updated 3/23/2010 2:25:32 PM ET 2010-03-23T18:25:32

Guests: David Axelrod, Dan Balz, David Frum, Andy Roth, Steny Hoyer, Pete

Williams, Eugene Robinson, Richard Wolffe


did.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chuck Todd in Washington, in tonight for Chris

Matthews, whose son got married this weekend.  Congratulations to Chris. 

Leading off tonight, health care reform.  Political suicide or both? 

To Democrats, health care reform is an accomplishment on the scale of

Social Security and Medicare.  Once the distortions go away, Americans will

reward them for what they did. 

To Republicans, health care reform means disaster for the economy

and defeat for the Democrats.  Tonight, the political fallout from last

night‘s historic vote. 

Plus, not every Republican is so sure that this will be the

Democrats‘ Waterloo.  Former George W. Bush speech writer David Frum says

by refusing to compromise or negotiate Republicans went for all the marbles

and wound up with none.  The Waterloo, he says, is theirs.

Also, the “N-word” reportedly was thrown at black Democrats.  A gay

epitaph hurled at Barney Frank.  Bart Stupak was called a baby killer on

the House floor.  The mood has become very ugly out there.  Can decorum

return to the people‘s House? 

Plus, where do we go from here?  Could a Republican-led lawsuit at

the state level by state attorneys general do what Republican House members

couldn‘t do, kill the bill? 

And despite the big health care win, President Obama did not go

undefeated this weekend.  His NCAA bracket picks, pretty much along with

mine and everybody else‘s, is a mess.  We‘ll survey that damage in the


We‘re going to start with the passage of the health care bill.  Late

today, I spoke with White House senior adviser David Axelrod and asked him

whether the Senate reconciliation bill was a done deal.  Remember, that

debate starts tomorrow. 



the Senate.  The question is whether the other side is going to engage in a

bunch of dilatory tactics and parliamentary tactics. 

TODD:  You seem a little less confident that this is going to


AXELROD:  No, no, I‘m very confident.  What I can‘t tell you what is

efforts the other side‘s going to make.  We‘ve seen in the last few weeks

Senator Bunnings‘ efforts to—

TODD:  But if Democrats stay united, then you‘re going to be able to

get this done. 

AXELROD:  I think democrats will be united. 

TODD:  You feel like 51 votes are there, 51 plus votes are there? 

AXELROD:  I‘m very confident. 

TODD:  Is Vice President Biden going to be in town all week? 

AXELROD:  He‘s going to be in town. 

TODD:  There to preside over the Senate, if necessary? 

AXELROD:  He may preside over the Senate, but I don‘t think that

will be necessary.  We have the votes, Chuck.  Health insurance reform is

passed.  The American people are ready to move on.  And we‘ll see if the

Republicans in the Senate are. 

TODD:  If this stalls for some reason, and it does not get done

before recess, will you immediately have them take it up and go back and do

these fixes? 

AXELROD:  I think they‘re going to move quickly on this.  I‘m sure

that they—I‘m not willing to concede that this won‘t be wrapped up by

the end of this week. 

TODD:  Lessons learned.  Everybody has their theory of what lessons

you guys learned.  What lessons did you learn in this process of getting

this done?  What would you have done differently? 

AXELROD:  Oh, you know—I mean, it‘s always hard when things go

your way to look back and say, gee, I would have done this or that and so

on.  Obviously, we spent an awful lot of time trying to engage the


TODD:  Too much? 

AXELROD:  -- in Congress to participate.  Well, it chewed up months

of time.  I think it was worthwhile in the sense that we called out a lot

of good ideas, and the legislation we finished with includes both good

Republican and Democratic ideas. 

TODD:  What are two or three?  These republican ideas that without

their participation would not have been in this legislation? 

AXELROD:  Well, you know, whether—they didn‘t participate, but

they did offer ideas.  Certainly the whole idea of an exchange or a

marketplace where small businesses and people who can‘t get insurance

through their employer can compete or can get insurance at a competitive

price, that was an idea the Republicans strongly believed in and advanced

and that‘s something that‘s at the core—at the core of this legislation. 

So—and you know, as I‘ve said before, there are 160 amendments

that the Senate Health Committee—

TODD:  Most of those amendments, though, were not really about the

legislation.  They were sort of addendums that had to do with—you know,

maybe it was Native Americans or Indian reservations, things like that.  I


AXELROD:  Some of them were. 

TODD:  Are you over-counting this a little bit? 

AXELROD:  To hear the Republicans in the Congress talk about it,

they were shut out.  I sat here in this building, Chuck, and watched

Republican senators come in and out throughout the summer and fall to talk

about their ideas on health insurance reform.  The president embraced many

of those ideas.  Some of them were very candid that we‘d like to be with

you on this legislation, but we can‘t do it unless a bunch of Republicans

will come with us, because it‘s politically untenable for us. 

TODD:  Are you going about financial reform and energy differently

because of a lesson you learned via the health care? 

AXELROD:  I think every issue is different.  The one thing that is

very clear to me is that the more the president takes this issue right to

the American people, the more that we have dialogue with the other side—

even if it‘s ultimately not productive in terms of producing votes—but

where we have reasonable discussion about it, as we saw in the summit, or

at the president‘s visit to the Republican caucus, I think the better off

the country is, and it‘s a better way to pursue our goals. 

TODD:  When the Scott Brown election happened, the president,

himself, indicated in an interview, right after the election, that maybe

there would be scaled-down health care.  What changed your mind? 

AXELROD:  I know it was interpreted that way.  That day it was very

we made clear and he made clear subsequent to that—what he was saying

is he was open to other ideas.  He was not talking about scaling back. 

TODD:  You don‘t—you feel like that was misinterpreted, when he

said we have to look at the reforms we agree on? 

AXELROD:  The most resolute person in this town from the beginning

was the president of the United States, who understood that if we were

really going to solve the problems of people with preexisting conditions,

if we were really going to have after the main problems in our health

insurance system, that we had to do it in a comprehensive way.  He never

lost that focus throughout the process. 

TODD:  On this challenge by states, about specifically the mandate,

what is it, exactly, that the White House Counsel‘s Office has reassured

the president, reassured you, reassured everybody that‘s done this, that

this can stand up to a challenge in the courts?

AXELROD:  Obviously I‘m not a lawyer.  They‘re very confident—

TODD:  Why? 

AXELROD:  -- that this is constitutional.  Because they‘ve studied

the issue.  They believe, under the Commerce Clause, it‘s constitutional. 

Look, every time a major piece of legislation has been passed in this

country, it‘s engendered lawsuits.  What‘s curious to me is that the idea

of a mandate was advanced not just by Democratic senators, but by

Republican senators in this process.  Some of the senators who came in

here, Senator Grassley and others, talked about a mandate.  Mandate is

central to the—

TODD:  You don‘t think there would have been a challenge if the


AXELROD:  I think no matter what was in this legislation there‘d be

some legal challenges.  That‘s the nature of our country.  And so I expect

that that will be the case here, as it has been on every other major piece

of legislation over the course of our history.  I‘m very confident that

this will stand up to legal challenges, and we‘ll move forward in a very

productive way. 

TODD:  Before November of this year, what‘s another major piece of

legislation that you think it‘s important that the president be signing to

take to the campaign? 

AXELROD:  Well, you know what?  I‘m not thinking about what he

should be signing to take to the campaign.  I understand—

TODD:  You must have a—

AXELROD:  I understand that in this town there‘s a real fast—

everything is through that—is looked at through that prism.  We have

said for some time that it‘s important that we pass financial reform,

because we want to avert the kind of crisis that we‘ve had now.  And there

are provisions in this law that protect consumers and protect the economy

as a whole from the excesses of the financial—

TODD:  To get out of the campaign calendar, that‘s something that‘s

going to get done this year? 

AXELROD:  I think that‘s important.  I think we can get that done. 

I understand the significant opposition from some sectors of the financial

community.  And we‘ve saw the House minority leader meeting with leaders of

the community, saying give us financial support so we can stop—

TODD:  The next big item on the agenda, in your mind, is financial


AXELROD:  I think if you look at the calendar of the Congress,

that‘s coming right up. 

TODD:  Immigration—energy and immigration, is that a priority for

this year or is this something that‘s going to take—

AXELROD:  These are issues in which there are bipartisan efforts

going on.  And that‘s encouraging on both immigration reform and energy. 

TODD:  Beyond Lindsey Graham? 

AXELROD:  We‘re working with senators.  Obviously, he‘s taking the

lead on it.  But, you know, we‘re going to explore what possibilities there


We want to move the country forward, Chuck.  I think that‘s what

people want.  I was disappointed this morning that Senator McCain said

we‘re not going to cooperate on anything for the rest of the year in

protest over the passage of health reform. 

I don‘t think that‘s the attitude the American people want from

their elected officials.  They want us to work together where we can and

oppose each other in a principled fashion where we don‘t agree.  That‘s

what we‘re going to do, and we hope that‘s what other leaders in this town

will do. 

TODD:  Are you concerned about the tone—the tone of the debate

this week in the Senate, that it could disturb whatever shots you have on


AXELROD:  I‘m not—you know, I guess I was a little bewildered by

the tone of the House debate.  Bewildered because the criticisms that were

being leveled were not commensurate with the legislation that we were

offering, this notion that this is all socialism and radical and so on. 

Our bill is very—our health care plan that the president is going to

sign is very mainstream and very influenced by people like Bob Dole, very

similar to something Richard Nixon proposed. 

So I thought the rhetoric didn‘t match the reality of the

legislation.  And so, you know, we‘ll see.  I‘m less concerned about tone

than as to whether there‘s a real will to try to work together to solve

problems.  I think that‘s what the American people want. 

TODD:  Last question.  How should—the average person watching is

going to say, OK, who‘s going to run this sort of—this program from the

level of federal government?  Where should they be expecting to watch?  Is

it the Department of Health and Human Services?  Are they going to take the

lead on monitoring the exchanges?  All of that going to be run under there? 

Is there going to be new agencies created? 

AXELROD:  Certainly, the Department of Health and Human Services is

going to take the lead on this.  One thing we feel very strongly, Chuck, is

that having advocated these reforms, we have a real responsibility to see

them implemented in an efficient, effective way.  And one of the things—

you know, one set of meetings that occurred today were implementation

meetings, to talk about how we move forward from here.  Certainly,

Secretary Sebelius and HHS are going to be deep—

TODD:  Involved in the—they‘re the ones that are going to run

health care, as far as this is concerned? 

AXELROD:  Well, that‘s—

TODD:  Now that it‘s been passed? 

AXELROD:  That‘s certainly going to be the fulcrum of activity, yes. 

TODD:  Thank you, sir. 

AXELROD:  Good to be with you. 


TODD:  That was David Axelrod.  a couple pieces of news out of

there.  They‘re cautiously confident when it comes to the Senate

reconciliation bill.  Vice President Biden might actually preside over


The other thing is clearly financial reform is next. 

Joining me now, the “Washington Post‘s” grand poobah of politics,

Dan Balz.  Dan, OK, where are we today with the Obama presidency, where we

weren‘t yesterday? 

DAN BALZ, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Well, it‘s always better to win

than not win.  And they have fought this battle for a very long time.  They

have taken a lot of hits on it, both the president personally and the

Democratic party.  They have felt like they have crossed a barrier here. 

They have a long fight ahead of them.  They know that.  The

Republicans are not going to stop battling against this health care fight. 

We‘re going to see it all the way through to November, and probably see it

in 2012.  But they feel as though they now have something concrete that

they can talk about, that will be different than the way the debate has

gone up until now. 

One of the questions is whether they will be any more successful in

selling this bill now that it is law than they were before it came law.  I

think that‘s still the big question mark hanging over the president and the

White House. 

TODD:  It‘s funny you asked that.  I saw Charlie Cook quoted over

the weekend.  He said, what makes them think—they couldn‘t sell it for

seven months during the debate, when everybody was paying attention.  How

is it going to get better with independents?  I guess, what is the scenario

where suddenly this improves?  Is it simply getting it done or not seeing

the negatives? 

BALZ:  Well, I think their hope is that the predictions that the sky

will fall as a result of this legislation will prove not to be true and

that the public will see that over time.  Secondly, they say, and it‘s

true, there are some benefits that begin to kick in immediately that will

effect some people.  Not all, certainly, but some people.  There will also

be some things people may not like that will begin to kick in. 

Nonetheless, we‘re going to see some concrete changes that people

will be able to measure in a way that they weren‘t able to measure it

before this happened.  Now, the Republicans, as you know, are going to take

this fight all the way through the fall on several levels.  One is—

TODD:  Are you convinced of that?  I mean, it is interesting.  It

does seem as if Republicans seemed a little bit flumixed today on how to

respond.  You have the repealers, we‘re going after this, but there seemed

to be another part of the party that was sort of, OK, now what do we do? 

BALZ:  I think the issue of the repeal is one they have to face

squarely.  There are a lot of Republicans I have talked to, and I know you

have, too, who say a pure repeal strategy is not a winner, that it has to

be a repeal to change something, but in a different way than President

Obama‘s plan would.  So that‘s the first issue they‘ve got to come up with. 

How do they actually craft that message?  Or do they allow the people who

are just purely talking about repeal to take the lead?  That causes them a


I think the second thing they will do is that they will use this

bill, as they have up to now, as a way of talking about what Obama‘s grand

strategy is, which is to say, in their words, much bigger government, more

intrusive government, far more government than this country wants.  I think

that‘s one of the issues that they‘re going to try to push. 

TODD:  Dan Balz, what a weekend, what a six months it‘s going to be

when it comes to the campaign.  Who knows what‘s next.  Thanks for joining


BALZ:  Thank you, Chuck.

TODD:  All right.  Coming up, Republican Senator Jim Demint famously

said health care reform would be the president‘s Waterloo.  But former Bush

speech writer David Frum says it may prove to be the Republicans‘ Waterloo. 

He‘s coming here to explain why next.

Later, who yelled out “baby killer” as Congressman Bart Stupak spoke

on the House floor last night? 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Those who are shouting out are out of order. 



TODD:  We‘ll get into some of the ugly attacks surrounding this

debate later in the hour.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


TODD:  The Pulitzer Prize winning non-partisan website

PolitiFact.com has the top facts and top lies about health care reform. 

Let‘s start with the top five facts. 

Fact number five, the vast majority of people will not see

significant declines in premiums. 

Number four, employers won‘t be required to buy insurance for

employees, but large employers may face fines if they don‘t. 

Number three, all Americans will be required to have health

insurance, which is called the individual mandate, or they‘ll have to pay a


Number two, insurance companies will be regulated more heavily than

they are now, and won‘t be able to deny people for preexisting conditions. 

The number one fact about health care reform, it‘s not a government

takeover of health care like in Britain and Canada.

HARDBALL returns after this.



REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  Look at how this bill

was written.  Can you say it was done openly? 


BOEHNER:  With transparency and accountability? 


BOEHNER:  Without back-room deals and struck behind closed doors? 

Hidden from the people?  Hell, no, you can‘t. 

Shame on us.  Shame on this body.  Shame on each and every one of

you who substitutes your will and your desires above those of your fellow



TODD:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  House Republicans unanimously

voted no on President Obama‘s health care plan.  The same thing is likely

to happen in the Senate.  What does no mean for November?  David Frum is a

former speech writer for President George W. Bush and he‘s now editor of

FrumForum.Com.  I hope I got this right.  I know yesterday we were

struggling with that.  Andy Roth is the vice president of the Club for


Andy, I want to start with you.  I‘m going to read you something

that David wrote.  I‘m sure you read his column.  Let me start with this. 

He said “at the beginning of this process, we made a strategic decision. 

Unlike say Democrats in 2001, when President Bush proposed his first tax

cut, we would make no deal with the administration, no negotiations, no

compromise, nothing.  We were going for all the marbles.  This would be

Obama‘s Waterloo, just as health care was for Clinton in ‘94.  This time,

when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.”

Now, I know, Andy, that Club for Growth has a pledge asking

candidates to sign it that they will pledge to repeal health care.  What do

you make of David‘s take here that conservatives shouldn‘t have walked



respect to David, he lives by the compassionate conservative motto that got

Republicans in trouble in the first place.  That during the Bush/Reagan—

the Bush era, the G.W. Bush era, there was always more spending and more

spending and more government.  It was just less than the Democrats.  And

that kind of idea that we‘re not going to stand for principles, we‘re going

to be pragmatic, and just try and shoot for a little bit less, I think is a

very dangerous thing and doesn‘t really show a lot of leadership. 

TODD:  David?  Respond there.  I mean, we know your point there. 

Respond to that, that—you know, did you guys not show enough leadership

when you were running things? 

DAVID FRUM, FMR. BUSH SPEECH WRITER:  I was not a very important

part of the Bush administration.  I don‘t think I can claim any

responsibility for strategic decisions. 

But I‘m sorry, that is a statement of pure willpower and ideology. 

That—I think I have principles.  I think President Bush had principles. 

They happened to be different principles.  Having some willingness to pay,

for example, for the spending we do, that‘s a principle, too. 

I think we need to focus on today‘s problem.  And what we are doing

is substituting our wishful thinking about the way we would like the

American people to respond.  I think if we were an electorate of two, and

Andy and I were the only two voters, we would actually gravitate very much

to Andy‘s results.  The country is full of people who think differently

from us and they all get to vote, too. 

TODD:  Andy, purity versus pragmatism.  It‘s an argument we see in

both parties.  For instance, Bill Frist, this morning, in an interview with

me earlier, talked about the fact he thought repeal wasn‘t really an

option, and that this isn‘t really a practical thing.  Why do you believe

repeal is an option? 

ROTH:  That‘s an extremely defeatist attitude.  I can‘t believe that

that approach is even being considered.  That shows you the weakness that

we have in the Republican party right now.  Listen—

TODD:  Can you legislate—I guess my question is this: how do you

say you want to run the government and legislate - and I mean—when there

is sort of this—supposed to be this back and forth.  I know the

Democrats, a lot of criticism from Republicans, saying they didn‘t work as

hard as they could have at compromise.  but it sounds like any expansion of

government is just not in the cards and, yet, we are a two-party system. 

ROTH:  Chuck, look at the expansion that has taken place over the

last couple of years.  I mean, the bank bailouts, the stimulus, the Obama

budget.  I mean, the American taxpayer is getting shoved a lot of big

government down their throat.  To say that we‘re going to accept this and

just go on with it, but try and tweak it here and there? 

The Democrat version of big spending and the old Republican version

of big spending are two ideas that have found their end.  We need a third

way, which is let‘s stop the government totally.  Let‘s stop all of this

nonsense and try and repeal it fully, and then start over with real


FRUM:  We did try stopping the government totally in 1995.  It

wasn‘t a big success.  Look, that statement is pure fantasy.  I‘m sorry. 

You‘re going to have the piece of paper, the Michele Bachmann Bill that

says the law‘s repealed.  Then you‘re going to go around to the more

numerous Republicans that will be there after November 2010.  And they‘ll

say, right, I agree with that, except for the part about tax credits for

small business.  I like those. 

TODD:  So leave that out. 

FRUM:  You know, the stuff about reimposing preexisting conditions

on children under 19, you know, that could lead to a lot of negative ads. 

That‘s going to be out.  By the time you finish deleting all of the things

that come out, you have a big bill. 

By the way, does the individual mandate come out?  If the individual

mandate comes out, then how do we fund all the spending that the

Republicans will, in fact, want to do?  What is the funding mechanism going

to be?  You‘ll end up with a Republican affirmative health care proposal,

which would be great.  Why not have done that at the start of the process,

and maybe integrated some of those proposals into the bill we actually got? 

TODD:  Andy, this goes to a question that has been—that minority

parties, parties that have been in the minority in government have had to

deal with for years, can you get 30 percent?  If you can improve something

30 percent for your philosophical side of things, is it better than zero? 

You‘re saying zero at this point is better, go for the whole enchilada down

the road? 

ROTH:  I love this argument that you can negotiate with the

Democrats.  Who is to say they‘re not going to change the goal posts half

way through?  Listen, we had Republican senators negotiating with the

Democrats last year, and they couldn‘t make any headway.  So they got up

and left the table. 

The idea that they‘re going to willingly accept some conservative

proposals isn‘t a sure thing.  You have to fight for principles.  That‘s

what‘s lacking in Washington, D.C., Right now.  And that‘s what we

desperately need.  That‘s what you‘re going to find in November, when the

Democrats lose. 

TODD:  Go ahead, David. 

FRUM:  Being indifferent to whether or not people—your fell

Americans have insurance is not a matter of principle.  It‘s also principle

to say, Republicans would like to insure those people, too, and make sure,

by the way, that health care does not rise to 20 percent.  If we go from 17

percent of GDP for health care to 20 percent, how do we fund the American

military?  Countries that face rising health care costs squeeze their

militaries.  How are we ever going to have another tax cut if health care

costs continue to rise? 

The things that Andy wants to do are threatened by this same

problem.  One of the—there are a lot of Republican senators, sorry, they

didn‘t feel like they had to walk away because President Obama was so

unacceptable.  They had to walk away because their base was so revved up. 

There were people who would have liked to have dealt.  There are better

Republican ideas, like, for example, the Healthy Americans Act, sponsored

by Senator Bennett. 


TODD:  Andy, what do you say to this—go ahead. 

ROTH:  Bennett‘s bill is just as much as bad as Obama‘s.  It has a

huge tax increase.  It has a huge individual mandate.  It makes people pay

their premiums through the IRS.  That‘s the most un-American, awful bill

that you can imagine, and label it as conservative.  That‘s a nasty bill

that shouldn‘t be talked about in any Republican circle. 

TODD:  We have to wrap up.  We could go on forever.  Really quickly,

Andy, if you don‘t get repeal and you run on it, don‘t you demoralize your

base going into 2012? 

ROTH:  I don‘t know how you can argue that—I mean, there are a

lot of ways that we can attack this through repeal.  I mean, we can defund

it through the House.  There‘s a lot of options we can do once Republicans

get in control.  And I think we‘re going to do it in November. 

FRUM:  He‘s over-looked the most important—the magic wishing

stones option, because that‘s going to be a very important part of this


TODD:  David Frum, Andy Roth, I think this is a fight inside the

Republican party that is not going to be solved in the next six minutes or

the next six months.  Thank you both.

Up next, health care reform is a big victory for President Obama. 

But he suffered a couple of big defeats this weekend in a completely

different contest.  Frankly, we all did.  His NCAA bracket, that‘s ahead in

the sideshow.

Later, Rush Limbaugh promises to fight to defeat any Democrat who

supported health care reform.  Take a listen. 


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  We need to defeat these

bastards.  We need to wipe them out. 


TODD:  We‘re going to get into some of these attacks on the right

later in the show.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


CHUCK TODD, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Well, back to “Hardball.” time for the

“Sideshow.” and it was the show the President was watching.  He undoubtedly

had a huge win this weekend on health care.  But boy, did he face a big

setback elsewhere, his NCAA bracket.  At least on the men‘s side.  Here‘s a

look at where he stands.  Two of the President‘s final four teams were

upset this weekend.  Villanova and Kansas.  As you can see Kansas was the

President‘s pick to win it all.  What a mess.  A mess for all of us,

frankly.  Anyway, all things considered, I don‘t think the President‘s all

that heartbroken.  He would trade health care for the correct NCAA bracket

any day of the year. 

Next Rahmbo on the record last night.  CBS‘s Katie Couric called out

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel on his, quote, colorful language. 


KATIE COURIC, CBS CORRESPONDENT:  Why do you have such a foul mouth? 

Didn‘t your mom ever wash your mouth out with soap?


magazine about how swearing is good for your mental health. 

COURIC:  Do you curse in front of the President?  I know he has

tweaked you about your profanity in public.

EMANUEL:  I‘ve cursed before.  I do not curse in the oval office. 

COURIC:  Ever?

EMANUEL:  I‘ve probably have done it once in the time we‘ve been here.

COURIC:  Does he curse?  No comment?

EMANUEL:  Look, you know, I‘m not --  this is—I will go to the

grave with my secrets.


TODD:  I think we know what that hesitation means. 

All right time for the “Big Number.” this past month we saw the

President get personal in his final-hour push for health care reform. 

According to a White House tally how many direct pitches did President

Obama make to Democratic house members in the final week?  92.  Big part of

why reform passed this weekend.  The power of the presidency.  President

Obama makes 92 pitches to house Democrats.  That‘s tonight‘s behind the

scenes “Big Number.”  I tell you, was the power of the presidency at work. 

All right up next, no doubt the passage of health care reform is a big

win for house democrats.  What will it mean for the  midterms?  We‘re going

to ask House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. 

Plus could Republican state attorneys general do what house

Republicans couldn‘t?  They—could they kill the bill?  We‘ll take a

look.  You are watching “Hardball” only on MSNBC.




years of talk and frustration, after decades of trying and a year of

sustained effort and debate, the United States Congress finally declared

that America‘s workers and America‘s families and America‘s small

businesses deserve the security of knowing that here in this country

neither illness nor accident should endanger the dreams they‘ve worked a

lifetime to achieve.


TODD:  Welcome back to “Hardball.” that was President Obama

celebrating his party‘s big victory in the House last night.  Now it‘s on

to the senate so now what?  Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland

is the House Majority Leader.  And let me start very simply about what‘s

going to happen tomorrow in the senate.  Are you confident that senate

Democrats are going to pass your reconciliation bill of fixes, word for

word, this week?


case.  We can‘t be absolutely assured, nor can senator Reid, but certainly

that‘s senator Reid‘s intent.  And I think it‘s an intent of the majority

of the senate.  So we hope that‘s the case and we expect it to be the case.

TODD:  If they don‘t, if some parts of it get peeled away with

amendments, are you guys willing to take it up again, yourself?

HOYER:  Absolutely.  You know, we‘re going to finish the job that we

started.  We had a big victory.  Set the health care bill to the President

for signature.  He‘s going to sign it tomorrow  morning.  And we‘re going

to finish the bill with the amendments called the reconciliation,

reconciling the differences between the house and the senate.  And when

they pass that and send it to the President that will be the law.  If they

make some changes we‘ll certainly be ready to receive them and consider


TODD:  Is it going -

HOYER:  And my presumption would be, Chuck, my presumption would be

assuming they‘re modest changes we would pass them and send them to the


TODD:  You would accept it word for word going the other way as long. 

Okay.  Fair enough.  Is it going to be easier, are you going to lose more

Democrats who voted no on health care or more Democrats who voted yes?

HOYER:  I hope we don‘t lose on either side.  Whether -- 

TODD:  Of course. 

HOYER:  -- a member voted no or yes.  And I don‘t want to make that

calculation.  I don‘t—obviously, either vote was controversial with

some.  But - what I really believe—

TODD:  Do you think it‘s easier done as a yes or a no?

HOYER:   Excuse me? 

TODD:  Do you think in these tough swing districts, these McCain

districts, for instance, it‘s easier to run as a yes or a no?

HOYER:  Many of our members made a calculation it was easier to run as

a no.  And some made calculation that they could run as a yes, but the

real, I think, bottom line is going to be, I think what happened yesterday

was the Democratic Party told the American people, the President told them,

we‘ve told them that we believe there ought to be affordable, accessible

health care for all Americans.  We acted upon that last night and we acted

successfully.  I think the component parts of this bill, people are going

to find out that young people who can‘t find a job coming out of college -

TODD:  Right.

HOYER:  Are going to be insured immediately.  And that they‘re going

to have annual caps on their out of pocket expenditures.  They‘re going to

have no lifetime limits.  The small businesses are going to get a tax break

so that they can get insurance.  And those in high-risk pools will have a

high-risk pool immediately available to them. 

TODD:  Right.

HOYER:  So we think it‘s going to be a positive effect on this bill. 

As you‘ve heard me say, Chuck, in the past.

TODD:  Right.

HOYER:  The internals on this bill pulled very well.

TODD:  Sure.

HOYER:  We think bill is going to be accepted well.

TODD:  Yes.

HOYER:  By the American people and, therefore, will be of -

TODD:  Right.

HOYER:  Help for Democrats running whether running in no or yes 

districts as you pointed out.

TODD:  I understand.  Very quickly.  If you lose the majority this

year, was this worth it?

HOYER:  Yes.  Absolutely.  We‘re not going to lose the majority this

year.  We‘re going to retain the majority this year.  We have some

extraordinarily good members who are going to bring a message to the

American people that this will make America healthier and stronger.  Better

economically and certainly better -

TODD:  All right.

HOYER:  We‘re going to bring down the deficit with this bill as well,


TODD:  All right.

HOYER:  On all of those messages we‘re going to retain the majority.

TODD:  Congressman Steny Hoyer, sorry about your Maryland Tarapins,

but it was a heck of a game that you probably missed. 

HOYER:  Oh it was a heck of the game. 

TODD:  Because of negotiations.

HOYER:  It was a terrible, terrible blow to lose in the last three

tenths of a second.  But the Tarps had a wonderful season.  Garry Williams

Coach of the year.

TODD:  All right.

HOYER:  It was a wonderful season.

TODD:  Thanks very joining us.  All right.

HOYER:  Thanks Chuck.

TODD:  I want to turn - okay, thank you, Congressman.  I want to turn

to NBC‘s chief justice correspondent Pete Williams.  We‘ve heard a lot

about these lawsuits that some state attorneys generals are filing.  Some

have filed or plan on filing.  All Republican attorney generals in

Virginia, we‘ve heard about South Carolina, Florida, about nine states

maybe will get up to 13.  Explain what the lawsuit is.  What standing they

think they have. 


argument is against the part of the bill that basically says if you don‘t

have insurance you have to buy. 

TODD:  The mandate. 

WILLIAMS:  And if you don‘t buy it you get taxed. 

TODD:  Okay. 

WILLIAMS:  Their argument is the constitution doesn‘t give Congress—

TODD:  You said taxed, not fined. 

WILLIAMS:  Well I‘ll get to that in a second.  But -

TODD:  All right.

WILLIAMS:  The constitution gives Congress very broad powers to

regulate commerce.  Now here‘s the objection.  If you‘re in the -- 

TODD:  So-called commerce clause. 

WILLIAMS:  Right the commerce clause.  If you‘re in the stream of

commerce, then Congress can regulate what you do.  Their argument is if

you‘re outside the stream, you‘re not doing anything -- 

TODD:  Other than living. 

WILLIAMS:  You don‘t have any insurance.

TODD:  You‘re just a living person.  A living American. 

WILLIAMS:  Right then you can‘t be regulated.  This is regulating

people who do nothing.  This is like saying, you know, I don‘t have a car

but you have to buy car insurance anyway, is their argument.  Now, the

supporters of this say, no, you, in fact, are doing something.  You‘re

going to go to the emergency room.  You‘re going to mooch off your parents

or your friends.  You do affect interstate commerce.  And they say Congress

has broad powers to regulate things that affect the interstate commerce. 

That‘s one argument.

The second is this thing we talked about earlier.

TODD:  Okay.

WILLIAMS:  Is it a tax?  In which case there‘s broad taxing

authority.  Or is it as the opponents say, in fact, a fine?  And they say

that is beyond Congress‘ authority.  Now, these are actually pretty serious

questions.  And it‘s pretty clear Congress has never passed anything quite

like this. 

TODD:  Okay.  Explain how this lawsuit process will work.  So attorney

general “x” files a suit where?

WILLIAMS:  Right.  Go to federal court.  Go to federal court.

TODD:  Right, federal court.  The first level of court that would

hear this would be -- 

WILLIAMS:  No and there‘s the one question.  Can they get through the


TODD:  Okay.

WILLIAMS:  The lawyers call this legal standing.  Do they have

authority to bring this case?  I must say it‘s not instantly clear what a

state‘s argument is here.  And we‘re going to have to see how the attorneys

general developed all this. 

TODD:  It may actually have to be an individual who gets the fine and

they would have to bring it?

WILLIAMS:  Yes one problem is this mandate thing doesn‘t kick in until

2014.  So the question is, can you file a lawsuit if nobody‘s harmed by it? 

Can you file it now if no one‘s harmed by it until 2014?

TODD:  Be destined for a Supreme Court if it did get some standing,


WILLIAMS:  Well yes if—I can‘t imagine someone won‘t try to bring

it to the Supreme Court.  And then the question is, does the Supreme Court

want to jump in and overrule an act of Congress?  Sometimes they do and

sometimes they don‘t. 

TODD:  When was the commerce—the commerce clause was cited in the

last 20 years. 

WILLIAMS:  It‘s been cited a lot. 

TODD:  No, I mean, in—tried to be used and the courts wiped out a

law.  There was one big law, right, the Domestic violence -- 

WILLIAMS:  A section of the violence against women act.  The gun-free

school zones act.  But the commerce clause—it is a two-edged sword. 

Sometimes it strikes down acts of Congress and sometimes it upholds them. 

TODD:  Right Pete Williams doing an episode of paper chase for us. 

Anyway thanks for joining us. 


TODD:  Up next, a sitting congressman calls Bart Stupak baby killer

on the house floor.

Tea party protesters throw racial and gay epitaphs and Democratic law

makers.  And Rush Limbaugh vows to wipe out any Democrat who supported

reform.  Can Republicans defend these attacks of those from the far right? 

This is “Hardball” only on MSNBC.


TODD:  Welcome back to “Hardball.” time for the “Politics Fix.” the

president‘s success this weekend came amidst some of the most rancor we‘ve

seen in a while inside and outside the house, what will be the fall out. 

Eugene Robson is the Pulitzer prize winning columnist for “Washington

Post.”  And Richard Wolffe, is an MSNBC political analyst and author of the

book “Renegade.” it was decorum in the House seems to have gone reverted

back to the 19th century.  Let‘s - we got - let‘s listen to Bart Stupack

getting heckled.


BART STUPACK:  Those who were shouting are out of order.


TODD:  Now, we have identified who this person is, Gene Robinson. 



TODD:  Eddie Neugebauer Republican from Texas. 

ROBINSON:  Right.  And he says he wasn‘t yelling at Stupak, he was

just yelling in general, I guess, at the legislation, or at the theories, I

don‘t know who he conceivably was yelling at.  But it - we‘re talk about

breech of decorum. 

TODD:  Well if he erased, Richard, have we erased this, whatever—

there used to be some barriers that you just didn‘t do.  You know, whether

it was, you know, we stop calling people Mr. And Mrs., you know whatever it

is.  And suddenly now we are throwing—it‘s so easy for people to just

show up in Congress and throw names.


TODD:  Call people names. 

WOLFFE:  Well I guess it‘s a mirror to society and it‘s also a mirror

to the political discourse that goes on now through all the blogs and

twitter and everything else.  People find it much easier to be direct.  But

I think there is a political element to this, which is that they‘re

expressing the anger they‘re hearing, and the question is, does it speak to

anyone other than the base? 

Do you actually appeal to people with this kind of anger, this kind

of gut feeling?  And I don‘t know that the people who are turned off by

politics really go for this.  Your base?  Fine.  If your midterms are at

the base, they‘re going to love this stuff. 

ROBINSON:  I think there is more to it than that.  I think these guys

really mean it.  And you know—

TODD:  What do you mean by that, when you say they really mean it? 

What do you mean by that? 

ROBINSON:  Well the Republican party has become much more

conservative.  The House. 

TODD:  The Republican party or what we‘re hear something. 

ROBINSON:  The house Republican caucus is much more conservative than

it was ten years ago, or 20 years ago. 

TODD:  Part of that is all their moderates lost. 

ROBINSON:  Exactly.  All their moderates lost, and there‘s a strain of

thought that is—it‘s not quite libertarian, but it‘s fundamentalist in

terms of constitutional rights and, you know, founders‘ intent and anti-

government.  And I think this is—and that sort of thing just comes out,

I think. 

TODD:  All right Richard, take a listen to Rush Limbaugh today and

his reaction.


RUSH LIMBAUGH:  They must, my friends, be hounded out of office. 

Every single Democrat who voted for this needs to know, safe district or

not, they are going to be exposed and hassled and chased from office.  We

need to defeat these bastards.  We need to wipe them out.


TODD:  How does a Republican member of Congress, they can‘t—if

they sort of go against and say, you know what?  He was out of line, he was

too much.  They would risk offending the base.

WOLFFE:  You don‘t take on him, but he‘s not a political strategist. 

Okay?  His strategy is to get people fired up and listening to his show. 

So it works on a commercial basis, and it works because if people aren‘t

angry, they‘re not going to listen to him.

But Republicans need to figure out how to get more than the 20

percent of the electorate, 30 percent of the electorate who are fired up by

this kind of thing.  And yes you cannot take Rush on because you‘re going

to provoke a challenge from your right, as Gene said, that‘s where the real

threat comes from any of these members of Congress now.

But reaching the soft Republicans, the disillusioned Republicans, the

growing base of independents, Rush Limbaugh calling people those kind of

things is not a civil way to have public discourse. 

TODD:  Right both of you are going to have to hold on a minute, we‘re

going to do a break, we are going to come back, you‘ll get the first word

coming back.

Coming up, who‘s going to pay the biggest political price  over health

care?  President Obama?  Maybe one of the house Democrats that voted yes? 

Or how about the leading Republican candidate for President in 2012?  You

are watching “Hardball” only on MSNBC.


TODD:  We are back with “The Washington Post” Eugene Robinson and the

author of “Renegade” Richard Wolffe.  Who‘s got a bigger problem selling—

dealing with the health care issue, President Obama or Mitt Romney?  Robert

Gibbs talked about it, he said I know Mitt Romney winces every time I

compare the President—

ROBINSON:  Well exactly—the guy who invented Obama care -

TODD:  Right.

ROBINSON:  Mitt Romney in Massachusetts when he was governor.  I mean

that is a huge problem for him if you compare the two pieces of

legislation, and you look at the Obama plan, based on the Massachusetts


TODD:  With the mandate and everything.

ROBINSON:  Exactly.  I think it‘s a huge problem for him. 

TODD:  Richard he came out with an aggressive statement today.  This

act needs to be repealed.  The campaign starts today.  He means his own

primary campaign, doesn‘t he? 

WOLFFE:  Right, right.  And the problem for him and Republicans in

general is it‘s already a race to the right.  Typically this would happen

later.  When George W. Bush had to attack Right, it was under duress, it

was South Carolina.  I was with him at Bob Jones University.

TODD:  Right, right.

WOLFFE:  Okay and he never live it‘d down.  If you have attack to the

hard extreme right of your party, then you are going to be in trouble

attacking back for the general.  And Barak Obama survived precisely because

on health care he didn‘t attack too far on the Left.

TODD:  Some conservatives seem to be skeptical about how serious

Romney is about whether he regrets the Massachusetts health care plan. 

ROBINSON:  Well it‘s difficult, Mitt Romney I think is a talented

politician, and so, it‘s somewhat Mallable, shall we say, in his apparent

core beliefs.  But I don‘t know how he quite slips out of this one, and I

think there will be skepticism about how serious he is about, let‘s repeal

it now. 

TODD:  And how much does the fact that the Scott Brown victory, it

will happen in Massachusetts, it centered on health care, and yet he‘s got

to explain his way out of it? 

WOLFFE:  Well he shouldn‘t try to explain his way out of it.  There

are only so many chances you have to reinvent yourself.  He cannot really

run away from health care.  And authenticity is going to be key.  It was in

2008, it‘s going to be the same in 2012 for the Republican candidates.  So

you know he has sort of a credibility question about himself if he‘s

abandoning a centerpiece of what he did.

ROBINSON:  The evil twin defense I think is -

TODD:  The problem is he just went through this in that last

campaign.  All right Eugene Robinson and Richard Wolffe, thank you both for

being here.  Chris Matthews returns tomorrow after marrying off his son.

For “Hardball” at both five and seven eastern “Countdown” with Keith

Olbermann starts right now.




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