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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript


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REP. MICHAEL CAPUANO (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I don"t know about that. I mean, I think I"m a pragmatic liberal. I"m a liberal because I believe government can and should make people"s lives better. But I"m a fiscal conservative because I think we should pay our bills.

MATTHEWS: Wow. And you think what should happen tonight as the evening grows long--as we go past midnight tonight, what do you think the Democrats ought to do, finally relent, go with the president, or hang out a little more?

CAPUANO: I"ve always presumed that in the final analysis, the president will get what he wants, but he will not do it with my vote. I think this bill is too big. I think it"s too untargeted. And I think adds to the deficit way too much for too little return. There"s some--obviously, some good things in there. I like the unemployment issue. But I just don"t think that it"s good for the country in the long run.

MATTHEWS: If he was to go down politically this season because of your vote, would you still deny it to him?

CAPUANO: I don"t think that"s the way it"s going to happen. Look, I was an early supporter of the president--


MATTHEWS: I know. I know. You"re hedging. That"s all right. I know. It"s a cruel question--

CAPUANO: I"m not hedging, I just--

MATTHEWS: -- at Christmastime. But you don"t think it--but I"m asking you, speculate, if you were to vote deciding on the floor and you were corralled down there on the floor by Speaker Pelosi or Steny Hoyer, and you--they said, I need your vote, Mr. Capuano, we need you, Mike, we need you, we need you, we need you, we"re not getting out of here until after Christmas, what would you say?

CAPUANO: That will not be happening. I"m not the guy who hangs onto my vote. They know how I"m voting--


CAPUANO: -- and if they"re going to do that, they"re going to do it to somebody else.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me go to a more reliable Democrat. I"m just kidding. Let me go to Mr. Chaka Fattah of Philadelphia. Sir, your view on this. Should the Democrats go with the president?

REP. CHAKA FATTAH (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I issued a statement last week. I"m going to support the tax cut compromise. I think football always works better then who you play with your quarterback and you--the Democrats--we have a president. He"s come to a compromise, a lot of which we all like. And the Republican side of the compromise most of us don"t like. But that"s the basis of a deal. And you know, when Bill Clinton was in and we had Republicans to deal with, there were accommodations that had to--we had to come to.

Now, I agree we should pay our bills, and we need to have a debt and deficit reduction plan. I"ll be authoring my own in January about how we get out of debt. But right now, 98 percent of the people in this country don"t want their taxes going up, and we don"t want their taxes to go up.


FATTAH: We disagree about the 2 percent and--but the Republican said, look, that"s their side of the cake and they want the 2 percent of the wealthiest people to get a break. And we"ve made an accommodation in which everybody"s going to get what they want. We need to move forward and make sure that this recovery moves forward. I disagree with my colleague, but I think he"s a great congressman--

MATTHEWS: Oh, here we go.

FATTAH: -- from the commonwealth.

MATTHEWS: Lay it on. Lay it on. Let"s go--


MATTHEWS: Hey, I know somebody, Mr. Fattah, you disagree with. That"s Rush Limbaugh. Let"s watch Rush himself. Here he comes. And by the way, this time, he"s right for all the wrong reasons. But he"s got it. I think you guys are going to agree that he"s right. Here"s Rush Limbaugh on the tax bill. Let"s listen.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I now hope this deal fails. I say it directly and officially. Let the tax rates go up on January 1st. Let them go up. Wait for our cavalry to show up and deal with this the right way.


MATTHEWS: What do you make of that, Mr. Capuano? You"ve seen cowboy movies. He wants to be the cavalry with the white hats coming in with the white horses and saying, Those damn Democrats let your taxes go up, here we are, January 15th, or whatever, and we"re here to cut them for you. He wants to be that guy.

CAPUANO: Here"s my problem. He"ll be the guy leading the charge next year to cut the programs that I think are so important, like Social Security and Medicare and senior housing and education and police and fire protection. And I don"t want to do that. And I think that that"s absolutely inevitable. They"re going to do it anyway, and to add another trillion dollars to the deficit is simply going to empower them to do it more.

MATTHEWS: But is Rush right that if you guys don"t deal with this tax issue before Christmas, the bad guys, as you see them, will come in after January 3rd and look like the heroes? Aren"t you thinking politically at all this, Mr. Capuano? I"m going to go to Mr. Fattah--

CAPUANO: I"m thinking very politically. But I also think that I have to think philosophically, as well.

FATTAH: Well, here"s the deal--

MATTHEWS: OK, Mr. Fattah, are you thinking politically? Is Rush Limbaugh right?

FATTAH: Look, Al Franken, Barbara Boxer voted for this in the Senate. They"re as liberal as they come in our party. I"m going to vote for it in the House. I"m part of the liberal left in the House. There will be members who disagree, and on legitimate points they may disagree. Anytime a deal is struck, some people are not going to like it. There"ll be enough votes to pass this. We"ll pass it out of the House. We"ll send it to the president for his signature.

And we"re going to get a few more things done. I think the Senate"s going to pass "Don"t ask, don"t tell." We"ve got to get the appropriations bill done. And then these Republicans who want to celebrate Christmas, I guess, will get a chance to. Like most Americans, they have to work up until Christmas. Some have to work on Christmas Day. But we"ll get the work done.

MATTHEWS: Well, some people are lucky to be working. Let"s take a look at this tax. Here"s the polling data. I know Mr. Capuano"s not a politician, so let"s take a look at the poll data, you and me, Mr. Fattah. We"ll look at these numbers. Fifty-four percent of Democrats support this deal right now. That"s in our poll.

Let"s listen. Well, I don"t know why we"re listening here. Let"s go on. Here"s--we"re getting confused here. Let"s look at the latest--the latest Quinnipiac poll has 69 percent, 69 percent say they"d go with the deal. This is 72 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of independents.

Mr. Capuano, I got to go back to you -- 71 percent support this among union households, this deal. What do you make of that? Union households?

CAPUANO: Who doesn"t want a tax cut? I mean, that"s--that depends how you ask the question. Do they want to lay it on their kids? If they want to do that, why are they bothering to save money to send their kids to college and to help them go forward? We"re laying this on our children. Everybody knows it. And when you ask that question, you get a different answer. If you simply ask for a tax cut, I"m for that. I"ll get a good tax cut out of this bill. But at the same time, my responsibility here is not just for the people who are here right now, it"s also the future of this country. And we will regret this vote in a few years if we don"t deal with our deficit and our debt right now.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Mr. Fattah, what"s it like in the cloakroom? How"s this division--what"s the argument going on? Is it like this between what Mr. Capuano calls the philosophical position and the political necessity of not letting the Republicans steal this issue from you come January?

FATTAH: Well, there are a lot of different viewpoints, at least one for each member of the Democratic caucus. But the bottom line here is that we have a situation in front of us where we have a timeline. We"re going to be in the majority for a few more weeks. We need to get our work done.

I agree that the debt"s a problem. I"m going to offer a bill to deal directly with the nation"s debt, but I do think that we also have an economic recovery that"s critically important. And every economist that has looked at this, across the board, says this is going to add to our GDP, this is going to add at least a million-plus more jobs.


FATTAH: We need to focus on building our economy because at the end of the day, that"s how we"re going to get out of debt. We have to grow our way out of debt by adding more tax ratables (ph) to the bottom line.

MATTHEWS: OK, let"s take a look at Congressman DeFazio. Last night, he described what he said were high-pressure phone calls from the president on this tax deal, though not saying he got one himself. He said he heard from someone who did. A White House spokesman, by the way, has denied the president is making any such apocalyptic phone calls. Here"s what the congressman said, however. Let"s listen to Mr. DeFazio.


REP. PETER DEFAZIO (D), OREGON: The White House is putting on tremendous pressure, making phone calls. The president"s making phone calls saying this is the end of his presidency if he doesn"t get this bad deal. You know, I don"t feel that way. I think this is potentially the end of his possibility of being reelected if he gets this deal.

And it"s a trap. It"s a trap on Social Security and on progressivity in our tax system and attacks on huge cuts to programs we care about because this adds half a trillion bucks to the deficit next year. And the next year, when the new Republicans come in, Whoa, we got to cut the heck out of everything because we have a $1.7 trillion Obama deficit. They won"t be talking about their role in creating that.


MATTHEWS: This apocalyptic phone call that the president"s going to lose the presidency if he doesn"t get this bill--Mr. DeFazio, we found out from his office a few minutes ago, didn"t get that call himself. He reports that he got it--he heard another member got that call.

Mr. Capuano, is anybody you know getting calls from the president saying, If you don"t give me this tax fight--vote, I"m losing the job? Anybody you know hearing that--

CAPUANO: I have not heard that.


CAPUANO: I have not heard that.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you very much, Michael Capuano from the 8th--

CAPUANO: Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: -- in Massachusetts. Great to have you on from that great district. And Mr. Fattah, thank you. And merry Christmas to both of you gentlemen as we get out of this season.

FATTAH: Merry Christmas to you.

Thank you.


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