updated 1/6/2014 12:44:41 PM ET 2014-01-06T17:44:41

UP with STEVE KORNACKI
December 28, 2013

Guests: Irin Carmon, Kelly Baden, Jackie Kucinich, Suzy Khimm, David Freedlander, Jared Bernstein, Niraj Chokshi, Hakeem Jeffries


STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: The political price of making
government so small it can join you in a medical exam room.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

KORNACKI: At the start of the very last weekend of the year, we`re
ready to figure out what 2014 has in store. Wendy Davis` 11-hour
filibuster their summer. Her attempt to stop passage of one of the
toughest sets of abortion restrictions in the country both electrified the
nation and created a new star in the Democratic Party. Was Wendy Davis the
start of something bigger in the battle over women`s health care in the
year ahead?

Also, more than a million Americans who`ve been counting on federal
jobless aid, they will see that emergency help end today because Congress
couldn`t come to an agreement to extend it in time. What`s next when it
comes to helping America`s long term unemployed?

And some Democratic governors have joined President Obama in issuing
pardons to non-violent inmates who`ve been stuck in prison due to harsh
mandatory minimum drug sentencing guidelines. So, why not (ph) Democrats
joining them? We`ll be examining whether the notion of Democrats being
perceived as soft on crime is out of date.

And we all know how the biggest politicians of the year are faring at
the close of 2013, but can we accurately predict what their political
fortunes will be at the end of the next calendar year or we`ll at least
give that a shot in a little bit.

But first, it may feel like it sprouted up just yesterday, but 2014
will actually mark the fifth anniversary of the Tea Party movement. And
you can think back to when it first started making noise back to those
frenzied health care town hall meeting in the summer of 2009. You probably
remember how conventional wisdom had it that the Tea Party was basically a
libertarian movement, that the "T" in Tea Party was an acronym for taxed
enough already.

They wanted to slash government to get it off their backs, to get it
as far away from their lives as possible. They were conservative, all
right, but it was anti-government conservatism that was animating them, not
social conservatism. That was the conventional wisdom of five years ago.
But this was a new strain of conservatism, a step away from the obsession
with same-sex marriage and abortion and the politics of the moral majority
days.

But that`s not exactly how things have played out. The Tea Party
movement powered the anti-Obama wave that swept Republicans to power on
Capitol Hill in state Houses across the country in 2010. One of the most
thorough victories ever recorded by the conservative movement and by the
Republican Party. And in the wake of that wave, those new Tea Party
infused leaders use their power to prove that they weren`t at all passed
culture war politics.

Since that 2010 election, new laws restricting women`s reproductive
rights have been enacted in half of the states. More than 90 laws alone
passed in 2011. Another 40-plus laws passed in 2012. These laws imposed
waiting periods and mandatory counseling. They cut off access to
insurance. They targeted abortion providers with medically unnecessary
restrictions. And Republicans did pay a political price for this, at
least, in parts of the country.

It was a pronounced gender gap, after all, 12 points that helped carry
President Obama passed Mitt Romney into a second term in 2012. It was also
in 2012 they were was once supposed to be a sure thing, a Republican
takeover of the U.S. Senate crumbled apart in part because the GOP
nominated candidates like Todd Aiken in Missouri, Richard Mourdock in
Indiana. We saw them swallowed up by their comments and what constitutes a
quote "legitimate rape" or quote "God`s intention for rape victims."

It was more blowback just last month, in fact, when female voters
handed the Virginia governor`s race to Terry McAuliffe over Ken Cuccinelli
who ran on an apologetically conservative social platform. Of course, in
some parts of the country, GOP`s post-2010 push on reproductive issues
hasn`t hurt the party and hasn`t kept Republicans yet from retaining
control of the House in of state legislatures in red states across the
country.

It was in the GOP House and in red state America that Republicans
carried on in 2013 as if the warnings of the 2012 election didn`t apply to
them. In March, Arkansas legislator directly challenged Roe v. Wade by
enacting to ban on abortions after 12 weeks, overriding the veto of the
Democratic governor in that state.

That was quickly followed by a six-week abortion ban enacted in North
Dakota, a ban based on a, quote, "fetal heartbeat" can be detected sometime
before a woman even knows she`s pregnant well before the 24 hour weeks
guaranteed by Roe v. Wade. Those laws are not yet being enforced due to
court challenges and court rulings. In fact, the federal judge called the
North Carolina law -- excuse me -- the North Dakota law, quote, "clearly
invalid and unconstitutional."

North Dakota also passed a new law to require doctors performing
abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, a law that is
basically designed to shut down that state`s sole abortion provider. It`s
a similar restrictions that were passed in North Carolina where Republicans
inserted anti-abortion provisions at the very last minute into, of all
things, a bill on motorcycle safety to require abortion clinics to have
transfer agreements with local hospitals.

They also meet those same standards as ambulatory surgical centers.
Pro-choice activists held a vigil across the street from the governor`s
mansion and that state`s governor, Pat McCrory, who had campaigned in 2012
on a promise not to sign any abortion restrictions offered those protesters
cookies as a goodwill gesture and then he signed the bill.

Also this year, Ohio governor, John Kasich, signed a state budget that
included a slew of measures designed to restrict abortion requirement that
women seeking abortions first undergo ultrasounds and effective end to
funding for Planned Parenthood, restrictions that have closed many clinics
in the state. As governors do, Kasich had a signing ceremony for his
budget and then ducked out immediately afterwards without answering any
questions from reporters.

Wisconsin Scott Walker used the biggest news dump day of the year.
That was the Friday after the 4th of July this past summer. He used that
to stage a camera-free signing ceremony for a bill mandating ultrasounds
for women seeking abortions. And in South Dakota, the state actually
imposed a mandatory three-day waiting period on abortions for no medical
reason other than to make women think over their decisions.

Not only do they have to wait three days, they have to wait three
business days. You`re not counting weekends, you`re not counting holidays
in that three-day count. And who could forget what happened in Texas where
legislation came up this summer to ban abortion after 20 weeks that forced
the closure of the majority of the state`s abortion clinics.

Texas Democrats fought an uphill battle to prevent the laws from going
through, including a marathon 11-hour filibuster from state senator, Wendy
Davis, that electrified the Texas state House and pro-choice activists
across the country. It catapulted Davis to national stardom.

That filibuster was ultimately in vain, and the Supreme Court turned a
challenger away last month in a 5-4 ruling along ideological lines. Given
some of these new laws, a lot of these new laws, maybe all of these new
laws, but that`s not the only case moving towards the Supreme Court on
abortion.

To talk about where this is all going, I want to bring in Kelly Baden,
she`s a policy and advocacy adviser with the Center for Reproductive
Rights, Irin Carmon, she`s a national reporter with MSNBC, and Jackie
Kucinich, she`s politics reporter with "The Washington Post." Thank you
all for joining us. I know it`s like basically New Year`s weekend, and
everybody has many other things to do. So, first of all, just thank you
for joining us today. I really appreciate it.

IRIN CARMON, MSNBC.COM: The only thing I want to do.

(LAUGHTER)

KORNACKI: That`s what every guest says, but we know you mean it,
Irin. But let`s try to put some context first into what happened in 2013
because it seems like, Kelly, that the new laws and the new restrictions
that passed in state this year are sort of proceeding on two tracks. On
one track, you have issues of timing, whether it`s a 12-week ban, whether
it`s a six-week ban, whether it`s a 20-week ban.

And that seems to be potentially testing the Supreme Courts, you know,
the 24-week Roe v. Wade standard. On the other track, you have these more
sort of pernicious restrictions, whether instilling (ph) with women getting
insurance coverage, whether its standards for clinics. Can you just talk
through a little bit about where we are at the end of in 2013 in terms of -
- new restrictions have been added this year?

KELLY BADEN, CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS: Sure. So, where we are
really is at a place where we`ve seen some very clear trends. As you
mentioned, since 2011, really, is when it first started.

In 2013, just continued those trends and you really have been
concerted coordinated effort by anti-choice activists and politicians
around the country to kind of throw a lot of things against the wall and
see what sticks and try different things in different states and see, you
know, where they can have success in the courts and in the legislatures.

And so, we have a host of new restrictions in 2013 to just kind of add
to the roster that we`ve been seeing since 2011 that are resulting in
clinics being closed, women not being able to access the care that they
need, people thinking abortion is illegal in our state. We learned
recently in North Dakota that the abortion numbers are down at the state`s
lone abortion provider.

And you know, I don`t think that`s because unintended pregnancy rates
are down and the clinic has said, it seems to be because people in the
state hear this on their news and they see it on the papers. And they
think that abortion is illegal in their state. And so, it really does
result in women not being able to access the care that they need.

KORNACKI: You can pick up that point. So, functional, I mean,
legally, access to abortion is the law of the land, thanks to Roe v. Wade
decision in 1973. Functionally, though, when you look at the restrictions
there now in place, where is there access and where isn`t there access in
the country?

CARMON: Well, what`s interesting is some of the gestational limits
that you mentioned, the six-week ban, the 12-week ban, they sound very
extreme. They are very extreme, but they`re never going to be enforced.
We still do have this liability line that you mentioned that was set down
in Roe v. Wade and was entrenched in Planned Parenthood versus Casey.

But what is actually really impacting people`s lives, as you
mentioned, are these admitting privileges that shut down clinics, these
forced ultrasound laws that make it more expensive and make women have to
take more time off from work. And, I would say that, overall, even the
laws that don`t get enforce, their part of a stigmatization campaign of
abortion, the effect -- being the same if people believe that this is a
shameful thing.

You know, the insurance bans or the similar thing, if they think that
this is not normal medical care, they think this is something they are not
entitled to, so practically speaking, things like admitting privileges,
which politically are harder to rally around. They sound kind of
reasonable, although, we did see some push back this year.

Those are going to have a lot of impact. The rest of it is sort of a
long like a 40-year public relations campaign that says abortion is
shameful and you don`t have a right to access it.

KORNACKI: So, Jackie, where is this political push coming from?
Obviously, it`s coming from the Republican Party. It`s coming from
conservatives in the Republican Party, and we know. You can look at the
results, though, of the gender gap which has sort of been persistent.
Really if you go all the way back to 1981, Ronald Reagan became the
Republican nominee and they first put, you know, pro-life became the plank
of the Republican Party.

They took the ERA out. There`s been a gender gap to varying degrees
since then. But it really seems to have exploded that a major story in
2012. We saw it in Virginia. So, given that it`s hurting the Republican
Party at least in some key ways, where is the push coming from in the
Republican Party? Why is this suddenly a matter of such urgency from the
last few years?

JACKIE KUCINICH, THE WASHINGTON POST: You know, I think the bottom
line is, local elections matter. And you`ve seen state legislatures really
trending conservative for the last ten years or 12 years and that`s
according to the (INAUDIBLE) institute -- abortion rights group. But
you`ve seen that trend persist.

And since 2010, we`ve seen more and more restrictions. I think it`s
92 that were enacted in 2012 which was a huge jump from the 2005 number
which was three times less. So, I think, again, the local elections
matter. We tend to look at the national race more as the governor races,
but this -- if you don`t like these policies or if you like them, you need
to go --

KORNACKI: Did we misunderstand -- did the media, did the political
class misunderstand who the Tea Party is and what the tea party is, because
a lot of this seems to be there was this Tea Party backlash, the Tea Party
movement forums. There`s a backlash to the election of Obama. They fuel
this Republican rise in 2010.

And there`s a lot of people say, ah, this is a libertarian movement.
This is no tax. This is no health care. This has been a huge point of
emphasis for the Republican -- in 2010 has been reproductive issue.

KUCINICH: But I think the Democratic Party and the Republican Party,
the Tea Party has many factions now. I think as you`ve gotten more and
more people elected that affiliate themselves with the Tea Party, you`re
going to have different branches of that Tea Party. We`ve seen that in
Congress and we`re seeing it now in the states.

BADEN: No. It`s also interesting because when you run on an anti-
government platform and then you get elected, and maybe you realize like
governing is actually a hard work and a hard job to do. And so, I think
there were a lot of folks who got elected in 2010 who then realize, oh, I
have to do something to keep my job in the state house. And one of the
easiest things to do is to throw some red meat to your base which
unfortunately ends up being when we talk (ph) abortion rights issues.

KORNACKI: Well, right. There`s a difference there between doing it
in a state I would guess like North Dakota or Arkansas where the politics
of abortion probably favor the anti-abortion side, but we`re also seeing
stuff in a state like Michigan and Ohio -- so I want to look ahead to 2014.

This is a story that`s going to proceed on a legal track in terms of
the Supreme Court. But also, I want to talk about the politics of 2014.
We`ve seen some of the blowback already. Where is there going to be
blowback in 2014 and we`re going to talk about that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you`re elected governor, what further
restrictions on abortion would you agree to sign? Start with you Mr.
McCrory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can`t really ask -- you can`t really do with
that one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: That was Pat McCrory, the Republican nominee for governor
last year, now the Republican governor of North Carolina. You can`t get,
as the -- you can`t get more clear cut than that. Get as Governor Pat
McCrory did sign, more restrictions in abortion. He will not be up for re-
election until 2016. There has been a wave of conservative legislation,
dealing all sorts of issues that`s work its way in North Carolina I think
raises questions about potential blowback there.

But another state I want to ask you about, Irin. I know you heard
about this recently is a blue state, it`s Michigan. Michigan is one of
these states where in the backlash of 2010, in that 2010 midterm wave,
Republicans were able to get control of the state legislature. They were
able to get a Republican-elected governor.

And they have now passed in the last few weeks before Christmas Day,
passed a bill, a law basically that would make it -- so the women needs to
get a separate rider to cover abortion. It could not be covered by her
insurance. You need to get a separate rider. It`s a little complicated
how this got through, but can you talk about how exactly this got through
and what it does. And is this something, in a blue state, that`s going to
cause a backlash?

CARMON: Well, states like Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have
always had very strong anti-abortion movements. They have a big catholic
population. But the real difference that happened in Michigan is that the
entire legislature is now a Republican super majority. The Republican
governor has actually vetoed this insurance bill the year before.

So, I think the question going forward is going to be, even
Republicans who are in the state House think that this is too extreme, in
2014, are there going to be moderate and Republican voters who help hand
those legislatures to Republicans who are going to stand up and say enough
is enough.

KORNACKI: Because it`s clear -- governor being against it, the
Republica governor being against this, Michigan has this sort of weird
provision where --

CARMON: Yes. They have a process where a citizen`s petition can then
force the legislature to vote on it, and it can pass without the governor`s
signature. So, it was clearly a very back door mechanism. But again, what
I would say is that even though this is relatively a consensus issue for
Republicans, ultimately, the question is, how far is too far? And that was
really the conversation out of Michigan.

It was the conversation in Virginia. Terry McAuliffe helped win the
election in Virginia based in part on ken Cuccinelli being such a stalwart
of anti-abortion legislation. You had an Albuquerque voters rejecting a
20-week abortion ban. So, the question going forward, I think, is going to
be, at what point are voters going to say, we may be somewhat uncomfortable
with abortion, but we do not want all of this legislative and political
time spent on restricting it. We`re uncomfortable with --

KORNACKI: It`s trying to pin down public opinion on this is so
difficult, Kelly, because, for instance, you asked the question, you know,
should Roe v. Wade be overturned. It`s like a two-one margin people say
no. Then you can ask this question, this one jumped out at me. I was
looking at the Gallup -- Gallup asked with respect to the abortion issue,
would you consider yourself to be pro-choice or pro-life?

In 1996, it was 56-33 pro-choice. In 2013, it jumps to 48-45 pro-
life. You know, to get other surveys this summer on the idea of a 20-week
ban in Texas was working its way through asking voters nationally, would
you rather have restrictions at 20 weeks or 24 hour weeks? And people were
saying, women included, were saying -- 20 weeks, then 24 hour weeks. So,
it seems to really pin down where public opinion falls and this can be very
difficult.

And that may be is what the anti-abortion movement is capitalizing on
with, wow, there`s a little opening here with public opinion. Let`s
exploit that. There`s a little opening there. That seems to be the
strategy.

BADEN: It does. And I think abortion is a personal issue. And so,
the longer you`re able talk to somebody, which is not really the way many
polls can happen, right? But the longer you`re able to have a conversation
with somebody, the more nuance there is around people`s positions and the
more support there is for making sure that women can make their own health
care decisions without political interference.

And so, they kind of, you know, are you pro-choice or pro-life polling
question doesn`t really lend itself to a real conversation around
reproductive rights in this country, because it`s a little bit more
complicated than that for people.

KORNACKI: When you see that change, what do you chalk it up to? Is
that the anti-abortion side doing a really good job of selling a label?
When you see a shift like that --

BADEN: Absolutely. And we`ve been on the defensive, really, since
Roe v. Wade. And so, there`s just been this host of restrictions in
different decades that have taken different flavors throughout the years.
And I think we`re just so used to being on the defensive that it has been
reflective in stigma and in people`s opinions of how they think they feel
about abortion.

But the good news, I think, this year is that despite all of the
restrictions, there also was this huge uptick as you showed in the teaser,
in energy, in activism, in social media, in online and offline grassroots
support of people who are really sick of politicians playing these games
with women`s health care.

And you know, just last month, it resulted in the introduction in
Congress of a pro-choice, pro-active bill, the Women`s Health Protection
Act, that really seeking to be a federal response to a host of these state
restrictions that have just gotten out of control.

KORNACKI: And I guess the other issue, Jackie, is a lot of these just
seemed --a lot of these laws passed in cities just seem designed to trigger
a court fight that`s going to get the Supreme Court. We talk about this
state is trying this, this state is trying that. Are we eventually going
to get to a point do you think where the Supreme Court is able to decide
basically these are the standards for the country?

KUCINICH: They haven`t really showed a willingness to take up this
issue recently. But I think that they`ve also seem receptive to public
pressure. So, I think, you know, we will see how that builds, but lately,
it doesn`t seem like the Supreme Court is very interested in re-litigating
this.

KORNACKI: All right. I want to thank Kelly Baden, the Center for
Reproductive Rights, for joining us this morning.

Switching gear, what millions of Americans haven`t been looking
forward to this week. Is Congress going to do anything about it? That`s
next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Any kid with an advent calendar and I always just like the
kind that had candy behind the windows the best, but those advent calendars
that made it possible for kids everywhere to spend the bulk of this month,
December, counting down to the big day, waiting and waiting and waiting a
little bit more until Christmas morning. Best morning of the year.

More than a million people in his country have spent December counting
off the days with a glowing sense of dread. It`s not the 25th that they`ve
been anticipating. It`s today when the clock officially runs out on
jobless benefits for America`s long term unemployed. December 28th has
been looming on the calendar for a long time now. When Congress skipped
town last week, they did so without passing any kind of an extension.

The past two times the legislation has been extended, it passed (ph)
with little debate and little controversy but not this year. It`s not as
if most Republicans have been vocal in their opposition, but proposals and
attempted solutions have been few and far between. Sam Stein and Arthur
Delaney at the "Huffington Post" this week characterized it as the quiet
death of unemployment insurance in 2013.

There was hope among Democrats that they`d be able to attack an
extension to the budget deal that was passed earlier this month, but that
didn`t happen. Not much else has happened since. Right now, there are 2.9
people looking for work for every job that becomes available in this
country. It doesn`t seem like taking away unemployment benefits by itself
will fix that. Long-term unemployment defined as people who have been out
of work 27 weeks or longer.

Long-term unemployment is still at its highest level since the Second
World War. This chart shows in every other recent recession, 1981, the
early 1990s, the dot-com bubble popping, in 2001, after each one of those
recessions, unemployment was much lower at this point. Five years out,
they went (ph) to help for the long-term unemployed ended. The odds of
being able to find a job go down the longer a person is out of work.

It`s a problem facing all kinds of workers in this current economy.
It`s a myth that only older workers are being affected or discriminate
against. So, what happens next? Well, more than two weeks ago, Senate
majority leader, Harry Reid, said there wouldn`t be a vote unemployment
benefits until the new calendar year. Conservative Republicans in both
chambers are insisting that any proposal be paid for with offsets cut from
other parts of the budget.

Democrat Jack Reed and Republican Dean Heller are the chief sponsors
of the bill in the Senate that would extend jobless benefits for three
months. The unemployment rate in their states, Rhode Island and Nevada, is
at nine percent, the highest in the country, and their legislation does not
have any of those offsets that conservatives are calling for.

To talk about where this all stands, I want to bring in David
Freedlander, the senior political correspondent with the "Daily Beast."
"Washington Post," Jackie Kucinich is still here. MSNBC.com reporter, Suzy
Khimm, is covering all things in Capitol Jill joins us, and from Sanford,
Florida this morning, we have MSNBC contributor, Jared Bernstein. He`s a
senior fellow at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the one-time
economic adviser to the vice president.

Welcome to you, Jared, down there and welcome to everybody here. And
Suzy, I`ll start with you. If you can give us the bottom line on sort of
the Capitol Hill Congressional politics of this, of where it stands, Harry
Reid, I guess, in the Senate, has scheduled a vote for January 6th on some
kind of extension. What exactly would that extension look like and does it
have any chance of clearing this Republican-controlled House?

SUZY KHIMM, MSNBC.COM: So, the extension, as you mentioned, would not
be offset by any other programs that Republicans have been asking for. It
would be for three months. And the idea is that the folks supporting this
extension want to buy themselves more time for a year-long extension, that
this will give them a little bit more time to work something out. They
said that even Democrats are willing to look for pay fors to offset the
costs.

It would overall for the year. It would be $25 billion. So, the
three month extension would be $6 billion. So, the question is, is this
something that a Congress can swallow right now? As you mentioned, there
is a budget deal. Although, both the House and the Senate easily passed
this first basically budget framework for overall spending.

We still need to pass a second budget bill before January 15th. So,
there are multiple sort of deadlines coming up. The question is, you know,
are these going to be combined. Is this one sort of one big negotiation or
is this a separate fight that Democrats are going to have to push for on
their own with the help of a couple of Republicans when the New Year comes
around?

KORNACKI: When we get into that situation, again, we`re always
talking about where maybe there`s so much pressure on the Republicans and
then John Boehner has to put something on the floor that maybe a lot of his
Republican colleagues don`t want -- going down that -- I`ve already seen
the ads. They`re probably airing on this network, call your Republican
congressman, that sort of thing.

DAVID FREEDLANDER, THE DAILY BEAST: I mean, look, there`s a Congress
that doesn`t get anything done until the deadline is right in front of it.
So, you know, who knows what`s going to happen? I mean, they`re certainly
-- the Democrats are starting to put pressure on them.

The American people are starting to put pressure on Congress, but
whether it`s enough, I think, remains to be seen. You know, it`s something
that it energizes people that aren`t on unemployment benefits that aren`t
experiencing this kind of economy.

KORNACKI: Jared, thanks for joining us down there in Florida, but
some of the stats I see have really jumped out at me about this. Thirty-
seven percent of the unemployed have been out -- currently unemployed have
been out of work for six months or longer. That`s a little off the peak in
2010 when they hit 45 percent. These are numbers we haven`t seen since the
great depression.

I think when somebody has been out of work for 27 weeks or longer, the
odds of them finding a job in the next month are 12 percent. And those
odds continue to go down for every month further if they`re out of work.
So, this crisis of long-term unemployment, when we`re talking about it
relative to other recoveries in the past, what is going on here? Why do we
have such a crisis with long-term unemployment?

JARED BERNSTEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that has a lot to do with
just the underlying weak nature of creations throughout this recovery.
It`s absolutely the case that the pace of job creation has picked up, but
let`s not forget. We still have an unemployment rate that`s highly
elevated at seven percent. And if you actually count it more accurately by
putting in lots of the underemployed people, you`d get to a rate that`s
considerably higher than that, something close to 12 or 13 percent.

There`s something like 20 million people out there on or under
employed. And, your point is well taken about the long-term unemployed and
extensions, former extensions of emergency UI. Congress has never allowed
the program to expire when we`ve had this many long-term unemployed. In
fact, it`s precisely because of times like this that you need the emergency
extension.

And the implications of an exploration right now are very dark on the
microlevel, as you can imagine, because people need the money, just given
the absence of employment opportunities for them, but also at the
macrolevel. This actually hurts an economy that`s trying to kind of
achieve the escape velocity that`s alluded us, thus far.

KORNACKI: I want to play this to -- and to find out how widespread it
is. This is a Republican Rand Paul who is making the case against more
unemployment benefit, making the case against the extension. Let`s just
play this and talk about it for a second. This is Rand Paul.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Do you support extending unemployment
benefits or would you let 1.3 million Americans lose those benefits before
the end of the year?

RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY SENATOR: I do support unemployment benefits
for the 26 weeks that they`re paid for. If you extend it beyond that, you
do a disservice to these workers. There was a study that came out a few
months ago, and it said, if you have a worker that`s been unemployed for
four weeks on unemployment insurance and one that`s on 99 weeks, which
would you hire?

Every employer, nearly 100 percent said they will always hire the
person who`s been out of work four weeks. When you allow people to be on
unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, you`re causing them to become part of
this perpetual unemployed group in our economy. And it really -- while it
seems good, it actually does a disservice to the people you`re trying to
help.

KORNACKI: Suzy, what do you want to say?

KHIMM: The first thing that jumps out to me about that comment which
he made just a couple of weeks ago is that no one is asking for 99 weeks of
unemployment insurance. In fact, as Congress has continued to extend these
federal benefits, to scale them back repeatedly to shorter numbers of
weeks, to less generous benefits. We`re only talking about, I think,
something between 14 and 47 weeks in addition to the 26 weeks that states
are getting, when the federal emergency unemployment kicks in.

So, I mean to frame it in that way is actually very misleading,
because Congress has taken these steps to scale back the program. The
argument as Jared brought out is that, basically, we`re having this kind of
tale of two recoveries, that you`re having -- it`s becoming far, far easy
for the short-term unemployed, that if you`re out of work for a couple of
weeks, it`s actually becoming easier for you to find a job, whereas for the
long term unemployed, they are not benefiting from this, you know, economic
revitalization that we are experiencing now.

So, I mean, this is part of the reason why this dynamic is so
difficult that why even as you`re seeing unemployment rate drop, these
folks who`ve been out of work for so long aren`t getting the help.

KORNACKI: Clearly, that view we heard from Rand Paul, how widespread
is that among Republicans? The idea that you`re doing a disservice to the
unemployed by extending their benefits?

KUCINICH: I think if you`re Republican in a safe seat that`s very
red, that`s going to be your view. But if you`re Republican, it`s going to
come from the Republicans that are in more purple states. Someone like
Charles Gibson in New York who`s looking at people who are unemployed who
wrote a letter to John Boehner asking him to put this on the floor. People
in New Jersey, Republicans in California, that`s where the pressure is
going to come from, especially because we`re in 2014.

KORNACKI: New Jersey brings us to something I want to get to the
next, a look at who these 1.3 million Americans are, where exactly do they
live? We`ll pick that up when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: (INAUDIBLE) that Nevada and Rhode Island share the highest
unemployment rates in the country, currently at nine percent. We didn`t
realize until one of our producers showed me this amazing map this morning
is that the state of New Jersey will be hardest hit today when long-term
unemployment benefits run out. Other states may have more unemployed
people overall, but New Jersey has more as a percentage of its overall
population than any other state in the country.

If you broaden out that map and look at things in the Dakotas look
great, it`s really light shading there that`s because North Dakota has
added more jobs than people since the recession began. You can thank their
natural gas and oil boom for that. In every other states, though, it`s
been the other way around. More people than jobs. You might think things
are best in the state of North Carolina by looking at that map because
there`s no shading at all, but that is misleading.

The summer of a state legislature there decided to stop accepting
federal unemployment benefits altogether. So, benefits there ran out.
Just not today. There are still limited state benefits for some of the
unemployed North Carolina, but there have been no federal benefits for
people in that state for months now.

Niraj Chokshi covers state and local policy through "Washington Post"
gov beat blog. He put together -- helped put together that map, and he
joins us this morning from Hartford, Connecticut. Niraj, I guess I`d just
start with the states -- you know, New Jersey jumps out as the one that`s
going to be the hardest hit by that. What is it maybe you can tell us
about New Jersey that makes it so susceptible today and what are the other
states that are going to be hardest hit and why?

NIRAJ CHOKSHI, THE WASHINGTON POST: That`s a good question. New
Jersey is a state with a pretty high unemployment. Some of the other
states, California is home to most. New York is next. Nevada is up there.
Florida is up there. A lot of the states that are going to be most
affected are also states that affected by the housing bust, so.

KORNACKI: And this is something as the year goes on, there are going
to be several waves of this, right? We were talking about 1.3 million now,
but as people hit the 26-week mark, there`s going to be more -- are there
other states that will as the year goes on, will this map look different?

CHOKSHI: Yes. You know, pretty much every state. By the end of the
first half of the year, it`s going to be another, I think, 1.8 million. By
the end of the year totally, it will be several million more, in fact.

KORNACKI: And Suzy.

KHIMM: Yes. This sort of points out to the fact that this is
happening and is having outside influence on certain states, it`s also
affecting the politics of this. You mentioned Rhode Island and Nevada.
Nevada is the place where you actually have two Republicans who very
prominently said that they are going to back this extension.

Senator Dean Heller is joining together with Jack Reed from Rhode
Island, and Dean Heller is from Nevada and Nevada Republican for this
three-month extension. I actually just talked to a staffer for Congressman
Joe Heck who is a House Republican who says that, you know, he`s always
been supportive of these benefits. They`re willing to talk about, you
know, papers, that sort of thing, the House, but that the urgency of this
is really important.

And you can sort of see this in the local media coverage. There`ve
been really sort of hard-hitting stories across the country and local
papers and regional papers that this isn`t just a Washington conversation
that`s happening, and that`s what Democrats are really banking on in terms
of being able to sell this and be able to pressure Republicans into
supporting or extending it.

KORNACKI: And Jared, when we talk about the 1.3 million, we talk
about potentially millions more who will be affected by this in 2014, can
we have a sense -- can you give us sort of a profile? We say it`s New
Jersey, California. These states are going to be highest hit right now,
but who are these people? Is there a profile of what kinds of people are
most likely to be affected?

BERNSTEIN: Well, first of all, I`m very glad we`re making this point
that the 1.3 are the people who would lose benefits today based on this
expiration, but it`s a rolling problem. And by the end of the year, if
benefits are not extended, we`re talking about 4.8 million cumulatively
across the country. So, let`s not get too hung up on just today`s number,
because it`s a bigger problem than that.

The interesting thing about the profile is that there really is no
singular profile. If you start to look at the anecdotal stories, you
actually get a sense of the broader data. We`re talking about skilled
workers, workers who are older and younger as well. We`re talking about
immigrants, native (ph) workers, I mean, it`s just a very broad difficulty
in that regard.

And in a sense, that`s been the nature of this recovery. It`s not
that its -- other than the shale point that you made earlier, there are
some pockets. But generally, it`s been, you know, small C catholic in the
sense that lots of different people from lots of different walks of life
have been hurt. It`s not just been low skilled workers, college educated
workers, even workers in I.T., which is usually considered a field where
there`s just lots of labor and demand.

Those workers too have been experiencing spells of unemployment and
many of them depend on these benefits while the job market still recovers.

KORNACKI: And Niraj, I just want to ask you, one more question about
the map there, because -- we`re talking about federal benefits expiring
here that sort of -- the unemployed are at the mercy of the generosity of
whatever state they live in. What states do you have a sense -- what
states that are left?

We can see North Carolina sort of the least state. What states are
the most generous? I guess, it is an awful question to ask. What`s the
best state to be unemployed now with federal aid expiring?

CHOKSHI: Well, you know, I mean, honestly, most of the states are
going to revert (ph) it down to 26. In some states, it`s as much as --
they`re losing as much as 11 months of benefits. In no state is fewer than
about three months work. So, pretty much all, it`s going to be a hard gut.

KORNACKI: All right. I want to thank the "Washington Post" Niraj
Chokshi for joining the discussion. And we will pick it right back up
after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For decades, Congress
has voted to offer relief to job seekers, including when the unemployment
rate was lower than it is today. But now that economic lifeline is in
jeopardy, all because Republicans in this Congress, which is on track to be
the most unproductive in history had so far refused to extend it.
So, this holiday season, let`s give our fellow Americans who are
desperately looking for work the help they need to keep on looking.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: President Obama earlier this month, urging Congress to act
on unemployment benefits. Something they haven`t done yet. We will see
what happens in January. David, we played earlier the clip from Rand Paul
basically saying, you know, extending this is bad for the unemployed. It
will make them complacent or something. Besides that and besides this
basic call for offsets, hey, if we`re going to fund -- extend unemployment
benefits, it needs to be offset by something.

Is there a Republican case against doing this? Do we have a specific
sense of what they want these offsets to be or is this just the case of,
hey, you know, the president and Democrats are calling for this, we`re the
opposition, we`re going to fight them on this?

FREEDLANDER: It seems to me that this really hits a nerve among
conservative circles and Republican circles. We heard a lot about this
from the 2012 presidential campaign. The federal government is sort of
creating a featherbed to, you know, help people from wound to tomb kind of
thing. We heard this from Paul Ryan. We heard this from Mitt Romney. I
think it was what Rand Paul was getting at.

I mean, the economic case this making, there was sort of silly, right,
that if we extend benefits, people won`t look for work, when, in fact, it`s
because on benefits that they`re able to look for work. But somehow, this
touches a nerve that I think Democrats haven`t quite figured a way around
that.

KORNACKI: And Jared, it`s also like, let`s say, who know what`s going
to happen, but let`s say that an agreement on an extension is reached and
the long-term unemployed get, you know, an additional few months -- few
weeks, few months, whatever happens to be of aid. All we`re doing is we`re
taking people who`ve been out of a job market for a ridiculously long
amount of time already.

We`re giving them a little bit of their former salary. We`re kind of
keep them afloat for a few months. But it seems to me, there`s all sorts
of issues are raised for the the economy and for the workers themselves
when they`ve been out this long to begin with just extending the benefits
for them. That`s not going to solve the problem.

BERNSTEIN: Yes. I mean, Rand Paul actually said one thing that was
correct in that little clip you played which was that it is tougher for
long-term unemployed people to get employers to consider them for jobs. I
mean, an employer faced with someone who`s been unemployed for a couple of
months versus someone for a year. All else equal. We will tend to go with
the person with shorter term unemployment.

So, I think the key point, though, that David just made is, you know,
Rand Paul said it allows them. It allows them to stay out of the job
market. No. I mean, that`s just upside down. The problem here is the
absence of enough employment opportunities for these folks. At the level
of the broader economy, remember, we talked about this as being a $25
billion program over the year.

I mean, that`s essentially the amount you`re pulling out of the 2014
economy by allowing these benefits to expire. Economists have consistently
estimated the fiscal drag this causes on the economy to be something
between two and four-tenths of GDP, maybe two to 300,000 fewer jobs,
because guess what, unemployed people spend their checks and that creates
more economic activity. So, again, bad micro and bad macro.

KORNACKI: All right. That will have to be the last word on this for
right now. I want to thank MSNBC.com Suzy Khimm as well as MSNBC
contributor and economists, Jared Bernstein, for taking the time in joining
us this morning.

We are live and here this holiday weekend in all new totally
unpredictable action packed edition of "Up Against the Clock" is on the
way. It`s become such a staple of our show. It`s hard to believe we only
started it back in September. So, we`re going to take a trip down memory
lane when we come back. And in keeping with the spirit of "Up Against The
Clock," it will be quick, it will be fast moving, it will be fun. Our year
end highlight reel. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: We still got a full hour of news and discussion ahead, but
first, back in September, we had our inaugural edition of "Up Against the
Clock." And since then, we have crowned 15 champions and produced some of
the most heart-stopping white knuckle drama in the history of abbreviated
weekend morning basic cable news and/or current events game shows.

And we`re not slowing down. We`ve got an all new addition to bring
you in our next hour, but first, we thought we`d pause for a minute and
relive some of the high stakes tensions, some of the unscripted joy, and
even the little of the all too human agony we brought you this year on "Up
Against the Clock."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KORNACKI: Thank you to those of you joining us at home where you can
forget that high noon is three hours from now because the gunfight at this
OK chorale is just about to begin.

As always, studio audience, I implore you, please, no outbursts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a problem, because I didn`t get the
questions ahead of time.

KORNACKI: New poll shows the majority of voters disapproving of this
freshman Tea Party U.S. senator`s job performance in his solidly Republican
state.

(BUZZER)

KORNACKI: Lawrence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike Lee, Utah.

KORNACKI: Mike Lee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did that show. Prep pays off.

KORNACKI: Former New York governor, Mario Cuomo, finally watched what
movie this week?

(BUZZER)

KORNACKI: Suzy.

KHIMM: "The Godfather."

KORNACKI: "The Godfather" is correct. Joe --

(LAUGHTER)

KORNACKI: A little quicker there. A little assist from Joe on that.

This is an instant bonus question. According to city officials in
Boston, this Red Sox slugger came in third place on write-in votes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have absolutely no idea.

KORNACKI: Incorrect.

(LAUGHTER)

KORNACKI: Tom at 100, Martin at negative 100.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve got a 200-point question.

KORNACKI: He`s contesting the score. Judges, is he right or wrong?
He`s right. Martin, you have been elevated to zero.

You go to the Ph.D. level. I`m just reshuffling the cards, please
bear with me. I am now ready for the 300-point round. Which Republican
congressman on Thursday distributed a book to every Congressional office
entitled "Impeachable Offenses: The Case for Removing Barak Obama From
Office?"

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did I guess that?

KORNACKI: You must --

(LAUGHTER)

KORNACKI: He didn`t read it.

On Thursday, it was the nomination of this woman to the D.C. circuit
court of appeals --

(BUZZER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Patricia Mill.

KORNACKI: Patricia Mill is correct. That ends the round. This is
going to be a close one.

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: I have in my hand the instant bonus question that could win
you $50 in Perogies (ph) or other Polish food. It was revealed this week
that this Capitol Hill eating establishment was the site of a secret
basement strategy session between Ted Cruz and other House Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tortilla Coast.

KORNACKI: Tortilla Coast is correct. And for the first time ever, we
have a grand prize jackpot winner. Brian Boyler (ph), congratulations!
That means you have won the $50 gift certificate to Little Poland. Thank
you for playing. Thank you. You will not leave us empty handed. We have
for you the home edition --

(LAUGHTER)

KORNACKI: -- families of all ages, so enjoy that. Thank you all for
playing today. We will see you next week for another "Up Against the
Clock." After this, the real show begins again.

(LAUGHTER)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: 2013 reinforced a trend that`s been building for years now.
There are red states and they do things one way. There are blue states and
they do things another way. A very different way and there just aren`t
that many states in the middle that are left anymore. Consider it now as
2013 closes out there, a total of 46 state legislatures that are controlled
by a single party as the highest number since the Second World War.

Red states, those legislatures have restricted access to abortion and
contraception. In blue states, they`ve expanded it. In red states,
they`ve loosened gun laws, while in blue states, they tightened them. Most
red states refused to expand Medicaid, a key lynchpin of the Affordable
Care Act. But blue states added millions of low income Americans to their
Medicaid roles.

More than ever it seems the extent to which federal rights and laws
apply to you depends largely on where you live, which state you live in.
Red and blue, it`s a deep divide that runs through America and it`s very
real. But there can also miss some of the richness and some of the
complexity of American politics, the motivations of individual politician,
the intricacies of state politics, because sometimes even two blue states
are world`s apart from each other. Even two very blue states, like say
California and New York.

With final days of 2013 drawing to a close, governors around the
country are making use of their executive power to grant pardons, or reduce
the sentences of a few select prisoners. This week, California`s
Democratic Governor Jerry Brown pardoned 127 people, most of them non-
violent drug offenders.

At the same time, though, all the way across the country, in another
deeply blue bastion, New York`s Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, made
headlines for pardoning exactly no one. Not only no one this year, no one
ever, not since he took office three years ago. He has not commuted a
single sentence.

Sometimes you get a Democratic president, a progressive, who seems
less progressive when it comes to using his executive power for mercy. No
president if more than times have granted fewer pardons than Barack Obama.
In 2009 and 2012, he actually pardoned more turkeys than people. Obama has
also commuted sentences at a lower rate than any president in recent
history, and that includes George W. Bush, his father George H.W. Bush, and
even Ronald Reagan. And even though he`s used his power sparingly, Obama
used it strategically last week when he commuted the sentences of eight
people, all convicted of non-violent crack offenses.

Congress passed legislation in 2010 to get rid of the huge disparity
in sentencing for crack cocaine, prison time for crack was 100 times that
of powder cocaine. People sentenced before 2010 are still serving
disproportionate prison sentences. In 1980s, being tough on crime politics
and pardons and commutations into steep decline, they sent prison
populations through the roof. A crime wave and politics that surrounded it
has since dissipated, but there are still some Democrats who seem scarred
by the past, by the betting their party took for a generation for being
caricatured as soft on crime.

Another consequence of that tough on crime American politics has been
that souring rate of incarceration, sometimes that comes with a steep price
tag that some Republicans are starting to balk at. This week, Rand Paul
took to Twitter for his, quote, "airing of the grievances", taking a
Festivus tradition invented by George Costanza on the TV show "Seinfeld,"
started off with good natured ribbing. Rand Paul was joking that New
Jersey senator and Twitter sensation Cory booker doesn`t retweet him
enough. Booker challenged Paul to another Festivus tradition, the feast of
strength.

But soon the joking exchange turned serious, with Paul suggesting
that they work together in reforming minimum mandatory sentences, which
have racked up millions of non-violence drug offenders since the ``80s.
And so, their Festivus jokes led to a bipartisan holiday consensus. "Here
is to 2014, where we take on the failed war on drugs," Cory Booker tweeted.

Rand Paul isn`t the only Republican to pursue criminal justice
reform. Conservative southern states like South Carolina and Texas have
reform state sentencing guidelines to reduce prison populations there. And
earlier this year, Republican John Cornyn introduced a bill in the U.S.
Senate modeled on his state Texas reforms.

Utah Republican Mike Lee teamed up with Democrat Dick Durbin to
reduce legislation to reduce mandatory minimums. The Obama administration
showed a strong interest in criminal justice reform earlier this year. And
Attorney General Eric Holder announced a new directive for U.S. Attorneys
aimed at reducing sentences for non-violent crimes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: It is clear as we come together today
tattoo many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no
truly good law enforcement reason. It`s clear --

(APPLAUSE)

It`s clear that at a very bake level the 20th century criminal
justice solutions are not adequate to overcome our 21st century challenges.
And again, it is well past time to implement common sense changes that will
foster safer communities from coast-to-coast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: The question is, are Democrats ready to finally cast off
once and for all any worry about being labeled soft on crime, especially in
an election year. And are there enough reform minded Republicans to enact
a serious criminal justice overhaul.

For that, I want to bring in, David Freedlander from "The Daily
Beast", Jackie Kucinich from "The Washington Post." They`re both back with
us.

Dafna Linzer, she`s the managing editor at MSNBC.com, who is
reporting a prompt investigation into the case of Clarence Aaron, whose
sentence was commuted by President Obama last week. And Congressman Hakeem
Jeffries, a Democrat from New York City.

And, Dafna, I`ll start with you because we -- maybe we could add a
little context to these eight pardons that Obama issued last week. Six of
them were serving life sentences, all eight of them have been serving for
15 years. Plus, a lot of this has to do with reforms that have been made
in the last few years that had they been in place when these people were
originally sentenced would have never had them in jail for as long it`s
been.

Can you tell the story that you wrote this week?

DAFNA LINZER, MSNBC.COM: Sure, you are right. These are people that
everyone agrees are serving sentences that no one thinks they should be
serving anymore.

And, the story of Clarence Aaron, somebody like him, this was a
tragedy right from the beginning. This was American who was involved in a
drug conspiracy, as you said. It was the early `90s, the height of the
drug war.

He wasn`t the buyer, the seller, the user, the supplier, the dealer.
He was maybe the lowest guy on the chain. And he got a triple life
sentence.

He was a college student, a star linebacker at Southern University,
and he went to prison. As soon as that sentence came down, I mean, it
outraged people on the left and the right even when it happened and he
became a great candidate for presidential mercy, for a commutation. And
his process started. He applied for a commutation. He had tremendous from
Republicans and Democrats, from great lawyers who worked pro bono in this
case, worked for free. It moved along the chain.

And even President Bush, by the time it got to him in office, you
know, almost a decade after he applied, that White House was very
interested in commuting his sentence. One person stood in his way, and
that was the pardon attorney. A guy named Ron Rodgers, who`s still there
today.

You know, this is an executive power. This is the president`s only
unfettered power to issue pardons and commutations. Ron Rodgers is a
pretty strong guy. He misled the White House. He didn`t give the White
House the full information it needed. He didn`t tell them that Clarence
Aaron had the support of the sentencing judge, had the support of the U.S.
attorney, who was a Bush appointee at the time, and Clarence Aaron`s case
was denied.

KORNACKI: And we`re talking about to be clear, a lot of these cases,
part of the story here is that the power to sentence has been taken away --
legislatively, has been taken away from judges with mandatory sentences.
With this era of tough on crime politics in the `80s and early `90s and
crime rates were soaring, and Congress and state legislatures passed all
these laws that basically say, hey, you know, if you are found guilty of
this crime, this is the sentence they will serve no matter what the judge
says.

LINZER: That`s right. And there was an important point the
president made after he signed the commutations and issued a separate
statement, saying that even the judges had complained for years, that they
were forced to hand down sentences that they just didn`t believe in. That
they truly believed were unjust and that was the case for Clarence Aaron
also.

I wrote this story talking about how this pardon attorney had blocked
Clarence Aaron`s quest for clemency. And new review was ordered by the
Obama administration and an inspector general`s report looked into the case
and confirmed the findings, and Clarence Aaron had his sentence commuted by
President Obama, which was great.

KORNACKI: And, Congressman, the thing that jumped out to me most
about the politics of this, this week is when these eight pardons, these
commutation were announced, there was not an outcry from Republicans on
Capitol Hill. They were given a chance by news reporters who reported on
this, this week, to have a comment. They declined to comment.

And I`m thinking back to 15, 20, 25 years ago, the Republican
playbook in politics would ever, ever, ever miss a chance to say, you know,
the Democratic politicians extra soft on crime because he pardons, because
he commuted a sentence, because he said maybe we were a little too harsh in
this case. It seems like me, just as we are saying Democrats may be
shaking off that old fear, Republicans may be shaking off that playbook a
little bit.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: Well, in this era of intense
partisanship, actually, one of the opportunities for bipartisan progress is
in the area of criminal justice reform. If you were to flash back 20 years
ago, it would be hard to imagine that, in fact, would be the case. But
what we have seen in states all across the opportunity, particularly red
states, such as Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, is pretty significant
criminal justice reform in rolling back the tough on crime legislation, the
mandatory minimum that have resulted in mass incarceration in these states
as they have all across the country.

This has been led, in fact, in some instances by Republican
conservative members of these legislative bodies. Out of recognition,
perhaps, that the toll and the cost on the economy and on the budget is too
severe, and that the actual benefits of this mass incarceration don`t
justify the level of cost that has been imposed on society in terms of lost
economic productivity, lost human capital.

Interestingly enough as well, in the Congress and the intensely
partisan House of Representatives on a judiciary committee, which is a
source of constant conflict, whether that`s on gun rights or reproductive
rights, or immigration rights, I`m a part of a bipartisan task force on
over-criminalization, five Republican, five Democrats, that was put
together this year to tackle the issue of over-criminalization, mass
incarceration, out of control sentencing that has occurred at the federal
level. And so, I`m very hopeful that in this climate, we`ll actually be
able to get something done and President Obama with these commutations I
think has set the stage for congressional action next year.

KORNACKI: See, there are a couple areas that you see potentially, if
the bipartisanship on this is real, where you could see congressional
action next year, what is -- the Durbin and Mike Lee, Mike Lee, a Tea Party
type from Utah have put together what they call the Fair Sentencing Act,
basically take -- I think there`s close to 10,000, 8,000 to 10,000 people
in federal prison right now who are similar to people that President Obama
pardoned this week.

If all of the new guidelines, all the laws that are in place now had
been in place at the time, they wouldn`t have gotten the sentence. So,
basically, we create an opportunity to make all the changes that they make
retroactive. And you see Dick Durbin and Mike Lee teaming up on this, if
rand palm introduced the Safety Valve Act of 2013.

JACKIE KUCINICH, THE WASHINGTON POST: Senator Patrick Leahy is also
--

KORNACKI: You`ve seen this bipartisan -- it`s really amazing to me
because we spent so much time talking about red and blue divide and just --
you know, we are seeing that break down. Is the Republican motivation on
this purely one of cost?

All of this incarceration is such a drag on a state budget, whether
it`s Texas or South Carolina, we`ve locked all those people up and you have
to pay for it. And they say, wait, we don`t want to do that.

KUCINICH: $6.5 billion that the Bureau of Prisons got last year.
So, that is a big part of it. It is costing a lot of money but, yes, it`s
one of these bright thoughts of bipartisanship that we are seeing in
Congress right now which really does create some optimism for next year.

KORNACKI: Is there just an admission here, too, that collectively,
we got it wrong 20 years ago? We got it wrong --

DAVID FREELANDER, THE DAILY BEAST: I don`t know. I mean, I think to
your point, anybody that lived through the 1988 presidential campaign could
never know this moment. I don`t know if we run out of prison beds or what
the deals.

But it seems as if the same time, he`s measure is halting (ph). And
I don`t know what actually explains that. I mean, commuting the eight
sentences President Obama did or Jerry Brown`s 120 or whatever it is and
said they served tear time. We aren`t seeing federal law changing I think
quite yet.

KORNACKI: Yes, that`s the question. We will get into more in the
next segment. We have a couple things on the agenda for 2014. We have at
least the seeds of bipartisanship. Let`s talk about whether that`s going
to actually happen in 2014, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: We`re back and we`re talking about where sort of criminal
issues are heading in 2014.

And Dave was making a point. He said anybody who lives through the
1998 campaign, and that was the Willie Horton campaign and Michael Dukakis
getting pilloried in the death penalty in office, and that was the height
of sort of the triumph of tough on politics -- tough on crime politics from
the Republican Party.

Congressman, I wonder, you know, when we look at what`s happening at
the federal level now. We look at Jerry Brown in California with 127
pardons. Pat Quinn, the governor of Illinois, has had, I don`t have the
numbers of in front of me, it`s hundreds. He`s had a ton of pardons.

You look at the governor of your state, when you look at Andrew
Cuomo, a guy who just refuses to pardon anybody, do you see, does he
represent a certain type of Democrat who`s still haunted by that tough on
crime? I keep saying tough on politics here. Tough on crime era?

JEFFRIES: Well, it`s not clear to me why the governor has been
economical in terms of his issuance of pardons and commutations. His
father wasn`t particularly judicious either as it relates to the pardon
power.

I think the broader point which is an important one, is the war on
drugs widely acknowledged as a failure right now violated a basic tenant of
American justice, which is that the punishment should fit the crime. And
with these mandatory minimum, particularly with crack cocaine offenses,
that clearly was not the case, as evidenced by the resent commutations by
President Obama, six individuals, non-violent drug offenders serving life
sentences are clearly that violates basic American values in terms of
justice and the fairness of the criminal justice system.

Now, what Congress did a few years ago with the Fair Sentencing Act
was dramatically reduce the disparity between crack cocaine sentencing and
powder cocaine sentencing. It was around 100-1. It reduced it to 20-1.
That still does not justify under any conception of sort of fairness as it
relates to the actual crime. So, I think Congress has got more work to do
in this regard. That`s what the president has suggested in his commutation
statements. I am hopeful we will tackle it next year.

KORNACKI: The other issue -- so this summer, you had Eric Holder
that issued the guidelines, it told the prosecutors for low level cases in
the indictments not to list quantities. If you list the quantities, it
triggers all of these harsh mandatory minimum sentences that are a product
of 1986, it was the Anti-Drug Act of 1986, the product of tough on crime
era.

Those are guidelines issued by one attorney general. I guess the
question, are those guidelines only as good as, they last as long as the
Obama administration lasts?

LINZER: I think that`s right. But, you know, when I was first
looking into pardons, one of the things I wandered, because there were
fewer and fewer, are we a country that no longer interested in forgiveness?
Is mercy just not something we care about anymore?

But when I look round states and I see states where governors wanted
to pardon, where actually prosecutors were not interested in seeking this,
where judges were complaining about mandatory minimums. And I really kind
of got the sense that actually there`s a lot that can be changed quite
quickly. There really is consensus here.

And I think, you know, you`re right about the 1988 campaign that you
would never know we ended up here. But I do think very much that like
while they may have affected some people in their desire to pardon some
president, some governors, I think there is a wide belief that everything
that took place is for the longer working.

KORNACKI: And I think part of the story is we put this up before,
it`s still, I can`t get overlooking at it, just the difference between the
political climate of 1984, we have this poll here, asking voters what is
the top issue in 1994. Top issue of the country, is it crime? Twenty-six
percent -- you think with the crime rates were early 1990s, take the same
poll 19 years later in 2013, what`s the top issue? Two percent, one
percent saying drugs. If you look at the homicide rate compare it over the
last 60 years.

I mean, you look at it. It peaked at over 10.2 for $100,000 in 1980.
It`s close to 10 in the early `90s. It`s all the way down to 4.8 right
now.

So, it`s almost as if -- you know, you take it. You remove the
urgency of the issue and you depoliticize it that way.

FREEDLANDER: Yes, I suppose, many crime rates go up slightly. I
wonder what the politics will be on this. I mean, just to come back to
your point on Andrew Cuomo for a moment. I mea, it seems like no one is
really pure on this, right?

Cuomo ran for governor if 2002, essentially arguing that the
Rockefeller drug laws have lost their relevance in New York. Jerry Brown
has also sort of complicated. So, I don`t think anyone is pure.

I mean, everyone seems worried about what`s going to happen if you
commute the wrong person or something like that.

JEFFRIES: Yes, I should point out, too, one of the things Governor
Cuomo has done as relates to criminal justice reform is he`s led the charge
to decriminalize marijuana. And in the city of New York, arrests of small
quantities of marijuana are the number one category of arrests leading to
unnecessary criminalization, largely of low income individuals of color.

I believe it was in 2012, that he publicly championed that issue,
brought together the five district attorneys from the city of New York, as
well as Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Mayor Bloomberg to support a
legislative change.

The Republicans in the New York State Senate are still fighting it.
The governor did step out and demonstrate leadership. I think further
evidence of the fact that the climate has significantly changed.

KORNACKI: That`s another foot in all this, too. In New York, you
have the ballot initiative in Colorado last year marijuana, in Washington,
the Obama administration basically saying we`re not going to be using our
Justice Department to go after these states as they implement legal
marijuana. That`s another topic though for another day.

I want to thank MSNBC.com`s Dafna Linzer and Congressman Hakeem
Jeffries.

Don`t go further, you are coming back in a few minutes as a
contestant on "Up Against the Clock", our third active member of Congress
to take a spot on contestant`s row.

Still ahead, though -- first, our political predictions for the year
ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Everyone begins the year with high hopes, usually with
some resolutions of what they`re going to do to improve themselves or try
to do to improve themselves with the world around them. President Obama
began a year in his second term which seemed like a very tall order these
days, asking for a compromise with Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot mistake
absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics or treat
name-calling as reasoned debate.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Of course, these didn`t exactly turn out as President
Obama hopes, the year bringing with it a government shutdown driven by
Republicans on Capitol Hill. Speaker of the House John Boehner calls a
reverse caucus, shut down strategy. The members behind it, something the
speaker still hasn`t gotten quite over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The day before the
government reopened, one of the people at one of these groups stood up and
said, well, we really never thought it would work. Are you kidding me?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Working in John Boehner`s favor, he began the year not
knowing if he`d survive an attempt to strip him of his speakership. He did
survive only to lead the most unproductive year in Congress ever. Next
year isn`t exactly promising to get off to a fresh start.

All of this of course as an elaborate attempt to avoid answering the
question what 2014 will bring for ourselves, because it is always, always
so much easier to ask about others.

(BEGIN VIDO CLIP)

BARBARA WALTERS, ABC NEWS: I have to push for the answer about
whether or not you might run.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I haven`t made up my
mind. I really have not. I will look at carefully what I think I can do
and make that decision you know sometimes I sometime next year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Here to help us assess where the year in politics will end
up at the end of year 2014, we welcome our colleague here at MSNBC, Craig
Melvin, also correspondent with NBC News. MSNBC.com`s Irin Carmon is back
with us. David Freedlander with "The Daily Beast." Also back at the
table, as is, Jackie Kucinich with "The Washington Post".

So, you know, I was -- to set up for this segment, I`m just trying to
think back to my own track record on these things. It`s pretty atrocious.
The end of December one year I will sit there, if you would have asked me
the end of last September, you know, some predictions for the year 2014, I
would say, you know, they will get immigration done this year. There`s no
question, to be honest, likely they`re going to get (ph).

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: Also again immigration, a couple years ago I think it`s on
"HARDBALL", they said, you know, who`s going to be Republicans -- at the
end of 2010, who`s going to be the Republican front runner at the end of
the 2012? On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, I said, I`d be Mike Huckabee,
even run for president. I was having an atrocious record with these
things.

But with that in mind, I can keep going, basically, if I say
something, bet the opposite, you will be a rich person.

But let`s think of some of the names in politics, some of the names
in politics, some of the more prominent names of politics, we`re going to
go around and see if you top what I`d do here and tell us, it`s December
31st, 2014, Craig. What is it we`re going to -- what will the year have
brought for Hillary Clinton?

CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC ANCHOR: I don`t think anyone believed Hillary
Clinton when she was talking to Barbara Walters there. I mean, she tried
to sell it. I think this time next year she is out pedaling the yet to be
named book of hers. She is still coiling, doing what she did there, side
stepping the question.

And, you know, I think at this point, not to go out on a limb here, I
think she probably runs for president. I also think, though, that by the
end of the year, Vice President Joe Biden who still really wants to run for
president for the 17th time, I think he probably says something about
Hillary Clinton for which he has to apologize. He probably won`t call it
clean. He will say something, ah, it`s not really what I meant. So,
Hillary is running.

KORNACKI: If you can broaden that.

KUCINICH: I think the book tour goes somewhere in eastern Iowa,
central Iowa, places that didn`t do too well in 2007, maybe a pizza ranch.

MELVIN: Yes. She will probably spend time in Columbia, South
Carolina, Greenville, South Carolina.

KORNACKI: She`s really coy, she does border towns, she`s like a one
(INAUDIBLE). No one will see it.

Also, the idea of Joe Biden having to apologize to somebody --

MELVIN: That`s going to happen.

KORNACKI: But, Irin, but you have your own John Boehner prediction
for 2014. What will we be saying about him at the end of 2014?

IRIN CARMON, MSNBC.COM: Well, I think we saw a glimpse of that in
the clip you showed from the around the time of the shutdown. I am
thinking, you know, since there`s no accountability, no one ever got in
trouble for false prediction here, maybe this year is going to be the year
John Boehner has a "Network" moment and he says mad and can`t take it
anymore with a Tea Party caucus that has made his caucus essentially
ungovernable.

KORNACKI: Well, I am waiting whether he actually opens up the window
or shouts for all the world, or he just decides, that`s it, that`s the end
of the term, I`m out of here.

CARMON: Right, you might as well bring things to the floor.

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: Or just I`m retiring. That`s the thing --

KUCINICH: But if they win, if the Republicans win the Senate, I
think he sticks around. I think he wants to be a part of that sweeping
things through the Congress even if the president --

KORNACKI: Even if Obama vetoes --

MELVIN: That clip we all can`t get enough of we saw there, I don`t -
- I mean, John Boehner has been -- he`s been in politics a long time. That
was not some sort of extemporaneous explosion. That was I think at least a
calculated move by a seasoned politician to let folks know, that, yes, this
is the opening ceremony of what will be a battle of war for the GOP. I
think that that was obviously him drawing his line in the sand. We`re
going to see a lot more of that next year.

KORNACKI: That`s the question to watch with John Boehner is listen
after the 2014 election, does he make a decision, does he stick around or
does he go? David, the same question is going to apply to Nancy Pelosi.

FREEDLANDER: Yes, I mean, look, if pools can be accurate now, of
course, it now looks that Nancy Pelosi gets further and further away from
retaining the gavel. So, you know, I see the sort of ghost of John Murtha
rising up and Democrats knocking Pelosi aside. She goes to Rome, goes to
work for Pope Francis.

KORNACKI: Oh. Wow.

(CROSSTALK)

FREEDLANDER: Whip-vote counting in the curia in Rome.

KORNACKI: Wow, OK.

MELVIN: Just out of curiosity, if Democrats take back the House,
then who is the speaker?

FREEDLANDER: Well, I mean, Steny Hoyer is actually right next in the
line. But really, it can be sort of Tea Party of their own kind of thing,
Dennis Kucinich comes back from the dead.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: When we talk about at the end of 2014?

KUCINICH: I think we are talking about Paul Ryan. I think we are
talking how Paul Ryan has gone more to become the chairman of ways and
means than the next presidential candidate for Republicans. I think you`re
going to see him raising lots of money for Republicans next year in the
House and not necessarily doing the circuit. I think he wants to be ways
and means chairman, I think we`re going to be talking about.

KORNACKI: I was saying to somebody today, I mean, if you think back
of the failed vice presidential candidates, and a lot of them are generally
forgettable -- wow, I didn`t mean to take a shot here. The Paul Ryan vice
presidential campaign, I have to remind myself it didn`t happen.

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: I want to thank MSNBC.com`s Irin Carmon and from "The
Washington Post", Jackie Kucinich, for joining us.

The rest of you, don`t go anywhere. Another fast paced all exciting
new edition of "Up Against the Clock", celebrity contestants and all,
coming up next.

MELVIN: This is scary.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: We serve many purposes on this show. One of them, of
course, is party safety tips. So New Year`s Eve just around the corner, we
thought we`d share this cautionary tale of what irresponsible partying can
lead to, courtesy of a three decades old game show clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before you can play the cards, you must win a
toss up question, G2T2 (ph) will come out with the questions. G2T2, ah,
look at that with the ice pack.

I told you. I told you that would happen to you.

I took him to a party last night and you really disgraced yourself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Ah, Jim Perry on "Card Sharks". There he was. He was
also the host of "Sale of the Century", and when they get around to hosting
a game show hall of fame, he will be a hand down first ballot choice.

Of course, here "Up Against the Clock," our weekly current events
quiz show, we would never dress up our props like, especially not our
coveted prize, the UP gold cup -- maybe just this once.

Anyway, the cup will be here in a minute. All the other prizes will
be there. Three new contestants. It`s the final "Up Against the Clock" of
2013.

We are going out with a bang right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Live from Studio 3A in Rockefeller Center, USA, it`s time
for "Up Against the Clock."

Our first contestant, the pride of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. He still
lives a few subway stops away. Representing New York`s historic 8th
district, please welcome, Congressman Hakeem Jeffrey.

He`s originally from Columbia, South Carolina, he keeps us informed.
He makes it look so easy, ask him about his impending fatherhood -- say
hello to MSNBC`s own Craig Melvin.

And from beautiful Baltimore, Maryland, from the home of indoor
soccer sensation, the Baltimore Blast, say hello to David Freedlander.

And now, the host of "Up Against the Clock," Steve Kornacki.

KORNACKI: Oh, thank you, Bill Wolf. Thank you, studio audience.
Thank you for tuning in at home.

So, here we are the end of 2013, our final game of this calendar
year. And our most exciting slate.

Congressman Jeffreys, you are the third to take a spot on contestants
row. And I have to say, the first two didn`t win. We`re going to see if
you can break the "Up Against the Clock" member of Congress jinx today.

Craig, we welcome you as well, our latest celebrity guest.

And, David, we`re glad to have you along.

Good luck to all three of you. You know the rules by now. We have
three rounds of play. There`s 100 seconds, each question are going to get
harder as we go along. You can buzz in anytime you want. But a warning,
you will be penalized for wrong answers.

Also, there are instant bonuses scattered about in each round. It`s
a no risk chance for you to double your winnings if you get the toss-up
question right.

Studio audience as always, I beg you to please be on your best
behavior. These contestants require total concentration.

And with that, I`ll ask contestants -- are you ready to play?

MELVIN: No.

KORNACKI: Sounds like a yes to me.

Hands on buzzers, please. We`re going to put 100 seconds on the
clock. When we do, the 100 point round will begin with this.

Reversing course late yesterday, the A&E network said it will no
longer do "Duck Dynasty."

JEFFRIES: Phil Robertson.

KORNACKI: We will accept that, the Robertson family. We will accept
that.

A hundred-point question, in a message to supporters this week, this
former congressman said he had no immediate political plans but hoped to
quote, "keep the band together."

FREEDLANDER: Anthony Weiner.

KORNACKI: Anthony Weiner is correct.

A hundred-point tossup question. On Thursday, New Jersey Senator
Robert Menendez proposed to protecting consumers after this major national
retailer -- Craig.

MELVIN: Target.

KORNACKI: Target is correct.

Craig, this is an instant bonus question only for you for 100
additional points, what NBA team plays in an arena partially financed by
and named after the Target Corporation.

MELVIN: The Timberwolves.

KORNACKI: The Minnesota Timberwolves, in the Target Center. That is
correct, 100 additional points for Craig.

Back with this tossup question, on one of the slowest political news
days of the year, Christmas Eve, this 19-year-old entertainer made
headlines when he claimed --

FREEDLANDER: Justin Bieber.

KORNACKI: He was retiring -- 100 points for David.

Hundred-point question, it was announced this week at the annual
Gridiron Club dinner, a Washington event where journalists and politicians
get together for drinks and jokes.

David?

FREEDLANDER: Senator Ted Cruz.

KORNACKI: Will feature which Texas Republican? Senator Ted Cruz is
correct. A hundred points for David.

Toss-up question, this one time rising star in New York star in
national politics announced this week that he and his wife are getting a
divorce.

David?

FREEDLANDER: Eliot Spitzer.

KORNACKI: Eliot Spitzer is getting a divorce, that`s correct.

A hundred-point question. Invitations are being sent out for a White
House party.

JEFFRIES: For Michelle Obama.

KORNACKI: For Michelle Obama`s birthday, that`s correct. Maybe he
got one of those invitations.

Brings us to the end of the 100 point round. The score Congressman
Jeffries, 200, Craig Melvin, 200, David Freedlander, 400. A very fast
paced first round. We`ll see if we can keep that play going, to the 200
point round.

We put 100 seconds, questions are a little harder here. They are
worth twice as much. When we those 100 seconds, we will begin with this,
demonstrating against his embrace of hydraulic fracking, protesters dressed
as elves stormed the lawn of this Illinois governor on Monday -- David.

FREEDLANDER: Pat Quinn.

KORNACKI: Pat Quinn is correct. Elves on his law this Monday.

Two hundred point question, when the census borough releases the
forecast this Monday, New York, currently the third most popular state.

JEFFRIES: Florida.

KORNACKI: Yes, it is expected to be passed by Florida. That`s
correct, 200 points to the congressman.

Two hundred points 200 toss up. This controversial conservative
congressman announced on twitter that he ate reindeer as part of his
Christmas dinner.

Hakeem?

JEFFRIES: Steve King of Iowa. It`s correct.

Two hundred point tossup. This rapper posted a video on Thursday of
himself fist pumping --

MELVIN: Snoop.

KORNACKI: Snoop with Secretary of State John Kerry at the White
House, 200 points for Craig. That`s correct.

Two hundred point tossup question. The creator and designer of this
firearm which has killed more people than -- David.

FREEDLANDER: Kalashnikov?

KORNACKI: Incorrect. I`ll complete the question, of this firearm,
which has killed more people than any other firearm in the world by this
past Monday -- Craig.

MELVIN: AK-47.

KORNACKI: AK-47 is correct for 200 points. Craig, this is an
instant bonus question. Name that creator and designer of the AK-47.

MELVIN: What did you say? I forgot his name --

FREEDLANDER: I`m not helping.

MELVIN: Karishnekov (ph).

KORNACKI: Say it again. We can`t accept that. It was close.

Two hundred tossup. No penalty there -- 200 point tossup. First
Lady Michelle Obama joined, Craig.

MELVIN: That was stupid.

She turns 50.

KORNACKI: Incorrect. She joined NORAD this week in their annual
effort to track Santa`s sleigh. What does NORAD stand for?

MELVIN: The North --

KORNACKI: You can`t answer it now you ring and were wrong. If the
congressman or David we`ll call time. Correct answer is the North American
Aerospace Defense Command, end of the 200-point round. A little bit of a
madness at the end there.

Congressman Jeffries leads now with 600 points, Craig with 400, David
with 400.

Now, we move to the round where champions are made. This is the 300
point round. We call it the PhD. level. These are our hardest questions.
We have 100 seconds on the clock.

Let`s crown a champion. We start with this. Edward Snowden who made
news this week with his Christmas message to the world said he may consider
moving to this South American.

JEFFRIES: Brazil.

KORNACKI: Brazil is correct, 300 points there.

Speaking on C-Span on Sunday, Louisiana senator David Vitter said
that he thought it was quote pretty obvious that this fellow Republican
would run for president in 2006.

Craig?

MELVIN: Ted Cruz.

KORNACKI: Incorrect.

David?

FREEDLANDER: Bobby Jindal?

KORNACKI: Bobby Jindal is correct. His fellow Louisianan.

It`s 300-point question. In his annual 2014 forecast, forecast for
2014, Karl Rove predicted this week that Republicans will retain control of
the House, the Senate may or may not remain with the Democrats, and that
this AFC power house will win the Super Bowl.

MELVIN: Not the giants.

KORNACKI: Time. He predicted the Seattle Seahawks would win the
Super Bowl.

Three hundred-point question. The much maligned Bowl Championship
series is coming to an end next week. When the college football playoffs
debut this year, committee includes this former secretary of state --
Craig.

MELVIN: Condoleezza Rice.

KORNACKI: Condoleezza Rice will be in charge of deciding
championship matchup. Instant bonus, Craig. After leaving the Bush White
House, rice returned to this school in college football power house where
she previously served as provost.

MELVIN: Stanford.

KORNACKI: Stanford is correct, 300 more points for Craig.

With 24 seconds left in the round. Larry Pressler, a former
Republican U.S. senator who was defeated for re-election in 1996, announced
this week that he is running again this time as an independent in what
state?

Time. It`s South Dakota.

Three-hundred point question, Queen Elizabeth II granted a rare mercy
pardon to Allan Touring, a World War II hero who broke German code and was
convicted of gross indecency and was then chemically castrated he was what?

MELVIN: I don`t want to lose points.

KORNACKI: David?

FREEDLANDER: Gay?

KORNACKI: Gay is correct for 300 points.

That ends the round and the game, David Freedlander from behind with
1,000 points.

Congressman Jeffries is 900, Craig Melvin with 700, the game came
down to that question. A dramatic victory, David. Congratulations.

MELVIN: Huge!

KORNACKI: Bill Wolf will tell you what you have won.

FREEDLANDER: Thank you, Congressman.

ANNOUNCER: As our champion, you`ll have your name printed in
exquisite sharpee on the coveted "Up Against the Clock" gold cup. And you
get to take it home and show it off for the family, friend and sc children
for exactly one week.

You will you also receive an appearance this coming week on MSNBC`s
"THE CYCLE", airing weekdays, 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time. You will get
to play in our bonus round for today`s grand prize of $50 gift certificate
to Rutt`s Hut in Clifton, New Jersey, serving up the best franks in the
greater Meadowlands area. The relish is on us.

Back to you, Steve.

KORNACKI: All right. That hot dog prize looks delicious every week.

David, some unfinished business for that jackpot prize. This is your
jackpot bonus question. Making his first `appearance on "Saturday Night
Live" this past weekend, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg narrowly missed
becoming the first New York mayor not to appear on the show since whom?

FREEDLANDER: David Dinkins.

KORNACKI: I`m sorry. The correct answer is Abraham Bean. You do
not win the bonus. You do win the game. That was the closest, most
suspenseful we`ve had yet.

Congressman Jeffries, the curse of the active member of Congress
lives but you nearly ended it.

Very impressive play by all of you.

David, as our champion, we`ll be seeing you in our tournament of
champions.

With the scores that you guys had, chance you might be back as well.
And you won`t be leaving us empty handed. We have the home edition of "Up
Against the Clock." Although, Congressman, there may be some rules
accepting gifts from us. We can talk about that later. It can be our
little secret.

Anyway, thank you for playing.

What did we know now that we didn`t know last week? Answers, they`re
back at the table, we`ll have the answers. We`ll talk about it all, coming
up after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: All right. We are still recovering from the closest ever
"Up Against the Clock." That was a very dramatic ending, David. It almost
didn`t ring in there. You had the game winner with that. But anyway, it
is time to find out what our guests and former contestants know now that
they didn`t know when the week began.

And, Craig, we`re going to start with you.

MELVIN: You know what? I`ll tell you one thing I did find out this
week is that I am much like I found out when I took the SAT. I`m not
nearly as smart as I thought I was.

KORNACKI: You did well.

MELVIUN: No, and I want to apologize. I`m kidding.

I learned this week not to end on a sour note, but my grandmother
died last week. Her funeral was on Sunday and I learned a great deal about
her.

She was -- she died at 76. Steve Kornacki, she never made more than
$25,000 a year. She was a custodian and she was the kind of woman that
every holiday, every Sunday, her wisdom, something that my family, you
know, we just couldn`t get enough of. She left this world too soon but it
was great over the past week, week and a half hearing all of the stories
about my grandma. I learned a lot about her.

KORNACKI: It`s definitely a terrible thing, but getting a chance to
spend that with your family and reminisce is the best part of that --
Congressman.

JEFFRIES: Well, a Las Vegas cabdriver selflessly returned $300,000
that was found in his cab. That was contained in a bag of cash and it just
reconfirms sort of the power of, you know, human decency and compassion,
and the fact he`s been rewarded with an outpouring of support not just by
his company but by Americans, you know, all across the country has been a
wonderful thing. And reconfirmation during this holiday season of the
spirit of America.

KORNACKI: Yes, I know, he definitely did the right thing. I just
wonder what I would have done in that situation.

David?

FREEDLANDER: I wish I had something quite as meaningful, it seemed
like.

I learned I think this week how little there is to learn. This is a
week in which almost no news happened, a week off from the daily churn.
You realize how much you miss the daily churn opening up an empty newspaper
and empty Twitter feed. I`m anxious to --

KORNACKI: You mastered the churn.

FREEDLANDER: Well, I was going to say --

KORNACKI: Can I say we learn the same lesson trying to come up with
30 game show questions in the slowest news week of the year. But there`s
always something. Someone`s always going to eat reindeer and tweet about
it. So, you know, we`ve got that.

Thanks to our guests today, MSNBC`s Craig Melvin, Congressman Hakeem
Jeffries and David Freedlander, we thank you for getting UP.

Thanks to you at home for joining us today. Join us tomorrow, Sunday
morning at 8:00, when we discuss gay marriage arriving in red state
America.

Is this another domino in what has been a watershed year? You won`t
want to miss UP tomorrow. And stick around right now, because up next is
"MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY".

On today`s "MHP" -- how 2013 proved an essential year for the ongoing
struggle and the quest for civil rights. Could the Supreme Court be
pressured to weigh in now and decide if once and for all, every American
will be treated equally under the law?

That, plus, reefer gladness set to begin in Colorado. Stick around
for Melissa. That is next. And we will see you right here tomorrow at
8:00.

Thanks for getting UP.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
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