The toxic fight over federal spending and the looming government shutdown spilled out of Washington, D.C. and into living rooms across the country – and two Pennsylvanians were in the middle of the ring and in the spotlight.
Just nine months into his congressional career, Rep. Scott Perry was trying to hit the hardball by appearing on MSNBC's 'Hardball with Chris Matthews.'
The 8-minute shoutfest began heatedly and got more intense. Matthews, a Philadelphia-area native, criticized House Republicans for their list of demands to avoid a government shutdown. He called it a Santa Clause fantasy list.
They each talked over the other with various degrees of intensity. It was hard to understand the points each man was making, but then Perry said he was surprised that Matthews even read the bill containing the GOP wish list.
That set Matthews off and the interview ground to an awkward and uncomfortable end.
“You know what you can do with that? You can be excused because you just accused me of not doing my job and that's a big mistake here,” Matthews said. “Congressman, thank you for coming on. I mean it. I wish you hadn't made that last remark. It was a cheap shot. I mean it. Don't laugh, Scott Perry, it was cheap shot, really cheap.”
“You've made cheap shots at me too,” Perry replied.
“No I didn't. I was fair,” Matthews said. “You're in bed with the oil industry. Goodbye.”
It was a less than smooth ending to a less than smooth interview. The oil industry comment comes from a demand by Republicans to increase offshore drilling, which Perry supports.
Reached by phone Friday, Perry was still fired up.
“Chris is loud and opinionated and I can be when I need to be as well,” he said. “I'm there to support our position and my position, and I'm not gonna just take it because he's Chris Matthews. I'm gonna answer and respond in kind, which I feel like I did, which I think was appropriate.”
Of course, it was an explosive and visceral display of the entrenched positions the two sides hold and the bitter divide that's paralyzing DC. While Democrats believe the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is the law of the land and shouldn't be delayed, conservative Republicans like Perry object to it and runaway federal spending.
“My constituents are telling me almost to a person that we are spending and borrowing too much, do something about it,” Perry said. “That's what we're trying to do.”
Matthews appeared genuinely offended by Perry's comment, which genuinely shocks the congressman.
“It's Hardball. I'm curious as to why he's offended? I mean, it's his show and it's called Hardball and arguably people would say he's roughed up plenty of his guests,” he said. “He better be tougher than that in this business.”
abc27 reached out to producers at MSNBC seeking comment, but our calls were not returned.
Perry said he hadn't heard from Matthews since the dustup and didn't expect to, but said he's anxious to appear on the show again.
“I'm a fighter,” he said. “I like to be cordial, but if you push me in a corner, I'm gonna push back.”