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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript

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REP. FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW JERSEY: Exactly.

I think the key here is, is Cantor going to allow the traditional process when we have disaster aid? And that is to have an emergency supplemental appropriations bill which appropriates the money without going
through the regular budget process, so that it immediately goes out to the states and the people in need.

He has not indicated he`s willing to do that. And I think he`s indicating just the opposite. And that`s not what we do. When we have a disaster, we don`t hold the budget process hostage, if you will. We say
we`re going to do an emergency appropriation. We`re going to get that money out right away.

And that`s what we`re going to demand. And the fact he does not -- may not be willing to go along with that is pretty tragic, given the need.

SMERCONISH: And here come now the politics associated with the issue. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee challenged 25 East Coast Republicans whose districts were hit by Irene to stand with Cantor or to publicly oppose him.

And we have got an example. "Will Congressman Scott Rigell stand against his Republican leader Eric Cantor`s outrageous position that Hurricane Irene disaster relief cannot be funded until after House
Republicans make draconian spending cuts to things like Medicare and education? Cantor has ruled out ending tax breaks for big oil or the ultra-rich to pay the costs, but now is demanding more spending cuts before ensuring FEMA can act."

Christina, it would seem like that`s going to be a successful political strategy.

BELLANTONI: Maybe. I wouldn`t necessarily say that immediately.

I think part of it is the DCCC press release writers has got to be very happy, because this has gotten a lot of coverage today. But you already have -- Congresswoman Nan Hayworth, for example, a Republican from
New York, has already said she wouldn`t support this if it weren`t for certain offsets.

But most of the other Republican members of Congress are sort of waiting back and seeing. And I think this is an area where Cantor specifically can sort of have his cake and eat it, too, because more than
likely, Congress is going to approve disaster aid for this major hurricane, which has caused so much damage across the East Coast, and is rivaling costs of some other very major, major tragedies.

And so I think Congress is going to ultimately approve this, and Cantor`s district could benefit from it, but he may not have to vote for it

--

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: Congressman, I don`t think -- I don`t think that Cantor can -- can stand to be seen as being on the opposite side of the fence from the governor of your state.

I mean, Republican governors have already expressed displeasure with the plan to offset disaster aid with the budget cuts.

And here`s Governor Chris Christie earlier this week delivering what seemed to me to be a message aimed directly at what we`re describing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: You want to figure out budget cuts, that`s fine. You`re going to turn into a fiasco like the debt limit thing where you`re fighting each other for eight and nine weeks and you
expect the citizens of my state to wait? They`re not going to wait and I`m going to fight to make sure that they don`t.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Congressman, your thoughts on the governor`s comments?

PALLONE: Well, I think what he`s pointing out this should bypass the regular budget process. I mean, you know, keep in mind that under Bush, the Republicans never asked that in an emergency that we not go ahead and bypass the regular budget process and have these offsets. Also, the war -- during the Republican -- during the Bush administration, Afghanistan and Iraq, they were all financed through emergency appropriations along with disaster aid.

So, the idea that we should wait around until the regular budget process and have offsets, we`ve never done this before. We always, you know, even in the case of the war, certainly in any disaster, we always
said we`re going to do an emergency appropriation, and that`s been the precedent.

So, it`s -- I think now what`s happening is that Cantor has gone along with the Tea Party agenda which basically says there`s no role for government, why do we have to do anything special in this case?

And that`s not what we do. We have to get this aid out to the people in need.

SMERCONISH: Christina, I think this issue transcends typical left/right, Rs versus Ds. By way of example, let me show you a portion of "USA Today" lead editorial which says, "It would, indeed, be unconscionable
to hold up aid for victims of Hurricane Irene, both for compassionate reasons and because it adds up to just a tiny fraction of federal spending."

The bigger question about Cantor`s pay as you go approach is why he picks FEMA to make the point which much more costly items, wars, as the congressman mentioned, health care and tax cuts to name a few, routinely get a pass and not just from Democrats.

BELLANTONI: Yes. This is why I would venture to say this aid will ultimately pass, and I think it`s an interesting example how gridlocked Congress is that there`s even arguments about this when it`s probably
something that the majority of Congress is going to support and it could probably pass very quickly as the congressman is pointing out. So, it goes to just show -- I mean, the Tea Party does have an element of this. You know, they are clamoring against spending. They say that it`s too much. They`re already trying to petition this new deficit committee that`s going to start meeting later this week -- next week.

And that is an issue where it`s very difficult for anything to get done when you have so many competing pressures.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

Congressman Frank Pallone, thank you for your time.

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