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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Rep.-elect Kathy Hochul, Rep. Steve Israel, Sen. Harry Reid


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening from Washington, .D.C., where all anyone wanted to talk to me about in terms of politics today was North Tonawanda, New York.

North Tonawanda and Batavia and Lockport and Greece, New York—New York‘s 26th congressional district, which has 30,000 more Registered Republicans in it than registered Democrats and where—despite those partisan odds, last night, the Democratic candidate for Congress, Kathy Hochul, was elected over the Republican candidate by a pretty comfortable margin.

Joining us now from Buffalo, New York, is Kathy Hochul.  She‘s toast of New York‘s 26th district tonight and the toast of Democrats nationwide as well.

Ms. Hochul, congratulations on your victory.  Thanks very much for joining us.

REP.-ELECT KATHY HOCHUL (D), NEW YORK:  Thank you very much.  My pleasure, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Your district has, historically, been much more comfortable electing Republican candidates than electing Democratic candidates.  Why in this year, in this election, do you think your district was willing to break that pattern and pick you instead?

HOCHUL:  I think the people in this district knew the issues were on our side.  I came out very strong early on and my opposition to the Ryan budget plan.  And it gave me an opportunity to show that there was a clear difference between the candidates in this race.

So, when people understood the issues and they seemed to put aside the fact that I was a Democrat.  So, I had a lot of crossover appeal, I would have won this election.  So, we have Republicans, independents and Democrats come my way because of the issues we raised, particularly with Medicare.  That was huge in this district with an elderly population.  And, you know, a lot of people didn‘t like the priorities that are found in that budget.

So, I feel really good about that we had a chance to give the voters for once a very clear choice in candidates.

MADDOW:  The reason there has been so much national focus on your election in part, I think, because everybody‘s jonesing for an election and there was an election and yours was the big one happening in terms of a federal race.  But also because of that point that you‘re raising right here, that idea that the Democrats are right on the issues, particularly on this Medicare issue and that‘s what made this election have what would otherwise be such an unexpected result.

I‘m sure that you feel cautious about extrapolating from your one experience to the whole country.  But do you think that Democrats nationally should be making clear that point that you made so clear about the different options being offered by the two different parties on the issue of Medicare specifically.

HOCHUL:  I‘m not going to be able to pretend to extrapolate for the rest of the country.  It seems like there‘s a lot of people willing to do, which is fine.  All I can speak to is that in a Republican district, people are willing to listen to my message that the priorities are very different from the Democrats and Republicans and what‘s going on in Washington.  And it‘s not just Medicare, which is very important, and the fact that people did not want to decimate the program and really make it unrecognizable from what the program is we have now that people have come to rely on their lives.

So, setting that aside, they knew that I‘m also an independent Democrat, someone who understands we do need to get our deficit under control.  And I‘ve said that all along.  But the difference between myself and my opponent was really clear when it came to how we do that.  I‘m willing to have everything on the table—entitlement reform, defense spending, as well as revenues.

And I think the lesson to take away from this as well is that people in this district, when you spoke about the inequity of clearly in the tax code where my folks on main street and all the small towns you listen and many more and I met many of them, think that it‘s unsafe that the small businesses are paying more in taxes than many people who have large corporations to ship our jobs overseas.  They also don‘t think it‘s fair that people who make millions and billions in that country aren‘t paying their fair share when times are tough.  So, that‘s the lesson.  That‘s the take away from this race, in my judgment.

It‘s Medicare, but also the willingness for people to accept someone who has said, you know what, times are tough.  We‘ve got to get our deficit under control.  And there‘s a few ways to do it.  Control spending, but there is a revenue side that needs to be on the table as well.

MADDOW:  So, just to be clear, you think in term of Democrats looking for a way to speak most effectively to middle of the road voters, potential crossover voters, working class people, middle class people, that there is an effective message out there, political message out there in terms of taxes.  That‘s very much outside the Beltway common wisdom whenever you say taxes, that‘s an immediate turn off and that‘s a no go area for voters.

HOCHUL:  Nobody wants to raise taxes.  And I can tell you, I have a different threshold than what I‘m hearing from some Democrats in Washington.  I‘ve straightened out that I don‘t think the tax cuts should continue for people making over $500,000, that‘s half a million dollars.  That‘s a lot of money in this district where the average income is about $46,000 to $53,000.

So, people in this area say we understand we have to get our debt under control.  And there‘s two way to do it.  I cannot cut our way out of it exclusively.  And they sure don‘t like the priority of saying that our seniors should bear the brunt of this.

And I‘m talking about future seniors as well.  People didn‘t like this idea of age warfare that if you‘re 56, you‘re OK.  If you‘re 54, you‘re not.  No one liked that.

And I‘ve got parents who are, you know, in their mid-70s now.  They don‘t want to throw their own kids under the bus.

So, it was—I think they tried to break us apart by generation and that didn‘t work as well.

MADDOW:  The Paul Ryan Republican budget, including the Medicare provision, your opponent Jane Corwin said, of course, that she would vote for it.  Paul Ryan himself has a new video out today trying to defend himself on the Medicare issue.  And he has been saying today if his plan did turn off voters from the Republican candidate in your district, he says that‘s only because people don‘t really understand what he‘s offering, that the Republican ideas about Medicare have been misrepresented in order to scare voters.

What‘s your response to that?


HOCHUL:  I think his plan scared voters before I even was on the scene.  You know what?  The idea of breaking the promise that we made to our seniors over 45 years ago doesn‘t sit well with people.  People paid into this program since their high school job.  It‘s not a charity program.

Now, I understand the need to get the underlying cost driving health care up under control.  But that does not mean you touch the beneficiaries.  It means you go after the underlying cost of health care.  And that‘s another whole topic and I have some ideas on that as well, as do thoughtful people in Washington.

But the bottom line is I think there‘s room for agreement here.  And I‘m the type of Democrat who represents a Republican area who can come to Washington and say, listen, I‘ve got the support of a lot of individuals who normally don‘t vote Democrat.  In fact, I can‘t tell you how many times people said I was the very Democrat they voted for in their life.

But I bring with me the opportunity to work with both sides of the aisle.  Democrats have given on cutting expenses, looking at the continuing resolution this year, $38.5 billion, Democrats agree to, because they understand the need to get spending under control.

Republicans have to meet us halfway.  There‘s just no way around it.  I think what they should take some comfort in is that people in this describing are not afraid to say the wealthiest in this country when times are tough should pay their fair share and go back to taxes the way they were back under the Clinton era when last I checked things were pretty prosperous here.

MADDOW:  A lot of people looking at your win last night many the way that you‘ve explained the issues in this race leading up to last night and frankly the way you‘re explaining them right now.  A lot of people are wondering if when you get to Washington, you‘re going to have your eyes on potentially taking some sort of national leadership role with the Democrat Party, if you‘ve got ambitions about trying to alter the party‘s course in any way once you‘re here—I wonder if you have any plans like that, you‘d like to share with us.

HOCHUL:  My ambition is to get sworn-in and start serving the people of this district right away.  And I think there are lessons others can take from this race.  But my priorities are to get to know more people in this district.

It was a very short election time.  So, I need to go more places, work with our veterans, work with our seniors—really take care of my district.  I know how to do that well.  So, I‘m looking forward to that challenge.

MADDOW:  Congresswoman-elect Kathy Hochul, Democrat of New York‘s 26th district, congratulations again.  And thank you so much for your time tonight.  I really appreciate it.

HOCHUL:  Thank you.  Appreciate it.

MADDOW:  Even though Republicans nationally have tried to spin Kathy Hochul‘s victory last night as some sort of astrological fluke, some sort of big misunderstanding—something to do with the assorted single-digit also ran candidates.  There really was no down in the room last night when Kathy Hochul was making her victory speech what the key resonant issue was in that campaign.

At one point, during her speech, Ms. Hochul was actually interrupted by the crowd chanting the word, “Medicare” over and over and over again.  Medicare, Medicare.

Despite the game Republican spin to the contrary, that basically was the take away of everybody who was paying attention to this race—

Medicare, Medicare, Medicare.  And, frankly, a lot of people were paying attention to this race.

FOX News Channel spent today mostly avoiding this story, I guess to avoid upsetting their viewers.  But in print, even just here in Washington, these were the kind of headlines Republicans woke up to because of Kathy Hochul‘s election.  “The Hill” newspaper, “Dem win buoys party‘s prospect.  Republicans left to pick up the pieces.”

“Ryan, Medicare played role in GOP‘s defeat in New York special election.”

“Roll Call” newspaper, “Senate Democrats May Crib from Hochul‘s Playbook.”

“Politico,” “GOP defiant and defensive after loss.”

“Ryan blames New York 26 on Dems scare tactics.”

That was the assessment of this race by the Beltway press today. 

Republicans beware, the Paul Ryan Medicare thing lost this one for you.  And, in fact, it sounds like this is the Democrat Party‘s equivalent of finding 20 bucks in your jeans when you went to put in a laundry.  When the people in charge of Democratic campaigns in the House and the Senate, the people in charge of recruiting candidates and running all of those campaigns, they are letting the country know right now that they‘re going to go through all of the other pockets in all of the other jeans they have to see if there are any more easy payouts ahead for Democrats.


SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D-WA), DSCC CHAIR:  Last night‘s results provide clear evidence that when voters learn about the Republican plan to end Medicare as we know it, they say no.

REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK:  That is the defining issue.  And we‘re going to continue as Democrats to fight for Medicare in any congressional district no matter how high the hill, no matter how great the odds.  And that‘s what we did in New York 26.


MADDOW:  Congressional Steve Israel of the Democrat House Campaign Committee, Senator Patty Murray of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, they are the Democrats in charge of getting other Democrats elected to the House and the Senate in the next elections.

The New York 26 race was barely called before Patty Murray and Steve Israel were basically printing the bumper stickers, right, proclaiming how Democrats will win campaigns all across the country by defending Medicare.

And then, less than 24 hours after Republican Jane Corwin was defeated in New York 26 last night, defeated largely as a result of her support for the Paul Ryan kill Medicare budget, Democrats in the Senate today put the Paul Ryan kill Medicare budget up for a vote in that House, too.  Democrats in the Senate made every single Republican go on the record as being for or against the same kill Medicare plan that led to the stunning upset in New York 26.

In the end, 40 brave Republicans cast their votes today in favor of killing Medicare -- 40 Republicans.  Only five Republicans decided not to vote to kill Medicare.  Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rand Paul of Kentucky.  That‘s it.  Five voted no, 40 voted yes.

The Paul Ryan kill Medicare plan was soundly defeated in the Senate today.  But those 40 mean that now, 40 more Republicans are on the record as voting to kill Medicare.  The Republicans have handed Democrats something really politically potent to work with here.  This is proving to be almost too good to be true for Democrats.  Yes, too good to be true.

Are Democrats going to screw this one up?

I spoke with the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid before tonight‘s vote on the Ryan budget.  What he had to say about the Democrat‘s overall strategy on this killing Medicare thing from the Republicans may surprise you.

And the head of the Democrats‘ House Campaign Committee, Steve Israel will be joining us in just a few moments live for his take on this.  He is the guy really more than anybody else responsible for putting these politics into effect in congressional races all across the country.

Kathy Hochul‘s win was a big win for Steve Israel, frankly.  It was a big win for the Democratic Party.  Will there be more of these big wins?  That‘s next.


MADDOW:  If you want to get a sense of how urgently Democrats are moving to box Republicans in, to get them on record voting to kill Medicare, voting for the Paul Ryan budget so the whole country turns against their local Medicare-killing Republican candidate the way New York 26 turned against theirs last night, there was this one little awkward thing that happened right at the start of my interview with Harry Reid today in Washington—something that I didn‘t really understand at the time, but now I do.



MADDOW:  Why have you scheduled a vote on that budget on the Paul Ryan budget for the Senate for tomorrow?  I understand -- 

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  We‘re going to do it within the next 24 hours.



MADDOW:  I say tomorrow, he says within the next 24 hours.  When I got to the Capitol for my interview today with Senator Reid, the plan from Senate Democrats was still that sometime tomorrow, sometime Thursday, the Senate would vote on the Paul Ryan Medicare thing, tomorrow.  I got that word confirmed right when I arrived at the Capitol.

Then, in real-time between walking in the door and sitting in the chair, the vote got moved up.  It would not be tomorrow, it would be tonight.  No time to waste.  Get those Republicans on the record.  And they did.

The leader of the Senate Democrats, Harry Reid, explains the Democrats‘ strategy on this.  That‘s coming up next.


MADDOW:  These are the senators who are up for re-election in this upcoming cycle—up for re-election next year, who voted today for the Paul Ryan Republican budget in the U.S. Senate.  No Democrats voted for it, only Republicans.  And these Republican Senates are up for re-election this cycle and they all went on record today with a vote to kill Medicare:

John Barrasso of Wyoming, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Orin Hatch of Utah, Dean Heller of Nevada, the new guy, feeling cocky, Richard Lugar of Indiana, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

Today, just a few hours ahead of that vote, I sat down with Majority Leader Harry Reid at the Capitol to discuss the Democrats‘ strategy on this, and whether he put the Paul Ryan kill Medicare plan out for a vote today in part to try to win more upset races like New York 26, races where Republicans might otherwise be favored, but voting to kill Medicare turns an electorate against you.


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Senator Reid, thanks very much for this time.  I appreciate it.


MADDOW:  Let me start first by asking your reaction to the New York-26 last night up in New York State.

REID:  Well, we‘ve talked about this for weeks now, that what the Republican budget did is destroy Medicare as we know it.  But now, the people of New York have spoken—Independents, Democrats and Republicans - - they agree that what was happening with that terrible plan that came from the House was destroying Medicare as we know it.  The people of New York spoke and they spoke very loudly.

This in a district that Jack Kemp represented.  This in a district that has, for 40 years or more, been Republican.

So, the Republicans should wake up and understand their budget is not good for the American people and we‘re not going to stand for it.  They‘re not going to stand for it.

MADDOW:  Why have scheduled a vote on that—on that budget, on the Paul Ryan budget for the Senate for tomorrow?

I understand that—

REID:  Well, we‘re going to do it within the next 48 hours.


REID:  And the reason I did that is when they had their horrible H.R.1, they kept criticizing me—why won‘t we let us vote on it, why won‘t you let us vote on it?

So, we finally had a vote on that.  That‘s not going to be any finally this time.  I‘ve decided we‘re going to have a vote on it.

We have people scrambling, Republicans, you can‘t imagine.  We had one senator that said, “Thank God for the Ryan budget.”  And then he played around with it for a while, on again/off again.  Now, he‘s against it.

We have Newt Gingrich said it was social engineering at its worst.

So Republicans are speaking out against it.  As you know, Newt Gingrich had to walk himself back in saying this social engineering by the right-wing was now one of the greatest plans ever to hit America.

MADDOW:  In terms of that—forgive the term—flip-flopping by Newt Gingrich, the multiple positions on it by Senator Scott Brown that you alluded to, and that voting in New York 26 - that all points in the same direction, toward the political potency of voters seeing the difference between the two parties, being that one will protect Medicare and one is going after it.

At the same time, though, on the House side, Steny Hoyer is saying that Medicare must be on the table for discussions about deficit cutting.

Do Democrats have a clear message that they will for this—


REID:  Yes, Steny would—just reflect back just a few moments ago, we saved one half trillion dollars in our health care plan as it relates to Medicare.  We did it by increasing benefits, making things better, getting rid of fraud and abuse.  And we extended the life of Medicare with that bill we passed for more than 12 years.

So, of course, this is a huge plan.  And there‘s money to be saved. 

And we‘ve proved it can be done and still take care of Medicare patients.

MADDOW:  In terms of the political messaging there, though, that move that you just described with Medicare and health reform was due—was the source of a million Republican attack ads in the 2010 elections.  They described that as dismantling Medicare or cuts to Medicare.

So, can the Democratic Party say—assert that you have a clear Medicare message that can‘t be distorted by your opponents and that does draw a quick distinction—a quick and sharp distinction between you and the Republicans?

REID:  Well, we did it.  We proved in our health care bill that Medicare had a lot of fraud, waste and abuse, we whacked it.

Did we get rid of all of it?  Of course not.  There are still trying to take advantage of the system, taking advantage of old people.  And there‘s more we can do.

But in the process, we need to strengthen Medicare, not change it as we know it.


MADDOW:  Republicans are trying to kill Medicare.  Republicans are trying to get rid of it.  They are trying to force old people to buy private insurance instead.  Americans like Medicare.  Older Americans like Medicare.  Younger Americans like Medicare.  Older Americans like the idea of having Medicare too when they get old.

Asked recently if Democrats in the House had an alternate plan for Medicare as a response to the Paul Ryan plan, Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House Democrats responded by saying, yes.  yes, she said, we House Democrat have a plan in response to Paul Ryan.  We have a plan, she said, it‘s called Medicare.

As you just heard from Harry Reid, the Democrat‘s leader in the Senate, the message from him is more nuanced.  Even on the day that he forced Republican senators on the record to vote for or against the Paul Ryan plan, if you are pro-Medicare and worried if Republicans are going to give up this “we love Medicare, they want you kill” message in the bottle Christmas present that Paul Ryan and the Republicans have just given to Democrats - I want you to consider one other thing.  Consider this exchange caught on tape by ABC News today backstage at a Washington, D.C. event.

The two players here are Paul Ryan himself, and Democratic former President Bill Clinton.  Watch this.




RYAN:  I‘m doing great.

CLINTON:  Good to see you.

RYAN:  Good to see you, too.

CLINTON:  I‘m glad we won this race in New York.  But I hope the Democrats don‘t use it as an excuse to do nothing.

RYAN:  My guess is it‘s going to sink into paralysis is what‘s going to happen.  You know the math.  I mean, it‘s just—we knew we were putting ourselves out there.  But you‘ve got to start this.  You‘ve got to get out there.  You‘ve got to get this thing moving.

CLINTON:  If you ever want to talk about it, give me a call.

RYAN:  Yes, I‘ll give you a call.  Thanks.


MADDOW:  I‘ll give you a call.  Yeah, I want to talk about it.  Let‘s get in cahoots.

Mr. Ryan explaining that he and maybe Bill Clinton, in his words, just need to get this thing moving.

Paul Ryan‘s reaction to the unpopularity of his kill Medicare plan generally has been that he hasn‘t explained his plan well enough.  That Americans have yet to grasp the brilliance of his scheme.

This morning, after New York 26, he released a new video to try to

explain his kill Medicare plan better, has lots of charts, lots of graphics

which I love.  In this video, he just still tells us everything we already know.  He tells us how his plan would turn Medicare into a voucher program.  He tells us how it would give senior citizens coupons and senior citizens would then have to use those coupons to buy their own health insurance on the open market, because now Medicare is gone.  So, they don‘t have any choice.  They‘re buying private insurance.


Congressman Ryan, even in his new video, is explaining how his program is to kill Medicare, which means that if you‘re under 55 when you retire, you goat to fend for yourself on the open insurance market, as an oldster.  Good luck.  Don‘t forget your coupon.

This should not have been Paul Ryan‘s day in politics.  The day after Republican‘s defeat in New York‘s 26th congressional district, in the race that hinged on the wildly unpopular Paul Ryan‘s plan to replace the Medicare plan with value saver coupons, that day should have been about how much Americans like Medicare.  Day one of getting Democrats all on the same page that keeping the program and defending it from its enemies is a priority from which they will not be shaken.

Today should have been the day that Mr. Ryan‘s plan to eliminate Medicare would have been sort of signed, sealed and delivered as a joke.  In some parts of the Democratic Party, today was definitely that day.  In other parts of the Democratic Party, maybe day two will go a little better.


MADDOW:  Nowadays, a year and a half is pretty much an entire life cycle for cell phones, also for bedbugs, also for most political issues.  So, while Democrats are celebrating last night‘s big upset victory in a New York congressional district that heavily favored the Republicans, there is one man who has the difficult job of turning that House Democratic celebration last night into many House celebrations about a year and a half from now, which is a long time from now.  He is Democratic Congressman Steve Israel, head of the House Campaign Committee for the Democratic Party.

He is the guy who has the task of making Kathy Hochul‘s winning campaign the template for the 2012 election cycle.  Congressman Israel telling Sam Stein at “Huffington Post” last night that Republicans voting for the Paul Ryan plan to kill Medicare could make them all vulnerable, a lot of them, even ones you might not expect, even, say, Paul Ryan himself.

Quote, “We have an excellent Democratic candidate named Rob Zerban who got into the race against Paul Ryan largely because he couldn‘t tolerate Paul Ryan‘s leadership on a plan to terminate Medicare.”

The head of the Democratic Party‘s campaign for House races next year says, “Thanks to Ryan and the Republican votes for it, the Democratic Party now has a clear three-part strategy for taking back the House in elections a year and a freaking half from now and maybe even taking Paul Ryan‘s seat itself.

That three-part plan—it‘s three parts—part one: Medicare, part two: Medicare, part three: Medicare.  Also did I mention, Medicare.


CHRIS MATTHEWS, “HARDBALL” HOST:  If you got our other members to run on this next year?

REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK:  There‘s no question that Democrats are Democrats because of our defense of Medicare.  Because we—our message is that we will support Medicare and that we don‘t believe that you cut Medicare in order to fund tax cuts for big oil companies.

MATTHEWS:  Can you win back the House on this issue?

ISRAEL:  Yes, we can win back the House on this issue.  There are 97 congressional districts in the country right now that have a Republican member of Congress, but the districts are more moderate and have a higher Democratic performance than New York 26.

There are 97 Republican members of Congress who lost sleep last night because of their Medicare vote.

We would hold Republicans accountable for that plan in every congressional district, every day from that day until the November 2012 elections.


MADDOW:  Joining us now is Congressman Steve Israel of New York.  He is chair of the Democratic Party‘s campaign committee for the House.

Congressman Israel, thanks very much for your time tonight.

ISRAEL:  It‘s great to be with you.

MADDOW:  If you are right that after this election in New York 26, 97 Republican House members lost sleep because of their vote to kill Medicare, then how come 40 Republican senators cast that same vote today?  Is the Republican math on this different somehow than yours?

ISRAEL:  Well, the Republican math is always fuzzy.  The fact of the matter is this: we serve notice on Republicans in the House of Representatives that where they—any district in America, no matter how high the hill, no matter how steep the climb, no matter how great the odds, if they are going to advocate the termination of Medicare in order to fund tax cuts for big oil companies, we‘re going to take the fight to those districts.  We did it in New York 26 and we won.  We‘re going to do it throughout this country.  And we will win.

And there are 97 Republicans.  I can‘t speak for the Senate.  You know, sometimes the oxygen is a little (INAUDIBLE), they don‘t get it right away.  But I will tell you, in these House races, 97 Republicans who represent more moderate districts than New York 26 absolutely lost sleep last night, and we‘re going to make sure that they continue to lose sleep every night until November 2012.

MADDOW:  Looking ahead for that what that means in terms of the number of districts you‘ll be targeting.  The number of districts you‘ll consider to be competitive.  Places you weren‘t competitive before because of the dynamics in the district, if you‘re running a strategy like that climbing those steep hills—does that create a sort of fundraising and organizational challenge that is different than you thought you would be facing before this Paul Ryan vote?

ISRAEL:  You know, it‘s a good problem to have, to have an expanded playing field.  We only needed 25 seats to take back the House.  And now, we need 24.  It‘s amazing what can happen overnight.

The reason that it went from 25 to 24, those reasons: Medicare, Medicare, Medicare.  And, frankly, this is an organizing principle if Democrats throughout the country.  We will engaged with Republicans constructively and talk about improving Medicare, reforming Medicare, strengthening Medicare.  We will not negotiate the end to Medicare.

And this is going to be the defining issue in the upcoming elections in the House of Representatives.  And we‘re going to hold these Republicans accountable for their vote to terminate Medicare.

MADDOW:  You have been—you have not only been on message, you have helped define the Democratic message on this.  When I asked him about Medicare today, Senator Reid volunteered had Democrats had found lots to cut from Medicare in health reform.

Your colleague in the House, Steny Hoyer, said Medicare is on the table.

Former President Clinton at an event with Paul Ryan telling Paul Ryan to call him, saying that Democrats should feel free to go after Medicare themselves.  He hopes they won‘t feel constrained in doing that.

How is the whole message discipline thing coming along among Democrats on this?

ISRAEL:  When it comes to terminating Medicare, there‘s no daylight between any Democrat the Republicans began their negotiations with the end of Medicare.  We will not talk about the end of Medicare.

The problem with the Republicans is that they began their negotiations with the end of Medicare.  We will not sit at the table and talk to them about the end of Medicare.

Now, are there things that we can do?  Yes.  Let me give you one example.  Why aren‘t we authorizing the secretary of health and human services to negotiate volume discounts for pharmaceuticals in the Medicare program, just like the secretary of veteran affairs does?  Those are common sense steps that we can do to take down costs.

The Republicans won‘t do that because they like to protect the pharmaceutical industry, just like they like to protect the big oil industry.  They want to terminate Medicare in order to fund tax cuts for big oil.

So, there are common sense steps that we can discuss.  But, again, forgive me for being repetitive, but I am message discipline—we as Democrats, we are Democrats because we promote and defend Medicare.  They are Republicans because they want to terminate Medicare.  And that is the dividing line.

MADDOW:  In terms of their negotiating position—if Medicare is going to be discussed.  If they‘re opening gambit, as you say, is kill it, end it, privatize it, let‘s get rid of it, no more Medicare—does that actually move the locus of discussion to the right so that we end up talking about beneficiary cuts?  We end up talking about changing Medicare in a way that materially is going to be detrimental to people on it sometime soon?

ISRAEL:  There‘s no need to discuss those kinds of cuts.  It‘s just a matter of different priority.  How about this?  How about we reduce the deficit by not giving huge tax subsidies and huge tax breaks to big oil companies?  How about if we ask the pharmaceutical companies to make a little less by letting the secretary of health and human services negotiate those volume discounts?

So, you know, t he Republicans may want to move the needle far to the right.  We want to move the needle further to common sense.

MADDOW:  Steve Israel of New York, chair of the Democratic Party‘s campaign committee for the House—you are better at talking about this issue as a Democrat than a lot of other Democratic leaders in the party, current and former.  It‘s n to see you, sir.

ISRAEL:  Thank you, Rachel.  Good to see you.

MADDOW:  Appreciate it.

Still to come, “Best New Thing in the World Today”—it is a doozy. 

It is something I discovered here in Washington that I had never heard of -

let alone seen—before I stumbled upon it inside the Capitol Hill.  I bet you wound not believe me if I just told you it existed.


So, I took a bunch of really lousy cell phone pictures of it to prove my point.  I swear.  Otherwise, you would not believe me that it exists.  It‘s inside the Capitol.  Nobody knows it‘s there.  It involves a giant baby with a thing that babies are not supposed to have.  OK?

“Best New Thing in the World Today” coming up right at the end of the show.


MADDOW:  Two nights ago, “The New York Times” reported that Democrats were wooing a new potential challenger to newbie and more than occasionally flaily (ph), junior Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts.  Democrats have reportedly asked Elizabeth Warren, the immensely popular consumer advocate, a key advisor in the Obama administration.  They have reportedly asked her to consider returning against Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts.

She‘s an Oklahoma native but she‘s lived in Massachusetts for decades.

One of the Democrats specifically reported to have made overtures to Elizabeth Warren is the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Today, I asked him about it.


MADDOW:  Senator, it has been reported this week that you have been touched with Elizabeth Warren about her potentially running against Scott Brown for Senate in Massachusetts.

Would you like to see her do that?

REID:  I‘ve had a number of conversations with Elizabeth Warren.  I‘m the one that sent her name down and that‘s why she got the job that she got.

I‘ve come to know this woman very, very well.  I‘m extremely impressed with her.  She is—presents herself very well.  She doesn‘t back down from anyone, as we see in the press today.  They tried to do that and she was very assertive.

But the conversations I‘ve had with Elizabeth Warren were private and they should stay that way.  I think she has great potential to do anything she wants to do.

MADDOW:  Senate Republicans have said that they will not only block her if the president wants to appoint her to be head of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, they will block anyone.  They do not want anybody to be appointed to head that agency.

Do you expect—do you hope that she would get a recess appointment to head up that agency?

REID:  What I hope is that the American people realize what the Republicans are trying to do with the wealth—with the reform that we did on Wall Street, Wall Street reform, was to make sure that they can‘t do to us again what they did to us before.  What Wall Street did to us before was awful.  It ruined the economy in the state of Nevada.  We hit—we got hit harder than anyone else, but everyplace else.

What this is about is making sure that Wall Street doesn‘t once again control America.  We set some controls here and they can‘t do that now.  And Elizabeth Warren is part of that program and she should be able to do whatever she wants to do.  She‘s very, very good.


MADDOW:  Very, very good.  High words of praise for Elizabeth Warren from the Senate majority leader today.  He is not commenting specifically on how or whether he is trying to recruit her to run for Senate against Scott Brown in Massachusetts.  But it is a reminder of how much Democrats, including really powerful Democrats, how much they like Elizabeth Warren.  And how much it will likely therefore cost Republicans if they continue to berate her at congressional hearings and call her names as Congressman Patrick McHenry did yesterday, and if they continue to pledge to filibuster any position to which she is named.

Speaking of filibuster, Elizabeth Warren is not the only qualified and very popular Democratic nominee Republicans are making a big show of rejecting right now.  There‘s also President Obama‘s pick for the ninth circuit U.S. court of appeals.  Goodwin Liu, a Rhodes scholar, a former Supreme Court clerk, brilliant enough to be thought of as a potential Supreme Court nominee himself someday.

Despite being rated unanimously well-qualified by the American Bar Association and despite Republican senators prominently complaining that judicial nominees should never be filibustered, Republicans did filibuster Goodwin Liu‘s nomination to the bench last week.


MADDOW:  There was a qualitative change on nominations this year when Republicans decided to filibuster the judicial nomination of Goodwin Liu, a very promising judicial candidate, in part because he‘s thought of as being both very smart and quite young.  So, he could have a long judicial career ahead of him.

A lot of those Republican senators who voted for that filibuster had said that judicial nominations should never be filibustered.

Does that indicate, actually, a worsening of the situation—

REID:  And I courted a number of them right before Professor Liu‘s vote.  We‘ve had some important votes as (INAUDIBLE) nominations this year.  The most significant vote was not Goodwin Liu, although that was important.

The most significant vote was a man from Rhode Island by the name of McConnell, an outstanding trial lawyer.  He had, in the mind of the Republicans, one problem—he was a trial lawyer and a very, very good one.  We fought that very, very hard.  And I have to say—the Republicans stepped up and said, you know, this is carrying things a little too far.  And so, we were able to get this good man now a position on the federal bench, where he now sits.

Goodwin Liu, they rationalized this by looking at some things he had said in some of his previous testimony and in regard to the nomination of Alito and some other things he had said as a professor.  Very professorial, and sometimes professors do say things that are a little interesting.

I think Liu will be back.  I think he has the potential to be an outstanding jurist.  And we had the setback here and this doesn‘t mean that the system has been ruined, because I think though we‘ve had some real success this year, this relates to the nomination.


MADDOW:  Just this afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying that Goodwin Liu, he thought, would be back.  Now, just hours later, we learned that Goodwin Liu has now written to President Obama asking to have his name withdrawn from the ninth circuit nomination because of the filibuster against him.

But now that that barrier‘s been broken, now that Republicans have started using their minority power to block nominees that they solemnly pledged they would never block, does anybody think it‘s going to improve anytime soon?  Does anybody think that‘s going to improve anytime, say, before the next election?

Senator Reid sounds confident about it.  We have had some real success this year as it relates to nominations.  Now that they have done this with Goodwin Liu, something they said they‘d never do, do we think anymore President Obama nominated judges are going to get through?  Any nominees at all?  Or Elizabeth Warren?

Will anyone get through?


MADDOW:  Back in March, only a few months after she lost her U.S.

Senate race against Harry Reid in Nevada, Sharron Angle said this -- 


SHARRON ANGLE ®, FORMER SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  Today, I‘m announcing I am running for the United States Congress.  The effort to bring the people‘s voice back into government did not end in 2010.


MADDOW:  It did not end in 2010.  That effort ended today.  Ms. Angel announcing that she will sit out September special election for now Senator Dean  Heller‘s former House seat.  Sadly for people like me who make TV for a living, that means no more of this—those awesome canisters that guest starred in Sharron Angle‘s campaign pseudo-announcement.

Though I don‘t want any of Sharron Angle‘s Second Amendment remedies, I do really want those kitchen canisters.  I miss seeing them.

Thankfully, I get to see them now.  Joining us now exclusively live from our New York studio are those canisters formerly of Sharron Angle‘s would-be second Senate campaign and now sadly unemployed.

I am happy to announce that now that they are free of Sharron Angle‘s potential House campaign, these canisters will be coming on board as the official folksy prop fake campaigning for money and name recognition here at MSNBC.  Sharron Angle‘s now unemployed kitchen canisters, we‘re really looking forward to working with you this year.  Thank you so much for coming on board.

Nothing?  All right.  We‘ll talk to you later.

We‘ll be back with more on the canister‘s former boss, Sharon Angle, as well as more of my interview with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Plus, “The Best New Thing in the World” coming up right at the end of the show.  Please do stay with us.


MADDOW:  The New York 26 special election brought about by the resignation of lee thanks to this muscly, muscly picture he sent to a lady friend on Craigslist, that race concluded with a dramatic Democratic upset.

Another very special election happening in the great state of Nevada, got a little less special when Sharron Angle announced today that she is not running in the special election for John Ensign‘s seat, calling the election itself, quote, “an illegitimate process.”  Ms. Angle doesn‘t like the idea of either allowing a system where anyone can get on the ballot or a special primary election where the parties choose the candidates on the ballot.

So, because this election is not being run the way she wants it to be run, she will not be running, which means no harrowing parking lot chases, no threats of Second Amendment remedies if she doesn‘t win.  No threats, I think they were threats, about rape victims turning lemons into lemonade.  Not this special election—at least not unless a candidate as amazing as Sharron Angle emerges from the field.

The reason there‘s a need for a special election in Nevada right now is the John Ensign sex and lobbying and ethics scandal.  It‘s being held to replace former Congressman Dean Heller.  Mr. Heller needs replacing because he was appointed to the United States Senate when John Ensign quit, when Mr. Ensign quit conveniently one day before he was scheduled to testify under oath to the Senate Ethics Committee about that time when he‘d been shtooping a staffer whose husband was another of his staffers who he helped get a lobbying job, in violation of lobbying rules, in addition to paying the couple $96,000 after firing them both.  Yes.

Until three weeks ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the senior Senate from Nevada, was serving his state alongside John Ensign as Nevada‘s junior senator.  Now, not only is John Ensign no longer serve with Senator Reid, the Senate Ethics Committee released a report referring the Ensign case to the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission, saying they believe Mr. Ensign violated the law, made false statements and obstructed their investigation.

Today, I got the chance to ask Senator Harry Reid about his former colleague‘s ongoing scandal and the implications it has for Nevada and for the U.S. Senate.


MADDOW:  Senator Reid, I know you have to go.  I have one last question for you.  It is about Nevada.  And it‘s about what you see as the impact of the John Ensign scandal, frankly.  The special counsel report on Senator Ensign was serious and, frankly, riveting and lurid.

I know that he is no longer in the Senate.  The matter still continues to spin out, potentially, with the SEC, potential with the Department of Justice, and with some unanswered questions about Senator Coburn of Oklahoma and his role in that scandal.

Do you have an overall reaction to that report and what it means for Nevada?

REID:  Well, one of the things my staff told me right before coming in here is be very careful in the Ensign situation, because you‘ve been in touch with people in with the ethics situation at the Justice Department.  So, be very careful what you say.  So, I think I‘m better off not saying anything.

John Ensign is no longer in the Senate.  We have an extremely interesting race in Nevada going on to replace him in the fall.  And the Ensign situation has not helped Republicans in Nevada.


MADDOW:  Understated but definitely true.  The Ensign situation has not helped Republicans in Nevada.

And now, the new Republican just appointed to fill John Ensign‘s seat in the Senate will be up for election himself in 2012.  Today, he just voted to kill Medicare.  So, game on.


MADDOW:  All right.  “Best New Thing in the World Today”—not new, but I did not know before today that it existed.

When you are a civics dork, one of the great things about coming to D.C. is that even when you are working, it is impossible not to be a tourist.  So, producer Julia Nutter (ph) and I were on the train today coming down here and I‘m trying to work done.  But oh, my God, there‘s a member of Congress right over there!  Which for a civics dork is so exciting in a “Schoolhouse Rock” sort of way I couldn‘t do the crossword done on the train.

Then going into the capitol building it‘s like doing a pilgrimage to civics dork secular mecca.  When they put us in the LBJ room, Lyndon Johnson‘s old office, to wait for the start of our interview, I was trying to seem blase, but it is impossible—particularly when I realize there‘s something strange going on in the ceiling of that office.  And I could not stop myself from starting to take pictures of the ceiling as if I was straight off the tour bus.

It turns they started painting the ceiling of the LBJ room in the 1850s before it was the LBJ room, before they, at the time, thought it would hold the Senate library, they planned to paint four subjects on the ceiling to honor the library theme—history, geography, philosophy and print.  They got history done.  They got geography done.

But then by the 1860s, someone decided it wouldn‘t hold the library after all.  This room would hold the post office.  So, changes.

They kept history as it was—scholarly ancient looking lady figure, old dude in toga thing with sands of time.  They kept geography as it was.  Again, scholarly ancient-looking lady figure, globe, compass thingy, big map—they keep history and geography as they were.

But they dropped the philosophy in favor of physics which has another scholarly ancient looking lady figure who now is rather incongruously pictured with a train?  And with a steam ship belching some really nasty-looking exhaust.  This is physics.

But even better, when they found out this room was going to be a post office instead of a library, that apparently meant to them in the 1860s that they should keep history, keep geography, swap philosophy out for physics, which means trains and they should swap print out for—telegraph.

The four corners of the LBJ room honor history, geography, physics and telegraph.  And most impressively, the telegraph fresco features a lady on a bowl.  She‘s supposed to be Europe.  Also, dude on a cannon with an anchor.  He‘s supposed to be the U.S.

And in the background, you see that?  Baby angel holding a phone cord.  Telegraph cable, whatever.  You can also see what looks like a telephone pole, a telegraph pole in the background of this as well.

Before today, did anyone among us know on the ceiling of the United States Capitol was painted an elaborate 19th century fresco of a baby holding a phone cord?  No.  Who knew this?

It is “The Best New Thing in the World Today,” I am convinced.

It is time for “THE ED SHOW.”  Have a good night.



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