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MSNBC "The Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript


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Joining us now with the latest is Congressman Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, joins us from the Hill.

Congressman Frank, thank you for being here.

FRANK: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: From the outside, it looks like the Republicans after a very long meeting tonight are still going to vote against extending the payroll tax cut. Is that what you understand is about to happen?

FRANK: Well, it`s even worse. By the way, I agree with you, this is probably a measure of John Boehner`s incompetence.

But increasingly, I think, you know, if you look at the Republican position, there are a lot of inconsistencies. They are for any possible tax cut except the one we`re talking about right now when it`s so critical
for the economy. They`re for tax cuts for the wealthiest people in America, not offset, but when you do a payroll tax on a somewhat regressive tax, it hits working people more than they take a different position.

Unemployment compensation is not really been controversial, particularly now. On the one hand, the Republicans, in fact, exaggerate the degree of difficulty in the economy. And they say, look, there are no
jobs. And then they blame people who don`t have jobs as if they`re not looking and want to deny them unemployment.

And there was one common theme. You know, H.L. Mencken described truism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, was having a good time.

The current Republican ideology is they fear that the American economy might be recovering. We are doing better than Europe. Things are starting to come back. And these are people who are so dedicated to the defeat of Barack Obama that they are clearly prepared to sabotage things that every economist says are in the national economic interest right now because they do not want to see Obama go forward.

Now, Boehner`s incompetence, his inability to figure things out is a part of it. And the other thing I would say agree with you, it`s not true to say the Tea Party Republicans, because the Republican membership in the House is divided pretty much in two. Half of them are people who agree with Michele Bachmann, but the other half are people who are afraid of losing a primary to someone who agrees with Michele Bachmann.

So you have the only thing that unites them, the only thing they can get together on is trying to sabotage Barack Obama. And if that means blocking economic activity that almost every economist, including the very
conservative ones, thinks would be helpful, that`s what they`ll do it.

MADDOW: In terms of the coherence here, to describe it as sabotage would mean that this is a plan. That they are deliberately trying to ensure that nothing passes, particularly if something passing would help
the economy. That would imply that they are actually sort of coherently organized enough to at least make sure nothing gets done.

FRANK: That`s a fair point. I -- that overstates their coherence. But I would say this. They certainly are happy if the consequence of all this is that nothing happens. That is, I agree. They didn`t set out and
plan this like a chess match.

But at some point it occurs to them that deadlock is in their interest, that chaos is their friend because it means undermining what, you know -- look, six months ago, there was talk about a second recession.
That`s clearly not a problem here in America. We have a European situation that holds us back a little. But we`re moving ahead.

But the other interesting point I want to make is this. And you said, you know, they planned to vote against it. Well, there are enough Republican, a handful maybe, who are worried about political survival if they do vote to let taxes go up and if they vote to cut unemployment.

So, Boehner as of now, we are told -- I just left the Democratic whip`s office -- they`re not going to allow this to come up for a vote. You correctly talked about their views about transparency and openness.
The Republican leadership is apparently afraid that if the Senate-passed bill came up with all the Democrats being supportive, enough Republicans would vote for it so it would pass.

So what do these people committed to majority rule and transparency and democracy do? They have announced that they`re going to use their control over the procedures not to allow it to come to a vote, because they are afraid that there might be out of the 245 Republicans, 35 or 40 who out of sense of survival will vote with us.

MADDOW: In terms of that sense of survival, if this doesn`t pass and if the payroll tax cut expires at the end of the year and people start seeing their paychecks shrink in January, does your political sense tell
you that people will blame Washington in a generic sense? And Democrats in the White House and Republicans will all get hurt equally in the court of public opinion? Do you think people will discern this is something Republicans weren`t able to bring themselves to do?

FRANK: I am hoping, obviously, it`s the latter because that`s accurate. As you point out, this is a deal that Mitch McConnell made with Harry Reid. It is clear given where we are in the senate, the only way to
get this through -- I`d love it to be an indefinite extension. The only way to get it through is to do this.

And there may be some of this -- oh, it is all their fault. I will say that troubles me when people said, well, why can`t you work it out? I can`t work out constructive measures with people who are dedicated to kind
of tearing things down.

The thing that worries me more, though, is not just who gets blamed for this. But this will be very bad for the economy. And the economy is doing better. It`s not nearly as good as it should be, but if you look at
various indicators, there is reason to think that next year, we will have significant growth, much better than are people in Europe. And if Europe doesn`t collapse, we could get significant growth.

This will undermine that. And the tragedy is that the Republicans are gambling, maybe successfully, that they can cause damage to the economy and then benefit from it politically because the president will always get a blame when the economy`s not doing well.

MADDOW: Congressman Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, there on the Hill working late tonight and joining us -- thanks for your time tonight, sir. I really appreciate it.

FRANK: Thank you, Rachel. Appreciate it.


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