Not long ago, we all took a trip in the Hot Tub Time Machine to that time MSNBC's Chris Matthews made all sorts of mocking assertions to Representative Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) about the future legislative process of the health care reform bill.
Citing his own copious experience (which he privileged above Grayson's actual conversations with the current Democratic leadership), Matthews explained that it was insane to expect a single U.S. senator to sign on to the budget reconciliation process as a means of getting the complete health care package to President Obama's desk:
Matthews got a lot wrong! He seemed, for instance, to be under the impression that everyone promoting budget reconciliation was asserting that the entire health care bill could be passed through the Senate, seemingly unaware that the Senate has actually passed a health care bill. Grayson attempted to explain this, but was interrupted. Matthews also insisted that no "programs" had ever been created through budget reconciliation. Wrong: the State Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicare Advantage were both created via budget reconciliation. Finally, he just refused to accept the premise that any Democratic senator would use budget reconciliation at all:
MATTHEWS: Name a United States Senator that's willing to do this?
GRAYSON: I think that's what you'll probably see at this point.
MATTHEWS: Wanna bet?
Grayson should have taken the bet!
Our own Arthur Delaney has been pretty fired up about Matthews coming clean about being hysterically wrong on all of this. He's not alone! Here's the Los Angeles Times's James Rainey, carrying the brief, and finding Matthews pretty unrepetant:
Matthews told me that, smoldering YouTube clip notwithstanding, it was Grayson who got it wrong back in January. He said the congressman was obviously referring back then to the House passing a new piece of legislation, rather than signing on to the approved Senate health bill and then having differences reconciled.
"He denied the House had to pass the Senate bill and then have reconciliation," Matthews said at one point. "I never got an answer from him, all I got was a posture. He wasn't helping me explain it. He was just taking a position."
Let's just say that seems a tad, uh, ungenerous. Especially because the lawmaker had to make do mostly with sentence fragments, in the face of Matthews' unrelenting inquisition. When pressed by Matthews, though, Grayson did manage to suggest taking further action on a bill "already passed with 60 votes." That would seem to refer to the health reform passed by the U.S. Senate, not launching entirely new legislation.
Matthews further theorizes that Grayson wanted to use the reconciliation process as a backdoor to fulfill his goal of enacting the so-called "public option," giving Americans a government-run alternative to private health insurance. I'm not sure how the MSNBC star would know that, though, since the congressman never mentioned the public option. And his interviewer never asked about it.
Finally, Matthews urged me to take more time and to speak to Senate leaders and parliamentarians. I would understand that he had it right all along. But it seems to me Matthews created this mess all on his own, just by being too much of himself.
Anyway, that's the state of our quixotic quest to get Chris Matthews to admit that he just plain didn't know what he was talking about!