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MSNBC "The Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript

Interview

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Joining us now is Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who sits on the Senate Health Care Subcommittee.

Senator Wyden, it`s very good to see you.

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON: Thanks for having me.

KLEIN: So, tell me a bit about when you founded the bill, because you were one of the early Democrats to actually embrace it. When the Democrats had not like this policy at all in the `90s, it had been the Republican alternative, and you began looking at it in the mid-2000s.

What was the appeal?

WYDEN: I believe it was an opportunity to break nearly 100 years of gridlock on this health care issue. You know, we had been working on this decade after decade after decade. And it seems to me when John Chaffee, particularly during those Clinton years, laid out an opportunity to show that there`d be some personal responsibility, you would be required to purchase a measure of health care coverage, we could tie it to what I always dreamed about, which is getting everybody in America good and affordable coverage.

Now, you have over the last few minutes described what you describe as the irony of the whole issue. I would tell you I think what you described is really a by-product of zero-sum politics. On these big issues, it`s always been one side has got to win, the other side has got to lose. That`s what I think forces a lot of this polarization.

And what I have been trying to show over the last few years and we want a great victory early this year for Internet freedom when a Republican, a conservative Republican, Senator Jerry Moran, teamed up with me and we were able to make sure that Web sites didn`t become web cops, we`ve got to break this polarization. And I`ll tell you, Ezra, it is the only way out because this election is still not going to produce a super majority for either side in the Senate.

KLEIN: What always worries me about the Senate now, about politics now, is you describe it as zero sum-electioneering, and I think you`re completely right. What scares me about the dysfunction we see in American government right now is it`s not clear to me anybody is wrong about that. The Republican Party experienced a very large win at the polls in 2010 based at least in part on their rock solid opposition to the health care bill which make it much less popular.

Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Senate Republicans, is pretty much said, straight out, that we need the American people to not see it as bipartisan, because if they see them as bipartisan, they`ll think they`re good.

So, how do minorities escape that? I mean, it seems we have belt this behavior into the system itself and I don`t see how it gets out of it.

WYDEN: You have to get around the middlemen in Washington, D.C. The middlemen, essentially the lobbyists, the political consultants, the pollsters, they`re one of the main reasons why you see this kind of polarization, because they take these sort of instant polls. They show, look, we`ve got a great opportunity to hammer the other guys. We can score in this election.

And that`s why on the big issues, we see everything gridlocked.Now, I think on tax reform, we`ve got another terrific opportunity. I and others have put together a bipartisan bill, built around what Democrats and Ronald Reagan did where they clean out the clutter, hold down the rates, and we can create millions of jobs.

To do it, both sides are going to have to say we`re going to be willing to do what`s good for the country, solve a problem -- and that means fighting the special interests, not each other. We`ll see if it can be done.

KLEIN: We`ll see if it can be done.

Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, thank you for being here. I hope you`re proven right. I hope this place can still work.

WYDEN: It`s the only way out.

KLEIN: If you`re watching this show while staying at a fancy resort in Park City, Utah, you might be a big time Mitt Romney donor in town to schmooze the candidate himself and other high end rainmakers. You almost certainly are not a big time Barack Obama donor because in part because there are not nearly as many of those days, and that has a big implication where public policy is going to look in this country going forward. That story is next.

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