updated 3/22/2010 11:31:28 AM ET 2010-03-22T15:31:28

Guest Host: Lawrence O‘Donnell

Guests: Howard Fineman, Rep. Anthony Weiner, Jonathan Turley

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

           

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The final push for health care reform—

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We are going to make history.  We are going to fix health care in America with your help.

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O‘DONNELL:  The president praises the bill for what it does for the people.

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OBAMA:  This is a patient‘s Bill of Rights on steroids.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  And says to the fiscal naysayers, the cost of inaction is too high.

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OBAMA:  Not only can we afford to do this, we can‘t afford not to do this.

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  In a steady march toward a likely Sunday vote, Nancy Pelosi gets closer to the magic number of 216.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I will vote for the bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I will be voting yes for the bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The Republicans are pulling out all the stops and attacking the bill.

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REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  It‘s going to be interesting here over the next couple days as the scheming and the jamming continues.

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O‘DONNELL:  And if they can‘t stop it from passing, the “party of no” will try to kill reform even after it becomes law.

Tonight, Congressman Anthony Wiener on the final road to passage;

Howard Fineman on the GOP roadblocks; and Jonathan Turley on the “deem and pass”—is it constitutional?

Also, Sandra Bullock falls victim to the so-called Oscars‘ curse.

And speaking of award shows, if Jon Stewart doesn‘t win an Emmy for this.

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JON STEWART, TV HOST:  Lie!  Lie!  They‘re lying!  Who‘s doing the lying?  Who is doing the lying?

Tell me, word on the board, who is doing the lying?  Arians!

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  All that and more—now on COUNTDOWN.

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STEWART:  I promised to myself that I wouldn‘t cry.

(LAUGHTER)

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O‘DONNELL:  Good evening from New York.  I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann.

Mark Knoller of CBS News, the unofficial White House historian, today noted that President Obama has given 54 speeches on health care since he launched his effort for reform last year.  With the clock ticking down to a decisive vote, perhaps on Sunday, the president‘s speech this morning may have been his most passionate on the subject yet.  At no time has victory on this issue seemed to close.

Meanwhile, the Democratic leadership spent its time today whipping votes, with some results to show for it.  Three Democrats who voted no in November have now been persuaded to vote yes.  Nine Democrats, who voted yet in November but were wavering, today announced they would again vote in favor of reform.  One of them, Charlie Wilson of Ohio, is an anti-abortion advocate who says he is confident that the language in the Senate bill ensures that there will be no federal funding for abortions.  Another on the “yes” list, Brad Ellsworth of Indiana, also shared the anti-abortion concerns of Congressman Bart Stupak.

Still unsatisfied on that point, Joe Cao of Louisiana, the only

Republican to vote “yes” on November, said he was a “no” vote, but—but -

he would reconsider his vote if changes in the abortion language were made to the bill.

           

Five Democrats said today they would be voting against final passage, three of them voted “no” in November, but two were “yes” votes in November, who are now switching to “no.”

Today, Speaker Pelosi expressed confidence that on Sunday, she will have the votes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER:  I‘m very excited about the momentum that is developing around the bill.  This is very importance legislation.  So, again, as I say to you every time I see you, one day closer to passing historic legislation which will make progress—history, of course, but progress for the American people.

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O‘DONNELL:  This morning, President Obama harkened back to the final days of his run for president.  At a huge campaign-style rally of college students outside Washington, D.C., he said the vote would make history.  It was a “Yes we can” crowd.

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OBAMA:  And right now we are at the point where we are going to do something historic this weekend.  That‘s what this health care vote is all about.

(CHEERING)

CROWD:  Yes we can!  Yes we can!  Yes we can!  Yes we can!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The president framed the vote as the insurance industry versus the needs of the American people.

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OBAMA:  Because if this vote fails, the insurance industry will continue to run amok.  They will continue to deny people coverage.  They will continue to deny people care.  They will continue to jack up premiums, 40 percent, 50 percent, 60 percent, as they have in the last few weeks without any accountability whatsoever.

They know this.  And that‘s why their lobbyists are stalking the halls of Congress as we speak, and pouring millions of dollars into negative ads.  And that‘s why they are doing everything they can to kill this bill.

So, the only question left is this: are we going to let the special interests win once again?

CROWD:  No!

OBAMA:  Or are we going to make this vote a victory for the American people?

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  The president went off-text of his prepared speech to acknowledge how difficult the inner workings of democracy can be.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We‘ve had historic votes before.  We had an historic vote to put Social Security in place to make sure that our elderly did not live out their golden years in poverty.  We had an historic vote in civil rights to make sure that everybody was equal under the law.

(CHEERING)

OBAMA:  As messy as this process is, as frustrating as this process is, as ugly as this process can be, when we have faced such decisions in our past, this nation time and time again has chosen to extend its promise to more of its people.

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O‘DONNELL:  You might think this is a debate about health care. 

President Obama thinks this is about the character of the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  It‘s a debate that‘s raged not just for the past year, but for the past century.  It‘s a debate that‘s not only about the cost of health care, not just about what we‘re doing about folks who aren‘t getting a fair shake from their insurance companies.  It‘s a debate about the character of our country.

(CHEERING)

OBAMA:  About whether we can still meet the challenges of our time, whether we still have the guts and the courage to give every citizen, not just some, the chance to reach their dreams.

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O‘DONNELL:  That phrase, “character of our country,” came from Senator Ted Kennedy, who used it in a letter he wrote to President Obama when Senator Kennedy was dying of cancer last year.  His widow Vicki Kennedy delivered it to the president after Ted Kennedy‘s death.

The president referenced Ted Kennedy more than once at the rally, to greatest effect, as he concluded his remarks.

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OBAMA:  I don‘t know how passing health care will play politically, but I know it‘s right.

(CHEERING)

OBAMA:  Teddy Roosevelt knew it was right.  Harry Truman knew it was right.  Ted Kennedy knew it was right.

(CHEERING)

OBAMA:  And if you believe that it‘s right, then you‘ve got to help us finish this fight!  You‘ve got to stand with me just like you did three years ago and make some phone calls and knock on some doors, talk to your parents, talk to your friends. Do not quit, do not give up, we keep on going.

We are going to get this done.  We are going to make history!  We are going to fix health care in America with your help!

(CHEERING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Lots to talk about tonight with Congressman Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York.

Congressman Weiner, let‘s go to the phrase of the week “deem and pass.”  Has it been decided that that is the way you will vote on this on Sunday?

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  Well, before we get back into the ways of the process—a little hat tip to the president.  Boy, if he was out there doing that for the last six months, we would be passing this thing by 100 votes.  He‘s really made the point.  And I just want to say that it‘s really great to see that kind of passion, because as we get into the weeds of this bill, we mustn‘t forget that this really is about transforming this country.

As far as the process that we‘re going to use, I don‘t really know—you know, one way or another, it‘s going to come down to a pretty simple thing, how you link a bill that needs fixing and the fixes.  Many of the things my Republicans friends are complaining about—we have problems with, too—like the special provisions for Nebraska.  The only way to take those out is with a separate bill.

So, the process is going to put them together.  Make no mistake about it, we‘re going to know who‘s up and who‘s voted for health care reform and who voted against it at the end of this weekend.

O‘DONNELL:  And now that there were constitutional questions about “deem and pass,” is it worth the risk, that there might even be the slightest possibilities that five justices on the Supreme Court might find something wrong with it?

WEINER:  Can I tell you this?  This procedural stuff, I‘m not an expert on.  I can tell you that since I‘ve been in the House, we‘ve done things like this where we combine two bills.  Let‘s explains to your viewers that what we‘re trying to do is we want to make sure that if the Senate bill becomes law, the fixes go along with it.  And it‘s just a matter of coming up with the procedural mechanism to do it.

But for all the people who complain about the process, really what they‘re complaining about is that we‘re passing health care.  You know, I‘ve heard both sides.  They say, first, why are you in such a hurry?  And then they‘re saying, boy, it took you a year, why can‘t you figure this out?

We‘re going to pass the thing in the way that makes the most sense, at the time that seems like we‘ve got the votes.  And hopefully, that will be this weekend.

O‘DONNELL:  Now, it seems you‘ve got the other side a little bit panicky in the House.  And you got into one of those Anthony Weiner kerfuffles on the floor on the House today with a colleague from New Jersey.

What was that all about?

WEINER:  Well, only in Washington is what it was.  Look, we have this

dynamic now that the health insurance industry is pulling out all the

stops.  And so, late today, there was a circulation, this big smoking gun

of a memo that was reported to have been a Democratic strategy memo/

And, of course, one of my colleagues on the Republican side, too eager to check anything out, went to the floor and read from it as if it were gospel.  And I asked them on the floor, on the record, identify the source of that memo and, of course, they couldn‘t do it.

But it was a distraction.  And that‘s what‘s going on.  As I said on the floor of the House today, the old expression that we don‘t use in Brooklyn, but they use it down south, it takes a great man to build a barn, but any jackass can kick it down.  Democrats are trying to build the barn and the Republicans—well, you figure out the metaphor.

O‘DONNELL:  Congressman, just for me, keep it up, because you do make watching C-SPAN more interesting than it is when you are not on there.

Now, what about the assurances that you need from the Senate in terms of what they‘re going to be capable of doing going forward?  There is word today that the Senate parliamentarian, for example, may have a problem with the Obama proposal to have a federal oversight of insurance rates, reviewing increases insurance premiums.  Senate parliamentarian might think that particular provision may be subject to a 60-vote point of order on the Senate.

Are you getting word on things like that in the House that you have to comb out of the bill because of the way the Senate parliamentarian sees it?

WEINER:  Well, if this effort and the House of Representatives is Achilles in this thing, the Achilles heel is the United States Senate‘s participation.

Look, we are concerned for a couple reasons.  One, the Senate has to show that they‘re really going to pass this reconciliation package, and we‘re not good at doing things on spec around here, hoping the Senate acts.

Secondly, there are these procedural and rules things that we‘re relying upon the parliamentarian.  And I think he‘s a straight down the middle guy.  I think he‘s going to get a lot of pressure, but ultimately going to do the right thing.  A lot of these are judgment calls.

This is not done yet because of this variable that we have in it.  But I have to tell you, what went on yesterday, getting an actual copy of the bill that people can look at and read and be assured that‘s what‘s in it is what the president said will be in it, and secondly, the CBO score which came back with much stronger than many people thought, a much bigger deficit reduction than most people expected, those things, that‘s kind of 2/3 of effort.  Now, the final third is making sure the Senate does what they are supposed.

And all I can say is that to say we‘re confident would be overstating.

O‘DONNELL:  I understand your feelings.  Congressman Anthony Weiner, a historic weekend coming up on Capitol Hill—thank you for your sharing your time with us tonight.

WEINER:  Thank you, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: For Republicans, they‘re busy whipping up ideas to block reform altogether, whether it‘s before the president signs it into law or after.  Howard Fineman joins me for the politics of repeal.

And later, the big question about “deem and pass.”  It‘s been done many times before.  So, when Republicans threaten to go to court, saying it‘s unconstitutional, any chance they can convince five Supreme Court justices?  We‘ll ask Jonathan Turley—ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: live by the CBO, die by the CBO.  After the CBO came up with good deficit reduction numbers in the health care plan, the GOP decides that for now—this week anyway, because it suits them—the CBO is a bunch of biased bureaucrats.  What other desperate plays will Republicans try to run?

And later, Oscar curses and Glenn Beck impersonations.

That‘s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

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O‘DONNELL:  House Republican Leader John Boehner today said that Republicans cannot stop passage of health care reform, only the American people can do that, he said, but that doesn‘t mean the Republicans can‘t help.  With the House vote looming in the past 24 hours, Republicans have attacked health care reform on all fronts—process, policy and politics.

Today, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan complained that because the health care reform bill does not also include a widely supported increase in Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors, called the “doc fix,” it‘s a fraud that will increase the deficit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN ®, WISCONSIN:  I would simply say that hiding spending does not reduce spending.  Ignoring this piece of legislation today does not take it off the backs of taxpayers.  So, for all of the bells and whistles and all the hoopla and all press differences about this being an act of fiscal responsibility, of this bending the curve and reducing the deficit, we all now know that that is completely false.  This bill is a budget Frankenstein.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  But what if the Democrats, who are actually pretty good about paying for things, actually pay for the “doc fix” when they get to it later this year?  Then it won‘t add a penny to the deficit, just like the pending health care reform bill.

Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele opened fire on the process itself, specifically the Congressional Budget Office, on which both parties rely or criticize at their political convenience.  Today, Mr. Steele called CBO “liars” after their cost estimate bolstered the Democratic plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR:  According to the calculations that we did, and according to the calculations that the Democrats are announcing today, it‘s going to save in the deficit for the United States citizens $1.2 trillion.  Do you believe that‘s not true?

MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN:  I got two words for you—three words.

SANCHEZ:  Three words.  Go.

STEELE:  That‘s a lie.

SANCHEZ:  OK.

STEELE:  It will not.  It will cost us—it will cost us trillions of dollars.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  Perhaps the most potent today, the political attack.  Congressman Boehner renewing the specter of November to warn undecided Democrats that passing health care reform now will not put the battle behind them, whether or not Democrats use “deem and pass” to vote simultaneously on the Senate bill and the new package of fixes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER:  However this bill gets through the House or if it gets through the House, there‘s no way any member‘s going to be able to hide from the vote.  And this whole idea that you can move this bill without voting on it makes absolutely no sense to me.  And if anyone thinks the American people are going to forget this vote, just watch.  See you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O‘DONNELL:  And let‘s bring in Howard Fineman, MSNBC political analyst and “Newsweek” senior Washington correspondent.

Howard, thanks for your time tonight.

What‘s it been like on the Hill today with this little movement of votes, two “yes” votes before moved to “no,” a few “yes” votes before that people doubted moved to “yes,” where they were supposed to be.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  Who—is it possible to even keep track of it now?

FINEMAN:  Well, yes, it is.  And, Lawrence, my sense is that the Republicans are realizing that they‘re going to—that the House vote—that Barack Obama is going to win the House vote, that the Democrats are going to win the House vote.  Not a certainty, of course, they‘re still inching along vote by vote, district by district.

But the Republicans—it seems to me from the ones I talked to today

are operating under the assumption now that Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama are going to get that House vote probably late Sunday night or whatever.  They‘re going to get that vote.  And everything that they‘re saying now is kind of in the guerrilla mode that they‘re in.

           

They‘re kind of abandoning the citadel—the Republicans are—and looking for other ways to fight, rearguard actions on this, whether it‘s procedurally in the Senate or later down the road in the state legislatures, or in the courts, or ultimately in the fall elections that they think this will help them in.

O‘DONNELL:  Let‘s take a look down the road, Howard, the next place to go in the road is the Senate.  What do you anticipate seeing next week in the Senate where the reconciliation process allows for 20 hours of debate and virtually unlimited amendments?

FINEMAN:  Right.  Well, talking to Democratic staffers on the Hill just a little while ago, Lawrence, they‘re maybe being too optimistic.  You know the Senate.  But they think they can get the Senate‘s business done next week, assuming the House passes this Sunday night or whatever.  The Senate will start right away on Monday—as you say, there are unlimited amendments.

But the good thing from the Democrats‘ point of view is that there‘s virtually no debate on any of those amendments, Lawrence.  It‘s not like the world‘s greatest deliberative body in its normal terms.  This is a reconciliation bill with really tight limits on how much there can be debate on any one amendment.

So, after a while, both sort of physically out of boredom or out of just making fools of themselves, there will be so many short votes on quick amendments by the Republicans that at least the Democrats are hoping that even the Republicans will tire of that, and somehow they‘ll be able to get this thing done on the Senate side by the end of the week.

Now, a lot of negotiations that have been going on now behind the scenes are designed to try to anticipate in advance what the parliamentarian might object to, you know, things that he might say shouldn‘t be in such a bill.  The Democrats are trying to avoid it.  Whether they will be successful in that is not clear.  Let‘s see.  The Republicans are going to make it difficult, but at least for now, the Democrats are hoping to get it done before the recess.

O‘DONNELL:  And Mitch McConnell has parliamentary experts working for him, who will be combing every sentence of that bill—

FINEMAN:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  -- to try to find some sort of 60-vote point of order that maybe the Democrats‘ experts on the other side didn‘t find and didn‘t run by the parliamentarian.

FINEMAN:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  What are the odds of Mitch McConnell being able to find something in there, some sentence, anything, that gets knocked out so that whatever the senators vote on then has to go back to the House for another vote, because it will no longer be identical to the House product?

FINEMAN:  Exactly.  That‘s exactly what McConnell is looking for.  I can‘t say he won‘t be able to find it.

Then you come down to the situation where do the Democrats dare pull the trigger on having Joe Biden, who would probably be sitting in the chair, presiding over the Senate, decide to overrule the parliamentarian.  Everybody says that would be the nuclear option.  McConnell‘s people say, you know, the Senate will never be the same if they do something like that.

It depends on how big a deal it is.  I certainly know the White House and the Democrats don‘t want to let this go past the recess.  That‘s for darn sure.  We don‘t know.  We‘ll just—we‘ll just have to see.  But that‘s what the drama in the Senate will be late next week.

O‘DONNELL:  Howard, assuming there is passage and there‘s a Rose Garden ceremony, and the Republican battle cry becomes “repeal it.”

FINEMAN:  Right.

O‘DONNELL:  By the time you get to October of this year, how effective do you expect that to be?  And can we predict what the voter fatigue level will be on this particular subject?  I mean, might we just be at the point where—

FINEMAN:  Yes.

O‘DONNELL:  -- the voters don‘t want to hear about it anymore?

FINEMAN:  I think we might be.  Certainly journalistically, we might be.  Lord knows, Lawrence.  I mean, this thing is going to—I‘ll talk to you about that Sunday night or whatever.

But yes, I think—but there‘s a P.R. campaign.  There‘s a whole political campaign that‘s going to begin if and when this thing passes.

The Democrats and the White House are going to be out there saying

these are the things that are going into effect immediately: ban on the

preexisting condition thing, no lifetime caps, tax benefits for people who

for companies that start health care programs.  The Democrats are going to have to be emphasizing that minute by minute, because the Republicans are going to emphasize the fact that taxes are going to go up for companies and that your insurance rates won‘t necessarily go down.  As a matter of fact, they‘re likely to go up over the next couple years.

           

O‘DONNELL:  Howard Fineman of “Newsweek” and MSNBC—we‘re going to have a fun weekend, Howard.

FINEMAN:  Yes, sir, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up: more on the Republican line of attack on “deem and pass.”  Is it constitutional?  We‘ll discuss that and other legal challenges to the reform plan.

And later, Glenn Beck gets taken down by “The Daily Show” all the time.  But Jon Stewarts imitation of Glenn Beck is like nothing you have ever seen—except, of course, Glenn Beck.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Proponents of health care reform legislation will have more than the court of public opinion to deal with.  Republicans state attorneys generals are now threatening legal action if the bill becomes law.  Arguing the constitutionality of “deem and pass,” NBC News reporting that Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is prepared to file a lawsuit challenging the procedure, joining Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, and Michigan‘s Attorney General Mike Cox. 

Mr. Cox, in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, says the maneuver would be a shocking abuse and violate a sacred standard set at our nation‘s founding.  Mr. McCollum and South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster are also questioning the individual mandate, the requirement for all Americans to have some form of health insurance, and will file suit if the legislation passes.  Mr. McMaster vowing, “we are ready to kill it when the national government and Congress start going wild.  It‘s up to the states to rein them in.” 

Ahead of the curve, Republican Governor Butch Otter—real name—of Idaho.  Mr. Otter signing into law the Idaho Health Freedom Act, allowing the state to fight a federal health insurance mandate in court, even in the midst of a budget crisis.  “I put a high pride on the sovereignty of the state of Idaho.  Yes, it‘s a proper use of our time.”

Meanwhile, not wanting to be left out of the legal pile on, conservative talk radio host Mark Levin, through his group Landmark Legal Foundation, plans on suing President Obama, Attorney General Holder, and relevant cabinet members over “deem and pass,” saying “the Speaker of the House and her lieutenants are temporary custodians of Congressional authority.  They are not empowered to do permanent violence to our Constitution.”

When I hear the word “constitution,” it is time to bring in George Washington University law professor and constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley.  Jonathan, thanks for being with us tonight. 

I want to begin by offering a less than dramatic reading of Article I, Section 7, of the Constitution of the United States, which says “every bill shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it becomes law, be presented to the president of the United States.  If he approve, he shall sign it.  But if not, he shall return it.” 

In Section I, “in all such cases, the votes of both houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the vote shall be entered on the journal of each house respectively.” 

Professor Turley, is deem and pass constitutional? 

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL:  Well, first of all, that was a really gripping reading. 

O‘DONNELL:  I would like another crack at it, actually.  I messed up a couple bits of it.  The old English is difficult. 

TURLEY:  I often read that clause to my children at night.  So I was really moved.  I think it is constitutional.  I have friends on the other side and I have to disagree with them on this.  The yeas and nays will be entered on this.  Being constitutional doesn‘t mean it‘s principled.  You need waders to get through the hypocrisy today from both the Republicans and Democrats. 

The Democrats condemned this tactic many times for good reason.  It is not, in my view, an appropriate way to pass legislation, particularly of this importance.  But what is principled can sometimes be different from what is constitutional.  I think this does satisfies Article I, Section 7.  The Yeas and nays will be entered.  When those members vote on that reform or reconciliation language, they do so with the express you understanding that they are also passing the Senate bill. 

Part of the problem for the Democrats is—I‘m sorry, for the Republicans—is going to be a rather obscure case from 1892 called Marshall Field.  In this case, the court said that the certification by the leaders of both houses has to be treated as conclusive evidence that it has been passed by Congress.  I don‘t think the D.C. circuit will feel free to simply set aside that decision. 

O‘DONNELL:  Do you think there‘s any chance of climbing up the appeals court ladder, and eventually getting this case poised in front of the Supreme Court, where it seems, these days, getting five judges to see things through a Republican prism is not that difficult? 

TURLEY:  Well, I do think that they ironically have a better shot at the Supreme Court than the D.C. Circuit, because the Supreme Court is going to have to clear away some precedential brush to get to where the Republicans want them to be.  They‘re going to have to do something that they‘ve always said they don‘t want to do, which is to look at the procedures of Congress in this very intimate way. 

They‘ve always said they would defer to Congress on their rules.  There is a footnote in one case, where the court says that it reserves the right to consider whether things were passed constitutionally.  But there are also two cases where the court did overturn legislation based on Congress transferring power and violating procedural rules. 

But that is a lot of water to haul.  And the conservatives on the court will also have to accept that people have standing to bring this action.  As I say on my blog, there‘s a whole bunch of hurdles facing the Republicans to even get to the Supreme Court.  That is going to be a considerable effort.  And those conservative justices, in order to rule with them, would have to clear away a lot of cases between where we are now and where they would need to go. 

O‘DONNELL:  Should we be talking about constitutionality on the eve of a giant historic vote like this?  By which I mean, should the leadership in the House of Representatives even be considering risking constitutional challenge on a bill like this? 

TURLEY:  You know, I think that‘s the question.  I just find it perplexing, and frankly highly disappointing, to see the Democrats reaching out for a deem and pass technique on something like this.  It‘s too important.  It has never been good for Congress.  The Republicans did it, and the Democrats condemned it.  I think Democrats have to show that they‘re not hypocrites, that they follow the same principles, even when they don‘t work to their advantage.  They need to do an up or down vote on this importance. 

The other thing is I have to say, I think they‘re underestimating what the GOP might be able to do with this whole procedure, once it gets over to the Senate.  I view the Senate as a really highly dangerous place right now.  I would be surprised if they could not derail this.  There‘s a lot of ways to do it. 

O‘DONNELL:  Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, thank you for your expert guidance tonight. 

TURLEY:  Thanks, Lawrence.

O‘DONNELL:  Coming up, the highs and lows for Sandra Bullock.  A couple weeks after winning Oscar for best actress, and emotionally thanking her husband, she finds out her husband has been, well, you know.  Which has once again sparked talk of the Oscar curse. 

And later, “the Daily Show” proves that imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery.  You won‘t want to miss this. 

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, the National Republican Senatorial Committee gets subpoenaed for documents in the Senator Ensign investigation.  Will the senator‘s affair lead to legal problems for the Republican party?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O‘DONNELL:  Tabloid readers don‘t need me to tell them that newly minted Academy Award winner Sandra Bullock and her husband are having issues.  Jesse James, which is actually his real name, allegedly had a side relationship with a lady who really likes tattoos.  Sandra Bullock packed up her stuff and moved out of her house. 

What you may not know is that there‘s a conspiracy theory in Hollywood that another man may have come between the married couple, a little gold fellow named Oscar.  Lee Cowan reports. 

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LEE COWAN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Always a little rough around the edges, he seemed to some an odd fit for the girl next door.  But for five years, Jesse James and Sandra Bullock appeared to be a real-life happy couple.  And when Bullock began her run for this year‘s Oscar, Jesse James was part of her story. 

SANDRA BULLOCK, ACTRESS:  To my husband, I never knew what it felt like for someone to have my back. 

COWAN:  But if the tabloid reports are true, Jesse may not have had her back as much as he turned his back for another woman.  Just days before very public cheating allegations surfaced, “People Magazine” reports Sandra got ahead of it and left the home the two shared. 

JD HEYMAN, “PEOPLE MAGAZINE”:  Think it‘s clear she‘s not in the public eye right now.  She had plans to promote her movie overseas.  She canceled those plans. 

COWAN:  Will Bullock gone, James has now issued a statement, saying the vast majority of the allegations reported are untrue and unfounded.  But he apologized, saying it‘s because of my poor judgment that I deserve everything bad that is coming my way. 

Bad judgment perhaps, but the superstitious in Hollywood say that the rocks in their marriage may also be the curse of the Oscar. 

(on camera):  The theory goes like this, you win an Oscar, you lose a lover.  I know, it sounds nuts, but the numbers are actually a little eerie.  It‘s happened to almost every single best actors winner in the last decade.

(voice-over):  This is how the curse starts.  There‘s the envelope, the statue, some tears, then eventually the cleaver.  Take last year‘s winner, Kate Winslet‘s husband, Sam Mendez, is now her ex-husband.  Reese Witherspoon and her husband didn‘t last long after Oscar entered the picture.  Neither did Julia Roberts‘ relationship, or Halle Berry‘s. 

Heck, even Jane Wyman and Ronald Reagan divorced right after her Oscar win in 1948.  That‘s a long, uncomfortable stretch of Oscar something. 

HEYMAN:  Being a movie star who wins an Academy Award is more stress than a lot of us experience.  But I don‘t think there‘s any correlation whatsoever between whether or not they win an Academy Award, or whether or not that puts pressure on their spouse. 

COWAN:  Curse or just coincidence?  No sense taking the chance that Oscar has powers beyond just rewarding a job well done. 

Lee Cowan, NBC News, Los Angeles.

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O‘DONNELL:  By the way, the divorce rate among all the best actress winners, compared to the divorce rates among the nominees, and compared to the divorce rates among members of the Screen Actors Guild, and compared to divorce rates of all married couples in America, remains shockingly consistent. 

Coming up, Jon Stewart sticks it to Glenn Beck.  From the conspiracy theories to the chalkboards to the bizarre antics, we‘ll show you the impersonation for the ages.

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O‘DONNELL:  Every weekday as 5:00 eastern, Glenn Beck gets on the TV and claims a Marxist, Nazi plot is taking over the government.  And of the millions who watch and give voice to his delusions, you can bet a good portion actually believe the anti-Obama conspiracy theories he spins on his Fox News soap box. 

In response, Jon Stewart used the first half of last night‘s “The Daily Show” to dismantle Beck‘s crusade, using Beck‘s own stage craft and twisted logic.  It is my pleasure to present, now, a portion of that tour de force. 

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JON STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”:  I‘m glad you tuned in to today‘s show. 

It‘s an important one, one that you and your family can‘t afford to miss. 

Well, you could miss it, but if you miss it, you‘ll die. 

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  The roots of progressivism lead to fascism.  Evolution, not revolution, slowly step by step. 

One had the Hammer and Sickle.  The other was a Swastika.  But on each banner read the words, here in America, of this: social justice. 

STEWART:  It‘s not that believing—I‘m not saying this.  I‘m not saying that believing there should be a minimum standard for how much led can be in our paint might lead to the government having the right to sterilize and kill Jews.  I‘m not saying that that might be the case.  I‘m saying that‘s the case. 

BECK:  Our founders promised that our federal government would never leave this circle.  And then we drifted and we drifted.  So we upped the circle just a little bit.  Teddy Roosevelt, he took us over here.  Now we‘re into Russia territory.  You ask anybody who really looks at global politics, and they will tell you, China is the new goal.  Why do you think there‘s so many Maoists hanging around the white house. 

STEWART:  You don‘t see it, do you?  You still don‘t—follow me, America.  It turns out the progressives advocating for government regulations on toxins in water and our children‘s toys turns us into China, the very country that has been putting toxins in water and our children‘s toys. 

So how do we get back from China?  Be a conservative, libertarian, who follows the rules of God.  Hmm.  Hmm. 

Jon, hmm, what would that look like?  What could that possibly look like?  What could you possibly have that would look like that.  Oh, I don‘t know, Jesus?  With libertarian, Penn Jillette, and conservative, Alex P.  Keaton? 

Jon, how about all that space on the right there?  What if you drew ovals from here to theocracy.  What if you drew a shape like this, or like this, or like this to theocracy.  That‘s—

Wait a minute.  Straw man, slippery slope, dumb guy might have a point.  Can you just draw ovals from the center to China in the same way, but back towards a theocracy?  Well, there‘s one, two—no, no, wait, wait, it‘s coming. 

Oh!

This is Glenn‘s blackboard, so we have to play by Glenn‘s rules, which are if you subscribe to an idea, you also subscribe to that idea‘s ideology, and to every possible negative consequence that that ideology remotely implies when you carry it to absurd extremes.  For instance, progressives, if you believe in a minimum safety net for the nation‘s neediest, you believe in total and absolute government control.  So if you believe that faith provides a strong moral tent post for a nation‘s foundation, that could only lead to totalitarian theocracy. 

But, Jon, that‘s crazy.  That can‘t be right, because there would be all kinds of ridonculous embedded clues.  You‘re absolutely mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) right.  If that were true, somehow I would be able to show a bearded Jesus, over time, turn into a—oh!  Oh!  Oh! 

Look, beard, now it‘s white and he‘s Muslim!  I‘m afraid, Jon, beep beep, I‘m afraid, beep boop, beep boop.  I could hold up a Swastika or hammer and sickle or a picture of a bloody corpse and tell you that‘s my evidence. 

But I don‘t have those pictures.  I‘ve got the words themselves, written in indelible chalk: conservative libertarian. 

Let‘s start with conservative.  Well, what‘s this word right here?  Con, a con is a convict, and serve—con serve,  a convict and a slave.  I don‘t want to be a slave prisoner.  But it‘s your ideology.  I guess libertarian somehow mitigates. 

Let‘s look at that.  Li, li, li.  They‘re lying to us.  Who is doing the lying?  Who is doing the lying?  Tell me, word on the board, who is doing the lying?  Arians.  Arians.  Holy (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  OH, my god!  Oh, my god! Oh, my God!  Oh, my God.

That leaves only one word: Bert.  A fastidious pigeon worshipping felt tyrant, whose draconian Sharia law allows for neither loud noise nor rubber duckies, but yet who spends his day in the children‘s workshop, telling our impressionable youth what to think. 

Don‘t think he‘s dangerous?  I wonder what the letter “E” would have to say about that.  Oh, it‘s Hitler.

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O‘DONNELL:  That will do it for this week‘s COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Lawrence O‘Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann.  Our MSNBC coverage continues now with “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.”

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Good evening, Lawrence.  I have to admit, watching those Stewart clips, I sort of do that at home some times.

O‘DONNELL:  You don‘t have to admit that, Rachel.  You don‘t.

MADDOW:  I‘ll just tell you.  Don‘t let anyone else know.

O‘DONNELL:  Our secret. 

MADDOW:  Thank you, Lawrence, have a good weekend. 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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