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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript


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South Carolina Republican congressman Mick Mulvaney is here with me
tonight. He`s one of many Republicans who planned to vote no on plan B.
Welcome, Congressman. Thank you for being here. My question that I just
put to Mike Viqueira is better put to you. Would you rather go off that
fiscal cliff than compromise with this president of the United States?

REP. MICK MULVANEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, no. I mean, I`m not adverse
(SIC) to compromising with this president. I mean, we`ve tried to do
things together for the last two years. But when he`s offering us things
that are so outrageous that he knows we can`t take them, I don`t know how
you can compromise it.
I tell people, if you`re trying to sell your house and I knock on your
front door and say, I`d like to buy your house for $1, you`d slam the door
in my face because I`m not a serious negotiator. And I -- we`ve just not
seen anything out of the president yet that is even close to being able to
be the basis for a discussion, at least within the House.

SMERCONISH: What was your objection to the so-called plan B by your own
speaker? Is it that, in your view, it raised taxes?

MULVANEY: No. In fact, actually, if you look at the text of the document,
it actually doesn`t raise taxes. So that`s not actually my objection.
My objection was it didn`t fix the problem. It didn`t cut any spending.
It really didn`t fix any of our longer-term issues. It divided us between
us and them, and that`s not something I want to participate in as a
Republican. I wanted something that treats everybody fairly. This was a
flawed piece of legislation at many levels.

SMERCONISH: So that I understand, your objection, then, is not -- you`re
not staking out -- drawing a line in the sand, staking out territory that
says, I won`t vote for something that does raise taxes.

MULVANEY: Yes, I`m not telling anybody what I will or will not vote for.
What I have told people all day today and for several months is that I have
voted for things up here that I never thought I would vote for. I voted to
raise the debt ceiling. I did it as part of an overall package called
"Cut, cap and balance" that solved the problem. Bring us something that
actually solves the problem and we will look at it.

SMERCONISH: Congressman, have you wounded Speaker Boehner`s ability to
negotiate a deal that would be palatable to you by the way in which he was
embarrassed last night?

MULVANEY: No. And I think that`s one of the greatest non-stories of
today. I`ve been getting that question all day long today. But keep in
mind, the opposition to this bill last night was not the conservative wing
of the party. The opposition was broad-based. There were moderates who
were against it. There were some of the most conservative members of our
body who were for plan B last night.

SMERCONISH: But see, we don`t -- but we don`t know that because no vote
was taken. And consequently, the word has been on Capitol Hill that it was
the most conservative of Republicans who were, to use a word,
"intransigent" with this speaker. They wouldn`t even go along with their
own leader.

MULVANEY: Sure. It`s -- it`s simply not true. There were conservatives
who were against it. There were moderates who were against it. There were
conservatives and moderates who were for it. Simply ask the question -- I
don`t think anybody`s asked it today. We`ve always assumed, especially
when you talk to folks across the aisle, the Democrats, as you do all day
long, that it`s the conservative wing of the party. And I can assure you
nothing was further from the truth yesterday.

SMERCONISH: What are you hoping to hear from the president momentarily?

MULVANEY: Something we can work with, something close, something that`s
not demagoguery and politics, something that`s got some detail to it. I`ve
been reading some of the Internet articles about what he might be saying.
So let`s see what he comes back with.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Congressman Mick Mulvaney. We appreciate your time
here -- Congressman Mulvaney from South Carolina.


SMERCONISH: Bob, you mentioned Congressman Mulvaney. I think I still have
him. Congressman, if you`re there -- better I should have asked the
question to you, sir. How does this play at home for you?

MULVANEY: I think it plays fine. I think the folks recognize the fact
that the president is the difficulty here. So I`m not having any
difficulty at all back home. (INAUDIBLE) folks automatically think South
Carolina is some right-wing extreme state. I`m the first Republican in my
district in 130 years. So this is a swing district, and I`m still getting
a lot of support from folks back home.

CORN: Well, listen...

SMERCONISH: I -- you know, I -- let me just say this to the congressman.
I like to regard myself as answering the telephone for a living because I
do 15 hours of live radio a week. What I hear from people all across the
country is, Can`t the adults work this out? Can`t compromise be a clean
word, not a dirty word? Get in a room and iron this out.

MULVANEY: Absolutely. But you`re making an assumption here that I don`t
think is fair, which is...


MULVANEY: ... you`re assuming that if what we had passed last night was
going to become law. That`s meaningless.


SMERCONISH: To the contrary, I used the word "charade" earlier. And I


SMERCONISH: ... what baffles me about the politics of this is that the
speaker would have expended all this capital on something that would never
have gotten out of the Senate to begin with, much less with the president.

CORN: Hey, Michael?


CORN: Michael, let me just -- you know, I don`t want to take your job away
from you, but let me just ask the congressman while we have him. What
compromise would you accept here? The president won with 53 percent of the
vote, 52 percent. His approval rating`s at 56. He campaigned without a
doubt on raising taxes for people making over $250,000. So he`s come up
from that to $400,000, $500,000, whatever it`s going to be.
What compromise are you willing to make? Meaning, what would you agree to
that you wouldn`t otherwise want to do to make something happen?

MULVANEY: Sure. And I`m going to dodge your question just a little bit...

CORN: Well, there you go!

MULVANEY: ... and in all fairness -- no, no. Wait for a second.


MULVANEY: You`re not the other side of this negotiation. You can`t give
me what I want in this, so I`m not going to tell you what I will or won`t
I will tell you this. I`ve already taken heat from my party for working
with Barney Frank on some items this year. I`m taking heart right now for
working with Keith Ellison. I think I`ve shown a track record of being
willing to work with the other side, if it fixes the problem.
That`s the key. I`m not going to compromise for the sake of political
charade, to put it in you guys` words. I am interested in fixing the
problem. Let`s get to that point, get beyond political rhetoric and get
beyond the demagoguery...

CORN: But one problem...

MULVANEY: ... and try and fix it.

CORN: But one problem is tax rates go up a week from now. That`s -- there
are a lot of problems here at once. There`s the question of spending,
there`s the question of entitlements, the debt ceiling. But one problem is
that tax rates go up in a week.

MULVANEY: I understand that.

CORN: What do you want to do about that?

MULVANEY: And I don`t want that anymore than anybody else, but I`m also
not willing to simply give away the farm so that that doesn`t happen. The
bill last night had no spending cuts. None. Zero. They tacked on another
bill on the calendar, but the actual bill that we voted on, this plan B
last night, not a single dollar in spending cuts. That`s a non-starter for
me and for a lot of folks in my caucus, and not just the conservatives.

SMERCONISH: Congressman, think more broadly than just your district, if
you would, sir.


SMERCONISH: What effect do you think this has on the brand for the
Republican Party generally?

MULVANEY: I think that remains to be seen. I get that question a lot. I
think there`s an argument to be made that if it passed last night, it hurt
the brand. There`s an argument (INAUDIBLE) if it failed last night, it
hurt the brand.
I happen to fall into the former category. I think that it`s important
that the public knows that the Republicans stand for everybody and that we
do not believe in raising tax rates. That`s important. That`s part of who
we are as Republicans.
I think if we give in just a little bit on that, we start to do -- we do
start to lose our brand. That said, if it`s done as part of something that
really fixes the problem, I think we actually come out looking better in
the end.


SMERCONISH: We`re back awaiting President Obama`s statement from the White
House on the fiscal cliff.
NBC`s Mike Viqueira is with us from Capitol Hill, as is U.S. Congressman
Mick Mulvaney, Republican of South Carolina. Also with us, Bob Costa of
"National Review" and David Corn of "Mother Jones" magazine.
Congressman, of what concern are the fluctuations in the market in this
whole process?

REP. MICK MULVANEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I`m not too worried about
the short-term fluctuations.
I think you saw the Dow was down today...

SMERCONISH: One-twenty-one.

MULVANEY: ... just under 1 percent, 120-odd points.
I think it`s been down more than 100 points five times in the last 30 days.
So, when the Dow is at 13000, 100 points is not that big a deal. And I`m
not too concerned about the short-term variations. I am concerned
obviously about the long-term effects on the economy. And I think that`s a
very real concern that people are right to have.

SMERCONISH: I asked the question because, as you will recall in the fall
of `08, there was that 775-point drop at a time when there was a vote
against the Bush bank bailout.
Robert Costa, of what extent do you think that`s a factor in all of this?
Are those with whom you speak on Capitol Hill concerned about the market
and its reaction?

I speak to some sources close to leadership earlier today, and they expect
when the House comes back next week and if the markets really start to
fluctuate, Boehner may not be able to get a majority of House Republicans
to sign onto a compromise bill with a different threshold, but if the
markets are fluctuating, maybe he can get 50 to 100 Republicans to sign
onto a compromise.
That`s why the market factor is important, because some Republicans may not
be able to go back home and say they voted against something, especially if
the markets are really going jittery.

MULVANEY: Well, if I can step in here -- and I apologize for going where
I`m not invited -- but what does that mean if the market is up next week?

COSTA: If the market is up next week, it`s not a factor and Boehner is
going to probably have a harder time getting a compromise.


MULVANEY: There you go.


COSTA: ... votes for a compromise.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: And, Michael, there`s something other

SMERCONISH: Go ahead, David.

CORN: There`s something other than just the market.
The White House has been hearing a lot from Republican CEOs who are just
looking at what`s gone on in Washington and considering it just completely
nuts. This is no way to run the economy, one of the most important
economies in the world.
And they are blaming the Republicans more than the Democrats or the
president. And we`re going to see this, I think, even greater outcry maybe
become public if the Republicans yet again start playing with the debt
ceiling, which we can ask the congressman now, but I think that`s the next
-- I think there`s their plan C, D, E, or F.

SMERCONISH: Well, Congressman, I was making reference to I think some of
those poll numbers that David just brought up.
All of Congress suffers from low approval ratings, but I think when you
look at some of the data on who do you blame the most for what`s taking
place, the GOP takes a much harder hit than do the Democratic members of
the House.

MULVANEY: And we do. We saw that in the national election.
We have come to expect that. We have always struggled on the messaging or
at least in recent periods of time. It`s very difficult to compete with a
president of the other party, who is a very good communicator. It`s easy
to hate Congress because you only usually know one or two out of the 435
members. Everybody knows who is the president is.
So, we do have an uphill battle fight on messaging. There`s no question
about it, but does that mean that you vote differently? Does it mean that
you vote for something that you shouldn`t otherwise vote for, just so you
can go out and say, look, I -- I -- don`t blame me?
Keep in mind, even if we had voted for this last night, and it would have
failed, as everybody would have said, don`t you think we would be getting
blamed anyway?


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