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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript

Interview

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Congressman Steve Israel is the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Congressman, 33 times, how come?

REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: Because they will do everything they can, as many times as they can, for as long as they have the majority to protect insurance company profits, instead of strengthening the middle class.

They began their majority in January of 2011 by voting for a Ryan budget that took Medicare away from senior citizens. They will end their majority by voting endlessly to repeal patient protections for the middle class. That`s what they do here. That`s what they care about.

SMERCONISH: All the Republicans lined up. You had five break ranks.Why five?

ISRAEL: Well, look, you know, we have a diverse caucus. And we have members of Congress in our caucus who represent conservative districts and
progressive districts.

I don`t think we should be held accountable for five Democrats who voted differently. I think the Republican majority should be held accountable for the fact that every single one of them voted in lockstep with the big insurance companies to protect those insurance company profits and instead tell middle class constituents that all of the protections that they have now have been taken away.

If you are a woman with breast cancer, today, the Republicans voted to take away the protection from an insurance company saying it is a preexisting condition.

SMERCONISH: Congressman...

ISRAEL: If you`re a child...

SMERCONISH: I`m sorry.

ISRAEL: Go ahead.

SMERCONISH: Would you allow me to show you something that Eleanor Clift wrote in a column for The Daily Beast today?

ISRAEL: Sure.

SMERCONISH: Quote: "A do-over is rare in politics. And the Supreme Court handed one to President Obama by upholding his much-maligned health care law. Backers of the president and the health-care reform that he pushed through -- and which cost Democrats the House -- would like the administration and its campaign allies to move more aggressively and take advantage of the judicial thumbs-up. Why has the Obama team shied away from bringing the law into sharper focus now that it`s been ruled constitutional?"

You know the issue. There is a perception that no D`s are out there selling it. I hear from my friends at Kantar Media that all across the country, Republican congressional candidates are beating the hell out of the health care bill, and there is not a response from their Democratic opponents.

ISRAEL: Well, I respectfully disagree.

In fact, I was at the White House today for a meeting with the president and the House Democratic leadership and we talked specifically about the fact that the American people and the middle class support this bill.

In fact, I can just give you some recent polling. "The Washington Post" did a poll today. Only one-third of the American people support a full repeal of the bill. And as the chairman of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, I have been very outspoken in advising our candidates not to run away from the patient protections, but instead to talk about how important they are to growing and strengthening and protecting the middle class. So, we have been pretty aggressive.

SMERCONISH: But, respectfully, I would say you are the -- you are the exception. I think you are the exception to the rule, because I just don`t hear -- and I -- for a living, I take phone calls from all across the country.

And I hear from people who say that the Democratic candidate is running from it, even if they voted for it. And I think the price you pay is all of the misinformation.

ISRAEL: Yes.

SMERCONISH: You know, PolitiFact lie of the year, that this is all a takeover of health care. But that permeates if it is not responded to.

ISRAEL: Here is what we learned from 2010, that the more people know about this, these patient protections, the more popular the patient protections are. We learned that from 2010.

And we are articulating it in 2012. And I have said to all of our candidates, if you think the strategy to winning an election is to defend or to run away from this, that strategy in 2010 didn`t work. The strategy is, we should be running on it, because, as people know more about it, it becomes more popular.

And today`s "Washington Post" poll is proof of that.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Congressman Steve Israel.

ISRAEL: Thank you.

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