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updated 1/6/2011 1:42:38 PM ET 2011-01-06T18:42:38

Guests: Pat Buchanan, Michael Grimm, Cedric Richmond, Aaron Schock, Steve Israel, Joan

Walsh, John Heilemann, Beth Reinhard

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Sworn in.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

That‘s a good picture.  Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Washington.  Leading off tonight: The Republicans take control.  The House changed guard today.  An emotional John Boehner took the gavel as its 53rd Speaker of the House.  His first order of business, repealing health care reform.  Well, the big question is just how Republicans will choose to govern.  Will they act as if they have a broad mandate from a lot of Americans?  Will the fault lines grow between the establishment Republicans and the Tea Party crowd that helped them win back control of Congress?  Big question.

Plus, the biggest freshman class since 1992 was sworn in today, and many of them are firebrands spoiling for a fight.  Tonight, we‘ll talk to two.  One‘s a darling of the Tea Partiers, and the other—well, he‘s one of the just nine Democratic newcomers to win election.

And just how will this freshman class make it work?  How will they make their mark?  Well, two House members from either side of the aisle will size up brewing battles that lie ahead.

Also, gearing up for 2012 already, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs is leaving the West Wing to work on the president‘s reelection campaign.  On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney are polling well in those swing states, and Palin, the former governor of Alaska, is still the wild card.  But could Jeb Bush be prodded to throw his hat in the ring?  Those are the hot questions.

And Michele Bachmann failed to get a leadership post in the new Congress, but she may have her eyes fixed on a bigger prize.  We‘ll have it for you in the “Sideshow.”

Let‘s start with the opening day of the 112th Congress, big excitement up at Capitol Hill tonight.  Pat Buchanan is an MSNBC political analyst and Joan Walsh is with Salon.com.

Joan, I was looking at the House today.  I thought, Boehner, as always, was a very human guy, whatever you think of his politics.

JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  He was very emotional.  I was taken with that.  I thought Pelosi gave a nice speech welcoming him.  He got a gigantic gavel.  I guess she took a shot at him for wanting such a big baby.  He got this gigantic gavel.  She...

WALSH:  I have no comment on the size of his gavel.

MATTHEWS:  I have no idea whether size matters.  But here‘s Speaker Boehner talking today about humility and with humility.  There it is!  Look at the size of that thing!  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  The American people have humbled us.  They have refreshed our memories to just how temporary the privilege of serving is.  They‘ve reminded us that everything here is on loan from them.  That includes this gavel, which I accept cheerfully and gratefully, knowing that I am but its caretaker.  After all, this is the people‘s House.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And here‘s Nancy Pelosi, the outgoing Speaker, handing over that gigantic gavel.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER:  I now pass this gavel, which is larger than most gavels here, but the gavel of choice of Mr.  Speaker Boehner --  I now pass this...

(LAUGHTER)

PELOSI:  I now pass this gavel and the sacred trust that goes with it to the new Speaker.  God bless you, Speaker Boehner.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, she gave him a nice hug and she did say God bless, but what was that little shout about size mattering and the gigantic gavel she gave him?  I mean, she didn‘t just give him the gavel...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... she said it was the gavel of choice, your choice, and then giggled like mad about it.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I don‘t know if this is symbolic or what, but...

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH:  Yes, we‘re going to stay away from that.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s—OK—well, we didn‘t stay away from it, did we.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about something that is important.  It‘s coming up.  Next Wednesday, they‘re going to vote to repeal health care.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Now, the Speaker gave a nice speech today, a couple points which I think we all agree with, humility.  Here he is talking about humility and the role he‘s going to give to the Democratic side, deference to the minority.  Let‘s listen to that because it gets to the heart of how they‘re going to handle this health care fight next Wednesday.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER:  To my friends in the minority, I offer a commitment, openness, once a tradition of this institution but increasingly scarce in recent decades, will be the new standard.  There were no open rules in the House in the last Congress.  In this one, there will be many.  And with restored openness, however, come a restored responsibility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Now, Joan, here‘s the question.  They have a bill on the floor coming up next week, January 12th, to repeal health care outright.  The word from the Hill is no amendments in order.  And my problem with that is that the Republicans promised during their campaign—and they talk about the people‘s will—they‘re going to repeal and replace.  They were going to include two features in the replacement bill.  One was going to be no—you were going to be allowed to have a pre-existing conditions and be covered, and two, there‘d be no limits on lifetime payments.

Now, why don‘t they let those two amendments at least be in order, just being particular here?  They are not going to do it.

WALSH:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  They‘re going to offer a simple repeal measure, no amendments in order, no chance for Democrats to get involved, even with regard to their own proposals.  They‘re not letting them offer them.

WALSH:  Right.  No.  They‘re demagogueing here.  And you know, this is

I think this is the last day that you‘re going to hear about nice—you know, nice conversation, nice relationships with Democrats.  The very first big symbolic thing that they‘re going to do, as you know, Chris, is going to shut the Democrats out and say, Vote this up or down.  They think that that‘s politically very wise.  They think it‘s going to have a big political symbolic impact.  It‘s the way they want to start.  And good luck to them, you know?  They don‘t...

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m not wishing them good luck!

WALSH:  Well, I...

MATTHEWS:  Why are you wishing them good luck?

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH:  I wish them good luck because...

MATTHEWS:  What with a closed rule?

WALSH:  ... it‘ll be very—because I think...

MATTHEWS:  A week after he promises an open debate and a robust debate and opportunities for the minority to offer...

WALSH:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... amendments...

WALSH:  It‘s hypocrisy.

MATTHEWS:  ... he says no amends, no debates.  Up or down, we‘re killing health care.  This is fun time.

WALSH:  Good luck convincing the American people that you‘re changing the way we do business.  That‘s all I mean.  And also, good luck...

MATTHEWS:  How could he—let me go to Pat here.  Why can he give a speech about open rules and opportunities to participate in debate on the very issue that he‘s going to make a big deal about next Wednesday, no amendments?

BUCHANAN:  Well, if you heard him, he said there will be many open rules here.

MATTHEWS:  When?

BUCHANAN:  Well, look, this is something he promised he would do.  They‘re going to get it done.  It‘s going to go to the Senate.  It‘s not going to be passed.

WALSH:  Right.

BUCHANAN:  And I think that‘s perfectly legitimate, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  But they promised in the campaign that they would issue—they would—they would amend—they would replace with something else that has a protection against pre-existing conditions being denied...

BUCHANAN:  I‘ll tell you what...

MATTHEWS:  ... and they‘re not doing it.

BUCHANAN:  If the Senate passes the repeal and Obama signs it, he will go for pre-existing conditions.  But look, I disagree...

WALSH:  And they won‘t.

BUCHANAN:  ... whit you profoundly.  I disagree profoundly.  It is in his interest to get along in a lot of ways and work with Obama the way he did at the end of the year.  It is in Obama‘s interest he recognizes that the party of Pelosi and Reid are out of touch with mainstream America, and Boehner and McConnell are closer.  I think both political parties have an interest in working together at least through this first year, Chris, and I think they are going to get a lot of...

MATTHEWS:  When you talk about—there was a lot of references, Joan, today, to “the people,” as if...

WALSH:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... this Republican Party, having won a significant election last November, now have the mandate from the people from on high.  And they keep saying, The people want this, The people want to get rid of health care.  Well, the polling is not that simple on that.  And what the people want, according to this new poll by “60 Minutes” and “Vanity Fair,” the new poll that just came out, said what the people want is to raise taxes on the rich.  Here it is, 61 percent...

WALSH:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... say the first step they want towards reducing the deficit is to go after rich with their taxes.  And then the second is to go after defense spending.  The Republicans aren‘t going to do either one of those things.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Joan first.

WALSH:  That‘s when they stop listening to the people, Chris, when it comes to raising taxes.  And you know, parts of the health care reform bill are wildly popular, and so trying to repeal it as a piece is kind of ridiculous, and at a time—you know, we‘re going to sit here and—for the next—for the next year at least, probably for two years, and watch them try to throw the country in reverse.  They‘re going to try to repeal health care reform.  It won‘t go anywhere.  It‘s symbolic.  It‘s political.  They‘re going to...

MATTHEWS:  So why are they doing it?

WALSH:  ... try to do it.  They think—they think it‘s a winning

issue.  I think they‘re wrong.  They think it is.  They‘re going to go for

they‘re going to go for financial reform and liberate the banks to do to us what they did in 2007 and 2008, again going in reverse.  They‘re going to—Darrell Issa is going to investigate the hell out of the White House.  We‘re going to talk about ACORN, which doesn‘t exist anymore, and the Black...

MATTHEWS:  OK...

WALSH:  ... the New Black Panther Party...

BUCHANAN:  For God‘s sake...

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH:  It‘s crazy!

BUCHANAN:  Give it a rest, Joan!  It‘s—I mean, the opening day...

WALSH:  Give what a rest, Pat?

BUCHANAN:  Opening day (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  OK...

BUCHANAN:  ... screaming about the last...

MATTHEWS:  Because they‘re making promises on opening day.

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Well, hold it, Joan!  Look—look...

WALSH:  I‘m not making this up, honey.

BUCHANAN:  Look—but look—take a look at the...

MATTHEWS:  Honey?

BUCHANAN:  Take a look at the Republican...

WALSH:  It just came out.

BUCHANAN:  ... or the Bush tax bill.  It is now the Obama tax bill.  It got through the Congress of the United States.  They went along with the program...

WALSH:  That was unfortunate.

BUCHANAN:  ... Chris, and we go—look, we don‘t go by polls.

MATTHEWS:  I just want to know why—what do you think of this new poll that says that people would rather have the rich people (INAUDIBLE)

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t give a hoot what the poll says!

MATTHEWS:  But the people keep saying “the people”!

WALSH:  Really?  You don‘t give a hoot what the people say?

BUCHANAN:  No!  I care what your principles are and what your beliefs are...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That sounds like Edmund Burke.  That‘s the opposite of what your crowd was saying.

BUCHANAN:  But Obama...

MATTHEWS:  They want to be a transparent deliverer of the people‘s opinion to the law.

WALSH:  The people!

BUCHANAN:  We have the taxes because, thank goodness, we have Barack Obama, who went along with that tax cut.

MATTHEWS:  OK, let‘s talk about Pelosi.

BUCHANAN:  That‘s what we (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  I want to give you a fair shot here at Pelosi here.

BUCHANAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Here she is speaking to—I do think there‘s a question about whether Pelosi is in touch with even her own party‘s positions...

BUCHANAN:  That‘s a real question.

MATTHEWS:  ... and her political situation.  I think she wants to be Speaker again.  I think she‘s sticking around for two years or four years with hopes that, like Winston Churchill and others, she can come back.  Sam Rayburn did it twice.

WALSH:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  And Joe Morton did it.  Let‘s see if she can do it.  I think that‘s her view.  Let‘s take a look.  Here‘s Speaker Pelosi, former speaker Pelosi, arriving at the Capitol today.  And listen how she describes her tenure, even as it was elapsing.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  I am still Speaker of the House for...

(LAUGHTER)

PELOSI:  ... for a few—a short period of time.  What we‘re saying is, as we go forward, we extend, extend a hand, a willing hand of friendship.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, she was quite a target in the last election, I would say up there with to the old days of Ted Kennedy, old days of Bela Abzug, a party figure that was used as a punching bag all across the country.  I agree it was done—and it‘s not done for stupid reasons.  People think there‘s a win in that.  What is the attack on Pelosi about at this point?

BUCHANAN:  She is a quintessential San Francisco liberal Democrat whose party, in that form was repudiated by the American people.  What is the matter with your party, Chris?  I mean—

MATTHEWS:  Well, it‘s doing very well in San Francisco.  It‘s certainly doing well on the two coasts.

BUCHANAN:  But you got Pelosi...

WALSH:  In California, we‘re doing great.

BUCHANAN:  ... Steny Hoyer...

MATTHEWS:  I‘m asking you—can I ask you a question?

BUCHANAN:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  What is wrong with her...

BUCHANAN:  Nothing.

MATTHEWS:  In states where you would think they don‘t even know who she is, they seem to know who she is.

BUCHANAN:  Everybody knows who she is now, and she‘s a representative of a party that‘s been repudiated.  Look, I don‘t have anything against her.  I think she‘s a tremendously successful Speaker in terms of what she got done.

WALSH:  She did.

BUCHANAN:  But you had her and Steny Hoyer and you got Clyburn and you got Van Hollen...

MATTHEWS:  You think—you think...

BUCHANAN:  ... you got all four...

MATTHEWS:  You think Steny Hoyer‘s too far left?

BUCHANAN:  No, I think you need a new ball club.  You just got beat! 

Put somebody else out on the field...

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH:  But come on, Pat!  It‘s the Blue Dogs.  It‘s the Blue Dog Caucus that got decimated in November.

BUCHANAN:  Decimated because they were associated with Nancy Pelosi!

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH:  No, that‘s—I don‘t think that‘s it.  I don‘t think...

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) if they were Blue Dogs or did they lose because they were voting for Speaker Pelosi?

BUCHANAN:  Talk to Gene Taylor!

WALSH:  (INAUDIBLE) Speaker Pelosi.  And plenty of them—you know what?  Plenty of them didn‘t vote with Speaker Pelosi.  Plenty of them didn‘t vote on the stimulus.  They didn‘t vote the right way on health care reform.  They went their own way.  They were allowed by Speaker Pelosi go their own way.  She was fairly generous on that one.  She could afford to be.  And they still lost.  Tell me why that happened.

MATTHEWS:  Is it smart politics (INAUDIBLE) for Joan, who does come from San Francisco...

WALSH:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  ... and I love the city and I have no problem with living out there.  It‘s a great city to live in.  I think, in many ways, it‘s like living in Europe.  It‘s exciting.  (INAUDIBLE) especially downtown.  But—

I really mean that.  And Joan, here‘s my question—tough, shrewd political assessment.  Is it right for the Democratic Party to have Nancy Pelosi persist in trying to win backed the Speakership the next couple of cycles?  Is it smart for the leadership of the party to have her there, running for Speaker again, next time and the time after, in order to get it back and be triumphant again?

WALSH:  You know...

MATTHEWS:  Is it smart?

WALSH:  A lot is going to happen in two years, and we‘ll see if it‘s smart.  It may be that she runs on record of having gotten an amazing number, 400-something bills, through the House that never got a vote in the Senate.  She did the work.  She did what Barack Obama asked her to do.  She was phenomenally successful.  And her majority—she lost her majority.

I don‘t know, Chris.  I don‘t see anybody else.  Heath Shuler seems a joke to me.  I‘m sorry.  What votes did he marshal?  You know, it may be that somebody else emerges...

MATTHEWS:  What about Steny?

WALSH:  It may be...

MATTHEWS:  Is it Steny‘s turn?

WALSH:  No, I don‘t think it‘s Steny‘s turn, frankly.  I think—I think Steny...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Will it ever be?

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Barack Obama, by the way he behaved—look at the end of the year.  What he said was, Look, Pelosi, Reid, you‘re not negotiating with Republicans.  you‘re going to go off the cliff.  I want to get something done.  Give them those taxes...

MATTHEWS:  All I know is that he‘s at 50 percent and rising.

BUCHANAN:  ... one, two, three.  Let‘s do it.

MATTHEWS:  Patrick, he‘s at 50 percent...

BUCHANAN:  Taking the middle.

MATTHEWS:  ... and rising, and he‘s still got a 10 percent unemployment rate.  If this guy gets it down to 8, he‘s going to be at 60 percent.  Thank you, Pat Buchanan.  I have never seen a guy get 50 percent of the country when he‘s got an unemployment...

BUCHANAN:  He‘s doing very well.

MATTHEWS:  ... record like this.  There‘s something going on out there.  He‘s got more strength than a lot of people imagine.  Anyway, thank you, Pat Buchanan.  Thank you, Joan Walsh...

WALSH:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  ... standing up for the city, as we once called it.

WALSH:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Remember, the city?  How many places can call themselves that?

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  Say hello to all my friends out there.

MATTHEWS:  ... Frisco.  I take it back.  We‘ll talk to two freshman members of the United States Congress, and they‘re new members of Congress, coming up ahead.

But up next, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs is leaving his job.  It‘s a big job.  He‘s leaving it.  We don‘t know who‘s going to fill it.  He‘s going to focus on getting the president reelected out in Chicago, I guess, or maybe here in Washington.

And among the Republicans, Mike Huckabee—he is the guy to watch, has looked the strongest in recent polling on the Republican side.  And what about Sarah Palin?  I‘m not sure if she‘s running.  With about a year before Iowa and new Hampshire, let‘s preview the big fight coming up because it has begun.  This is the time of year that Obama announced for president two years out.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) the Obama administration‘s now looking to avoid a fight over that end of life issue.  You know, the death panels?  Well, the administration will revise a Medicare regulation and drop references to end of life planning covered under the new health care bill.  The policy took effect on January 1st and was praised by many doctors and hospice care providers, but Republicans, led by Sarah Palin, inaccurately labeled it, the end of life provision, “death panels,” a fight the administration neither needs nor wants, apparently, to repeat.

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Yesterday, former Florida governor Jeb Bush said he‘s ruled out running for president this time around in 2012, but never say never, he says, when it comes to 2016.  But could Jeb be the Republicans‘ answer to Barack Obama this time?  Could he end up running for or at least (INAUDIBLE) look back to the familiar faces of Romney, Huckabee and Palin.  What‘s it look like?

Joining us right now are “National Journal‘s” Beth Reinhard, formerly of “The Miami Herald,” and “New York” magazine‘s John Heilemann.  Lady and gentleman, thank you.  You‘re from down there.  Tell me this.  Is Jeb really out?

BETH REINHARD, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”:  I think he is.  I mean, he‘s not just sitting around, twiddling his thumbs.  He‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Why is he writing op-ed pieces for “The Wall Street Journal”?  Why is he getting his face into this thing if he doesn‘t want in?

REINHARD:  He‘s a public policy person and he cares deeply about education reform.  He cares a lot about Hispanic outreach.  He‘s (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS:  So this isn‘t a tease?

REINHARD:  I don‘t think so.

MATTHEWS:  John?

JOHN HEILEMANN, “NEW YORK” MAGAZINE:  I think he wants to.  Well, look, he‘s also a smart politician.  I think he wants to be president, and he sees that if he‘s got to choose between 2012 and 2016, especially with the president, President Obama, with his prospect of his...

MATTHEWS:  If some other Republican gets it this time, he‘s not going to get it in 2016.

HEILEMANN:  Well—well, unless that Republican loses to Obama for reelection.  And then Obama wins reelection in 2012, and then he gets an open field in 2016. That...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... some Republican knocks of Obama, he‘s gone.  He can‘t win the next time.  It‘s gone forever for him.

HEILEMANN:  Right.  But unless it goes—but it could more likely go other way.

MATTHEWS:  I think—isn‘t it reasonable to say that you don‘t get to pick your year, you get pick your goal?

REINHARD:  Well, I just think there‘s this game that people play every four year.  He‘s not running in 2012.  He hasn‘t ruled out 2016, hasn‘t ruled out 2020, either.

MATTHEWS:  Is there a Bush sequence, you have to wait eight years?

REINHARD:  I think the Bush name...

MATTHEWS:  Because W. waited eight years and won.

REINHARD:  I think the Bush name has been rehabilitated to some extent.  That was Jeb‘s biggest liability, but now you have Democrats passing Bush-era tax cuts, so...

MATTHEWS:  Is he the smartest of the Bushes?

REINHARD:  I think Jeb is very smart guy.

MATTHEWS:  You think he‘s the smartest of the Bushes?

HEILEMANN:  I think he‘s one of the smartest people in American politics.  And I think that I know you think this, and I think it‘s not necessarily wrong, that if the field is muddy and that some of these governors who are plausible alternatives to the populist in the party, like Palin and Huckabee—if those governors don‘t get in...

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

HEILEMANN:  ... there‘s going to be a bunch of people in the Republican Party who are going to be begging Jeb Bush to get n.

MATTHEWS:  You know, of course, if he doesn‘t get in, he‘s betting on Obama to win.

HEILEMANN:  That‘s right.  That‘s what I‘m saying.

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s talk about—let‘s talk about Huckabee, a slow burner in Washington.  He doesn‘t play well in this town.  But every time you poll him, every time he goes to Iowa, he wins.  He won the—he won the—what do you call that...

HEILEMANN:  The caucus.

REINHARD:  Caucuses.

MATTHEWS:  ... the caucus.  He won (INAUDIBLE) test—what do they call the thing before that, the...

HEILEMANN:  The straw poll?

REINHARD:  Straw poll.

MATTHEWS:  The straw poll.  He wins.  He wins.

HEILEMANN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  He‘s boring to people in Washington, because he is rural, but just because he doesn‘t sell inside the big cities, he seems to sell out in the country. 

REINHARD:  I don‘t think he is boring at all.  I think he‘s very...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, you like him? 

REINHARD:  I think‘s a charismatic speaker.  And I have enjoyed hearing him talk before, especially compared with some of the other folks in the field who are... 

MATTHEWS:  You have broad tastes, don‘t you?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I‘m just kidding. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  You like him.  You think he could win the nomination? 

REINHARD:  I don‘t if he can win the nomination.  I think he is an interesting candidate. 

HEILEMANN:  I think that there‘s a question about whether he can raise enough money to compete on the national level.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

HEILEMANN:  And there‘s also questions about him, whether he wants to leave behind the money he is currently making right now personally. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me—you‘re the pro.  Isn‘t—because you have got to write this book again.  Is this what is going on?  As they‘re all talking in town here, about, are we going to repeal health care, are we going to do the debt ceiling, all that government stuff, out in the hinterlands, it seems to me they are deciding whether to run or not. 

HEILEMANN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Is his decision based on does he has the quarter-billion dollars in coin it takes to compete with Romney? 

HEILEMANN:  Well, I think that the money...

MATTHEWS:  Is that it? 

HEILEMANN:  The money issue is going to be a big issue for Huckabee, and, again, as I say, whether he wants to give up the biggest piece of change he has ever made in his life.

He is now living a very comfortable and very happy life as a cable talk show host. 

MATTHEWS:  But can‘t he go back to that if he loses? 

HEILEMANN:  Well, he can.  But he will giving up a lot of current income stream in order to try to raise a bunch of money that is not going to be that easy for him to do necessarily. 

MATTHEWS:  And what about the cop killer he let go? 

HEILEMANN:  Well, I there are some problems for him there, that things will get really—will get tested for him. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Doesn‘t he have a Willie Horton problem? 

HEILEMANN:  Well, there are a lot of Republicans who think that. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you agree with that? 

(CROSSTALK)  

MATTHEWS:  Won‘t that be used against him by a tough-minded law and order Republican running against him?

REINHARD:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  I could see Newt nailing him with it. 

REINHARD:  Absolutely.  But you could look at each of the candidates. 

They each have their own fatal flaw. 

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s have some fun.  Let‘s talk to Rick Santorum.  Let‘s watch Rick Santorum, a guy I have always watched politically.  I think he‘s a hell of a speaker, got knocked off by Bobby Casey last time.

But here he is.  “National Journal” interviewed Rick Santorum.  And he took some shots at the potential primary opponents, including Sarah Palin.  Here is what he said—quote—“Let‘s put this way.  I‘m not waiting for her to decide whether I‘m running for president.”

He went on to say: “So, to me, she has certainly been a net plus to Republican efforts.  She was a huge factor in the last election, to me mostly to the good, maybe not all to the good.  But 90 percent‘s pretty good.”

And to the question of whether Palin is qualified, Santorum said:

“What does it mean to be qualified to be president?  She was born in the country and she‘s the right age.  Those are the qualifications.”

Excuse me.  That‘s a shot. 

(CROSSTALK)

HEILEMANN:  Do you remember who gave that answer before?  That was Bill Clinton‘s answer about Barack Obama in 2008. 

MATTHEWS:  That is a shot. 

HEILEMANN:  Is he qualified?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Isn‘t that a shot? 

REINHARD:  Sure it‘s a shot.  I don‘t know that...

MATTHEWS:  She is legal, in other words. 

(LAUGHTER)

REINHARD:  I don‘t know that it hurts Sarah Palin, though, to have Rick Santorum, who most people don‘t even know who he is, criticize...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Is that what‘s going on?  She is the top dog and they have to go after her? 

REINHARD:  I don‘t think she is necessarily the top dog.  I just think that...

MATTHEWS:  Who is? 

REINHARD:  ... she rises and people criticize her.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  You‘re so careful there.  Who are you, David Broder?  I‘m not keeping score here.  You can be wrong once in a while.  It is OK to be wrong.  Who is the top candidate right now to be the nominee? 

(CROSSTALK)

REINHARD:  I think Romney is. 

MATTHEWS:  You say Romney, best bet? 

(CROSSTALK)

HEILEMANN:  Today, yes, but I...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  If you were betting in Ireland tonight, where they take the bets—they have a sports book over there for this. 

HEILEMANN:  If I had to bet today, he‘s clearly the front-runner right now, but he‘s a real shaky front-runner.  And I think it‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Because he is not a good politician.

HEILEMANN:  Well, and also because he‘s got this health care problem with the Massachusetts health care plan.  And that looks like, as much as Iraq was a problem for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary in 2008, it is the same kind of problem for Romney.

There are a lot of Republicans who want to run against health care against Obama.  And Romneycare was Obamacare. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  He doesn‘t seem to have it, what I have watched all my life, that thing in politics that makes a person interesting, intriguing, you want to their next word, what they are up to, you care about them, you find them fascinating.

I don‘t—I mean, he‘s obviously an attractive man, and he has a good success record and a good family, and I like him when I meet him.  I don‘t feel that curiosity about him that I do about great politicians. 

Your thoughts?

(CROSSTALK)

REINHARD:  Well, me and my broad tastes, I actually think he is an interesting guy.  But I agree with John.

MATTHEWS:  What are you curious about him?  What would you like to know him you don‘t know? 

REINHARD:  Well, I think he is very attractive right now...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  No, what are you curious about Mitt Romney personally? 

What do you find interesting to him? 

REINHARD:  His background. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s interesting?  He‘s a business guy.  That‘s interesting.

REINHARD:  Business guy, Olympics, governor.  He has done a lot of different things in his life.  I think that makes him an attractive candidate.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  That makes him interesting, huh? 

(CROSSTALK)

HEILEMANN:  Well, he‘s a little bit more of a known commodity, too.  It actually does help to some extent.  Some of the stuff that he had to go through in 2008, he‘s not going to have to go through again.  He‘s kind of put the Mormon question to rest to some extent.  He‘s talked about that.

MATTHEWS:  In our world, in our world.

(CROSSTALK)

HEILEMANN:  Well, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  In the Southern United States, Baptist part of the country, it is an issue. 

HEILEMANN:  It‘s still a problem, I agree.

REINHARD:  Yes, I don‘t think that has been put to rest.

I saw Howard Dean today.  And that was one of the first things he mentioned about Mitt Romney‘s liabilities.  He says, where he goes, especially in the South, he hears a lot of prejudice against Romney‘s... 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the tricky part about it is, they don‘t think it is prejudice.  They think they are right in opposing a Mormon president.  They have a very particular point of view, which is I don‘t share, and most Americans don‘t. 

But there is this particular geographic religious problem that he has in evangelical areas.  They don‘t think that he should be president. 

REINHARD:  I don‘t think that is insurmountable, though.  I think the health care problem may be insurmountable if the climate continues to be that that is the raison d‘etre for the Republican Party. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Yes. 

HEILEMANN:  And I don‘t mean that it‘s been put to rest as an issue for him.

All I mean is, he‘s given a big speech on the matter.  People know he‘s a Mormon now.  He‘s not going to have to reintroduce himself as a Mormon to the country.  He gave a big speech on the matter.  He tried to explain the role of his faith to his political life.  He‘s not going to have to go back and do that again.  Whether it will be something he can overcome with... 

(CROSSTALK)

HEILEMANN:  ... voters is another issue.

MATTHEWS:  I think the Republican Party, the party that you and I grew up with, it was more of a suburban, big city party, the way it was years ago.

But, today, it is increasingly a rural party of the South.  And I just think that might be a problem.  I don‘t know.  I wish him well on that front.  I think we should have religious tolerance in this country. 

Anyway, thank you, Beth Reinhard.

REINHARD:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  I‘m waiting to get your little insight on you why think Mitt Romney is fascinating. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, John Heilemann. 

Up next—just kidding—sort of.  

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Michele Bachmann—well, this is somebody who is truly fascinating.  I have always wondered, is she under hypnosis?  She has—I look at her, and I go—look at the eyes, and I can‘t tell what‘s driving her.  It isn‘t logic.  It is something else. 

Anyway, she is talking about running for president.  Why not?  Why not?  She is in the race for president maybe.  Let‘s check out the “Sideshow,” where she normally shows up on this show, in the “Sideshow.”

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.  Time for the “Sideshow.”  I love this one. 

First up: Tea for 12.  Having failed to fight her way into the House leadership and amid rumors she might run for the U.S. Senate, there is a new job prospect shooting in Michele Bachmann‘s world: president of the United States.  That‘s right, a source close to the Minnesota Republican tells ABC News that Bachmann will head to Iowa this month to talk to supporters and get advice on a presidential bid. 

Bachmann‘s chief of staff told ABC—quote—“Nothing is off the table.”

Well, that‘s for sure in her case. 

Next up: Candidate Baldwin?  NBC‘s “30 Rock” star Alec Baldwin sounds more serious than ever about running for office some day.  In an interview with CNN airing tonight, he says it is something he is very, very interested in.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CNN)

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR:  I do believe that people want to believe that someone who deeply cares about the middle class, for whatever reason, whatever your heritage and your background and so forth, would like to seek public office. 

We have had men who are—regardless of their background, we have had men—and I don‘t want to say this in an anti-elitist way, but we have had men who are Ivy League-, you know, groomed running this country since 1988.  We have had, you know, 22 years of Yale and Harvard. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well that‘s interesting.

But, for the record, Alec Baldwin did graduate from NYU, one of the top country‘s—the country‘s top schools. 

By the way, it is easier to be interested in running for office than actually to run, believe me. 

Next up: a fracas from Caracas.  After rejecting President Obama‘s nominee for ambassador to Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez has some suggestions—you are going to love these—for who he wants to be the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela. 

Reuters reports that Chavez said in a speech the other day—quote—

“I hope they name Oliver Stone.”  And then he goes on to suggest Sean Penn or Noam Chomsky.  And then he mentioned, guess what, Bill Clinton.

So, there you have it, Hugo Chavez‘s wish list: Stone, Penn, Chomsky, Clinton.  What a foursome.  Talk about going from left to right.  Well, look at that pattern there.  Clinton is right in the middle for us, but, boy, those other ones.

Now it‘s time for tonight‘s “Big Number.”

2010 was definitely the year of the Tea Party.  They fueled the Republican fire that led to John Boehner becoming speaker, of course, today and narrowing the field in the Senate from Republican losses to up to 53-47, a very narrow majority for the Democrats. 

Well, in all, how many Tea Party-backed candidates arrived in Congress today?  Well, 48 of them did.  That‘s tonight HARDBALL “Big Number”: 48 Tea Party members in the U.S. New Congress, 43 in the House, five in the Senate, 48 altogether, tonight‘s “Big Number.”  Watch those 48. 

Coming up, let‘s meet two freshman members of the 112th Congress—one is a Republican, one is a Democrat—and find out what they expect to get done in their freshman year. 

You are watching HARDBALL, right here in Washington, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MICHELLE CARUSO-CABRERA, CNBC CORRESPONDENT:  I‘m Michelle Caruso-Cabrera with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”

A barrage of positive economic reports pushing stocks to new highs again today.  The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 31 points, the S&P 500 added six, the Nasdaq surging nearly 21 points. 

Every economic report this week has been above consensus, better than expected.  And, today, it was better-than-expected gains in jobs and also the service industry.  Private employers added 297,000 jobs in December, about triple what economists were expecting.  Meanwhile, planned layoffs, they fell to their lowest level in a decade. 

The ISM services index, this rose to its fastest pace in four years.  It‘s the 12th straight month of expansion for that sector.  And those reports boosting homebuilders in a big way today.  More people with jobs means more people in the market for housing being able to pay their bills, a strong showing for airlines as well, after U.S. Airways delivered strong quarterly revenue, despite all those weather-related cancellations.  You can see U.S. Airways higher by 4.5 percent. 

Finally, Qualcomm is advancing after agreeing to buy semiconductor-maker Atheros for about $3.2 billion in cash. 

That is it from CNBC.  We are first in business worldwide—now back to HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back.

We are battle Pat and John just for a couple more questions here.

Pat, do you expect a fight between the new kids on the block, if you will, the new members of Congress from the Tea Party sort of world and the regulars like Boehner?  Are they going to end up fighting over things like debt ceiling and actual spending decisions? 

BUCHANAN:  There‘s going to be some tension there, but I think they both realize they have both got to succeed together.  And I think, basically, fundamentally, they agree.  The red hots don‘t think the old bulls were quite so tough. 

I think it is going to work out, Chris, in the short term certainly.  Maybe down the road, it will be different.  But, early on, I think it will work out.

MATTHEWS:  Same question to you, John.  Are they really going to actually cut those big programs, like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, defense?  They‘re tough to cut. 

HEILEMANN:  They are not going to do those things.  I don‘t think they will do those things at all. 

And I think it‘s going to create some—I think Pat right.  They will try manage those tensions.  But I think they actually could get a little more severe than Pat thinks and could—and create a context for some more trouble. 

MATTHEWS:  John Heilemann, see you soon.

Pat Buchanan, thank you. 

The 112th Congress boasts the biggest freshman class in nearly 20 years on Capitol Hill with a whopping 87 Republicans, nine Democrats.  And two of those newcomers join us tonight.

Republican Congressman Michael Grimm of New York, former FBI agent, rode the Tea Party wave to victory, and he will sit on the Financial Services Committee.  And we also have Congressman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana.  He is from New Orleans. 

Gentlemen, thank you for joining us.  It‘s good to have you. 

What is it like that you didn‘t expect, Mr. Grimm?  Congressman, you walk on the floor today.  You were out there with everybody.  That‘s my favorite question.  What didn‘t you expect that you saw? 

REP. MICHAEL GRIMM ®, NEW YORK:  Well, I will be honest with you. 

It is more of what‘s gone on outside than more of what‘s been on the floor.

And that‘s how much of a buzz and excitement there is from the general public, from America.  I think everyone is very excited about this new Congress, and for good reason.  You know, there‘s a lot of work to be done.  And I think the 112th Congress across the board is energized to do the job that needs to get done. 

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Richmond, your surprise sitting on the floor for the first time today? 

REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D), LOUISIANA:  Well, I won‘t say I was surprised, but I will say it was very humbling, especially when you sit next to great American heroes, like John Lewis and other members of Congress, who really you watched and you read about in the textbooks, and now you‘re actually serving in Congress with them. 

So, it was a very humbling experience.  But I think that—I think that the American people want to see it with all the attention on them, and the fact this they are waking up every day struggling.  So, it is just an exciting time to be here. 

And I agree that it has been a very wonderful day as a first day with family and friends and really just getting adjusted. 

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Grimm, Congressman, you go in there today to a—it is a virgin forest for you.  You have never voted before in the House.  And yet you are sitting around with guys and women who have been there for a long time. 

You have made promises in the campaign, I‘m sure, about reducing the national debt, reducing spending.  All that spending is going on, notwithstanding the presence of all those veteran members.  They have never cut it.  They have had their chance.  They haven‘t done it before. 

Why will they do it now?  Why will you get them to do it?  How will you get them to do something they have never wanted to do before, cut spending? 

(CROSSTALK)

GRIMM:  Well, I actually think the answer is simple. 

For the first time, I think even the members that have been here for many years get the fact that this is the last chance.  It doesn‘t matter whether you‘re Republican or Democrat.  This is the last chance for Congress to redeem itself and to earn back really the respect of the American people, which it should have.  And to do that, they have to simply do what they are supposed to do.

The debt in this nation is crippling us.  It‘s not just destroying us here.  It‘s impossible to keep this nation safe with this much debt.  So, first and foremost, our job is to keep America safe.  So, they have no choice and I think that they realize that and they understand why they‘re here.

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Richmond, it‘s easy to say you want to do the people‘s will and I just wonder what the people want.  The latest poll we have says they wanted to tax the rich or cut defense.  Republicans say they want to cut can entitlements.  They want cut discretionary spending.

If you let the American people poll on this, would they cut the budget?  Would they actually reduce Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Defense Department?  Would they actually cut things?  Do you think they would?

RICHMOND:  No, actually, I think that especially in my area, that people really defer to the—to our judgment.  Now, do I think that there‘s a certain percentage out there?  Of course, everybody will cut programs that are not important to them.

You will not find seniors in favor of cutting Social Security.  You won‘t find some people in favor of cutting Medicaid.  But that‘s what we‘re going to have to come here and do.  We‘re going to have to make some tough decisions.

But the one thing I feel some comfort in is that the fact that I think that most Americans understand that the country is sick right now.  We may not like the medicine we‘re going to have to take, but we‘re going to have to take it to make the country a better country.  And I think that that‘s what they want.  And I know that as freshman coming in, we are a little idealistic in terms of what we can do.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s good.

RICHMOND:  But I do think that we are willing to work across the aisle.  I think that we want to do what November 2nd I think taught me that was that American people want this entire conversation back on them.  They don‘t want to hear about Democrats or Republican.  They want to hear about what‘s going to change their quality of life.

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Grimm, I don‘t have a lot of faith in just plebiscites, you just vote the way the latest poll goes, because then you don‘t need a Congress, just go with the win.

But look at the latest poll we got.  Here is poll that shows that, in “Vanity Fair” and “60 Minutes,” it says, cut—tax the rich, 61 percent say do that, 20-some percent say cut defense, cut Medicare, Social Security way at the bottom.  The public, if you poll them, want to do the easier stuff, tax the people they aren‘t, vet rich; cut defense, they are not in the Defense Department.

Can you just do what the speaker said today, just do what the people want?  Do you think the people will vote the way you‘re going to have to vote and actually cut programs?  Would the average person in Bay Ridge or Staten Island walk into Congress and start cutting Social Security, Medicare and the Defense Department?  Would they do that?

GRIMM:  I don‘t think it‘s as simple as that.  And I think when they actually look at and look at all the factors, they—you know, most people, what they want is prudence.  They want someone to sit down and pragmatically make decisions that are reasonable and are responsible for this nation.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

GRIMM:  Like let‘s talk about defense.  You know, if you ask someone, would you cut this defense knowing that it may make us weaker and opens up to another terrorist attack?  I think they‘re going to say, no, let‘s not do that. Remember, that the federal government‘s first job is to keep us safe.

MATTHEWS:  I agree.

GRIMM:  So, you can‘t just—

MATTHEWS:  It‘s hard, isn‘t it?

GRIMM:  No, this is a tough job.

MATTHEWS:  So, where do you cut?  Where do you cut?

GRIMM:  Well, everywhere you possibly.  And I think my colleague said it well.  The one thing that I have faith in the people is that they realize that cuts are going to be coming across the board.  A little bit from everywhere is going to have to be part of it because everyone is going to have to share this pain.

The reality is like a family—like a family at home.  They have to manage the household.  So, we in Congress have to manage our household here for the United States.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You represent a great district, Mr. Grimm.  And so do you, Mr. Richmond.  They‘re both districts I know well.  Just imagine representing Bay Bridge/Brooklyn, what an honor that is.  Dewey Carey (ph) had that honor.  Paul Attanasio should have had that honor.

Anyway, thank you, Michael Grimm.  Thank you, Cedric Richmond.  Sir, gentlemen, congratulations.

A program note, by the way, tomorrow morning at 9 Eastern, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs joins Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie on “THE DAILY RUNDOWN.”  He‘s leaving the White House.  He‘s coming to MSNBC tomorrow morning and we support Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie here.

Up next, with the Republicans control the House, how will they govern?  And what does it mean for President Obama with the Republicans running one of the houses of Congress?

This is HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, here is U.S. Senate milestone, with the start of the Senate today.  Maryland‘s Barbara Mikulski has become the longest serving woman senator in American history.  Senator Mikulski was first elected back in ‘86, 24 years ago.  And when she is sworn in, she and Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas, Al Landon‘s daughter, were the only two women in the Senate.  Today, there are 17.  The glass ceiling is shattering.

Mikulski‘s 24 years in the Senate exceed Maine‘s long-time senator, Margaret Chase Smith, who served from ‘49 to 1973.

Congratulations to our friend, Senator Mikulski.

HARDBALL back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

After today‘s pomp and circumstance up on Capitol Hill, be down (ph) at work for divided Congress as they try to govern this country.

Joining me right now is Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock.

Congressman, let me ask you about this plan to repeal health care, the whole Obama health care, took two years to get enacted.  You guys are going to try to repeal it next Wednesday.

Are you going to allow amendments on the floor?

REP. AARON SCHOCK ®, ILLINOIS:  My understanding is this is going to be a straight up-or-down vote on the health care bill and then there‘s going to be a series of replacement bills that are going to be offered and I‘m sure there is going to be massaging back and forth and so forth.

MATTHEWS:  When is the massaging going to begin?  Because your speaker today said he‘s going to allow open rules from now on and allow amendments to be offered, but on the first big bill to come out next Wednesday, no amendments.

And my question gets to particular points in your candidate promises, you guys, your Pledge to America, said you were going to allow people to be protected against being denied health care for pre-existing condition.  Also, not to be stuck with lifetime payment limits.  Those two amendments are not going to be in order, even though they‘re in your campaign promises, your pledges of the campaign.

How can you justify that?

SCHOCK:  Well, because I think the leadership has decided that this bill, with its 2,500 pages, is really so big and so bad that the best thing for us to do is to repeal the full bill and then go back and replace it with those common sense reforms that you‘ve described and that, quite frankly a majority of Americans—

MATTHEWS:  No, they are your proposal.

SCHOCK:  -- Democrats and Republicans agree on.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

SCHOCK:  If you—if you ask the Congress, will you vote for a bill that covers people with pre-existing conditions, to allow young people to be on their insurance, to allow people to buy across state lines, you‘re going to get broad bipartisan support.  And I, quite frankly, wish the president would have done that a year or two ago, and we wouldn‘t be in this situation.

MATTHEWS:  How do you force under the Constitution of private company to insure somebody—under the Constitution, you guys are always worried about the Constitution.  What constitutional authority do you have, Congressman, to tell a private company, you‘ve got to insure somebody, even though they‘re in bad health and it‘s a bad risk for them and they‘re probably going to lose money on it?  How do you do that?  How do you force them do it?

When they say, no, we don‘t think that he‘s a good bet or she‘s a good bet, we‘re not going to insure them?  And you say, oh, yes, we‘re the government, we‘re going to make you do it.  Is that Republican philosophy, what you‘re giving me?

SCHOCK:  Well, Chris, you‘re implying that‘s not constitutional. 

And that‘s obviously one—

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m asking you, do you think it is?

SCHOCK:  -- one of the many provisions of the bill.  I think that it really depends on what the replacement bill looks like.  You know—

MATTHEWS:  You‘re hedging.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHOCK:  -- by countries like Switzerland, for example, where—

MATTHEWS:  But you‘re hedging there.  I‘m asking you, do you? 

Congressman, it‘s in your promise list.

SCHOCK:  Chris—

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe—you said you‘re going to put it in order down the road.  You‘re going to massage the bill and bring in these proposals.  Do you believe it‘s constitutional to force a private industry, a business, to insure they think somebody they think is a bad risk?

SCHOCK:  Well, well me say this, I‘m not an attorney and I‘m not a constitutional law expert.  So, I‘m not going to—I‘m not going to put myself in that trick box to play judge.  I will say—concede you that it is a goal and it wasn‘t our pledge to make sure that our—

MATTHEWS:  It sure was.

SCHOCK:  -- health care replacement bill covers people with pre-existing conditions, and I think that that‘s a promise that we can fulfill.

MATTHEWS:  The reason I bring this up, sir, I‘m not playing games.  I read Terry Jeffrey (ph), a real Buchananite, this afternoon, who said it‘s not constitutional and I know you‘re raising all of these constitutional objections under, you know, original content and very narrow definitions of the Constitutional on the conservative side.  And a lot of people on your side are saying these things are constitutional, and I‘m just wondering if you‘re one of them—that‘s all.

SCHOCK:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  I don‘t think that it.

SCHOCK:  Well, the House rules are going to require that any bill that‘s brought forward in the future, including our replacement, is going to have to cite, you know, where in the Constitution the authority‘s given to be able do X, Y, or Z.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Congressman, thank you.  Keep working at it.  Aaron Schock—

SCHOCK:  You know, Chris—

MATTHEWS:  Yes?

SCHOCK:  Thanks for having me back on.  Two years ago as a new member, I came on your show for the first day and now, it‘s my second term and I‘m back on.  I appreciate you having me here.

MATTHEWS:  You‘re always welcome.  Please come back, Mr. Schock.

SCHOCK:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  Joining me right now is U.S. congressman and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Committee, Steve Israel.

Thank you, Congressman Israel.

When you see saw the conundrum that the Republicans are getting into.  They‘re calling all this stuff unconstitutional, the individual mandate, they‘re going to bring to the court, they‘re going to try to get rid of the bill and yet, they will not allow amendments from your side that really even would try to introduce the very things they promised, like pre-existing conditions, no limits on lifetime payments.

REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK:  It‘s actually worse than that, Chris.  I don‘t know, you were on air and I don‘t know if you just heard about the vote we had within the past 20 minutes, where every Democrat voted for simple proposition that members of Congress ought to disclose whether they are taking their government health care.

And guess what happened in that vote?  Every Republican voted to hide their own government health care, while many of them are pledging to repeal health care for everyone else.  So, you go from hypocrisy to hypocrisy; from broken promise to broken promise.  And this is just the first day of the new congress.

MATTHEWS:  You mean, they didn‘t want to admit that they‘re taking health care?

ISRAEL:  This is a very straightforward amendment that we offered, that, if you‘re going to take government-sponsored health care and the Federal Employees Health Benefits program, simply disclose.  Let your constituents know that you are taking that government health care.  Every single Republican voted to hide their health care while many of them are pledging to repeal it for their constituents.

MATTHEWS:  OK, give me a bird‘s-eye view, Congressman, Mr. Israel—you‘re now the DCCC chair and that‘s a heck a responsibility.  Let‘s look ahead.

Is Nancy Pelosi in your eye, running for speaker again?  Is she trying to win it back in two years?  It looks to me like she is, that‘s her goal.

ISRAEL:  We‘re all trying to win it back.

MATTHEWS:  No, but the speakership again.  Is that smart for your party?

ISRAEL:  Yes.  Look, I‘m focused on gaining 25 seats back so that we can regain the majority and continue to protect the middle class—not vote against the middle class, which is what the Republicans did just 20 minutes ago on the floor of the House.

MATTHEWS:  So, you think it‘s smart to try to regain what you had two years ago with the same leadership?

ISRAEL:  I think that what we need do is continue to fight for the middle class, to talk about the importance of creating jobs.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

ISRAEL:  What the Republicans are talking about is repealing health care when they know full well that the Senate‘s not going to do it.  The president‘s not going to sign it.  The only jobs that they‘re creating are for the speechwriters and the press release drafters.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You didn‘t answer my question but I know why.  Thank you very much, Steve Israel—

ISRAEL:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  -- the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, whose job it is to win back control of the Congress.

When we return, “Let Me Finish” with whether Speaker Boehner will keep the promises he made today, to be open and allow Democrats to offer amendments, especially when it comes to this effort to repeal health care next week, whether they‘re not honoring their promise.

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  “Let Me Finish” tonight with what the Republicans promise to do with health care this year.

Their campaign promise was to repeal and replace.  They were quite specific in this regard, promising to protect people who want to buy health insurance and have pre-existing medical conditions.  They promised to make sure that the insurance companies don‘t deny them policies.

Well, they were quite specific, as I said.  The Republicans had promised also that they would end the practice of insurance companies hitting people with lifetime spending caps.  In other words, limits on how much health care need you would have, as if a person could limit how much health care need they were going to face in their lifetime.

So, what about next Wednesday when the House votes the repeal of the health care, the Obama health care bill?  Will the speaker meet his commitment made just today to allow Democratic amendments?

Will he allow, specifically, the right of Democratic members of Congress to offer amendments that do with what the Republicans promised to do in the election—protect the ability to have pre-existing conditions, to buy health insurance, prevent insurance companies from establishing a lifetime payment limit?

Today, Speaker Boehner promised members of Congress a robust debate in open process that allows you to represent your constituents, to make your case, to offer alternatives, and to be heard.

Well, the weighty question now, just hours after he made that commitment, is whether he will keep it next Wednesday when the House brings up the Republican bill to repeal the Obama health care program.

Could it be a reason for not putting—could there be any reason for not putting amendments in order?  The only reason is because Republicans don‘t believe the United States government has the right to tell insurance companies what to do.

That‘s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us.

Right now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW” with Ed Schultz.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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