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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript




Let me go to Senator Coggs. Senator, it looks to me like they really went draconian with this. They went all the way, stripping away all labor rights, all collective bargaining rights. You can"t even do anything but stay somewhere below the cost of living. And basically, what else? Well, what is in this bill? It seems like it"s the worst example of what you can do when you have one-party control. Your thoughts.

SPENCER COGGS (D), WISCONSIN STATE SENATOR: Well, that"s absolutely true. It"s desperation, and this is not what democracy looks like or should look like. What you have, basically, is 18 Republicans stole democracy from the people of the state of Wisconsin. They were saying before, This is about the budget, this is about the fiscal deficit that we"re in, and yet what they did last night was they stripped out all the fiscal and they left in that terrible, terrible policy that hurts the workers" rights of the working families of the state of Wisconsin.

You know, you won"t be able to bargain for your hours. You won"t be able to bargain for your safety. It"s just abysmal. It"s so brazen, but it"s a desperate attempt, I think, by the Republican Party, especially Governor Walker, to lock in those 18 Republican senators because there are so many of them who will be getting waivered (ph) because we have got recalls against all of them.

MATTHEWS: Well, here"s your colleague, the minority leader of the state assembly, Peter Barca, protesting the Republicans" actions last night. Let"s watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let"s call the roll.


Listen, it says, "If there"s any doubt as to whether good cause exists"--


BARCA: -- "the governmental body should provide 24 hours" notice." This is clearly a violation of the open meetings law. (INAUDIBLE) been shutting people down. It is improper for you to move forward while this is a violation of the open meetings law. You"re not allowing amendments, and that is wrong. Now, I--Mr. Chairman, this is a violation of law! This is not just a rule, it is the law! There must be--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This meeting is adjourned.

BARCA: No! Mr. Chairman, this is a violation of the open meetings law.


MATTHEWS: Well, they walked out on him, Senator. So what do you make of the assemblyman--Assemblyman Barca"s case that the law of the senate out there, your body, is that you have to have a 24-hour notice to have any kind of important hearing, and vote, certainly? What about that? Can you use that to stop this from becoming law?

COGGS: Oh, absolutely. This is--

MATTHEWS: Well, can you?

COGGS: -- Republican thievery and--

MATTHEWS: You say absolutely, but how do you do it?

COGGS: Well, what we"re going to do is we"re going to use the courts initially to try to see if we can enjoin this conduct that has happened because, quite frankly, they did violate the 24-hour rule. They did not have a draft of the bill in front of them. I don"t think they even have a draft at this particular time. So the vote on the bill without a draft is also illegal.

But they did what they did illegally, and it was a tactic that they used. We feel (INAUDIBLE) that tactic is going to backfire against them. The people of the state of Wisconsin are not going to stand for that. And as you can tell last night, thousands of people came to the capitol because of this terrible, terrible vote that they took last night and today, and they will continue to come. So today it"s--you know, it was the vote, tomorrow it"s the recall.

MATTHEWS: Well, let"s talk about this with John Nichols from "The Nation." John, it looks to me like this measure that went through last night and today--or today especially--was so harsh. Not only does it take away real collective bargaining--you can"t get anything better than the cost of living, you can"t even get that perhaps--you also no longer have paycheck deductions, so the unions aren"t getting their dues. And furthermore, you don"t have to pay dues. You don"t even have to pay dues to compensate (ph) (INAUDIBLE) anybody, even if you don"t want to join the union. It seems to me this is really a union-crushing measure, not a fiscal measure. Your thoughts.

JOHN NICHOLS, "THE NATION": Well, of course, it is a union-crushing measure, Chris. And Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald acknowledged as much in an interview on another network yesterday, in which he said, This will help us to beat Obama in Wisconsin in 2012. There"s been clear acknowledgment from the Republicans that they want to weaken the public employee unions not merely because of politics but also because these are the strongest forces in Wisconsin to raise issues of concern to public services and education.

MATTHEWS: Well, here he is--

NICHOLS: So this is really about shutting down a functional debate.

MATTHEWS: John, here"s--senator, here"s the governor, your adversary here, Governor Walker, earlier today talking about that senate vote last night, I call the Ash Wednesday ambush. Let"s listen.


GOV. SCOTT WALKER ®, WISCONSIN: For the remainder of this year, it allows us to save $30 million, which allows us to save 1,500 jobs. And for the next two years thereafter, the next budget, it gives us at the state level the equivalent of $300 million worth of savings, which allows us to save some 5,000 to 6,000 jobs.


MATTHEWS: What can you do now, Senator? Can you recall the governor? Can you recall any of the state senators you work with, the Republicans who pulled this off last night?

COGGS: Well, eight Republican senators are under recall currently. Senator Alberta Darling, over the past weekend, 27 percent of the signatures that are needed to recall were gathered. Twenty-seven percent of the recall signatures were gathered against Senator Kapanke. We have at least four others where we probably will be able to take that recall and defeat those senators.

So in a sense, they won this battle, but we and the people will win the war because the people of the state of Wisconsin have a long tradition of fairness, and this reeked of unfairness. This is where they said, We want you to come back from Illinois. We went to Illinois because our voice was not being heard.


COGGS: Then what they did was ignored our voice, and they wanted us to stay in Illinois so they could take this illegal vote yesterday.

MATTHEWS: Can you knock them out this November? Can you move that quickly with the recall process?

COGGS: Well, the recall process is moving very, very swiftly. Within 60 days, they"re going to have enough signatures to recall at least eight Republican senators. And if we can get four of those people out by recall, we can retake the senate. Now, with Scott Walker, the clock is tick, tick, ticking away because in January of 2012, there are going to be people who are going to gather signatures for Scott Walker. And people say, Well, you know, you might need up to 500,000 signatures. Well, if you look at the numbers of people who"ve been coming to the capitol, getting that many signatures will not be that hard.

MATTHEWS: But that"s only the beginning, right? You still have to beat them in a recall vote, right? The signatures don"t knock them out of office, do they?

COGGS: Absolutely. .

MATTHEWS: Right. OK. Several Democrats--

COGGS: Well, look at it this way, the momentum we get is so great.

MATTHEWS: Let me--let me go back to John--let me go back to John Nichols on this. Let"s talk about this politically nationwide. You cover the whole country in this fight. This is a national fight. Everybody"s watching Wisconsin. The president--is he off-duty here? Has the president failed to get out--I mean, Jesse Jackson"s out there. He often shows up where there"s a labor dispute. The president"s not there. Should he be there? What"s your call?

NICHOLS: I think the president--well, I have to tell you, the president has probably been wise to stay away. The fact of the matter is that this has not been a purely partisan fight in Wisconsin. When you go into these crowds at the capitol, you meet many Republicans, many corrections officers, many police officers--


NICHOLS: -- who aren"t your typical liberal Democrat. And right now, what"s happened in Wisconsin is that Barack Obama has yielded (ph) a great benefit from this without actually having to invest very much.

There will come a point, however, where when you see draconian moves of this kind, that there will be a greater demand on this president to speak up and to say where he stands as regard to governors who seem to be adopting what one legislator, Fred Risser here in Wisconsin, has referred to as dictatorial power.

MATTHEWS: OK, let"s go back to the politics in Wisconsin, Senator Coggs. Your party lost a U.S. Senate seat last November. You lost the governorship. You lost the legislature. Why didn"t you fight harder out there to keep control? It looks like you"re a victim now because you lost an election, and they"re using that election to beat your brains in.

COGGS: Well, you know, what happens in Wisconsin, one third is Democrat, one third is Republican, and one third is independents. Unfortunately, we did lose the independents last time, but Governor Walker in the last few Republican polls has shown that his favorability numbers are in the 30 percentile, so--and we are also showing that the independents are swinging our way. So everything is in our direction.

Yesterday wasn"t a great moment for the state of Wisconsin at all, but it shone a light on this bad news repair budget. And it also shone a light on the character of our governor and the Republicans who are just trying to steal democracy from the state of Wisconsin.

MATTHEWS: So let"s go through what you"ve got in your order of battle. You"ve got a court case pending here, where you can possibly enjoin the senate in Wisconsin in Madison not to have this carried through because they didn"t give 24-hour notice. You"ve got recall petitions working against a number of the state senators who voted on this thing, right? And you"re going to gear up--I"m just advocating this--you"re going to gear up for the next election and take it seriously this time. Just a thought.

COGGS: Well, we"re going to take it seriously. We"re going to take it seriously, and we"re going to have the nation helping us. People from all over the country have come. Now, this is a home-grown--this is grass roots. This isn"t Astroturf, this movement in Wisconsin, OK? But we are having people from all over the country helping us to go forward and move forward because in Wisconsin, our motto is "Forward." So we are on a momentum swing like you would not believe.


COGGS: Last night was not pretty, but tomorrow we will survive and we will thrive.

MATTHEWS: Well, you"re talking to a guy who loves natural turf. Thank you very much--in all sports and events such as this. Thank you, sir, State Senator Spencer Coggs at an unknown location in Illinois, John Nichols on site in Madison for "Nation" magazine.


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