January 15, 2013
Guests: Mick Mulvaney; John Larson, Jonathan Capehart, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Jeff Merkley, Larry Cohen
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thanks, Chris. And thanks to you
for tuning in.
Tonight`s lead, putting people last. Seventy nine days after
hurricane Sandy devastated the east coast, Americans are still waiting on
the Republican Congress to do something. More than 346,000 homes were
damaged or destroyed in New York and New Jersey, 41,000 Americans are still
For nearly three months, hundreds of thousands of Americans have
suffered waiting to rebuild, waiting to figure out how to put their lives
back together. Families have been left in the cold desperate for help.
But the Republicans in Congress have made these people a pawn in a deadly
serious political game about spending cuts and deficits.
Less than two hours, the house will vote on a Sandy relief bill that
could deliver $51 billion in aid. But earlier today, house Republicans
tried and failed to pass an amendment to the Sandy relief bill that would
give the money only if it were offset with spending cuts. They were saying
no relief aid unless programs are cut back.
A hundred fifty seven Republicans voted for these offsets. They
supported the amendment which would have killed the $50 million Sandy
relief package. How on earth did we get here? This is money sitting in
Washington to help our fellow Americans get their lives back together. How
can we explain the efforts to not help people?
Joining me now, congressman Mick Mulvaney, Republican from South
Carolina. He sponsored the amendment to offset Sandy relief bill with
spending cuts today.
Congressman, first of all, thanks for being here again.
REP. MICK MULVANEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Reverend, it`s always a
pleasure. Thanks very much for having me.
SHARPTON: Now, how can you talk about spending when Americans are so
desperate for help, congressman?
MULVANEY: Well, it`s pretty simple, Reverend. Because in your
introduction you said the money was just sitting here in Washington. And
it`s not. It`s actually sitting in China. And we`re going to have to go
and borrow it from the Chinese in order to give it to the folks in the
Let me make one thing perfectly clear. There`s a small group of
people who think on one hand who would think this is not an appropriate
function of government. I`m not one of those. That`s not what this was
about today. I want this money to go to the folks in the northeast. The
question today was whether or not we thought it was important enough to pay
for it now or whether or not we were going to pay for it later and make our
children and grandchildren pay for it. That was the discussion. I think
it`s a fair discussion to have.
SHARPTON: All right. Well -- but, is it not fair to also point up
that in terms of some of your colleagues, there`s some blatant hypocrisy?
Sixty seven Republicans that voted against the stood down of $9 billion
package. But 37 of them supported emergency aid following disasters in
their own states. And you`re one of them.
The fact is, congressman, you actually received help from a disaster
relief program. In 2011 you testified on a committee of small businesses
and here`s what you said. You said I`ve actually participated in disaster
assistance relief. I showed up worked about six months after I started my
own business one morning to find my office furniture floating in the front
yard. We had been through a flood and I was able to get disaster relief
loan from SBA. And my experience was actually quite good. It was
You got help to replace your flooded furniture. Why would we deny to
help people with their homes? They lost their actual homes, Congressman.
MULVANEY: Reverend, we`re not trying to deny anybody anything. The
purpose of the amendment today was not to delay it or a poison pill. We
went into great detail on that on the floor. The question is whether or
not we would pay for it now or later.
In 1997, I was able to use that program. That`s why they`re important
to me. I recognize exactly what these people have gone through. I was in
waste water, human waste up to my chest in my office. I`ve lived through
this. I`ve lived in a hurricane-prone state. That`s why I`m not taking
the state the federal government should be doing this.
The question is a reasonable one now which is are we going to -- is it
important enough for us to pay for it or do we go to hand in hand to China
and Japan and say look, we don`t have enough money to take care of our own
people, will you please lends it to us? It bothers me and I would hope it
would bother you a bit.
SHARPTON: Of course all of this debt should bother all of us. That I
grant you. But congressman, are you telling me it is not important enough
-- yes, you were standing up to your chest in debris. People lost
everything. People are living in shelters. People are living in trailers
in the cold. And you`re telling me if they pass that aid bill we have to
go to China. Of course we don`t have to go to China. We can pay the bill
as we continue these debt negotiations. We can get some of your fellow
Republicans to increase on revenues. We can deal with the defense budget.
But when you say whether we pay now or later but you`re not talking about a
delay. I went to public schools in Brooklyn but now or later means delay.
MULVANEY: Look at it this way. The amendment today, number one, it
would have cut defense something you and I have talked about before, 157
Republicans voted for that. By the way, five Democrats also voted for my
amendment today. If the amendment had passed, the money would have gone to
New York and New Jersey just as quickly.
Again, this was not a debate about who gets the money, how much money
it was. It was a debate how we`re going to pay for it. Make one thing
perfectly clear. This is all borrowed money. That`s it. This is all
borrowed money. This is not budgeted this year. We are going to borrow
every single penny we send to the northeast. And I just wanted to have the
discussion of whether or not this was important enough to find some savings
some place. Give me something that we are willing to give up as a country.
And if it`s a national park in my state. Show me something we`re willing
to give up as a country and share that sacrifice so these folks in the
northeast get the aid they need.
SHARPTON: Of course it`s not in the budget. This was a natural
disaster no one saw coming. And when we had other natural disasters, we
responded. Katrina in 2005, we did $105 billion in relief fund in 20 days.
MULVANEY: We did.
SHARPTON: In Andrew we took $45,6 billion. Ike in 2008, $27.8
billion. Here we are how many days, weeks after Sandy and we`re sitting
around talking about we`ll do it only if you can tell me where we`re going
to take it from in spending? I mean, at what point do we put the American
lives over American politics?
MULVANEY: A couple things. The delay`s inexcusable. In fact, even
though I voted against the provisions this evening, I made it clear to my
friends in New York and New Jersey going back to before Christmas that I
thought we should have moved on this quicker. So, you are not going -- I
can`t defend that. I won`t defend that. But what you`re talking about
here is -- again, we`re going back to the funding issue. Not the use of
SHARPTON: Well, congressman, we`re going to have to leave it there.
And thank you for coming on. You always come on. We certainly disagree
more than we agree, certainly tonight I disagree with you, but I respect
you for coming on. Thank you.
MULVANEY: Thank you, reverend. Talk to you soon.
SHARPTON: Joining me now is Richard Wolffe, vice president and
executive editor of MSNBC.com and Krystal Ball co-host of "the cycle" here
I mean, Krystal, what do you make of that interview? Of you can to
call him just -- that exchange? I mean, isn`t this the problem with
today`s GOP? That it`s just how are we going to pay for it? He admits
that people have been treated wrongly with a long period of time here.
KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC HOST, THE CYCLE: Right.
SHARPTON: But before I give you aid, I want to know where it`s going
to be taken out of spending? I mean, that almost seems heartless to me.
BALL: Never in our history have we looked at people who have been
victims of floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and said we see that you`re in
help. Maybe we`ll help you. Let me see. Is it worth borrowing the money
for? Let me think about this. I mean, he frames the argument as, is it
worth borrowing more money to pay for this. And I even don`t know how you
ask that question. I mean, if your child needed an operation, a life-
saving operation would you sit around and say we could borrow the money but
am I really going to do this? No. You would do it. If this was his
district, if this was his state, you can`t help but come to the conclusion
he would be there not asking where can we cut? How can we use this as
leverage really to get our way rather than just saying what`s the best and
most effective way we can get help to the people that need it.
SHARPTON: And Richard, it`s another blatant example to me of the
Republicans going all the way to the edge like they did the fiscal cliff.
I mean, you see these examples of how they consistently put politics over
people. Fiscal cliff pushed to the edge. They are threatening a
government shutdown over a debt ceiling. They fought affordable health
care. They say they support cuts to programs for the needy. So, I mean,
it`s all of this as you heard the congressman say, the question is whether
it is important enough to borrow. I`m telling him people are living in
trailers in the cold. They`re in shelters. Their homes are gone. Not
that there`s a flood up to their waste. There is no home. There is no
furniture. Let`s see if it`s important enough to borrow and how we`re
going to pay it back.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Look. Everything the
government spends on many areas is borrowed. Right? Defense budget to a
large measure is borrowed. It depends which part is borrowed or which is
paid for through taxes.
They`re making a philosophical point. I don`t doubt the sincerity.
He cares about deficits. But at a time like this, it`s a delay. And I
don`t know how he can square his sympathy for victims because he was a
victim, too, at one point with this political point he wants to make about
Yes. There is discussion to be had about budgets and deficits. But
right now this has a real impact, these delays. So making the point about
deficits is stopping people from getting the help they need. And if he
wants to have that debate, have it in the bigger context. This $60
billion, it`s a drop in the ocean of bigger debt problems and they are
long-term debt problems. They need to talk about them, but this isn`t the
point or time to do it. There`s a time and place. This isn`t it.
SHARPTON: And Krystal, but my point is, I don`t want to just beat up
on congressman Mulvaney, 157 people voted for this.
BALL: At least he had the guts to defend himself.
SHARPTON: And for people that in this country, that we have gotten to
the point in politics where now we can watch with a complete detachment
people suffering from a natural disaster they had no way, shape, or form
that they were responsible for while we figure out our fiscal deficit
policies. It`s amazing to me. Aren`t we electing people to protect
BALL: Yes. If they can`t pass this, I mean, what can they do? If
they can`t do this thing that has never ever been controversial. And the
other thing that`s really disturbing is everything now. You know, the
fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling, the continuing budget resolution.
Everything is used as a bargaining chip to get their way in this very
And Richard, you said you don`t doubt the congressman`s sincerity on
deficit reduction. I do doubt his sincerity on deficit reduction when you
look at the fact that he didn`t vote for the fiscal cliff deal. If you`re
talking about deficit reduction from raising revenues, he`s not on board at
all. He only wants to see it come from cuts. So it`s a specific piece of
ideology that he is coming from. I just think it`s absolutely abhorrent to
use something like disaster relief as a chip to get your way.
SHARPTON: Richard, I mean, they`re also threatening government
shutdown. Are there any boundaries to some, and these are not all
Republicans, but these extreme Republicans when it comes to their ideology
no matter who it hurts?
WOLFFE: They blinked last time they got to the point of default. And
thank goodness, right? For the stock markets still at 600 points and the
credit rating went down. And the cost of borrowing to this country on the
very deficits they cared about, they went up.
So there`s not a whole lot of sense here. There`s a lot of posturing.
I think shutdown for them is an easy option and even though it`s going to
hurt a lot of people. You know, you cannot budget like this. There will
be disasters. There are always hurricanes. There are always people who
are in need. How about they get the budget right on the longer term, but
they deal with the problems we now face. You cannot fight wars off budget.
You cannot deal hurricanes off budget. They should concentrate on fixing
SHARPTON: Going to have to leave it there. Richard Wolffe and
Krystal Ball, thanks for your time.
And catch Krystal on "the Cycle" week days at 3:00 eastern, right here
Coming up, a new shooting game for 4-year-olds. And the NRA says we
don`t think we have a gun problem. Tomorrow President Obama reveals
Plus, on what would be Martin Luther King`s 84th birthday, we`re a
nation still working on a dream. The right wing responds to Colin Powell`s
damn pain of in tolerance comment. With complete denial.
And what does miracle on the Hudson hero, captain Sully Sullenberger
have to do with Arizona Governor Jan Brewer? There`s a connection. Today,
we will explain it ahead.
You`re watching "Politics Nation" on the place for politics, MSNBC.
SHARPTON: Have you joined the "Politics Nation" conversation on
facebook yet? We hope you will. Today everyone was celebrating what would
have been Martin Luther King Jr.`s 84th birthday.
Sue says happy birthday to one of the greatest men who ever lived.
Lorain says thank you for leading the fight and for the sacrifice
Kim says may his legacy live on.
I`ll have more on Dr. King`s legacy coming up later in the show. But
first, we want to show you -- we want to share your thoughts about Dr.
King, about his dream on our facebook page. Please head over to facebook
and search "Politics Nation" and like us to join the conversation that`s
going long after the show ends.
SHARPTON: Tomorrow President Obama will deliver his gun safety plan
to the American people. He and vice president Biden will be joined by
children from around the country who will lead us to the White House after
the Sandy Hook shooting. These children who called for change will see it
firsthand. And we`re already getting details.
The White House plan will include a push for universal background
checks. A ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines, a ban on assault
weapons, and if Republicans threaten to stand in the way, the president
will pursue as many as 19 executive orders that don`t require congressional
This country`s in the midst of a great debate about gun safety. Now
the fight will really begin. And we must be ready for it.
Joining me now is Congressman John Larson, Democrat from Connecticut.
Thanks for coming on the show tonight.
REP. JOHN LARSON (D), CONNECTICUT: Great to be with you, Rev.
SHARPTON: Congressman, let me start by asking are you pleased with
what we`re hearing about the president`s plan tomorrow?
LARSON: The president has shown incredible strength with regard to
this. As you know, Reverend, his trip to Connecticut in which he spoke to
us directly about this probably being December 14th in Newtown, the worst
day of his presidency. And to the very core of his marrow, this has
impacted him. And he has resolved to act on behalf of America`s children
and in the interest of our safety. And he would like for Congress to
respond and I`m sure the vice president has outlined a very constructive,
common sense, pragmatic solutions. But if Congress cannot act, I`m
heartened be I the fact that the president said he will take executive
And there`s a number of things I implore him to do under executive
actions that are long overdue. But we know the resolve of this president.
And I hope the Republicans and the NRA come to the table around a
comprehensive agenda. But understand that guns can`t be left out of the
equation. Yes to mental health issues. Yes to the culture of violence.
Yes to what we need to do with youth in our communities. But guns are also
a part of this problem as well. And as you pointed out --
SHARPTON: But that is why, congressman, there`s going to be a big
fight on this.
LARSON: That`s true.
SHARPTON: Because I agree with you. Guns have to be on the table,
but the Republicans, the GOP has already gone haywire on this. Listen to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I`m against having a king. I think
having a monarch is what we fought the American Revolution over. And
someone who wants to bypass the constitution, bypass congress, that`s
someone who wants to act like a king or a monarch.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Restricting the right to keep and bear arms
is unconstitutional. The second amendment is an integral part of the bill
EDWIN MEESE, FORMER REAGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: Indeed, if he tried to
override the second amendment in any way, I believe it would be an
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Impeachable. Monarch. I mean, in 1989, congressman,
president H.W. Bush used executive action to declare a permanent ban on
most all made semiautomatic assault rule. All of the sudden, these are
semiautomatic rifles. All of a sudden now, President Obama would be a
monarch going against a constitution, impeachable. I mean, this is
absolutely ludicrous given that Republican President Bush 1 did exactly
that using executive order.
LARSON: Exactly. And he`s hardly a king or a monarch. But what he
is, is the commander in chief responsible for the safety and well being of
the people especially the children in this nation. And he`s also a father
who cares implicitly and understands what steps have to be taken as did as
you rightfully point out George Herbert Walker Bush.
I commend President Bush. I commend President Obama. Let`s sit down.
There are common sense solutions here for us to move forward. But if
Congress will not act, if it continues to be in the mode that it`s in
currently and we just saw it with respect to your first segment with
respect to Sandy relief where we have these recalcitrant Republicans, then
the president has to act in the interest of the children of this country.
SHARPTON: Congressman, I`m going have to leave it there. Thank you
so much. Congressman John Larson. Thanks for being with us tonight.
LARSON: Always a pleasure.
SHARPTON: Still ahead, falling short of the dream. Why the GOP, the
party of Lincoln, is failing to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
on his birthday.
But first, the miracle on the Hudson four years ago today. Now we
have a miracle in the desert. You won`t believe what Arizona governor Jan
Brewer has decided to do.
SHARPTON: Four years ago today the country watched a miracle unfold.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Surviving flight 1549. A commercial aircraft, a
U.S. airways flight from New York to Charlotte lands in the Hudson River in
New York City. And amazingly, all the passengers got out alive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The miracle on the Hudson. It was the feel good story of
the year. Captain Sully became a national hero. What a day. And there
must be something about this day January 15th. Because today we heard
about another kind of miracle. This one from Arizona governor Jan Brewer.
The GOP governor who tried to impress the right wingers by wagging her
finger in the president`s face. She has caved on health care. That`s
right. She`s agreed finally to expand Medicaid in her state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: Try as we might, the law was upheld by the
United States Supreme Court. The president was re-elected. And his party
controls the United States Senate. In short, the affordable care act isn`t
going anywhere. At least not for the time being.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: She`s right. The law is not going anywhere. And expanding
Medicaid in Arizona means 300,000 more people will get health insurance. A
far right governor who`s helping to expand health care? Miracles do
happen. But we shouldn`t expect a miraculous change in the heart for the
rest of the GOP. We`ll talk about the newest freak out next.
SHARPTON: Today would have been Martin Luther King, Jr.`s 84th
birthday. He dedicated his life to bringing in all Americans together.
Preaching a message of hope and equality for all Americans. But almost 45
years after Dr. King gave up his life for that dream, we have a long way to
go to fulfill it.
Just ask General Colin Powell, one of the most celebrated republicans
of his time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: There`s also a dark --
a dark vein of intolerance in some parts of the party. What I mean by
that? What I mean by that is they still sort of look down on minorities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: They still sort of look down on minorities. This coming
from a standard barrier for the Republican Party. Seems like that would be
a wakeup call, right? A time to open up the tent. A time to take a long
hard look in the mirror.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: A web of mass destruction Gretchen has been
found. The democrats found it. It was Colin Powell.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: He starts the interview by saying, he`s still a
republican. But whoa. With friends like that within the Republican Party,
who needs enemies?
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Colin Powell used to be a republican.
I don`t think he is any longer.
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The case that he makes
is weak and I think it`s an odd thing for a man who declares himself to be
a republican and he`s done so well under republican presidents to say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The case is weak and odd? No. It`s the truth. And
sometimes that hurts. There`s no question we`ve made progress. Four years
ago, history was made. Our first African-American president. And we`re
days from President Obama`s second inauguration coming on Martin Luther
But from day one of the Obama administration, the right wing rhetoric
has been ugly. They`ve called him un-American, lazy, a food stamp
president. This was once the party of Lincoln. What happened?
Joining me now, Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for "The Washington
Post" and an MSNBC contributor. And Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, a fellow at
the University of Texas, and an MSNBC contributor. Thank you both for
joining me tonight.
JONATHAN CAPEHART, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Thanks, Rev.
VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Jonathan, almost 45 years from the death of Dr. King, would
you think we`d be here right now in our politics?
CAPEHART: Well, no. You would think that we would have at least our
politics would have advanced farther along than this. You know, Colin
Powell Sunday on "Meet the Press" as you said spoke truth to the Republican
Party. He didn`t say anything that you or I or Victoria or a vast majority
of the country doesn`t already know, understand, and accept. That the
Republican Party is going to continue to lose presidential elections.
It`s going to continue to be a regional reactionary party unless and
until it does something about the voices of intolerance or as General
Powell said, the dark vein of intolerance is dealt with.
SHARPTON: Now, when you look, Victoria, for example at John Sununu.
He was a Mitt Romney surrogate. He repeatedly used racial comments during
the campaign. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN SUNUNU, MITT ROMNEY SUPPORTER: Can you imagine how dumb this
This is a president who wallowed in Chicago in the murky soup of
He has no idea how the American system functions.
He is absolutely lazy. And detached from his job.
What people saw last night, I think, was a president that revealed his
incompetence, how lazy and detached he is.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Did you mean to call Barack Obama
the president of the United States lazy?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Lazy, dumb, incompetent. And General Powell said Sunday
when many of us in the African-American community hear lazy, the next word
is shiftless. All of these are stereotypes. Felons. And what is most
disturbing about this is he was a surrogate for Governor Romney, the
presidential candidate, and not one time did he denounce the statements.
Sununu has a right to say what he wants, but he was never, ever
denounced by the campaign and he was an official representative of the
campaign, that is what was so offensive, Victoria.
SOTO: It was. And then in talking about this vein of intolerance,
it`s old wine in new bottles. Because regrettably we have had a history of
intolerance in this country since our founding. But what has changed is
where it`s been housed. So, in the 20th century it was mainly in the
Democratic Party. And then in about 1965, we saw that shift over to the
They say that in 1965 when President Johnson signed the voting rights
act, he turned to Bill Morris` aide and said I believe that we have lost
the south to the republicans for a very long time. So case in point. We
have seen that previously conservative element that was part of the
democratic south go to the Republican Party. Changing houses.
And at the same time the other shift we`re seeing is in the implicit
nature of intolerance. So previously we saw explicit intolerance in terms
of lynches and poll taxes. But today it`s about lazy. It`s about being
shucking and jiving. And in regards to Latinos, it`s about being illegal.
So we`re seeing intolerance repackaged and in a new home.
SHARPTON: Well, and I think Johnson said, we`ve lost it to the south
I think it was 20 years he said we`re at 28 now. Since he said that. But
Jonathan, when you look at the fact that -- and you wrote about the General
Powell`s warning. When you look back to 2008, the ugly rhetoric had
started. Listen to this and watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Our opponent is someone who sees
America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: President Obama, quit lying.
DONALD TRUMP, ENTREPRENEUR: If you are going to be the president of
the United States, you have to be born in this country.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I don`t want to make black people`s lives better by
giving them somebody else`s money.
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: President Obama is the
most effective food stamp president in American history.
PALIN: What Barack Obama seems to want to do is go back to before
those days when we were in different classes based on income, based on
color of skin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: So, when we hear this ugliness and then General Powell, a
republican who worked for successive republican presidents, give them a
warning, give them advice, people like Laura Ingraham see a conspiracy.
She says, "The more I think about it, the more it seems Colin Powell`s
appearance on "Meet the Press" was well coordinated with the White House
with his dear friend with whom he campaigned, Barack Obama."
She goes on to say, "when I hear an African-American president make
comments like they don`t like to socialize, they demonize me, I feel like
we`re playing the victim card here. Maybe playing the race card."
So let me get this right, Jonathan. The president invites the speaker
of the house and other republicans to state dinners and other things at the
SHARPTON: They turn him down. When he`s challenged, the president,
about why he doesn`t invite them over more by a reporter, he responds by
saying that, and that`s the race card?
CAPEHART: I know. It`s ridiculous. You know, the level of
disrespect shown this president I think is unprecedented. Remember, there
used to be a rule. Maybe even a custom that if you received an invitation
from the White House, whatever else you`re doing must be canceled and you
go. It`s out of respect for the president. It`s out of respect for the
office. And we have seen over the last four years that there is no respect
for the office and no respect for this president whatsoever.
You know, Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
have turned down invitations to the White House in the past. You know, I
have heard through my own reporting that, you know, the president did a
viewing of "Lincoln," they invited republicans. They didn`t show up.
SHARPTON: Wow. Jonathan, Victoria, I`m going to have to leave it
there. Thank you for your time tonight. Have a great evening.
CAPEHART: Thanks a lot, Rev.
SOTO: Thanks. Good evening.
SHARPTON: Coming up, if you can`t beat them, cheat them. Republicans
have a new scheme to win the White House. Without winning the popular
But first, look out Mitch McConnell, progressive groups are coming
together for change. And break up the GOP gridlock in Washington. Stay
SHARPTON: Republicans are coming off a landslide loss. So what is
the RNC chairman`s big idea to fix it? Rig the system. Brilliant. That`s
SHARPTON: In a democracy, the majority rules. But unfortunately,
that`s not how it works in the U.S. Senate. Often a minority of senators
less than 50 can use a filibuster to stop just about any bill and grind the
Senate to a halt. Filibusters have exploded in recent years. Driven
largely by Republicans. Two of the three sessions of Congress with the
worst filibuster views have happened since President Obama took office.
But now democrats are backing reforms to fix the system. Their plan
would eliminate some filibusters requiring senators to actually talk during
others and speed up nomination process overall. Today there`s news that
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants a smaller reform. But my next
guest is urging him go big.
Joining me now, Senator Jeff Merkley, Democratic senator from Oregon,
who`s leading the charge for filibuster reform? Thanks for your time
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: It`s wonderful to be with you.
SHARPTON: There have been 386 republican-led filibusters since 2007
according to Majority Leader Harry Reid. I mean, it is amazing the kind of
things that have been blocked by a minority just using filibusters.
MERKLEY: Absolutely. Jobs, closing oil loopholes, pay equity, the
dream act. The disclose act to get rid of secrecy in campaign donations.
When you`ve got 390 or so, filibusters a lot more beyond. And then in
addition the bills that never get to the Senate floor because those on the
floor are being filibustered and they ate up all the time. So, nothing
else can happen.
SHARPTON: Senator John Cornyn of Texas said on the filibuster fight,
he said quote, "the history of this has been that people get up to the edge
of the abyss and they look into the abyss and they pull back because
today`s minority can become the majority." What`s your reaction to that
statement by Senator Cornyn?
MERKLEY: Well, my reaction is that anything that I`m backing is
something that I`m completely comfortable with in the minority. Reforms
were making do not sounds the voice of the minority in anyway. In fact,
they say if you`re going to argue for more debate, you actually got to use
your voice. So it`s empowering. And if they don`t have the courage of
their convictions to make their case before their colleagues or the
American people, then they should sit down and get out of the way.
So that the process can go forward. So it`s -- these are reforms that
I`m comfortable with, that Tom Udall, my partner in this is comfortable
with. If we`re in the minority, we support these reforms because they
SHARPTON: Do you have the votes? Do you think they will filibuster
even on the filibuster reform?
MERKLEY: Well, I think we can anticipate that. But under the
constitution it says a simple majority can change the rules. The Senate
can organize itself. And so, if it comes down to it, when Harry Reid puts
forward a proposal, majority leader, when he puts forward a proposal, and
says here it is. I need 51 of you with me, it`s the only way we`re going
to make a change. He will have 51.
It`s a particularly important that the talking filibuster be part of
that. Because that is the heart of the secret, silent strategy in which
the minority has been killing bills outside of the American people.
SHARPTON: New website. You can go to reformthefilibuster.com. Thank
you Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, thanks for being here tonight.
Now I want to bring in Larry Cohen, president of the Communication
Workers of America. His union is fighting for filibuster reform. Thank
you for joining me tonight, Larry.
LARRY COHEN, PRESIDENT, COMMUNICATION WORKERS OF AMERICA: My
pleasure. Great being with you.
SHARPTON: Why is ending filibuster abuse such a key issue for your
COHEN: The question is, are we going to have a path in this country
to democratic change? Or none? So, as we just heard in that last segment,
you can name almost any issue that we all care about. Whether it`s workers
rights, whether it`s health care reform, whether it`s immigration, disclose
act, fighting foreclosures. None of those bills ever get to the floor.
They filibuster the motion to proceed. They don`t talk. They can
call the cloak room from anywhere in the country and one senator objects.
And then it takes 60 to move the bill forward. This is a disgrace. No
democracy in the world operates like this.
SHARPTON: It was amazing because when I started looking into this,
because your unions and others raise and saw the dream act, paycheck,
fairness act, American jobs act, all of these different bills were
filibustered where one senator just blocking it.
SHARPTON: It`s almost amazing how we have not as a public been
energized about reforming this until now.
COHEN: Yes. People`s eyes glaze over until you link it to every
single issue. Fiscal cliff, deficit, every single issue. The president`s
bills never go on the floor of the Senate. There are bills that McConnell
agrees to before they reach the floor. Because otherwise they can`t
proceed. One of these reforms that Senator Merkley talked about is just no
more motion to proceed. The majority leader can put a bill on the floor.
This is out of control.
SHARPTON: Now, let me show you your union`s advertising campaign
against the filibuster. And let me just show you that first. Then I want
to ask a question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: As climate change threatens the world we leave to
our children and good U.S. jobs move overseas, time in the Senate ticks by.
It keeps ticking by with no results. Because the system is broken. But we
can fix it. And make the Senate work for us again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: People are stunned when they find out it was not majority
vote. That one senator can just stop the process. Is it your hope and the
hope of CWA that when you do ads like this that the public will put
pressure on their senators to reform this and just make it fair and
democratic as most of us felt it was.
COHEN: That`s it. Bring it out in the open. Hundreds of thousands
of calls have already been made. This can`t be in the darkness like the
way filibusters are done.
COHEN: And it`s not about just majority rule. It`s about you have to
talk. Forty one senators could still stop a bill from a final vote. But
they`d have to talk like they did in the old days. Not silence.
SHARPTON: And 65 percent of Americans say, senators should have to
participate in a debate for the entire filibuster according to polls.
Progressive groups including unions like yours have formed the democracy
initiative coalitions to get big money out of politics, expand voting
rights, end the filibuster. I mean, the efforts like this are
counteracting big money from the right. So this is going to be an ongoing
thing even beyond the filibuster.
COHEN: Way beyond. The filibuster can be fixed in seven days. Next
Tuesday. If not then, it`s two years more. These other things, we`re in
this for the long run with civil rights groups, students, greens, democracy
groups, the long run. Millions of us are going to fight to bring a
democracy to the 21st century to this country.
SHARPTON: Thank you so much. Larry Cohen, president of CWA. Thanks
for your time tonight and your work.
COHEN: Thanks for your work.
SHARPTON: Remember all the republican efforts to restrict voting?
Well, now they have a new trick. Change how elections are won. That`s
SHARPTON: The best way to honor Dr. King`s legacy on what would have
been his 84th birthday is to continue his fight. It`s what we were talking
about this morning in Washington when I marked the occasion with his son
Martin Luther King III. It`s what President Obama was talking about when
he dedicated the King memorial in 2011.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Progress was hard. Progress
was purchased through enduring the smack of Billy Clubs and the blast of
fire hoses. Nearly 50 years after the march on Washington, our work, Dr.
King`s work is not yet complete.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Back in Dr. King`s day voter suppression was enforced by
fire hoses and Billy Clubs. Today, it`s more subtle. But just as
dangerous. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is now urging Republicans to change
the rules in their state for how they award electoral votes in presidential
elections. Into this kind of plan, Mitt Romney might have won the White
House last year, not Barack Obama.
Priebus says, quote, "it`s something that a lot of states have been
consistently blue that are fully controlled red ought to be looking at."
Priebus supports this now even though the 2012 republican platform opposed
any, quote, "scheme to abolish or distort the procedures of the Electoral
So what change? Mitt Romney lost, that`s what. Republicans can`t win
the popular vote square. So they want to change the rules. So far this
year, Republicans in at least five states have talked about doing this in
all five states. Republicans control the governor`s mansion and both
houses of the legislature.
Folks, they`re going to try to do this. And we have to fight it.
That`s how we honor Dr. King`s dream. Not by empty words and ceremonies
but by doing what he did. Action. Get out there like Martin III and the
rest of us and fight to fulfill the dream. Not just give some words of
ceremony about a dream that you will not make a reality.
Happy birthday, Dr. King. The dream moves on.
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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