Skip navigation

'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Friday, July 29, 2011

Read the transcript to the Friday show

  Most Popular
Most viewed

Guests: Ezra Klein, Sen. Kent Conrad, Jay Newton-Small

LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, HOST: The House of Representatives has now passed a Tea Party fantasy that will never become law once again leaving the job of working out a realistic compromise to the United States Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
(MUSIC)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bill is passed. Without objection, a motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: This bill is going nowhere. It is a total waste of time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would respond using Speaker Boehner‘s own words
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Hell no, you can‘t!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hell no, you can‘t.
O‘DONNELL: It‘s official, the Tea Party has taken over the House of Representatives.
REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: They have made another quantum leap in the opposite direction.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: Concessions to the Tea Party today.
LUKE RUSSERT: This proposal from Boehner has gone to the right.
MITCHELL: The speaker added a balanced budget amendment.
MARTIN BASHIR, MSNBC: Make it even more certain that the Republican bill will fail in the Senate.
MITCHELL: And House Republicans took a step away from compromise.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Lawmakers are exhausted, the public is fed up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The bickering capitol of the world.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, THE WASHINGTON POST: John Boehner has gone from the number one most important person to certainly not the number one important person.
UNIDENTFIED MALE: John Boehner is seeing his leadership at stake here.
O‘DONNELL: Tea Party Republicans have not moved one inch closer to reality.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do they have any idea what they are doing?
REP. STEVE KING ®, IOWA: I‘d like to see us go home for the month of August.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we get no deal default, then it is just chaos.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Time has run.
MITCHELL: Time is indeed running out.
RUSSERT: Clock is ticking.
KING: We‘ve got some time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dow is going to be down by triple digits.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every market in the world to go down.
KING: I‘m not moved by this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When people start to freak out, gold is where they run.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They‘re losing so much money. People who are losing in IRA, the 401(k), they don‘t know why it‘s happening.
UNIDDENTIFIED MALE: These are the people we‘ve sent there. We‘re getting what we pay for.
MITCHELL: Today‘s “New York Daily News” with the headline “Grow Up.”
O‘DONNELL: Democrats continue to try to find ways around the Tea Party.
MITCHELL: President Obama said today that he wants a bipartisan solution.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Magic things can happen here in Congress.
BASHIR: Senate Democrats are pushing for their plan to avoid default.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have these people on and they sound so high and mighty. Do they have any idea what they are doing? No, they have no idea. No one.
This is the destruction of wealth in this country. People care about that. They care about that a lot, because it‘s what they use to raise their kids.
(END VIDEOTAPE)
O‘DONNELL: Good evening from New York.
The House of Representatives has passed Speaker John Boehner‘s twice-revised budget control act, 218 to 210. Two hundred and sixteen votes are actually needed to pass the bill, no Democrats voted for it, and 22 Republicans voted against it.
Boehner was forced to load down the bill with things like a constitutional amendment to balance the budget that have created even stronger opposition in the Senate where Harry Reid already had 53 committed votes against it.
This is the kind of speech that a speaker gives when he knows his legislation is going nowhere.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: I stuck my neck out a mile to try to get an agreement with the president of the United States, in order to try to come to an agreement to avert us being where we are. But a lot of people in this town can never say yes. This house has acted and it is time for the administration and time for our colleagues across the aisle, put something on the table! Tell us where you are!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: When you are actually legislating realistically instead of symbolically, the speech you give at that point is something along the lines of the Senate must take action on this bill and the president must sign it. You don‘t beg the other side to --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOEHNER: Put something on the table! Tell us where you are!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: And you don‘t need to do that when the president has already told you where you are.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It has no chance of becoming law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Speaker Boehner has known this day is coming for a long time. Last year, he said this to “The New Yorker” about the day that would come this year when the House of Representatives had to face its responsibility to raise the debt ceiling. “This is going to be probably the first really big adult moment for the new Republican majority. And for people who‘ve never been in politics, it‘s going to be one of those grows moments. It‘s going to be difficult. I‘m certainly well aware of that. But we‘ll have to find a way to help educate members and help people understand the serious problem that would exist if we didn‘t do it.”
John Boehner has worked harder and done more than any other Republican in the House to, as he put it, educate members and help people understand the serious problem that would exist if we didn‘t do it.
But John Boehner‘s best has not been good enough. He has been elected to the speakership with the votes of economically uneducable Tea Party Republicans who have no ability to comprehend the seriousness and the necessity of raising the debt ceiling.
And so, tonight in what John Boehner was hoping would be the Tea Party‘s, quote, “first really adult moment,” John Boehner has been forced to bring a bill to a vote that he knows is the work of the children in his party, the political Peter Pans who still, with the United States of America careening towards default on its obligations, refuse to grow up.
Joining me now, Democratic senator from North Dakota and budget committee chairman.
Senator Kent Conrad, thanks for joining me tonight, Senator.
SEN. KENT CONRAD (D), NORTH DAKOTA: Good to be with you, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: Senator, the House has sent this bill over. Harry Reid is trying to take quick action on it. I just got word on my BlackBerry that Harry Reid is trying to schedule votes to get through this.
Can you tell us what the state of play is in the Senate right now?
CONRAD: The vote has just started on the move to end the Boehner proposal in the Senate and the Boehner proposal will lose. I mean, it never had any prospects in the Senate, which the speaker certainly knew.
Perhaps more extraordinary, Lawrence, the minority leader just told the majority leader that he will not negotiate with him. That is really quite extraordinary.
The Republican leader, McConnell, has told the majority leader, Reid, that he will not negotiate with him. He‘ll only negotiate with the president.
I‘ve been here 25 years. I have never heard anything like that.
Lawrence, you were here in a key staff position on the key committee in the United States Senate. I don‘t know if you have ever heard in all of your time in the Senate a minority leader tell the majority leader that he will not negotiate with him.
He then, the Republican leader offered to have a vote on the Reid plan tonight, and our leader, Democratic Leader Harry Reid, said fine, if you will permit a majority and McConnell objected to a majority vote, and then Leader Reid said, so, you intend to filibuster the only vehicle that has a chance of solving this problem in a timely way?
And that‘s where we are tonight. With the Republicans deciding to filibuster the only vehicle that can possibly solve this problem since the Boehner bill is dying in the Senate tonight.
O‘DONNELL: Senator, that is an absolutely stunning report on where we stand. I just could not imagine it turning this way. But we‘ve been in uncharted territory for a couple of weeks now, and there was a moment where people thought that the only place this could be worked out, the only place, is in the offices of Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell.
For the Republican leader to refuse to even begin the discussion says to me that he believes we are still in the stunt stage, that here we are on Friday night approaching the deadline of Tuesday, and there‘s still time for stunts, because it‘s always a stunt if you‘re refusing to negotiate with the other side in divided government.
CONRAD: Well, when Leader McConnell indicated, objected to a majority vote on the Reid plan tonight, effectively saying the Republicans are going to filibuster the only vehicle that now has a prospect of avoiding default in time, and said that he refuses to negotiate with the majority leader, that is an extraordinary turn of events—unlike anything I have seen in 25 years in the United States Senate.
O‘DONNELL: Has anyone on your side come up with a theory as to what it is Mitch McConnell really wants, where he thinks he can really get strategically from this point forward?
CONRAD: Apparently, what we‘re hearing is that he wants to defeat the Reid proposal and then go to a negotiation, a final negotiation. The problem with that is, you know, Lawrence, given the rules of the Senate, there is not time for that kind of game to play out.
The—the Reid proposal, the majority leader‘s proposal is the only vehicle that can cross the finish line in time and by that, I mean by Tuesday. Given the need for closure, given the need for the 30 hours to run consecutively, that‘s where we are.
So, this is really, I think, an alarming turn of events.
O‘DONNELL: So, in effect, he is defying Leader Reid to basically file for cloture as soon as possible and start the cloture clock running on what would be the Reid bill, so you won‘t get to anything like a vote on it until, say, Monday.
CONRAD: As you know, if Senator Reid goes to his legislation, we have to hold over for a day before the vote. That would put it at 1:00 in the morning on Sunday, then the 30 hours starts to run, and, you know, people can do the math. Then you got to go through this sequentially.
Then you get to Tuesday, that‘s if Senator Reid files tonight, and with the Republican move to filibuster, starting now, there‘s just not time for this game.
O‘DONNELL: It has seems to me that it has been a game up to now and that what Mitch McConnell and John Boehner were doing were trying to prove to their caucuses what was impossible in order to get unrealistic legislators to the point of what‘s possible, you must first prove to them what is impossible. And so, it has made sense to me, up to now, what the Republican moves have been, but I just don‘t think we‘re in a spot here where it is—it is now possible for us to read what‘s going on over there.
Is there—does Harry Reid suggest that there is any moment where he‘s going to be able to have some sort of more real conversation with Mitch McConnell? Look, I had conversation—I‘ve had three conversations with the majority leader since the Republican Leader McConnell told him he wouldn‘t negotiate with him.
And I can tell you, I think Senator Reid, Leader Reid, was really taken aback, because I think he read the situation the way you have that it first had to be clear that the Boehner proposal could not pass in the Senate, and then it would be time for a serious negotiation. But instead, McConnell, the Republican leader, said he will not negotiate with the Democratic leader, the majority leader of the United States Senate, and has begun a filibuster of the Reid approach, denying a simple majority vote, which is what happened in the House, they had a simple majority vote, Leader Reid asked for the same in a Senate, a simple majority vote, McConnell refused and therefore is filibustering the only possible vehicle that can get across the finish line in time.
O‘DONNELL: Senator Kent Conrad, I know you have to get back to the Senate floor. Thank you very much on this report on the latest level of brinkmanship in the Senate. Thank you, Senator.
CONRAD: You bet.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up, more on the policy and politics playing out in Washington. The balanced budget amendment has been called the single stupidest constitutional amendment ever. It‘s back in the debate now, but what version of it is being pushed by the House?
And later, there is a nuclear option in the debate, in the debt ceiling debate, the 14th Amendment option, the question that refuses to go away.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
O‘DONNELL: Coming up, the House has voted. Now, the Senate is trying to vote. We‘ll get the latest in tonight‘s fast-moving developments with MSNBC‘s Ezra Klein and “TIME‘s” Jay Newton-Small.
And later, I‘m going to announce THE LAST WORD first—the very first banning of a member of Congress from this program. You might want to stick around for that.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
O‘DONNELL: Earlier tonight, House Speaker John Boehner finally got enough Tea Party Republicans to vote for the third version of his bill to raise the debt ceiling and reduce the deficit by adding in a two-stage increase in the debt ceiling with the second stage occurring, if and only if, Congress passes a balanced budget amendment and sends it on to the states for the necessary approval from ¾ of the state legislators for ratification.
The United States Senate now is voting on the Boehner bill.
There are already 51 votes recorded against it as it is proceeding at this very moment in the United States Senate.
Joining me now, congressional correspondent for “TIME,” Jay Newton-Small, also “The Washington Post” columnist and MSNBC contributor, Ezra Klein.
Thank you both for joining me.
Jay, what‘s going on here? This is moved to the Senate quickly, we have just got Kent Conrad‘s kind of breathless, up-to-date report on what the procedures have been in the Senate so far. Where do we go from here?
JAY NEWTON-SMALL, TIME: Well, we really have to figure out a compromise. The clock is ticking, there‘s only about four days—less than four days left, really, in order—before we start defaulting on our debt. So, not only do Reid and McConnell, although, listening to Kent Conrad, it seems it‘s supposed to be McConnell and President Obama, but—
I mean, the Democrats and Republicans here essentially have to negotiate a deal that can pass both the Senate and the house, otherwise it really is economic Armageddon and it‘s not looking good.
O‘DONNELL: Ezra, the Tea Party desperately needed this balanced budget, constitutional amendment balanced budget attached to the debt ceiling increase, which I laugh at, because I know it‘s an utter absurdity. In fact, if they had this constitutional amendment in force, they would never have been able to have the Bush tax cuts, because they wildly unbalanced the budget with those tax cuts.
But I want to go into the balanced budget amendment itself and which version of it has - is the one they‘ve stuck in this thing tonight.
EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that‘s the thing we actually don‘t know. The funny thing about this bill they‘ve done. Previously in cut, cap, and balance they‘ve had balanced budget amendments that had a super majority for raising taxes, had very low spending cap that would have brought spending back to 1957 era levels, and had a balanced budget portion.
In this one they didn‘t specify it. They said in order for the debt ceiling to be raised, Congress would have to report out, would have to pass through both houses something essentially call a balanced budget amendment. Some wags on Twitter said, “Well, couldn‘t you just call your bill a balanced budget amendment and in it put post office names and maybe you could do that?”
But there were no specifics whatsoever. The reason for that, most likely, is they didn‘t want to get to the point here people were actually laying out what their balanced amendment would force in the way of cuts.
O‘DONNELL: Jay, what do you make of the McConnell demand to negotiate with the president, to refuse to negotiate with his counterpart in the Senate and negotiate with the president?
NEWTON-SMALL: Well, the mantra for Republicans has been, in this debate, where‘s Democratic plan, where‘s the Democratic leadership, we‘ve put forth four different plans, you keep voting our plans down, why aren‘t you leading?
Usually, Democrats sort of respond back, well, we‘ve been negotiating with you and you walk away from us. You know, we get so close to a deal, we finally come close to a compromise, and then you walk away and put your own plan on the floor, which we haven‘t agreed to, then vote on that. That‘s not a realistic way of doing things.
So, I think that, you know, part of this is just politics, and Mitch McConnell has nothing, if not a political animal, and it is sort of just saying like it‘s the political answer, let‘s get the president to the table. Let‘s make him be a leader. I think, hopefully, my understanding is that once the Boehner bill is proven to die in the Senate, that the Republicans will sit down and finally start negotiating with Harry Reid.
But they may not. And if not, then it may be a very strange weekend of, you know, demanding President Obama come to the hill and see what happens.
But I don‘t know how he helps here. I mean, he‘s not going to sway any votes. You need the votes in the House and the Senate to pass this. It‘s not that—the White House isn‘t voting on this, their only vote is the veto.
O‘DONNELL: Ezra, the president has said he could accept the Harry Reid bill as he understands it, if you put the Reid bill and the Boehner bill on the table beside each other and you were trying to merge them in some sort of compromise form that Democrats could accept and that enough Republicans in the House could accept it, what would that look like?
KLEIN: What we think it will look like, what the smart money is on essentially the thing you‘re going to have to fix is the Reid bill has no enforcement mechanism for the deficit reduction super committee to report out something with big cuts and potentially some revenues.
In the Boehner bill, that is tied to the second debt ceiling increase. So, the theory is the Congress will have to pass something because if they don‘t, we‘ll go into an economic collapse.
A lot of the thinking around town is what you‘re going to have is that same deficit commission, but instead of tying it to the debt ceiling, you‘ll tie it to some sort of mechanism that makes across the board cuts if Congress doesn‘t pass further deficit reduction.
What Democrats worry about with that is they end up in a heads Democrats lose, tails Republicans win situation where you get a report from this committee. It‘s a huge spending cuts that can‘t pass through Congress, so the alternative is across the board spending cuts.
So, they‘re trying to negotiate something up that‘s more balance. But there‘s not been a huge willingness on the part of the Republican part thus far to do a lot of compromising.
O‘DONNELL: The Boehner bill has just gone down, just been defeated in the Senate. I don‘t have a vote total on it right now, but it has been defeated.
So that‘s it, Jay, we had—the Senate has disposed of the Boehner bill, the short-lived Boehner bill. I don‘t think I‘ve seen a House bill passed and then defeated in quite such a quick period of time in one evening.
Does the president think that there is a way for him to stay out of this? If McConnell wants him in, does that mean the White House wants to stay out?
NEWTON-SMALL: I think the White House—and, you know, behind the scenes a lot of politicians have said to me in both chambers the president‘s presence hasn‘t been helpful in these negotiations. He elevates it to a point where, you know, it‘s so high up you can‘t really discuss behind closed doors, you really need to sort of—a lot of this has to be done through staffers, you know, sort of getting the basic kind of details of the bills nailed down—and, you know, elevating it to that level isn‘t that helpful, especially when Reid and McConnell have negotiated so many bills together, know each other so well, have a comfortable relationship. I mean, Boehner and Obama have negotiated, but those fell apart twice.
And so, I mean, having the president in the room here, especially when you‘re just dealing with a Senate bill and perhaps going through the House, I don‘t know how helpful that is, given that, you know, it‘s more so his vice president, Joe Biden, who has experience in hammering out these giant negotiations.
O‘DONNELL: That final vote in the Senate was 59 to 41, which means the Democrats definitely picked up some Republicans there. I don‘t have the names of the Republicans just yet. We‘ll get that during the break.
Jay Newton-Small of “TIME” magazine and Ezra Klein of “The Washington Post,” I want to thank you very much for joining me tonight.
KLEIN: Thank you.
NEWTON-SMALL: Thank you.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up, when the August 2nd deadline arrives, if there is still no deal, will President Obama invoke the 14th Amendment? He says he won‘t do it, but the question keeps coming up.
And later, the kings of late-night and the writers of the late-night comics monologues find the debt ceiling is where the humor is this week.
(COMMERCILA BREAK)
O‘DONNELL: White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer has been tweeting throughout the debt negotiations tonight. He says, under the Boehner bill, we will be doing this all over again during the holidays, but this time, Congress would need 2/3 vote to avoid default.
But, of course, we won‘t be doing this all over again because the Boehner bill was just voted down in the United States Senate.
Now, can President Obama avoid that Tea Party madness and just raise the debt limit, citing the 14th Amendment? That‘s the question that will not go away.
And in tonight‘s “Rewrite,” I will ban a member of the House of Representatives from being on this show, and it won‘t be for anything he actually did on this show.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This administration does not believe that the 14th Amendment gives the president the power to ignore the debt ceiling. Congress has the authorities necessary to ensure that we meet our obligations, obligations that Congress created.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: That was White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, carefully reading his answer to that question that won‘t go away: will the president bypass Congress and use the 14th Amendment to, in effect, raise the debt ceiling on his own? Senator Tom Harkin is the latest to join in that call today, saying “is there anything that prohibits him from doing that? The answer is no, I think the Tea Party will go nuts, but the what the heck, they are already nuts anyway.”
Senators Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer and Chris Coons have all said the president should look at using the 14th Amendment if Congress fails to come up with a compromise plan. Democrats in the House have been just as vocal, with now Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Assistant House Budget Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen, Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn and House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson—all those members of the leadership calling for the 14th Amendment to at least be considered.
They are referring to Section Four of the 14th Amendment, which says “the validity of the public debt of the United States authorized by law, including debts incurred for payments of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”
Joining me now, UCLA Law professor Jonathan Zasloff. Thank for joining me tonight, professor.
JONATHAN ZASLOFF, UCLA LAW PROFESSOR: My pleasure, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: Professor, I have kind of gone back and forth on this. I read the 14th Amendment when this question first came up, by the way, having no idea that this provision was in the 14th Amendment. Back when I was in the Senate writing debt ceiling increases, nobody ever mentioned it.
And then Lawrence Tribe, Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Tribe came out with a “New York Times” op ed piece that pushed all of us back. We thought, OK, now I see what the White House is considering here. Professor Tribe said that “using the 14th Amendment that way would mean that any budget deficit, tax cut, or spending increase could be attacked on constitutional grounds, because each of those actions slightly increases the probability of default.”
Reading you and reading others who have written on this, I‘m now of the feeling that Professor Tribe went too far. Give us your case on what the president can do with the 14th Amendment.
ZASLOFF: The most important thing to understand, Lawrence, is what happens on Tuesday morning. If on Tuesday morning, the Treasury does not have enough money to pay its debts, to pay its obligations and to pay the appropriations that Congress has already appropriated, that puts the president in a tight spot.
He can either lift the debt ceiling, take on more debt so he can pay all these obligations, which has a constitutional problem. Or what he can do is saying, OK, well, if the Treasury doesn‘t have enough money, I‘m going to pick and choose which debts, which obligations, which appropriations I‘m going to pay.
The problem is that the Supreme Court has already specifically held that the president does not have that constitutional power. The president cannot pick and choose. So the idea that somehow the president doesn‘t have the authority to raise the debt ceiling by himself, and so what he has to do is pick and choose which debts, obligations, and appropriations to spend creates as many constitutional problems as it solves.
The question now is what we have is a situation where you have a Congress that has put the president in a situation where damned if you do, damned if you don‘t. Either way, he‘s got a constitutional problem. Nevertheless, what pretty much every constitutional scholar has recognized is that there is at least some reserve power that the president has in an absolute emergency to avoid catastrophes like a default on the debt, a default on obligations, a default on appropriations, appropriations which, by the way, Congress has told him he must spend.
And it‘s that reserve power in an emergency, in a very limited circumstance, that the advocates of the 14th Amendment are saying that that is why the president can lift the debt ceiling by himself.
O‘DONNELL: Professor Ronald Dwarkin of NYU posted on the “New York Review of Books” blog today—makes the point that the 14th Amendment was introduced after the Civil War for the specific purpose of preventing the new southern members of Congress, should they gain a majority, from canceling the debt the Union had incurred in the war.
This seems like a very similar circumstance to me, in that what we have is a new Congress that, in effect, does not want to pay the debt that has been incurred by previous Congresses.
ZASLOFF: Well, I think that‘s absolutely right, Lawrence. Another way to read Section Four of the 14th Amendment is what it‘s telling future Congresses and future presidents is, don‘t use the full faith and credit of the United States as a political football. Don‘t take it hostage. If the United States has incurred debts, if the United States has made promises, if the United States has undertaken obligations, you cannot use those debts and promises and obligations as a way of achieving other ways of political end. You can‘t use them as threats.
That‘s why Congress passed Section Four of the 14th Amendment to begin with. That‘s precisely what the Republican majority in the House of Representatives is doing. So consequently it‘s reasonable reading of the 14th Amendment to say that in this particular circumstance—not always, not generally, but in this particular circumstance, the president has the authority to unilaterally lift the debt ceiling.
O‘DONNELL: In my reading of the only decision where the Supreme Court referred to this, 1935 decision referring to this clause, the court said “while this provision was undoubtedly inspired by the desire to put beyond question the obligations of the government issued during the Civil War, its language indicates a broader connotation.”
Isn‘t this the broader connotation that it includes?
ZASLOFF: The broader connotation is don‘t play politics with the debt ceiling. Don‘t play politics with the full faith and credit of the United States. Don‘t invent a constitutional crisis. And that‘s what this is, Lawrence.
As you know, this is a fully invented constitutional crisis for Republicans to get other policy goals that they want that aren‘t related to the debt ceiling. That‘s unconstitutional. That‘s what the 14th Amendment means when it says you cannot take the public debt of the United States and question it.
So given the fact that the Republicans have already violated that provision, it is within a reasonable view of the presidential power to say I‘m going to lift the debt ceiling unilaterally until we come up with a compromise.
O‘DONNELL: UCLA Law Professor Jonathan Zasloff, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
ZASLOFF: My pleasure, Lawrence.
O‘DONNELL: Coming up, Congressman Joe Walsh says he didn‘t want to put one more dollar of debt on the backs of his children, the same children for whom he has refused to pay child support. That gets him in the Rewrite.
And there‘s nothing funny about a global economic calamity unless you‘re one of the late night comedy writers.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
O‘DONNELL: Time for tonight‘s Rewrite. If you‘ve been watching our continuing coverage of the debt ceiling crisis, you know who this guy is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOE WALSH ®, TEA PARTY: Why did the Senate vote 97 to nothing, Chris, 97 to nothing against the president‘s budget? , Why? Why?
(CROSS TALK)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: He didn‘t make anymore sense when he was on this program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Would you have voted no on every one of the 18 Ronald Reagan debt ceiling increases?
WALSH: Lawrence, I‘ll give you an honest answer, I don‘t know .
What‘s interesting to me is—
O‘DONNELL: There might have been a debt ceiling increase that you would have voted for, just not an Obama debt ceiling increase?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Freshmen Tea Party Congressman Joe Walsh is everywhere these days, talking about how we have to get our fiscal house in order. He posted this on Youtube.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH: You don‘t like ultimatums? Tough. Here‘s my ultimatum. I won‘t place one more dollar of debt upon the backs of my kids and grand kids unless we structurally reform the way this town spends money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: “I won‘t place one more dollar of debt on the backs of my kids.” You know, there‘s no rule that says politicians have to mention their kids in their political rants about the national debt. As much as it‘s become a standard phrase, our children and our grandchildren will be paying this debt, that sort of thing, it is not mandatory speech making language.
It is a choice, a personal choice. Every politician who does that makes the personal choice to use their children for rhetorical effect. Once you start using your children as exhibits in political debate, once you start talking about the financial burdens they will face in the future, you have just opened the door to fair questions about financial burdens they may face now, especially—especially if you are behind in your child support payments to the tune of 117,437 dollars.
That‘s right. The man who says “I will not place one more dollar of debt on the backs of my kids” owes those kids, his ex-wife, Laura Walsh, 117,437 dollars in child support. Years of child support. Joe Walsh‘s lawyer offers this reprehensible defense: “Joe Walsh hasn‘t been a big time wage earner politician until recently. He‘s had no more problems with child support than any other average guy.”
Sounds like Walsh‘s lawyer is a specialist in deadbeat dads. Joe Walsh‘s lawyer, the champion of average guys and deadbeat dads everywhere, cannot explain why the supposedly financially struggling Joe Walsh was able to loan his 2010 congressional campaign 35,000 dollars. Nor can Joe Walsh‘s deadbeat dad lawyer explain how Joe Walsh got his hands on 35,000 dollars to loan his campaign 35,000 dollars.
Nor can Joe Walsh‘s deadbeat dad lawyer explain why Joe Walsh‘s campaign fund has paid him back at least 14,000 dollars for the loan while Joe Walsh hasn‘t paid the several years of child support he owes the mother of his first three children.
Nor can Joe Walsh‘s deadbeat dad lawyer explain how the impoverished Joe Walsh was able to take vacations with his girlfriend in 2004 to Mexico and Italy while refusing to pay child support. In a court filing in December of last year, Laura Walsh‘s attorneys wrote, “the apparent availability of large sums of money from either his employment, his family, or his campaign, has allowed him to live quite a comfortable lifestyle, while at the same time, due to his failure to pay child support or any of his share of the educational costs or medical expenses, Laura and his children were denied any of these advantages.”
It is time to deny deadbeat dad, Joe Walsh, some advantages. In order to teach deadbeat dad, Joe Walsh, a lesson about family values, yes, the very same family values that so many Republicans try to exploit politically while failing to come close to living up to them in their own lives, deadbeat dad, Joe Walsh, is, hereby banned from this program.
He can go tell his lies about his family values and his sense of fiscal responsibility elsewhere. I can only hope that a ban on deadbeat dad politicians who lie about their family values will extend to all political television programs on all networks. But I can only control this hour.
If you want to hear the ravings of deadbeat dad, Joe Walsh, you will have to go elsewhere. Here is how any decent set of family values should guide a father who owes child support. First, pay whatever amount is legally agreed to or ordered by a court, and then constantly offer whatever additional help you can afford.
Yes, buy the kids a new computer even though the court order says you don‘t have to, because you can do it and because they‘re your kids. Do it because it‘s the right thing to do.
Do it because you‘re not trying to get away with doing the least you have to do legally. You‘re trying to do the most you can do. That‘s what being a father is, doing the most for your children every day in every way that you can.
Now, I will welcome deadbeat dad, Joe Walsh, back on this program on the night when he has done his duty to his first three children and the mother of those children, Laura Walsh, certifies that Joe Walsh has made good on his child support debt of 117,437 dollars.
Joe Walsh, deadbeat dad, has earned a burst of fame in the debt ceiling crisis by being a champion of the no-compromise school of governing, a champion of the childish and idiotic no-compromise Tea Party. We‘ve seen what Joe Walsh is like as a no-compromise congressman. We‘ve seen what he‘s like as a no-compromise husband.
We‘ve seen what he‘s like as a no-compromise ex-husband. And to our utter disgust, we now know what he‘s like as a no-compromise father.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH: I won‘t place one more dollar of debt upon the backs of my kids. I won‘t place one more dollar of debt upon the backs of my kids. I won‘t place one more dollar of debt upon the backs of my kids.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)
O‘DONNELL: Earlier in this hour, as we reported, the Boehner bill was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 59 to 41. Obviously, that meant six Republicans voted with the Democrats on this. The six Republicans who voted with the Democrats were Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Jim Demint of South Carolina, David Vitter of Louisiana, Mike Lee of Utah, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
They could have had different reasons for voting that way. It is possible that Rand Paul was simply voting against anything that increases the debt ceiling, as would Jim Demint. Lindsey Graham may have had different thinking. We don‘t have statements from them on exactly why they voted the way they did.
The action continues in the Senate, Harry Reid trying to move ahead, as you heard in our earlier report from Kent Conrad. At the moment, the Senate floor is in a bit of a stall.
Now, I can remember a long time ago that—in fact, now that I think of it, it was just months ago when I was the only television writer in history to have written the words “debt ceiling” in scripts, scripts for a television drama. In fact, I did it in two NBC dramas, “The West Wing” being the one you might remember.
Not every joke writer in TV knows what the debt ceiling is or knew what it was until recently. But now every one of them, every joke writer in television has caught up with me. And they‘ve written more debt ceiling jokes into scripts than I could ever have dreamed of. Here they are.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIMMY FALLONG, “LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON”: After months of negotiations, a deal has been reached to end the NFL lockout. Or as China put it, oh, great, glad you got that deal worked out. Any word on the 14 trillion.
CONAN O‘BRIEN, “CONAN”: Because Republicans won‘t agree with President Obama‘s proposal on raising the debt ceiling, the president may have to cancel his 50th birthday party.
Yeah, so it‘s worse than we thought. Republicans won‘t even let Obama raise his age.
STEVEN COLBERT, “THE COLBERT REPORT”: The president is blaming House Republicans. John Boehner is pointing fingers at the president. And Joe Biden is locked in a heated battle with a vending machine that won‘t release his Teddy Grahams.
BOEHNER: Here‘s a president asking for the largest debt increase in American history on the heels of the largest spending binge in American history.
JON STEWART, “THE DAILY SHOW”: Which came on the heels of an almost absurdly reckless decade with unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and an unfunded trillion dollar Medicare prescription bill and tax cuts for the wealthy that are the largest single policy contributor to our deficit.
In fact, I, myself, voted for all these. Back to my original point—
Obama!
FALLON: Hey, there‘s talk that John Boehner and Harry Reid are offering a special plan that would raise the debt ceiling for just 30 days. And after that, you receive a new debt plan every month from one of your favorite congressmen. If at any time you want to cancel, just send back the old debt plan free of charge. Does not include shipping and handling.
STEWART: Jesus, the only catastrophe that moved its date this often was spider-man, turn off the dark.
O‘BRIEN: Donald Trump he has the solution. Yes. Donald Trump said the GOP should let the U.S. default in order to prevent President Obama‘s reelection. Trump said trust me on this, I go bankrupt all the time.
DAVID LETTERMAN, “THE LATE SHOW”: We are over 14 trillion dollars in debt, 14 trillion dollars in debt. But listen to this, the feels-like is 20 trillion.
FALLON: This debt crisis still isn‘t solved, but yesterday the White House said it‘s working on a plan B. Unfortunately, the B stands for bake sale. Plan C is car wash.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O‘DONNELL: Stay with MSNBC over the weekend for the latest news on the debt ceiling crisis.
END
<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2011 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2011 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>


Watch The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell each weeknight at 10 p.m. ET


Sponsored links

Resource guide