'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, June 24, 2011
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Guests: John Wisniewski, Ian Millhiser, Dick Lehr, Katy Tur, Casey Seiler,
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Lawrence. Thank you.
And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. It has not happened yet, but it looks like the New York State Senate is about to hold a vote on legalizing same-sex marriage in New York state. It is due to happen sometime tonight. We do not know exactly when.
Now, the state assembly has already passed this measure. The state‘s Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, says he strongly supports it. So, really, it is all down to the New York State Senate. The Senate which is Republican controlled and which has put off this vote until the last possible moment tonight.
Now, how is the Senate going to vote on this? We do not know. It‘s not even like I know secretly and I‘m not telling you out of some sort of magical discretion. We really don‘t know.
At least one Democratic senator says he is a definite no. At least two Republican senators say they are definite yeses. That information alone would leave the marriage bill one vote shy of passing if everything else went on party line.
But a handful of Republicans have held out as undecided for a long time now. One of those longtime Republican undecideds, a senator named Andrew Lanza. He announced tonight that he will be voting no. But the ultimate outcome here is as much of a mystery now as is the exact timing of the vote tonight.
The last time same-sex marriage rights came to a vote in New York state was two years ago. At that point, the Senate was controlled by Democrats. That measure was defeated when it came up two years ago. Not a single Republican voted for it. Eight Democrats voted against it.
This time, the vote looks to certainly be closer and possibly even to go the other way.
This weekend in New York City, just so you know, is gay pride weekend. New York City‘s gay pride parade is this weekend. So there are even more gay people in New York City tonight than usual. And it‘s a beautiful night.
Many people are expecting supporters of gay rights to make their feelings on this vote tonight known in the streets of New York—whether the vote goes up or whether the vote goes down.
If the bill does pass tonight, New York will become the sixth state in the country as well as the largest state by far where same-sex couples could be legally wed. And, no, there is no residency requirement for getting married in New York state. So that means that if this passes tonight—and again, we are watching the state Senate live right now—if this passes tonight, it would mean Niagara Falls weddings for a whole new group of people who could never have had one before.
Again, unlike Massachusetts, no residency requirement for getting a New York state marriage license. Those weddings could start 30 days after Governor Andrew Cuomo would sign this bill into law. Again, that is if it passes, which is no sure thing. All eyes on Albany as the state Senate looks to be keeping us late tonight.
Potentially, we will be keeping you posted throughout the hour.
But in the meantime, nationally speaking, we have this big ornate institution in our politicians in which our elected officials are supposed to fight about stuff and debate things and come to agreements and negotiate solutions to our collective problems. All that stuff is supposed to happen in this big building right here, the one with the pretty dome on top.
But the floor of the United States Senate, the floor of the House of Representatives, even the committee rooms had they break into smaller groups to talk about specific issues, nobody expects anymore that those are the places where actually deals and debating and arguing and negotiating happen. That part‘s sort of all for show.
Where the real work gets done these days, where the real negotiating and fighting happens is at Joe Biden‘s office, or Kent Conrad‘s place. In Washington, they‘re always hiving off into these little gangs, meeting offsite, these little bipartisan groups to work out solutions to big policy problems.
And that pattern in Washington now, particularly in the Senate, holds two enormous frustrations if you are a Democrat.
First of all, the Democrats control the U.S. Senate. They have a majority there. So, if no work gets done in the actual body where Democrats have a majority and instead the deals all get worked out in these gangs and these mini-versions of the Senate where it‘s just like the Senate except there‘s fewer people and miraculously Democrats and Republicans have equal numbers. If that is the way work gets done in the Senate, then frankly Democrats are just giving up their numerical advantage in the Senate. Why would they do that?
But the other frustration, whether it is these groups in the Senate, or these groups in House or even the groups from both houses, the other frustration, if you are a Democrat, in particular, is that this has really been the era of bipartisan, tiny, mini-Congresses working on all the hard political issues that Republicans just walk out of. During health reform, remember, there was a gang of six in the Senate. Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley and company, remember that?
Well, keep it out of the spotlight. We‘ll have our secret negotiations where we do the real work coming together on this bill. They did that for months.
Health reform stalled for months where they were supposedly working it out and then it fell apart. Republican Chuck Grassley, instead of these quiet negotiations, decided to go public. He signed on to the made-up Sarah Palin “death panels” thing, and frankly the whole thing went kaput.
This year‘s gang of six was supposed to be working on a debt and deficit compromise federally. The gang of six there is now a gang of five because Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma up and walked out of that last month.
The biggest news in Congress this week was that another one of these mini-congresses that Vice President Biden had been running to come out with a deal to lift the debt ceiling—surprise—Republicans have now walked out of that, too. Eric Cantor and Senator Jon Kyl just got up and walked out of that one this week.
Why do Democrats keep doing this? Why they keep expecting Republicans not to walk out of these things, I still don‘t understand. This latest walkthrough, though, has been frustrating enough to the Democrats who were in that room that the Republicans stormed out of that the Democrats are now leaking to the press exactly what it was they were all talking about when the Republicans got up and walked out.
Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen, he‘s been a member of the this little, mini-Congress meeting under Joe Biden, Congressman Van Hollen revealed what it was that caused them to walk out. What was so offensive in that room that the Republicans couldn‘t just say no to it—so offensive that the fact that it was even spoken in the room meant that they had to leave the room immediately to get its stink off, so offensive that they did not even want to be tainted by the suggestion that this thing might be brought up in their presence.
They couldn‘t just say no. They couldn‘t even negotiate over it.
They had to run away. They had to quit.
Why did the Republicans walk out? Why did the Republicans walk out of this mini-Congress thing being run by Joe Biden for these negotiations?
They walked out because Democrats suggested getting rid of taxpayer subsidies for big oil companies. Democrats also suggested doing a tax shift for zillionaires so that some of the special tax loopholes that only benefit people making more than a half million dollars a year would instead go to people making a lot less money, a shift. That apparently is an outrage.
But most beautifully, the reason Republicans are unwilling to even participate in discussions, about the possibility of America not defaulting on our debts and potentially causing a global financial catastrophe, the reason they cannot even participate in that discussion, according to Chris Van Hollen, is because Democrats raised the heretical possibility of ending taxpayer subsidies for corporate jets! That is the Hill Republicans want to die on in Washington proverbially speaking, protecting taxpayer help for corporate jets—the poor corporate jets. Do you realize how hard things have been on them?
What Republicans are prioritizing on the national le level this year, things like that, has a pretty clear mirror in what Republicans have been prioritizing on the state level as well.
In Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott proposing a $1.5 billion giveaway to businesses to be paid for with $3.3 billion cuts in education.
In Arizona, Republican Governor Jan Brewer signing $538 million in giveaways to businesses over the next decade while proposing almost the same amount of savings from throwing poor people off the state‘s Medicaid rolls.
In Michigan, Republican Governor Rick Snyder proposing nearly $2 billion in giveaways to business to be paid for by raising taxes on poor people and old people.
In Wisconsin, Republican Governor Scott Walker signing $140 million worth of giveaways to businesses just before signing a state budget to raise taxes on poor people to the tune of $49 million.
All across the country, it is Republican governors and legislatures really putting the screws to people who work for a living, while giving state money away to corporations, moving power and resources from people who work for a living to corporations. Robin Hood in reverse.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced this week he would officially sign his raise taxes on poor people state budget during a private ceremony this weekend. I wonder why he was going to keep it private.
A private ceremony he was going to hold at a company called Badger Sheet Metal Works. The problem? CEO of Badger Sheet Metal Works was convicted of eight felony counts of tax evasion. Scott Walker‘s staff has had to scramble that event to cancel that event, to cancel his “poor people should pay more, corporations should pay less” budget-signing at the business of the tax-cheating felon.
This particular tax-cheating felon did his time, paid his debt to society, of course. It‘s just that he was being held up by the governor‘s photo op as this great symbol for what Wisconsin‘s Republican budget priorities are.
That‘s not analysis, actually. He was picked by the Walker administration to be a symbol of what the budget stood for. Literally, they said that.
Quote, “The company that we‘re going to, reflects really what this budget and what Governor Walker‘s first term here is all about.” The company with the CEO doing prison time for tax evasion.
Another little microcosm of this part of Republican politics right now comes from another Wisconsin Republican, Republican Senator Ron Johnson, who beat longtime Democratic Senator Russ Feingold last year. Mr. Johnson won that Senate race by self-financing what was a very expensive campaign. Ron Johnson spent $9 million of his own money on that campaign.
Then after winning the race, after becoming a senator-elect, Ron Johnson decided to give himself a check for $10 million, in deferred compensation from his plastics company.
So, think about that for a second. He spent millions of dollars on his campaign, then immediately after winning the campaign arranged to get reimbursed for that and change. Republican Senate candidate Ron Johnson‘s whole campaign was, in essence, financed by this one corporation. His company essentially made a $10 million campaign donation to get him elected.
Seriously, what is the difference between that and this plastics company just spending $10 million to buy a senator?
This is what Republican politics looks like in the states and at the national level right now, all of the benefits going to big business, big business paying for it and getting what they paid for, all of the pain going to people who work for a living.
The other part of this agenda, the way you make it stick, really, is by not only screwing over the people who work for a living, but taking apart the groups that fight for their interests.
The unions, for example. This is Trenton, New Jersey, this week. Does this scene remind you of anything? Does it remind you of the scenes in Madison, Wisconsin, earlier this year when Republicans in that state were stripping union rights, thus awakening a Wisconsin Democratic base like nothing else we‘ve seen in a generation?
Republicans in New Jersey did the same thing this week. Unlike Wisconsin, however, what passed in New Jersey passed with the help of Democrats.
This week a significant number of Democrats in the New Jersey state Senate and state assembly joined with Republicans, joined with Republican Governor Chris Christie to strip union rights away from working people in that state.
Democrats in New Jersey helped out with this. Why did they do that?
Joining us now is New Jersey Democratic assemblyman, John Wisniewski, he‘s also chairman of the New Jersey Democratic Party.
Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for being here.
STATE REP. JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: Good to be here, Rachel.
MADDOW: Was I unfair of my characterization of New Jersey Democrats there?
WISNIEWSKI: No, your characterization was correct. But I think you have to take it from a context that a majority of Democrats who are elected in New Jersey in the general assembly and the state Senate, 70 percent of the Democrats in the assembly voted no on this bill, 66 percent of the Democrats in the state Senate voted no.
So, there was a small portion of Democrats in both houses that sided with the Republicans on this bill and got it done.
We fought real hard because what this bill does, it‘s an attack on the middle class. It‘s an attack on the people who teach our children and who protect our cities and fight our fires. And what this bill does is it makes them bear the responsibility for a lot of problems that were not of their making.
And so, we fought real hard. But, unfortunately, there were some Democrats who chose the side with the Republicans on this bill.
MADDOW: Does the fact that nearly one-third of Democrats did peel off and go with the Republicans on this mean that people should not see union rights and protecting union rights as a core issue for the Democratic Party anymore in the Northeast?
WISNIEWSKI: No, I think that the Democratic Party will always be standing side by side with labor.
If you look at all of the things that Democrats and labor have done together—I mean, if you like the weekend, Democrats working with labor have created the weekend by making sure there are laws that prevent employers from abusing their employees. If you like a 40-hour workweek, that‘s something Democrats and labor have done. And we‘ve always been together, and we always will.
This represents a rare occasion where a severe minority of Democrats in New Jersey sided with Republicans on an issue that I think over the long run‘s not going to benefit our state. I mean, everybody talks about how we have to avoid the status quo. We need to do something and we all agree.
This doesn‘t fix the problem. It pushes the problem down the road.
And it pushes it on the backs of people who can‘t afford to fix it.
MADDOW: What‘s going to be the cost to what you describe as a severe minority of Democrats there? They were an important margin here in this victory. What‘s the cost to them? Does the party continue to support them?
I know that people who support labor rights, union members, people who are demonstrating in Trenton are very angry with the Democrats who peeled off on this.
WISNIEWSKI: Well, I think the difference between the Democratic Party and Republican Party and that‘s where this is significant, is we have a party that‘s a big tent and we have lots of people in our party who believe in a lot of different things. We don‘t exclude people from our party because of votes they make. That‘s the hallmark of Republicans. It‘s a litmus test.
Chris Christie is living proof of that litmus test. He wants to check all the boxes so that he can be somebody on the national stage. Democratic Party doesn‘t operate that way. And while we have disagreements about particular bills, the long-term history and the future of the Democratic Party is always going to be with labor.
MADDOW: Litmus test is one way to look at it. Standards, core principles is another way to look at it.
MADDOW: And I think the reason this has been such a surprise to see the way this has unfolded in New Jersey is that I don‘t think that people who are in favor of things ever call it a litmus test, but people really thought that supporting union rights was a core Democratic issue and that if you didn‘t do that, you probably were a Republican, frankly.
WISNIEWSKI: Well, a majority—you have to point out, though, a majority of Democrats did not support this bill. And this minority, you know, the speaker, the Senate president—look, they thought that they were solving a problem. I think they went about it the wrong way. I would have done it differently.
But they believed that they were solving a problem. You know, the speaker talked about making sure that municipalities don‘t have to lay off police officers.
This bill‘s not going to stop layoffs, and it‘s not going to hire one more cop. And I think that‘s the mistake that this bill undertakes is it doesn‘t solve the core problem about the affordability of health care. All it does is shift the burden. It doesn‘t change the affordability of our pension system when the state has not been making its contribution to the pension fund.
It‘s not the employees‘ fault. We need to make it better. We need to fix it. But making the employees bear the responsibility is the wrong way to go.
MADDOW: Why has the state not been living up to its side of the financial obligations on things like—on things like pensions? I mean, the public workers have been contributing to their pensions and to their health care. They have paid everything that they are supposed to be paying.
But the state is the one that‘s not been meeting their obligations.
MADDOW: Why is that?
WISNIEWSKI: It goes back to a governor, another Christie we had, Christine Todd-Whitman, who did a borrowing to refinance the pension fund. And we were able—the state of New Jersey was able to skate for a couple years without making payments. It‘s like not making your mortgage payment. You take that money and go out to dinner and you go on vacations.
And when you start having to make that payment again, it‘s hard to go back to doing that.
And that‘s what happened to the state. We had a pension holiday. The state didn‘t make its payments. And now the state is behind in making its contributions.
And so, the solution, which is wrong, is saying to the employees—well, you have too much. That‘s the wrong answer. The state has to make its contributions.
Do we need to make improvements to the system? Sure. Every pension system can be improved. But it‘s not right to say to the employees, the middle class of the state, that it‘s your fault.
MADDOW: As the chair of the Democratic Party in New Jersey, people across the country are looking at this right now, particularly people who support union rights, how are—what is your assurance, if you have any, to those people who are worried that New Jersey represents an important policy-based abandonment of union causes by not being able to hold together the Democratic caucuses in the legislature this year?
WISNIEWSKI: Well, I think what they have to look at is that it is a small microcosm of a lot of large issues. Assemblyman Declan O‘Scanlon, Republican on the budget committee, introduced a bill the other day to make New Jersey a right-to-work state. I mean, that‘s the attack that‘s coming, and that‘s the attack the Democrats --
MADDOW: Do you call every Democrat to vote against that?
WISNIEWSKI: On that, absolutely. Absolutely.
MADDOW: All right, I‘ll hold you to it.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, New Jersey chairman of the Democratic Party, I really appreciate you coming in tonight. Thank you very much.
WISNIEWSKI: Rachel, thanks a lot.
MADDOW: Thank you. Good luck to you, sir.
WISNIEWSKI: Thank you.
MADDOW: We are still watching the New York State Senate which appears set to vote quite soon. I‘m told the technical term is “very soon” on legalizing same-sex marriage. If they vote yes, by population, that would double the number of people who have access to that right in the United States of America. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa, Washington, D.C., is where the right exists right now. Will New York state be next?
All eyes on Albany. We are told this vote is happening very, very soon. We will keep you posted.
We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: We have more breaking news tonight. This time out of Indiana where a federal judge has temporarily blocked Indiana from enforcing the part of its new law that cuts off all public funding for Planned Parenthood. This is something we‘ve been covering on the show. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Tonya Walton Pratt means that Medicaid funds should be restored to Planned Parenthood of Indiana.
They had been cut off when this bill was signed into law last month. Planned Parenthood has been covering its Medicaid patients through private donations until this week whereupon they did not have enough money to keep doing that. As of this week, Planned Parenthood in Indiana had been telling their Medicaid patients they would have to come up with some other way to pay for their health care.
But today‘s ruling, late today, means that those patients, 9,300 people in Indiana who get their health insurance from Medicaid and go to Planned Parenthood for breast exams or cancer screenings or prenatal care, they can keep doing that while Planned Parenthood keeps up the legal fight to have this law Governor Mitch Daniels signed last month overturned.
Again, none of this is about abortion. Federal law already bans the spending of public funds like this on abortion. This is purely for other services. Anybody whose health insurance is Medicaid might be getting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Indiana.
Today‘s ruling is a small and perhaps temporary victory in this fight for Planned Parenthood of Indiana. The Indiana attorney general has already said he will appeal the ruling.
But, again, breaking news out of Indiana that Mitch Daniels‘ law to cut people off from the services they get at Planned Parenthood other than abortion has been stopped by a federal judge.
MADDOW: We are watching the state Senate in Albany, New York, right now, as we are told that a vote is impending on same-sex marriage rights. This is a live shot on the chamber. A vote expected shortly on same-sex marriage rights. We will get to that if and when they move on to that business. They have been doing other business this evening.
In the meantime, this man is Harlan Crow. He‘s a Dallas real estate zillionaire who over a period of years has given Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas a lot of very expensive gifts or otherwise spent large amounts of money in ways that benefit Justice Thomas. He‘s given the justice the gift.
For example, of a Bible that once belonged to Frederick Douglass. It was valued at $19,000. He reportedly donated the millions of dollars needed to turn this seafood cannery where Justice Thomas‘s mother once worked outside of Savannah, Georgia, into a Pinpoint Heritage Museum. Justice Thomas reportedly helped introduce the property owner and Mr. Crow and has been involved in publicizing the museum, even reportedly participating in putting together some of the museum‘s materials.
Harlan Crow tried to donate $175,000 to a Savannah library in Justice Thomas‘s honor, but he ultimately backed down from the donation when it was exposed. “The New York Times” reports, however, that Mr. Crow did not back down from playing host to the justice repeatedly on his private jet and on his 161-foot yacht also at his rather luxurious summer estate in the Adirondacks.
Justice Thomas‘s wife has also done well by Harlan Crow. Mr. Crow gave up to a half million dollars to the Tea Party group that Ginni Thomas runs. It‘s called Liberty Central, with the hats, you know?
Justice Thomas is known to have received one other gift of note that is relevant to this story. At a ceremony in 2001, an organization gave Justice Thomas a bust of Abraham Lincoln valued at the time of $15,000. Harlan Crow sat on the board of that organization. That organization then, after giving the justice a $15,000 gift, filed three briefs in Supreme Court cases. In each of those three cases, Justice Thomas did not recuse himself and he ruled in the organization‘s favor -- $15,000 gift, then the ruling. Gift, then the ruling. Gift, then the ruling.
That does not mean quid pro quo, but it does mean—eww, want to know more about this.
Harlan Crow was on another board of another organization called the Center for the Community Interest. He sat on that board at least for a year according to tax filings. Since 1998, that organization has filed briefs in eight Supreme Court cases. And in every single one of those cases, tah-dah—Clarence Thomas ruled in the group‘s favor, sometimes as the lone voice on the court taking their side.
Twice is a coincidence. Three times is a trend. Eight times is a reason for a guest segment on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW on a very busy Friday night.
Joining us is the man who has been reporting on this pattern. Ian Millhiser, attorney, policy analyst and blogger, for “Think Progress.”
Ian, thanks very much for being with us again tonight.
IAN MILLHISER, THINK PROGRESS: It‘s good to be back. Thanks so much, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, by receiving these gifts, has Justice Thomas violated any written rules or any unwritten rules by which he is supposed to abide?
MILLHISER: Well, it‘s funny that you‘d ask that because part of the problem is that every other judge in the country has to obey a code of conduct which says no gifts from parties with business before your court which says no fund-raising on behalf of really any cause, but especially mitt cal causes.
The Supreme Court justices are exempt. And so, part of the problem that we have here is that Justice Thomas seems to feel that he doesn‘t have to follow the Spider-Man rule. With great power should come great responsibility. And yet the Spider-Man rule doesn‘t apply to Justice Thomas and he has taken that ability and run with it.
MADDOW: In these latest revelations about these two groups, their connections to this man who‘s been so generous to the justice and these groups‘ involvement in the Supreme Court cases, is there one part of this that concerns you the most?
MILLHISER: There are many parts of it that concern me. But I think the gifts are the biggest problem here. And that‘s true not just because 40 years ago, we had a justice forced to resign, Justice Fortas, in a similar gifting scandal.
But I think any situation where we have to wonder, is a judge being influenced by some outside force undermines the integrity of the entire judiciary. The Supreme Court has an awesome power. They have the ability to strike down a law that every single one of our Democratic re-elected representatives approve. And they have that power because we trust them to follow the Constitution and not to follow their own interest.
If one judge can be influenced, any judge can be influenced. So, if one judge can get away with something like that, we have to doubt the integrity of the entire federal court system.
MADDOW: What are the options as you see them, Ian, in terms of changing the rules that govern what Supreme Court justices can and cannot do, at least getting more information about this?
MILLHISER: Congressman Chris Murphy has a good solution. Congressman Chris Murphy has advanced a bill which would simply say the Spider-Man rule applies here. It would say the same rules that apply to the lower cut judges also apply to the justices of the United States Supreme Court.
But the other thing that needs to happen—and this is something that‘s on all of us, you know, I give the Tea Party credit. When they didn‘t like what was going on in this country, they didn‘t just get angry, they got organized.
I‘m angry about this. But anger is not enough. And if we care about the integrity of our judiciary, and if we care about people being held accountable, all of us need to call our members of Congress and say there needs to be an investigation. We need to get organized because people who have the power to do something about this are only going to do it if they‘re prodded to do so.
MADDOW: Ian Millhiser, attorney, policy analyst and blogger for “Think Progress,” Ian, thank you again for joining us tonight and for your continued reporting on this. It‘s a pleasure to have you here.
MILLHISER: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. So did you hear that the tip that they got that helped them get Whitey Bulger in L.A. actually came from someone living in Iceland? That call came from Iceland? Yes, I‘m not kidding.
Also, in deeply, deeply, deeply unrelated news, the number of Americans who have the right to get married to someone of the same sex if they so choose might be about to double as the New York State Senate continues meandering its way tonight toward an uncertain vote on same-sex marriage rights. What you‘re looking at right here, the sort of artsy shot of the New York state and American flag here, this is the live Senate feed in all its glory.
The Senate right now is expected—expected to be voting on same-sex marriage rights and soon. We are on it. And we will be right back.
MADDOW: Right now, we are watching proceedings in Albany, New York, in the New York State Senate. Senators are now discussing the same-sex marriage bill that‘s getting so much attention in New York state. It did not come up in the rules committee first which people had been expecting. They are discussing it right now in the Senate. Expect to be debating it and then ultimately voting on it.
We‘re keeping an eye on this. We‘ve got folks standing by at the capitol as they get close to a vote here. We will keep you hosted.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives today in Washington did not vote to defund U.S. participation in the war in Libya. They voted no on a resolution explicitly authorizing the war, but then they voted no again when asked to stop the funding.
So, does that count as a split decision from the president‘s war in Libya policy? Kind of. But there was less of a split than you might think and that you might have read reported today.
Among the Democrats who voted no on defunding the war were the majority of the Progressive Caucus, the Democratic party‘s liberals in the House. And the Progressive Caucus put out a statement today clarifying that they are very much against the war in Libya, raising the prospect that the reason a majority of them voted no on defunding is because—as some of them explained—that defunding bill, they thought, would not really defund the war. In other words, they really do want to defund the war, and they don‘t feel like they have had a real chance to vote for that yet.
So, no, it doesn‘t really look like a split decision from the House today on the president‘s war in Libya. It looks like it more might be more like two thumbs down on the president‘s war in Libya.
We are watching what‘s going on in Albany right now. We will be right back.
MADDOW: What you‘re looking at here is a live shot of the state Senate in Albany. The New York State Senate currently right now having what looks to be their final debate on same-sex marriage bill. Senator speaking right here is one of the Republican senators who has been described as an undecided vote on this measure.
It‘s probably going to be an incredibly close vote tonight. Could be.
Who knows? We won‘t know until they actually vote.
Let‘s hear what he‘s saying just for a moment.
STATE SEN. STEPHEN SALAND ®, NEW YORK: -- synagogues, other religions under the religious corporation law. But also to provide those, in effect, ancillary and related associations and not-for-profits that they share that same protection. And it goes on to say that they shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges. Those service—the addition to the—again I‘ll refer to it as the bill-in-chief—is the term “services or goods.”
And while the bill-in-chief or the bill being amended provided that it did not create any civil claim or cause of action, there was great concern expressed among those representing churches and religious organizations that they could well find themselves being punished by the state in some fashion.
If you look to the law of Connecticut, the statute in Connecticut and the state in New Hampshire, they added language that wasn‘t contained in this particular bill or, again, the bill-in-chief, and they said, in their language --
MADDOW: This is Senator Stephen Saland, Republican state senator in New York state.
The reason his remarks are important right now is the same-sex marriage debate is under way in Albany is because he is one of the Republican state senators who has been undecided, publicly undecided, on this measure.
What he‘s discussing here has been a key issue for Republican senators. The issue of whether or not religious institutions essentially have carved-out exemptions in terms of their liability to essentially protect their right to object, to protect their right to object to the extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples.
So, an agreement was reached on exemptions for religious institutions between the two parties earlier tonight. We were told those still being discussed in detail on the floor of the state Senate in New York as the state Senate there heads toward eventually a vote on this measure sometime tonight.
If New York state does vote for this, it would be the sixth state plus Washington, D.C., with same-sex marriage rights in this country. It would double roughly the proportion of Americans, the number of Americans overall who have that right because New York would be the most populous state by far that afforded that right of its citizens.
Gannett News Service is describing the expected vote from this senator who you‘re watching here, Stephen Saland, as going to be a yes vote on this measure. That does not guarantee that there will be a yes vote overall, but he is one of the votes that has been watched.
At times vote counters have said it was a one-vote margin with him still undecided. I don‘t want to characterize Gannett News Service‘s characterization of his vote as an anticipated yes vote for the overall measure, but you can bet that a lot of people are rounding up what I just said to believe that tonight.
We will stay on this tonight as we get closer to the actual vote.
Pivoting now, though, to something that happened today in Boston which is transfixing the nation, particularly Massachusetts, but continues to be one of the most amazing crime stories in modern American history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BULGER: I made a statement, and I‘m going to just stand on that statement. I really have nothing further to add.
REPORTER: Were you happy to see your brother?
BULGER: I‘m not adding to my statement.
REPORTER: Did you recognize him, the way he looked?
REPORTER: Your feelings after seeing him after all these years. You must have some powerful emotions after not seeing your brother after all these years.
BULGER: Perhaps later, I‘ll make a statement. I‘d have to think about it.
REPORTER: You seem very emotional right now.
BULGER: What did you say?
REPORTER: You seem very emotional right now.
BULGER: Well, it‘s an unusual experience. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The brother of Whitey Bulger, William Bulger, former head of the Massachusetts state Senate, former president of the University of Massachusetts, brother of Boston‘s mob boss.
William Bulger in grave need of someone to human shield him from all these microphones in his face today as his brother was brought from California to a south Boston courthouse. Whitey Bulger was denied bail. No surprise there after 16 years on the run. His arraignment was actually postponed until the issue could be resolved of who would be his lawyer.
Whitey Bulger telling a judge he could afford his own counsel, quote, “If they gave me my money back.”
Law enforcement said they confiscated about $800,000 that they found in cash stuffed into the walls of Whitey Bulger‘s apartment in southern California.
In the last 24 hours, we have learned some surprising details about how Bulger was finally caught. The tip to arrest him, for example, reportedly came from Iceland. A woman living in Iceland, of all places, who had crossed paths with Whitey Bulger and his girlfriend in Santa Monica is reportedly the one who called authorities and directed them to the apartment complex where the couple were found.
Once the FBI staked out the apartment rented to a Charles and Carol Gasco and determined that Charles and Carol Gasco were actually Whitey Bulger and his girlfriend, agents used a ruse to lure Whitey out so they could arrest him.
According to ABC News, that ruse was, quote, “federal officials arranging for a call to the third floor apartment to say his storage locker might have been broken into. When he came outside to investigate, they arrested him.”
Inside the apartment which the couple had rented for 15 years, agents found the aforementioned 800 grand in crash, multiple forms of fake IDs, several types of knives, more than 100 rounds of ammunition and over 30 firearms, including pistols, an AK-47, a sawed-off shotgun and more.
According to ABC News, some of the pistols were hidden in hollowed-out history books.
KNX News Radio is also reporting that the FBI removed diaries and documents from the apartment. Quote, “There was a script and also a big manuscript, as he called it, that when they were handling it around and moving it around, Mr. Bulger appeared very nervous that they had custody of that manuscript.”
Whitey Bulger working on a book?
One FBI agent is still in prison after having been turned by Whitey Bulger back in the day. Another FBI supervisor was granted immunity and retired out in disgrace.
But nine years ago, one of Whitey‘s lieutenants testifying in court said Whitey claimed to have six FBI agents and more than 20 police officers on his payroll. If, indeed, Whitey Bulger has been writing a long manuscript, who do you think hasn‘t slept a wink since they found him in that apartment?
Joining us now is Dick Lehr. He‘s former reporter for “The Boston Globe” and author of “Black Mass: The Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob.” Dick is now a journalism professor at Boston University. He was in the courtroom with Whitey Bulger today.
Mr. Lehr, thanks very much for your time tonight.
DICK LEHR, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: Sure, Rachel. Good to be with you.
MADDOW: That last question that I raised. Who do you think might be worried now that Whitey Bulger is in custody and has the option to talk?
LEHR: I think there are plenty of retired FBI agents and Boston police officers and others in law enforcement who are part of that era who may have been involved with Whitey and his agent handler, John Connolly.
MADDOW: I know that you spent—you have spent a lot of time, done a lot of research, into the way that Bulger corrupted the FBI. Did he turn these agents, the people he was able to turn—did he turn them out of their own free will, or did he trap them into essentially becoming corrupted because he held things over them?
LEHR: I think you have to look at the center of the relationship between Bulger and John Connolly. John Connolly, the agent, was from South Boston, which is where Whitey‘s from, obviously.
And John Connolly, he‘s many years younger, but he grew up, friendly with the Bulger family. And he‘s often described being as a boy of his first encounter, first meeting Whitey Bulger who at the time was kind of a flamboyant teenage hooligan from the neighborhood, like meeting Ted Williams.
So there was this awe and aura. And I think the fact that he connects it to meeting someone like Ted Williams offers an insight into his strange perception of the world.
MADDOW: There has been speculation, some open, some whispered, about why it is that it took so long to catch Whitey Bulger, speculation that it‘s possible that there were people who could have helped in finding him on the law enforcement side that would prefer he not be found because of the risk that he could pose for exposing more corruption.
What do you make of those rumors? Do you think it‘s possible that they could have found him before they did?
LEHR: I think it‘s possible. You know, that‘s the kind of thing that‘s been going round and round for years up here at the water cooler because the FBI want Bulger? Do they want him dead? Do they want to continue to protect him out there?
I think it illustrates when it comes to the FBI, given their sordid history with Whitey Bulger and all the murder and mayhem that occurred on their watch as they watched his back, that, you know, the FBI‘s credibility is shot.
So, when the FBI, you know, every year or so stands up and says they‘re looking for this guy, you know, who believes them? When the FBI finally captures him, it‘s amazing, the blowback.
I think they—capturing him is a great moment for justice and whatnot. But if the FBI thought that it was a big step towards the rehabilitation of its image and its integrity, I think they‘re finding out they‘re wrong, because as the information or they start telling us how it went down, the ruse out at the apartment or the tip from Iceland, you know, there‘s a howl in response. I mean, no one‘s believing it. Even though there‘s no proof to the contrary, it‘s—you know, they have a real credibility problem.
MADDOW: Dick Lehr, former reporter for “The Boston Globe,” co-author of a best-selling book on Whitey Bulger called “Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob”—thank you for your time tonight, Dick. Appreciate it.
LEHR: Sure, Rachel.
MADDOW: I should note that we had scheduled interviews tonight with the U.S. attorney in Massachusetts responsible for prosecuting the Bulger case and with the head of the Boston FBI office. Those interviews were scheduled for tonight. They were confirmed and then both guests backed out. No comment.
MADDOW: What you‘re looking at is a live shot of the New York State Senate in Albany. We are waiting a vote on same-sex marriage rights. This seems to be happening right now. They seemed to be going to the vote.
Can we go to the audio here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basis for statutes on marriage in the state, the rational basis that the state acted upon, and we looked at the unique context that these religious exemptions have with the right that is going to be granted by the main bill. And it is clearly the intent of this body, the intent of this bill that the provisions are intrinsically intertwined, and that if there the religious exemptions were to be diminished in any way by a court, then the right granted by the main bill would be extinguished.
It‘s a negotiated position. It was very, very key to the whole matter of bringing this topic to this floor and the in-severability clause is a very carefully, clear and measured drafting decision.
And because of that, we have moved ahead on this very important societal matter, thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Hannon, I‘m sure you‘re voting yes on the amendments. Senator Hannon‘s vote will be recorded affirmative.
Secretary will announce the results—in a moment.
MADDOW: We are watching the vote in New York state in Albany on same-sex marriage rights, before Stephen Saland, Republican senator announced this evening that he would vote in favor of same sex marriage rights. Thirty-one senators were declared in favor. That may be the winning margin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The secretary will announce the results.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those who are counter, 15-48. Those recorded in the negative are Senators Ball, Bonacic, DeFrancisco, Diaz, Farley, Flanagan, Fuschillo, Gallivan, Golden, Griffo, Johnson, Lanza, Larkin, LaValle, Libous, Little, Martins, Maziarz, Nozzolio, O‘Mara, Ranzenhofer, Ritchie, Robach, Seward, Young, and Zeldin. Ayes 36, nays 26.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bill is passed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The secretary will continue to read.
MADDOW: What you have watched right now is the New York State Senate in Albany passed same-sex marriage rights. This makes New York state the sixth state in the United States of America to afford same-sex marriage rights to its citizens. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Iowa are the same states, Washington, D.C., as well. And right now, the New York assembly passed this. You just heard the New York State Senate passed this.
The Democratic—this is the amendment on religious restrictions. What we just had was the vote on religious—hold on. Clarify this for me.
The amendment religious restrictions which had been the sticking points for negotiations in the Republican-controlled Senate in Albany is what has just passed. Forgive me.
The governor of New York state is Andrew Cuomo. He‘s a Democrat. He‘s in his first term. He‘s very popular at this point. He has made this a priority of his administration. He has said that he will pass this.
The assembly has already passed this. New York state having voted on the amendment seen as being essentially the trigger for this passing in Albany. We await the final vote right now on the overall measure.
Do we have Katy Tur on the phone now, right now, joining us from Albany? We‘ll be able to phone her?
All right. Katy Tur joining us right now from WNBC.
Katy, thanks very much for joining us. What can you tell us about what‘s happening right there and what you can see and what the mood is?
KATY TUR, WNBC (via telephone): Well, I can tell you, it‘s been a pretty long week here in Albany. No one quite expected it to go quite this long. Senators and lawmakers running out of clean clothes. Protesters here running out of clean clothes. Media members running out of clean clothes.
As that amendment just passed, you can hear the hollering and whoops and yells in the Senate chamber. What you can‘t hear is what it‘s like right outside in the hallways where there is a raucous crowd at the moment. They are screaming.
Now, the crowd was split for a while. There‘s a lot of people who did not support gay marriage and a lot of people who did. It seems like those who did support gay marriage has grown in the past few hours.
It‘s been an excited mood here. Many people didn‘t really know if it was going to come to a vote today or not. It had been stalled a lot. There was concerned that maybe the GOP was in a game of chicken with Governor Cuomo, who could stall the longest, if they could keep having in conference with Governor Cuomo, keep extending session as long as they could.
Ultimately, though, it seemed that the GOP would have to bring it to a vote. And as you‘re about to see, we are getting word that Senator Dilan will vote yes and that he will be the tie-breaking vote. And you saw that amendment just passed.
And in the couple of minutes now, you could see history being made in New York.
MADDOW: Katy, in terms of that amendment passed 36 to 26. So, it passed by a large margin there. Explain to us the importance of that amendment to the overall negotiations over this same sex marriage rights.
TUR: The amendment was the sticking point. It had been the thing they were going back and forth on. And in many ways, it had a lot to do with the Republican numbers of the Senate wanting to make a point, that they wanted to protect religion.
And the amendment includes specific language, specific carve-outs that say if a religious institution decides they do not want to marry same-sex couples, the Catholic Church refuses to marry two men, they will not in any way face a discrimination lawsuit against them, if in fact, couples decide that they don‘t think (INAUDIBLE) if they don‘t want to marry them.
For many, including the governor, that was an issue of church versus state. It was an obvious issue that was not going to be a problem. It was the separation thing. There was language in the initial bill that did protect them. I‘m told that that language wasn‘t quite strong enough. There was be a argument that if the bill itself gets passed and the Supreme Court down the line decides that it‘s unconstitutional for the Catholic Church if (INAUDIBLE) two men getting married, that they would take out those religious carve-outs, but the bill would stand as it was. And many Republicans were saying that wasn‘t fair. The Supreme Court ruled against it, that the whole thing would have to get thrown out and renegotiated.
MADDOW: Katy, heading into the final vote on this bill, again, what we had earlier, what we heard the roll call for earlier was the religious exemptions amendment. That was not the same-sex marriage bill itself.
But as we head toward the vote on the final bill, there have been people whipping this vote and a lot of people who have been counting these votes. We are told that of the 32 senators needed to get a majority on this, 31 were declared solidly in favor before Stephen Saland said tonight that he will vote yes.
How unexpected was that Saland declaration? And are vote-counters here the 31 were solid which would make him the tie-breaking vote?
TUR: Those 31 were very solid. They had all of the Democrats in the state Senate, except for one, Diaz of New York, who is a priest. He said he would absolutely vote no.
They had also two Republican senators who decided they would vote. They knew that going into, I believe, on Monday, that those two Republican senators were solid. There were a few people that were still up in the air. Dilan was one, Grisanta is another, and Lanza was (INAUDIBLE). There were also some questions about Senator Ball.
Lanza later today decided that he would not vote yes. He announced that about a few hours ago. Dilan, it‘s not entirely surprising. We know that one of them will go. The chatter in the hall of the capitol has been all week that if this goes to the floor for a vote, it will get passed.
That‘s why many were worried that it was going to get to the conference that the senators, the GOP senators would just not let this come to a vote for fear that their base might retaliate against them. You have a lot of people outside of the hall, both protestors with Tea Party signs saying that if you allow this to come to a vote, we‘re going to kick you out of office.
The GOP chairman in New York state said I would support these senators who vote yes, that she was advocating for this not to go to the floor. It‘s been clear to the people in the press corps and lobbyists, even the crowds that this did come to the floor, that it would most certainly get voted to be approved.
MADDOW: Katy, I‘m going to stand by for us if you don‘t mind. I‘m going to bring in Casey Seiler, capitol bureau chief for “Albany Times Union,” who‘s been at the capitol night. We‘ve been speaking with Katy Tur from WNBC.
Casey, thanks very much for joining us. Appreciate your time tonight.
CASEY SEILER, ALBANY TIMES UNION (via telephone): My pleasure.
MADDOW: What can you tell us about where you think the status is right now of this vote and whether there have been any surprises tonight in terms of that 36-26 vote on the religious exemptions, amendment, and what is still expected?
SEILER: Well, the important thing is that Steve Saland has made it 32. And it‘s pretty clear that with the two Republicans who previously announced and Steve Saland, and 29 minus Ruben Diaz, Sr., who is fencing, arguing with Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy on the floor right now about his right to continue speaking.
That‘s 32. And that‘s all you need. As to the request whether they get to that 36 number again for the main part of the bill that is under consideration right now, 32 is all you need to pass. And any other votes they get will be gravy.
MADDOW: Casey, let me ask you about that specifically. It‘s both gravy and it‘s a matter of political bravery. And a lot of hot item votes like this, the hot political button issues like this—you get senators, people who are called upon to vote on this saying that they do not want to be the one. They do not want to be the margin.
And so, there had been some talk about trying to assure, essentially, a little insurance, a little cover for some of these Republicans by making the margin more than one. Does that 36 to 26 large margin on the religious exemptions amendment indicate to you that they might be getting even a margin larger one than tonight so they as to provide themselves political cover?
SEILER: Yes, I think so. I think—I‘ve always thought that they would get at least 34. And if they 36, it essentially means that the comparison many people have been making, and it‘s unfortunate one, but here you, is to a firing squad where you never know who actually loaded the bullet that did in the victim.
And here, it will allow, I don‘t think anybody is going to walk away from this debate tonight without saying that Steve Saland was, in fact, the 32nd vote. And I think that that is something—to hear Saland give that speech I think that‘s clearly something that Saland is prepared to live with. But with more votes—yes, there is more political—there is, you know, there is more political cover.
There is also for Senate Republicans conceivably more political peril. Your other guest mentioned the threat from Mike Long and the conservative party to split the party down the middle over this issue. We‘re still quite a long way away from the 2012 elections and Mike Long has changed his mind before.
You have to remember that he, eventually, after swearing up and down he would never support Carl Paladino, eventually ended up supporting him once he won the Republican nomination in the gubernatorial race last year.
MADDOW: Casey, do you have any insight into what may have driven the decision by Senator Steve Saland. Again, he may not end be the deciding vote on this tonight, but he was an undecided Republican senator heading into tonight when everybody thought what they need was one more undecided to become a yes vote. He says he will be a yes vote.
Do we know what drove his decision to vote in favor of—to say that he will vote in favor of same-sex marriage tonight?
SEILER: I have nothing that would lead me to think it was any calculation beyond what he spoke about, with that great, almost agonizing deliberateness that he just displayed on the floor, that it was a vote of conscience and that he thinks this is the fair thing to do that supports the very conservative values that he was raised with.
It‘s very interesting and it‘s an argument that many people have been making for the last several months and even longer, that is, in fact, a conservative vote, that this is the government staying out of people‘s lives.
And Steve Saland is—he has been described as a legislator‘s legislator. I was amid a group of reporters who tried to button hole him as he emerged from one of the many meetings he and other Republicans have had with the governor to hammer out this religious protection language. And he was clearly agonized that having all the microphones and cameras stuck in his face and he just kind of smiled and said, “No comment,” and sort of disappeared into the elevator. And we also mildly embarrassed to kind of gotten in his face in that way.
He is—he is the definition of a mild-mannered lawmaker.
MADDOW: We are right joined by Casey Seiler, who‘s a capitol bureau chief for “The Albany Times Union” at the New York state capitol in Albany.
The Republican-led Senate has passed protections for religious groups that are opposed to gay marriage even as they are about to vote on the same sex marriage rights themselves. It was a 36-26 vote on that amendment involving protection for religious organizations, essentially giving them a legally protected right to opt-out from having any part of this state right that may be extended to same-sex couples.
Katy Tur from WNBC is also at Albany, also at the capitol covering this.
Katy, let me just ask you, the last time same-sex marriage came close to passing in New York state was in September 2009. The New York Senate brought it up in there. No Republicans voted for it and it lost by 14 votes, lost by a lot. That was actually under Democratic control at that point.
What has changed since 2009 that‘s brought us to this precipice of potentially passing tonight under Republican control?
TUR: Well, I think a lot has changed since then. I mean, public sentiment for one has grown stronger in support of gay marriage. We have 60 percent of New Yorkers in one recent poll that said that they do support same-sex marriage.
It‘s also a question of leadership. The past couple of governors, as you well know, have not been the most stable in New York. We had Governor Spitzer as well as Governor Paterson, both of whom you could say left in some measure of disgrace. Paterson not as much Spitzer, of course.
And Governor Cuomo has just had a much better hand at organizing.
He‘s been much better at convincing and much better at working with the
other side. They got a loss of passed today. They got rent regulation
passed today, tax cut, state college issues. They have a lot passed, most
all of it was on the governor‘s agenda.
So, this was a huge coup for Andrew Cuomo tonight. For him to get gay marriage passed for the first time tonight. And that‘s just a couple of years ago that got handedly defeated. It‘s a major victory.
And you could argue that a lot of it has to do with his leadership and his ability to reach across the aisle. I don‘t think there‘s much question tonight that this measure, gay marriage, did pass partially because of public sentiment, partially because of his leadership, but partially because it was a transnational issue. I mean, there were issues with rent regulation among other things that the Republicans pushed their agendas on and got a lot a little farther than they maybe was have they have not the leverage of bringing gay marriage to a vote. So, it‘s certainly a number of factors.
MADDOW: Let me interject here.
Katy Tur joins us from WNBC. We are covering the impending vote on same sex marriage rights in Albany, in the New York State Senate. We are staying with this.
We‘ve got to take a quick break, but we will be right back, we think, with the actual vote.
MADDOW: New York State Senate in Albany, where senators are taking their two-minute turns to speak on a bill of which they are about to vote, a bill that would extend same-sex marriage rights to couples in New York state.
Those rights exist in Massachusetts. Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in May 2004. Connecticut did so November 2008. New Hampshire did so January 2009. Vermont did so September 2009. Iowa did April 2009. And Washington, D.C. did in March 2010.
Will New York be next?
So far, we‘ve had a vote this evening on an amendment that would carve out essentially religious exemptions for organizations that did not want to be sued even though they did not want to support or planned to help implement these new rights in New York state. The vote call—the roll call on that religious exemptions amendment was 36 to 26. That was not the bill itself, though. The bill itself remains to be voted on.
Before tonight of the 32 senators needed to pass the same sex marriage bill, 31 senators were declared in favor. But this evening, Republican Senator Stephen Saland, who has long been undecided, said that he will vote for it. That would appear to establish 32 state senators who will vote for it, which would be a majority.
As we await that vote, we turn now to State Assemblyman Charles Lavine, who represents Nassau County on Long Island and who supports same-sex marriage and voted for it when the assembly had its opportunity.
Assemblyman Lavine, thank you very much for joining us.
STATE REP. CHARLES LAVINE (D), NEW YORK (via telephone): Well, thank you for having me on.
MADDOW: The way that I just explained that in terms of how things are unfolding, is that how you understand things are likely to go?
LAVINE: It was an accurate piece of reporting.
MADDOW: OK. In terms of what‘s happening here. In 2009, the state Senate took this up and did not pass it. It lost by 14 votes, an unexpectedly large measure.
Now, under Republican control in the Senate, it looks like it may pass. Nobody is counting their chickens, but it might. What do you think has changed in two years?
LAVINE: I think there have been two major changes in terms of New York state. And one major change has been the acceptance of the fact that the public wants this. Not only does the public want this and accept this, the public has already moved past this.
To young people, it is a matter of amazement this is an issue at all.
And the writing is obviously on the wall.
The second major factor that contributes to this change is that Governor Andrew Cuomo has very skillfully established a group of stakeholders, core individuals, who are advocates. And they have worked in conjunction with each other. And that has caused a major difference in approach to the way senators were talked to and persuaded.
And a great credit must go to New York‘s Governor Andrew Cuomo.
MADDOW: Assemblyman Lavine, one sort of specific issue here that I wonder when you are a state representative how these factors into both decision-making and debate on this, but the comptroller‘s office for the state estimated that the economic impact of extending marriage rights to same sex couples in New York would add about $142 million on a net basis to New York City‘s economy and about $14 million on a net basis in spending to the state‘s economy.
Is that the kind of thing that comes up in real negotiations within the assembly when people are talking about how they are going to vote on this sort of thing? Is that the sort of thing by which you prove your case to the public, or is that use to prove your case to each other within the assembly?
LAVINE: It comes up to a limited extent. And, of course, it‘s something that those of us who are proponents rely upon and discuss. To those who are adverse to this change in the law, this is a matter of their particular interpretations of their own senses of morality.
And the economic factor is something that doesn‘t figure into their calculus whatsoever.
MADDOW: State Assemblyman Charles Lavine, representing Nassau County
on Long Island, a supporter of what looks to be, I think we are right on
the cusp being voted on in the New York State Senate tonight. Mr. Lavine -
thank you very much for your time tonight. I appreciate it.
LAVINE: My pleasure. Thank you so much.
MADDOW: Thank you.
LAVINE: Have a great night.
MADDOW: As we watch what‘s happening in the state Senate right now in Albany, what we are expecting to happen is this: the state senator speaking right now, there will be one more state senator, Mark Grisanti, who is speaking right now. There‘ll be one more state senator who is expected to give a two-minute speech on this subject.
It appears that not every senator who had the opportunity to take two minutes to speak is taking their two minutes. When you start adding up those two minutes and what two minutes means in real Senate time, that can turn into a real long night.
What we are told now, this is our latest advice, is that there will be one more New York state senator who will be doing his or her two-minute things after Senator Grisanti. And then after that last two-minute thing, there will be a vote.
Again, right now, we are looking for a 32-vote margin to pass this bill. Thirty-one votes -- 31 senators declared supporting same-sex marriage rights and planning to vote for the bill coming into tonight. Republican Senator Stephen Saland adding his name to the list, tonight, presumably making 32. But we will not know until the votes are counted.
Joining us now once again on the phone is Casey Seiler, the capitol bureau chief for “Albany Times Union.”
Casey, does it seem like we are on the precipice here, one more two-minute speech and then we‘ll vote?
SEILER: Yes. That means that that would put the vote at 34 as opposed to 36 because two of those 36 votes for the amendments included Dean Skelos and he‘s been no on same sex marriage for quite a while.
But that was just Mark Grisanti who just gave a very kind of closely reasoned, you know, some would say legalistic argument, but, you know, very straight forward common sense where he said I can‘t come up with a reason not to—I can‘t come up with a reason to not vote against same-sex marriage and denying somebody the rights that I have with my own life.
And he said that the religious protections that were included in the chapter amendments were sufficient for him. So, that‘s 33. And if one more person is about to speak, I would imagine that would be the 34th yes vote. So, there is the two-vote—you know, the whipped cream and cherry on top, if you will.
MADDOW: Do we know yet who the next senator is who is due to speak?
SEILER: I don‘t, no.
MADDOW: OK. At this point, everybody is watching the Republicans here. This is a Republican-controlled body. If this goes the way it looks like it may go in a few minutes, this would be the first time that a Republican-controlled chamber of a state legislature passed a same-sex marriage bill. It would be the first that a Republican legislative body was ever involved in extending same-sex marriage rights.
I‘ve been saying, it‘s been two years since the last same-sex marriage vote in New York that went the other way. It‘s actually a year and a half because that was in December 2009. This would reflect a major, major change in things in the politics of this in the state.
Can I ask you, Casey, in terms of the mood there, we heard cheers quickly gaveled down by the lieutenant governor there when the amendment passed on religious restrictions. What‘s the mood like and what‘s the crowd like there?
SEILER: It‘s been, all week-long—there have been no extended period of time that I can compare it to at the state capitol in the three years I‘ve been down here. Across the atrium, my office faces on the atrium, and directly across from me is the great western staircase that‘s this very ornate, beautifully-carved staircase. And just across from me, both the advocates and the opponents have been kind of situated all day. And they‘ve been making the loudest sustained noise I ever heard in here.
And just before all the senators filed in to take the vote, the proponents of same-sex marriage were singing “Chapel of Love” and they were really nailing it. You could hear it throughout the building.
MADDOW: I have to say, whether you are for or against same-sex marriage rights, there has been pretty good music, pretty good a cappella singing on both sides of this. I heard anti-gay marriage singing, too.
SEILER: There were a number of African-American church leaders who‘ve been here throughout the week. And I can tell you, it‘s a vast improvement over the kind of chanting that we get over rent control.
MADDOW: Casey Seiler joining us, capitol bureau chief for “Albany Times Union.”
We‘re going to go right now for a second. We think they‘re in a brief recess right now. I‘d like to bring up the audio of what‘s happening in the Senate chamber right. We await the identity of the final state Senate speaker who will be giving a two-minute speech before the final vote.
In Casey‘s analysis, that means we may be looking for yet another Republican Senate senator now to declare intentions.
Actually, we‘re going to bring in right now Katy Tur from WNBC.
Katy, in terms of your understanding of how this is going to unfold, one more speech before the vote here and the speech expected to be from somebody who will vote for the measure?
TUR: You know, I just got out of the chamber because I can‘t be on my phone in there. I‘m distracted by Senator Parker throwing a fit next to a chamber, I‘m not sure what about. I think he‘s upset that a recess just got called.
I don‘t know who‘s going next. But I do know with Grisanti‘s vote, if all things remain equal, and with Saland‘s vote, this vote will go through. There is a brief recess. It shouldn‘t be more than a few minutes.
There will be one more two-minute vote, then you‘ll see them actually do the roll call and call the vote—at which point, as you were just hearing from the last guest, this entire building will erupt into cheers or jeers, depending. I mean, there‘s been, as he was saying, sustained cheering or sustained jeering in the hallways. And even as the media were dropping like flies waiting for this to get done, waiting in front of the Majority Leader Dean Skelos‘ office, for the entire day, we‘re going to find out if this will actually come to a vote.
Outside, the energy level was quite astonishing. I don‘t know if they had a good supply of Red Bull or caffeine or whatnot out there, but they were singing the entire time.
So, in just a couple of minutes, this entire building will just erupt into a very loud mass, (INAUDIBLE) I can still hear you on the phone.
MADDOW: Katy, let me ask about police presence and security and whether there‘s any concern about safety issues or crowd issues?
TUR: Well, there‘s definitely heightened level of security. We have state troopers in here. Today, unlike yesterday, they kept the protestors outside of the hallways where the offices are and outside the lobby area. The protestors are confined to the hallway outside as well as the chambers upstairs.
But there is definitely an increased state trooper presence here. I don‘t know if they are worried about violence or clashes. The arguments between both sides outside have been relatively—they‘ve actually been completely peaceful. There hasn‘t escalated the whole time this argument has been going on.
I know there are some arguments on Facebook, but there‘s been no direct threat of violence. I know that there are people in New York City in particular that are slightly concerned, or slightly worried that if this does pass, there might be a slight uptick in violence in the West Village.
In the past year, you‘ve seen in New York City, an increased level of hate crimes. You‘ve seen a lot more hate crimes targeted against gays and lesbians down in the village. So, there is a little bit of concern within the gay community around there that maybe this increase much in the same way some people that feel there‘s been an increased level of racism for African-Americans now that Obama was elected president.
MADDOW: I will tell you, speaking personally as a gay person who lives in the West Village, if this passes tonight, I can imagine exactly what is going to happen in the West Village. It will likely be quite boisterous both in the West Village and Christopher Street area.
If it does not pass tonight, I think it will be at this point—it will be defying expectations. So, I think, right now, the sense is this is going to pass.
Again, Stephen Saland, the Republican senator appearing to be vote number 32, which would be sort of the tie-breaking vote in order to pass this measure. Senator Grisanti, and other Republican senator appearing to be the 33rd senator declaring himself in favor of this tonight.
But bringing Casey Seiler back, capitol bureau chief from “Albany Times Union.”
I‘ll ask you about the same question that I was just discussing with Katy. In terms of the intense emotion that‘s been on display with protestors and advocates on both sides of this issue, do you think there are crowd control and safety issues to be worried about tonight at the capitol?
SEILER: No. I think the troopers have done a very good job of kind of keeping people in areas kind of distant from the legislatures who they might want to, you know, reach out and touch, as it were. And it‘s a marked difference from what we saw during the contentious budget debate at the end of March. They are able to let people in, for example, the galleries over the state Senate. Those were closed. It looks like they are coming back in right now.
MADDOW: Casey, I was going to ask, we‘re going to dip back into this
to cover this.\
MADDOW: This will probably be the last two-minute speech before the vote.
Here we go.
STATE SEN. CARL KRUGER (D), NEW YORK: More than 130 years ago in this House, this Senate was convened. Tonight, in the shadow of darkness, a bright light shine once this chamber. A light that says good judgment, integrity, fairness, peace and equality should fill this room.
For a very long time, my position has been miscategorized. By doing that, I would like to put into focus the events of December 2nd, 2009, cause as Senator Diaz pointed out, I was a no votes on the original bill that. That bill of then and the bill of today is very, very different. The protections it offers today were not part of the very grain of the bill that we have in front of us.
I myself in the early 1990s stood in the lobby of SUNY Downstate and fought for a fight to get aerosol pentamidine as a cutting edge treatment to pneumocystis pneumonia to AIDS patients that were in that facility.
When Saunders (ph) came to this floor, I supported it. When the hate crimes came to this floor, I supported it. And when the rights of students came to this floor, I supported it, as well.
So, tonight is not very much a change in the position I‘ve taken since very, very early in my political career. But tonight is a reaffirmation of what a family is. And as everyone pointed out, that this is very a difficult vote. It‘s difficult for all of us.
As my good friend and colleague and the person that spearheaded this drive, when everybody thought that the effort was hopeless, my good friend, Senator Tom Duane, said it very, very succinctly. He said there are no villains in this room. There are all heroes.
And tonight, we can take claim that we have brought to a floor a bill that was worthy of our consideration, that regardless of whether we vote for or against it, at the end of the day, the consciousness of this body will prevail and majority will rule.
So, tonight, Mr. President, on behalf of my community for which I‘ve gotten thousands of e-mails, thousands of letters, both in opposition and in support, it‘s a clear and con compelling message that says for this body, for 130 years, we stood together in partnership. The Krugers and the Duanes will come and go, but the right and the freedoms that this Empire State has built its reputation on should live forever. It should live forever in these halls and in this room, because together in partnership, we are proving tonight people that care can truly make a difference.
I vote yes. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir. Thank you.
MADDOW: Senator Carl Kruger, one of the eight Democrats who voted no on same sex marriage last time it was voted in 2009.
We‘re expecting now a vote.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those that recorded in the negative are Senators Ball, Bonacic, DeFrancisco, Diaz, Farley, Flanagan, Fuschillo, Gallivan, Golden, Griffo, Hannon, Johnson, Lanza, Larkin, LaValle, Libous, Little, Marcellino, Martins, Maziarz, Nozzolio, O‘Mara, Ranzenhofer, Ritchie, Robach, Seward, Skelos, Young, and Zeldin. Ayes 33, nays 29.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: May I have your attention?
CROWD: USA, USA, USA!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I could have your attention? Ladies and gentlemen, if you just—bill number 1545, Marriage Equality, the bill is passed. I ask—please, we have more business to continue. Senator Skelos?
STATE SEN. DEAN SKELOS ®, NEW YORK: Mr. President, there are four assembly bills at the desk. I move to reconsider the substitution and have the Senate bills restored—
MADDOW: The gavel of the presiding officer no match for the cheers in the New York State Senate as New York State Senate passed by a vote 33-29, same-sex marriage rights. This makes New York, excuse me, the sixth and largest state to pass same-sex marriage rights. This is the state Senate. This has already passed the state assembly.
It is the priority of the new Democratic Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, who lobby very, very hard for this. This will become law.
Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Iowa, and Washington, D.C., are currently the jurisdictions of the United States where there is same sex marriage, as a right extended to couples in that. Now, with the addition of New York, because New York is such a populous state, the third most populous state in the Union, what just happened will double the number of people in the United States for whom same-sex marriage rights are a reality.
New York legalizing same-sex marriage also marks the first time a measure passed a state legislature in which at least one of the houses was controlled by Republicans, when Democrats controlled the state Senate in New York 2009, in December and this was voted, it lost and it lost badly. It lost by 14 votes. But tonight, it won by four, 33 to 29.
I mentioned earlier the comptroller‘s office in New York estimates positive economic impact for this, marriage equality adding $142 million in spending to New York‘s economy and $184 million in new net spending to the state‘s economy.
One more important about this in terms of its practical impact an potential its economic is that this a state, New York is a state that has no residency requirement for obtaining a marriage license. So, even though New York recognizes out of state same sex couples, couples—American couples from anywhere in the country can come to New York once this becomes law 30 days after the governor signs it and get married in this state.
We are going to look at how the vote unfolded just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ayes 33, nays 29.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Followed soon thereafter of chants of “USA, USA,” and individual chants of thank you.
Joining us now on the phone is Steven Friedman (ph), legislative director for Democratic Assemblyman Charles Lavine, a supporter of same sex marriage.
Mr. Friedman, I want to ask you how you think this came together in terms of the advocacy on the issue, turning the state Senate around in a period of 18 months?
STEVEN FRIEDMAN, LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR OF ASSEMBLYMAN LAVINE (via telephone): I think the use of social media and new technology really helped a lot of the advocates. I think a strong governor also helped—something that New York has been lacking over the last few years of strong leadership was definitely one of the strongest proponents and moving this bill forward on the floor.
MADDOW: In terms of what‘s happening at the state capitol and the reaction there, what do you anticipate in terms of—I mean, we are all anticipating there will be court challenges here. But what do you think will happen to the antagonistic politics over this issue that have built over these intense, intense debates over these last few weeks?
FRIEDMAN: I think that judging by the people here at the capitol protesting, most of everybody here was quite civil. I hope that that continues in regard to further advocacy in the current debate even after the bill has been passed. But I think that if people follow the lead of the people here protesting for and against same-sex marriage here at the capitol over the past week, we are in for a good treat.
MADDOW: Steven Friedman, legislative director for State Assemblyman Charles Lavine, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Congratulations for your work on this subject. Appreciate it.
FRIEDMAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: Again, we are reacting now to news that New York has become the largest state in the Union to approve of same-sex marriage rights.
At this point, what this means is probably most interestingly, a new Republican politics around same-sex marriage. What happened here in New York state is not just that people who were already known to be supporters of same-sex marriage got more power in the state. That‘s not what happened. Between the last vote that lost and new vote that passed, the legislative body that made all the difference went from Democratic hands into Republican hands.
There were eight Democrats voted against it last time and they came around. Only one Democrat voted against it this time, Senator Ruben Diaz.
But ultimately, it was Republicans changing their mind, as well, which made the decisive difference here.
One Republican senator stepping out and giving a very carefully measured legal speech tonight, Stephen Saland, about why he was going from undecided to a yes vote on the issue. Another senator after him becoming, if not the deciding vote, the next vote, Senator Grisanti, saying tonight, “I struggled with this immensely. I am not here as a senator who is just Catholic, I cannot legally come up with an argument against same-sex marriage.”
Ultimately, they were senator 32 and senator 33. A 32-vote margin—
32 yes votes were needed to pass this. One more than need was how the tally came down.
In terms of the ultimate—in terms of the ultimate impact on this nationally, the other resonance here is that last night in New York City, a long-planned, months-planned event for the LGBT subgroup within the Democratic National Committee, they held a gala event in New York City, a large hotel ballroom. President Obama, the featured speaker—in terms of his position on this issue right now, President Obama is against what just happened. President Obama saying last night at time an excited and tough crowd at that gay and lesbian fundraiser in New York City, that while he supported equal rights for same-sex couples, he did not make news in reversing his previously opposition to same-sex marriage rights in particular.
The president has said in the past that he is opposed to marriage rights being extended to same-sex couples. More, he recently he‘s described his views on that issue specifically as evolving. There were protests both online yesterday and in person outside that event at which the president spoke in New York City last night. People held signs that said “evolve already”—in response to his statements that his views on the subject were evolving.
Somewhat cryptically in the context of this incredible pressure of this debate unfolding in Albany, the president said to this crowd, to this LGBT, to a high-dollar fundraiser for a sitting president for his reelection campaign, he said that he was looking forward to writing the next chapter on the issue of gay rights with the crowd of gay activists and gay rights supporters who he encouraged to keep working on this issue, to stay loud and to stay involved. Of course, echoing the famous call of presidents telling civil rights leaders that they need to stay on him to do the right thing.
Tell me, I‘m sorry—Assemblyman Charles Lavine once again joins us now on the phone. He represents Nassau County in Long Island.
Assemblyman Lavine, thanks for joining us, getting back to us.
This now passed. I guess I want mostly your reaction.
LAVINE: Hi, I‘m sorry. Were you speaking to me?
MADDOW: I was speaking to you. Welcome to television.
LAVINE: I‘m sorry. I‘m on my cell phone. The receptions sketchy and I couldn‘t hear what you said.
MADDOW: That‘s OK. I was asking your reaction tonight that this just passed.
LAVINE: It‘s not often we have the rare opportunity to see history unfold for the better. And I‘m very proud to say that this is precisely what occurred in the New York State Senate and New York state legislature this evening. So, it‘s extraordinarily exciting and most gratifying.
MADDOW: In terms of the ongoing impact here, sir, do you feel like—do you feel like some of the animosity stirred up between the two sides on this issue can be smoothed over constructively enough to keep working on other issues, or do you think this is going to make things harder in the capitol?
LAVINE: You know, I didn‘t sense that there was tremendous animosity from legislatures who felt one way as opposed to legislatures who felt another. There was animosity among some of the groups who were here, who were dead-set against a change in the law. And only time and understanding will change their minds.
But I have no doubt we will see that this major step towards civil rights, human rights and American rights will be much for the better for everyone in our society and our culture.
MADDOW: State Assemblyman Charles Lavine, thank you tonight, sir.
Appreciate your time.
LAVINE: Thank you, Rachel. Have a great night.
MADDOW: Thank you.
Again, the New York State Senate paving the way for same sex marriage rights to be extended to New York state, the third most populous state in the country, roughly doubling the number of people to whom these rights have been extended in the United States.
We‘ll resume with our normally scheduled programming.
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