updated 10/22/2013 2:45:12 PM ET 2013-10-22T18:45:12

THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
October 21, 2013
Guest: Robert Costa, Sam Stein, Eugene Robinson, Jess McIntosh, Christine
Ferguson
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re now taking center stage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It all comes down to winning elections.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: You want to win an election in 2014?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let`s turn to Ted Cruz.
butb
CRUZ: It is the grassroots energized that will win elections in 2014.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTON POST: Among independents he really damaged
himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are they helping themselves, oh heck no.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: There`s no education than the
second kick of the mule.

CRUZ: I don`t work for the party bosses in Washington.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, TALK RADIO HOST: The people that elected Mike Lee and Ted
Cruz are very happy.

CRUZ: I work for the people of Texas and I fight for them.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: I have heard the word fight so many times.

CRUZ: The most fundamental thing this fight was about. This fight. This
fight. The fight.

MATTHEWS: What they like is to fight.

CRUZ: We`re in the midst of battles.

MATTHEWS: They don`t seem to have a goal.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: The fight on Obamacare took us off message.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The fiasco of this rollout has been
obscure.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The divisive figure in Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He operates on the basis of division.

CRUZ: We elevated the national debate.

JEB BUSH, FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Take a step back.

CRUZ: We accomplished a great deal and we need to reflect on that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And Ted Cruz is not backing down.

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Threatening another government
shutdown.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The shutdown should be in our
rear view mirror.

MCCONNELL: There will not be another government shutdown, you can count on
that.

GRAHAM: Don`t do this again, Ted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: The architect of the government
shutdown, the senator leading the civil war inside the Republican Party
went home to Texas this weekend to continue his attack against the
Republican Party. And when Rafael Ted Cruz went to speak to the Texas
Federation of Republican Women he got this welcome.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMEN: We love you, Ted.

CRUZ: That is a slightly different reception than I get in Washington,
D.C.

(LAUGHTER)

And having spent the past month up in D.C., it is really great to be back
in America.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Nice. Classy. So there is a senator who is standing in a
state that literally went to war with Washington, D.C., actually seceded
from the union because it didn`t want to be part of America and he is
standing there in that state claiming now that that state, which used to be
Mexico and less than 30 years after being part of Mexico, told America that
it did not want to be part of the United States anymore?

Ted Cruz is standing there in that state claiming that that state is
America. The state that tried to rip the United States of America apart
and that Washington, D.C. and maybe the states that succeeded in holding
America together are not America.

That`s where Ted Cruz spent the weekend blaming the failure to defund,
delay or repeal the Affordable Care Act on Senate Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: A significant number Senate Republicans actively led the fight to
stop House Republicans, to stop the effort to defund Obamacare. And once
that happened, we weren`t going to win this fight.

To use an analogy if the House of Representatives was marching into battle,
I think the Senate Republicans should have come like the cavalry to support
them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Which cavalry? The union cavalry or the confederate cavalry?
Rafael Cruz did not say. In an interview with the "National Reviews`"
Robert Costa, Ted Cruz would not rule out another government shutdown as a
tactic against the Affordable Care Act, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
told Univision, "All it did is hurt Republicans. I hope they have learned
a lesson. The American people will not put up with that and if this
happens again -- I don`t think it will, but if it does, I think the House
of Representatives will go Democratic."

Yet another poll shows Harry Reid is right about Ted Cruz hurting
Republicans. Since the government shutdown 54 percent now say it`s a bad
thing that Republicans control the House, up 11 points from last December,
38 percent say it`s a good thing Republicans control the House. But still,
Ted Cruz calls the shutdown a success.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: We couldn`t win this fight. But nonetheless, I am incredibly
encouraged in the last two months we have elevated the national debate over
the harms of Obamacare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Not just Texans. There is one other Republican who cheered on
Ted Cruz.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH: That I just want to remind President Obama Mike Lee and Ted Lee
-- Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, they did run for election and they did win. And
they campaigned on getting rid of Obamacare so they went to Washington and
they did exactly what they were elected to do. The people that elected
Mike Lee and Ted Cruz are very happy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Robert Costa of the "National Review" and Sam
Stein of the "Huffington Post."

Robert, I want to read what Ted Cruz told you about shutting down the
government, possibility in 2014. He said, "There will be plenty of time to
discuss possible strategic steps going forward. And in my view, the
overarching focus should remain on providing real relief to the Americans
who are hurting because of Obamacare and on restoring jobs and economic
growth."

He says, "That will remain my focus and I hoped it will be the focus of the
House Republicans and Senate Republicans joined together and united."

It is just astonishing the things he says about other Republicans. It`s
hard to think of a previous example like this on either party.

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL REVIEW: It`s very true. And there`s a civil right
now in the Republican Party over tactics. And I don`t think that civil war
is ready to end at all. And when I sat down with Senator McConnell, he
said he would like to have the shutdowns and these fiscal standoffs end,
but when I spoke to Senator Cruz the next day, he`s far from ready to say
that`s the case. He wants to continue to fight into January and into
February.

O`DONNELL: Sam Stein, who do you believe? Mitch McConnell or Ted Cruz?

My feeling is if Ted Cruz is the only guy who wants to shut down the
government and, say, Mike Lee, it ain`t going to happen. You can`t do it
with just -- just those two.

SAM STEIN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Sure, I mean, I tend to be on the side of
numbers and in this case I think the numbers have clearly demonstrated that
Mitch McConnell was right and Ted Cruz was wrong. And ironically enough I
think the shutdown has actually improved the polling numbers for the
Affordable Care Act which is what Ted Cruz was -- specifically out to
undermine.

So if he wants to go do this again, he`ll have a lot of cheerleaders but
they`d be predominantly from the Democratic side. And absent him launching
an absurdly long filibuster, much longer than the 21-hour one that he tried
to do, there`s very little avenue for him to shut down the government from
his perch in the Senate. Again, this is the same exact dynamics that hold
true. You have the House but you don`t have the Senate and certainly
President Obama is not going to sign a law that defunds the signature
legislation.

COSTA: One quick thing I`m hearing from Republicans, to put you -- the
conservative mindset right now, they look at the implementation of
Obamacare. They look at the rollout and they think come January and
February we could perhaps get a delay of the individual mandate. This is
how conservatives are strategizing right now. You may think it`s
unrealistic expectations from the government but this is how they`re
thinking.

STEIN: But let me just add that one quick thing. We did an interview with
Senate Majority Leader Reid. I`ve talked to a bunch of people in the Obama
administration. They might -- you know, in alternate universe, be
supportive of some tinkering with the health care law. But they are very
steadfast, they committed to the idea and the principle that they are not
going to negotiate when there is a shutdown or the threat of default.

They think that there`s a template that they have to set for future
precedents in which you don`t negotiate in the situation. So yes, they
might get a delay out of the administration but it certainly won`t come
when they`re holding the proverbial gun to the head of the administration,
to use an analogy.

O`DONNELL: Robert, you have such great sources on the Republican side.
And all sides in fact. But -- and you`ve had this great opportunities to
go one-on-one with Mitch McConnell right after the dust cleared.

COSTA: Right.

O`DONNELL: And then Ted Cruz right after that. What is your sense within
the Senate and including the House dynamic to this, with Ted Cruz since he,
you know, crosses the building and there and goes over and tries to work
with the House.

What -- where is he in terms of his ability to gin something up again?
Does he have less ability to do that now than he did before?

COSTA: It`s interesting when you see Senator Cruz`s comments over the
weekend and he`s praising House Republicans and there`s one person who`s
probably white in his brow right now. It`s Speaker John Boehner.

(LAUGHTER)

Because Ted Cruz working with House conservatives creates a problem once
again in member management for House Republican leadership because Ted Cruz
will continue to huddle at Tortilla Coast and elsewhere, and raise
expectations for when we get to these winners negotiations.

O`DONNELL: But what about those House Republicans who saw that Ted Cruz
couldn`t actually deliver anything? And that every vote they were casting
on their end was just academic?

COSTA: That is a growing story right now in the House Republican
conference. I always call them the silent majority. And these are from
center right districts about 100 members who I think are growing
increasingly infuriated with Senator Cruz. And I think we saw a little bit
of pushback now and we`ll probably see a little more later.

O`DONNELL: Sam, and to go back to your discussion with Harry, you got to
talk to Harry Reid when this thing was going on.

STEIN: Yes, you know, you know --

(CROSSTALK)

O`DONNELL: That`s right.

STEIN: Some of (INAUDIBLE). OK.

O`DONNELL: Yes. And he said some extraordinary things to you about some
of the Republican members that normally especially after a win like Harry
Reid had --

STEIN: Sure.

O`DONNELL: -- you tried to be magnanimous.

STEIN: Yes.

O`DONNELL: He didn`t bother.

STEIN: Well, you know, I think a lot of this debate touched him deeply and
emotionally. Especially the part -- he brought this on impromptu but the
part where we talked about the congressional exemption as it`s called. But
it`s really the employer contribution to the health care premiums for
members of Congress and their aides.

He thought it was incredibly, you know, rude and sort of awful of Senator
Vitter to launch and make that the signature push for health care. He
thought it was -- it would have led to brain drain, he thought it was
putting the burden of this on -- on the backs of staffers who are generally
aren`t paid that well. Especially those outside of the district.

And so he had some choice words for Senator Vitter and much more than you
usually see from a collegial senator. And I thought that was astonishing.
But this debate was really peeked and emotional for him in a way that I
don`t think people realized.

O`DONNELL: Go ahead.

COSTA: One quick thing. I think Republicans are going to push back on
Cruz because the more we get into 2014, the one thing that Republicans feel
that they have the House through 2020 because of the way these districts
are drawn in 2010. But if they feel like Ted Cruz and another shutdown are
going to really cause them some seats in the House, they will push back,
probably even stronger than we saw last week.

O`DONNELL: But I don`t -- it doesn`t seem to me like they have to push
back very hard. I don`t see how Cruz can in any way affect a shutdown as
one guy in the Senate.

STEIN: You just got to pick up the tab at Tortilla Coast if you --

(CROSSTALK)

COSTA: I fall through and around the summer, and if you don`t think it`s
real with him and the conservative base, just go to Houston, go to Des
Moines, and follow him around. He`s going to be in Iowa this weekend.
There is something real out there happening on the right around Senator
Cruz. Senator Paul, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, all popular among
Republicans. But among conservatives, there`s only one real hero right
now.

STEIN: And I think the genius of what he is doing is that he`s created a
boogeyman for us conservatives within the party. It was no fault of their
own that they lost the shutdown. It was the fault of Senate Republicans.
And so in their mindset they probably think well, if we just do this again,
and if we just put enough pressure on Senate Republicans to hold on well,
then the script will be totally --

(CROSSTALK)

COSTA: When I -- speaking to Senator Cruz, it was really funny because I
kept trying to get him to criticize Speaker Boehner. To get his take on
Speaker Boehner making a deal at the end.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

COSTA: But he kept bringing the argument back to his own colleagues in the
Senate.

O`DONNELL: The Senate Republicans.

COSTA: Senate Republicans.

STEIN: Yes.

COSTA: The people he eats lunch with every Tuesday.

O`DONNELL: Right. And one body criticizing the other is common. There`s
a lot of history of that.

COSTA: Sure.

O`DONNELL: But a senator saying no, no, no, it`s the senators in my party,
on my side, it`s their fault. But he keeps saying this thing, Robert,
where he says imagine if all the Republican senators were united and the
answer to that is yes. You would lose. Mitch McConnell gave you the
answer --

COSTA: He calls it math.

O`DONNELL: It`s math.

COSTA: It`s math.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

COSTA: That`s right. I think -- McConnell -- when I asked Senator
McConnell what he thought of Senator Cruz, he paused and said, I don`t have
any observations.

(LAUGHTER)

O`DONNELL: Right. The last line of those --

(CROSSTALK)

COSTA: Those were the last line.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

COSTA: And McConnell, he feels like the expectations for divided
government need to be lower as Republicans enter 2014. But Ted Cruz is not
going to stop. He is likely probably going to run for president according
to people close to him. And so we`re looking at -- looking at the Iowa
Republican caucuses. Already popular with the base. What`s the reason to
stop?

(CROSSTALK)

COSTA: And you see it in Texas this weekend.

STEIN: Again, it`s like every aspect of reality just flies in the face of
the Ted Cruz strategy. The topic we`re talking about today predominantly
is the glitches and the fairness of the Obamacare. We could have been
talking about that for two and a half weeks now at this juncture if not for
what Ted Cruz did. And that would have done so much more to him --

COSTA: You see Cruz took claim for it in Texas because he animated the
conversation.

STEIN: Yes, but he`s selling a false bill of goods to these people. We
could have been talking about it for two and a half weeks. Instead what he
did is he made people defensive about Obamacare. He actually drove the
poll numbers up because people felt more attached to the legislation.

O`DONNELL: Robert Costa and Sam Stein, the guys who get the big
interviews.

COSTA: Yes. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you both very much for joining me tonight.

Coming up, President Obama defends the Affordable Care Act and says it`s
actually more than a Web site.

And what will Chris Christie`s surrender on marriage equality in New Jersey
mean for a presidential run in 2016.

And now that Democratic state senator, Wendy Davis, is running for
governor, Texas Republicans have figured out a way to make it much more
difficult for women to vote and other states might do the same thing.

And in the "Rewrite" tonight, another episode of, "Are You Smarter than a
White House Correspondent," starring, guess who?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: At 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time this morning, Newark mayor and
Senator-elect Cory Booker ushered in the era of marriage equality in New
Jersey by officiating nine weddings in Newark`s city hall. Seven were
same-sex, two were straight marriages.

It was Cory Booker`s first time officiating at any wedding. He`d refused
requests before in protest of New Jersey`s ban on same-sex marriages.

There was one objection to the first gay wedding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY SENATOR-ELECT: Before we exchange the vows, I
must ask if there is anyone present here today that should know of any
reason why Joseph and Orville should not be married, speak now or forever
hold your peace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).

BOOKER: Well, sir --

(CROSSTALK)

BOOKER: Well, sir -- well, sir, would you please remove that person?
Please remove that person. And I remind people, and not hearing any
substantive worthy objection --

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

I now will proceed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Up next, what Chris Christie`s surrender on marriage equality
will mean if the governor does decide to run for president in 2016.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Yet another win for marriage equality today after New Jersey
became the 14th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Just hours after the
first gay and lesbian couples exchange their wedding vows, New Jersey
Governor Chris Christie dropped an appeal against a Superior Court decision
from last month requiring the state to recognize same-sex marriages.

On Friday, the state`s Supreme Court ruled it would not grant a stay on gay
marriages during the appeals process. And it hinted that it would probably
rule against the Christie administration, writing, "The state has advanced
a number of arguments but none of them overcome this reality same-sex
couples who cannot marry are not treated equally under the law today.

This morning Chris Christie`s office released this statement. "Although
the governor strongly disagrees with the court substituting its judgment
for the constitutional process of the elected branches or a vote of the
people, the court has now spoken clearly as to their view of the New Jersey
Constitution and therefore same-sex marriage is the law. The governor will
do his constitutional duty and ensure his administration enforces the law
as dictated by the New Jersey Supreme Court."

While the majority of Americans support marriage equality, today`s decision
might hurt the possible 2016 presidential contenders` standing with the
Republican base. Only 27 percent of Republicans support same-sex marriage,
66 percent oppose it.

Joining me now "Washington Post" columnist and political analyst Eugene
Robinson. And back with us, again, Robert Costa of the "National Review."

Robert, how doe Chris Christie`s choice play with the Republican politics
these days?

COSTA: I think Chris Christie`s main argument on social issues if he goes
into Iowa or New Hampshire is that he`s actually a pro-life, pro-
traditional marriage candidate who ran and won in a blue state. And so
today he`s going to be able to, I think, argue on a legal basis. Perhaps
it can be cast as a surrender, but when it comes to his positions, I don`t
see much changing.

O`DONNELL: But he -- Eugene, he dropped the state`s appeal.

EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: Yes.

O`DONNELL: The state had a case and they could have fought it all the way
to the Supreme Court just like the Republicans fought the Affordable Care
Act all the way to the Supreme Court. This guy surrendered like he probably
would have surrendered on the Affordable Care act (INAUDIBLE) from the
Supreme Court.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON: And he hugged Obama.

O`DONNELL: Right. And he also did that. Yes.

ROBINSON: Right. He did that, too. Look, there --

O`DONNELL: I believe we`ve completed all the Republican attack ads on
Chris Christie.

ROBINSON: Exactly. But look, Christie kind of has to portray himself I
think as the moderate, without saying the word, but the moderate
alternative to the far right and the party, the guy who can win. And the
guy who can win cannot be all that far to the right on gay marriage, I
think. Can`t be -- can`t take the traditional Republican never, never,
never, over-my-dead-body position.

Now how is this going to go over in the Iowa caucuses, right? I mean, the
Iowa Republican Party --

O`DONNELL: He`s --

(CROSSTALK)

O`DONNELL: He`ll be the guy who doesn`t want to run. There`s always one
guy who doesn`t want to run in Iowa.

COSTA: I think he`s going to run.

O`DONNELL: You know? But you know, McCain said in Iowa one time.

COSTA: I think Christie easily could sit out Iowa and go to New Hampshire.
Go to Florida.

ROBINSON: He might.

O`DONNELL: But Robert, what about how is it going to play in New Jersey
because he does this at a time when a poll comes out in New Jersey showing
tremendous support in New Jersey for same-sex marriage. Is this above
Christie wanting to run up his number in New Jersey as much as he can so he
can present that number to national Republicans and go, hey, look, I got X
percent of the vote?

COSTA: My reporting doesn`t back up that explanation but that -- I think
Christie is trying to run up his number in New Jersey. He`s been running a
tough -- really hasn`t been sitting back against Miss Bono.

O`DONNELL: Right.

COSTA: And so we see him really now with Cuccinelli falling in the polls
in Virginia, and with the shut down happening in Washington, Christie is
trying to poise himself to be that success story in 2013. But one of the
lone success story for Republicans if he wins next month.

O`DONNELL: Eugene, I guess he always has the activist judges to blame.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBINSON: Right. He can blame activists. He didn`t actually blame them,
really.

O`DONNELL: Right.

ROBINSON: But he does have a point if you read what the -- what the high
court said. The New Jersey Supreme Court basically said don`t be bringing
that weak stuff to us. Right? And his rationale was that they pretty much
indicated they were going to rule against him. And you know, that sounds a
little iffy but if you read what they actually said, it looks like that`s
the way the win --

COSTA: Plus he`s a former U.S. attorney so if anyone can make the legal
case about what happened it`s Chris Christie.

O`DONNELL: And so his position gets to hold. He gets to say, I`m
personally against it.

ROBINSON: Exactly. I`m personally against it. This is what the -- this
is the way courts have ruled. Let`s move on.

O`DONNELL: And right now, Robert, let`s ignore Iowa for a moment because
we know that`s the place that rewards the Michele Bachmanns and
(INAUDIBLE). Moving into New Hampshire in the calendar after that, who
does that look good for? If you would just look at the position of
possible Republican candidates.

COSTA: I think if you look at New Hampshire it looks good for Senator Paul
and for Governor Christie. I mean they`re trying to move the party in
terms of temperament towards the center even if the policies are --
remained relatively the same.

O`DONNELL: And Eugene, isn`t it kind of astonishing that Rand Paul, now
that there`s a Ted Cruz, can actually seem like kind of a reasonable guy by
comparison?

ROBINSON: He`s an improvement -- let`s -- can we say main street?

O`DONNELL: Yes.

ROBINSON: I mean, he`s edging that way.

O`DONNELL: No, no, no. Don`t say that.

ROBINSON: But he`s edging that way compared to Ted Cruz. It`s really
quite remarkable. You know, right after New Hampshire they`ll come to the
speed bump of South Carolina.

COSTA: Right.

ROBINSON: My home state. And so they are, you know, social issues can
play. It`s big on defense state. I don`t know how Rand Paul is going to
play there with his --

COSTA: But Christie would beat with the win in the suburbs. If he wins in
New Jersey. I think a lot of the candidates expect this to be a very wide
field in 2016 so it`s going to be a long primary. So one day win Iowa, but
you`ve got to survive.

O`DONNELL: Yes, you`ve got to last a long time.

ROBINSON: Yes. You`ve got (INAUDIBLE).

O`DONNELL: Longer than usual.

ROBINSON: Raise that money.

O`DONNELL: Robert Costa ad Eugene Robinson, thank you both very much for
joining me tonight.

Coming up, the president said absolutely nothing today about the complete
failure of a government program that has wasted $79 billion but he did make
a special statement about a government Web site that isn`t working
perfectly.

And in the "Rewrite" we will have a little test for you. Are you smarter
than a White House correspondent? Now you might need to get your notebooks
out and make this a fair fight between you and the White House
correspondent. I`ll show you something that a White House correspondent
admitted today he did not understand.

And if you understand, you will win tonight`s episode of "Are You Smarter
than a White House Correspondent?"

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: On the "Spotlight" tonight, another outrageous failure in a
massive government program. Since being declared combat ready by the Bush
administration in 2005, the F-22 fighter jet has been plagued with problems
at one point grounded for five months. And not one of the nearly 200 F-22
has ever flown in a single combat mission. The total failure of the F-22
program has so far cost the American taxpayer at least $79 billion.

None of the Republican cheerleaders for the sinkhole of government waste
that the F-22 is mentioned any of the Defense Department`s massive failures
in the attacks on the new Web site for the Affordable Care Act, which
though shaky is still working better than an F-22 fighter jet.

President Obama announced a phone number to call today if you`re having
trouble with the new Web site for the Affordable Care Act. He did not
announce a phone number to call if your F-22 isn`t working.

The president made no promises about ever being able to fix the F-22, but
he did promise to fix the Affordable Care Web site.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So here`s the bottom line.
The product, the health insurance, is good. The prices are good. It is a
good deal. People don`t just want it. They are showing up to buy it.
Nobody is madder than me about the fact that the Web site isn`t working as
well as it should which means it`s going to get fixed.

(LAUGHTER)

And --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Web sites created by states are generally working much better
than the one created by the federal government. Running the Rhode Island
Web site is the responsibility of Christine Ferguson, the director of the
Rhode Island health benefits exchange. I worked with Christine Ferguson 20
years ago in the United Senate when she was the leader of the Republican
Senate staff who wrote the Republican version of health care reform bill
which included them in individual mandate and I was working on the
Democratic side of the Senate trying to pass the healthcare bill written by
Hillary Clinton`s team which included an employer mandate. We always
believe that the day would come when we would merge those two bills into a
compromise. But history had something else in mind and that compromise
version was eventually written into law under President Obama.

Joining me now is Christine Ferguson.

Christine, it has been a long time to get to this (INAUDIBLE) to bring up
one of these exchanges which you`ve have the honor of doing in Rhode
Island.

What -- I`m not sure if you know completely what the federal government has
done. But, what have you done differently in Rhode Island that managed to
get your Web site online and running well?

CHRISTINE FERGUSON, DIRECTOR, RHODE ISLAND HEALTH BENEFITS EXCHANGE: I
think that one of the toughest aspects of this has been the technology in
the state as well as at the federal level. I think the last time we
talked, we talked about the fact that it would be surprising if governors
decided not to do state based exchanges. I think probably you are just as
surprised as I am that so many chose not to. And that put the feds at a
disadvantage of having to pull something up very quickly. Our Web site and
our technology around the application process and enrollment process, we
got that up and running in nine months.

If you talk to any private sector company, I talked to a lot of private
sector folks and IT before I took this job. And they all told me to run
the other way because nobody could get that up that fast.

So, I think it`s a question of speed and all of the different aspects of
the business processes that had to be put in place. And done properly and
then translated into IT and that`s a tough haul and the feds didn`t expect
to have that short of time to do it.

O`DONNELL: And Christine, we have some breaking news from the Washington
Post tonight on the federal problems where they report that when the Web
site went live the federal Web site went live on October 1st, it locked up
shortly after midnight as about 2,000 users attempted to complete the first
step according to people. So, it took only 2,000 simultaneous users to
apparently freeze up the federal Web site. You must have run stress tests
on your system like that to make sure it would be able handle the sudden
surge of Rhode Islanders.

FERGUSON: Yes. We ran a number -- we tested all the way up to the October
one date. We are still testing other aspects of the system, but we got
6,000 hits on our Web site in the first concurrent hits on our Web site a
minute in the first half hour that we were up. And we had a little bit of
a glitch and we were able to fix it right away because we had a good back
up plan. So it`s not an easy thing.

I think at the end of the day, the question is going to be not what
happened in October, but what happened over the course of the next six
months. And for -- I will say for us in Rhode Island, we took a little bit
different tact than everybody else. We focus -- we are focusing both on
the individual access to health insurance and the small business component.
And in Rhode Island, we are really focused on helping small businesses get
a good price and provide their employees with choices of all of the
carriers and plans that are available. And that, I think, as we go along
here. That component of the business side is going to become even more
important than the other pieces of coverage.

O`DONNELL: Christine, given your experience with setting one up and
knowing that Rhode Island is about the smallest scale one in the country
and the federal one, of course, has to be the biggest, what is your guess
about when things will get straightened out on the federal Web site?

FERGUSON: I think they are working really hard on doing that. They have
got some great people coming in to help. And I think they will get there -
- they will get those glitches out. And when you have a president
breathing down your neck, that tends to help move everybody a little bit
faster than might otherwise be done. I am confident that as we go through
this over the next couple of months things will be cleaned up and working
well. And then the task as you know when we worked on these issues
together, the real issue is in the long run are we going to be able to make
a difference in the cost. Are we going to be able to make a difference in
how people get their care. And our small businesses is going to be able to
afford this for their employees? And that at the end of the day really is
the set of questions that we should be focused on now.

The technology will work itself out. And to a certain extent, I think we
risk the middle and longer term solutions around cost and delivery system
if we focus only on the technology right now.

O`DONNELL: Christine Ferguson, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
And I know that the great senator, John Chafee would be very, very proud
that you got Rhode Island up and running.

FERGUSON: And Senator Moynihan would be very proud that you`re still
having this conversation with me.

O`DONNELL: Yes, he would like this conversation. Thanks, Christine, very
much.

FERGUSON: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, if you are a dedicated viewer of this program, you
know many things most people in Washington don`t know and you will be able
to prove that tonight.

In our little test, are you smarter than a White House correspondent?
That`s in the rewrite.

And later, how Texas is planning to suppress voter turnout among women.
They really do have a plan.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: A middle school student in sparks, Nevada, shot and killed a
teacher and wounded two students this morning before apparently turning the
handgun on himself. He died at the scene. He has not been identified.

The teacher identified as 45-year-old Michael Landsberry was a military
veteran who taught math at Sparks Middle School. He leaves a wife and two
stepdaughters. The students` wounds are not considered life threatening.
Police say 20 to 30 students witness the shooting. One told them the
teacher was killed while trying to get the shooter to put down the gun.

The write is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Time for tonight`s episode of are you smarter than a White
House correspondent? This was the question of the day at jay Carney`s
White House press briefing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Given all the problems that we have seen with people
trying to enroll on this program, is the White House going to be delaying
the mandate?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Now, I`m going to play you Jay Carney`s answer in full. But
first I want to play you the White House correspondent`s reaction to Jay
Carney`s answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: I don`t understand the answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So, there you have a White House correspondent who was hired
for that job on the assumption that he would actually understand the
answers in the White House press briefing room bravely admitting publically
so that his bosses could hear it that he doesn`t understand the answer.

Now, I didn`t understand teacher`s answers in math class a lot, but I was
never one of those kids to raise my hand after one of Sister Aubrey`s
complicated answers and say I don`t understand the answer.

I just couldn`t voluntarily suffer that intellectual embarrassment in sixth
grade when math started to get like, you know, wicked hard. But,
sensitivity to public intellectual embarrassment has never a problem for
White House correspondents. So this, Jay Carney answer that I`m about to
play is now your test. Some of you will surely find yourselves in the
White House correspondent position at the end of this answer thinking I
don`t understand the answer. But some of you are going to find it easy to
follow and really complete. And because it`s complete it is not a quick
answer. Some of you will understand every word Jay Carney is saying and
why he is saying it. And some of you will feel like a White House
correspondent.

So, here then is your test. And remember the question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Given all the problems that we have seen with
people trying to enroll in this program, is the White House going to be
delaying the mandate?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: OK. Now, let`s see if you`re smarter than a White House
correspondent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We`re three weeks into a six
month enrollment period. As I said, the law itself as written makes clear
that Americans who have access to affordable insurance would need to have
insurance by March 31. But people who do not have access to affordable
care do example to a state not expanding Medicaid and there are states out
there who are depriving their own residents of access to expanded Medicaid
because they made that choice or due to the other the factor will not be
penalized, that`s number one.

And when it comes to the issue I was just talking to Brianna about in the
February 15th marker period in terms of enrollment, I would refer you HHS
for more details. But they are working to align policies, the disconnect
between the open enrollment period and the individual responsibility time
frames, which exists on the first year only.

The point I`m trying to make, John, and addressing the question at the end
of your question is we`re focused on providing quality health insurance to
millions of Americans. We are three weeks into a six month enrollment
period.

If you enrolled last week or you enroll next week your insurance does not
kick in until January 1st. And ample prior experience shows that in
programs like these, most people don`t enroll until towards the end. If
you`re able to shop for an extended period of time before you have to buy
you`re likely to shop. And in Massachusetts, for example, where are
similar health care initiatives was passed into law, the average consumer
explored his or her options six to eight times, I believe the figure was,
before making the decision.

So again, we`re acknowledging clearly as the president did, that the
problems that have existed on the Web site are not acceptable to him. That
we are focus is on making the consumer experience better providing clear
information to Americans about the variety of ways they can get the
information about plans as well as the variety of ways that they can enroll
to them.

And our focus is on making the Affordable Care Act work and making sure
that Americans have access to these plans. Not on, you know, figuring out
who is to blame for a problem that clearly exists and we need to fix.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: OK. So for you White House correspondents out there who didn`t
understand that answer, Jay is going to say it again and he`s going to say
it in response to a follow up question from the actual White House
correspondent who didn`t understand that answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: If the Web site is not fixed will people still
have to pay the fine.

CARNEY: As written, the law makes clear that people who do not have access
to affordable care due to states not expanding Medicaid or other factors
will not be penalized.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Those factors can be this Web site?

CARNEY: Yes. That`s how the law is written.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Notice the White House correspondent suffers absolutely no
embarrassment about not knowing how the law is written. But no one in
Washington is embarrassed about not knowing how the Affordable Care Act is
written, especially the individual mandate provision, which I began quoting
on MSNBC programs three and a half years ago. If you have heard me quote
the law or have read it yourself, you know that the most complete answer to
the White House correspondent question, will people still have to pay the
fine, is that no one ever really has to pay the fine in the individual
mandate because the IRS has been specifically forbidden in writing in law
in the Affordable Care Act from ever actually pursuing either civil or
criminal remedies to collect those fines from anyone. The individual
mandate is the only provision in the tax code that was written deliberately
to be essentially unenforceable.

Now, I have done dramatic readings of the statute many times over the years
here. But if a White House correspondent cannot understand Jay Carney`s
very clear language, then I guess understanding the legislative language in
law would be like, you know, impossible.

So, of course, the answer to the big question of the day is no, no one will
have to pay a fine if they can`t sign up for health insurance through the
federal government`s Web site because the Web site is broken. And, by the
way, the deep dark secret that no one in Washington continues to comprehend
is that no one really has to pay the fine which means that tonight we have
breaking news. It is right here.

Obamacare individual mandate suspended permanently. The White House has
issued these special rules about the individual mandate. Special rules, A,
waiver of criminal penalties. In the case of any failure by the taxpayer
to timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such hall not be subject
to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure. B,
limitations on means and levies. The secretary shall not file notice of
lean with respect to any property of a taxpayer by reason of any failure to
pay the penalty imposed by this section or levy on any such property with
respect to such failure.

The language of the special rule suspending the collection of the penalty
and of the individual mandate forever was hidden by the White House until
tonight in a place they were sure no White House correspondents would ever
find it. On page 131 of the Affordable Care Act signed into law by
President Obama on March 23rd, 2010.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Texas has found a new way to prevent women from voting. That`s
next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Students, low income voters, people of color, and now there is
another group of people to add to the list of disenfranchise voters in
Texas, women.

Starting today in early voting for the November 5th elections, voters must
show a photo I.D. with their most up to date legal name according to the
Brandon center for justice. Thirty-four percent of women voters do not
have acceptable ID under this law because many have not updated their
documents with their married or divorced names.

Women in Texas must now show original documents of their name change. A
marriage license, divorce decree or court ordered change. No photo copies
are allowed which means voters must pay in minimum of $20 to get a new copy
-- new version of these documents. The law is going into effect at a time
when state senator Wendy Davis is running for governor. Davis gained
national fame after holding an 11th hour filibuster over anti-abortion
legislation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m (INAUDIBLE). I have been teaching in Texas for
25 year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m (INAUDIBLE) and I have been doing business here
for the last 25 years.

TERRY MOORE, TEXAS: My name is Terry Moore and I have spent the bulk of
my time prosecuting violent crimes. Throughout the same Texas, there are
thousands of rape kits that were untested. It was like nobody cared.

Wendy Davis saw the need by passing legislation she required all of the
rape kits to be tested and by doing so, she gave the police and prosecutors
a very powerful tool.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is just common sense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Jess McIntosh, communications director for
Emily`s list, the national political action committee that raises campaign
money for pro-choice, Democratic women candidates like Wendy Davis.

Jess, this is so clearly targeted at women.

JESS MCINTOSH, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, EMILY`S LIST: Yes. Yes, it is. I
mean, Republicans are so scared of women voters right now, they can`t see
straight. And they have really good reason. They have been waging a war
on women for a number of years getting more and more aggressive. And what
happened in 2012 was a historic gender gap, more women than ever in history
turned out to vote for Democrats.

So in 2014, going into midterm elections which is historically a fewer
voters which means good news for Republicans. They need something to make
sure that that enthusiasm of those women doesn`t carry over. And this
seems to be they are really appalling strategy for doing it.

O`DONNELL: Republican states have a pattern of importing this ideas when
they see one, Republican states come up with the states start up elsewhere.
Is this coming from (INAUDIBLE)?

MCINTOSH: I would be surprised if we didn`t see it elsewhere which is why
it is so important that we are talking about it now. Only 66 percent of
women have the correct ID.

Now, I`m a married woman. I couldn`t tell you where my original marriage
license was if my right to a representative democracy depended on it.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

MCINTOSH: There are a lot women in Texas that is exactly the case right
now.

O`DONNELL: And when they say original documentation, that`s again, just
another hurdle they are trying to create.

MCINTOSH: Absolutely. You have to have original documentation showing
your name change. And you can`t use a photo copy so to get the original
documentation, you are going to have to pay $20 which is twice what the
civil right full t ax was.

This is really insidious strategy to disenfranchise exactly the voters,
they know that they have turned off with their extremist right-wing agenda.
And I think that women are watching. They were watching in 2012. They
continue to be watching. All you have got to do is see all the enthusiasm
for Wendy Davis. They are going to be paying attention to this, too. And
I don`t think it is going to work.

O`DONNELL: Jess McIntosh of Emily`s list gets tonight`s "Last Word."

Thanks, Jess.

MCINTOSH: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES: Good evening from New
York. I`m Chris Hayes.

President Obama appeared in the Rose Garden today to remind his
conservative critics just why Obama care matters.

And why you should be listening to the gleeful conservative attacks on the
health care exchange`s rollout with a big grain of salt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I`m sure that, given the problems with the Web site so far, they`re
going to be looking to go after it even harder. But I just want to remind
everybody. We did not wage this long and contentious battle just around a
Web site. We waged this battle to make sure that millions of Americans in
the wealthiest nation on earth finally have the same chance to get the same
security of affordable, quality health care as anybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

END

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