MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript
MSNBC "HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS" INTERVIEW WITH REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL) REP. BRIAN BILBRAY (R-CA) INTERVIEWER: CHRIS MATTHEWS
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MR. MATTHEWS: We begin with two members of the House of Representatives: Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Congressman Brian Bilbray of California, a Republican.
Sir, what is this, a shutout? Why every single Republican? Were you grabbed in the cloakroom? Were you grabbed in the bathrooms of America? How come every single Republican congressperson voted against the president's only game in town, the economic stimulus bill?
REP. BILBRAY: Because I was awakened at 10 minutes to midnight last night and said, "They finally are letting us see what they're going to force us to vote on in a few hours." The fact is that we got it 10 minutes to midnight. We were told we were going to come in at 9:00 and start debating the issue rather than doing the 48-hour -- the period that, you know, even Debbie voted for it. Everybody voted that we should have a waiting period to be able to look so that people know what they're voting on.
MR. MATTHEWS: But you had access to 95 percent of this bill for weeks now.
REP. BILBRAY: It was a moving target from the Senate right along; I mean, little things that a lot of people wouldn't be concerned about, things like taking out the E-Verify where Americans are saying, "Do you want Americans hired or do you want to make sure illegals" --
MR. MATTHEWS: So your position, Congressman, is you didn't have enough time to vote for this. Had you enough time, you might have voted for it. But then you have to argue that every single Republican voted against it on that basis.
REP. BILBRAY: Absolutely, because what happened -- it's the same old Washington tactic of take a crisis and turn it into a Christmas tree. When you're talking about things all over the place, stuff like a train between Las Vegas and LA, we're gunning to run from Fantasyland to Sin City with American taxpayers' dollars. And, first of all, let's talk about it; another trillion dollars of debt that we don't even know how we're going to pay for. In reality, when it all comes down to it, it was the same proposal of spending a trillion dollars and not knowing how we're going to pay for it.
MR. MATTHEWS: So there's going to be a train?
REP. BILBRAY: I think you're --
MR. MATTHEWS: So you and I can take it.
REP. BILBRAY: Hopefully we'll see it in the next century.
MR. MATTHEWS: I didn't know about that. That's --
REP. BILBRAY: But the --
MR. MATTHEWS: You mean, Washington actually produces something. (Laughs.)
REP. BILBRAY: This is something that won't break ground within two years when you say that it's a crisis that you have to do it right now.
MR. MATTHEWS: Okay. Congresswoman, let me ask you about the Democrats, because there's a flip side to this; tremendous party unity on your side, only a handful -- I figured out that 97 percent of the House members voted with the president, with your leadership. The Senate was unanimous. Even recalcitrant Democrats -- I was going to call them Republicans -- like Joe Lieberman were aboard. Bernie Sanders was aboard; conservatives like Mary Landrieu and the Nelsons, Ben and Bill, all aboard. What held everybody together on the Democratic side?
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: What held everybody together on our side was the key element of this plan, which is that it is a jobs creation bill. We will create or save three and a half million jobs with this legislation; you know, with all due respect to Mr. Bilbray, this from the party that presided over the downward spiral of our economy, took us from a record surplus at the end of the Clinton administration to a record deficit and was --
MR. MATTHEWS: Is that true?
REP. BILBRAY: Chris, I voted --
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Of course it's true. (Laughs.)
MR. MATTHEWS: Is that -- what the congresswoman just said is true. You mean, your party took us from -- the conservative party took us from a budget surplus to a budget deficit. You did that? Your party did that?
REP. BILBRAY: And that is why the Republicans are not in the majority now. That's why you know I came back. And that's why the Democrats shouldn't be doing exactly what George Bush did before.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: When he was here, he --
MR. MATTHEWS: Somebody's letting my chair come down here. Just a second here.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: (Laughs.)
MR. MATTHEWS: Can somebody help me with this chair? (Laughs.) Go ahead.
REP. BILBRAY: But Chris, we're looking at another trillion- dollar debt being put on with the new administration, adding on to what the old administration did. And neither one of them know how they're going to pay for it.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Fine. Are you going to tell me that you didn't support the tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans while you were here?
REP. BILBRAY: I wasn't -- I did not --
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You voted for the tax cuts time and again.
REP. BILBRAY: Excuse me. I was not in Congress at the time those proposals were coming in.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: When you were campaigning for re- election to this office, you didn't campaign on behalf of tax cuts?
REP. BILBRAY: I do not support the expansion of taxes during an economic time, and I don't talk about expanding government funding.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You supported $12 billion a month on a misguided war in Iraq that the American people don't support.
REP. BILBRAY: I supported the troops, along with the great majority of Democrats.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, now it's time to support the American people.
MR. MATTHEWS: (Inaudible) -- the Republicans, the party of fiscal responsibility, had none when they were in power, and now they have it.
REP. BILBRAY: Well, they shouldn't have. And that is why --
MR. MATTHEWS: You have it in opposition, but not in power.
REP. BILBRAY: That is why people like me ran against the administration when they were making the mistake.
That is why the Democrats ran against Bush and why they're in. They're doing exactly what he --
MR. MATTHEWS: Let's take a look at this bill, and I want you to lead the way. Here's a breakdown of the $787 billion bill, the humongous economic recovery bill that passed the House tonight. Today's Wall Street Journal, 24 percent is for government spending on energy, roads, bridges, infrastructure and other projects. Thirty- eight percent is aid to states or individuals for education, unemployment benefits and other programs; 38 percent, about two in five dollars, for tax cuts.
Let's take a look at what President Obama said about the package.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From videotape.) To truly address this crisis, we will also need to address the crisis in our financial sector, to get credit flowing again to families and businesses. And we need to confront the crisis in the housing sector that's been one of the sources of our economic challenges. I'll be discussing that extensively soon.
MR. MATTHEWS: Well, that's him talking about what's to come. So now that you've sold this -- you've bought it, I should say -- the Democratic members have passed it -- you guys are betting on failure here, right?
REP. BILBRAY: Oh, we hope it doesn't. We hope it doesn't.
MR. MATTHEWS: Oh, you do hope it doesn't.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: (Laughs.)
REP. BILBRAY: We hope it works.
MR. MATTHEWS: So if the economy turns around in the next year --
REP. BILBRAY: My God, you've got to remember, our grandchildren --
MR. MATTHEWS: -- you're going to say, "I was wrong; he was right. It worked."
REP. BILBRAY: I would hope that. But I will say this. There will be another trillion-dollar bill coming down the pike. We've got three or four more of these to go here.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: What Brian did by voting no today is he voted against creating 385,000 jobs in his own state, 8,000 jobs in his own district. Aid to his state to help --
MR. MATTHEWS: Did you look this up?
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Yes, I sure did.
REP. BILBRAY: Deborah --
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Eight thousand jobs in his own district --
REP. BILBRAY: Chris --
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: -- avoiding layoffs of teachers, firefighters and police officers.
MR. MATTHEWS: This is research here.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The bottom line is that this bill is designed to create jobs, turn the economy around, avoid layoffs, move us towards energy independence. And the Republicans have just said no. He can say all he wants that he doesn't want this bill to fail. This vote for them was all about 2010. They're hoping that this doesn't work so that they can blame the continued poor economy on the Democrats. That is the bottom line.
MR. MATTHEWS: Okay, were you aware -- I just want to ask you a question --
REP. BILBRAY: No, absolutely not whipped.
MR. MATTHEWS: -- that Mr. Cantor or Mr. Boehner whipped the guys into --
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Oh, he was so whipped. Please.
REP. BILBRAY: Excuse me, Deborah.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I watched it.
MR. MATTHEWS: -- voting with the party?
REP. BILBRAY: I was not whipped one bit. And Deborah --
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You didn't have to be.
REP. BILBRAY: We were talking about the country, but if you want to talk --
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You didn't have to be. You were already there.
MR. MATTHEWS: You know Mr. Boehner --
REP. BILBRAY: Wait a minute. But you're talking about California --
MR. MATTHEWS: -- your leader. We know he told you people to vote against this bill.
REP. BILBRAY: Absolutely not.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Two hundred six thousand jobs --
MR. MATTHEWS: It's on the record.
REP. BILBRAY: I didn't have to be asked at all on this. I've been a mayor. I've been a county chairman. I looked at this from the budgetary point of view. Deborah, you want to talk about it? California is getting less than 50 percent of their fair share per capita on this. So don't talk to me about my district or my state. This is about America.
MR. MATTHEWS: Here's John Boehner, the Republican leader, today talking about --
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Wait, wait. Your Republican governor, my Republican governor, are both in favor of this bill.
MR. MATTHEWS: -- the bill that the party voted against to the last person.
HOUSE MINORITY LEADER JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH): (From videotape.) I've just got to say, the president made clear, when we started this process, that this was about jobs -- jobs, jobs, jobs. And what it's turned into is nothing more than spending, spending and more spending. American families, small businesses deserve better from their Congress. I said on the opening day we wouldn't be the party of no, and we haven't been.
MR. MATTHEWS: You haven't been the party of no. It seems to me you are. (Laughs.)
REP. BILBRAY: Well, we're a party of --
MR. MATTHEWS: And you all said no.
REP. BILBRAY: We're a party of no to --
MR. MATTHEWS: A hundred eighty-three no's, practically.
REP. BILBRAY: -- out-of-control spending and the fact of -- let's just say this. When the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan budget office, says when you look at this long range, we're hurting the economy with this.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: What was your solution, Brian, all tax cuts?
REP. BILBRAY: It was actually --
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: More tax cuts for the wealthy?
REP. BILBRAY: -- more resources going into ready projects now that you know you can pay for, but not uncontrolled -- you've got to remember, Chris, we got into this fiscal crisis by individuals taking on more debt than they can afford, taking on debt they didn't know how to pay for. Now Congress is doing the same thing.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: (Inaudible.)
MR. MATTHEWS: Okay, you disagree, obviously. You're for it; he's against. But let me ask you both, who is governing the country? It seems to me who's governing the country right now is this horse and rabbit stew -- the horse being the Democratic Party and the rabbit part of the stew being three Republican senators from the Northeast, a part of the country that's becoming increasingly Democratic and increasingly not Republican. They're fighting for their lives, you might argue.
Is this how we're going to govern the next four to eight years -- Democratic legislation backed by a few -- three in this case -- Republicans?
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: President Obama --
MR. MATTHEWS: Is that how we're going to govern the country?
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: If we have to. President Obama reached across the aisle, made an unprecedented effort at reaching across the aisle and trying to get bipartisan cooperation and got completely rebuffed by the Republicans because --
MR. MATTHEWS: In your house.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: In my house. He came in front of the House Republican conference. An hour before he got there, John Boehner said that his caucus should vote no, even before they had an opportunity to talk to the president.
MR. MATTHEWS: That's what I heard. You say that didn't happen.
REP. BILBRAY: I didn't -- he didn't say it to me.
MR. MATTHEWS: Oh, okay.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: He said it to everybody else in the caucus.
REP. BILBRAY: I'm just saying the president said to us -- and I'll tell you something; I said one thing to him. He said there are no long-term commitments in this bill. I said, "Major increases in Medicare is no longer a long-term commitment?" There are all kinds of long-term commitments here that are not being talked about.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We have to stop arguing process, process, process and get down to creating jobs, helping states avoid layoffs, making sure that we can provide quality education to American kids.
REP. BILBRAY: Bipartisanship --
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: That's the bottom line.
REP. BILBRAY: Bipartisanship means that leadership --
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Step across the aisle. We're ready.
MR. MATTHEWS: It means what?
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: You going to join us?
REP. BILBRAY: Bipartisanship means being willing to sit down and work with somebody. The fact is, the leadership of the Democratic Party met in a back room --
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: (Inaudible.)
REP. BILBRAY: -- and didn't even allow the public to know what was going on. Well, the people going to the conference --
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Anyone who wants to can go online and download this bill on www.house.gov/appropriations. This is the most transparent piece of legislation we have passed in American history.
MR. MATTHEWS: Sure, but it's a Democratic bill.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: It's a jobs bill.
REP. BILBRAY: You wouldn't even wait 48 hours --
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: It is a jobs bill.
MR. MATTHEWS: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, a Democrat, and U.S. Congressman Brian Bilbray of California, a Republican.