Senator McCaskill on "Hardball"

Senator McCaskill on "Hardball"

By Hardball - January 27, 2010

CHRIS MATTHEWS: And with us Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri. Senator McCaskill, I consider you the very center of this country politically, the very heartland of reasonable thinking in the middle. So, I have to ask you right upfront, what do the people of Missouri, and of Missouri want to hear to hear tonight from their president?

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Well, they want to hear that he gets it, that they continue to struggle, that they are worried about how out of control things seem in Washington. They also, I think, want to hear about what he is going to do aside from just government programs, to help this economy get moving. That‘s why I‘m going to be listening very carefully to what he says about small businesses. So many small businesses across this country are ready to grow right now, but they can‘t get credit. So, we‘ve got to figure out a way to allow those small businesses that have made it through the rough patch to begin to add jobs.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about health care before we get on to jobs again. It seems to me that the president and his people have failed to get Republicans to join the Democrats in getting through something like a centrist health care plan. Because you don‘t get 10 or so Republicans, you don‘t get three. Because three are afraid to join you without 10. They want the cover of a large group. They want safety in numbers. What can he possibly do in the next couple of weeks to get the Republicans to join him in numbers so they can get the core of his health care plan enacted?

MCCASKILL: Well, I think what he‘s got to do is begin exposing what‘s going on to the American public more effectively. You know, there were a lot of Republicans, Chris, that were up in the Oval Office over the last few months. But most people in American think somehow they‘ve been shut out of the process. There were hundreds of Republican amendments in the bills that we considered, but somehow America thought that they had been shut out of the process.

So, the process is something that matters. Not just transparency, not just staying away from cutting backroom deals with individual senators, but showing the American people that about three or four months ago, the Republicans decided it was in their best interest to walk away from the table. Politically, it was in their best interest. So, process and politics deep-sixed what we were doing, and we‘ve got to do a better job of communicating that by showing them how hard we‘re trying to open up the process.

MATTHEWS: You think there is any way that the president can invite the Republicans on to television with him, sit with a group of ten or so, dozen or so, Republican senators, your colleagues, make them the offer on television and have them have to accept if it‘s reasonable? Is there any way to force people to be reasonable and transparent? Is there any way to really make it work in other words, Senator?

MCCASKILL: Well, I think this is about communicating effectively and realizing that not everybody out there understands the games that are being played in Washington. I mean, look yesterday what happened, it was ridiculous. You had six Republican senators that were co-sponsors of a fiscal task force to look at our deficit. By the way, the Republicans have said this was their biggest priority or one of their biggest priorities. Six of the co-sponsors walked away and voted no. Now, gamesmanship is being played here, and we have got to start doing a better job-because the American people don‘t want that. You know what the American people want? They want us to compromise and get something done and quit being so focused on elections and more focused on them.

MATTHEWS: That would be swell. I don‘t see it happening yet from the other side. Here‘s what a portion of what the president is going to say tonight. We‘ve got permission to release it right now, quote, "By the time I‘m finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow, premiums will go up, co-pays will go up, patients will be denied the care they need, small business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether. I will not walk away from these Americans and neither should the people in this chamber." Well, he‘s raising the heat. Do you think that‘s going to work with the Republican side?

MCCASKILL: Well, I think that they‘re playing with nitroglycerine. I think if you refuse to participate and help us get something done, then it‘s on your shoulders. And you know, he‘s right. Those health care bills are going to continue to go up and people are going to remember that we tried very hard to reform the system and were stymied. So, I hope we find some things we can agree on and move forward. I think there are some Republicans who are willing to do that. And it doesn‘t take a lot of them.

You said maybe 10. I think we can do it with two or three, and I would challenge our new senator from Massachusetts. He‘s voted for a bill that is much more liberal than the bill that we considered in the Senate, that went much further than our bill went. So, if he voted from that in Massachusetts, I‘m hoping that he will at least sit down with us and be part of a compromise get something done for all of those people out there that just want affordable health care.

MATTHEWS: OK, Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat from Missouri. Thank you for joining us tonight. You‘ll be in the room tonight. Let‘s bring in NBC Chief White House Correspondent Political Director Chuck Todd. The politics of tonight, what is it? Let‘s talk about pure politics.


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