'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, December 2nd, 2012
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
December 2, 2012
Guests: Matt Welch, Stephen Spaulding, Tara Wall, Dorian Warren, Ai-Jen Poo, Natalicia Tracy, Annette Bernhardt
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question, is the
President prepared to make good on immigration?
Plus, why you should care about the filibuster and the growing signs of a
massive labor comeback.
But first, the elephants are gathering. No, it`s not a Delta Sigma Theta
convention. It`s the new herd of the GOP.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Earlier this year, Nerdland made a contribution to the political lexicon
with the term premature speculation. You know, it`s the way we in the
media jump the gun to call the winner in political contest before the race
really gets going.
Well, this week we beg your forgiveness for our own more than slight case
of premature speculation. But fact is fact. And even before we`ve
inaugurated the winner of election of 2012, positioning has begun for
There was former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, just this week making political
reporters salivate by getting about his close to the White House as he
could without actually being in it. He met with a group of former staffers
at a hotel on Pennsylvania avenue giving a smile and a coy response when
asked about his plans to one day vie to occupy the presidential mansion
just up the block.
And then just two Saturdays ago, Florida Senator Marco Rubio was showing a
little leg in Iowa visiting his early -- this early nominating state where
he broke a fundraising record at an event for Governor Terry Branstand.
And on Tuesday night, this week, Rubio and another potential GOP heir
apparent, Congressman Paul Ryan, are looking to get their political weight
up by laying out their respective policy roadmaps at an awards` dinner for
the Jack Kemp Foundation.
Republicans, eager to turn the page after a dismal 2012 are introducing
their new class of hopefuls, nice and early. And it`s a big class. A herd
if you will of elephants stampeding toward 2016. There are those whose
ethnic heritage alone will help to put a new face on the GOP.
In addition to Senator Rubio, there`s New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez,
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval. Two of the contenders, Governor Martinez
and Governor Hailey intersect with the contingent of women would-be
Along with New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte and Minnesota Congressman
Michele Bachmann. Michele Bachmann isn`t the only do-over on the list.
She`s joined by fellow if at first you don`t succeeders, Pennsylvania
Senator Rick Santorum and Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Now, Texas Congressman Ron Paul for once isn`t on the list. But his son,
Senator Rand Paul, is creating a category with Jeb Bush that we`re going to
call relatively speaking. Then there are the guys weighing a presidential
run who, let`s just say national name recognition isn`t one of their strong
South Dakota Senator John Thune and Indiana Governor-Elect Mike Pence may
not win national popularity contests at least this year, but both have been
hailed for their leadership potential as shining stars in the GOP. They
may have to compete for the party faithful, but those accustomed to a
certain level of national fame, if not infamy.
Those like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, perhaps, the only contender
to have actually hugged President Obama or Ohio Senator Rob Portman, a
constant presence next to Mitt Romney on the campaign trail. Virginia
Governor Bob McDonnell, he of the Transvaginal proposal and of course,
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker whose union fighting ways made him a
darling of the Tea Party.
But just to be clear, reports of the Republican Party`s demise are greatly
exaggerated. The GOP may have taken a licking, but they will most
certainly keep on ticking. Still, let`s not be fooled by this new herd
into thinking that we have a new party.
Reformed from lessons of November 6th. From this class alone, Governors
Bobby Jindal, Bob McDonald, Rick Perry, and Scott Walker, have all signaled
their refusal to set up state-run health exchanges required by the
Affordable Care Act. Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Michele Bachmann, Rand Paul,
Rob Portman, Mike Pence, John Thune, each have sworn their allegiance to
Grover Norquist by signing on to the Federal Taxpayer Protection Pledge.
And although, three of the rising stars in this group are women that
doesn`t mean that they support women`s reproductive choices. Susana
Martinez, Kelly Ayotte and Nikki Haley, would all deny women the right
guaranteed to them by Roe V. Wade.
So even as the new herd presents your fresh faces, it is array of gender
and racial diversity, I got to tell you, we in Nerdland will take each of
you at face value. But will then move on quickly to ask what are your new
At the table, Matt Welch is editor-in-chief of "Reason" magazine and the
co-author of "Declaration of Independets." Conservative writer Tara Wall
was a senior media adviser for the Romney-Ryan campaign and she is also the
founder of the PPP foundation. Dorian Warren is an associate professor of
political science and international and public affairs at Columbia
University, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. And Raul Reyes is an
attorney and a contributor for NBCLatino.com.
Thanks for having you here. It`s nice to have you.
All right Tara, welcome to Nerdland.
TARA WALL, FORMER ROMNEY/RYAN CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: How did I know you were
coming to me first.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now I would like you to explain your party.
WALL: Lay it all on the table.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, in a certain way, it`s so early that I almost feel
silly talking about it. But I do think it`s important that we not sort of
come out of a win as I`ve seen both parties do in midterm elections or
general elections with this narrative, oh, the other party is over, right?
This is the decisive election because I don`t think we see anything like
that. When you look at the new herd, what seems to you like the things
that are different?
WALL: You know, I think, number one, there are a couple of things. I
think as you mentioned, it is a little more diverse, both ethnically and as
well as sex-wise. I mean, you have a few more women which I think is
great. And I think, you know, after any election, everybody does kind of
recalibrating and lessons learned. I think what you don`t want to lose
sight of is the fact that there are a number of governors in there.
And in fact, GOP governors have done exceptionally well this past election.
I mean, 30 of 50 governors now are Republican governors. And they, you
know, they will argue that, you know, they run at the state level, they`re
elected at the state level, that even though the election was close and
yes, President Obama won and that is what the majority wanted.
But at the end of the day, I think that notion about fiscal conservative
and those notions are still very ever present for these governors who are
strapped with facing very real issues relative to their budgets and how to
implement -- I just interviewed Governor Bob McDonnell early this week
about how to implementing Obamacare in the wake of all this.
And so, I think there is, you know, it`s still very, very early to talk
about whom in the field. But all of these folks in their own right, I
think, bring strengths and all that of will -- we`re going to have time to
meet out. We got a country to run in the next four years, obviously and
they have states to run.
HARRIS-PERRY: We got a country to run.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to ask now a little bit on this because what I heard
you say was deficit reduction, the economic questions, and part of what I`m
interested in this, you know, sort of post `08 the conservative voices that
emerge were the Limbaugh`s and the Glenn Beck rather than elected leaders.
And so, what I`m wondering, is there a way in which elected Republicans
might help to move conservatism towards an actual conservatism as opposed
to sort of social, you know, angst that we saw last time?
MATT WELCH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "REASON" MAGAZINE: I kind of reject the
premise of the post `08. I think the most interesting development post `08
was something that you could not have predicted at this stage, you know,
four years ago to the day, which is the rise of a populist anti-government
spending wing of the country and of the electorate. Not anti-tax, anti-
government spending. It is the Tea Party.
And so, you did get some new voices talking in a different way. Rand Paul
is not talking in the same way that a Rick Santorum or a Newt Gingrich has
talked about. Marco Rubio doesn`t talk. Mike Lee, just in a mash, there`s
a lot of different people who talk differently here.
So one question, Chris Christie is another -- this sort of class of 2010.
That is an interesting wing. And it`s unclear whether that wing, if it is
indeed a coherent wing, will now lead the discussion of the Republican
I think Mitt Romney, the analog, and Tara might disagree with me, the
analog to Mitt Romney is John Kerry, right? He was a presentable, I think
the other guys might not hate him type of former Massachusetts --
WALL: Went back into the Senate afterward.
WELCH: The moment that he disappeared, that`s the last you heard about
John Kerry from any Democrat, you know. That he was like, enough, we`re
not going to do that again. There`s a lot of Republicans saying enough,
we`re not going do that again.
And so, the question is OK, what are you going to do that`s different?
From my perspective, which is libertarian, someone who want s to reduce the
size of the government, I don`t believe what a lot of Democrats fear about
Republicans, is that they`re going to actually do that. It`s very rare
that you have people making a principal case for that. But for the first
time in a generation, there are some Republicans who are actually making
that case. So to me, that would --
WALL: I hope so.
HARRIS-PERRY: So -- let me ask. Because there were two other things that
came out here. One, is the idea of governors, right? And in fact, in this
country, we elect governors and senators and vice presidents as president,
right? So if you want to know who is in the running, you want to look at
governors, senators and vice and most specifically governors and vice
So in that way, Republicans are awfully well-positioned. They just have
more of those kinds of folks hanging out. But normally Republicans kind
pick the person whose turn it is next, right? It was McCain`s turn, it was
Romney`s turn. Is there anybody whose turn it is this time?
RAUL REYES, CONTRIBUTOR, NBCLATINO.COM: I`m not sure the field has settled
out in terms of like a clear person emerging, it`s their term. However,
one thing that I think the Republicans have to be very cautious about going
forward. It`s terrific. You know, I do think it`s great that you see in
this line-up, the new herd, a lot of diversity in gender and you know,
Like for example, with people like Susanna Martinez, the governor of New
Mexico and Brian Sandoval, also of Nevada. Both were elected without a
majority supporter of Hispanics. So they are - I mean, which is good in
some ways. It shows they can appeal to the main stream. But if the
Republicans are putting them forward saying like well, we have these people
who Hispanics will vote for because they`re Hispanic, it`s probably not
going to work.
And even Marco Rubio, who is Huge in south Florida he`s huge, he`s tied
into that community. But nationally, he`s not well-known. Fifty three
percent of Latinos have not heard of him. Ad his policies are definitely
outside of the Latino mainstream. So that`s a danger for them in terms of
just putting like an ethnic face out there. It`s not going to work.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I mean, you know, I`ve heard dangerous. But the other
thing, I mean, as political scientist, we love open sea races and 2016 is
going to be pretty darn open eyes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It should be good.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. That means Biden is going to run but probably not
uncontested on the democratic side. Is there something specific about 2016
in terms of the rise of the Tea Party or the rise of sort of the diverse
Republicans and we ought to really be honing in on even this early?
DORIAN WARREN, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY I think when we get closer to
2016, we`re going to see the fiscal fissures of the Republican Party come
to the four. I think we are going to see the underline civil war actually
breakout. Right now, there seems to be consensus say on immigration reform
all of the sudden. But I think, there are at least two wings of the
Republican Party that don`t agree with each other on a range of issues from
climate change to immigration on a range of issues. So I think we`ll see
those fissures come about.
But the second thing I want to say is, for the party of Lincoln,
noticeably, there are no black contenders of all those potential
HARRIS-PERRY: There is still a name broiling around out there. But I
promise. As soon as we come back, we are going to stay on this issue
because it`s quite an interesting herd out there. And in fact, I`m
interested in what happens when some of the members of that herd come out.
We are going to talk about flex when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re back and talking about the Republican hopefuls that
could be contenders in the presidential election for 2016.
And so, I want to take a look at the "National Journal" poll which asks
both Democrats and Republicans about their interest in some of these
contenders. Might be a bit hard to say there, but I will just tell you,
Jeb Bush is leading both Democrats and Republicans in terms of who they
think will be the strongest Republican presidential nominee. Nearly half
of Democrats saying that he is -- he would be their pick. Marco Rubio is
at 40 percent with Republicans. He`s actually the strongest of the
But then Chris Christie there, again, very, very popular among Democrats,
maybe not quite so much among Republicans. Bobby Jindal, my governor, is
coming in there. But the one I really love here is our friend, Rand Paul,
who comes in at zero percent for both Democrats and Republicans in terms of
thinking about the strength of his likely candidacy.
So let`s walk through some of those folks. Starting with Jeb Bush.
Really? A third Bush. I`d like to hear this.
WALL: You know, but, I also think whether it`s Jeb Bush or Chris Christie,
this goes about the argument, you can`t put someone of color up there and
expect, you know, the party or anyone else to just rally around them.
There has to be, you know, the messaging; there has to be the platform, the
These folks like Jeb Bush, who is highly popular across urban centers,
across suburban centers, I mean, they have an appeal to minorities, as does
Chris Christie. So I think if you have the right messenger, you can still
have that appeal without necessarily being a person of color as long as you
understand those issues.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Jeb is interesting, right? He hasn`t been actually in-
elected office for a while, but he`s making his name with the kind of
education reform and viewers know what I think about that. But he
certainly is an interesting character. But I just keep thinking, won`t the
Bush last name be a liability in this case?
REYES: Maybe. But you know what, I have to say, I also -- I don`t agree
with all of his policies, but I have to give him a lot of credit. He, you
know, for two years, he`s been telling the Republican Party they have to be
more moderate and that they have to tone it down in immigration and
recalibrate and nobody listened to him. He was like the lone Wolf out
And I also give him credit for he is - Again, I don`t agree with the
policies, but he`s been talking a lot about education in his reforms. He
also likes one of his pet topics is income and equality which you don`t
often hear Republicans talking about that. And those are the things that
will resonate with independent voters.
And actually, I did see a poll recently in "Miami Herald" that showed that
Jeb Bush was actually more popular among Hispanics. Jeb Bush was more
popular than Marco Rubio. So it goes to your point. If you have a great
message and You have someone who connects with the electorate. It doesn`t
WALL: The Jack Kemp style of Republicans. Jack Kemp says -- he was a
bleeding heart conservative. I like to consider, I cut myself on that same
type of cloth. And I think there is an appeal for that type of
conservative going forward. I think it is what the party needs.
The party has just got to decide that that`s what it needs to commit to.
And so, you will find popularity with him and Chris Christie and others
like that because they have -- they rally around these policies that speak
to the very heart of who we are as Americans and then we can find common
ground as Democrats and Republicans.
HARRIS-PERRY: And my governor, Bobby Jindal is actively running for
president right now and he claims to be also like let`s get away from the
party of stupid. But his policies are not the same sort of mid range
softie compassionate policies of a Jeb Bush. They`re more hard lines
particularly socially conservative.
WALL: You can also be - if you want to understand, you can be conservative
and you can be compassionate.
HARRIS-PERRY: But he is not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s a mess.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right. But I mean, Of course, you can, right? I
think Jeb Bush
is that way. But I`m just saying Bobby Jindal is not. It would be a
different direction to go.
WARREN: I think the rising electorate that we`ve been talking about the
last two weeks of African-Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, at the end
of the day, going issue by issue, most of the voters don`t agree with the
platform. So there is going to be a problem for all of the potential
candidates to actually connect. Not just in terms of their faces and
issues of diversity but also on the issues on, you know, choice, on climate
change, on immigration reform. Even though there`s a shift on immigration
reform, I don`t think Latino voters will all of a sudden flock to the
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, we didn`t get to Mike Fleck, but I promise we do
as soon as we get back because Mike Fleck is a state representative in
Pennsylvania who just came out making him the first out gay member of the
Republican Party in Pennsylvania.
But I`m interested in part because that, to me, represents more libertarian
impulse in the Republican Party, one that again feels like it`s been sort
of overshadowed by social conservatism in the past couple of years.
So when we come back, I do want to talk about exactly that. And also, just
like decision on Friday that had all of us in Nerdland shaking our heads in
disbelief when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: The news landed with a thud and a sigh. House Speaker John
Boehner tried to beef it up with a statement expressing the import of the
role. But announcing Michigan Congresswoman Candace Miller as the
chairwoman of the House Administration Committee on Friday. The House
Administration Committee - I will say one more time, the House
Administration Committee on Friday -- did little to squelch that icky
feeling created by this image. These are the 19 previously announced
committee chairman and unlike Miller, these chairmen actually hold rank
over committees that work on national budgets and policy.
No, your eyes are not deceiving you. You saw it right. Want to look
again. Here it is. See. You had it right. Nineteen men, 19 white men
and yes, we fully understand that, that as Republicans maintain the
majority in the House, they get to pick the committee chairs and yes, there
is seniority to consider, but pause with me for just a second.
President Obama won the women`s vote by 11 points. He won Latino votes by
44 point. He won the Asian-American vote by 47 points. He won and the
African-American by 87 points. He even won other by 20 points.
Yes, anyway. And they have that kind of numbers pundits espousing that
Democrats are destiny and that the Republican Party is over. And it is the
way of the wings. And then, Speaker Boehner makes his committee chair in
election from the GOP, sure, it seemed nothing short of oblivious.
But let`s go back to our new herd for 2016 for a moment because as we have
talked about, four women as potential standard bearers, five contenders of
color in the Republican Party and ideology should outweigh identity when it
comes to political alignment.
But there is no denying that as women and people of color grow in the ranks
of the GOP, there is room to attract potential voters as well. And then
this morning, or just yesterday, Mike Fleck, a state lawmaker in
Pennsylvania as I was saying before the break, comes out as a gay man in
his interview with a local newspaper. He is -- I`m staying in the
Republican Party. It`s not a single issued party. And it starts feeling
like maybe they`re trying to pitch that big tent again.
WELCH: They should. Their tent has been looking kind of small recently.
There`s a San Diego guy who unfortunately lost for mayor by a couple
thousand votes named Karl De Mayo, openly gay Republican. No one made a
big deal about it actually. In fact, David Brookes screwed up and wrote a
column six months ago, positing him as some kind of knuckle dragging social
conflict duties. He`s openly gay and he is running on pension reform.
What are you talking about?
There is going to be, there has to be a new voice out there. But they have
to -- it`s going to be years before they can erase the sting of 2004. When
Karl Rove cynically used gay marriage as a way to Republican votes against
the, you know, the Mitt Romney of the Democratic Party of 2004. And so,
they`re going to have to come out from behind that. And I think you do
that by playing defense and social conservatism and not Offense. You say,
you know, big government policies force us to do things against our values.
And that`s what we don`t want. We don`t want to impose anything going
forward. Social contact to make that switch. They haven`t yet. But they
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels to me like it breaks down on the issue of women`s
reproductive rights. So on this question of big government because you`ll
hear, OK, what we want is small government, right, small enough as is our
joke, sifted on the end of a Transvaginal probe as we saw, right, in the
context of Bob McDonnell.
And yet, this blew me away. We are looking at the Quinnipiac poll of Bob
McDonnell`s approval rating. And you will see, he`s actually doing quite
well with women, quite well with African-Americans, quite well with young
people. This is the guy who proposed the Transvaginal ultrasound
procedures in Virginia. Am I missing something here?
WALL: Voters are not -- again, that whole single issue, you can`t zero in
one issue. He has been an outstanding governor. I mean, OK, I`m a little
biased, he is my governor. So you know, I will give that caveat.
But I think of the end of the day, to your point, we have to be much
broader from an optics and a tone standpoint. That`s obvious. And it
think that, you know, those pictures obviously speak a thousand words. But
with to all due respect, there are, you know, there are very credible women
and minorities within a party, within the ranks that we should elevate very
credible, white men and others that we should also elevate through the
ranks. And I think again, they do well because of the types of things that
they`re doing in these states that help bridge the gap.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, but, let`s talk about the optics for a second
because it does fell to me, I mean, you know, on the side of politics, it
does matter what it looks like when you present your party.
REYES: Right. It does. I think going forward, not just in temps of the
optics, but I do think when we look at this whole new herd and all these
people, there are some people in the new herd who are really part of the
old herd. I think they have to get out of the way. People like Rick
Santorum who are so linked to this very social conservatism that turns a
lot of people off because tower years from now --
WALL: But you have to remember the staffers of the -- the staffers of the
party are conservative. No one is going to throw the baby away with the
bath water with the principal believes because you do have pro-life women
in the party.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. Sure.
WALL: We should embrace other views as well. You can`t get big tent party
and respect the views of others who have issues -- .
HARRIS-PERRY: I do think -
WALL: Aren`t the driving issue.
HARRIS-PERRY: But I guess what I say is that they had been and the part of
like this question of -- so, I hear you on not being a single issue voter.
But I don`t, for me, reproductive rights are not a single issue because it
even fact, carry with them a package of issues about my fundamental
liberties, they carry with them a package of issues about economic, they
carry with them a package of issues about sort of where women will be
positioned vis-a-vis work and employment and all of these questions. So it
is, you know, it sounds like a single issue, but it feels much bigger than
REYES: Right. It covers more. Like you said. I really do think that the
GOP has to go through a sort of churn to reevaluate its own positions.
Because, you know, politics, it`s a buyers` market. Right now, they have a
brand. You know, they have a product that half the country does not like.
So I think they have to make themselves more appealing. It`s up to them.
WARREN: And just to comment on that poll you put up. Those approval
numbers are quite impressive for the governor, but attitudes don`t
translate into votes or behaviors. So people might have approved of the
governor but not vote for him necessarily.
WELCH: Let`s remember how much politics changes overnight. We think that
we are talking about things. But in 2006, Democrats like, were freaking
out. How can we retake things? They put forth a lot of anti-abortion
candidates, right? And one through end. A lot of anti-trade candidates.
So I mean, what we think now has got to be true is going to change.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, and I think it`s also interesting to point out, that I
mean, I think you have to be careful about believing the Democratic Party
is strong at the moment. It had a strong presidential candidate, right?
And I think we made --
WELCH: Lost horribly at the state level.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right. It made a very similar mistake in our
analysis of what happened there in the Clinton years. So you end up with
this big charismatic candidate that seems to fill up all the space that
doesn`t necessarily mean that the party is drawn.
When we come back, much more on one of the fundamental issues that has been
dividing this Democratic and Republican Party, the issue of immigration.
And how the GOP is starting to think about shifting gears on immigration
and the real pressure that President Obama may feel on it. That`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: One of the goals that President Obama hope to accomplish in
his first term was comprehensive immigration reform. And yet, here we are
in the last month f the first term and that overall has been pushed off
until next year. While for the millions of people living in the United
States without documentation, this is an urgent problem we cannot forget
that immigration has a long and labored history in this country. And
patterns and perception of American migrants have long been the fibers that
weave together our national history.
When we consider just the huddled masses who made their way through Ellis
island, 40 percent of Americans today can trace their ancestry to those who
passed through Ellis island in 1892 to 1954. Between 1815 and 1915, 30
million Europeans arrived in the United States representing approximately
90 percent of the immigration to the U.S. in that period. The majority of
whom, hailed from Ireland and Germany. And in 1840s, almost half of
America`s immigrants were from Ireland alone.
In 1855, more than 50 percent of the population of New York, the first port
of call for the majority of immigrants, was foreign-born. But attitudes
were changing. And toward the end of the 19th sentry, just 1.6 percent of
immigrants were Asian. But apparently that was enough to push Congress to
pass the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 restricting immigration from China
for ten years.
As public opinion turned against certain kinds of immigrants in the early
20th century, more legislative restrictions began to take hold. In 1924,
the Johnson-Reid Immigration Act was signed which created a quota system
for immigration. And then, new rule puts caps on the number of immigrants
that could come to the U.S. from a particular country. The act also
included a provision that made certain immigrants ineligible for
citizenship based on race or nationality.
By the middle of the 20th century, the face of immigration to the United
States had begun to change. And by the end of the 1970s, a third of the
foreign-born population of the country hailed from Latin America.
Today, that trend has continued. In the last census, more than half of the
foreign born population is from Latin America. And overall, almost 13
percent of the population are new immigrants. By and large, our fellow
Americans came through legal channels. Only 29 percent were undocumented
migrants. Of those undocumented people, 86 percent have been living in the
U.S. for seven years or longer. Many within what we might think of as
traditional American families.
16.6 million Americans live in families with at least one undocumented
immigrants. $1.5 trillion is the amount that could be added to the GDP
over ten years if the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants already
here are granted legal status.
While we wait, approximately 1,087 people are deported every day by the
Coming up, does the President owe a debt to the DREAMers?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know some people want me
to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own. Believe me --
OBAMA: And believe me, right now dealing with Congress, the idea --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was a tough one. That was the President getting
heckled last year when he was addressing the National Council of La Raza.
And this summer, those DREAMers had their demands met, at least in part
with the deferred action for childhood arrivals ordered by President Obama.
So far, 310,000 young people have applied. And that action may in fact
have bore fruit for the President on Election Night when he took home 71
percent of the Latino vote.
Yet, no comprehensive immigration reform had even been attempted by the
Obama administration. And many are still looking to the President for
leadership on the issue.
Back with my panel. So Raul, I`m interested in this because this is a
moment on the one hand you have been heckling, but the next moment they do
basically what I have to read from a page in the Republican handbook, they
hand to him a policy. And they`re like here, if you can`t get the DREAM
Act through, do this. And sure enough, he does it. And we end up with
HARRIS-PERRY: Is that the model for how we`re going to get immigration
reform done sm.
REYES: Well, you know what, I have to give those DREAMers credit. Because
what they did, you know, they enlisted a lot of constitutional scholars and
law professors and presented the White House in the President with
documents saying, this is a legal way that you can do what we want to do.
And meanwhile, they were out there chaining themselves to the White House,
this is in the thick of the campaign, you know, staging demonstrations at
his campaign offices. So through this respect, true grassroots activism
and they effected this change. And now, you know, for better or worse, the
pressure is going to be on. Because this issue, you know, obviously, the
Latino community has a great stake in it, you know. And so, people do
expect him to follow through and make something happen and I always tell
people, maybe I`m too optimistic, but I do think it`s going to happen. Not
only because of the pressure but also because I think Obama is going to be
thinking about his legacy and this could be historic.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, Dorian, it just felt like the most - like I wanted to
write this young little handbook, right? When making critique of
President, here`s how you could do it, right? You provide a policy
pathway. You provide the public push, right, outside. But then you also
provide the electoral support. Like all three of those, the next thing you
know you end up with policy. It really is sort of a textbook way of
thinking about it. But it`s still not comprehensive. The President isn`t
wrong. You must have Congress come along on this.
WARREN: Yes. And the President has -- every indication is that the
President is very supportive. He said repeatedly, since the election, both
publicly and in private conversations that have been released to the press,
that this is one of his top issues.
But on another level, it doesn`t matter if he says this. Because the
movement is going to push him to do it. And it`s a very strong and unified
movement. It`s not just the DREAMers, it is not just Latino organizations,
its civil rights organizations. It is the labor movement, its
evangelicals, it is even parts of the business community. So there will be
immigration reform in 2013 and the President will be forced to sign
something that gets through Congress whether he wants to or not. It`s
clear he does want to.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And it appears he wants to. And yet, the DREAM Act,
here we are in lame duck again, and lame duck in 2010 was the great
exciting moment for progressives. They were like a thousand things that
hadn`t happened, you know, finally happened. And yet, no conversation in
this particular lame duck about another DREAM Act again.
WELCH: No. And let`s keep in mind, I mean, I`m not as optimistic about
the future of legislation as you. In the context of the immigration
problem, immigration policy problem, let`s say, in the United States,
DREAMers and the DREAM Act is symbolic. It affects a lot of people and
that is very important. But ultimately, it`s symbolic in a universe where
we have 10 million or 11 million or however many in the shadows. And we
only have 141,000 visas a year. What the hell is that, right? In any
situation where you --
It`s that history, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: It is that history.
WELCH: It is that history. It is let`s bureaucratize this kind of stuff
and let`s not look at this as a solution of expand the number. That`s
about the same number as Australia. I think we`re a bigger country. I
think the economy is a little bit bigger. But people are not talking about
that. Instead, we have an absurd situation to get 10,000 visas a year from
I`m from southern California, you can fit those 10,000 visas in about half
of Long Beach where I`m from. It doesn`t begin to make sense. So people
aren`t talking about that. I don`t think Obama is pressured to deal with
this because he just got four more percentage points.
HARRIS-PERRY: So in another words, this is the artificial crisis, right?
The crisis of insufficiency, it`s created by our actual policy. I think
that we could sort of with a stroke of the pen, change it.
WELCH: Yes, with legislation. But let`s -- But the one issue is, like
all issues that are difficult, they`re difficult for a reason. It`s tough
to get their politically but the easiest way to go about it is, let`s get
those numbers of visas way up there so it reflects at least some bit of
reality and let`s stop criminalizing human`s, like, existence.
HARRIS-PERRY: Business push on this as well.
WARREN: There`s a business push. Frankly, there`s going to be a fight.
Even though business is on the same side as immigrant rights movement,
there will be a fight between business and those groups. Because business
will probably, the chamber of commerce and others will want a more
conservative kind of immigration reform.
But just too back up to your textbook example, what`s important about this
discussion is that 15 years ago, this was not in the mainstream of
discourse. And it was a small group of activists who dreamed about what
immigration reform could look like and started organizing and pushing it.
And so, 15 years later, their theory of change has come true in terms of --
HARRIS-PERRY: At least.
WARREN: Yes. But in terms of knowing how immigration affects millions of
people thinking through how those people could be mobilized into an
electorate that would vote on this question. And now, we`re all discussing
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But now there`s a thousand deportations a day.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m going to take a quick break here. I`m going to bring
into the conversation both on the issue on the pressure of the President
and also we saw an action by the Republican Party this week and I think it
leads us to the question of whether both parties are in fact under a lot of
pressure on this question of immigration reform when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: On Friday, the House of Representatives passed the STEM Jobs
Act which could offer green cards to foreign students with advanced degrees
in science and math from U.S. colleges and universities. A win for the
Republican Congress. Majority Leader Eric Cantor had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: The bill that we passed
will allow these Individuals to have a green card if they get a diploma.
And therefore, enabling them to stay in this country to begin their careers
to create jobs rather than being forced to leave to go back to their home
countries and actually compete with us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: For the majority leader, this is a bill that awards a
certain kind of contribution to the American family. And yet, it
effectively picks winners and losers when it comes to immigration.
The STEM Act would offset visas for the highly educated by eliminating
those from the diversity immigration visa program, half of which provide
entry to the U.S. for applicants from African nations.
Back to my panel.
So Tara, this language of Cantor is saying compete with us, and I`m like
oh, that`s what the immigration fight is often about. The notion that some
immigrants are bringing skills that we want to keep, like STEM engineers
and that sort of thing, and others are bringing skills that we don`t want
to compete in our labor market, particularly with a soft labor market like
this. And so let`s use our immigration policy to get the ones we want and
keep out the one from people.
WALL: Well, I think that you know, this whole notion that we are
discussing this, and the scope of immigration is specifically with DREAM
and all these others really speak to just the education portion of it. As
we know, immigration is more comprehensive and broader. So I think whether
its team, whether it is steps down, to that end we`re speaking about, you
know, those who are here getting educations, those in military service and
And so, I think, look, at the end of the day, let me just back up a couple
of seconds to the last segment because I want to say, I agree with Matt in
that I`m very optimistic person but I`m not as optimistic as the others
that we`re really going to get anything done.
First of all, the President promised this since 2008. It was Democrats
that actually really have been getting on his case and Hispanics, as you
saw in the past election who really put his feet to the fire on this.
And so, yes, at the end of the day, some conservatives, Republicans was a
political move by the President to say, all right, I`m going do something,
you know, in August right before the election. I would hope we do
something. But it`s the Republican position in a number of ways to handle
this in kind of segments.
And I agree with that position because you almost have to. You know, we
haven`t had immigration reform really since 1986 and Ronald Reagan where it
was amnesty, it was security and it was unfortunate. We`ve only done
amnesty. Let`s deal with. I think many conservatives and many Republicans
HARRIS-PERRY: But I would just take a both Democrats and Republicans push
this off. So George, you know, George W. Bush also during his eight years
in office didn`t bring it. So I agree with you.
WARREN: Here`s why we`ll see immigration reform in 2013.
WARREN: The Achieve Act essentially is by the way, the Achieve Act doesn`t
provide a path for citizenship. It`s the DREAM Act without the dream.
WELCH: It`s a dud.
WARREN: Two outgoing senators.
WALL: That`s valid.
WARREN: The STEM Act is proposed by Lamar Smith, notoriously anti-
immigrant. So when Lamar Smith is sponsoring an immigration reform bill,
something has changed in the Republican Party. And when two outgoing
senators are proposing their version of immigration reform, something
changed in the Republican Party.
WALL: I think, again, until we look at the -- it`s almost three-pronged.
Until we look at the enforcement issues, those issues, then we can do --
HARRIS-PERRY: But the thing is you don`t have to deal - I mean, you can
create path to citizenship in pieces, so in stages without dealing with all
of them. It like in sort of say, well, we just can`t do anything until we
can do it all.
WALL: My sister-in-law, she`s South African, she came here ten years ago,
it took her seven years to gain status. This is after she had been
married, had kids. I mean, that is the legal path. And we have to start
talking, I think, Republicans want to talk about putting back on the table
how do we, you know, enforce and enable and talk about encouraging legal
immigration. And I think that`s part of the discussion as well. It has to
REYES: Yes. It does have to be. But going back just for a moment to the
STEM Act, all I have to say about that is no, 10,000 times no.
HARRIS-PERRY: Because of the tradeoff.
REYES: Yes. The STEM Act makes this --
REYES: You know, it sort of cherry picking who we want. And I tell
people, you know, Ellis Island did not have a separate line for people who
had Masters` degrees or Ph.D.s. So a lot of us would not be here if they -
if our government only chose the very best and the elite from other
countries. That is not how immigration system is organized. It`s
organized throughout family unity and we have a random diversity lottery
for a reason. That is one thing that makes this country great.
But when we talk about comprehensive reform, what we hear again and again
and again from Republicans, as you mentioned, is that we need to secure the
border, enforce our immigration laws and then we can get to the question of
what are we going to do with the 11 million people who are already here.
But the fact is, we have secured our border. The pure Hispanic, "The New
York Times," the Migration Policy Institute all say that the illegal
entries on the border are at an all-time low. The greatest drop since the
great depression. We have done that.
HARRIS-PERRY: I was going to say, the main way we so-called secure our
borders is market forces.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: The decline between `04 and 2010 in people coming to the
U.S. is because there are fewer economic opportunities.
WELCH: The wall has made it more difficult for people.
REYES: But that`s the second part of the equation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And also, Mexico is a lot richer even with the civil
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, right. Comparatively. I want to be clear. It`s the
comparative markets between the two nations. And so --
REYES: But what we`re also doing, getting a second step. The enforcement.
We are doing that. For better or worse, these record deportations. The
border is more militarized than ever before. So we have done those two
steps. It`s time to move on.
WELCH: The 1,000 deportations a day is a step we needed to take?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are enforcing it.
HARRIS-PERRY: I would like the1,000 deportations to stop and like stem
would be OK if it wasn`t a tradeoff. If we weren`t increasing -- one could
create a new market force for generating, for example, -- the problem is
it`s a tradeoff.
WALL: Illegal immigrants, we still have to talk about the fact that we
HARRIS-PERRY: So we just --
HARRIS-PERRY: Law isn`t just a truth. The law is what we create. And so,
we can look at and change our laws.
WALL: Look at all these things at one time. It doesn`t have to be bundled
up in the same package.
HARRIS-PERRY: And they`re screaming at me in the control room.
Commercial, commercial, pay the bills.
Thank you, Matt Welch, for coming. I`m going to see you again next week.
Everybody else is staying a little longer. And stay with us for the next
hour. We`re going to pay for the bills for a minute.
When we come back, we are going to talk about the filibuster. I might even
filibuster a little bit. I like to do that on this show. When we come
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
When the 113th Congress is seated in January, Democrats will enjoy a Senate
majority of 53 to 45 over Republicans. Adding the two Independents who
will caucus with the Dems, and we`re talking about a 10-vote advantage.
And yet, as things stand now, it means nothing -- absolutely nothing --
because without a 60-vote majority the leadership party is at the mercy of
one simple thing, the thing at the core of inaction and dysfunction in
Washington: the filibuster -- the mangled manipulated, misappropriated
Now, there is a filibuster that most of us love. That would be the Jimmy
Stewart, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" kind, the way it used to be. Or at
least the way it used to be romanticized. One lone political hero standing
on the Senate floor fighting for what he knows is right using the Senate
rule saying that says one senator, one speaking, can speak for as long as
he or she wants so long as he or she continues speaking and standing.
Through a filibuster, the senator could prevent a vote and thus
singlehandedly save the day for the cause that he held so dear.
We saw a much less romantic version of that -- that then rare event when
the late Senator Strom Thurmond set the record, going 24 hours, 18 minutes
-- all to try to derail the Civil Right Acts of 1957. Here, he is
romanticizing about how he set the record.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REPORTER: How did you last 24 hours? You never left the Senate floor.
STROM THURMOND, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: I went down to the Senate bath for
three or four days beforehand and dried out my body.
REPORTER: In the sauna?
THURMOND: Yes. So I wouldn`t be tempted to go to the bathroom. So I was
able to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, dehydration, no big deal when you`re trying to stop the
first civil rights legislation since Reconstruction.
Of course, history shows Strom Thurmond to have been on the wrong side of
Congress. But history also did away with the effort Thurmond put forth,
did not do away with it.
Today, senators need not speak on the chamber floor. They need not stand.
They need not even show up. They simply have to make the threat of the
filibuster by blocking motions to proceed. Any one of the hundred senators
can do it and to be overruled, 60 senators must vote the lone senator down.
The quirky Senate rule creates the need for a super majority in order for
anything of substance to get done, unless that is the rules change.
Senate Leader Harry Reid with the White House`s backing is threatening to
change the rules so that only a simple majority will be needed to begin
debate on legislation and force a return to the old days of real
filibustering, Senators taking on the floor.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is aghast at such a ploy, claiming Reid is,
quote, "breaking the rules to change the rules." Of course in 2005 when
the Majority Leader McConnell was considering essentially the same thing
over President Bush`s judicial nominees, it was then Minority Leader Reid`s
turn to be aghast. And therein lies the real issue.
The party in power wants the ability to exercise power. But the American
people want action.
At the table: Stephen Spaulding, staff counsel for Common Cause, nonprofit
group suing the U.S. Senate to have the filibuster declared
unconstitutional. Also, former adviser to the Mitt Romney campaign, Tara
Wall; Columbia University professor Dorian Warren; and lawyer and NBC
Latino contributor, Raul Reyes.
All right. Stephen, how could it be unconstitutional?
STEPHEN SPAULDING, COMMON CAUSE: The Constitution does say each chamber
can set its own rules. We think the Senate should be able to do that with
a majority vote. You know, contrary to popular belief in the world`s
deliberative body, the 11th commandment from God to Moses was not: thou
shalt need 60 votes to pass a bill.
Actually, if you go back to the founding, the Founders in the Federalist
Papers said they considered a super majority requirement and they rejected
it. They said to have a super majority requirement could be used by a
corrupt junta to embarrass the administration, make it look weak and
ineffectual and essentially destroy the energy of government, which is kind
of what we`re seeing when we were just talking about the DREAM Act. But --
HARRIS-PERRYU: So let`s go -- let`s go to the Founders for a minute
because I -- this is like I got my political science excitement going on,
So let`s go back just a little bit. I think there are a couple of
different things. One is that the Senate itself sucks when it comes to the
idea -- no. When it comes to the idea of being a representative body,
HARRIS-PERRY: The whole point of the legislator is that the House of
Representatives is going to represent the people through proportional
representation. But that the Senate, everybody gets two, right? So nobody
lives in Wyoming, but they get the same number of senators as New York.
So why would a simple majority -- I mean, a simple majority of senators
does not constitute of -- it is meant to protect the rights of political
SPAULDING: That`s the key. The point of the suit is that the Constitution
lays out when a super majority is required. It`s required to amend the
Constitution. It`s required to pass treaties. It`s required to overcome a
It`s not required to pass legislation. And the key thing here is we`re
talking about the filibuster, we`re not talking about Jimmy Stewart railing
on the Senate floor as a matter of principle. Incidentally, there were no
filibusters in 1939 when that film came out.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right.
SPAULDING: So John Lewis, Keith Ellison, three DREAMers, have joined with
Common Cause to say, wait a minute, let`s look at the DREAM Act, perfect
case study. Passes the House, got 55 votes in the United States Senate,
President Obama said he would sign the act and it didn`t pass.
Let`s see. Did it embarrass the administration, make them look weak and
ineffectual? That`s pretty much what Alexander Hamilton warned against
when he said we shouldn`t have super majority requirements. So the theory
here is the Constitution lays out what is required to pass a bill and
getting 60 votes isn`t one of them.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. Let me -- one more real quick thing, though.
HARRIS-PERRY: On this question, the other thing the Founders had a lot of
angst about was the tyranny of the majority.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I get you. For the most part, like the people who have
used the filibuster think of a nasty, funky, ugly little history,
particularly for people of color.
But on the other hand, the whole point is the protection of minority
rights. I`m always nervous about anything that says, well, if the majority
wants it, good job. I mean, I`m often going to find myself in not the
SPAULDING: I agree completely. I think there are processes that the
Senate could come up with that would let -- we need to have respect for the
minority, of course. We need to have them -- we need a robust, loud,
boisterous debate. That is what democracy is about.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
SPAULDING: The way that this is working, we can`t even start a debate.
The filibuster debate, we don`t even start a debate. They`re filibustering
the motion to proceed.
Where is the discussion on the Senate floor? It`s leading to a cynicism
Elections have consequences. People go and they vote for their elected
representatives to go on and represent them. And what`s happening is it`s
playing right into the hands of those that don`t want government to work.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Raul?
REYES: The situation we have now, the status quo, I agree with you, it`s
leading to a disintegration of our government, of our democratic process
because I`m very ambivalent about the reform because on one handy agree,
it`s to have as much debate as possible on the Senate floor. That is a
But again, you know, it was created for a reason to give the minority party
a mechanism and a voice and I always try and think like if the tables were
turned right now and the Republicans were, you know, in the other position,
would we all be so gung-ho about the filibuster. I just think that it`s a
The other thing with your lawsuit that I think is important, because I know
for a lot of people, when you talk about filibusters. For people, it`s
important to realize that if you care about climate change, if you care
about immigration, if you care about energy policy, you should care about
filibuster because it has a huge impact on how our government works.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you should always care about the rules of the game. I
think we get obsessed with elections because elections change the
personality. But if we don`t take the time to actually talk about the
rules, we don`t know how the personalities are operating.
WARREN: In addition to those issues, there are two historic issues that
the filibuster has been used to defeat throughout the 20th century and
that`s civil rights legislation and pro-labor legislation.
So it`s interesting when you look at the long scope of history how
filibuster has been used against progressive change. And, in fact, because
of that, the filibuster requirement to invoke culture came down in 1975
from 67 votes to 60. That`s where it`s been now.
So I also am worried about this debate in terms of: do we just eliminate
the filibuster or do we reform it so that people have to go to the floor as
WALL: It`s up for Senate to decide. I mean, look, they determine the
rules. You know, look, at the end of the day, I think most people don`t
Polarization is the problem. Not the procedure. I don`t know that this
gets at the issue of polarization. And that`s what people don`t want to
I think it is important to preserve minority rights in the scope of -- you
know, there`s enough hypocrisy to go around on both sides, who`s used it,
who hasn`t used it, who used it too much. Senator Reid, you know, in 2005
was rallying against it and so was a then-Senator Obama. So there`s enough
to go around on both sides on this.
I think, at the end of the day, look, if we`re going to examine the issue,
examine, you know, parts of it, whether we should be arguing this out in
the public. But you don`t do away with an entire filibuster and say to do
away with the process. Be done with it though.
HARRIS-PERRY: You make a good point about the polarization because the
assumption was -- the majority tyranny assumption was you`d have
overlapping interests. Sometimes people would vote by party. And other
times, people vote by geography and other times, people vote by rural
versus urban, right, or north versus south.
But they would overlap until you would never get -- you can`t just look and
say, OK, you don`t have 60, because 60 would show up in different
formulations. And that has not been true since parties have become sort of
the dominant. Of course, when a party that was of course just the
segregationist Democrats hanging out with the Republicans.
When we come back, we`ll talk more about this. You know, it really is my
sense that progressives keep talking about this like it`s just about
progressivism. But I`m convinced it`s really just about power, which in a
certain way is good. I like when progressives are interested in power --
when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: You can call what I`m doing today
whatever you want. You can call it a filibuster, a very long speech. I`m
not here to set any great records or to make a spectacle. I am simply here
today to take as long as I can to explain to the American people the fact
that we have got to do a lot better than this agreement provides.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders just about two years
ago. He was speaking up, speaking up, speaking up at that point in protest
against President Obama`s 2010 proposed tax deals compromise with the
Congressional Republicans. And, technically, it wasn`t an actual
filibuster because he wasn`t preventing Republicans, you know, from
speaking and doing business. But he did go on for eight hours and 37
minutes. No words on whether he used the sauna to dehydrate himself.
First, I remember Bernie Sanders doing this and my Twitter feed going nuts
with enthusiasm after two years of saying we should get rid of the
filibuster. And then they were like, go Bernie, go Bernie, go. I thought,
we like it when it`s our guy doing it.
SPAULDING: Well, I think that`s where we get the distinction. When we --
when I say filibuster, I`m knot talking about holding the floor. I mean,
arguably, that`s great. He had eight hours to get his point across.
SPAULDING: Now the filibuster is I`m going to send an e-mail to Mr.
McConnell, it`s going to take 60 now. Then you don`t have that debate.
And then you block it right at the outset. We don`t have that discussion.
HARRIS-PERRY: So --
WALL: So the technology has changed.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is that the reform that matters? I want to point out, there
was another time when progressives got really excited about making it
difficult to do this. That was in the Wisconsin walkout, right?
So this wasn`t a filibuster in terms of reading the phone book kind of
filibuster. But when the Wisconsin lawmakers walked out and in fact took
asylum in another state -- I mean, again, enthusiasm for this idea of using
the rules of the game in order to push the legislative effort.
And I guess -- I guess it goes back in part to what Tara was saying. This
is the rule of the game. And the question is: which political parties are
able to make use of the existing rules or is it as Dorian was saying, look,
the fact --
WALL: I mean, you can`t like in the middle of the game, you get this.
People just want to wipe the chips. It`s unfair.
I mean, you have to almost ask why Harry Reid is doing this. I mean,
there`s so much more at stake after this election. There`s so much on the
plate of Americans right now. And yet, granted, you know, some things are
done, you know, procedurally, historically.
But it`s like why right now? Why this? Why right now?
SPAULDING: That is precisely kind of why we`re in court. As somebody who
works at a nonpartisan organization, I frankly don`t care who is in power.
I just want government to work and to actually move things forward and have
some progress rather than another two years of absolute --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gridlock.
SPAULDING: An utter stalemate.
I was at an event last week with Grover Norquist and Mike Allen down at the
museum in Washington.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m so sorry.
SPAULDING: Mike Allen said to Grover Norquist, well, you know, you guys --
you didn`t do too well. You lost two seats in the Senate. And Grover
Norquist said, that doesn`t bother me. I mean, there`s one number that
matters -- there`s two numbers that matter, 60 and 40. And we have more
than 40, and we can stop absolutely whatever we want.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s no good.
SPAULDING: That`s how --
HARRIS-PERRY: He`s not elected, right?
He`s not going to be making an eight-hour speech about it.
SPAULDING: And just one other quick point of clarification, because we
talk about how the filibuster was intended as X, Y, Z. You go back to the
original rule books of the Senate, were exactly the same between the House
and the Senate, you can end debate on a majority vote.
Aaron Burr, everyone`s favorite vice president --
SPAULDING: -- comes along in 1806 and says, we`re a body of gentlemen and
we shall change the rules and we can respectfully end debate and we don`t
need this messy rule book.
And it took about 100 years before we started to have filibusters and
Woodrow Wilson in 1917 said the Senate is a group of -- a little group of
willful men who have made the United States helpless and contemptible. We
need a way to end debate.
Up is down and down is up now. We no longer even have debate. We don`t
even start a debate.
So we`ve finally gone to the courts to say, yes, the Senate can make its
own rules but they`re not unlimited. The rules are constrained by the
Constitution. One way is: this is how you pass a bill.
HARRIS-PERRY: Can you send me a coffee mug with that Woodrow Wilson quote,
these contemptible little men --
SPAULDING: This contemptible group of little men have run in it. And then
he started, this is the only legislative body that cannot act when majority
WALL: The Republicans would also argue, too, that there have been -- that
there have been instances whereas as being in the minority, they have been,
one utilizes -- should utilize, whether it`s Democrats or Republicans, in
2010, for example, the Jobs Act and then Senator Harry Reid essentially
stripped away GOP bipartisan provisions that would have helped small
businesses and those unemployed to get incentives to get people back to
work. Obamacare is another one.
I mean --
HARRIS-PERRY: I think it is worth asking the question about being careful
-- even beyond whether it`s good or bad, like from the politics of it,
being careful about changing the rules when you`re in the majority, because
you should always assume in a country like this, that you`re eventually
going to be in the minority again. We`re not in a place where any party is
going to dominate.
WARREN: There`s one other danger, I think. I`m for filibuster reform, but
not elimination. But the danger is this is a quick fix. So the Democrats
change the rules, instead of focusing on partying building instead of the
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, I mean, this is a claim that in a democracy, the way
that you know what people want is if they free and fair regular election.
SPAULDING: This argument about when the Democrats are what -- progressives
that might be nervous. Everybody has unclean hands in this process.
SPAULDING: But at least we could return to talking about substance. When
George W. Bush wanted to privatize Social Security, he had a Republican
House, it didn`t pass the Republican House. It was not actually
filibustered. It was just unpopular because there`s a debate about how
unpopular it was.
REYES: That`s good, because, you know, it should require some effort. If
you believe these things, you should be out there debating it, making your
case and, you know, risking maybe don`t like it. It should require some
effort, not as you said, just pushing a button or citing something.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So I love this. I think it`s possible we fix
America. You know debate, you need free and fair --
HARRIS-PERRY: Stephen and Tara and Raul, thank you to all of you for being
Dorian is going to hang out a little bit because when we come back, I`m
going to talk with Dorian about the fast food walkout just the other day.
Don`t call it a comeback. Labor has been here for years.
HARRIS-PERRY: The low wage service job, one particularly at a fast food
restaurant, for example, often carries little to no benefits and very
little control over one`s schedule. It`s a job. But it`s what some folks
might call a make job -- something that meets the technical description of
employment but can be tough to actually live on.
Demanding better is also hard for many, especially when they can be so
easily replaced. But hundreds of fast food workers here in the city of New
York took the chance on Thursday morning at 6:30 a.m. local time and walked
out, protesting for higher pay and the right to organize. In all, reported
200-plus workers took part, including one worker who was later fired -- but
then, rehired at a Brooklyn Wendy`s restaurant after the restaurant`s
actions came under direct protest.
It`s the kind of retaliation and something that these employees are
consistently living in fear of and why they stepped out following in the
footsteps of the recent Wal-Mart Black Friday strikers. Are we now at a
tipping point for low-wage labor? Are we at a place where it`s making a
Joining me to help answer these questions is Dorian Warren of Columbia
So Dorian, I know you`re work and research and efforts are really around
labor organizing. Tuesday was quite an exciting moment.
WARREN: So this -- yes. It was an absolutely exciting, especially the
week after Black Friday where hundreds and thousands of people supported
Wal-Mart workers, also going on strike.
Just a little context: fast food, as well as retail, fastest growing jobs
in America. Seven out of 10 fastest growing jobs, broadly speaking, are
low wage jobs, and fast food and retail are some of the biggest.
The employers, the big employers of fast food, in terms of fast food and
Wal-Mart are very profitable. And, in fact, they`re making more profits
now than before.
HARRIS-PERRY: Like, as even as the down -- the so-called economic downturn
occurred, huge profits for these folks.
WARREN: That`s right. And the reality is, these are not teenage jobs.
These are adults who are working. They want to work full-time, the average
for a fast food worker is about 24 hours a week. You can`t survive on
that. Even if they work full time, they would still be living in poverty.
WARREN: So what we`re seeing now is an effort of workers to take
extraordinary risk to say, no, we want a living wage and we want the right
to join a union without retaliation. Between Wal-Mart and fast food work
and McDonalds and Wendy`s workers, this is the year of the strike it seems
like in 2012.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, one of the things when we talked about the Wal-
Mart example and then also in the fast food, part of the reason that their
profits are up is because ordinary working Americans or nonworking
Americans are relying on the low cost of the hamburger and French fries or
the low cost of a Wal-Mart item. If I pay my workers more, isn`t it simply
more expensive for you to get that item or that hamburger and therefore,
we`re actually making it tougher on poor people?
WARREN: Well, a couple of things there. One is, we as taxpayers subsidize
the low-wage model of these employers who are reaping in huge profits. So
we`re actually paying for food stamps and Medicaid and health insurance for
workers who are trying to do their best to survive and provide for their
families. We shouldn`t be subsidizing Wal-Mart and McDonalds. They can
afford to pay a higher wage, $15 an hour. That`s the demand of the fast
food campaign here, as well as of retail and fast food workers in Chicago.
HARRIS-PERRY: So they`re basically giving -- these folks are getting out
of it in two ways. They don`t pay the higher wage, the Grover Norquist
plan to keep from having to do it individually and then as corporations are
passing on that kind of social safety net costs to taxpayers who are making
-- who are subsidizing.
WARREN: And, by the way, if workers got a living wage, if these workers
made $15 an hour, they would actually spend it, which would then, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: Stimulate the economy.
WARREN: Which would actually increase the number of jobs in this country.
HARRIS-PERRY: You and I both -- you grew up in and I spent a lot of time
in Chicago when we first met and we were both feeling sad about the end of
the career of Representative Jesse Jackson. Whatever his failings, man,
this guy was on this issue of the minimum wage.
WARREN: The minimum -- I have strong feelings about this because that
campaign in 1995 was the very first political campaign I worked on, Jesse
Jackson Jr. was the key champion in the increase in the minimum wage since
1995 and the minimum wage has not kept up with the rising cost of
everything in our society.
So it`s $7.25 now. It`s not just enough, when you add up in temps of 40
hours a week, you`re still living in poverty if you work hard.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I think we keep thinking of sort of minimum wage jobs
as teenagers on summer break. But this is what people are actually feeding
WARREN: These are adults. And, again, there are two other issues. One is
that scheduling is a huge issue in these industries. People that work at
fast food restaurants at Wal-Mart don`t have control over their hours.
HARRIS-PERRY: You can`t take a second job.
WARREN: You can`t take a second job, right? In terms of picking up kids
from school, it`s really tough on these workers. It doesn`t have to be
HARRIS-PERRY: There is a different way. Well, hopefully, with some of
this movement we`ll begin to start seeing that different way.
And, in fact, stay with us. We`re going to stay on this topic of workers.
We`re going to go below the line again. That`s where we like to go.
But this time, we`ll talk about the situation for domestic workers, a kind
of invisible labor in this country. What`s happening, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: In our new series, we`ve been talking about people living
below the poverty line -- the factors keeping them there and the possible
solutions to free them from the oppressive hold of poverty.
But for domestic workers, who cook, clean, take care of kids and
essentially keep their employers` families afloat, they work in such poor
conditions that often for them, the line is nowhere in sight.
A new collaborative report by the National Domestic Alliance, the
University of Illinois at Chicago and the Data Center interviewed 2,086
nannies, caregivers and house cleaners in 14 cities and uncovered just how
dire the situation is for domestic workers.
Sixty-seven of live-in workers receive pay below state minimum wage, 65
percent of domestic workers have no health insurance, 35 percent work long
hours without breaks. And forget about trying to raise a stink because 23
percent were fired for complaining about work conditions.
This is not just about money. It`s about creating a better economy that
craft pathways to better jobs with opportunities for all workers to live
above the poverty line.
At the table, Ai-Jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers
Alliance; Natalicia Tracy, executive director of the Brazilian Immigrant
Center of Boston and a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Boston University;
Annette Bernhardt, policy co-director of the National Employment Law
Project and fellow at the Roosevelt Institute; and Dorian Warren, associate
professor of political science and international and public affairs at
So nice to have you all here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Ai-Jen, you and I met a couple of years ago on a panel.
And I`ve been so impressed with the work that the Domestic Workers Alliance
has been trying do to address these issues. Explain to me the relevance of
these kinds of findings.
AI-JEN POO, NATIONAL DOMESTIC WORKERS ALLIANCE: Well, first of all, I
think the fact that the study exists is already a huge breakthrough.
Because this is the first time we`ve ever had national data and statistics
on this workforce. It really contributes to the invisibility of the work
itself and the role -- the important role that this workforce plays in the
And then I think the startling story that this report tells that the
people, the workforce that we count on to take care of our families every
day cannot take care of their own families on the wages and the conditions
that they`re facing in the workplace.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I think, for me, as an empirical political
scientist, right, I really get how critical it can be to have data, to be
able to say, 65 percent -- because, you know, I`m the granddaughter of a
domestic worker. It`s what my grandmother did. I lived as a live-in nanny
in graduate school. So I experienced a fantastic family. But the whole
point is, why shouldn`t the family have to be fantastic, why shouldn`t
there be, you know, fundamental rights?
And as a single mom for many years, I employed someone who cared for my
child. So I feel like I`ve seen every side of this.
But when you tell the one-off stories, it becomes, oh, you`re a good
employer or bad employer rather than being able to say -- no, this is a
structure that creates these circumstances.
Talk to me a little bit about your personal experiences, Natalicia.
NATALICIA TRACY, BRAZILIAN IMMIGRANT CTR. OF BOSTON: Well, my personal
experience, I was brought here to be a nanny and I was supposed to be part
of the family, learn about the culture, go to school and very soon I found
myself taking care of the entire household, taking care of the children,
working 80 to 90 hours a week, and I was being paid $25 per week and I was
living on a porch and with no hopes and no one to help me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I really -- this to me is so important for folks to
get. It`s that job creep that happens that doesn`t happen in any other
country. You`re hired to do one thing.
TRACY: That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: But without a contract, the next thing you know, you`re
doing five different jobs.
TRACY: That`s right, being mistreated. You know, emotionally, it`s very
damaging to us. Because we also, we want a job to provide care, we provide
love, we give hugs and kiss to the children and they become our
responsibility. You care about them.
That even puts you in a situation that you`re more vulnerable because you
don`t want to leave, because now, you`re the sole caretaker of the child in
the family. And like, well, what`s going to happen to the children if I
leave? Will they be OK?
So that sense of like the thing that keeps you in is this kind of intimate
relationship with the employer -- in a way that for example you don`t feel
about the guy who owns the local Wendy`s, right? I mean, you may be in an
exploitive relationship financially but this becomes exploitative
ANNETTE BERNHARDT, NATIONAL EMPLOYMENT LAW PROJECT: Yes. Now, and I think
-- just to back out a minute, but I do think the key point here is that
this industry, we often say it`s structurally wired for exploitation.
And there`s two pieces to it. One is if you look at the legal framework
for these workers, they have very few protections on the job. And then
we`re asking them to go into this very private, closed-off space and
bargain one-on-one with an employer in a context where there is this whole
emotional relationship as well. I mean, we`re basically leaving them on
their own and we don`t have their backs in terms of coverage, in terms of
minimum wage protection, right to organized protections, et cetera.
So I feel like this is both a structural problem and it`s colliding with
this very specific private, emotional space of work.
HARRIS-PERRY: So let`s look at the structures. I want to look at issues
like pay and benefits, things we normally think about for workers. So from
this study, we see in terms of low pay, you`ve got nearly a quarter paid
below state minimum age. About 70 percent paid under $13 an hour and these
are in urban contexts where the data was done.
I just to be clear, $13 an hour is not much in a place like New York or
Chicago, for example.
If we look at benefits, we`ll see that the vast majority of domestic
workers are existing without health insurance -- one of the stories here
was about someone whose arm was broken and then she was fired. In terms of
financial hardships, I think this is the one that just intense.
That 60 percent of people working as domestic workers spend more than half
of their income on rent or mortgage, 40 percent had essential bills that
were late over the course of the past couple of months and many experienced
So Ai-Jen, this is -- this is the face of people who are giving the hugs
and kisses and in fact, making American families work. Like, again, as a
single working parent, I could not -- it would have been impossible without
POO: That`s right. It`s the invisible engine of the economy. And without
it, nothing else would be possible.
We often ask our members to imagine what if one day, every domestic worker
in the city of New York decided to go on strike? Can you imagine? There
isn`t a single part of the economy that wouldn`t be affected directly by
So it goes to show the incredible integration of this workforce into every
aspect of how the modern economy runs.
HARRIS-PERRY: The engineers would not get to work on time, the lawyers
would not be -- I mean, all of that happens because of caretakers for
elderly and for children.
I mean -- so how do we move to a space where we start changing what those
structures look like?
WARREN: Well, I think we see not only with the National Domestic Workers
Alliance, the Domestic Workers United here in the New York, but also the
fast food campaign, the Wal-Mart strikes -- I think we see the emergence of
a 21st century labor movement, of people rediscovering solidarity and
action and being willing to take the risk with a lot of support around them
to step out and say, no, these are my rights. I want the right to
organize. I want these labor protections and I`m willing to do whatever it
takes to get them.
HARRIS-PERRY: Natalicia, I want to come to you as soon as we come back,
because the fact that you are a doctoral candidate in sociology after the
story that you just told us I think is fascinating and worth hearing more
So I also want to ask whether or not labor laws can make a difference for
domestic workers, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: We had a lot of conversation in the -- you know, during the
commercial because we are back with this panel discussing unfair wages and
lack of labor laws for domestic workers. And you and I were just talking
about sort of that job creep situation, how it happens.
But talk to me, because you are now doing two things -- you are a Ph.D.
sociology student and you`re organizing other domestic workers.
TRACY: That`s right. When you`re in a situation where you`re being
exploited and you don`t see a lot of options and you don`t have resources,
you feel like it`s your moral obligation to get involved. You have the
responsibility to change society.
We know where this coming from. This is historical exclusion. It`s very
systematic. And we wanted to make a change.
So education for me was the outlet -- to learn and be able to teach all
this, to understand the laws and society structure, to understand where all
this exclusion and exploitation is coming from. As you know, it stems from
slavery and Jim Crowe who has been fighting all that. And who is doing the
work then and who`s doing the work now.
So being a Ph.D. student gives me a lot of insight into society and the
history and creates for me a space where I can be in a community where I
understand some of the issues because I have dealt with them myself.
But at the same time, having the background to really mobilize and organize
the community not just my own, but work with the multitude of all the
immigrants communities so we can together create changes -- changes in
labor laws, changes in ways of people thinking about domestic worker
because they`re essential to our families, to our economy, to our country.
So that`s how we`re doing it.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you`re mobilizing in Massachusetts along a model that
you used here in New York in terms of a domestic workers, kind of, Bill of
POO: Right. Look, there`s a lot of great employers out there -- wonderful
employers. Then there`s the whole other end of the spectrum where we see
modern day slavery and human trafficking cases and everything in between.
POO: And the thing we want to do is establish guidelines and protections
and standards. So it`s clear what the right thing is.
POO: And it`s a baseline. There`s a -- there`s a bottom -- there`s a
clear set of standards for everyone.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, it really is like a baseline. I just wanted to look
at some of the public policy rules that you all are hoping to -- you know,
that New York pass and that you`re working on in Massachusetts, because
these are very, very basic -- the right to associate; minimum wage;
overtime pay; meals, breaks and rest days; uninterrupted sleep, rights?
These are the sorts of things that most American workers have enjoyed for
decades now. The idea that I should have more than four hours of
uninterrupted sleep if I`m a live-in domestic care provider seems like a
low-level of thing to ask for. And, yet, clearly we need legislation to
push towards that.
BERNHARDT: Absolutely. What I would say is I think sort of looking
forward, I think there`s so much common cause to make between domestic
workers and workers who are covered -- even a lot of the low-wage workers
who are covered de facto are not, because we`ve seen violations of minimum
wage, health and safety laws, right to organize laws.
So I think the bigger project here is, one, we have to improve our labor
standards. We have to cover everyone who is not covered. And we have to
do much more enforcement.
We currently have about a thousand investigators who are charged with
enforcing minimum wage and overtime laws for about 40 million low-wage
workers in this country. You know, if you`re an alien and you`re looking
at the United States, your read is that the United States has basically
thrown workers under a bus. Both the workers that it does not even include
in protection and increasingly, the fast food workers, the car wash
workers, the taxi drivers, folks who might be partially covered.
BERNHARDT: So I think of this all as one campaign actually for America`s
HARRIS-PERRY: The point that Natalicia was being made about who has always
done this work. You know, typically, women of color who are increasingly
now, undocumented immigrant of color or it was enslaved women or women in
the context of Jim Crow.
Is part of this part of the general wage gap and also the sense that
women`s work isn`t really work, it`s just a natural extension of who we are
BERNHARDT: Absolutely. I mean, of the many original sins in the U.S., one
of them has to be the decision not to value care work as a public good.
And I mean something very specific by that, that we fund it fully so that
everyone has access to quality care and that we pay a living wage.
Whether we`re talking about domestic workers or home care workers or child
care workers or nursing home workers or CNAs in hospitals -- these
occupations are at the very bottom of our wage distribution. We do not
invest either in providing enough care and there`s lots of families like we
were talking about before who don`t know how to juggle the elder care, the
child care. Where is the funding going to come from?
Then we don`t pay a living wage. This to me, if we`re going to solve the
low wage problems of the U.S., fixing care work broadly understood, I
think, is number one on the agenda.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Unfortunately, we`ve got to go on this. I so
appreciate the work that you all have done to gather the data to begin to
think about what the landscape looks like, but also that you continue to
organize on the ground for workers speaking for themselves.
And more in just a moment. But first, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS
WITH ALEX WITT."
ALEX WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hello to you, Melissa.
Well, we have this -- new and chilly details in the murder-suicide
involving that Kansas City football player, plus, one view on whether
today`s game should go on.
A fast food strike in the nation`s biggest city -- I know you mentioned it
earlier, Melissa. We`re going to look at the potential that it will spread
Ben Jealous, the head of the NAACP will be joining me. Does he think race
plays into the criticism against U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice?
Then in office politics, Willie Geist on his experience as an Olympic host,
and that, and also, we`re looking at the magazine where he was in
"People`s" Sexiest Man Alive. Just saying. I personally crack up with
HARRIS-PERRY: I know, I`m sorry. I mean, he`s such a nice guy, but I`m
sorry. It`s funny to me.
WITT: I love you, Willie.
HARRIS-PERRY: It was not --
WITT: We love you, Willie.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Alex.
And up next, the story that inspired Nerdland this week -- a struggle for
education from which we can all learn.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is the story of a young woman named Ashley from
Ashley is a dedicated student. By her senior year of high school, she was
already taking classes at the junior college. And when she got to college,
she majored in sociology. There, she met an inspiring professor, so
inspiring she decided she wanted to be a professor, too.
So when she was done with college, she stayed and earned a master`s degree.
And it was time to apply for Ph.D. program. There was one clear choice for
the field that she wanted to study -- a program at UIC, the University of
Illinois at Chicago.
As she applied, but didn`t give in. Instead of giving up, she called UIC.
She talked to them about the weaknesses in her application. She took the
admission test three more times until she sufficiently improved her score.
She applied again and was accepted
So Ashley headed off to Chicago to pursue her dream of becoming a
professor, right? No. You see, Ashley Volion has cerebral palsy. And to
live independently, she requires the assistance of personal care
Those attendants are supplied to Ashley through the state of Louisiana`s
new opportunities waiver. It`s one of the most extensive disabilities
program in the country and it makes a difference. It helps Ashley to be
the young woman she is today.
But the state of Louisiana refuses to allow Ashley to transfer these
services with her to Illinois where she`s been accepted into graduate
school. UIC agreed to defer her acceptance for one year as Ashley appeals
the decision by her home state.
Now, her acceptance is deferred but her dream is not. Ashley plans to keep
fighting. She applied to the UIC program because they have the nation`s
premier program and disabilities studies. And after finishing her Ph.D.,
she plans to return to Louisiana both to teach and to start a nonprofit
organization that will help others living with disabilities.
It is a big dream. But given her track record of tenacity, I think it`s
one that Ashley can achieve. To get there, though, she`s going to need
help and needing help doesn`t mean that she`s dependent.
In fact, Ashley said, quote, "Independent means having control of one`s
life. Even though there`s a lot that I can`t do for myself physically, I
still have a voice. And having a voice is part of my definition of
independence more than anything."
I wanted to tell Ashley`s story as a reminder to all of us as we stand on
the precipices of fiscal cliff, considering slashing programs that help
people -- the help that we provide for Ashley is an investment. It creates
jobs for her health care workers. It benefits our national system of
education by ensuring that someone with her skills and determination has a
chance to teach and it combats stigma, by creating models of achievement
for those leaving with disabilities.
Here at the MHP Show, we are rooting for Ashley because we know that once
she earns that Ph.D., she`s going to make some serious contributions to the
world that we affectionately call Nerdland.
And that is our show for today. Thank you to Ai-Jen, Natalicia, Annette
and Dorian for sticking around.
And thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going to see you again next
Saturday, 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
And coming up, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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