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Chuck Schumer Thrilled by Matt Lauer's Tea Party Bashing

In a softball interview with New York Senator Chuck Schumer on NBC's Today on Wednesday, co-host Matt Lauer recited Democratic talking points on the budget fight perfectly: "[For] the Tea Party and others on the far right....does it seem to you, Senator, that this is less about a fiscal debate or an economic policy debate and they are making an ideological stand here?" [Audio available here]

A visibly pleased Schumer excitedly agreed: "That's exactly right, Matt. You've hit the nail on the head.... they have an ideology just to get rid of all government....the Tea Party doesn't represent all of America. In fact, their popularity is rapidly declining and that ought to be a message to Speaker Boehner."

In his question to Schumer, Lauer was dismayed by conservative calls for "no funding for Planned Parenthood, no funding for climate control, public broadcasting."

Earlier in the interview, Lauer actually quoted from Schumer:

You know, you talk about Speaker Boehner, and in some ways it does appear he's in a very difficult position here. He's got a lot of pressure coming from the Tea Party. And yet, he's got to try to compromise with Democrats to avoid this shutdown. These are your words: 'We take it for granted that because of the intense political pressure being applied by the Tea Party, the Speaker needs to play an outside game as well as an inside game. As long as he continues to negotiate it's okay by us if he needs to strike a different pose publicly.'

Lauer then concluded: "What you're saying there is he's [Boehner's] playing a game, he's talking out of both sides of his mouth. Is that accurate?" Even Schumer thought that characterization went too far: "Well, I wouldn't be that harsh. I would say that he has a constituency, the Tea Party, which says, 'No compromise.' But he knows if he follows them it's bad for the country and bad for his party. And he has to sort of walk that tight rope."

At the very end of the segment, Lauer finally mentioned the possibility of negative political fallout for Democrats if the government shuts down: "...we have to note - in a Washington Post poll recently, asked who would people blame if the government does shut down - by the way, a pox on all your houses - it goes pretty evenly 37% for the President and 37% for the Republicans. So there's a lot at risk here."

Schumer dismissed the poll: "...as they look at it, they see we are willing to, we've met them more than halfway. We're not moving the goal posts back, and I think at the end of the day they will understand that it's the Tea Party that's the problem here."

Here is a full transcript of April 6 interview:

7:05AM ET

MATT LAUER: Senator Chuck Schumer is a Democrat from New York. Senator, good morning, good to see you.

CHUCK SCHUMER: Morning - good morning, Matt.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Countdown to Shutdown; Can Congress Agree on Spending Cuts?]

LAUER: Let me start with a procedural question. It's my understanding that a piece of legislation has to be publically posted for 72 hours before it can be voted on. If that is the case, aren't we inside that window right now and doesn't it make a shutdown inevitable?

SCHUMER: Well, there is a way to avoid it with a short-term piece of legislation that could be put on the floor as late as today.

LAUER: So you're okay on the timing then?

SCHUMER: Well, tonight is really the deadline, Matt. But there is a glimmer of hope. The talks proceeded between the House Republicans and the Senate Democrats late last night. Some progress was made and the fact that the President hasn't yet called that meeting at the White House is an indication that maybe there's a chance to avoid this shutdown, which we very much want to avoid.

LAUER: Well, okay. So tell me about this progress. Be more specific. Do you know where the compromise is headed?

SCHUMER: Well, there are three areas of concern. One is the number. We've met the other side more than halfway, 33 billion, but they keep moving the goal post back. And that's because Speaker Boehner is pulled by the Tea Party, who - that was the clip you showed where they said 'Shut it down, no compromise.'

LAUER: No, no, I know-

SCHUMER: That's not how America works. So-

LAUER: You're taking me - you're taking me in a different direction. You're telling me there is progress. I want to know where that progress is specifically.

SCHUMER: Well, the progress could be on where the cuts could occur. They have demanded the cuts be on a very small portion of the budget. If you do cuts that deep, you cut things like cancer research, aid to students going to college. If we expand it and look at things like agriculture, and banking, and even in some of the areas of health care, you could get to the number without cutting into the muscle that we really need, that people don't want to cut. Most Americans don't want to cut.

LAUER: So if you have the final say on this compromise, could you find another $5 or $10 billion in cuts to satisfy the Republicans?

SCHUMER: Absolutely. We can find cuts in other areas. And I believe that Leader Reid has offered those cuts at the conversations last night.

LAUER: You know, you talk about Speaker Boehner, and in some ways it does appear he's in a very difficult position here. He's got a lot of pressure coming from the Tea Party. And yet, he's got to try to compromise with Democrats to avoid this shutdown. These are your words: 'We take it for granted that because of the intense political pressure being applied by the Tea Party, the Speaker needs to play an outside game as well as an inside game.'

SCHUMER: Yes, that's true.

LAUER: 'As long as he continues to negotiate it's okay by us if he needs to strike a different pose publically.' What you're saying there is he's playing a game, he's talking out of both sides of his mouth. Is that accurate?

SCHUMER: Well, I wouldn't be that harsh. I would say that he has a constituency, the Tea Party, which says, 'No compromise.' But he knows if he follows them it's bad for the country and bad for his party. And he has to sort of walk that tight rope. And we're sympathetic to him, but at the bottom line, it's his job as a leader to tell the Tea Party they can't have everything their way. They're getting some of the things their way, but they can't have everything their way.

LAUER: And when you look at some of the things the Tea Party and others on the far right are asking for - no funding for Planned Parenthood, no funding for climate control, public broadcasting - does it seem to you, Senator, that this is less about a fiscal debate or an economic policy debate and they are making an ideological stand here?

SCHUMER: That's exactly right, Matt. You've hit the nail on the head. Even in the cuts they want to make, we can find other cuts that don't cut into the muscle. That don't prevent students who deserve to go to college from going to college. And they're saying no, not because they care about the deficit, but they have an ideology just to get rid of all government. Some government is wasteful. Some government is necessary. And the Tea Party doesn't represent all of America. In fact, their popularity is rapidly declining and that ought to be a message to Speaker Boehner.

LAUER: Well, I think the other message, though, Senator, we have to note - in a Washington Post poll recently, asked who would people blame if the government does shut down - by the way, a pox on all your houses - it goes pretty evenly 37% for the President and 37% for the Republicans. So there's a lot at risk here.

SCHUMER: Yeah, the people certainly want both sides to compromise. But I think, as they look at it, they see we are willing to, we've met them more than halfway. We're not moving the goal posts back, and I think at the end of the day they will understand that it's the Tea Party that's the problem here.

LAUER: Senator Chuck Schumer. Senator, thanks for spending time with us this morning. I appreciate it.

SCHUMER: Thanks, Matt.

- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.