PoliticsNation, Thursday, June 28, 2012
Read the transcript from the Thursday show
Guests: Bob Shrum; Chaka Fattah; Jim McDermott; Ian Millhiser; Jeffrey Rosen, Spike Dolomite Ward, Stacie Ritter, Louisa McQueeny, Jeffrey Rosen, Melissa Harris-Perry
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to "Politics Nation." I`m
Tonight`s lead, historic day. For the next hour, we`ll cover all
parts of the Supreme Court`s momentous decision to uphold President Obama`s
health care law. A law that will improve the lives of millions of
We`ll look how it will affect the presidential election. We`ll look
at the surprising vote to preserve the law. A vote by Bush-appointed chief
justice John Roberts. And we`ll with talk about presidents who have for a
hundred years tried to bring health care to all Americans. Now Barack
Obama has done it.
We`ll speak to two members of Congress in just a moment for their
reaction. But I want to begin with what happened inside the Supreme Court
Joining me now is Jeffrey Rosen, law professor at George Washington
University and legal affairs editor of "the New Republic" and Ian Millhiser
from the Center for American Progress. He was inside the courtroom today.
First of all, thank you both, for joining me.
JEFFREY ROSEN, LAW PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Thank
IAN MILLHISER, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Jeff, let me start with you, Jeff Rosen. The chief justice
said the law`s individual mandate was constitutional. He wrote quote, "the
law`s requirement that individuals pay a penalty for not obtaining health
insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax." Because the
constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it.
Was that the sentence that saved the health care law?
ROSEN: That is absolutely the sentence that saved the health care
law. Lots of people have been focusing on a different provision of the
constitution. Did Congress have the power to regulate interstate commerce
broadly enough that would justify the mandate. But in the end, chief
justice Roberts casting a historic tie-breaking vote with the liberal
justices. Said that although he did not think it could be justified under
congress`s commerce power, it could be under congress` clear power to tax.
And that was the crucial decision that led him to decide with the la
SHARPTON: Now, so we`re very clear, the arguments and the forecast
were around the commerce law. And I know for a fact that a lot of civil
rights legislation was based on commerce interstate commerce.
Roberts and the court did not find it under commerce. In fact, there
were questions on that which could be troubling on other cases. But we
will leave that for a moment. But he found it constitutional based on the
law in terms of interfering with taxing, is that correct?
ROSEN: That`s exactly right. The constitution explicitly gives
Congress the power to pass taxes. Of course, there was a big debate during
the health care debate in congress. Was this or wasn`t it a tax?
Initially, all the Democrats say it was not a tax and the Republicans
said it is. Then as soon as it was challenged in court, they rushed to the
courtroom and switched positions and all the Republicans say Obama is
raising your taxes. And the Democrats said it could be justified under the
taxing power. But Roberts swept through all of those shifting position and
says as a constitutional matter, we are convinced that this looks like a
tax in every respect and therefore it can be upheld.
SHARPTON: Now Ian, this was stunning that the chief justice John
Roberts who is a Bush appointee actually voted with the four considered
liberals of the court. What was it like you were actually in the chambers.
Could you share with us what was it like, the body language. Was there any
kind of visible signs before and during the reading of the court`s decision
that you could share with us? You were actually there.
MILLHISER: Yes. The most striking thing to me, you know, when the
justice walks into the courtroom, normally there is this ritual where they
all walk in and they all stand behind their chairs and they look out over
the gathered audience for awhile and they all sit down together. And eight
of the justices did that today.
But justice Scalia, the same justice Scalia, who has including all his
gratuitous swipes at the President Obama on the immigration opinion, who is
breaking out this partisan rhetoric during the affordable care act
argument, justice Scalia had his hands on the bench and he was looking down
like his son had just told him that he wrecked the car. And that was the
moment when I was sure we just won this thing.
SHARPTON: He was looking down like his son had just told him he
wrecked the car. You`re not implying that John Roberts had kind of wrecked
his hopes of overturning health care, are you?
MILLHISER: Well, I mean, justice Scalia has shown a great deal of
partisan throughout all this. I mean, it`s clear that he`s been very
emotionally, not just intellectually invested, but emotionally invested in
wanting to see conservative policies out comes come about. And yes, I
think he looked physically depressed today when he walked into that
SHARPTON: How stunned -- stunning was it and how stunned did people
in the court -- in the chamber where you sat, how stunned were they when
the chief justice actually shifted gears and said but as of dealing with
this from a tax law point of view, it is not our role to forbid it. And
people began to realize that he had actually voted with the four members of
the court that people often, I included, would never think he would vote
MILLHISER: You know, it`s funny. I was sitting a few seats away from
a gentleman I sometimes debate from a conservative think tank. And when
the chief justice started reading, he was reading the parts about how it
couldn`t be part of the commerce clause and things like that. I was
slumping lower and lower in my chair and my friend was getting higher and
higher in his. Then he got to that part and we switched posture.
So there I think there was a definite palpable effect. And I want to
say, you know, let`s be careful not to let the chief justice off the hook.
You know, he did the right thing here and what should have been an easy
case, but this is still the same chief justice who was in cases like
citizens united and the Ledbetter equal pay case.
MILLHISER: So, this is not a good chief justice even though he voted
and what should have been a very easy case.
SHARPTON: No, we are going to talk about him a lot later in the show.
We are not going to let him on or off the hook. We`ll let people decide
that on all the information.
Let me go back to you for a minute though, Jeff. The chief justice
ruling, why he tried to find a way to declare the law constitutional. He
writes court must have quote, "a general reticence to invalidate the acts
of the nation`s elected leaders." He also writes, "when a court confronted
unconstitutional statute, its endeavor must be to conserve not destroy the
Now, that doesn`t sound too partisan to me.
ROSEN: It`s not too partisan. And this is exactly what he said he
would do in his confirmation hearings and when he took office. He said the
thought it was bad for the court and bad for the country when the justices
handed down 5-4 decisions that split along party lines. He said the court
should stay out of the political process and leave the decisions up to
elected officials. He said he would try to encourage bipartisan decisions.
That avoided the kind of partisanship that Justice Scalia was showing.
And you know, as you`ve been discussing, he has had mixed success on
that in cases like citizens united and affirmative action which will talk
more about later. But I do think he gets a lot of credit in this. The
most important, most defining decision of his career for coming up with the
solution that although, it didn`t make either side entirely happy, brought
the court back from the abyss. Did not directly confront President Obama.
Upheld the center piece of his domestic agenda here.
This is the good Roberts really recognizing the role of a chief
justice is different than that of an ordinary associate justice. He is
responsible for the bipartisan legitimacy of the court as a whole. And
today, he really tried to shore that up.
SHARPTON: All right.
Now, let`s bring in Congressman Chaka Fattah, Democrat from
Pennsylvania and Congressman Jim McDermott, Democrat from Washington.
Congressman Fattah, let`s start with you. Your reaction to this
decision by the Supreme Court.
CHAKA FATTAH (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I think it`s just extraordinary that
what you had as a president and an attorney general that crafted a legal
strategy that was criticized. If you go back to the arguments by everyone
on all sides that it was fatally deficient. Here we have a ruling today
that as you`ve indicated is going to provide health care to tens of
millions of people.
We have an accomplishment and achievement a hundred years in the
making. We really have a presidency that`s been transformational. And I
want to commend the president. I also want to commend Eric Holder for
putting a legal team together and a legal strategy to present to this
court. And then take Roberts, chief justice Roberts, on his word as to how
he would rule on these matters. They made an argument a lot of people
didn`t pay attention to. But they made this argument that if you didn`t
find it acceptable under the commerce clause and under the necessary clause
that you could on this basis rule in favor of moving America forward. And
that`s what the chief justice did.
SHARPTON: Now, congressman McDermott, almost immediately after the
ruling, your Republican colleagues on the other side of the aisle started
saying we`re going to repeal it. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will act to repeal Obama
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: There`s only one way to
truly fix Obama care. Only one way. And that`s a full repeal.
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I`ve scheduled a vote
for total repeal of the Obama care bill to occur on Wednesday, July 11th.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Today`s ruling
underscores the urgency of repealing this harmful law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Can they do it, congressman McDermott? Do they have the
votes to repeal this law?
REP. JIM MCDERMOTT (D), WASHINGTON: Well, they have the votes to get
it out of the house, Al. But it`ll never get out of the Senate.
These guys can`t accept they`ve lost the ball game. They spent all
their efforts on undermining the president`s effort with health care. And
they were hanging their hat that they were going to win the election in
2012 by doing in the president`s plan.
And the court led by John Roberts, I mean, there`s an irony here of a
right wing judge coming out and putting his blessing on Obama`s plan. That
was the -- that was icing on the cake and they are so mad. They`re like a
team that lost a game. They go down in the dugout. They started kicking
the bat rack and throwing the water cooler around.
They`re simply going to try -- in fact, they told us it`s on the 11th
of July. They`re going to come to the floor with a repeal. They`ll get it
out of the house and it`ll quietly die in the Senate.
FATTAH: There`s no president that`s going to sign an appeal that`s
over at a 1600 Pennsylvanian. Barack Obama`s not going to repeal it.
But you know, in our church they say the Lord works in mysterious
ways. I think that chief justice Roberts really has positioned this
argument in a way in which it will be difficult for any of this to be
undone going forward.
SHARPTON: It`s interesting, congressman. You and I must have went to
Congressman Chaka Fattah, Congressman McDermott, Jeffrey Rosen, and
Ian Millhiser. Thank you for your time this evening.
Ahead, Mitt Romney`s vowing to repeal the law he helped to create.
What does it mean for the election?
And Democrats walk out as the GOP-led house votes to hold Eric Holder
the attorney general in contempt of Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are here in this courtyard to say to our
Republican colleagues, shame on you. Shame on you. Shame on you. Shame
on you. Shame on you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: You`re watching "Politics Nation" on MSNBC.
SHARPTON: The thing they hate so much happens to be a Republican
idea. Willard Mitt Romney actually made it law in Massachusetts. It`s a
defining day and it could have a major impact on the election. That`s
SHARPTON: We`re back on "Politics Nation" with more on today`s
historic Supreme Court decision. Republicans like Willard Mitt Romney
didn`t waste any time renewing the party`s promise to repeal President
Obama`s health care law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I disagree with the Supreme Court`s decision and I agree with
the dissent. What the court did not do in its last day in session, I will
do in my first day if elected the president of the United States. And that
is, I will act to repeal Obama care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: But back in 2006, listen to what he said about the central
part of the law. The individual mandate. This was shortly before he
signed his own version of health reform in Massachusetts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: With regards to the mandate, the individual responsibility
program which I`ve proposed, I was very pleased to see that the compromise
from the two houses includes the personal responsibility principle. That
is essential for bringing health care costs down for everyone. And getting
everybody the health insurance they deserve and need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Romney has done a complete 180. But he`s not the only
Republican who was for the individual mandate before he was against it.
The first president George Bush, Senator John McCain, and former house
speaker Newt Gingrich were just some of the top Republicans who once backed
the mandate. Isn`t that interesting? But now Republicans want to make the
health care debate all about taxes.
Joining me now is former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell and an NBC
News political analyst Bob Shrum, a Democratic strategist who ran Ted
Kennedy`s race against Mitt Romney in 2004.
Governor Rendell, let me start with you. How will today`s ruling
affect the presidential race? Let`s talk about the politics in this.
ED RENDELL (D), FORMER GOVERNOR, PENNSYLVANIA: Well interestingly, I
think it will help fire up the Republican base. There`s no question about
it. And what these -- they look like small children are doing by saying,
we are going to vote to repeal Obama care in the house on July 11th.
They`re just trying to fire up the base. And they know there`s no chance
it`ll be repealed because you have to have 61Republican senators where it
does clear after election. And that is not going to happen. It is never
going to be repealed. It is here to stay.
But they are feeding the base. They want to jack up turnout. And for
us, we ought to consider, take deep breath and consider that this president
with courage and courage to go forward when he was told not to even by his
own advisers, this president has done something historic.
He has made the United States join the nations, the developed nations
of the world, all who guarantee health insurance. Not health insurance but
health coverage to their citizens.
SHARPTON: Not only was he told not to do it by some of his advisers,
he was condemned by some leaders in his own party saying why`s he doing
this first? Now, everybody is taking House.
RENDELL: Al, he didn`t do it first. He didn`t do it first. He did
stimulus first. I hate it when people say he --
SHARPTON: That`s true. That`s true.
RENDELL: He did stimulus first. But he showed courage and got this
done. It`s a historic achievement. And if our base needs any other excuse
to get out and vote, it boggles the mind.
SHARPTON: Well, and 86 million people that need the coverage and
millions already started. But let me go to you Bob Shrum.
Let - Ohio representative Schmidt, during the early celebration on the
healthcare decision. Let me show you this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speak!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank God!
REP. JEAN SCHMIDT (R), OHIO: They struck down the individual mandate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They took it away. Yes!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, this was Congresswoman Schmidt when she thought the
mandate was struck down because she heard the first part. But then the
chief justice said "but" and then went on to say that, he - they were
finding it unconstitutional based on taxes.
But look how emotional she had gotten. I mean, all kinds of gestures
because she thought they had overturned the mandate. Then you have the
extremists like you have media matters reporting on a blog that ex-militia
blogger who predicts an armed insurrection over health care decision.
So there`s a lot of emotion and passion in this. And as the governor
said, they`re going to try to drive all of that to try to fire up their
base to vote against the president.
BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes. Three quick things. First of
all, a couple cable networks got this wrong. And so, that`s why we got to
see what she was doing. Secondly, I can`t understand why somebody would be
so joyous at the idea that 30 million people would lose health care. The
people with pre-existing conditions couldn`t get insurance. And there
would be lifetime limits so if you had cancer and you were sick and in the
hospital, the insurance company could say, sorry, that`s it. We`re not
I think Ed is exactly right about the base. But we have to understand
what that Republican base is. Bloomberg asked the poll right last week.
And 43 percent of people said they wanted the law upheld with minor
changes, 15 percent wanted it entirely upheld. And about 30 percent wanted
it thrown out. That is who they`re speaking to. They`re speaking to that
30 percent. And those folks are going to turn out.
Now, we`ve got to make sure we turn out our folks too. That we tell
the story not only about the economy, but about health care, about those
kids who are getting coverage, staying on their parents` insurance policy.
I think this in the end will work strongly to help the president get
SHARPTON: Now, governor, is this an opportunity for the president to
reset the discussion on health care? I mean, when you look at the polls,
New York times CBS polls shows, American strongly favor parts of the health
care law of President Obama.
SHARPTON: Eighty five percent support covering those with pre-
existing conditions, 77 percent support reduced drug costs for Medicare
recipients, 68 percent support adults under 26 staying on parents` plan.
I mean, can he now retool and reset this argument now that the Supreme
Court has found it is not unconstitutional?
RENDELL: Well, I don`t know if it`s true for you, Bob, for you
Reverend, but when the president gave his short speech, he was wonderful in
setting out exactly what is in this bill and why it`s a good thing for the
Would he had done that back in July of the year it was passed, if he
had done that, maybe health care wouldn`t as an overall bill have a
negative opinion in the hearts and minds of the American people because the
bill has so many good things that so many people agree with. And I think
what`s good now, as Bob said, is it`s giving Democrats the right to say
this is a president who has made history. He accomplished what no other
president and presidents have been talking about this for five, six, seven
different presidents. He did it. He accomplished it. It`s good. It`s
And by the way, the president sounded presidential when he said we
will work with you to try to improve it. And that`s an important message.
And if the Republicans weren`t a bunch of spoiled kids, they`d sit down and
go to the president and say Mr. President, there are six things we`d like
you to look at. And I think the president would respond positively to
It`s a great victory for him. And the base ought to understand how
historic this is.
SHARPTON: Bob, you`re a major strategist. Would you advise the
president`s re-election campaign to push forward on what this means, how it
was started and what it means to millions of Americans or would you tell
them to equally stress that Willard Mitt Romney himself supported the
mandate and made it law in Massachusetts?
SHRUM: Well, I think Romney`s going to have a hard time in the
debates because I think the moderators are even going to ask him about
this. He`s out of a rationale.
During the primary, he said well, I think it`s a good idea but ought
to be decided at the state level. It`s not properly a federal subject.
The court led by chief justice Roberts today, who by the way I think did a
lot to re-establish the reputation of that institution.
SHRUM: The court said, no, it is properly a federal function. I
think the president ought to get out there and once again, he has a perfect
contrast. He`s standing up for the majority of Americans, for the middle
class, for all these folks with pre-existing conditions and would face
lifetime on it. All the people who don`t have health insurance.
And Romney`s standing once again with the few in favor of a large tax
cut for the wealthy without providing any real solution to the health
insurance problem. I think it`s a winning issue.
RENDELL: And we can characterize, Al, the president is a real leader.
Because he did exert leadership on this. He took risks. He had courage.
It`s exactly what a leader should do. And he deserves tremendous credit
SHRUM: It`s the biggest social change since Franklin D. Roosevelt.
SHARPTON: There`s no doubt about it. Thank you both Governor Ed
Rendell and Bob Shrum. Thanks for your time tonight.
Coming up, President Obama`s signature achievement came down to one
man. The Bush appointed chief justice John Roberts and his history with
Obama make it even more remarkable.
And how this law`s helping Americans right now. We talk to a woman
who says she wouldn`t be alive if it wasn`t for the law.
Stay with us.
SHARPTON: We`re back on POLITICS NATION. Today, the President`s
signature achievement, a law that literally saves lives. Rested in the
hands of one man. And with so much riding on it, John Roberts, the
conservative chief justice sided with the President. Long before the day`s
health care ruling, the legacies of President Obama and Roberts have been
linked. Both earned law degrees at Harvard. Both went on to leading
positions at the law review there.
Decades later, it was Chief Justice Roberts who administered the oath
of office to the President elect. And flubbing a few words the first time
around, Roberts administered that same oath in a rare do-over. Time and
again, their lives have been bound together even in Roberts` confirmation
fight when then-Senator Obama voted against putting him on the court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: When I examined Judge Roberts`
record and history of public service, it`s my personal estimation that he
has far more often used his formidable skills on behalf of the strong in
opposition to the weak. The bottom-line is this. I will be voting against
John Roberts` nomination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The man President Obama voted against in 2005 threw his
weight behind Obama`s signature achievement. It`s a remarkable story.
Joining me once again is Jeffrey Rosen, law professor at George
Washington University and legal affairs editor of "The New Republic." He`s
written extensively about Chief Justice Roberts over the years. Including
a "New York Times" magazine cover story written just before Robert`s
confirmation in 2005.
Thanks again for joining me.
JEFFREY ROSEN, PROF., GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: It`s great to be
SHARPTON: Now, Jeff, you know Chief Justice Roberts far better than
most. Could you have foreseen him siding with liberal justices in this
ROSEN: Well, I certainly don`t know him well, but I could have
foreseen him siding with liberal justices based on the kind of chief
justice he said he wanted to be. I had an interview with him soon after
becoming chief justice. And as we discussed, he said he thought it was
terrible when the court issued five to four decisions along party lines.
He said, this would lead people to think of the court as a political
institution, not a judicial one.
And he said his central mission as chief justice was going to be to
avoid that. Of course, he`s had mixed success in that like President
Obama. I think he came to Washington and found the things were much more
polarized than he expected. You noted the interesting similarities between
Obama and Roberts and trying to achieve some sort of bipartisan consensus
and finding it challenging. But this was the defining vote of his career
and he really stepped up to the plate. And I think he just deserves huge
credit for doing what he said he would do.
SHARPTON: Now, in 2007, you interviewed him, and Roberts reflected on
the legacy of past chief justices. And what he said was quote, this is to
you, "It`s sobering to think of the 17 chief justices, certainly a solid
majority of them have to be characterized as failures. The successful ones
are hard to number." Interesting.
ROSEN: It was extremely interesting. And when he said that, I think
that he meant they were failures because they were not able to unify their
courts. That the justices were much of history. We`re polarized, they
were squabbling. They acted more like law professors and members of the
collegial court. And Roberts recognized the difficulty of the task, he was
setting up for himself. He said, you know, we`ll try to avoid this --
decision for a while. If it doesn`t work, then I guess we`ll just give it
up and, you know, preside over a polarized court.
So he was not underestimating the difficulty of the task. He embraced
as his model his greatest predecessor John Marshall who was the greatest
chief justice in American history. And Marshall succeeded because he was
able to persuade justices from different sides of the political aisle to
converge around narrow decisions that avoided confronting the President,
was to increasing judicial power.
And you know, I don`t know if this decision ranks with Marbury versus
Madison, but it certainly uses similarly creative and unexpected legal
arguments to -- on one hand give the President what he wants just as
Marshall did with Thomas Jefferson but in the process to shore up judicial
legitimacy in a way that of course he`s going to make it easier for Roberts
to take the court in a more conservative direction in the future.
SHARPTON: Now, Jeff, as you may suspect, I`m no fan of Justice
Roberts before and after these decisions. But today, Republicans were
slamming him. Let me show you already after this decision today. We hear
Republicans saying quote, "I thought he was the champion of limited
government." Said Representative Joe Wilson. The congressman who famously
yelled you lie during President Obama`s 2009 speech before Congress.
Senator Jeff Sessions says, he was surprised by Roberts. And uneasy
about the court`s interpretation. And Senator David Vitter was stunned and
shocked. How much of public opinion impacts Roberts from what you got to
know of him and doing stories on him?
ROSEN: It`s a really interesting question. I think in the end, he`s
less impacted by public opinion than by a concern about the court`s
legitimacy. He thought that when the court is polarized, then broadly
people are less willing to see it as a neutral institution. So, that`s why
he`s not reading the polls. If he were, then he would have struck down the
mandate because some polls of justice unpopular. He wasn`t concern about
criticism on the right which you just quoted.
He certainly didn`t care about criticism on the left. I mean, I got
slammed by conservatives just by calling on Roberts to be true to his
vision. And this was viewed as a form of intimidation which is of course
nonsense. He wouldn`t care what any liberal said about him. But he cares
a lot about the Supreme Court as an institution. And he figured that in a
long-term, it`s more important to maybe even join a decision he doesn`t
agree with. Certainly to uphold a law that he doesn`t much like because
the long-term legitimacy of the court is more important than that.
SHARPTON: Jeffrey Rosen, thanks for our incredible insight tonight.
ROSEN: Thank you. It was a pleasure to talk with you.
SHARPTON: Coming up, a life-changing decision for millions of
Americans. We`ll talk to some people who have already seen the benefits of
this historic law.
Plus a lot of presidents have tried to bring health care to America,
but President Obama was the one who did it. We`ll look at the history.
Stay with us.
SHARPTON: Believe it or not, there was other news today and it wasn`t
good. Republicans pushed their smear campaign against Attorney General
Eric Holder to the next level. Voting to hold an Attorney General of the
United States in contempt of Congress for the first time in U.S. history.
Democrats walked out the chamber turning their backs on the GOP`s
shameful abuse of power. They walked outside on to the steps of the
capitol as the vote was about to be held. And chanted shame on you, shame
on you. What began as an investigation of a botched federal gun walking
operation is now simply a politically motivated witch hunt. The Attorney
General called it a crass effort and a grave disservice to the American
people. He`s right. It`s outrageous. And republicans should be ashamed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It should be pretty clear by now that I didn`t do this because
it was good politics. I did it because I believed it was good for the
country. I did it because I believed it was good for the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: President Obama this afternoon driving home the point.
This important point. It`s about people, not politics. Since the
affordable care act became law, 54 million people have received free
preventive services. Nearly seven million young adults are covered by
their parents` insurance. And over five million seniors saved $3.7 billion
on Medicare drugs. Folks, those aren`t just numbers. They represent real
people and American lives will be saved because of it.
Joining me now are three people who know firsthand how important
today`s decision is. Spike Dolomite Ward, a cancer patient whose receiving
the care she needs today. Thanks entirely to this law.
Stacie Ritter, a mother of two girls who were diagnosed with childhood
leukemia. She no longer has to worry they`ll be denied coverage because of
that preexisting condition.
And Louisa McQueeny, the general manager of a small business who
supports the affordable care act. Thank you all for joining me today.
SPIKE DOLOMITE WARD, HEALTH REFORM SUPPORTER: Thank you.
STACIE RITTER, DAUGHTERS BATTLED CANCER: Thank you.
LOUISA MCQUEENY, HEALTH REFORM SUPPORTER: Thanks for having us.
SHARPTON: Spike, let me start with you. You said in an article in
December of last year that this health care law literally saved your life.
How are you doing today?
WARD: Well, I`m at the end of a very long treatment program for stage
three breast cancer. I underwent five months of intensive chemotherapy and
then nine days ago, I received a double mastectomy and spent three days in
the hospital. And I`m pretty confident that the cancer is now out of my
SHARPTON: Wow. And you were able to get this treatment and seek this
new leaf in your life because of this act, you convince.
WARD: Yes. Only because of the affordable care act. And it`s the
PCIP preexisting condition insurance plan through the State of California
that has given me the best of care. I wanted people to know that this is
not government-run health care. It`s the absolute best cancer care that
any insurance policy could get me. And I am extremely grateful.
SHARPTON: Stacey, let me go to you. You have two children that had
preexisting conditions. You`re fighting an insurance company right now
about that. How important is this law to you and your daughters?
RITTER: This law is extremely important not only to me and my
daughters but to 350,000 other childhood cancer survivors right now in this
country who are now protected from preexisting condition discrimination.
They`re able to stay on their parents` coverage until they`re 26. They
don`t have to fall into that gap that they used to fall into when they
would age out of their parents` plans. And they don`t have to worry about
the cap on coverage anymore. And eventually, there will be and -- in place
that will protect families from what I`m going through right now which is a
battle with the insurance company to cover a prescription that my doctors
recommend the girls have that the insurance company is now fighting because
it`s too expensive.
SHARPTON: Now, Louisa, let me go to you. Louisa -- you are general
manager of a small business but you support this act. In fact, you have
one employee that has just been diagnosed with cancer, I believe.
MCQUEENY: Yes, that is correct. And it`s very important that we keep
this health care in place for him.
SHARPTON: Now, why do you feel it`s important that -- as someone in
small business because we`re hearing people say small businesses have
concern? You manage one. Why do you take the position that this act is
MCQUEENY: Well, our company has always provided health insurance, but
the costs as everybody knows has skyrocketed in the last 10, 15 years. And
this year finally our costs have been coming down. We qualified for the
tax credit and our premiums pretty much stayed the same they were last
year. Why is it important for this particular employee if we will not pay
his health insurance, he would be without.
He would have a preexisting condition and then what do you do? It`s
what we do. Most people get their health insurance through their
employment. And to take that away would not -- that would be a terrible
SHARPTON: Spike Dolomite Ward, Stacie Ritter, and Louisa McQueeny,
thanks to all of for sharing further your stories and life with us tonight.
WARD: Thank you for having us.
MCQUEENY: Thank you for having us.
SHARPTON: Coming up, over 100 years in the making. From Teddy
Roosevelt to the liberal line. A historic day for this historic President.
SHARPTON: Finally tonight, a historic day for historic president.
One that`s a hundred years in the making. Teddy Roosevelt first called for
health care reform in 1912. Putting it on his party`s platform. FDR and
Harry Truman both pushed for it during their presidencies. And LBJ won
some reforms when he signed the Social Security act of 1965. Creating
Medicare and Medicaid.
But the debate for universal care was reignited in the `90s by then-
first lady Hillary Clinton. And the most recent push would come in part
from the late Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, who spent a career
fighting for universal care. In a surprise move, he endorsed then-Senator
Obama in 2008 partly because of his trust in the future President to get it
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: With Barack Obama, we`ll break the old gridlock and
finally make health care what it should be in America, a fundamental right
for all not just an expensive privilege for the few.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: That dream became a reality in March 2010 when the House
passed the affordable care act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: On this vote, the yays are 220, the nays are 211.
The bill is passed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: President Obama signed the bill into law two days later
accomplishing something no President could do for a century. And so today
is a day we will never forget. It`s a day that will never be forgotten in
Joining me now is Melissa Harris-Perry, host of MSNBC`s "Melissa
Harris-Perry." Melissa, I want you tonight, this is Thursday night, not
Saturday or Sunday morning, so take off your host hat and put on your
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST, "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY": Yap.
SHARPTON: And place this day in the context of this country`s
PERRY: Right. OK. So, this is a hugely important point about
President Obama. I want to walk us through it quickly. We have been
talking so much today about Chief Justice Roberts and about the Supreme
Court. But my colleague Gerald Rosenberg, a brilliant historian, a law
professor from the University of Chicago has written that the Supreme Court
is truly a hollow hope. You know, a lot of times when we look back at the
civil rights movement, we think of the Supreme Court as so critically
important to the motion of the civil rights movement, but it`s always just
The court can`t make policy. The court can`t set us on a new track.
It can only react. And so as important as the court`s decision was today,
what we have to remember is that this court would have never had an
opportunity to make a decision like this had it not been for President
Obama and quite honestly for Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Here`s what they did. Not with the masses kind of majorities that FDR
had when he passed his hundred days of legislation. Not even with majority
that LBJ had when he passed great society programs. Not even with
majorities as secure as Clinton believed democratic majorities to be even
though they shifted in `94. In `92, people still the common wisdom was
Democrats were always going to hold the House for the next decade.
This president came in knowing that he had razor thin majorities in
the House. Basically a Senate willing to filibuster him at every moment.
He was in a recession. He was in a downturn. He knew how dangerous this
was for him politically. But he knew it had to be done and the courage and
conviction to move forward, to re-election or not, to change the path of
American history is the story of President Obama`s courage and Nancy
Pelosi`s courage to make this happen in those first two years.
SHARPTON: You know, President Ronald Reagan once urged against the
passage of Medicare saying it would bring about socialism. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Behind it will come other
federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it
in this country. Until one day as Norman Thomas said, we will awake to
find that we have socialism. One of these days, you and I are going to
spend our sunset years telling our children and our children`s children
what it was once like in America when men were free.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: When I hear him talking about Medicare like that and I hear
what I`m hearing today, I mean, there`s always been lot of emotion and
passion in fighting things like this.
PERRY: Look, what people spent their sunset years doing before the
passage of Medicare was being hungry. Making tradeoffs between their
health and the possibility of having food on the table. It is a ridiculous
position. We as Americans have always balanced the very real issues of
freedom which we all love, which we all want. Nobody wants to love freedom
more than African-Americans in the story and history of America. On the
other hand we balance that against the collective responsibility that we
have to one another to ensuring that not just the rich get to have the
opportunity to pursue happiness.
SHARPTON: Yes. Melissa Harris-Perry, thanks for your time tonight.
PERRY: It`s a big day.
SHARPTON: And be sure to catch her when she puts her host hat back on
this Saturday. She`ll have an important interview with House Minority
Leader Nancy Pelosi. That`s 10:00 a.m. Saturday right here on MSNBC.
Well, I have in my lifetime seen a lot of things go back and forward. And
we`ve seen over the last several months a lot of drama. I had a mentor
once though that told me, don`t get too carried away. Try to think of what
will it matter whatever you`re in the middle of. What will it matter a
hundred years from now?
Today, a hundred years from now, what happened today will matter.
This is one of those moments that a century from now it will be remembered.
It`s important. Because it not only saved lives today and that`s very
important, it changed and cemented a change of course. A c-change, and how
we deal with fellow Americans. That`s big stuff. That`s historic stuff.
You and I should be very happy that we lived to see it and hope that it`s
upheld and continues in that direction.
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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