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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript

Interview

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MATTHEWS: Congressman, thank you for joining us tonight. And give us your thinking about why it`s important -- I know, politically, it makes sense to many people that the middle class, people making up to $250,000 a year, get the tax cut continued, but that the people above are basically decoupled from that much larger group of people.

REP. TOM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, Chris, I don`t think taxes ought to go
up for anybody.

I think it`s bad economic policy. It will eventually cost us jobs and it will eventually slow the economy. And that`s going to cost us revenue as well. So, I don`t agree with the president on that point.

And, frankly, I think he needs to be a lot more specific about putting spending cuts and entitlement reform on the table. Having said that, though, if the president`s willing to accept 80 percent of the Bush tax cuts for 98 percent of the American people and make them permanent, I think that is a point we should agree on, do that, and then continue to fight for the things that we believe in.

Simply because we accept that part of his offer doesn`t mean we have to agree with the rest. But what I think a lot of people forget is, look, these tax rates are going up automatically unless Congress acts. I favor acting to save as many of them as possible.

MATTHEWS: Makes sense. Here`s today. The speaker of the House, John Boehner, signaled you out for your remarks on the compromise. Let`s listen to what he said about you, sir.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I told Tom earlier in our
conference meeting that I disagreed with him. You`re not going to grow the
economy if you raise tax rates on the top -- on the top two rates. It will hurt small businesses. It will hurt our economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, you`re still arguing past each other there. With all respect to the speaker, you just said to us you really want to get the tax cuts ensured and maintained for people, most Americans, 98 percent of Americans. It`s not so much you disagree about the top two, whereas the speaker seems to be saying, don`t separate the two issues because politically we will never be able to save the rich unless we couple them with the regular people.

COLE: Hey, look, I think the speaker is in a tough negotiation. I fully support him, what he`s trying to achieve, which is no rate increase, but try and meet the president partway on revenue. I support that. I suspect he will negotiate a good deal and at the end of the day, he will come back and ask us to support him. I have helped him on every other tough vote. And this one will be a tough one, and I will probably help him again.

Having said that, again, Neil, this was a private discussion in a couple of whip meetings. I was asked what I thought. I said what I thought. I still believe that. But I respect the speaker.

Look, he`s a friend of mine. And we have a great relationship. He certainly can speak honestly and openly to me. I value that. He`s always given me the same privilege in return.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s this morning -- Grover Norquist, of course, the tax guy, said Republicans should drag out tax negotiations as long as needed, he put it, whatever that means. But let`s listen to Grover here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GROVER NORQUIST, PRESIDENT, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: They can give him debt ceiling increases once a month. They can have him on a rather short
leash on a small, you know, here`s your allowance, come back next month if
you have behaved.

QUESTION: OK. OK. Wait. You`re proposing that the debt ceiling be increased month by month?

NORQUIST: Monthly. Monthly. Monthly, if he`s good, weekly if he is not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: The last time that Congress fought with the president over the
debt ceiling, it caused our bond rating to drop. Why would this guy Grover
Norquist want to have this happen on a monthly basis where we`re jeopardizing our credit standing in the world every month? What sense is
that?

COLE: You know, I think what caused our bond rating to drop is simply the
fact we`re running unsustainable deficits and we`re not dealing with our
problem. And that`s exactly what the -- what the speaker is trying to get
at.

In terms of this issue, again, look, these are all people I like. These are people I agree with philosophically. But I also want to do a good deal for the American taxpayer, including 98 percent of them. If we can take care of their issue, I think we will win the debate.

I think they agree with us fundamentally that increases in taxes on anybody
cost jobs. That`s not good. But as long as the sword of Damocles is over their head that their taxes might go up, I don`t think they are -- really have time to focus on that debate.

So, again, I just think we ought to take that off. We agree with the president on that. But I respect the speaker. I support the speaker.

MATTHEWS: OK.

COLE: And we will get to a tough deal at the end of this process.

MATTHEWS: Well, we`re watching how this develops. Thanks so much for coming on HARDBALL, U.S. Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma.

COLE: Chris, thank you.

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