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Lauer to Steele: Will President's Stocking Be 'Empty On Christmas Day?'

NBC's Matt Lauer, on Monday's Today show, in his first question to RNC Chair Michael Steele, asked if opponents to Barack Obama's health care reform bill, were going to deprive the President of politically joyous holiday season, as the Today co-anchor pressed: "So is the President's stocking going to be empty on Christmas Day?" Lauer then went on to question if the Republican's entire strategy was that of simply "delaying and stalling," as seen in the following exchange:

MATT LAUER: Let's talk about health care reform. The President says he thinks the Senate will pass his version of the bill by Christmas. Joe Lieberman says he's not voting for it in it's current form. So is the President's stocking going to be empty on Christmas Day?

MICHAEL STEELE: I hope so, Matt, I really do. You know it's an amazing feat of tin-ear, you know, episodes here in Washington where people are not listening to what folks back at home are saying. I think the polls, latest polls are showing up to 60 percent of the people want this thing either stopped, slowed down or somehow modified to, to take into account, as, as Savannah reported, the spending. I mean, no one's telling us where this money is gonna come from to pay for a lot of the, the changes that this health care bill has in it. You have Lieberman and others sitting there going, "Well I don't know, this is not what we thought it was gonna be, there's still a little bit of a public option here or there."

LAUER: Right.

STEELE: So the reality of it is there's so many different points of view on this one bill. Then you roll that into Medicare, which, you know, the CBO last time I checked score was going bankrupt. And yet you want to cut money from that and, and then model the entire system around that?

LAUER: But Michael-

STEELE: To me, the American people are saying enough's enough right now.

LAUER: Let me talk about it from the Republicans' point of view here. Because it seems as if this delay, stall, that is the major strategy. And I, and I understand that you disagree with the direction that the Democrats are taking this.

STEELE: Yeah.

LAUER: But do those 60 percent of Americans in this country still want you to do something else? Do they want you to roll up your sleeves and work with the Democrats on something better as opposed to just delaying and stalling?

The following is the entire interview as it was aired on the December 14, Today show:

MATT LAUER: Michael Steele is the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Mr. Steele good to see you. Good morning.

MICHAEL STEELE: Hey good to see you, Matt. How are you?

LAUER: I'm fine, thanks.

STEELE: Good.

LAUER: Let's talk about health care reform. The President says he thinks the Senate will pass his version of the bill by Christmas. Joe Lieberman says he's not voting for it in it's current form. So is the President's stocking going to be empty on Christmas Day?

STEELE: I hope so, Matt, I really do. You know it's an amazing feat of tin-ear, you know, episodes here in Washington where people are not listening to what folks back at home are saying. I think the polls, latest polls are showing up to 60 percent of the people want this thing either stopped, slowed down or somehow modified to, to take into account, as, as Savannah reported, the spending. I mean, no one's telling us where this money is gonna come from to pay for a lot of the, the changes that this health care bill has in it. You have Lieberman and others sitting there going, "Well I don't know, this is not what we thought it was gonna be, there's still a little bit of a public option here or there."

LAUER: Right.

STEELE: So the reality of it is there's so many different points of view on this one bill. Then you roll that into Medicare, which, you know, the CBO last time I checked score was going bankrupt. And yet you want to cut money from that and, and then model the entire system around that?

LAUER: But Michael-

STEELE: To me, the American people are saying enough's enough right now.

LAUER: Let me talk about it from the Republicans' point of view here. Because it seems as if this delay, stall, that is the major strategy. And I, and I understand that you disagree with the direction that the Democrats are taking this.

STEELE: Yeah.

LAUER: But do those 60 percent of Americans in this country still want you to do something else? Do they want you to roll up your sleeves and work with the Democrats on something better as opposed to just delaying and stalling?

STEELE: Oh abso-, no, Matt, you're absolutely right about that, you're absolutely right. And, in fact act, as, as Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have tried repeatedly to do over the course of the spring and summer, there have been innumerous number of pieces of legislation and, and amendments to both House and Senate bills that have been rejected out of hand. And so, yes, the American people do want us to come together and work towards a bipartisan, bottom-up solution. A slow, steady process of, of addressing those particular aspects of health care that cen be addressed without increasing the cost, raising, raising premiums etc. So I agree that there is, there is that desire. But there's also the desire that this thing gets slowed down a little bit or stopped a little so that we can focus on doing just that.

LAUER: Let's talk about this meeting the President is gonna have at the White House today with these, these top bankers. And he wants them to lend more to small businesses. He wants them to stem the tide of foreclosures and, and he says that the people on Wall Street still don't get the pain and anger that people are feeling on Main Street. What should the President be doing that he's not doing, Mr, Steele, in terms of the banking industry?

STEELE: Well I think first off, he should recognize that banks aren't going to lend money to people who can't pay them back. If business, if small business owners are closing their doors or contracting their operations, where are they gonna get the money to pay back those banks. So the banks can open up the, the floodgates of cash, but you still have on the other end the ability of the individual bank, I mean consumer, the small business owner, to pay back the loan.

LAUER: Right.

STEELE: So how do you, why, why is that the situation? Well the situation is, they're, they're up against the wall. They're up against the wall in terms of their costs. The tax burdens, the regulatory burdens that have been placed on them, and are being placed on them at state level as well as the federal level. So there's, there's this whole cycle of not understanding exactly how the economy works with respect to small business owners. Take that pressure off of them. Let's, let's eliminate the capital gains tax. Let's reduce the, the unemployment tax. Let's give other incentives to small business owners to invest in their expansion of their operations so they can hire more people. So that, that credit that the president is saying they should be after? They can at least afford to pay it back.

LAUER: Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele. Mr. Steele good to spend time with you this morning. Thanks.

STEELE: Alright Matt.

LAUER: Happy holidays also.

-Geoffrey Dickens is the senior news analyst at the Media Research Center.