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NBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript: Affordable Care Act Hearing


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MATTHEWS: Well, Frank Pallone of New Jersey is the one who you saw there defending the law. He`s a Democrat from New Jersey. Jennifer Granholm is the former governor of Michigan.

I have got to go to you, Congressman.

What do you smell in the water? What`s going on with this effort? Somebody once said people don`t do their best work when they`re being dumped on. This idea that somehow if we dump on it enough, if we negative cheerlead, we used to do in high school, negative cheerlead over and over and over again, get the young people spooked, make them not apply for it, make everybody feel terrible, then we can win the fight and prevent it from taking hold with the American people.

PALLONE: Well, the problem is that the Affordable Care Act is dependent on people signing up. In other words, the more people you have, the larger your insurance pool, the more effective it is, the cheaper it becomes.

And so when you`re looking at Congressman Barton, where he`s trying to scare people to say, don`t sign up because your privacy is going to be impacted in some way, well, he`s hoping that people don`t sign up. So, they`re taking advantage. They`re glorifying these computer glitches. They`re trying to scare people their privacy is going to be impacted. They`re trying to do whatever they can, including shutting down the government, to make sure that this doesn`t work.

And this wasn`t a legitimate hearing today. That`s why I called it a monkey court, because they weren`t trying to fix it. They weren`t trying to work with the contractors to figure out how they can improve it. They just wanted to make people say, well, this doesn`t work. It`ll never work. So let`s delay it or let`s get rid of it.

That`s their goal. And they don`t -- you know, I said they don`t have clean hands. They come in here with bad intent, not really trying to fix the situation.

MATTHEWS: Governor, this in private -- you`re an attorney -- and in private sector business, you can put up a sign, don`t go to that restaurant, you will get ptomaine poisoning.

You can`t just poison another competing operation. In this case, these people feel the complete right for a free fire zone. It started with the death panels. Just say something. An older person might hear it and go, oh, I hear they have death panels. They`re coming to get me.

JENNIFER GRANHOLM (D), FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: But the news is, though, Chris, as these stories come out about people successfully signing up, whether they`re using the telephone or they`re using the Web site, it will overcome all the negativity.

Even these governors that have rejected Obamacare and have rejected the expansion of Medicaid, eventually, those states will all be part of this, in the same way that Medicare covers everybody, in the same way that the rollout for Medicare Part D was glitchy, but everybody signed up. This, too, will be overcome by the positive stories.

Yes, we have got a problem with the Web site. But they have got five months now to try to fix it before people get penalized. It`s going to get fixed. People will come on and even eventually those red states, maybe not with these governors, but with the next ones, they will come on too.

MATTHEWS: Well, to your point, Republicans on the state level have
done everything they can to derail the Affordable Care Act. Case in point, take a look at the states that rejected or are likely to reject an expansion of Medicaid under the ACA, that expansion, which would have helped provide insurance coverage to millions of poor Americans.

Don`t forget that the federal government would have paid for nearly all the expansion. Yet numerous Republican-controlled states chose to reject it simply because it was part of the law.

Look at that. It looks like a typical collection result, by the way. More importantly, it`s the same story for the states that refuse to build their own heath care exchange, which has placed significantly more stress on the federal exchange. Again, it`s the same collection, or coalition of Southern, and Republican-controlled states whose lawmakers want this law to fail.

On the other hand, states that have embraced the law are already seeing the benefits. Oregon, for example, has cut its uninsured rate by 10 percent in a matter of days.

Congressman, this is a -- I don`t want to start Ft. Sumter and the guns firing, but there`s an aspect of civil war. In fact, the return of the Confederacy in this. These conservative people seem to think that they`re representing their states by basically sabotaging this program which is, in fact, part of the law.

PALLONE: Exactly. It`s all ideologically driven by the Tea Party Republicans who don`t believe that the federal government should help you get health insurance. Either they shouldn`t provide it under Medicaid or they shouldn`t subsidize it under the Affordable Care Act. It`s just -- their ideology that stands in the way of trying to help people.

When you talk about states that or governors that don`t take Medicaid, which is 100 percent federally funded, you`re talking about very poor people who can`t get insurance, have no way of getting insurance. And to just keep them out of this so they don`t get coverage is a tragedy. It really is. And why does the ideology have to stand in the way?

GRANHOLM: Yes, in addition to that, Chris, I would just say that those governors that are rejecting federal funds, federal dollars come from their citizens too. You don`t think this is a great campaign issue for a Democratic candidate for governor in one of those red states next time to say, you folks in Texas, you folks in Alabama, you`re paying for the health care in Michigan, because you`re refusing to accept any federal dollars to insure your people.

MATTHEWS: I know. That`s --


GRANHOLM: But, I mean, you want your tax dollars going to fund people`s health care somewhere else or keep our own? These governors in the last decade, they all would have said, hell yes I`m going to take federal dollars because my citizens have been paying their taxes and we should get that money back home. By the way, I`ll also set up the exchange because I don`t want the federal government coming in here and doing it.But these new breed of governors, it is a totally different ball game. And the federal government is expanding in their states as a result of them having their hands off.

MATTHEWS: Well, nobody said the Tea Party was rational. Anyway, GOP`s biggest fear I think, just may be that history repeats itself. In the 1930s, Republicans forcefully opposed Social Security.Take a look at this clip of Alf Landon, the GOP presidential nominee in 1936.


ALF LANDON, 1936 GOP PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This is the largest tax bill in history. And to call it Social Security is a fraud on the working man.


MATTHEWS: He didn`t go anywhere. Landon lost 46 of 48 states, and the Republicans wouldn`t get back to the White House until `53. Same story of the 1960s when Republicans, including an upstart by the name of Ronald Reagan opposed Medicare.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: If you don`t do this and I don`t do it, one of these days, you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children`s children what it once was like in America when men were free.


MATTHEWS: Republicans have had to live down their opposition because Medicare has become one of the most popular government programs ever. Anyway, this is Ted Cruz`s biggest fear and even he admits. Let`s listen to Ted Cruz --


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: The Obama administration plan is very simple. It is to get many Americans as possible addicted to the subsidies, addicted to the sugar, because they know the simple fact that in modern times no major entitlement has ever gone into effect and then been undone.


CRUZ: So they just want as many people receiving subsidies because once that happens, I believe it is likely that Obamacare will become a permanent feature of our economy.


MATTHEWS: There you have it. The biggest fear of the Republicans is it will be popular eventually. They don`t want to lose again. I see you shaking your head, Congressman. Isn`t that their fear on the Republican side?

PALLONE: Oh, I don`t think there`s any question that that`s what they`re concerned. And, Chris, I would point. If you remember, Medicare part D --


PALLONE: -- the pharmaceutical benefit, when that was passed, a lot of Democrats, including myself didn`t like it because there were a lot of loopholes and the donut hole and lack of coverage. When it finally went into effect, there were a lot of glitches very similar with the computers and the first few months. But we sat down even in our same committee that you showed today and we worked with the Republicans to fix it because we wanted to make sure that seniors have their prescription drug benefit.

MATTHEWS: Good for you. In other words, you believe in -- you believe in positive government, sir.

PALLONE: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: Good for you.

PALLONE: It shouldn`t be ideologically driven. They need to look at this practically that it`s helping their own constituents. But they refuse to do that.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, U.S. Congressman Frank Pallone and former Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan.When we come back, achieving greatness in a uniquely American way.

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