MSNBC’s Chris Matthews interviews Pelosi for “Hardball.” Transcript

SHARE MSNBC’s Chris Matthews interviews Pelosi for “Hardball.” Transcript



NEW YORK – Feb. 12, 2009 – Following is a rush transcript of MSNBC’s Chris

Matthews’ interview with Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), on

tonight’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews.” If used, must credit MSNBC’s “Hardball

with Chris Matthews.”

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Speaker, thank you. I was watching yesterday from my

office, and I saw Senator Harry Reid walk out with some Republican senators and

announced there was an agreement on the giant economy recovery bill. Where were


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, they had agreement among

themselves, and we were pretty much in agreement, but they had just reached

agreement, were eager to announce it. We wanted to see the language. And it all

worked out just fine.

MATTHEWS: But Senator Reid said there was an agreement at that time. Was there,

between the House and the Senate?

PELOSI: Pretty much. But again, you have to see the language. In other words,

words have power, and they make a difference.

And so we wanted to make sure we were stipulating to the same language, because

the issue at — at the center of all of it was the issue of school construction.

School construction is a key priority for House Democrats and for President

Obama, as we heard in his press conference and his State of the Union [SIC] —

his inaugural address. So we just wanted to see how it was treated.

In the bill, we wanted to see it as a separate line item, school construction,

and more robustly funded. When all the cuts came in to bring the bill down,

school construction got cut. OK, so we did lots of other things. But then there

was opposition to having it as a separate line item. It had to go into another

part of the bill. And that’s — we wanted to see what that language was. But

it’s all settled.

MATTHEWS: Why did three Republican senators get the right to toy around with a

bill of this importance historically? It seems like they get to decide what’s

in, what’s out, and whether there is, in fact, a recovery bill. I’m talking

about senators Specter, Snowe and Collins. They were treated yesterday by the

Senate majority leader as if they were the profiles in courage, the key people

in passing this bill.

PELOSI: Now, you’ll have to talk to the Senate about profiles in courage over

there, as well as the role they all played. But what is important to — to note

is that 90 percent of the bill is the bill that the House wrote and sent over

there. This is the legislative process. We act; they act; we reconcile. And —

and in order to get the votes, they had to make certain changes in the

legislation. As long as it was not undermining the purpose of our interest in

school construction, unemployed workers, those kinds of issues, we were able to

find compatibility.

But again, as far as the dynamic in the Senate is concerned, I had my hands

filled as the speaker of the House, juggling all of the interests here.

MATTHEWS: But you’re the only constitutional officer on Capitol Hill.

PELOSI: That’s right.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about why do Republicans have this ideological problem

with school construction as a federal line item?

PELOSI: You’d have to ask them. But one, I’m glad you asked the question,

because they don’t want school construction as a line item. Some of them say,

and I think legitimately, that they’re concerned that it will become a permanent

situation. And what we’re saying is no, this is a temporary transformational

piece of legislation that will take us in a new direction. We need to focus on

school construction. It creates jobs immediately, prepares our students and

schools for the 21st century; does it all at once.

So — so I appreciate their concern that it not become permanent, and I want

that — that message to go out very clearly. We are not raising the baseline. We

are just doing something that is, again, a stimulus to the economy for recovery,

not raising the baseline for the budget. Because we can’t afford that.

MATTHEWS: I wanted to look through this as an object lesson for people trying to

understand how the government works. We have a Democratic president who won with

a real majority, a Democratic House with a strong majority, a Senate with 59 now

senators who are Democrats, including Joe Lieberman…

PELOSI: It’s never been decided.

MATTHEWS: Well, it’s — in place.

PELOSI: I hope so.

MATTHEWS: And Joe Lieberman is voting with the party now. All right?

PELOSI: Yes, very strongly.

MATTHEWS: And yet — and yet, it seems like it’s a coalition government that’s

been formed here, where you need three Republicans to get the — will you have

to suffer through this ritual on health care, on energy, on every big bill this


PELOSI: Yes (ph).

MATTHEWS: Are you going to need those Republicans?

PELOSI: Well, first of all, issues that relate to transforming our health care

insurance system and the rest, I think it’s important for us to have

bipartisanship. And we can’t really succeed without that legitimacy of the most

support possible.

But I think that this was important that we move quickly, because it was urgent.

The president wanted swift, bold action now. And that one week and one day from

his inaugural address, we sent — we passed the bill in the House, sent it to

the Senate. Just about three weeks later, president has — will have a bill.

But under — as we go forward, we have to go forward under the regular order in

the House and in the Senate, with our regular committee work, and bipartisanship

weighs in there. And then the product will be something, I think, that will be

more acceptable as we go along. And part of this was the speed with which we

needed to act because of the urgency among the American people and their


This legislation, in our view, has a strategic design. It is, again,

transformational in the creation of jobs, in bringing stability to our economy,

and inspiring confidence among the American people. We think the House and

Senate versions, and now this reconciled legislation, does just that.

MATTHEWS: How will we judge its success? If next year at this time, the

unemployment rate is higher than it is now, can you say this was a success?

PELOSI: Well, the — right now, 600,000 people a month are losing their jobs.


PELOSI: That means tens of thousands a day are losing their jobs. So we have to

stop that. And we have to stop that soon, and that’s why this bill is as big as

it is.

MATTHEWS: So, if it works, it will stop that loss of jobs?

PELOSI: It will stop the loss of jobs, and the president has said three and a

half, whatever the number is now, but up to four million jobs saved or created.

And we hope that the emphasis will be on the created, that a large majority of

those jobs will be created but it is about saving jobs as well. But we will be

accountable and we put this vote, initiative forward with a focus on, again,

rebuilding the strategic plan to create jobs, stabilize the economy by building

infrastructure for America in a green wide (ph) way, investing in science and

technology for health and for keeping us number one innovatively and

competitively in the world, to invest in the education of our children, where

innovation begins and to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by our investments

in renewable energy.

So it has an agenda about the future. It’s not some old fashioned public works

bill, although it will hopefully had that impact in our era that that did then.

MATTHEWS: You are an expert on vote counting. Looking down having gone through

this, you’ve got almost all the Democrats with you except for about 11.

PELOSI: We’re strong.

MATTHEWS: You’re strong. The Senate side held all the Democrats.

PELOSI: Mm-hmm.

MATTHEWS: Does that look – are you going to get a health bill? Ted Kennedy is in

ailing health, your friend. Ted Kennedy. Are you going to get a health bill this

year based upon the numbers you’ve seen in this fight?

PELOSI: Well, I think we must begin. I think we will start on it. And let me

just say that part of the pride we have in the first few weeks of this Congress

and this new president is that we were able to extend the children’s health bill

to the president that insures 11 million people in America right after we

protected women in the workplace with the Lily Ledbetter bill and now we’ll do

this bill.

But in the children’s health bill, 11 million children insured. In this bill,

investments in science and technology, the health IT, information technology

that will make health care less expensive and safer for the American people.

So we are taking steps in that direction. There are other provisions that will

be helpful as we go forward. We’re waiting to see the president’s budget and how

he handles health care in the budget but we must begin the process. I don’t know

if it can be done this year. It certainly should be done this term. But we must

begin as soon as possible.

And we already have, as I say, with the children’s health.

MATTHEWS: Joe Biden, the vice president, I guess we’re all familiar with him as

a senator, but he’s the vice president now. He says that the House feels that it

was rolled in this process.

You’re laughing.

PELOSI: There may be some of my members that think that from time to time that

they are. The fact is when you have to move – the president wants swift, bold

action now, you have to move quickly and expeditiously.

And so some may have thought we like the regular order, we could have taken much

more time, and we will have that as we go forward.

MATTHEWS: Does it bother you as the speaker of the House, the chief

constitutional officer, the only one, really, in the Congress, that every time

you have a bill that’s of historic importance, you have to woo, person to

person, individual, a handful of Republican senators who then get more power

than practically more power than the entire House of Representatives because

they can say no – this time around three Republican senators said, no, this is

in, that’s out, and we might not vote for this unless it goes our way in

conference. They actually said that the other day. If the conference doesn’t go

the way they want it, they weren’t going to vote for the final.

PELOSI: But you have to remember the fundamentals, and they are still in place,

and those fundamentals were written in the House of Representatives. So we’re

talking about an eighth of the bill that was in play and we expect that in the

House/Senate negotiations that there will be some differences of opinion, but

remember, the base of the bill was written in the House with the president and

with the senators. We didn’t write this on our own and send it to them, we wrote

it together, had a great deal of agreement along the way and invited Republican

input and some of their suggestions were in the bill and some were not.

We are not – in the interests of bipartisanship we wanted to invite them to have

their time, whether it’s in committee or on the floor, to make their suggestions

but we are not going in the spirit of bipartisanship down the path that got us

here in the first place, the failed Bush economic policies.

So we’ll work with the Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate, to get this

biggest vote we can but not the lowest common denominator and not taking us in

the opposite direction of the new direction that we need to recover in our


MATTHEWS: You must have noticed that you’re in the target zone right now.

PELOSI: Always.

MATTHEWS: The Republican …

PELOSI: Always.

MATTHEWS: … well, the play callers, the political guys have decided that they

can’t beat Barack Obama right now, his numbers are too high, so they have to go

after you.

PELOSI: I’m used to that.

MATTHEWS: Have you noticed?

PELOSI: I’m used to that. I’ve been through that one, two, three elections.

Yeah, I’ve noticed. I’ve noticed a bit but I think it just shows the poverty of

their ideas. They really cannot prevail, the election told them we want to take

the country in the new direction.

They’re still wedded to their old ideas. We hope that we can find common ground

with them but if they – I’m in the arena. I love it. If they want to …


PELOSI: … If I were not effective they would not be coming after me.

MATTHEWS: In that spirit, I want to give you a scorecard.

PELOSI: All right.

MATTHEWS: And you tell me if it’s fair. You have turned the economy around by

next November, the 2010 election for Congress. The next congressional …

PELOSI: The next, next …

MATTHEWS: You will have turned the economy around. It will be clear that the

congressional action on this big recovery bill, that the unemployment rate has

stopped going up, that things are turning around.

You will by then have a serious health bill, for national health insurance and

you’ll have energy legislation passed. You’ll have education passed.

Is that a fair scorecard? By next congressional election, that you as speaker

can deliver on all those four issues, economic turnaround, energy, education and

health, can you do it all and come to the people and say we did what we said we

would do?

PELOSI: We will make very serious progress in all of those areas.

Whether we – I think that we will be able to do those things. That’s what we set

out to do. And we’ll work together to try to achieve that.

MATTHEWS: So that’s a fair scorecard?

PELOSI: That’s a fair scorecard. And it’s not just what has passed or this or

that, it’s how far down the road are you on these issues. In other words, we

passed a very big, historic energy bill under President Bush. It didn’t do

everything we wanted it to do, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t great. We’ll pass

another energy bill and energy, health, economy, what was your fourth?

MATTHEWS: Education?

PELOSI: Education for sure.

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