Matt Lauer invited on two Senate supporters and no opponents of Barack Obama's stimulus bill, on Monday's "Today" show and asked pro-stimulus bill questions to his guests, even chiding those who opposed it, when he asked Republican Senator Susan Collins about two of her GOP colleagues who are against it: "So what do you get that those two are not getting?" Lauer, also depicted a gloomy picture for the states because of "draconian cuts," made in the bill as he ominously asked: "Senator [Ben] Nelson, to get the support from even these moderate Republicans, cuts had to be made...You lose $40 billion in aid to the states, that means states are gonna have to make draconian cuts in jobs, teachers, cops, firemen. You lose the $16 billion in school construction money. So is it still a real stimulus package? Will it have clout?"
The only voices of opposition came in a Chuck Todd set-up piece, where a soundbite from John McCain saying the negotiations were not "bipartisan," was aired. A soundbite of stimulus opponent Sen. John Ensign was also aired but it only highlighted him admitting the bill will pass.
Lauer, in the interview segment, did cite concerns from Senators Richard Shelby and McCain, as he noted: "Richard Shelby the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking committee said Sunday, 'This bill could put our country on the road to financial disaster.' And John McCain said, 'It was generational theft,'" but then added the, "So what do you get that those two are not getting?" line he asked Collins.
The following is a complete transcript of Lauer's interview segment with Republican Senator Susan Collins and Democratic Senator Ben Nelson as it occurred on the February 9, "Today" show:
MATT LAUER: Senators Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine and Ben Nelson, a Democrat from Nebraska played instrumental roles in crafting the Senate's version of the stimulus bill. Senators, good morning to both of you.
[On screen headline: "Stumping For Stimulus, Will Senate Back Obama Plan?"]
SUSAN COLLINS: Good morning.
BEN NELSON: Good morning.
LAUER: Senator Collins, let me start with you. Some of your Republican colleagues have expressed outrage over the spending in this bill. Richard Shelby the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking committee said Sunday, "This bill could put our country on the road to financial disaster." And John McCain said, "It was generational theft." He called for a bill about half its size. So what do you get that those two are not getting?
COLLINS: Well, first of all, we worked very hard to reduce the unnecessary spending in this bill. We cut more than $110 billion. But in fact, we need a stimulus package. And it has to be robust enough to do the job. We've made the infrastructure investments, we provided more than $200 billion in aid to the states. We have put together tax relief. I think it's a good package and one that our country really needs.
LAUER: Senator Nelson, to get the support from even these moderate Republicans, cuts had to be made. Senator Collins just alluded to some of those. You lose $40 billion in aid to the states, that means states are gonna have to make draconian cuts in jobs, teachers, cops, firemen. You lose the $16 billion in school construction money. So is it still a real stimulus package? Will it have clout?
NELSON: Absolutely. The infrastructure spending is outstanding. We, that'll create jobs. And we're not looking to, to try to make sure that we take care of everything. It's impossible. There isn't enough money. But I think the things we have focused on will help turn this economy around. Joblessness continues to increase. If you look at the job loss numbers, $3.5 billion this last year, and 50 percent of that in the last three months. So there isn't any way that you can ignore what's going on. But we're still providing, I think in total aid to the states, around $200 billion, when you add the aid to the schools for special education, and all the other programs. There's a lot of money going back out across America.
LAUER: Right. Senator Collins let me just make sure I understand this. Are you, are you gonna vote for this stimulus package, the Senate version, because you think it is the right bill at the right time? Or did you and some other people just get scared to death by those jobless numbers that came out last week, showing almost 600,000 jobs disappearing in the month of, of January?
COLLINS: This bill is not perfect. We're not claiming that. But in fact, I think this bill will help to create three to four million jobs. And is that important to me? You bet it is. The American people want us to work together on this. We're facing a crisis. And it makes no sense to have a partisan divide on the most important issue facing our country. This bill is not the bill that Ben or I would have drafted if only we were making the decisions.
COLLINS: But on balance, it is a good bill. It's needed and I think it will make a difference.
LAUER: Senator Nelson, I'm gonna give you the last word here, obviously there are some key differences between the Senate's version and the House version. Where's the major area of compromise gonna be?
NELSON: Well I don't know that there has to be a compromise. What we've done is we've put together something that will, will attract some Republican votes and essentially all the Democratic votes. As it goes to conference, I hope that the conference will not get into an auction or a bidding war. There were 20 individuals involved in this, these discussions this past week. About 12 Democrats and six Republicans. Three of them are not gonna participate in this bill. This was broadly viewed by a large number, almost 20 percent of the Senate.
NELSON: So it's bipartisan, and I hope that it will pass through the House as well.
LAUER: Senator Ben Nelson and Senator Susan Collins, thank you both very much for your time this morning.
COLLINS: Thank you.
NELSON: Thank you.
LAUER: And just a reminder, you can see President Obama's first news conference tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, right here on NBC.