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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript


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We start with the Democrats. Congressman Steve Scalise is a Republican from Louisiana and Congressman Chaka Fattah is a Democrat from Pennsylvania. Gentlemen, thank you both and congratulations both, perhaps more so to Chaka Fatah because it"s always tough this year for a Democrat to get reelected. So sir, as always, I extend to you my warm congratulations, and also to you, Mr. Scalise. I have great respect--


MATTHEWS: -- for public officials, especially ones who put their good name and their reputation on the line to face the voters every two years in the people"s House.

Now, Speaker Pelosi"s letter to her Democratic colleagues reads, in part, "Many of our colleagues have called with their recommendations on how to continue our fight for the middle class and have encouraged me to run for House Democratic leader. Based on those discussions and driven by the urgency of protecting health care reform, Wall Street reform, and Social Security and Medicare, I"ve decided to run."

Let me go to Congressman Fattah. It"s in your caucus. It"s your support that matters to her. Is it important that after you take a drubbing and lose 60-some seats that the Democratic leadership shows some sign of having heard the message, or should they continue on as they were? What"s the answer?

REP. CHAKA FATAH (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I think what"s important is that you believe and you have a set of convictions. Now, we believe we did the right thing on behalf of the country. This is a protracted fight to perfect our union, and we lost a round on Tuesday. But when you have adversity, it induces (ph) one to themselves. And we"re committed to what we"re doing.

And there"s only one person in our ranks who ever served as a minority leader who led us into the majority. That"s Nancy Pelosi. We believe that she can do it again. Now, the fact of the matter is that when I voted against the Iraq war, it was popular in the country. The majority of the people supported it. Well, now the majority of the people think it was a mistake. We put 5 million kids on health care insurance through the CHIP program, 30 million adults through the Affordable Care Act. It"s not popular today. Well, when we did the Voting Rights Act, it wasn"t popular.


FATTAH: When--you know, you go through a whole list of things that weren"t popular. You have to do what"s right. We did it. We suffered the consequences. We"re going to stick and stay and go forward into the next election, and we"re going to keep fighting on behalf of working families.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me try to offer some reporting up here, Congressman Fattah. It seems to me that the story out there I"ve gotten, as of a few minutes ago, is that Nancy Pelosi understood she"d become a lightning rod across the country, being from San Francisco, a liberal town, and being a leader, as you say, fighting for all these tough causes, and offered to pull out of this race and let Chris Van Hollen take her place. But she couldn"t transfer her votes effectively enough to defeat Steny Hoyer, who"s majority right now and wants the job. Is that the fact or not the fact, what I just?

FATTAH: It"s not the fact. And again, there"s one person who has the


MATTHEWS: She didn"t offer to step aside for Chris van Hollen to take on Steny but the votes weren"t there? That didn"t happen, you"re saying?

FATTAH: It didn"t happen. And the experience of leading us as the minority leader into the majority belongs to singly one person in our caucus, Nancy Pelosi.

MATTHEWS: But she didn"t offer to pull out?

FATTAH: She"s done it before.

MATTHEWS: OK, one last try, Congressman. Nancy Pelosi never said that she would let Chris Van Hollen run because she recognized that she"d become a lightning rod?

FATTAH: Look, if you"re in a boxing match and you lose a round, that doesn"t mean you don"t get up and answer the next round. We"ll be back. We"re going to stand for what we believe in.


FATTAH: And we believe that as we go forward, we will win and lose elections--


FATTAH: -- but we have to stick to our principles.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me go to Congressman Scalise about the Republican Party. Is your party going to negotiate with President Obama, or simply try to get him out of office--remove his health care plan, basically impeach him, make him irrelevant and then get rid of him? Is that your goal?

SCALISE: No, Chris, our goal is to get the American economy back on track and create jobs. And if you look, the last two years, we"ve actually proposed solutions to try to accomplish those things, but President Obama and Speaker Pelosi basically said, We"ve got the votes, we"re just going to discount the Republican ideas and we"re going to ram this liberal agenda down your throat. Well, Tuesday night, the American people soundly rejected that liberal agenda.

You know, I"m surprised that Speaker Pelosi is still so tone deaf that she still wants to stick around and hold onto that power as long as she can. But I mean, you know, whether John Boehner yanks that gavel out of her hand or not, she"s going to lose the gavel and the airplane and all those other things, and she"s just got to recognize that there was a sounding (SIC) defeat that that liberal agenda took--

MATTHEWS: Well, you"re a little--

SCALISE: -- and the country just doesn"t want us going down that road.

MATTHEWS: Why is everybody so petty? She doesn"t get the airplane as minority leader.

SCALISE: Well, I mean, ultimately, you got to look at--

MATTHEWS: Why are you talking about that thing?

SCALISE: -- what the right agenda is--

MATTHEWS: And why are you throwing a shot at her about the airplane that she doesn"t get as Speaker?

SCALISE: You know--

MATTHEWS: She won"t be Speaker. We know that. So why did you say she"s trying to hold onto the airplane? She doesn"t get--

SCALISE: Chris, I"m just--

MATTHEWS: -- an airplane as majority leader?

SCALISE: Chris, I"m just surprised--

MATTHEWS: So you just took a cheap shot there.

SCALISE: I"m just surprised that--

MATTHEWS: That was just a cheap shot.

SCALISE: -- they don"t get the message that was sent.

MATTHEWS: No, but why did you throw in the airplane part? What"s that got to do with the American people and producing jobs?

SCALISE: Well, regardless--regardless of all of that, I"ve said--

MATTHEWS: What has that got to do--

SCALISE: -- what our agenda is going to be--

MATTHEWS: -- with producing jobs? Sir, you ask for bipartisan cooperation--

SCALISE: Our agenda is going to be producing jobs, Chris.

MATTHEWS: -- and then you throw the old--you know, the old skunk at her. You know, why is it relevant whether she has an airplane or not? She won"t have one as Republican (SIC) leader, so why bring it up? I"m just asking why"d you bring it up.

SCALISE: Well, Chris, I told you at the very beginning what our agenda is going to be, and in fact--


SCALISE: -- we"ve reached out to the president--

MATTHEWS: Your agenda seems to be to dump on her. Let me ask you this--

SCALISE: No, but we"ve reached out to the president--

MATTHEWS: Why do you guys do the cheap shots--

SCALISE: -- to work with us.

MATTHEWS: Look, here"s the thing the American people listen to. They go, Wait a minute, they want to get along, all they have to do is meet and negotiate the issues of taxes.

Now, it seems to me--I want to go back to Congressman Fattah. It seems to me the president has put up not the white flag, but he--not throwing in the towel, but he said, Look, we"ll negotiate on things like accelerate depreciation for business. We"ll talk about the tax cut and how we can extend it. His primary goal is for middle class people. He may have to extend it at least temporarily for people with more money.

Is that true? Your president is negotiating? He"s actually doing it in public, from what I can tell, on these big issues?

FATTAH: Well, the president has been reaching out to Republicans from the beginning. When he came over and visited the Republican caucus two years ago, they had already decided that they were all going to vote no on everything. But we still have a million more jobs this year, private sector job increases. We saw 150,000 new jobs in the day"s report. Those are to the credit of the Democratic Congress.

And even if we lost seats--you know, Chris, we lost seats when we passed the assault weapons ban. There were members who walked on the floor and said, I"m going to lose my seat, but I"m going to save thousands of lives. We have to do what"s right on behalf of our country. The politics will take care of itself.

The Republicans now have to join the governing majority. They have to offer real solutions and vote for them. And they have to add up. The math has to add up. If they want $4 trillion in tax cuts and they want to balance the budget, they can"t offer up $16 billion in cuts and say somehow that balances.

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts on that, Congressman Scalise. Do you have to balance off--if there"s more tax relief coming in terms of continuing the Bush tax cuts, does that have to be offset with spending cuts?

SCALISE: Well, Chris, I think our responsibility is to lay out an agenda that actually solves the problems of the country, and we started that with the "Pledge to America." One of the things we said was, day one, when we come out, we"re laying out $100 billion in spending cuts because we"ve got to get control on spending. We"ve also got to have stability in the tax code. I think the worse thing we can do in our economy is raise taxes on anybody because we need to create jobs.

MATTHEWS: Well, OK. So you want--

SCALISE: And our small businesses are afraid--

MATTHEWS: So what about this negotiation--

SCALISE: -- to make an investment.

MATTHEWS: -- with the president? Are you going to negotiate with him on how to extend some of the Bush tax cuts, or are you going to say all or nothing? What"s your position, all or nothing?

SCALISE: We"re going to sit down--we"re going to sit down with the president, and if he"s willing to work with us, we"ve got a lot of things that we want to put down as an agenda that we can work with him on.

MATTHEWS: Will you negotiate with him--

SCALISE: And I hope he does that.

MATTHEWS: -- on taxes, or do you just have an absolute bottom line? The Bush tax cuts continue permanently forever and no discussion? Is that your position?

SCALISE: Look, it"s not about my position or the president"s position or anybody else"s--

MATTHEWS: Well, why can"t you tell me?

SCALISE: This is about--well, Chris, first of all--

MATTHEWS: Tell me! Will you negotiate with the president--


SCALISE: You show me one economist that says raising taxes on anybody
in tough times is going to create jobs. It actually will kill jobs. And
so we"ve got to be focused on an agenda that gets people back to work. And that"s what we"re going to be working towards. And it has nothing to do
with ideology, it has to do with the things that have been found and proven


MATTHEWS: Would you--would you--would you be willing now to say that you like the idea of the president"s effort through the nonpartisan or bipartisan debt commission to try to reduce, in a bipartisan fashion, the federal debt over time, especially dealing with issues like the entitlements? Are you willing to go along with that item?

SCALISE: Well, we all need to be focused on not only reducing--

MATTHEWS: Well, no--

SCALISE: -- the deficit and the debt--

MATTHEWS: -- the debt commission, which is bipartisan.

SCALISE: Yes, as long as it"s not--

MATTHEWS: Will you back it?

SCALISE: As long as it"s not a group that"s set up to try to raise taxes. And there is concern about that because, again, tax increases have never been proven to help anything, except growing the size of government and killing jobs.

MATTHEWS: So you think--so you already have poisoned the well by saying it"s just a tax-writing committee.

SCALISE: Well, it seems that way, but we"ve got to see what they come out with. But I"m sure we"re not--

MATTHEWS: Paul Ryan"s on that group.

SCALISE: -- going to blanket (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: Paul Ryan"s a tax--is he a tax and spender?

SCALISE: Well, Paul Ryan and Jeb Hensarling--no, Paul Ryan and Jeb Hensarling have very sound plans. They"re in a minority--

MATTHEWS: Is Alan Simpson a taxer?

SCALISE: They"re in the minority of that committee, so--


MATTHEWS: Isn"t Alan Simpson over there as co-chair? Is he a taxer?

SCALISE: I"ll reserve judgment until they come out with a plan, but I hope it"s not a plan to raise taxes because that would not be a plan that makes any sense.

MATTHEWS: So no matter how many cuts there are in spending in that program, no matter how--what the ratio is of spending cuts to tax increases, you aren"t going to buy it.

SCALISE: Well, I want to have a plan that creates jobs, and raising taxes kills jobs, Chris. And you can see it in the--

MATTHEWS: OK, balancing the budget over time kills jobs?

SCALISE: Balancing the budget is what we need to do, but cutting taxes--

MATTHEWS: I know. I know.

SCALISE: -- has actually been proven to help balance the budget. We just have to control spending.

MATTHEWS: So you"re a supply-sider. You"re a supply-sider.

SCALISE: Yes, I am.

MATTHEWS: You"re not a fiscalist. You"re not a budget hawk.

SCALISE: I"m a fiscal conservative. And in fact, we"ve--

MATTHEWS: No, you"re a supply-sider.

SCALISE: -- balanced the budget while--

MATTHEWS: It"s one or the other. I know, I know, I know. You got the dream world--

SCALISE: No, it"s not one or the other, Chris-

MATTHEWS: If you lower the tax rate, the more money comes in, right?

SCALISE: Go look at--go look at--


MATTHEWS: In other words, the more the government reduces the taxes, the more revenues flow in, right? Just keep lowering the rate.
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SCALISE: If you control spending.

MATTHEWS: No, just keep lowering the rate.

SCALISE: If you lower the rate and control spending, you"ll balance -


MATTHEWS: Well, that"s--OK--

SCALISE: -- the budget.

FATTAH: Well, let me just say this, Chris--

MATTHEWS: You know what? This sounds like ideological malarkey.

FATTAH: Let me just say this, Chris--

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Congressman Fattah.


MATTHEWS: Are you going to back this budget commission, the debt commission the president"s put together, bipartisan commission? Because all this talk--

FATTAH: That commission is going to report on December 1.


FATTAH: There"s going to be an up or down vote, and I"m going to vote to get our fiscal house in order. What we need--and it has to be bipartisan. That is, it has to have Republican support. And Senator Coburn from--is on that commission. Paul Ryan"s on there. I don"t think that we can suggest that they"re not going to be responsible. If they offer up a proposal that rights our fiscal ship, it"s the most important signal we can send to the markets not just here but around the world, and it"s the way that we start to get our economy in a healthy position so that it can grow jobs.

MATTHEWS: Congressman Scalise, last word?

SCALISE: Ultimately, I want to see us not only balance the federal budget but lay out a path that gets our economy back on track and creates jobs. Tax increases has been proven not to do it. Cutting taxes works. The problem we"ve had with deficits is that when they cut taxes, it brings in more money, but Congress spent too much money that created those deficits. So control spending and cut taxes. That"s a formula for job growth and stability in our economy.

MATTHEWS: So cutting taxes--if you were to cut the tax rate dramatically today, Congressman, are you saying we would have more federal revenue?

SCALISE: Yes. And in fact, history shows, when the Bush tax cuts--

MATTHEWS: No, I"m asking you if you believe--

SCALISE: -- went into effect in 2003. Go look at--

MATTHEWS: No, I"m asking you--

SCALISE: -- the numbers, Chris. Go look at the numbers under Reagan and Bush. It works.

MATTHEWS: In other words, why don"t we lower the tax rate to--why don"t we lower all taxes down to about 1 percent, or frankly, just 1 or 2 percent because by your theory, the lower the rate goes, the more revenue flows in. That is insane.

SCALISE: Look, I"ll challenge you to go look at the numbers. When they cut taxes in "03, you had 48 consecutive months of job growth, and the federal government took in more money.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I noticed that we had--

SCALISE: Forty-eight straight months!

FATTAH: Chris--


MATTHEWS: We have--we doubled the national debt under Bush.

SCALISE: Go look at the numbers! Go look at the numbers--


MATTHEWS: I look at them all the time. And you know what happened.

FATTAH: We tried this under Bush, eight years, tax cuts, we know what happened. Our economy fell off a cliff.


SCALISE: -- spent too much money.

FATTAH: -- millions of jobs lost while the Republicans were in charge of the Congress.

SCALISE: It"s the spending!


MATTHEWS: Ronald Reagan was president for eight years. He got the supply-side gobbledy-gook for eight years. We ended up doubling the national debt. He never balanced the budget, never got near balancing it.

SCALISE: The Democratic Congress did do that, you"re right.

MATTHEWS: It was always $300 billion--you know, there"s always a way out. You know, your theory will never be tested.

FATTAH: We need to have broad-based tax reform. We need to balance our budget, all right, pay as we go. And we know who"s fiscally responsible and we know what the Republicans have done, and you"re going to see them again. They want to have $4 trillion in tax cuts, and they want to offer up--give them generously what he said, $100 billion in tax cuts. Tell me how that math adds up.

SCALISE: In spending.


SCALISE: In spending cuts. We"ve laid out the spending cuts--


MATTHEWS: OK, one of you gentlemen has said you"ll support the bipartisan debt reduction effort in principle, one of you won"t say you"ll support it in principle. That"s telling. Fiscal conservatives should be for balancing the budget, eventually--

SCALISE: Without tax increases.

MATTHEWS: -- and be for it in principle. That"s politics. Thank you, sir. That is pure politics. Thank you--nobody likes taxes.

SCALISE: Democrats had a balanced budget.


MATTHEWS: Cutting taxes is the easiest political move in history.

FATTAH: Under President Clinton.

MATTHEWS: It require is no guts.

SCALISE: With a Republican Congress.

MATTHEWS: Anybody can cut taxes. You can be selling that on the street corner and people will buy it. Thank you, Congressman Scalise. Maybe that"s why Republicans win elections, just promise free money. Thank you, Congressman Fattah. Coming up--

SCALISE: Go look at the numbers. But good to be with you.

FATTAH: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: And by the way, check the Reagan deficits, buddy. I was there, Congressman. He doubled the national debt. Your president, W. Bush, he doubled the national debt. It"s a fact. Why do you keep denying the facts?

SCALISE: The federal government took in more money, Chris. The federal government took in more money. It was the spending that created the deficits.

MATTHEWS: The economy grows. Obviously, it brings in more money--


SCALISE: -- work every time.

MATTHEWS: Well, then just lower--by your theory, we should have 1 percent tax cuts--actually, 1 percent taxes, then we"ll bring in zillions of dollars, by your theory. I"m sorry. I"m being sarcastic because--


MATTHEWS: I think it deserves sarcasm. Anyway, thank you. Thank you, Congressman. Please come back. We"ll argue again. You"re good at it.

SCALISE: Great to be with you.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

Coming up: It looks like the Democrats have a real problem in big tent country, right across the industrial Midwest, that Scranton to Oshkosh sweep of the country. They don"t like being called Rust Belt. (INAUDIBLE) help to get President Obama reelected. If you want him reelected, he better find a way to get reelected. That means jobs, and what they can do about it in the White House, and what they can do about it in Congress, and what did they learn from the mid-terms this week. It"s only a couple days ago. Is the memory sinking in?

You"re watch HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


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