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MSNBC "Hardball With Chris Matthews" - Transcript


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Let"s begin with Republican obstructionism. Democratic congressman Jim Moran of Virginia"s a member of the Appropriations Committee, and Republican congressman Scott Garrett of New Jersey"s a member of the Financial Services Committee.

Congressman Garrett, thanks so much for joining us on snowy Tuesday here in Washington.


MATTHEWS: So let me get this straight about the election last year. In 2008, the Democrats won the presidency. They won the House. They won the Senate. Shouldn"t the Republicans let them govern?

GARRETT: Oh, absolutely. They have--you know, elections have consequences, and we saw what those consequences were. They had the majority. They had the White House. They had the Congress and they had the Senate. They had a whole year to get this done. So it is a little bit strange when the president comes out this past week and talks about we have to put all this bickering, these inside deals, these back room negotiations, these closed-doors deliberations--well, that was not with the Republicans, that was all with the Democrats for the last year. They could not get the job done.

So the president"s right, we got to get all the stuff that the Democrats have been doing all that time past us and now truly, truly work in a bipartisan manner. And I"m optimistic...

MATTHEWS: So your argument is the Democrats have got to use every single vote they"ve got, they got to vote 100 percent, because the Republicans won"t throw them a single vote in the Senate.

GARRETT: No, my argument is...

MATTHEWS: And they won"t even throw it--and by the way, that new guy, Scott Brown up in Massachusetts, advertises the fact that he"s number one obstructionist. He calls himself 41. He"s bragging about his ability to stop the Democrats from governing. Is that good for America?

GARRETT: It"s good for America if both parties can work together. And look, Chris, you know my record. Well, you know my record, and I"ve been able to work with people like Barney Frank, Paul Kanjorski, John Adler in New Jersey, people from the other side of the aisle working on financial service issues, what I"ve been working on for the last year or so. So it is possible to do it. It is possible to get Republicans and Democrats together.

The president says he wants to. Republicans say we want to. So this is the opportunity right now to go forward with that agenda, and I hope it happens.

MATTHEWS: Congressman Moran, looks to me like we don"t have enough Democrats" votes to pass a bill, to pass--is that fair enough? You need Republicans or not? Is that a fair assumption, you can"t govern without them?

REP. JIM MORAN (D-VA), APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE: We can pass bills that matter in the House without Republicans. And Scott and every one of his Republican colleagues have voted no on every major piece of legislation that"s gotten to the floor. In the Senate, it"s a different matter. As you know, the Senate is not really representative of this country. You have just as many people representing states that have fewer people in population than I represent in the Congress having just as much influence as New York and California. It"s overweighted to the more conservative, more rural areas. And...

MATTHEWS: So what are we going to do, change the Constitution?

MORAN: No, of course we can"t change the Constitution. But we need to understand that it"s very difficult getting things through the Senate. I think with the House bill, we"re going to just have to...


MORAN: ... challenge the filibuster rule or we"re going to have to go to reconciliation.

MATTHEWS: Well, fair enough. But here"s the president today talking bipartisanship. And I just want to try in the next 10 minutes to find the route. I want somebody to GPS me to how we see the country working again instead of just having a logjam here. Here"s the president talking bipartisanship today. Let"s listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bipartisanship depends on a willingness among both Democrats and Republicans to put aside matters of party for the good of the country. I won"t hesitate to embrace a good idea from my friends in the minority party, but I also won"t hesitate to condemn what I consider to be obstinacy that"s rooted not in substantive disagreements but in political expedience.


MATTHEWS: So Congressman Garrett, wouldn"t it be smart, I mean, if this were somebody in a real world, not in politics, to say the Republicans go meet for a week and they take a look at the Democratic bill, they try to get a consensus on what they can live with, whether it"s preexisting conditions or it"s portability, or throw in something like interstate competition or something on tort reform and say, Here"s what we can go with. We can go with half your bill. We"re going to throw in another half as our version, or two thirds of what--since you won the election, and a third of our stuff. And then we"re going to pass it because it"s better than what we"ve got.

What"s wrong with--why don"t people think like that?

GARRETT: I don"t know. I like just about everything you just said right now. So maybe if you get the administration on after us and say if they would present a proposal like that when we all get together, I think you would actually get the Republicans all on board because those are--if you would ask me what would be some of the things that the administration"s talked about in the past, that we"ve talked about, that we"re on the same page there, I think you just about ran down a whole slew of them. So that would be something that we could actually get done.

MORAN: Well, then, Scott, why don"t you talk to your leadership about that?

GARRETT: Well, we have, and...

MORAN: The leadership won"t come up with any kind of bipartisan bill, like Chris was supporting.

GARRETT: Well, who--who...

MORAN: You"re just saying no to everything.

GARRETT: Oh! See? There you go.

MORAN: Well?

GARRETT: And that"s what the president was--and (INAUDIBLE) exactly what the president was saying right up until the Republican retreat.

MORAN: Well, look at all the House floor votes, Scott. They"ve all -

zero Republicans have supported anything that we"ve put on the House floor.

MATTHEWS: Let"s listen to what John Boehner, your leader, the Republican leader, did say about the health care bill. Let"s listen, John Boehner from Ohio.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: It"s going to be very difficult to have a bipartisan conversation with regard to a 2,700-page health care bill that the Democrat majority in the House and the Democrat majority in the Senate can"t pass. So why are we going to talk about a bill that can"t pass?


MATTHEWS: You know, Congressman, you"re a Northeastern Republican, and my brother"s one, too, and I respect you guys. They"re sort of--you"re a moderate--well, I know that"s a bad word. I won"t even say "moderate" because it"ll kill you at home.

GARRETT: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: But it seems like there"s--thank you?


MATTHEWS: Thank you for not calling you a moderate. I just love this! Here"s a guy, John Boehner, who just came out and used the word "Democrat" Party. You know, why do you use the fighting words if you"re going to talk bipartisanship? It"s the Democratic Party.


MATTHEWS: It"s what the call themselves. Don"t people let each other in this country call themselves by the name they want to be called?


MATTHEWS: Why do people take that cheap shot and then say, But we really want to negotiate?

GARRETT: You know...

MATTHEWS: You know that Boehner"s loving this thing. He doesn"t want to negotiate, he wants a down-and-out fight that makes Barack Obama look terrible and he picks up 30 or 40 seats.


MATTHEWS: Then he wins, then next year, nothing gets done again.

That"s my thought. Your thought, Congressman.

GARRETT: I don"t think that"s true. And I got to admit, on the floor sometimes, I have a slip of the tongue, no ill intent intended, when I said the "Democrat" Party, as opposed to the Democratic Party. Somebody will crest me on it and I will say, OK, let"s go forward on that.

But look, I"ve been in GOP conferences when Leader Boehner and other folks from our side, other members of our leadership, said, Here"s what we believe in, here"s where they are. These are some of the things, some of the points you raised before. We would like to try to sit down with them and come to agreement. It is not all politics that you"re talking about. Yes, that"s out there. That"s what the NRCC is all about. They"re trying to get Republicans reelected and that sort of thing. And there is a political element of all this stuff.

But I got to tell you, when we get into the back rooms, when we"re having--sitting down and having dinner and we"re just getting together, talking about this stuff, we look at it as just like you are here, saying that there are some things that need to get done and they need to get done right now for the good of the country. We"re talking about health care--jobs--I mean, didn"t the president say that his issue was jobs one right now? I think most Americans would say let"s focus on job creation right now. I know the president"s reached out to the Republicans on that. Good for him. Now let"s see whether we can come to a couple agreements on that.


GARRETT: And I think both parties want to do it.

MATTHEWS: You changed the subject...


MORAN: But even on jobs, Scott...


MORAN: ... you all voted no when we brought the jobs bill up to the floor, to extend unemployment insurance, health benefits, and so on. You know, think back to the Bush years, when you controlled all three branches of government. And the Democratic leadership allowed Democrats to vote with the Republicans. You passed two deep tax cuts that were never paid for. We went into two wars, one of which we never should have gone into, and passed the Medicare prescription drug bill, got all of that done in what was really a bipartisan manner.

But now you"ve got a leadership that is saying, Vote no on everything so President Obama has nothing to show for his presidential leadership, and that"s--regardless of the consequences to the country.

GARRETT: Yes. You know, all good intentions here, the American public is really tired of the partisan bickering and looking backwards to where we came from, the pointing finger and blame. What they really want to do right now is for us to be able to sit down together and say, This is how we can come together.

So we can, you know, point and look back and say whether Bush was responsible for this, Republican responsible for this--I can look back in a positive way and say, you know, Bill Clinton was able to get some things done in a bipartisan manner when you had him in the White House and Republicans in the House.


GARRETT: So I think it"s going to be done. But pointing fingers is not getting it done, nor is blaming our leadership, when you have the majority in the Senate and the House, for not getting it done. We have a number of proposals. The president was saying we didn"t for months. He finally realized and he"s finally stood up and said, Yes, Republicans have proposals on jobs, on health care, on energy. And now that he"s recognized that we"ve actually laid out plans for the last year that he has not recognized in the past, I think that he"s now maybe willing to go forward...


GARRETT: ... in listening to some of the ideas. And Chris, I hope you will reach out to the White House and throw out your ideas to them because...

MATTHEWS: OK, well, let me just...

GARRETT: ... I think you can do that.

MATTHEWS: ... try it by you. Let"s look forward to what"s really going to happen. I"m not going to run this thing, the president"s going to run it.


MATTHEWS: There"s going to be a meeting. According to the latest "Washington Post" poll just came out tonight, 63 percent of the American people want the two parties to keep working together in trying to fashion some kind of compromise on health care.

So let me ask you, Congressman Garrett, and then Congressman Moran...

GARRETT: Sure. Yes.

MATTHEWS: ... when the president convenes that meeting of the leadership of the two parties--and I think it may be a bigger meeting than just leadership--will there be progress made, Congressman? Will your party participate in a quid pro--a back-and-forth--what they call ping-pong, where you try an idea, they try an idea? They say, I"ll give you interstate competition. You say, OK, give us a break on that individual mandate--back and forth. Will there be something like that, like--look, we negotiated with the communists all those years. We negotiate with our enemies. Can"t we negotiate with each other?

GARRETT: Yes. If it"s done exactly the way that you"re suggesting, which is, basically, with them in those negotiations, you start from a blank slate, so to speak. Somebody throws out this, interstate agreement. I agree with that. Administration has a version on that. OK, let"s come to agreement on that. The health care mandate--boy, I"m totally opposed to that for constitutional grounds. If they throw to that, we"re going to throw up an alternative to that. If we start from a blank slate and move forward, I think, yes, we can come to agreement on...


GARRETT: ... a whole bunch of...

MATTHEWS: ... has to be a blank slate. Blank slate.

MORAN: A blank slate, after we"ve spent nine months in working all this out through the committee. The problem, Chris, is the Republicans are scared of Obama. They went...

MATTHEWS: Will they show up? Are you saying they won"t show up?

MORAN: I don"t think they"ll show up. The go to the--he goes to the Republican caucus. It"s 140 members to one, and the one won because he outsmarted them. He knew the issues better. And the fact is, they had no way to come back. All they had were their scripts, their talking points.

MATTHEWS: OK, well, I think it"s great. Congressman Garrett, you are a great guest, sir.


MATTHEWS: I appreciate you coming on. You"re my kind of Northeastern Republican. There"s a few wackies out there in your party, but you"re not one of them. Thank you very much--there"s a few wackies in the Democratic Party. Thank you, Scott Garrett, congressman from the great state of New Jersey. Jim Moran, the congressman from northern Virginia, right near here in Alexandria.


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