libya.

But when the country is engaged in these wars, shutting down the government is particularly damaging. Yes, the troops continue to be paid, but a government that"s coping with the shutdown is hardly what you would want to have at your back if you have troops in the field.

As far as the politics are concerned, I think the Paul Ryan budget has helped us. The public now understands what the Republicans are trying to get--to end Medicare. Let me give you a smaller example in the area where I have been concerned, financial services. Their budget would un-fund in effect financial reform.

If their budget numbers were to pass, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission couldn"t do anything about derivatives. We couldn"t do anything about what we"ve put into the bill to try to stop speculation which helps to drive up oil prices. You couldn"t get the protection of investors.

And more and more of that is going to be discussed. I"m going to have a press conference to talk about it tomorrow.

I think, as people now understand, that what these people are trying to do is, as you said, let defense keep spending money in an almost unlimited way. Let America be the first responder for the whole world, including for people who ought to be able to defend themselves. But cut Medicare, make it harder for middle income or lower middle income people to go to college, un-fund financial reforms so that we can--we deregulate derivatives.

I really believe now, most of us are confident that now that the public fully understands the stakes here, they are going to pay a price if their irresponsibility leads to a government shutdown.

HAYES: Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, proud Massachusetts man who knows his Lexington and Concord--thanks for a lot of your time tonight.

FRANK: Thank you.

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