Video: Senate deal-makers

updated 6/7/2005 12:18:02 PM ET 2005-06-07T16:18:02

Fourteen senators break free of pressure groups, right and left. They built a center in the world's greatest deliberative body.  And four out of five Americans applaud them.

In a television news first, Hardball brought together 11 of the 14 strong-willed senators, the so-called gang of 14 who grabbed power in the United States Senate from both Republican and Democratic leaders, thumbing their collective noses at their party's ideological extremes and avoiding a nuclear showdown over the use of the filibuster. 

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Let’s meet the senators who are live here: Susan Collins, (R-Maine), Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska), John Warner (R-Virginia), Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), Lincoln Chafee, (R-Rhode Island), Ken Salazar (D-Colorado).

Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), joins us via satellite. Listening on the phone is  Senator Robert Byrd, the senior senator.  And we're also going to be hearing from Mike DeWine of Ohio.

Let me go right now to Senator Joe Lieberman.

Senator Lieberman, have you gotten any reaction to your joining of this 14?

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT:  You bet, Chris.  I’ve got great public reaction.  I think the average person was sick and tired of all the partisanship and polarization in the Senate and the fact that we weren’t getting much done.  And that wasn’t just about the judges.  So there’s a lot of concern about that.  It was about the Senate overall.

I had one man say to me, “You folks were acting like a bunch of children, and you finally stood up and acted like the grownups you’re supposed to be.”

I guess I’d give you one other positive reaction, which is very interesting.  And I bet my colleagues there got some of the same of this.

The day after this agreement when I went out on the floor for a vote, colleagues on the Republican and Democratic side who were not part of our 14 came up to me and said, “You know, Joe, for one reason or another, I couldn’t join the group.  But am I glad that the 14 of you did this.  You saved us from a disaster, and you maybe created some momentum for this to keep on going.”

MATTHEWS:  Well, it’s not all Pollyanna, is it, Senator?  Didn’t you take some heat from the real pro-choice people, the People for the American Way, people like Ralph Neas and those folks?

LIEBERMAN:  Oh, for sure.  It’s not all Pollyanna, but that’s what made it a great moment.  And look, each of us from our respective party, ideological bases, were told not to do this and were criticized after it was done.  But in some ways, that’s the point here, that the ideological groups drive both parties.  And they too often drive us apart so we get nothing done.

Most of us went to Washington, honored to be in the Senate not because we wanted to posture or please ideological groups.  We wanted to get something done.  And I think that’s what we did in this occasion, and hopefully we’ll just keep on going on energy and Social Security, and maybe even do something to make healthcare more affordable.

MATTHEWS:  You have to go, but a quick question, a quick answer.  I know you’re a student of history.  You’ve written a lot about history before you got here, “The Power Broker,” about John Bailey.

Let me ask you this: is this history-making what’s going on here with the 14 senators?

LIEBERMAN:  First, Chris, let me thank you. You’re one of the few people who remembers that I wrote a book called “The Power Broker” about the great John Bailey.  He taught me a lot.

Second, it is history-making.  And the one who reminded us of that was the historian of the Senate himself, Robert C. Byrd.  But let you know, history doesn’t stop.  And now it’s for us and other members of the Senate who are empowered by what we did to come out and join us and continue to get some things done for our country.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Senator Lieberman, up in Connecticut.

LIEBERMAN:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Susan Collins, you worked for the Senate for a long time before you became a senator.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-MAINE):  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  What kind of reaction have you gotten from this?

COLLINS:  Very positive.  I found that people stopped me on the street in Maine and said, “Thank you for forging the compromise.  We’re so sick of all the fighting.”

Now, not everyone was happy. 

But, you know, I’m much more interested in what my constituents think and in helping preserve the traditions of the Senate.  And I think we did just that.

SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA:  Well, the same thing.  Recently, I spoke to a group and I got a standing ovation before I started and one after I finished.  That isn’t always the case, as you know.  But everywhere I’ve gone, people have come up to me and have commented about how important it is for the Senate to get along and get things done.

And they feel, as in the case of Joe Lieberman, that sometimes we haven’t acted as adults.  But on this occasion, we clearly did.  And I think the people are, by and large, very grateful for it.

MATTHEWS:  Senator Warner, one of the lions.

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-VIRGINIA):  Well, I don’t know about being a lion...

MATTHEWS:  How old do you have to be to be a lion, anyway?

WARNER:  Happy to be.  But we really did what we did on a foundation of hard work done by both Bill Frist and Harry Reid.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

WARNER:  Let’s make that clear.

MATTHEWS:  How did that work?  What’s the dynamic there, Senator?  Because you senators established a strong center.  How did the positions of the two leaders on either side help to create that?

WARNER:  Well, I think, frankly, they kept our respective caucuses fully informed of daily, nightly conversations that the two had together.  And both came back and said, at this point in time, we still have not resolved this.  And that left an opening for our group to come together and do what we did.

But, you know, the Senate represents not just in the United States, but the world over, the greatest form of preservation of the rights of the minority to be heard of any legislative body in the world.  And we felt that we should keep it that way.  There wasn’t the justification at this point in time to use a method by which to go around the two-thirds rule and change the vote.  And none of us could predict with specifity what would happen to the Senate had that constitutional option been used.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Senator Pryor?

SEN. MARK PRYOR, (D-AR): The reaction has been very good.  What you alluded to, though, is that there are some groups who want the issue more than they want to get results in the Congress.

MATTHEWS: Why?  To raise money?

PRYOR: Maybe some to raise money.  I can’t speak for all those groups.  But nonetheless, I think that clearly is out there and we’ve all be criticized by various groups around the country.  But by and large, my response in Arkansas has been very, very positive for what we did.

MATTHEWS: Senator Landrieu.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU, (D-LA): Chris, the same.  Very positive.  I think that my constituents in Louisiana, I think, all of ours just want us to stay focused on the work at hand.  We’ve got an energy bill coming up next week, a transportation bill not far behind.  Hopefully a water bill, which is a water resources bill.  That’s important to everyone.  And so by forging this compromise, we at least gave us a chance—the Senate to stay at work.

Now I have to say that it’s going to take more than the 14 of us to hold it together.  There’s going to have to be good will built on both sides.  We respect our leadership.  We want to continue to work with them in a positive way.  But at home in Louisiana, people were really thrilled that we were able to at least stay on track, stay focused on the work at hand.

MATTHEWS: Senator Chafee.

SEN. LINCOLN CHAFEE, ®, RHODE ISLAND: Well, I agree with Senator Landrieu and Senator Lieberman.  Americans care about energy.  They care about Social Security.  They care about the war in Iraq.  And I think there’s been—there’s a disconnect with what we’re doing over these judges.  So I think we’ve got the Senate back on track.  We can work together, Democrats and Republicans, and I think that’s what the American people really care about.

MATTHEWS:  I’ll ask you, Senator Salazar.

SEN. KEN SALAZAR, (D-CO): Chris, I came to Washington to be a uniter, not a divider.  And what I found in this town in my first five months is that it is a very divided town with a lot of partisan poison hanging over both the White House and the Capitol.  And I think what this group of 14 did is to stand up against that poison and said, we’re going to work together on the important issues that face Americans every day.  And so I’m very proud of the work of this group.

MATTHEWS:  Senator Byrd, I know you have a cold today, but I know you are a great man of history and I grew up loving the Senate as an institution.  And you have served there all these years. “Advice and Consent,” it was a great novel, it was a great movie, what does it mean, those terms, advice and consent, when it comes to a court nomination?

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA:  Well, it means exactly what it says.  President shall have the power to appoint, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint certain officers of the United States, including judges and the Supreme Court.

Now what you have here is an attempt to pack the courts.  FDR tried that in 1937.  He failed because the Senate filibustered and the people became informed as to what was going on.

Here we are.  We’re talking about federal judges, people who are appointed for a lifetime, for a lifetime, on the federal bench.  And the president shall appoint by and with the advice and consent.

But there has been a lot of talk about the consent, how it should, the president and certain others in the Senate have said that it should up-or-down votes.  That these people deserve and up-or-down vote.

Well, the Constitution doesn’t say they may have an up-or-down vote.  It simply says, “by and with the advice and consent.”  Consequently, a lot of these people have been nominated under various presidencies to serve on the courts, some of them have been blocked—bottled up in the committees, they’ve never been sent to the floor for the floor to have a vote.

So it all boils down to exactly what the Constitution says, “by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, he shall appoint judges of the Supreme Court.”

Well, John Warner and I, we felt that there had been a lot of talk about the consent factor and whether or not they should have an up-or-down vote.  But not enough attention was given to the advice element in that constitutional provision.

So we wrote language in the agreement saying that there should be consultation with the Senate.  We thought that the chief executive, he would consult with the Senate.  He didn’t.  The president doesn’t have to take our advice, but he certainly ought to let us in on the take-off as well as on the crash landing.

And so we wanted something in the agreement referring to the advice and consent of the Senate.  And that’s in there.  Now I think if the chief executive will consult with the Senate, he doesn’t have to take our advice, but if he considers our advice that the president can be more assured that his nominees are going to be met with a kinder reception.

This is a very, very basic matter.  It’s extremely important to the American people.  The Senate is polarized by it.  And we talk about so-called “constitutional option.” There’s nothing constitutional about it.  It’s an unconstitutional option.  And those who seek to sell this idea, this crazy idea to the American people about it being the “constitutional option,” they are bent upon breaking the Senate into pieces.

They are certainly—their intentions have to do with politics more than with the Constitution.  These 14 Senators who signed that agreement left political party aside and they have sought to do something for the good of the country, and they did it.  And I’m very proud to have been with them.

I certainly want to praise John McCain, and John Warner, and Ben Nelson, and Mark Pryor.  They all worked together, and the others who were involved.  Ben Nelson, Dan Inouye, and they’ve just—oh, and Susan Collins and the others.  They all put politics aside and determined that they would do something in the best interests of the country.  They did it.  And because the United States Senate is not a political playground, it’s a forum of the states, intended to be a place where wisdom and freedom of speech prevailed.

I’m sorry for my voice today, but I have bronchitis.  But this group of 14 have had enough partisan rhetoric and political games.  And those who sought to put this so-called unconstitutional option across and destroy the Senate as a forum for free debate, and freedom to amend, and freedom of minorities to dissent, that’s what the Founding Fathers had in mind, a forum of that kind.

And this group that—the White House is trying to apparently put across this so-called constitutional option is interested in politics.  And it would have destroyed the Senate as such a forum.  And the American people would have been injured.  Their freedom of dissent, their freedom of speech would have suffered.

It was a great day for the Senate when these 14 senators of both parties got together and decided to put politics aside and do what was right for the American people, and right for the Senate, right for freedom of speech, and right for the Constitution.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Senator.  Senator Warner do you want to respond to that, because I guess advice and consent, does that mean that, if the president wants to put up Justice Scalia for chief justice, he would run it by you and the other senators and say, “What do you think?”

WARNER:  Selectively.  In the past, presidents have done it.

Let me give you 50 years of Senate history, the last 50 as it relates to the Supreme Court.  Twenty-seven total nominees, six of them were passed by the Senate on a voice vote.  In other words, the whole Senate said, “Aye.”  Nine got over 80 votes.  And only one fell below the 60-vote margin.  And three were rejected.

Now, that’s responsible, bipartisan reaction, and living up to the Constitution for the United States Senate and previous presidents, Eisenhower, Ford.  And I predict that’s going to happen in the future.

MATTHEWS:  Is that the trend, or is that the past?

WARNER:  That’s the 50 years I gave you.  And I think—I’m positive the Senate will be responsible, the president will be responsible, and I would hope, if there is a vacancy, that the Senate will confirm him with a strong bipartisan vote.

MATTHEWS:  Mary Landrieu, senator from Louisiana, do you think that the liberals in your party—you’re a moderate, I think it’s fair to say, right?

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA:  Correct.

MATTHEWS:  The liberals in your party, what would they do if they got a hold of a nominee for chief justice ahead of time?  Would they give the person full consideration, or would they leak the name and trash the man?

LANDRIEU:  Well, I think the whole point is to try to get nominees that can pass could pass not just on—both sides.  And someone that’s mainstream, that could be either a little to the left or a little to the right, that’s not a problem with the 14 of us.

It’s just the extreme nominations that are put up with the purpose of dividing, not for the purpose of uniting, not for the purpose of moving the country forward, not for the purpose of keeping us on track but for the purposes of basically feeding ideological wings.  That’s what we object to.

So I hope that the president will really see that this effort is being made in really good faith.  We’re not trying to dictate how to run everything.  We’re just trying to say, “Let’s take a break.  Let’s get back to work and stay united for the good of the country.”

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the Senate would vote differently or behave differently on most issues, like these cultural issues, if there weren’t these extreme groups?

LANDRIEU:  Well, I think these issues are very important, Chris.  It’s going to take a lot of our wisdom and patience and tolerance to work through them.  But I think the Senate had really gotten almost to the point of going to a place we’ve never been before.  And we weren’t sure once we got there how we would return...

MATTHEWS:  But wouldn’t there be liberal groups out there that would want you to filibuster every single nominee that this president might put up?

LANDRIEU:  Well, yes, there are...

MATTHEWS:  And wouldn’t Ralph Neas, for example, People for the American Way, want you to filibuster everything.  You say it’s the right-wing groups, but isn’t it the liberal groups, too, that want the fight?

LANDRIEU:  No, I said both groups, and there would be liberal groups that would want that.  But most Americans, like what Susan said, Senator Collins, when I went home this week in Louisiana, I was home all week, people were both, Republicans and Democrats, thank you for keeping the Senate on track.  We have a lot of work to do.

MATTHEWS:  I want each of you to tell me what you’re saying to your constituents about what you want to get done now that the Senate has reached back into practicality and getting back to business.

Senator Salazar, what’s the most important thing to get done, now that you’re working together?

SALAZAR:  The kinds of issues that every family in my state thinks about everyday when they get out of bed.  They think about whether or not they’re going to have health insurance and whether they’re going to be able to afford it, the rising costs of gas to fill up the minivan, what we do with energy, what we do with transportation.  It’s those issues that we ought to be doing in our nation’s council that affect all of our people that I hope our Senate can now get back and focus on those issues that affect American everyday.

MATTHEWS:  Senator Chafee, are you optimistic about that?

CHAFEE:  Yes, certainly we’re back.  And we’ve got the highway bill coming up, just mundane work that we have to get done.  If this nuclear option had gone off, we wouldn’t have a highway bill.  We wouldn’t have an energy bill.

And these are important things that affect everyday life, Social Security, the retirement of the baby boomers.  We should be doing something about it.  The high cost of health care, as Senator Salazar said, the war in Iraq.  These are issues that we have to work together, Republicans and Democrats.

MATTHEWS:  Let’s take that one issue.  Do you think, Senators, that you can put together a bipartisan, 60-vote success story that will get something passed on some kind of reform of Social Security in the next two years?

WARNER:  Could I speak to that?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

WARNER:  I really think we came together under most unusual circumstances, and we should in no way try to think that we can be a substitute for the time-honored leadership of the majority and the Democratic or the minority leader, as the case may be.  And I would caution my colleague.  Were we to go beyond what we took out as a  . . .

MATTHEWS:  You mean the judicial nomination?

WARNER:  The judicial nomination.  If you were to ask me the important business of the Senate, Republicans feel very strongly.  And I’m sure there’s a bipartisan.  We’re responsible, the Senate and the president, for forming the third branch of government, the federal judiciary, and we’ve got to get on with that important responsibility.  That’s what this group came together to do and we did it.

MATTHEWS:  Senator Nelson, do you agree with that?  This is mainly for the judgeships?

NELSON:  Well, I think, certainly, initially, it’s for that.  And it’s not to replace the leadership in the Senate on either side.  I think the spirit of cooperation and mutual trust that’s been developed will have a shelf life and will carry over into the other areas that have been address—energy, health care—go right down the list.  The fact that we’ve been able to work together indicates that there is, I think, a strong future for us to be able to do so and in the days ahead.

MATTHEWS:  But don’t you have the filibuster prompt, Senator Landrieu, with regard to other issues?  Like anything you try to get done, you have to get 60 votes to get a vote, right?

LANDRIEU:  We do.  But, you know, this energy bill will be a test of that.  I agree with what Senator Warner said.  This was really an extraordinary circumstance that we came together to try to just get us past this point.  This danger point, if you will.

But the energy bill is coming up on Monday.  And, Chris, from my state’s point of view, getting a bill that increases production and increases supply and also conserves energy for this nation as we continue to try to be competitive around the world and put Louisiana and other states in a fairer posture, states that are contributing so much to our energy independence.

So this energy bill is going to be a test.  But as Senator Nelson said, maybe our agreement will have some shelf life, some good will.  But we were not created to try to run the Senate with the 14 of us.  I mean we came to solve a problem.  We hope we can solve it and stick.  But we also hope that maybe this good will will, you know, show itself in other areas.

COLLINS:  The one thing I wanted to add to that is, the 14 of us don’t see ourselves as solving all of the issues facing our great country.  But the approach that we took of working together in a bipartisan way, with mutual trust and respect, is a model for others to follow in solving some of these very difficult issues.  We’re not a substitute for the leadership.  We’re not a substitute for the committee process.  But that bipartisan approach of respect and mutual trust is a model.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I come from a state which is sort of like between red and blue, Pennsylvania.  My brother’s a local Republican politician up there and he says there’s an attitude up there of give and take.  What’s wrong with give and take?  They don’t quite get this ideological extremes you get in maybe other parts of the country.  Maine’s probably the same way.

COLLINS:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Well, just—what I’m hoping, that maybe this will be something bigger than—this could be the start of something big, despite what Senator Warner says here.

SALAZAR:  You know, well I think it’s a—I think the template of working together is what’s really important.  And I think the energy bill that just came out of our committee last week came out of—came out with a 23 to 1 vote.  And that’s a tremendous bipartisan statement about that kind of legislation.  And so I think the template of working together and getting beyond these issues that create impasses I think casts sort of an example for the rest of the—to the Senate.

I agree very much with Senator Warner that, at the end of the day, we are not a substitute for the committees or a substitute for the leadership.

MATTHEWS:  OK. The idea of extraordinary, extraordinary circumstances being the only time the Democrats will vote against having a vote.  They’ll basically—they won’t vote cloture.  Now let me see the Democrats here.

Senator Nelson, what do you mean by extraordinary circumstances?

NELSON:  Well, I think John McCain, and Susan Collins have said it, you’ll know it when you see it.  The circumstances will be extreme.  There will be something about that . . .

MATTHEWS:  Would it be an ideological issue though?

NELSON:  I don’t think it will be as ideological as much as it might be looking for somebody who wants to be an adjudicator versus a legislator.

Judicial activists, in my judgment, should be ineligible to serve on the bench because they want to make the law rather than apply it.  In that case I would consider somebody to be under extraordinary circumstances.

But we did leave it up to each senator.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Let me go to Senator Byrd.  Do you think, Senator Byrd—and you’re the scholar of the Senate, do you think it’s possible to find some working definition of “extraordinary circumstances”?

BYRD:  Well, what we have here is an attempt to put a limit on freedom of speech in the Senate.  The filibuster has a bad name.  But this—what we’re talking about is the right of the people’s representatives in the Senate to speak as long as their voices can be heard in regard to a matter affecting the constituents.

Now right here we’re just talking about federal judges.  But if this—if the filibuster dies here as a result of an unconstitutional option, then that means that—it may be in the name of judges, but it will spread of the spectrum.  And it will be legislation of all sorts.

Social Security, tariff legislation, environment legislation, whatever, you just take whatever you want.  Once this starts and the filibuster is broken, freedom of speech is denied elected representatives of the people of the Senate.

If it is done with regard to judges, it won’t take long until it will go across the board.  And here is where the people will suffer.  And this—I think here the people’s liberties will always be secure as long as we have a forum in which men and women can speak and can speak and can speak without limit.

The majority is not all right—always right.  The minority is sometimes right.  That’s what we’re fighting for here.  And I’m glad that we had 14 senators, seven on each of the aisle, who decided to put politics aside and work in the best interests of freedom of speech, in the best interest of the Senate as an institution, and to support the Constitution which provides for freedom of speech for three and separate and equal branches, and for a forum, the Senate, which, according the great compromise of July the 16th, 1787, allowed the small states and the large states to be equal and allowed the Senate to be a forum of free debate.

I would hope that we could preserve this, it’s vital, absolutely vital to all the other liberties that the American people enjoy.  And I just want to compliment my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for putting politics aside.  This so-called “constitutional option” was folly.  It was an unconstitutional option.  And I hope these 14 will stick together, and do what’s right, and try to deal with these judges on the basis of fairness, but keep the Constitution in mind.  We should give our best judgment on these, as in all other matters.

MATTHEWS:  By the way, speaking in an event the other Thursday night, DNC Chairman Howard Dean took a jab at all Republicans when he talked about long lines at the voting polls.

HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN:  The idea that you have to wait on line for eight hours to cast your ballot in Florida, there’s something the matter with that.  You think people can work all day, and then pick up their kids at child care or wherever, and get home, and then still manage to sandwich in an eight-hour vote?  Well, Republicans, I guess, can do that, because a lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives.

MATTHEWS:  “Never made an honest living in their lives,” the Republican Party.  Is that the party you know down in Arkansas, Senator Pryor?

PRYOR:  No.  Most Republicans I know are hard-working, decent folks.  And I don’t agree with what Howard Dean said.  But you know, I guess everybody’s entitled to their opinion.  It’s probably a little hyperbole...

MATTHEWS:  Is that your opinion?

PRYOR:  No.  No.

MATTHEWS:  Senator Salazar, out in Colorado, another tough state to win in if you’re in either party.  Do you think that’s bipartisan talk by your party chairman?

SALAZAR:  Absolutely not.  I think it was unfortunate that Howard Dean chose those words.  I think he misspoke.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think he meant to say?  (Laughter.)  What was he trying to get out there?  Senator Nelson, what do you think he was trying to say when he said he never knew a Republican to make an honest living.  What do you think he was up to there?

NELSON:  Well, I don’t know, but that’s a perfect example why some of us drink decaffeinated coffee.

MATTHEWS:  You think it’s been the Republicans...

(CROSSTALK)

LANDRIEU:  I don’t know what to do about the Republicans, but I’m not sure about the eight hours standing in line.  And you know, you’ve got to say something about America, where people have to wait.  I know.  I saw this happen in my own state.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think that was a partisan trick out in Ohio to keep the Democratic vote down?

LANDRIEU:  Well, I don’t know if it was a trick, but I can tell you one thing.  Supporting funding for good voting machines that have, you know, a paper trail, letting people get in and out.  Americans are getting really aggravated when they show up to do what we ask them to do and it takes them three and four and five hours.

And in my precinct, people showed up and the machines weren’t even...

MATTHEWS:  Was there any hanky-panky in Ohio last time?

LANDRIEU:  I don’t know.  We declared the race and went on, but I think in all of our states, we would all admit that there some things that go on in our states that could be improved in that election process.  And the least we can do in the greatest democracy in the world is to have that day operated smoothly.  And take into consideration that some people do...

Late today, I asked Ohio Republican Senator Mike DeWine about pressure groups and whether Republicans and Democrats would act differently toward one another were it not for these pressure groups.

SEN. MIKE DEWINE (R-OHIO):  We have to do, I think, what’s right.  And I think what you saw, Chris, is that the 14 members coming together—and what we did was what we thought was right. And ultimately, the only way the Senate ever moves forward is if members of both parties move together irrespective of what kind of pressure we get.  Yes, we get pressure and we got a lot of pressure coming from the right, a lot of pressure coming from the left.  But you saw in these senators do what we thought was right.  And, you know, we just hope in the end that things turn out the way we envisioned that they will.

MATTHEWS:  You know, senators, this week “US News and World Report” had a new poll out that said that four out of five Americans like their politicians to be moderate and they’d like them to be independent of partisanship.  Will the center hold that you have all forged?

COLLINS:  It will.  I think we have paved the way.  I think this is what the American people want.  They’re very tired of partisan bickering and gridlock.  They want us to get on with the nation’s business.

MATTHEWS:  Senator Nelson.

NELSON:  Mutual trust is what we’ve been able to accomplish, and good faith efforts, that will carry us through.  There are going to be some difficult days ahead with some of the nominees that will come up.  But I think that we will stick together and we will keep the agreement that we made.

MATTHEWS:  Senator Warner.

WARNER:  I’m confident we did the right thing and that it will help our leadership get through the judicial nominations.  But you have to look back over the history of American politics.  Competition is what bipartisanship should be but not always is.  And we’ve always have some fractures, and that’s the way it’s going to be.

I remember Harry Truman under whom I’ve served when he was the commander-in-chief of the forces: “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” And we’re staying.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Senator...

PRYOR:  One good thing I think we learned through this process is that good things can happen when senators talk to each other.  And one of the things I’ve learned here in Washington is we spend way too much time talking about each other than we do talking to each other.

MATTHEWS:  Senator Pryor, thank you.  Senator Landrieu.

LANDRIEU:  I’m very hopeful.  There are no guarantees, though, but I’m very hopeful that the 14 of us can stay committed and focused.  And the others will join and work with us.  The leadership has to take this as an opportunity to want to move forward.  And so far so good.

MATTHEWS:  Senator Chafee.

CHAFEE:  I think that’s why the Founding Fathers gave us six-year terms so we wouldn’t necessarily listen to those pressure groups.  And we have the advantage of having these long six-year terms so we can do the right thing.

MATTHEWS:  Senator Salazar.

SALAZAR:  I’m very proud of the agreement.  I think so long as we do what we think is right, I think that there is going to be some life to this agreement that hopefully will also influence the rest of our colleagues to work together to find solutions to the common problems we face.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, gentleman and ladies.  Thank you for coming.  Thank you, Senators Collins, Nelson, Warner, Pryor, Landrieu, Salazar, Chafee, and Pryor.  Anyway, thanks all to also our friends here at NBC News and WRC here in Washington.

'Hardball' airs weeknights, 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,