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MSNBC's Chris Matthews interviews Pelosi for "Hardball." Transcript

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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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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 12, 2009 5:10 PM.

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