Here's something fun you can do with the YouTube Time Machine today! You can go back to January 23rd of this year and watch MSNBC's Chris Matthews being hysterically wrong about the Democrats' strategy to use budget reconciliation to pass health care reform!
In an extended argument with Representative Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), Matthews has himself a jolly good time misunderstanding some basic legislative history and being bizarrely apoplectic in his insistence that health care reform could get done at all. One of the extant issues here is that Matthews operates under the assumption that the road ahead consists of passing the entire health care reform bill through budget reconciliation.
In fact, what is planned is for the House to pass the current Senate bill and send it to the president's desk for his signature, after legislators have secured promises that the Senate will take up specific "fixes" to the bill in the budget reconciliation process.
At about three minutes in, Grayson tries to explain this to Matthews, but Matthews is already on to the next spasm, insisting that programs cannot be created through reconciliation. Grayson doesn't have an answer at the ready, but Matthews is wrong, all the same: the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, passed through reconciliation, created a program called the State Children's Health Insurance Program and a program called Medicare Advantage. (This, and other factoids Matthews should have had at the ready, are included in annotations of the above video.)
The Federal Direct Loan program of 1993, was also created through budget reconciliation. Facts!
What's particularly amazing is that Matthews is just so dead certain that he's right in his insistence that no U.S. Senator is going to dare use the reconciliation process. "You want to bet?" he asks Grayson. Grayson should have taken the bet, because Matthews's predictions are 100% incorrect, and based more in his fundamental, faddish belief that Grayson is just some Avatar of "netroots talk."
Grayson gives him adequate warning! "You are wrong. This is something that we talk about in our leadership, in our caucus meetings every week!" Matthews insists that his own dusty memories of knocking around the halls of power decades ago provide him with an up-to-the-minute insight that's somehow better informed than a guy who is having ongoing meetings with the Democratic Congressional leadership. And so for all Matthews' talk that Grayson is "pandering to the netroots," what's more evident is that Matthews is pandering to establishment delusions, and the voices that skitter around like palsied banshees inside his dome.
Grayson gets one thing wrong -- Congress did not pull off passing the bill within 30 days of his "Hardball" hit. But here we are all the same, with Democrats poised to do the very thing Matthews says they'll never even consider. Matthews should basically go on the air tonight and tell his viewers that he was hopelessly, idiotically wrong. And if you ever find yourself being offered a wager by Chris Matthews, bet the house!
UPDATE: Our own Ryan Grim caught up with Representative Grayson, and asked about the January tete-a-tete with Matthews. Grayson said: "Somebody timed it and found that he never let me speak for more than four seconds without interrupting me. Well, look, I understand his point: I'm a member of Congress and he reads words from a teleprompter. So who's more likely to know about congressional procedure? When it [the reconciliation effort] actually does happen maybe he'll have something of his own to say."
As far as Matthews offering to bet Grayson goes, Grayson recalled Matthews wagering as something "like a 7 year old would say."