updated 3/23/2010 2:45:11 PM ET 2010-03-23T18:45:11

Guests: Linda Douglass, Bart Stupak, Eugene Robinson, Richard Wolffe, Phil

Gingrey, Angie Drobnic Holan

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, GUEST HOST:  Angry words after health care passes.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Michael Smerconish, in tonight for Chris Matthews,

whose son, Michael, got married this past weekend.  Congratulations.

Leading off tonight: Health care reform, political suicide, or both? 

Democrats are hailing last night‘s passage of health care reform as a

historic breakthrough on the scale of Social Security and Medicare. 

Republicans are predicting disaster for the economy and defeat for

Democrats in November.  We‘ll talk to some Democrats and Republicans on

what it all means and where we go from here.

Also, we heard reports that the “N” word was thrown at black

Democrats, and we heard a gay epithet hurled at Barney Frank.  Bart Stupak

was called a baby killer on the House floor.  The mood has become very ugly

out there.

And fallout: One thing President Obama gave up forever last night, the

idea of being a post-partisan president.  Is there any hope of the two

parties working together, or will every fight look like health care?

Also, truth and lies.  What‘s really in the bill, and the top lies

about health care reform.

Finally, speaking of hyperbole, you haven‘t heard anything until

you‘ve heard Congressman Devin Nunes of California.


REP. DEVIN NUNES ®, CALIFORNIA:  Today we are turning back the

clock.  For most of the 20th century, people fled the ghosts of communist

dictators, and now you are bringing the ghosts back into this chamber.


MATTHEWS:  Believe it or not, Nunes didn‘t stop there, and we‘ve got

the rest in the “Sideshow.”

We start with the passage of health care reform.  Let‘s go to the

White House now with Linda Douglass, who‘s the communications director for

the White House Office of Health Reform.  Thanks for joining us.


having me.

SMERCONISH:  What‘s your level of concern or nervousness that the

Senate doesn‘t give you what you need to make this a closed deal?

DOUGLASS:  Look, you know, I think the country is probably tired, at

this point, of, you know, these parliamentary, dilatory tactics and

obstruction tactics.  We saw, you know, not too long ago, a senator holding

up, you know, for some time unemployment benefits for Americans.  We saw

another senator who was holding up nominations for jobs, you know, needed

jobs in the government to do the people‘s work.

You know, the country‘s tired of all this.  Certainly, this

legislation, you know, has passed the House of Representatives.  What we‘re

talking about now is making some improvements that would lower prescription

drug costs for seniors, make it more affordable, strengthen consumer

protections and get rid of some of the special deals that people didn‘t

like.  That‘s all the Senate is voting on, so we‘re confident that they‘ll

move forward.

SMERCONISH:  Linda Douglass, here‘s President Obama last night talking

about what‘s on the Senate‘s plate.  Let‘s listen together.



this day is, it‘s not the end of this journey.  On Tuesday, the Senate will

take up revisions to this legislation that the House has embraced.  And

these are revisions that have strengthened this law and removed provisions

that had no place in it.  Some have predicted another siege of

parliamentary maneuvering in order to delay adoption of these improvements. 

I hope that‘s not the case.  It‘s time to bring this debate to a close and

begin the hard work of implementing this reform properly on behalf of the

American people.


SMERCONISH:  What would you say to critics who would today say that

Democrats are celebrating the passage of something that recent polls

suggest most Americans didn‘t really want?

DOUGLASS:  Well, you know, if you ask people about the provisions of

the bill, the actual provisions of the bill—the small business tax

credits that will help most small businesses afford health insurance, the

fact that you can keep your young adult child on your plan until he‘s 26

years old, the fact that if you have a child with a preexisting condition,

that child can get coverage, and an adult with a preexisting condition will

also have access to coverage that is not available today, premiums will

start to go down—when you tell people what is actually in the

legislation, they‘re very much in favor of it.

And they will learn over the course of this year that many of these

benefits are going into effect this year.  You know, the small business

will right away begin to calculate the business—small business tax

credit up to 35 percent that will help them afford health insurance.

SMERCONISH:  Was there a lesson learned at the White House about

process?  I mean, the president‘s approach to this really was to let

Congress do its own thing and then to get involved in the 10th or 11th

hour.  If you had it to do all over again, perhaps you‘d say this is a deal

that you could have had three, four, five, six months ago and moved on to

something else.  What lessons were learned about the approach?

DOUGLASS:  Well, Michael, the one thing I would certainly dispute is

that the president got involved in the 10th or 11th hour.  The president

was deeply involved from the very beginning, meeting with, you know, dozens

and dozens of members of Congress, speaking to them on the phone, in

negotiating sessions, in one-on-one sessions.  You saw him, you know, in

various meetings, including a seven-hour meeting with the leaders of both

parties, seeking common ground.

You know, it was very important to have the Congress be involved in

writing the legislation, shaping it based upon his principles, which this

legislation absolutely is.  You know, when you look back on what the

president asked for, which is, you know, lower costs, and you know,

strengthening consumer protections and reducing the deficit, those are all

the solid principles that the president was seeking from the very

beginning.  This is absolutely the president‘s achievement, the president‘s

legislation.  But the Congress, you know, has been deeply involved and a

tremendous partner.

SMERCONISH:  Linda Douglass, congratulations on your success.  And

thanks for being on HARDBALL.

DOUGLASS:  Thank you.

SMERCONISH:  Congressman Bart Stupak is a Michigan Democrat who made

the deal on abortion that paved the way for victory.  Congressman, let‘s

listen together to a moment on the House floor as you spoke last night.  By

now, the whole country has heard it.


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



SMERCONISH:  Did you hear the words “baby killer” as you spoke?


SMERCONISH:  Did you know from whom it had come?  By now, you

certainly know that Congressman Randy Neugebauer has apologized.  Did you

know when it was uttered that he was the one who‘d said it?

STUPAK:  No, I did not.  I was trying to focus on my speech and the

comments I wanted to make to the American people, so no, I really didn‘t

know who did it at the time.

SMERCONISH:  He‘s apologized.  Have you accepted the apology?

STUPAK:  Yes, I accept the apology.  It‘s unfortunate that it gets to

this point.  We can have personal disagreements on issues, but we don‘t

need personal attacks.  We got to keep proper decorum.  We‘re supposed to

be professionals.  We must be able to conduct ourselves at all times in a

professional manner.

SMERCONISH:  He said, Congressman, that it wasn‘t a direct reference

to you.  How could it not have been?

STUPAK:  Yes, when he mentioned same thing to me, I said, Well, you

know, I was up there speaking and I was making my speech when you indicated

that.  I certainly took it as a personal attack on me.  And he said it

wasn‘t, and well, if that‘s the case, if it‘s not directed at me, then I

think he owes all of the members of the House of Representatives an

apology.  It‘s in violation of our rules of proper decorum in the House of

Representatives, so maybe Randy needs to apologize to the House of


SMERCONISH:  Congressman, allow me to show everybody the executive

order that you were able to negotiate with the White House.  And I read it

today with some interest.  It says, “The act maintains current Hyde

amendment restrictions governing abortion policy and extends those

restrictions to the newly created health insurance exchanges.”

It seems pretty straightforward.  Maybe I‘m asking the wrong

individual, but on its face, it would suggest that nothing has changed from


STUPAK:  Correct.  Hyde applies.  And I think you are asking the right

person, since a couple days of negotiations with the White House to get to

this final agreement.  And I appreciate the president and the Speaker and

the rest of them working with us so we could get this agreement so we stay

true to the principle protecting the sanctity of life.  And throughout this

whole debate, the president always said, I‘m not looking to use tax-funded

tax dollars to pay for abortion and to keep current law.  And that‘s

what we did in this executive order, and it has the full force and effect

of law.

I‘m pleased to have played a role to get this Hyde language in this

legislation through the executive order and vote for health care to help

Americans because the real winners here are the American people, who will

now have quality, affordable health care.

SMERCONISH:  Congressman, to what do you attribute the lack of decorum

that we‘re all familiar with now in Washington, whether it‘s the shout-out

by Joe Wilson, “You lie,” whether it‘s the shout-out now by Congressman

Neugebauer of “baby killer”—I mean, those of us who are sitting in

barcaloungers at home are wondering what‘s to explain all the shenanigans

in Washington when it comes to behavior.

STUPAK:  Well, it‘s not just Washington.  I mean, when we were walking

back and forth to votes this weekend, the protesters who were there are

people voicing their opinion, very derogatory comments towards members of

Congress.  People were—members were spit on.  I mean, we‘ve lost the

sense of civility, not just in the Congress but also in this country.

SMERCONISH:  What‘s driving it?

STUPAK:  We should respect one another.

SMERCONISH:  What‘s driving it?

STUPAK:  I think the polarization of the two parties and I—it‘s

becoming acceptable.  I reject that.  I don‘t think personal attacks on

people—just because you disagree—let‘s at least have a reasonable

conversation.  Like in this case.  I disagreed with my Democratic

colleagues.  I wanted to protect the sanctity of life.  I held to that

principle.  And we were able to talk through it.  We were able to work our

way through it, but we had to do it if we respect one another and try to

achieve a common goal.  In this case, the common goal is to help the

American people have affordable, quality health care, and I‘m pleased we

were able to do it.

SMERCONISH:  Have you given consideration—it‘s kind of funny for me

to say this because I wear two hats.  I‘m a talk radio host by day, and

then I spend some time here doing this sort of thing.  Have you given

consideration, Congressman Stupak, to the role of talk radio and the cable

outlets—and I mean both on the left and the right—that they present

this artificial view of America, that you‘re either red state, blue state,

black, white, Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative, and then you

folks go down to Washington and you emulate what you hear on the radio or

see on TV.

STUPAK:  Well, I hope we don‘t emulate it.  And maybe talk radio and

24-hour news—maybe we ought to tone it down.  Why don‘t we get to the

issues?  You know, my biggest regret on this whole debate was the issue

ended up being all about abortion, all about abortion, instead of the

quality provisions that are in this health care bill, which really is there

to—and designed to help the American people.

And I‘m proud of the legislation.  I look forward to the president

signing it soon and the Senate doing their job.  And let‘s talk about the

positive aspects, instead of whether you‘re red, blue, green, whatever.  As

President Obama says, we‘re not red states, blue states, we‘re Americans

and we have to work together.

SMERCONISH:  What level of concern do you have, sir, that what you

were able to negotiate isn‘t going pass Senate muster, that the abortion

issue is going to come back up on reconciliation?

STUPAK:  Well, first of all, the Senate has pledged there‘ll be no

changes.  We can‘t have any changes.  Otherwise, everything falls apart and

we go back to square one.  Secondly, the Senate really has no impact on the

executive order because that‘s between the president and the American

people as he issued that executive order.  I‘m confident the Senate will do

their job, pass those fixes we put in there, get it to the president, and

let‘s get those good consumer protection provisions signed immediately into

law to help the American people.

SMERCONISH:  Congressman Bart Stupak, thank you for being on HARDBALL. 

We appreciate it.

STUPAK:  Thanks, Michael.

SMERCONISH:  Let‘s go now to the gentleman who will have to sell this,

electorally speaking.  Not only did the Republicans fail to defeat health

care reformed, they‘re left aligned with tea party protesters, some of whom

spewed gay and racial epithets at Democratic lawmakers over the weekend. 

Can Republicans defend the ugly attacks of those on the far right?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.



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

NEUGEBAUER:  Baby killer!


SMERCONISH:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  That was Texas Republican

congressman Randy Neugebauer yelling “baby killer” on the House floor

yesterday during the health care debate.  It was an ugly moment on the

House floor, the same place where South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson

yelled out “You lie” at President Obama last year.  Is the kind of rhetoric

that‘s now out of line and all too commonplace in Washington?

Republican congressman Phil Gingrey of Georgia is an obstetrician and

a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.  Thank you for being here,

Congressman.  What explains the behavior that we‘re all seeing?

REP. PHIL GINGREY ®, GEORGIA:  Michael, glad to be with you.  Well,

you know, Joe Wilson and Randy Neugebauer, both good friends of mine,

they‘re good people, good, decent people.  I guess you get caught up in the

emotion sometimes of what‘s going on on the floor.  But we have to remember

there‘s a certain decorum and respect, and those members, of course,

apologized profusely for blurting out those remarks.  I know they‘re truly

sorry for that.

SMERCONISH:  Well, those two incidents took place inside the Capitol. 

Let me show you Congressman Jim Clyburn today with Andrew Mitchell on MSNBC

describing something that took place outside of the Capitol.


REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC), MAJORITY WHIP:  John Lewis told me that he

was called the “N” word more than once, and two other members in the

vicinity told me they heard those words being used.  And when you look at

some of the signs that were painted out there, putting a Hitler-like

mustache on President Obama and other things that carried double meanings,

you know that much of this was not about health care at all.

All of this was about people who have been led to believe that for

somebody else to get insurance coverage would take something from them. 

That is the craziest notion that I‘ve ever heard, but that‘s what people

seem to feel.


SMERCONISH:  Congressman Gingrey, is it fair to hold the GOP

leadership accountable for the conduct of some of the tea party activists

outside that Representative Clyburn was just discussing?

GINGREY:  Of course not.  The tea party actors don‘t even represent

themselves as Republicans.  They have a policy in regard to what they stand

for.  But I mean, when you have literally thousands—I don‘t know, there

may have been 25,000 people on Saturday.  And I stopped and spoke to many

of them, and they‘re good, red-blooded Americans and good, honest people

who travel thousands of miles in some instances.  Some drove.  Some took


So you know, they‘re frustrated.  And in any crowd like that, you

always are going to get somebody who goes a little bit over the line,

whether it‘s in regard to their remarks that they shout out, or the signs

that they carry.

But I think Jim Clyburn, who‘s a good friend—I respect the majority

whip.  And John Lewis, of course, in my own delegation, the senior member

of the Georgia delegation, is a great human being.  And we—I think they

understand that people sometimes get out of line.  But they‘re not

representative, certainly, of the Republican Party and I don‘t think of the

tea party movement in general.

SMERCONISH:  Former Bush speech writer David Frum wrote in his column,

quote, “We follow the most radical voices in the party and the movement,

and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.  I‘ve been on a soapbox

for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. 

Yes, it mobilized supporters, but by them mobilizing with hysterical

accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk, has made it impossible

for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead.”

Congressman Gingrey, your response to that, sir?

GINGREY:  Well, Michael, I don‘t agree with that.  Quite honestly, I

think that when you look at all the social networking sites that members

are now using, whether we‘re talking about FaceBook, YouTube, Twitter,

watching 24-hour cable news, whether their favorite is MSNBC or CNN or FOX

News, I think people are just so much more informed today, whether their

favorite is Glenn Beck or Rachel Maddow.

I think it‘s a good thing, and we members have to understand that the

people on the street, we the people, are much better informed today, and we

people—members of Congress can‘t come up here and get away with the

shenanigans that maybe they got away with 25 or 30 years ago.  That‘s a

good thing.  It‘s a cleansing of the system.

We have to be responsible to the people because, after all, we‘re sent

here to represent them, to voice their concerns, indeed, to vote what it is

they want us to vote on.  And you know, when you cram something down their

throats which 60 percent of them are saying they don‘t want, then

obviously, members are going to have to go back in the fall elections and

answer to those votes.

SMERCONISH:  Isn‘t the challenge for the GOP headed toward November to

harness the passion from the tea party activists but not to let the

knuckleheads speak for Republicans?

GINGREY:  Oh, I think I agree with you on that, absolutely. 


GINGREY:  I—I think that is true.  And I think the Democrats are

the same way.  They have their few knuckleheads in their camp as well. 

SMERCONISH:  Let me show you RNC Chair Michael Steele, if I may,

Congressman, on “Meet the Press,” and we will listen together. 



a danger to be associated with the Tea Party movement.  It‘s certainly not

a reflection of the movement or the Republican Party when you have some

idiots out there saying very stupid things. 


SMERCONISH:  Pretty much saying the same thing that I think you

offered a moment ago. 

GINGREY:  Well, we‘re all subject to saying idiotic things, including

me and Michael Steele, for that matter, and the two Republican members as

you mentioned earlier in the clip. 

But we have to be very careful, of course, of what we say, because

we‘re held responsible, but John Q. Public out there that has come

thousands of miles to be on the west lawn of the Capitol, I don‘t think we

can hold them quite to the same standards, but they‘re not representative

of we the people. 

SMERCONISH:  Hey, Congressman, one other thing, if I may.  I took a

look at the Medicare vote.  When Medicare became law, there were 65

Republican votes, when Social Security became law, 77 Republican votes. 

What‘s changed? 

GINGREY:  Well, I don‘t think anything has changed. 

I mean, you—you—we had a bipartisan vote in this particular

instance, and that quite a few Democrats, maybe 25 in this final passage of

HR-3590, voted against the bill.  So...

SMERCONISH:  But no—but no Republicans, not a single Republican

vote, much unlike Medicare and Social Security. 

GINGREY:  Well, I think the Republican Party realized that we had a

better idea, a better plan.  We tried to present that to the president at

the Blair House, when he had the health conference or summit.  And we‘re

not listened to.

And, indeed, I‘m a physician with 31 years of experience.  And we have

many physicians on the Republican side, and we were totally shut out.  We

got no opportunity to lend our expertise in doctor/patient relationship,

and I think we could have helped tremendously and made this a whole lot

easier process for the president and the Democratic majority, had we been


SMERCONISH:  Congressman, speaking of where we go next, I have got

former Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist talking about the repeal

possibilities.  Let‘s listen to this. 



a campaign of repeal.  Repeal is not going to happen, but it‘s clear for

the American people, it‘s clear for the people who are out there,

Republicans did not support this type of reform, so I think that‘s what

they will be saying. 


SMERCONISH:  Is that possible?  Is that the goal, retake the House and

the Senate and reverse all this? 

GINGREY:  Well, I think the goal, obviously, is to retake the House

and the Senate.  And I think there‘s a distinct possibility, because of the

overreach of the Democratic Party since they gained control in January of

‘07 in this first year-and-a-half of the Obama administration.  The

American people are outraged. 

They‘re not happy necessarily with the Republicans either.  But I

think we have a great opportunity to take control, both in the House and

the Senate, in November. 

Now, I don‘t necessarily stand here and say we should repeal

everything that‘s in 3590.  I think youngsters up to the age of 26 should

be included on their parents‘ policy.  I see no reason why we shouldn‘t

continue the exchanges for people to purchase health insurance if they

can‘t get it through their employer and they‘re not—their income is not

low enough to make them eligible for one of the safety net programs, and to

have subsidies for the very low income. 

I do take exception to expanding Medicaid to 133 percent, and forcing

it upon every state that‘s suffering so badly.  My own state of Georgia is

$1.5 billion in arrears, and we have a constitutional amendment, as do 40

other states, that we have to balance our budget. 

And—and there‘s no way, with this added mandate of Medicaid, that

we can survive that.  So, there are a number of things in the bill,

particularly the forcing of individuals, under the penalty of law, to

purchase health insurance, and not only to purchase, but to purchase that

which is prescribed by the federal government, I‘m sure that‘s


SMERCONISH:  But—but—but...

GINGREY:  States are already...

SMERCONISH:  But, Congressman, those who are being forced to pay for

it, you and I right now are paying for them when they show up in an E.R. 

GINGREY:  Well, again, this is true.  And we should do everything we

can to lower the cost and encourage people to have coverage. 

But they don‘t necessarily—particularly young, healthy people who

are taking care of themselves, why should we force them, when they can‘t

afford it, under the penalty of law, to buy first-dollar coverage?  Why

don‘t we continue to encourage them to get these high-deductible, but low-

premium policies, that do give them catastrophic coverage, and let them

combine that with a health savings account?

SMERCONISH:  Understood.

Hey, Congressman Phil Gingrey, thank you, sir, for being here.  You

have lent some parity.  I appreciate it. 

GINGREY:  Michael, thank you so much.  Enjoyed being with you.

SMERCONISH:  Up next—up next, we have heard critics use a lot of

hyperbole to describe the health care reform bill, but California

Congressman Devin Nunes may have taken the cake when he said it was like

bringing back the ghosts of communist dictators.  And there‘s more where

that came from—next in the “Sideshow.” 

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


SMERCONISH:  Back to HARDBALL, and now for the “Sideshow.” 

We saw a lot of fiery floor speeches on health care last night.  None,

however, topped that of California Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, at

least when it came to Soviet references. 


REP. DEVIN NUNES ®, CALIFORNIA:  Today, we are turning back the

clock.  For most of the 20th century, people fled the ghosts of communist

dictators.  And now you are bringing the ghosts back into this chamber. 

Today, Democrats in this House will finally lay the cornerstone of

their socialist utopia on the backs of the American people. 

Say no to socialism.  Say no to totalitarianism.  Say no to this bill. 


SMERCONISH:  Ghosts of communist dictators, socialists utopia,


Folks, it‘s this kind of overheated rhetoric that makes compromise and

bipartisanship impossible. 

Speaking of strange conservative pushback, in yesterday‘s “Washington

Post,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called the health care bill a—

quote—“radical social experiment.”  He then took it one step further,

saying of Democrat—quote—“They will have destroyed their party as

much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years with the

enactment of civil rights legislation in the 1960s.”

Hold on there.  LBJ shattered the party with civil rights legislation 

While civil rights did hurt Democrats in the South, can you really argue

that it wasn‘t the right thing to do, or that, long term, it wasn‘t the

right thing for the Democratic Party to do?  Is this really the historical

analogy that Gingrich wants to make? 

Finally, on a lighter note, CBS‘ Katie Couric last night asked White

House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel to account for his famous foul mouth. 


KATIE COURIC, HOST, “CBS EVENING NEWS”:  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?  Because I know he

has tweaked you about your profanity in public.

EMANUEL:  I have cursed before, but I do not curse in the Oval Office. 

COURIC:  Ever? 

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

COURIC:  Does he curse? 

No comment?

EMANUEL:  Look, I‘m—you know, it‘s—I‘m not—this is—I‘m

going to let—I will go to the grave with my secrets. 


SMERCONISH:  Read into that what you will.

Time now for the “Big Number.” 

These past few weeks, we saw the president take ownership of health

care reform.  In fact, according to a White House tally, how many direct

pitches did President Obama make to Democratic House members?  Ninety-two. 

No question that helped push the bill past the finish line.  President

Obama made 92 direct appeals to wavering House Democrats—tonight‘s very

telling “Big Number.” 

Up next, we will do a little fact-checking on the health care reform

bill.  What will it actually do?  And what does it mean for the typical


That‘s ahead.  You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  



“Market Wrap.”

Stocks climbing steadily today, now that the uncertainty surrounding

health care reform has lifted—the Dow Jones industrials climbing nearly

44 points, the S&P 500 up about six points, and the Nasdaq adding 21


Hospital operators and drugmakers like Merck and Pfizer ending mostly

higher, now that it‘s clear these companies will be seeing more customers. 

Health insurers finished mixed due to varying levels of exposure to tighter

restrictions—Aetna holding onto a slight gain, WellPoint and Humana

pulling back a little more than 1 percent each.

Looking outside of the health care sector, Citigroup on fire today,

adding more than 3.5 percent on an enthusiastic ratings upgrade from

analyst Dick Bove.  He says Citi is poised to return to its former status

as a—quote—“moneymaking machine.”

And household products retailers Williams-Sonoma soaring more than 12

percent after beating profit expectations, thanks to some blockbuster

holiday sales numbers.

That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to


SMERCONISH:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

The health care debate has been almost as notable for the amount of

outright lies that surround it as for the enormous effort it took to get it

done.  The nonpartisan Web site PolitiFact has kept track of the truth as

the debate unfolded and now has published a list of the top facts you

should know about health care reform. 

Among them, there will be no new benefits for illegal immigrants.  The

existing access they have to emergency care will stand, but nothing new. 

The government will not pay for elective abortions.  This is not a

government takeover of health care, like the Canadian or British models. 

PolitiFact reporter and researcher Angie Holan put together the list.


I love the list.  As a matter of fact, I rely on it.  And we should

note you folks won a Pulitzer Prize for your efforts. 


SMERCONISH:  So, the plan is not a government takeover, like the

Canadian or the British system?  How would we differ?

HOLAN:  Well, in Britain, doctors are employees of the government.  In

Canada, the government picks up all the bills for medical care. 

Here, people will continue to buy insurance, either on their own or

they will get it through work, just like usual.  Medicare stays in place. 

What‘s new is more regulation for insurance companies.  And that‘s

especially key for people who have to go out and buy insurance on their

own.  It‘s called the individual market. 

SMERCONISH:  How about this one?

On the abortion issue, the government will not pay for elective

abortions.  I saw Congressman Chris Smith on television yesterday incensed

yesterday because he said differently. 

HOLAN:  Now, let me say, activists on both sides are unhappy with how

the plan deals with the abortion issue. 

We looked at this very carefully.  There are detailed accounting rules

within the legislation that say, if someone gets help from the government

to buy a plan, but also puts up their own money, the insurance companies

have to keep those funds separate.  We think it‘s a credible case. 

Again, activists on both sides not so thrilled with it, but it does

seem to be a compromise. 

SMERCONISH:  Well, play—play—play devil‘s advocate with me. 

What, then, is the argument from those who say, no, federal moneys will be

used for abortion? 

HOLAN:  Well, the argument is that the government is hosting this

exchange.  The government is giving people part of the money to buy their

health insurance policy, and the people who are opposed to this just say

the government should keep its distance completely from the issue, that

policies should not be sold that cover abortion on the exchange. 

SMERCONISH:  Here‘s another one:  Illegal immigrants will have no more

benefits under this health care reform plan than they already have, or so

you say at PolitiFact.  What are the facts on that?

HOLAN:  There are longstanding laws on the books that say, if illegal

immigrants show up in emergency rooms and they are critically ill, that

they must be treated.  Those laws remain in place. 

But, again, talking about individuals who qualify for assistance from

the government to get a little bit of help buying their own policies,

illegal immigrants will not be eligible for that. 

SMERCONISH:  Angie, PolitiFact has also put together a list of the top

lies about health care reform. 

And here are a few.  Bureaucrats will dictate what treatment people

will get and what plan they must buy.  That‘s not true.  Preventive care

will save the health care system money.  Research shows that the benefits

of additional screening don‘t outweigh the costs.  And it bans private

insurance in favor of a government-run plan. 

Let‘s deal with the first of those. 

HOLAN:  Bureaucrats cannot dictate treatment for individual patients. 

Now, I don‘t want to imply that the plan is bureaucrat-free.  There are

boards that will study treatments for effectiveness.  They will publish the

results of their studies. 

Medicare, there will also be a board there to examine what are the

most effective treatments.  But, as we—we have seen a lot of these chain

e-mails that imply that bureaucrats will pore over people‘s individual

health care records.  And that‘s simply not the case. 

SMERCONISH:  How about preventive care saves the whole health care

system money?  I have heard that time and again. 

HOLAN:  Yes, this is a nice idea that‘s just not true, the idea being

that, if you give people more care at the front end, you will save so much

money that you can pay for itself. 

But it doesn‘t work that way.  There have been some very rigorous

medical studies that show, if you want to give people more care and

screenings, that you do have to find money to pay for that.  It doesn‘t pay

for itself over the long haul systemwide. 

SMERCONISH:  Here‘s another lie, according to the research at

PolitiFact, that this plan bans private insurance in favor of a government-

run plan. 

HOLAN:  No, private insurance remains in place.  It is regulated much more

heavily.  Insurance companies will be told the minimum standards that they

have to include in all plans.  But private insurance very much stays in

place.  And the public option, this idea of one plan that would be run by

the government, that didn‘t make it into the final bill.  This public

option did not survive the legislation process. 

SMERCONISH:  If folks want to see more of the research that you‘ve

done, they would go where? 

HOLAN:  Politifact.com.  We have many details on this policy and a

lot of these issues are very complicated. 

SMERCONISH:  Thank you, Angie Holan.  I appreciate it very much.

HOLAN:  Thank you. 

SMERCONISH:  Up next, much more on the political fallout on the

passing of health care reform.  Who wins?  Who loses?  This is HARDBALL,

only on MSNBC. 


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 substitute your will and your desires above those of your fellow




OBAMA:  I want to thank every member of Congress who stood up

tonight with courage and conviction to make health care reform a reality. 

I know this wasn‘t an easy vote for a lot of people.  But it was the right

vote.  I want to thank Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her extraordinary



SMERCONISH:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Time now for the politics

fix.  After a year of fighting, negotiating and cajoling, health care

reform passed the House last night.  But what‘s been the political fallout? 

Eugene Robinson is a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the

“Washington Post,” Richard an MSNBC political analyst and author of


Richard, were any of those Republican votes ever up for grabs? 

RICHARD WOLFFE, AUTHOR, “RENEGADE”:  There was probably a point

early on, I think, when some of them were in play.  But they closed that

door pretty quickly.  And you can read about it now.  Mitch McConnell had a

very effective strategy to block this whole idea of Barack Obama being a

bipartisan leader. 

And I think actually that‘s why the health care summit was so

important.  Not because anyone‘s minds were changed, but because the

president looked reasonable and open to Republican ideas.  That itself was

a message to the general voters.  But the votes themselves, as a

legislative proposition, on health care absolutely not.  On the smaller

legislation, yes, but not on health care.

SMERCONISH:  If you were charting, Eugene Robinson, when the

president turned a corner in this health care battle, would it have been

that summit at Blair House? 

EUGENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  I do believe that summit

was a turning point, in that it did present this picture of the president

as the reasonable guy in the room.  It it also, I think—signal number

one, he was going to persist on health care, and perhaps gave some impetus

to the process in the Congress. 

Of course, Speaker Pelosi was intent on moving ahead, in any event. 

So that was probably the moment when things turned in the administration‘s


SMERCONISH:  Gentlemen, in the world in which I spend my daytime

hours, the world of talk radio, Republicans thumping their chests today,

looking at this as something A, they find appalling.  But B, politically

speaking, they say it will be more of New Jersey, more of Virginia, and

more of Massachusetts, three examples of elections won by the GOP since

this president was elected.  Here, by way of example, Rush Limbaugh on his

show today.  Let‘s all listen. 


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  They must, my friends, be

hounded out of office.  Every Democrat that 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. 


SMERCONISH:  Richard, who wins politically, based on the vote last

night in the House, looking towards November? 

WOLFFE:  Well, I think a lot depends on where you think November is

going to be fought.  If it‘s about base turnout, then the anger that you

just heard from Rush is more helpful—it‘s not just helpful to Rush

Limbaugh and his audience.  It actually gets the base motivated.  And the

conservatives have done a very good job of doing that. 

I actually think we‘re now in this sort of zero sum game, where

people on the left have found a reason to believe again, and a reason to go

out there and vote.  They feel like 2008 meant something.  And also,

perversely, they are themselves riled up by the excessive rhetoric coming

out of the conservatives. 

Where this debate may well, I think, get fought, though, is on those

independents, not the soft Republicans, the disillusioned Republicans, but

the real independents, who may be turned off by the anger, looking for

something more positive, a more positive agenda.  And that‘s where I think

the White House has some room to grow. 

I‘m not saying they‘ll definitely get them with health care, but

they have a positive message and an agenda to go out and sell to people in

2010.  And I‘m not sure that saying this is about tyranny and socialism and

the evils that are going to come down from the dictator Barack Obama—I

don‘t think that‘s really going to be an effective platform. 

SMERCONISH:  Eugene, I hear from many callers, who also send e-mails

they say, the Democrats today are crowing about something that the

majority of Americans didn‘t want passed. 

ROBINSON:  Well, keep in mind, Smerc, that those polls that show 53

percent or 57 percent of Americans opposed to the health care bill included

some percentage that thought it didn‘t go far enough.  I do think that

Democratic base is heartened by this result.  It‘s, once again, change you

can believe in.  And I think that was a—that was a crucial element, from

the Democratic point of view, that has been missing the past few months. 

There was a sense that—that it wasn‘t happening, and that—

So, to the extent that it does give Democrats a reason to go out and

a reason to fight for their candidates in the fall, you know, I think

that‘s positive for Democrats.  Look, either way, we expect the Democrats

to lose seats.  It‘s an off-year election and that‘s what one would expect. 

The question is their attempt to mitigate those losses. 

SMERCONISH:  Is this now the standard by which future votes are

going to be judged?  Immigration, education, energy, three things, Richard

Wolffe, that are coming up in the near future.  Can we expect a unified

Republican front and not a single vote for whatever this administration‘s

agenda might be? 

WOLFFE:  Well, I think the first test is going to come on financial

reform, where there was a lot of work going on between the parties in the

Senate.  That seems to have broken down.  It‘s going to be interesting

watching that politics play out, because it‘s a mirror image of health

care.  Are Republicans going to side with the big industrial commercial

players, in this case big banks, and are they going to side with insurers,

for instance on the health care side of things? 

But there are still people talking across the aisle.  Energy and

climate change—there were 14 senators in the White House just before the

health care vote, and half of them were Republicans.  There are pieces of

energy and climate change that there is still bipartisan support for. 

So I don‘t think you can say, as some journalist did today, that the

era of bipartisan votes is over.  People were voting together before this. 

I think they‘ll do it again.  I think the calculation is a bit more complex

than saying, well, just holding together and opposing everything Obama does

is a path for victory for Republicans.  There are going to be questions

marks today about whether that‘s rise. 

SMERCONISH:  Eugene, who bends first, if there‘s an accommodation to

be reached in the future? 

ROBINSON:  Here‘s what I think is going to happen, Smerc: I think

Harry Reid, for example, in the Senate, a few weeks ago, found an issue

that—on which he could split the Republican vote.  It was jobs, the jobs

bill.  I think he‘s going to be looking for issues in which he can repeat

that trick, and framing these coming big issues—or trying to frame them

in such a way that he can carve off some Republicans, or at least make it

very difficult for them to hold together the way they held together on

health care. 

SMERCONISH:  Do either of you know—speaking of process in the

vote that was taken last night—when and how there was a change of

position over the weekend that they would not go the Slaughter position, or

the deem and pass route?  I was here for Chris Friday night, had the

opportunity to ask Steny Hoyer how they were going to get it done, shared

with him concerns I heard from people who said it sounded quite nefarious. 

In the end, it was a straight up and down vote. 

WOLFFE:  You know, White House people thought from the beginning

this was—this was a stretch.  That, in any case, this would be a vote—

this would be treated and cast as a vote for or against health care.  So

there was no real dodge going on that would survive until November.  I

think the impracticality of that sort of played itself out through the


SMERCONISH:  Eugene, when was the critical milestone over the

weekend where they made that decision? 

ROBINSON:  It seems to me to be—there was a point, perhaps, early

on Saturday when the Democrats became more confident of not only ultimately

being able to get the votes, work out some sort of accommodation with

Stupak and the pro-life Democrats, but also to survive just an up or down

vote on the Senate bill that so many House members didn‘t like.  And I‘m

not quite sure what the specific assurances were, but there was a point at

which the mood changed.  And they became—


ROBINSON:  -- willing to take the gamble. 

SMERCONISH:  Eugene Robinson and Richard Wolffe, many thanks for

being here. 

When we return, I‘ll have some thoughts about a big question on the

minds of many Americans.  Will the new health system apply to average folks

the same way it does to members of Congress?  You‘re watching HARDBALL,

only on MSNBC.


SMERCONISH:  “I‘ll have what she‘s having.”  Movie-goers no doubt

remember that famous line from “When Harry Met Sally,” in a scene shot in a

delicatessen.  A similar sentiment has been on the minds of many Americans

who watched House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her colleagues during the health

care debate.  They wonder whether this new health care system will apply to

members of Congress, their staff, and their families, the way that it

applies to the rest of us. 

I posed that question both to President Obama and Secretary Kathleen

Sebelius in separate interviews last summer.  Neither convinced me they

then fully appreciated its importance to the American people. 

More recently, though, the administration seemed to get the message. 

Quote, “for the first time, uninsured individuals, small businesses, they‘d

have the same kind of choice of private health insurance that members of

Congress get for themselves.”

That‘s what the president said in the days leading up to yesterday‘s

vote.  So is it true?  Yes, if you can find section 13-12 of the Senate

legislation.  Here‘s how it reads: “requirement, the only health plans that

the federal government may make available to members of Congress and

Congressional staff shall be health plans that are created under this act

or offered through an exchange established under this act.” 

That needle in the haystack is one that reform proponents should

have highlighted earlier.  Instead, the wrangling and posturing over health

care have served largely to widen the gulf that many Americans see between

themselves and Washington.  For six hours a day on two separate radio

programs, I field calls from people all over the country.  The feeling I

get is that many Americans think the rules in Washington are different from

the rules everywhere else. 

Those crafting the overhaul did little to convince those Americans

otherwise until the final hours.  Section 13-12 may not have gotten the

attention the, say, the Stupak Amendment did.  But the importance of

helping Americans believe that they can have what Congress is having

shouldn‘t get lost amidst the post-vote spin. 

That‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.  Catch us again

for a live edition of HARDBALL, hosted by Chuck Todd, in one hour, at 7:00

Eastern.  And Chris Matthews returns tomorrow at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern. 

Right now it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.




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