Guests: Mark Halperin, Jim Warren, Mary Thompson, Ron Christie, David Corn, Elijah Cummings, Chris Cillizza, Todd Harris, Steve McMahon
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Mr. Speaker or protester general?
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Leading off tonight: Are the Republicans a protest party or a governing party? It‘s a new year. A new party‘s in control of the House, a new Speaker set to take the gavel, and quite possibly, sort of a new presidency has begun. President Obama returned to Washington today with a 50 percent approval rating in the new Gallup poll, the highest level since June. And that number could rise further, some would argue, if Republicans try to repeal health care instead of helping to create jobs, if they spend the next year complaining about what the Democrats did the last two years instead governing. The Republicans‘ mission—that‘s our top story.
Plus, President Obama‘s considering naming Chicago heavy hitter and former Clinton Commerce secretary Bill Daley as his new chief of staff. Is this the guy, the person, the president needs to right things right now?
And here‘s some evidence the Republicans are in bed with big business, if you needed any. Their top certainty (ph) investigator, Darrell Issa, is asking corporations and trade associations themselves what regulations they‘d like him to target. I didn‘t know it worked that way, that top CEOs now get to decide how they get regulated, how they get policed by the government. They call the shots.
Also, the showdown over the debt zone. Now, this is serious business. Tea Partiers are fiercely opposed to raising the debt limit, even if that means the United States defaults on its obligations. So who‘s going to win, who‘s going to get hurt in this sort of game of chicken when it gets real? That‘s for our strategists tonight, and it is very worrisome. What happens if the federal government doesn‘t pay its bills? Remember Greece? Remember some other countries in Europe, like Ireland, that had some problems?
And what‘s the Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts doing swearing in John Boehner‘s staff people? Isn‘t that a bit beneath him? We‘ll check out the “Sideshow.”
Let‘s start with the mission for the Republicans as they take control of the House tomorrow. David Corn, Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones,” an unlikely role we got tonight for you to help—
MATTHEWS: The wartime consigliore to the Republicans. And Ron Christie, who does have appropriate—
MATTHEWS: -- distinction. He was with Dick Cheney—pronounced Chee-nee.
RON CHRISTIE, FORMER BUSH-CHENEY ADVISER: Chee-nee.
MATTHEWS: As you know.
CHRISTIE: As I know—
MATTHEWS: You will never admit it on the air, though. Let‘s talk about this. Republicans got the House back. (INAUDIBLE) history a couple times -- 1994, not a million years ago, 1946, after World War II. First thing they do, they get in, they start investigating Whitewater. Back in the ‘40s, it was the communist threat in the government. They had a very unpopular, the president, in that case. Truman got reelected. In a later case, Clinton got reelected. They blew their chance to govern by being prosecutors and protesters. Will they do it again?
DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES”: Well, I—
MATTHEWS: Is that what—is that what this crowd‘s going to do?
CORN: Well, Darrell Issa, for one, is heading that way. But there‘s another interesting comparison. When Newt Gingrich came in in ‘95, after winning the ‘94 elections, they had a legislative agenda. I mean, whether you agreed with it or not, they had bills, they had legislating they wanted to do.
CORN: What we seem to—what seems to be happening now—
MATTHEWS: But what they did was stop the government.
CORN: They want to stop the government. They want to repeal health care without holding a single hearing, without having any testimony, without doing any mark-ups. You know, they went on and on about how Obama rushed health care through after it took two years—
CORN: -- and now in a week, they want to rip it out by the roots.
MATTHEWS: Ron Christie for the defense, or the offense, if that‘s the way you‘re going to play. This is my evidence that they‘re not serious, your political party. This is the actual legislative name of the bill they‘re using, that they‘re going to vote on January 12th to get rid of the Obama bill that took two years to get enacted. It‘s called—this sounds like something out of the Middle East—Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law.
MATTHEWS: I mean, it sounds like one of those jeremiads they‘re screaming at some demonstration in the Middle East. Do you really consider that serious legislating—
CHRISTIE: Of course it is.
MATTHEWS: -- to give it something—to name something the Job-Killing Health Care bill?
CHRISTIE: It is the job-killing health care bill!
MATTHEWS: And that‘s the name of the bill appropriately?
CHRISTIE: It‘s a job-killing health care bill. It‘s kicked a lot of people off of coverage. The fact of the matter is, when David (ph) mentions that, of course, the Republicans aren‘t going to hold a hearing, (INAUDIBLE) Democrats. Democrats didn‘t hold any hearings on this health care bill. It was rushed straight to the floor. The longer that we hear about what‘s in this bill, the American people—not just us here in Washington, but the American people have said they did too much, too soon. It‘s too big.
CORN: Oh, wait a second!
CHRISTIE: It needs to be repealed.
CORN: Ron, should they—
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take a look at the poll—
MATTHEWS: I love the way guys refer to the American people. I don‘t know who you mean by—let‘s go to the latest CNN poll.
CHRISTIE: The electorate?
MATTHEWS: The latest CNN poll, 43 percent like the bill and another 13 would like it to have been more to the left, more progressive with the public option (INAUDIBLE) So that comes up to 56 percent in toto that like the bill or wish it was more progressive. You‘re shaking your head—
CHRISTIE: More progressive!
MATTHEWS: You shake your head against the CNN poll.
CHRISTIE: OK, just because people take a poll—first of all—
MATTHEWS: -- don‘t need polls, do you. Ron Christie reports.
CHRISTIE: I said this is not a popular bill with the American people. The fact of the matter is, I don‘t even think this is constitutional. I‘m a lawyer. You know that. I don‘t think that we‘ve ever seen the federal government compel American citizens to buy—
CHRISTIE: And it‘s going to go to the Supreme Court, but this is my point, David.
CORN: No, no. Ron—
CHRISTIE: They did not deal with this. They did not hold a hearing. They did not discuss the constitutionality of this bill. They rushed it through for political purposes.
CORN: This took a year-and-a-half of legislating to do. There were -
there were—there were seminars. The Senate had this long mark-up period. They invited Republicans to participate. They formed their own committee. Then they backed out. This went through—we all lived through this. It didn‘t happen in a week. And so you‘re saying, without a single hearing now, that the Republicans can come in and say, OK, preexisting conditions back on. The Medicare donut hole, back in. You know, keep—you know, your kids can stay on your coverage until they‘re 26 years old—we‘re going to kick them off. We‘re just going to rip all this stuff out without a single—
CHRISTIE: Yes. Absolutely.
CORN: OK, well, good luck.
MATTHEWS: This idea they didn‘t have hearings is about—look, I covered this (INAUDIBLE) Waxman‘s committee, Energy and Commerce, had hearings on the House side. The Finance Committee under Baucus had hearings and hearings with Republicans participating. The Kennedy committee had hearings and hearings. This went on and on and on for a year-and-a-half to two years.
CHRISTIE: To suggest—
MATTHEWS: You‘re saying no hearings?
CHRISTIE: I‘m—to suggest that this was gone through in a deliberative manner and that they actually understood the bill that they were writing—
CORN: Well, wait a second! Do they understand what they‘re voting against now?
CHRISTIE: Oh! Oh!
CORN: I mean, what do you mean—
CHRISTIE: Excuse me!
CORN: You‘re saying that the members of Congress did not know what‘s in there—
CORN: -- and they don‘t know what‘s in it now?
CHRISTIE: What I‘m saying is we were sold a bill of goods.
CORN: What do you mean?
CHRISTIE: We were told that if we passed this bill, it was going to cut costs, it was going to curb health care spending. And if people had their health coverage, they could keep it.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t care if you go around the world right now, everybody in the world who reads the name of a bill before the U.S. Congress is to, quote, to Repeal the Job-Killing Health Care Bill knows that it‘s politics, not governing.
Let‘s take a look at the president of the United States. He‘s back in town. Here is on Air Force One talking about the coming year and his hopes for the Republican leadership you‘ve just been defending. Here he is, on his way back from Hawaii. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are going to play to their base for a certain period of time. But I‘m pretty confident that they‘re going to recognize that our job is to govern and make sure that we are delivering jobs for the American people and that we‘re creating a competitive economy for the 21st century, not just for this generation but the next one. And so my expectation, my hope is that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell will realize that there will be plenty of time to campaign for 2012 in 2012 and that our job this year is to make sure that we build on the recovery. We started to make good progress on that during the lame duck, and I expect to build on that progress when I get back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, nothing wrong with your television. That was air Force One, and we give it to you as it comes from there. Ron Christie, it looks to me like he‘s hoping that he will have a partnership. It won‘t just be protest politics. Is that what you want, protest politics or co-governing the United States?
CHRISTIE: Well, I think that there can be an opportunity to cooperate with the administration. I think there areas—jobs, creation of a stronger economy, education—that we can work with this administration on. But we need to cut back spending.
MATTHEWS: But the way you start this is to throw some crap in their face, right?
CHRISTIE: This isn‘t crap!
MATTHEWS: The bill‘s called to Repeal the Job-Killing Health Care Bill, which you know will never become law.
CHRISTIE: If you‘re going to use the C-word, that‘s what I would call the “Obama care” word (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: OK, let me—no, no, because this bill has only one purpose. It‘s not going to go through the Senate. It‘s not going to be signed by the president. You‘re not going to get two thirds votes in the House and the Senate with the president—to override the president‘s signature. So the only purpose of this bill that you‘re going to vote on January 12th is to humiliate the president in some—
CHRISTIE: It‘s not humiliating the president!
MATTHEWS: What‘s it going to do?
CHRISTIE: It‘s symbolic. It‘s symbolic.
CORN: Wait a second! It‘s—
CHRISTIE: Wait. He asked me a question. It is symbolic because the American people—
CORN: It‘s a waste—
CHRISTIE: -- elected 60-some-odd new members—
CORN: It‘s a—
CHRISTIE: -- to put the brakes on government.
CORN: It‘s a waste of—
CHRISTIE: This is a job-killing bill.
CORN: It is—
MATTHEWS: Why didn‘t you folks (INAUDIBLE) one point. Why don‘t you folks on the Republican side—you may want to check with them. You seem more like a peacetime consigliore (INAUDIBLE)
MATTHEWS: Why didn‘t they try to craft a bill that would replace or refund? Now, we all know that if you polled the American people that you speak for tonight so eloquently, they all want to deal with the fact that you ought to be able to get health insurance even if you have a preexisting condition.
MATTHEWS: Most parents, they have a real hard time with their kids getting jobs in their 20s. They‘re still at home, failure (ph) to launch.
We know that whole story—would like to have a way of insuring their kids
later on. There‘s a lot of concerns people have that are met by this bill
MATTHEWS: -- that are not met by what was going on before, right?
MATTHEWS: Now, how come Republicans, who are concerned, I think, about the 40 million people uninsured, offer an alternative to refine the bill? Why didn‘t you go for some refinement to replace, rather than a bill that‘s simply a poster to “repeal the job-killing health care bill”? Good question. Let him answer it.
CHRISTIE: Good question. Two prongs. One, I agree with the initial intent to repeal this entire monstrosity and start over. Secondly, I think you‘re right. Paul Ryan, the incoming chairman—
MATTHEWS: But you can‘t repeal it!
CHRISTIE: Let me—let me—let me answer the question. The incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan, has looked at different ways that we can bring down entitlement costs and that we can try to provide additional health care for folks. I think that‘s you how do it. You look at the budget resolution, you look at—
CHRISTIE: -- repealing the individual mandate. You look at stripping out some of these onerous provisions—
CORN: There is no—there is no—
CHRISTIE: That‘s how do you do it.
CORN: This shows you that they‘re not serious. There is no Republican alternative at this moment to Obama‘s health care bill. They just want to kill it so they can score political points—
CORN: That‘s right. But there‘s no alternative, which shows me that they don‘t really care about the health care problems of the American people. If you don‘t like this approach, give us another approach and work legislatively to replace it and see if you can win over the American people!
MATTHEWS: OK, here‘s my—
CORN: They‘re not serious about this.
MATTHEWS: Here‘s the problem. Your party was in power—
CORN: This is a stunt.
MATTHEWS: -- in the House of Representatives and the Senate off and on from 1994 to 2006. And you had the presidency. So you had both houses and the president to sign the bill. Where was your health bill that you offered then?
MATTHEWS: No, you don‘t have one because—
MATTHEWS: -- Ronald Reagan in the old days. We don‘t like the Democrats‘ plan, but we don‘t have an alternative. And this has been the history of the Republican (INAUDIBLE)
CHRISTIE: You want to ask me a question, I‘ll answer it.
CHRISTIE: In the Bush administration, actually, one of the things that we did was we created a series—
MATTHEWS: You didn‘t have a health care bill!
CHRISTIE: What do you mean, we didn‘t have a health care bill? We did a series—
MATTHEWS: Forty million people uninsured. What do you do for them?
CHRISTIE: Oh, let me see here.
MATTHEWS: Forty million people uninsured.
CHRISTIE: We actually had community health clinics that dealt with rural and dealt with urban areas—
CORN: The number—
CHRISTIE: -- that the Bush administration put in.
CORN: The number—
CHRISTIE: Oh, we actually had a prescription drug program—
MATTHEWS: When the president came into—this president came into office, 40 million people didn‘t have health insurance.
CHRISTIE: First of all, I dispute that number. It‘s not 40 million.
I would say—
CORN: Thirty-five million, whatever it was.
CHRISTIE: Oh, what are you talking about?
CORN: The number went up—
CORN: The number went up during the Bush years of people who were uninsured. Premiums went up. More complaints went up, satisfaction with health care went down. And through that time—Bush did a few things, yes. He had a prescription drug plan, which he didn‘t pay for, which ballooned the deficit—
CORN: No, wait a second! No!
CORN: And now you‘re hypocrites to talk about health care costs that aren‘t covered. And you had—and the community health care plans, yes, those are pretty good. But in the big picture, he did very little, and now the Republicans have nothing to offer as they come out and just—
CHRISTIE: The fact of the matter is, my friend—the fact of the matter is, being in one of the worst recessions in American history, this administration and the Democratic Congress focused all on health care when the American people—
CHRISTIE: -- that the American people were asking for jobs. They failed in their responsibilities. That‘s why—
MATTHEWS: -- with the inconsistency of the defense witness here. Number one, you said there were no hearings for the last two years. Then you just said they spent the whole last two years talking about health care. It‘s one or the other.
CHRISTIE: They talked about health care—
MATTHEWS: No hearings.
MATTHEWS: The fact is, the American people are relatively for this bill, if you look at the latest CNN poll. Now, we‘re going to have polls after polls after polls.
MATTHEWS: The latest ones shows a majority, 56 percent, wished it were even more liberal. Number two, Obama‘s doing pretty well right now. And number three, your party has never presented—
MATTHEWS: -- a national health care bill and never will because you‘re against you. You call it socialized medicine.
CHRISTIE: That‘s right. We do.
MATTHEWS: So—OK, so you—you can‘t have it both ways.
CHRISTIE: Of course you can have it both ways!
MATTHEWS: You can‘t call it—
CHRISTIE: You can allow the states—actually, there‘s a thing called the Constitution with enumerated powers. You can allow the states to actually cover their people—
MATTHEWS: OK, well—
CHRISTIE: -- as opposed to the federal government dictating to people
CORN: -- “Mitt Romney care.”
MATTHEWS: And you guys are going to kill Mitt Romney for having done so, right?
CHRISTIE: Love Mitt Romney.
MATTHEWS: OK. But most of your party‘s going to kill him for having done health care—
CORN: Then you like mandates now!
MATTHEWS: I‘m going to hold you to that! When it gets into that Iowa situation, when the real conservatives get out there—who‘s that guy who supported that health care bill up in Massachusetts?
MATTHEWS: I like these socially liberal Democratic—or actually, Republican presidential candidates. Anyway, Ron Christie, thank you.
CHRISTIE: A pleasure.
MATTHEWS: David Corn. I think I was on your side.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: President Obama is said to be considering former Clinton Commerce secretary Bill Daley—and I like this idea—as chief of staff. I‘ve always wanted a grown-up, if you will, a serious manager in there. I think this president‘s great on ideas. I think management and executive ability is this guy‘s strength.
We‘ll be right back to talk about that, if it‘s the right thing to do. It looks like it‘s going to happen. I think it‘s going to happen. I want it to happen.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Wow! Mr. Mayor! Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel can run for mayor of Chicago. That‘s the ruling today from a Chicago judge, who rejected claims that Emanuel wasn‘t a resident of the city. The ruling mirrors the finding of a Chicago Board of Elections commissioners, which held a three-day hearing last month and voted to allow Emanuel to stay on the ballot. Wow. Today‘s decision will likely be appealed, of course, by his opponents and other critics. Chicago‘s mayoral election—wow! It‘s next month. They do it fast out there.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Well, word leaked out last night that President Obama is considering—and I hear he really is—naming former Commerce secretary Bill Daley, whose brother‘s Richie Daley, the Chicago mayor, to become his next chief of staff. Is Daley the right person to run the Obama White House? That is the hot question for a president who‘s had some executive challenges.
“Time” magazine‘s Mark Halperin‘s MSNBC senior political analyst and Jim Warren is a columnist for “The New York Times” and the Chicago News Cooperative, as well as being an MSNBC contributor.
Warren, you‘re there. I want your views. Billy Daley for chief of staff—what do you make?
JIM WARREN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I mean, it would be an interesting choice, whether he‘s chief of staff or another high position. I mean—
MATTHEWS: Well, aren‘t you sophisticated! “An interesting choice”—is it a good choice or a bad choice?
WARREN: He is—oh, potentially a good choice—shrewd—
WARREN: -- experienced, discreet, would tell Obama exactly what he thinks. He‘s run a campaign, run cabinet departments, worked the Hill. And business would probably like him. at a time when the only way you‘re going to grow the economy is through exports, you‘ve got a guy who knows a fair bit about that, given his many, many travels as Commerce secretary, which led to the Obama folks, I believe, offering him the job of ambassador to Beijing, which I believe he did turn down early on.
MATTHEWS: Well, one of his skills, Mark, going back even before you became a hero that you‘ve become and a great man, which you are, of course, Mark Halperin—
MARK HALPERIN, SENIOR MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Happy new year to you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: -- is way back in the days of Jack Germond and the people like that, and Jules Whitcover, he was a great briefer. And he was a great backgrounder, better than Richie even. He would tell you what was going on. He was discreet, as Jim points out. But he‘d tell you the truth, the skinny, if you will.
HALPERIN: Chris, I—
MATTHEWS: And that‘s a great strength for a chief of staff, to be able to leak.
HALPERIN: I think he—
HALPERIN: I think he is a super-extra-boffo choice if the president can convince him to take it and wants him. Look, all the discussion about this guy by people in our business is going to be shaped by what you just described, which is the press loves Billy Daley. He‘s just a great guy. I think he‘s one of the great guys in America, not just in American politics, and that‘s I think a good trait for a chief of staff. He can not only deal with the press and not only deal with the issues that Jim Warren talked about, he can deal with Capitol Hill. And I think it‘s essential to have an adult, as you described him, with credibility.
HALPERIN: Finally, I think the most important thing is he can deal with the business community. He‘s worked for Fortune 500 companies. He‘s speaks the language of big business. He‘s got a heart of a Democrat, but he knows you got to be pro-growth. So I think he‘d be a fantastic, fantastic choice for the president.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me go back to Jim on this, on the inside stuff. It seems to me that the liberals, the progressives in the Democratic Party, will have a concern because he‘s not one of them. He‘s a moderate Democrat, a center-left guy, if he‘s that. He‘s modestly center—modestly center-left.
Do you think that he will be able to do what Jim Baker did for Reagan, which was take a guy who has clear philosophy, but direct it towards success?
WARREN: Well, I mean, I don‘t want to sell Obama short. He‘s the guy running the show. I don‘t think you‘re going to dramatically change him. I think you are ultimately going to be sort of a mechanic enlisted to do—seek the policy objectives he wants.
But one interesting this is, as Democrat in D.C. suggested to me today, the Democrats‘ bench is thinner than one might think. And when one looked at some of the A-list possibilities, it was a pretty short list.
MATTHEWS: Who else?
WARREN: The likes of Tom Daschle, who might be real—well, I would say Tom Daschle.
But you‘ve got so many guys like him who are out of the running because they‘re raking in the bucks as lobbyists, so it didn‘t leave a whole lot of folks.
But I do think particularly when it comes to a business community whose animus toward Obama is significant, I think largely irrational, but it does exist, that here you have a guy who was commerce secretary, who can talk the way they understand, who was tutored of course by a guy whom they love, the late, great Dan Rostenkowski, former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
So, I think, if he wants to do it, if he wants the rat race, if he wants a job that‘s going to force him to be there from 7:00 to 8:00, 9:00 every day—and he‘s 62 years old. If he wants a back-breaking job like that, I think he would be good, but if not in that job, somewhere in the West Wing.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s take the three hats to go with chief of staff. One, can he brief the press? Yes. Number two, can he go on the Sunday shows?
HALPERIN: Oh, he‘s awesome. That‘s probably not his greatest strength, but he has the credibility.
Chris, the word you used in the beginning, he‘s an adult. He‘s a serious person. And I‘m not sure he wants to manage the White House from dawn to dusk. I think he may well have somebody with him, a deputy chief of staff who would be more the manager of the paper flow and everything else.
But as an adviser, as a negotiator, as a public face, as a hammer when necessary, he‘s the model of I think what not just this president, but what a president wants. He‘s got to want to do it, though, and I haven‘t talked to him about it. My gut is he‘s got a lot of ambivalence about it. He doesn‘t like Washington that much. He doesn‘t like the rat race that much.
MATTHEWS: Well, here‘s the question for Warren.
He has to go up to the Hill and sit with John Boehner in the backroom.
I watched this with Baker, Jim Baker, going to Tip O‘Neill, my old boss. You have to sit with him in the backroom when nobody‘s watching, tell him what you‘re going to do, give him a heads-up, hope you can work together, if not, say, we‘re going to do our best. You do your worst.
But you have got to be able to work with people to get things moving, get the trains moving.
Is he that kind of a guy, Jim Warren? Last question.
WARREN: Yes, he‘s that type of guy. And I slightly disagree with Mark.
I think, Mark, he‘s 62. He‘s made a lot of money. He‘s lost his chance for elective office, which I think deep, deep down he would have wanted, because of the shadow cast by his slightly older brother, the outgoing mayor. What a great way to end a career, helping to run the White House in a presidential administration.
I think it‘s almost a no-brainer, if he wants to do it.
MATTHEWS: Well, he‘s got a new marriage. He‘s got a great wife. He‘s a great guy. I like that whole family, so I‘m prejudiced. I love the Daleys.
Anyway, thank you, Mark Halperin.
Grownup. We‘re looking for a grownup.
HALPERIN: Happy new year, Chris. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And I think this president, like all presidents, and the greatest presidents, need complements. You need that little extra that make you a greatest president. And I think he needs some executive insight, like he has with Hillary in the State Department, like he has with Gates. He needs that clear chain of command he didn‘t have during the oil spill. And I think it was very much missing.
I want to know who the president‘s giving his orders to every morning.
Up next, what‘s Supreme Court Justice John Boehner doing in swearing-in—John Roberts, rather, not John Boehner—in swearing-in John Boehner‘s staff. Was this kind of low, below his pay level? Let‘s check out the “Sideshow.” A little too close perhaps to the Republican leadership there.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Time for the “Sideshow.”
Last night, we told you how all five candidates for Republican national chairman said that Sarah Palin could win a general election for president. Well, that question, could she or couldn‘t she, appears to be a new litmus test in some Republican corners. And it‘s not the only one. And you won‘t believe the next one.
Check out this question from conservative activist and debate moderator Grover Norquist. And note the crowd‘s reactions to the questions and the answers. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GROVER NORQUIST, PRESIDENT, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: OK. Starting with Maria Cino, how many guns do you own?
MARIA CINO, FORMER REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN:
MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: None.
REINCE PRIEBUS, WISCONSIN REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIRMAN: Five.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ANN WAGNER, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR CANDIDATE: Well, I may surprise you all, but we just got a new gun safe for Christmas, and I think there are about 16 in there, every—everything from—from pistols and a Glock to shotguns, rifles. And my son, who‘s on the combat weapons team at West Point, has an all-out assault rifle (INAUDIBLE) too. So, there you go.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SAUL ANUZIS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR CANDIDATE: Yes. I‘m very inadequate at four, but—
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: “I‘m very inadequate at four.”
Well, you get the drift. What‘s weirder, of course, the crowd‘s glee for gun owners or Norquist‘s need to ask the question the first time? What is weird here? Do they now measure a Republican‘s degree of partisanship by the number and caliber of his weapons supply? Yes.
Next up, Politico reports that incoming House Speaker John Boehner asks Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to preside over a closed-door ceremony on Capitol Hill today to administer an oath of office pledge by Boehner‘s own staff. Even though staff members do give pledges to support the Constitution in paperwork when they get hired, a Boehner spokesman told NBC that the incoming speaker—quote—“thought this would be a good way to set the tone for his speakership, remind us why we‘re here.”
Well, the chief justice usually heads the Capitol for big things, like an inauguration, a State of the Union, or an impeachment. Then again, I think this is just fine. I think I took the oath in person, too.
By the way, Justice Scalia is set to teach Michele Bachmann‘s Tea Party Caucus about the Constitution. Well, maybe, after all their lessons, they won‘t be so randy to change it so much.
How many amendments are the right wing now pushing?
Anyway, now time for tonight‘s HARDBALL “Big Number.” It‘s actually a small number. Republicans will take control tomorrow of the House tomorrow with 82 new members in their caucus. According to “The Washington Post,” that‘s the most new Republicans in the House since 1921, who came in with Harding.
But what about the Democrats? We know they got creamed in the
midterm. They got beat so bad that they start the new Congress now with
the fewest new Democrats since 1915. How many new Democrats on Capitol
Hill on the House side? Nine, single digits. That‘s tonight‘s HARDBALL
“Big Number,” call it small number. They call themselves the mighty nine -
nine new Democrats in the House this year.
Up next, Congressman Darrell Issa, the incoming chairman of the House Oversight Committee, is actually reaching out to big business, asking them, the big business tycoons, which Obama regulations they want him to target. In other words, tell him how to make their life easier. Let‘s ask the top Democrat on that committee what he thinks of going to business to ask them how to regulate business.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MARY THOMPSON, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Mary Thompson with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks ending the session mixed, with the Dow climbing 20 points to a two-year high, the S&P 500 falling a point-and-a-half, and the Nasdaq slipping 10.
Most automakers ending the year on a high note. The Big Three ALL reporting sales gains in December. Toyota‘s sales however falling 5.5 percent from last year. BP shares jumping on reports Royal Dutch/Shell was considering a takeover bid during the Gulf oil disaster, but what was turned off by potential league liabilities.
Gold prices falling sharply as investors locked in profits and started moving into other assets. And grocers feeling some heat after a ratings downgrade for Supervalu stores.
Coal and steel stocks under pressure as well. Those floods in Australia are decimating an area that produces a lot of coking coal. Lastly, Motorola split into two companies today. Mobility will handle cell phones and cable boxes. Solutions will sell stuff like bar code scanners and radio systems to larger companies.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL.
Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, the top congressional watchdog of the new Congress and the man feared by the White House, wants to investigate why more jobs haven‘t been created during this presidency. He‘s asking big business what the Obama regulations are doing and what they‘re like—which ones they‘d like him to target.
In a letter to more than 150 companies and trade associations, he wrote—quote—“The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is examining existing and proposed regulations that negatively impact the economy and jobs. I ask for your assistance in identifying existing and proposed regulations that have negatively impacted job growth in your member‘s industry. Additionally, suggestions on reforming identified regulations and the rule-making process would be appreciated.”
So, is business getting a bye here, a free ride when it comes to investigations? In other words, we‘re only going to investigate the government. We are helping out business here.
Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings is expected to face off against Darrell Issa. He‘s going to be the ranking Democratic on that Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Mr. Issa (sic), it‘s great to have you on the show. Thank you for this.
What is going to be the—the situation for the next several months in your committee? What‘s Issa going to do?
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: I think, basically, this move here, inviting businesses to tell us what they want us to do, as opposed to protecting the American people, gives me great concern.
I don‘t know what he‘s going to do. He‘s been all over the map on the various investigations that he wants to conduct. And my concern, Chris, is that we do things to first of all do oversight, true oversight, and that we not just concentrate on oversight, but we also concentrate on reform.
I will tell you, and I think that some of these things, when I look at the list of things that he has already said he wants to investigate, usually, they are more swayed towards just a part of an issue.
For example, we have asked him to address the foreclosure problem.
Well, he said, OK, Democrats, we will address the foreclosure problem.
But when we get documents in and we begin to learn more about that hearing, it‘s about just—pretty much just about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Well, we were looking at the—we wanted to look also—I want to look at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but I also want to look at the robo-signers. I want to know why the attorney generals of Arizona and Nevada have said that the banking industry has committed fraud against 11 million people that are about to lose their homes in out districts.
I mean, that‘s what it‘s all about. And I think that we have got to -
this has got to be a committee that has credibility. We cannot be about the business of witch-hunts.
CUMMINGS: We need to—let me—hear me out, Chris. We need to leave these political hats at the door and actually do things that benefit the American people.
And I have said that over and over again to Chairman Issa.
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a look at what he said up in Pennsylvania to some Republicans last summer.
He boasted about what he would do if he got subpoena power—quote—
“I won‘t use it to have corporate America live in fear that they‘re going to be subpoenaed—I‘m going to subpoena everything. I will use it to get the very information today the White House is either shredding or not producing.”
He‘s so pro-corporate, it‘s almost like asking in baseball, to use an Orioles reference here, sir—it seems like he‘s saying to pitchers, how wide you like the strike zone to be? I mean, of course they‘re going to say real wide. How about 10 feet? It just seems an odd question to put to somebody you‘re regulating: How broad would you like me to let you do what you feel like doing?
CUMMINGS: And that‘s exactly what my constituents don‘t want me to do. They want to make sure that they are protected. They want to make sure that we‘re producing jobs. They want to make sure that the middle class is expanded and does well and we add value to the middle class.
And they want us to address the debt and the deficit. And some of this, Chris, I have got to tell you, when I listen to some of the statements—and I had a call just last night from a gentleman who served on one the commissions—and he said: Congressman, I‘m a businessman. I volunteer for this commission. I now hear that I‘m on Mr. Issa‘s hit list.
And that—those were his words.
And he said: I have now got to go out and hire a lawyer, when I was just trying to volunteer. I have never had any problems in my life.
And that‘s the kind of thing that I worry about, Chris. And, again,
I‘m talk about credibility. I‘m willing to work with Chairman Issa to
address the American people‘s problems. I have got people in my district -
in some parts of my district, unemployment is 20 percent. And they‘re telling me, help me get a job.
They don‘t want these fights, little spit fights, arguing about things that don‘t necessarily matter. And so when you give business a license and say, tell me what you don‘t like, buddy, let me tell you something, we will have more regulations than we can count of things that they don‘t want.
And so—and, by the way, they will, I think, I fear, present regulations that—they want to do away with regulations that will allow them to make more money.
Regulation is very, very important. In this very committee over the years, we found out, when there was less regulations, we had planes flying that had cracks in the wings, you know, things of that nature.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. Everybody—everybody‘s against regulation, except they‘re in the plane—or they‘re eating the can of tuna fish, they would like it to be safe.
MATTHEWS: And they would like to have the plane safe.
MATTHEWS: Everybody says they‘re against it in principle, except when it affects their lives.
Anyway, thank you so much for joining us. It‘s going to be great watching you dueling with Darrell Issa.
As I said before, well, I say it now, I think—I said to my producers every day: Get Darrell Issa on the show. He used to want to come on all the time. Mr. Issa, please come on HARDBALL. We want you on every month.
CUMMINGS: And I‘d love—and by the way, I welcome—I‘d love to be on with him.
MATTHEWS: OK. You could anytime. You‘re always welcome.
Mr. Cummings of Maryland, thank you, sir.
CUMMINGS: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: “The Washington Post‘s” columnist Chris Cillizza now joins us. He‘s a political analyst, of course.
Chris, it seems to me that—I go back in history, not like you and everybody else in our business, I go back to the 1940s and this is how Dick Nixon got started, a lot of investigations. All you do is hit one target, you win.
It looks to me like Issa is going for the big score, the president of the United States. He says he‘s the most corrupt president in history. And he modifies it to most corrupt administration. He‘s aiming for the big guy, ain‘t he?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTON POST: Well, Chris, I think—look, he views it as—he views it as this administration has spent—and let me reiterate because I don‘t want to get angry emails—he views it as, not Chris Cillizza, he views as this administration has spent two years essentially not getting any oversight, Democratic-led House, Democrat-led Senate, and that there are things—FDA, the oil spill, WikiLeaks, these are things that he has laid out as priorities.
I would say, Chris, I think it‘s interesting and I know you notice
this because of your home state of Pennsylvania. One thing that wasn‘t on
that six priorities list, a look into whether Obama administration
officials were involved in the Joe Sestak and out in Colorado
CILLIZZA: -- Andrew Romanoff, were they offered something to get out of Senate races.
Now, that would have been really political and I think would have immediately poisoned the well for Issa. Look, I think he‘s going to be elevated. Congressman Cummings talked about it. The White House is going to try and elevate him, that this guy is pursuing witch hunts, that he—you know, he‘s chasing things that aren‘t there. He‘s distracting—
MATTHEWS: OK. Let‘s go to one thing he might be after here. Henry Waxman, he‘s a smart guy. When it comes to investigation, he said, “They‘re going after apparently White House staff people who have been involved with travel by cabinet secretaries.”
Now, explain what that is. Is this somebody getting on a ride and going somewhere, they want to go on a trip with some cabinet secretary? Or he‘s junketing or what?
MATTHEWS: What he‘s after here?
CILLIZZA: Viewed negatively junket; viewed positively going on a fact-finding mission of some sort.
MATTHEWS: But what‘s Issa after here?
CILLIZZA: What is he after? I think he wants to show that, you know,
this administration, that they‘re at high levels, that there is—and I do
not want to use the word corruption—but there is malfeasance. That
there is—wants to look into the possibility, I should say, that there is
again, I think you have to start from this and Mr. Cummings didn‘t address it, Chris.
MATTHEWS: You mean that some staff in the White House who handles environment went with somebody from one of the agencies to go somewhere and that‘s corruption that we have to worry about?
CILLIZZA: Oh, Chris, I‘m not—Chris, I wouldn‘t say that. I would say what Issa‘s attitude broadly is this—he does not want to turn it into Dan Burton, if you remember back in 19 -- late 1990s, Dan Burton versus Bill Clinton. Dan Burton made it personal. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, looking into campaign finance issues of wrongdoing.
MATTHEWS: And shooting at watermelons in his backyard.
CILLIZZA: Exactly. Turn it—right, the Vince Foster.
CILLIZZA: He doesn‘t want to do that.
Now, I would say the release of this letter, the talking about the most corrupt administration, although it did come last summer, but still using those words, does not help him make his case.
MATTHEWS: It sounds like Gingrich.
CILLIZZA: I think broadly his—broadly his attitude, Chris, is this
is an administration that spent two years without any oversight. I am
going to do oversight. It‘s not going to be partisan. Of course, that is
will be viewed in the partisan sphere as partisan. But I think he was staying away from Sestak and Romanoff is telling that Boehner, Issa and most folks don‘t want to immediately turn it into, you know, pure politics because they could have. They could have gone down that road.
MATTHEWS: I understand. Thank you, Chris. You won‘t get any bad e-mail for this. But I like it when you do it.
CILLIZZA: You never know. Thanks, Chris. Happy New Year.
MATTHEWS: I like it when you do it on this show. Thank you. Same to you.
Well, up next: those Tea Party Republicans will be taking their seats in Congress tomorrow and they‘re adamantly opposed to raising the debt ceiling. Sounds boring, right? Whether what happens, it‘s a huge explosion.
You want to be Greece? You want to be Ireland? One of their financial problems? It might happen. Even if you—well, we‘ll see what happens. Can the Republican establishment keep them from pulling the fuse on this? Our strategist joins us next.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Jeb Bush says he‘s not running for president in 2012, but he‘s not ruling out a possible run in 2016. Well, the former Florida governor spoke today at the inauguration of a new Florida governor, Rick Scott. Bush, the son of one president, the brother of another, is one potential candidate who would be considered a top-tiered contender should he decide to run this time.
HARDBALL will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The new U.S. Congress about to be sworn in tomorrow, but already, the Tea Party influence is being felt. Last night, we had this cofounder of the Tea Party Patriots on this show and he made clear what he wants from lawmakers at just about any costs.
Let‘s listen to his demands.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK MECKLER, TEA PARTY PATRIOTS: We‘re definitely going to say that we don‘t want them to vote for that debt ceiling.
MATTHEWS: But who? But you‘re hope somebody else will, though.
MECKLER: Absolutely. We hope that they vote not to raise the debt ceiling.
MATTHEWS: And then what happens?
MECKLER: Then they cut programs and they start to get real. It‘s going to take some real pain to fix this nation and until the folks over here in the capital get serious about it, we‘re on a dangerous path.
MATTHEWS: So, you‘re going to push it right to the edge?
MATTHEWS: What kind of consequences are you willing to accept? The government shutting down—
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s Mark Meckler of the Tea Party Patriots.
How will both Democrats and Republicans handle this new zealous political influence?
Todd Harris, Sweeney Todd, is Republican strategist. And Steve McMahon is a Democratic strategist.
Well, Todd, you got new some friends.
MATTHEWS: This guy says, go ahead, let the government renege on its debt. Let the bonds go nowhere. Let the people—we‘re going to Greece. Let‘s go all the way. We‘ll—because it‘s most important to win our ideological battles.
What‘s your view of that?
TODD HARRIS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, make no mistake, the entire debate about raising the debt ceiling is not actually about whether there‘s going to be a vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling. It‘s going to happen because—
MATTHEWS: Where do you get to 218?
HARRIS: They‘ll—the votes will be there. The question is going to be what systemic spending reductions are going to be put in place—no, no, look, the debt ceiling—
MATTHEWS: How many Tea Parties you got on your caucus?
HARRIS: Hold on a minute.
MATTHEWS: Who say they‘re going to vote against? What are you talking about?
HARRIS: Alan West is—the Tea Party—
MATTHEWS: Because 60-something Tea Party guys will all say they‘ll vote against it.
HARRIS: Alan West said he‘s going to vote—he will vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling if attached to raising the debt ceiling are actual systemic spending reductions.
MATTHEWS: But there won‘t be any systemic—
HARRIS: What‘s wrong with that?
MATTHEWS: It sounds interesting but what happens if it doesn‘t happen?
HARRIS: Then the fault—the blame will be on the Democrats who are refusing to actually cut spending. Republicans—
MATTHEWS: You don‘t need Democrats if you got a majority. If you want to do it, you want to do it.
HARRIS: Not in the Senate, we don‘t. We don‘t control the White House.
STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: In the House of Representatives, there‘s going to be a great big fight. The great big is going to come sooner rather than later.
And what‘s interesting is that Mitch McConnell and grownup Republicans were trying to avoid this fight during their negotiations with the Obama administration and the Democrats during the lame duck session, they wanted to actually pass a reconciliation bill that will get them through this.
Now, they‘re going to have this big fight in March. The Tea Party people are going to require the regular rank-and-file Republicans to take a stand, either in favor of raising—
MATTHEWS: Michele Bachmann is your new leader.
MCMAHON: -- the debt ceiling or against. Exactly. And whoever
doesn‘t vote correctly is -
MATTHEWS: Let‘s listen to Michele Bachman, your new boss. She may be a zombie answering to somebody out there Boris Car Loft, I don‘t know who‘s giving her letters (ph), but here she is in the debt ceiling. Let‘s listen to her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA: I am not in favor of raising the debt ceiling. As a matter of fact, I have a petition that I‘m urging people to sign, at MichellePac.com, to urge their member of Congress not to raise the debt ceiling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Did you hear that?
HARRIS: Two things are going to happen.
MATTHEWS: Where does she get her—
HARRIS: The Republicans on this said, in March, April, whenever they have the vote and mark my word, two things are going to happen.
MCMAHON: The Republicans are going to cave in on this.
HARRIS: Two things are going to happen. The debt ceiling is going to go through. They‘re going to raise the debt ceiling.
MATTHEWS: Two hundred and eighteen votes on the Republican side.
HARRIS: Yes. They‘re going to be there and at the same time, in order to get there, we‘re going to have over the next several months, a real debate—
MATTHEWS: Two hundred and eighteen votes to cut Social Security.
What are you going to cut? Defense?
MCMAHON: They‘ll never say.
HARRIS: I hope entitlement reform is on the table.
MATTHEWS: No, you have to cut it immediately. You have to cut it to coincide with the debt ceiling.
HARRIS: No one is saying that you have to wave a magic wand and suddenly, the budget becomes imbalanced. That‘s not a real—
MATTHEWS: You want Mark Meckler to come back? He was on last night laying down the law to you guys.
HARRIS: Right. I heard what he said. And you know what? It‘s probably not going to happen. But we‘re going to get a real discussion and a real debate about cutting government spending in that—in that, we have not had in a very long time it.
MCMAHON: The new rule of the Republican House is going to pass. It‘s going to require the Republicans in the House and, frankly, it‘s going to tie up the Congress, but it requires Congress to cut spending as they—as they do things like raise the debt ceiling.
So, Chris is absolutely right. There are going to have to be some
cuts. They‘re going to have to come immediately and they‘re going to say
what they are. And the Republicans so far like to talk about cutting
spending, but they don‘t have any specific spending cuts and they‘re afraid
MATTHEWS: I think it‘s a great debate. I do think one—if the Tea Party is holding you guys‘ feet to the fire and force you Republicans who control the House now to actually put up your money and actually cut spending instead of talking about it—
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
MATTHEWS: -- I can‘t wait to see your hit list. What you are going to actually cut.
HARRIS: Look, it‘s going to be tough and it‘s going to be painful. But, and like I said, I hope entitlements are on the table. Entitlement growth—
MATTHEWS: Call them what they are, by the way. Don‘t call them entitlement.
HARRIS: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. So, entitlement spending is increasing at five times the rate of discretionary spending. This is not sustainable. And we can tiptoe around it all day long.
MATTHEWS: But you what I do for a living—I ask Republicans on this
MATTHEWS: Every time I asked them, what should we with cut? Name me one big chunk of government spending. And there are almost $2 trillion deficit. Give me a couple hundred billion at least. Give me something big. They give me nothing.
MATTHEWS: Democrats, too, by the way.
MCMAHON: I‘ll give it to you right. I‘ll give it to you right now. The Democrats are going to come with a bill to take away the tax cuts for people making over $250,000 a year. That‘s $700 billion we borrowed.
MATTHEWS: That‘s not—I hate to break it to you. That‘s not a spending cut.
MCMAHON: That‘s not a spending cut but it results in revenue that replaces—
MATTHEWS: Just remember the difference, it‘s a tax increase.
MCMAHON: OK. And a lot of Democrats—
MATTHEWS: Ask the American people that want that tax increase, and they‘ll tell you, the majority doesn‘t want that tax increase.
MCMAHON: No, that the tax increase the majority does want.
HARRIS: I know we never had Marco on your show. But if you had ask Marco Rubio that question—
MATTHEWS: OK. We‘ll bring up your client list later.
HARRIS: You would ask Marco the question about cutting spending—
MATTHEWS: Jeb Bush, in or out? Jeb Bush, in or out? It looks he‘s out this time but I think he is still in.
MATTHEWS: I think you need a stopper for Sarah Palin.
HARRIS: I think there will be a Republican president in 2016 running for re-election.
MATTHEWS: How about 2012?
HARRIS: 2012, Jeb is not going to run.
MCMAHON: Out for now. He wants people to get him in. He wants to be drafted. That‘s what that was all about. Today—
MATTHEWS: Who is going to be your stopper to Sarah Palin, mama grizzly? Who is going to keep her from winning your nomination?
HARRIS: Look, there is no secret committee set up. She is going to rise or fall based on her own merits within the primary if she decides to run.
MATTHEWS: If I was the Obama administration, I would think I‘d be able to try to raise money to get her the nomination.
HARRIS: They probably are.
MATTHEWS: Would like her to get the nomination?
MCMAHON: I love it. I think I would be great. I want to see the debate.
MATTHEWS: This comity, it‘s the New Year. We agree. Sarah Palin for the Republican nomination, the good television.
Todd Harris, Steve McMahon, Sweeney Todd.
When we return: we‘ll be out the client list that we mentioned here.
When we return, I‘m going to finish with what President Obama needs to do now as Republicans take control of the House. I‘ve got some theories. I like this idea.
You are watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: “Let Me Finish” tonight with some very good news for the country, I think.
Word has it the president‘s about to name Bill Daley as his chief of staff. I think this san excellent decision. It brings together what now has the look, feel and connection to be a solid executive team.
Asking Hillary Clinton to be secretary of state was the first masterstroke. Keeping Robert Gates as secretary of defense is a second shrewd move, keeping in place a strong, consistent chain of command.
Now comes word that the president is about to name William Daley, the former commerce secretary his own chief of staff. This is what the Obama presidency is needed most. I‘ve said so before many times—a chain of command in domestic policy like we‘ve seen in force with the foreign policy defense side.
With Daley on the West Wing, we will have it—someone who can walk before the cameras and say the president wants this done. Someone who can go up to Capitol Hill, sit in a room with Speaker Boehner and say, this is what the president has in mind, we hope we can work through it for the good of the country. If not, we will do our best from our end.
The president no longer controls both houses of congress, the voters saw that. The key now is for both side to accept, to make sure there is respect for the other side, and in that regard, a good chief of staff like Daley can work wonders.
That‘s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.
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