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Guest: Representative Jim Moran

By Hardball, Hardball - December 20, 2012

HARDBALLDecember 20, 2012

Guests: Jim Moran, Erin McPike, P.J. Crowley, Michael O`Hanlon, Jack Reed, Dana Milbank

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Battle lines.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

"Let Me Start" with this. It`s five days until Christmas, 12 until New Year`s, and the battle lines are drawn. The trenches have been dug. The president has made his promise and intends to keep it. That promise is fairness.

He cannot go along with any Republican deal that protects the wealthy. He will risk the cliff to keep his promise. If it comes to it, he`ll leap right off it. To do less would be a sign to his enemies, a sign that they can beat him if they simply try.

Well, the president is being tested on another front tonight. The word is out he wants former U.S. senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska for secretary of defense. Hagel`s a Republican and a combat veteran of Vietnam, a holder of two Purple Hearts. He would be first Vietnam vet to head the Pentagon.

The neocons are out to stop him for what he is and what they aren`t. He served in war right up front. He opposes unnecessary wars, like the ones we`ve been fighting, fighting and getting ourselves into in all these years. In other words, they oppose a secretary of defense who thinks like the man who is now the commander-in-chief. There`s not an Obama vote among them, by the way.

U.S. Congressman Jim Moran, Democrat from Virginia, and Eugene Robinson`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning "Washington Post" columnist.

Gentlemen, let`s talk about the first of these fights. Mr. Moran, thank you for joining us. Tonight the Republicans are engaging in -- I don`t know whether it`s a wild goose chase, some sign of something, some test of what, of weakness.

Why are they voting on something that won`t even get to the Senate, will never get near the president`s desk, and if it ever did, he`d love vetoing it, this idea of cutting off the tax cuts -- or rather, protecting the tax cuts of people all the way up to a million a year?

REP. JIM MORAN (D), VIRGINIA: They`re playing some kind of weird political kabuki dance. I can`t imagine why the speaker is engaged in this kind of thing on, basically, Christmas Eve. And we`re desperate to come to solutions, and yet he`s moving further away.

This raises less than half the revenue. I mean, he may annoy part of his base, but he`s doing nothing for the rest of the country. I just -- I don`t understand it, frankly, Chris, and even millionaires, who supposedly would have their taxes increased, actually get a tax cut of $108,500, according to the Tax Policy Center, because there`s this provision that the speaker included that protects their exemption from limiting their deductions for high earners.

It`s a complicated provision called the Pease (ph) provision. Only millionaires and their accountants are going to understand it. But they do understand this isn`t going to hurt millionaires, but it does nothing for the rest of the country and it doesn`t move us -- in fact, it moves us further away from any kind of reconciliation with the president.

So I think the chances of going over the fiscal cliff were substantially increased today, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MORAN: I wouldn`t be at all surprised if we don`t go over the cliff.

MATTHEWS: I know. Now it looks that bad. Gene, the thing is, it protects the first million anyway from raising taxes back to the Clinton levels. They get the first million free in terms of tax cuts.

EUGENE ROBINSON, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: They get the first million free. As Congressman Moran explained, there`s this other weird little provision in there that protects them over and above that. I mean, it`s just -- it`s -- it`s...

MATTHEWS: Well, who`s this bill for?

ROBINSON: It`s not a serious offer.

MATTHEWS: The press isn`t buying it. So who`s it for?

ROBINSON: Well, I think it`s supposed to be for public consumption back home. I think -- and that members can talk about back home over Christmas.

Look, what seems to have happened is maybe we were close to a deal a few days ago. Maybe Boehner can`t sell it, can`t sell it to his caucus, and so he`s retreated to this position that he knows the Democrats are never going to buy. It`s never going to get...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Mr. Moran, take a look at this. The Associated Press reports today, quote, "Republicans have told senior administration officials that the Boehner -- that Boehner decided to put forward his plan B" -- this is what the million-dollar thing is -- "after he concluded he could not get enough GOP support for the proposal he made to Obama over this past weekend, according to a senior administration official.

So apparently, Gene`s got it. At least, that`s the way the press is reading this thing. Boehner`s doing this weird sideshow thing of his with the million-dollar cutoff because he couldn`t deliver on a million -- or a trillion and a trillion over 10 years, which looked like a reasonable proposal that might have gotten somewhere.

MORAN: Well, absolutely. And he`s further antagonizing more and more of the electorate, Chris. And there are things -- some things that are just so unfair. Not only does he not provide the "doc fix," which means that Medicare reimbursement for physicians goes up by 30 percent on January 1st, but he does things like take away the child care tax credit.

That means that hundreds of thousands of very low-income working mothers are either going to -- well, they`re going to have to give up their job or lock their pre-school-age children in their apartment. They desperately need this little tax credit, and yet he`s taking that away.

And he gives a preferential provision for the estate tax. The cost of the estate tax provision, which is $388 billion in Speaker Boehner`s proposal, is equal to the revenue that you would raise by raising the Medicare retirement age from 65 to 67 for all Medicare enrollees. The numbers are similar.

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