Guest: Phil Hare, Madeleine Albright, Kent Jones, Mike Viquiera
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thank you for staying with us at home for the next hour.
We have been watching the Senate for about a week now—and why stop now, frankly? There is a deal on the stimulus, reportedly. For better or for worse, we will have lots to say about that this hour. We‘ll be going live to Capitol Hill in just a moment.
There‘s another big ideological and economic fight on the near horizon after this one for the Democrats and President Obama and the GOP. It is a fight about unions. Congressman Phil Hare of Illinois will join us from the House Democratic retreat to talk about that.
And scary, scary A.Q. Khan, who was sharing Pakistan‘s nuclear secrets with charming places like Iran and North Korea and Libya. He‘s a free man tonight. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will be here to explain how much to freak out about that.
But first, we‘ve got some breaking news tonight on U.S. Senate stimulus vote watch. You are looking at a live picture of the U.S. Senate floor where debate on the president‘s stimulus plan continues. We can report that there is a deal. The $780 billion deal came after a day of high stakes, backroom negotiations. According to Senator John Kerry the package has ended up being about 58 percent spending programs and 42 percent tax cuts—which is just almost exactly the ratio of Democrats to Republicans in the Senate.
The compromise was reportedly reached after about $157 billion worth of stimulus spending and tax cuts were stripped from the original version of the bill. Democrats struck this deal with support from at least two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Some Republicans are saying there were three GOP votes for the bill, but those are the two we can say right now.
Just moments ago, Republican Senator John McCain took to the floor of the Senate to complain that the minority Republicans did not get enough of what they want and they shouldn‘t be seen as supporting this bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, ® ARIZONA: There are 40 Republican senators
here. We now have two—count them—two who have decided behind closed
doors without consultation with the other 38 to come to an agreement which
you can call it a lot of things, but bipartisan isn‘t one of them. I‘ve been involved in a lot of bipartisan legislation around here, Mr. President, but I guarantee you, this is not bipartisan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This is, of course, after the House Republicans voted down that House‘s version of the stimulus bill unanimously. Yes. I think that bipartisan is not a way that you would describe how this whole recovery stimulus plan thing has worked out.
A vote on the bill is not necessarily expected tonight in the Senate. It‘s more likely expected to be on Sunday. But we, of course, will be monitoring the Senate floor throughout this hour in case of any further developments.
Joining us now is MSNBC congressional correspondent, Mike Viqueira, who has been covering this debate all day.
Mike, thanks for joining us.
MIKE VIQUEIRA, MSNBC CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, what is happening in the Senate right now? Are they definitely not going to vote tonight?
VIQUEIRA: It appears they are not. It appears that Republicans are going to exercise their prerogative to deny what we call “unanimous consent” in the Senate and it‘s going to require a clock to start on a filibuster, and that clock probably won‘t run out until Monday, we‘ve just learned from Harry Reid the Democratic leader. But they are confident—are Harry Reid, Susan Collins the moderate Republican fresh off her re-election bid, Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania who faces his own challenge at the polls in 2010, Joe Lieberman. This was the group that came forward, this core group, and announced that this bill now down from $920 billion to a mere $780 billion and all of it, all of that reduction on the spending side and that apparently was what was required to get the 60 votes necessary to keep this train moving.
And, Rachel, let‘s not let people get too confused about this—because there is a deal tonight on the stimulus, yes. But there are deals yet to come. The House, of course, passed its version. That is a different version than what the Senate appears poised to pass early next week. They‘re going to have to get together and reconcile those two versions and then we‘ll be running breaking news banners about the deal at that point as well.
They‘re going to have to keep moving quickly. This is lightning speed for your United States Congress to get this done by Washington‘s birthday, Presidents Day on February 16th. That is their self-imposed deadline and they have the added motivation, that‘s the beginning of their recess and that generally gets them moving pretty quickly, but a lot of behind-the-scenes negotiations, Rachel.
And one of the things we‘re going to have to look at here is—were these cuts so dramatic as to alienate a lot of Democrats on the left in the House? Nancy Pelosi today is telling reporters that in terms of some of the education cuts that she understood were on the table does violence to the future and that she had made that very clear to Harry Reid and the president. So, she might be in a difficult position in her caucus and they might be in a position on the House side when this finally does come to a deal between the House and Senate of trying to look for Republicans over there as well.
So, a lot of pushing and shoving yet to happen here, but the train is still on the tracks. That‘s the official reaction incidentally from the White House this evening, Rachel.
MADDOW: Mike, when we look at the next step on what‘s going to happen here—is there a way to determine exactly what is going to be voted on when the Senate finally does vote on this, when this filibuster clock runs out or is it possible there will still be changes between now and then?
VIQUEIRA: Well, I think it‘s clear that the hair cut, the so-called “hair cut” that was given tonight by this ad hoc, this rump group of senators both Republicans and Democrats, is going to have to largely stay in there because they are operating on razor thin majority here. Remember, 60 of 100 needed to pass just about anything in the Senate, and this is what was acquired after a week of torturous negotiation between this group behind closed doors.
You‘re right. They say they have three, we only know of two at this point—Arlen Specter and Susan Collins. Perhaps Olympia Snowe might be the third, the fellow Republican of Maine of Susan Collins. We know that Mel Martinez, who is retiring from the Senate, not standing for re-election, he took a walk and he was part of all of these negotiations, took a walk at the last minute as did George Voinovich of Ohio, himself retiring as well.
So, they‘re down to just three Republicans that are going to need everyone, and now, there is talk of a dramatic, yet another dramatic appearance for Ted Kennedy in the Senate when that 60-vote majority is required perhaps on Monday, Rachel.
MADDOW: Doesn‘t it seem remarkable that in a bill that is made up of 42 percent tax cuts at this point, if John Kerry is to be believed, we‘re talking about two, maybe three Republicans? I mean—and John McCain is mad about them. It does seem sort of remarkable given the distance that this bill has come in order to receive Republican support, doesn‘t it?
VIQUEIRA: It‘s perfect symmetry. I hadn‘t thought of that until you pointed that out. You know, the point I‘ve been trying to make throughout the course of the week, Rachel, is that—for all this talk of bipartisanship, it‘s one thing to say it; it‘s another thing to be confronted with it, with the partisanship that is embedded in the culture of Washington. And I know that‘s a fashionable thing to say, but I‘m talking a culture that has been generations in the making, perhaps even centuries in the making.
And when the House Democrats came under criticism for writing this bill behind closed doors, which they pretty much did and then sent it out to the committees to go through a process that was very, relatively brief, they came under a lot of criticism. And what people don‘t realize is that the opposition‘s job in Congress whether it‘s Democrats or Republicans, if you let them in the room, their job is to blow the place up—especially in the House of Representatives.
And when you move over to the Senate, which has been largely mirroring what the House has been doing over the last several years, today is really the first time in quite sometime where we see these moderates, who have been taken for granted for years, really step up and become power brokers in this debate—a very interesting development in the Senate this evening. I‘m wondering what it all—how it goes in the House.
We saw President Obama, of course, go down to Williamsburg last night—I was there myself—speak to House Democrats, go back to the tried and true and give them some red meat, because Democrats were extremely frustrated and they were very welcoming with President Obama did last night, Rachel.
MADDOW: MSNBC congressional correspondent, Mike Viqueira—thank you for following this, and thanks for your time tonight, Mike. Have a great weekend.
VIQUEIRA: Certainly. All right, Rachel. Great to talk to you.
MADDOW: Joining us now is Joan Walsh, who is the editor-in-chief of Salon.com.
Joan, thank you so much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: We just heard Mike Viqueira tell us that the opposition‘s goal is to blow the place up. Do you feel like that is the political dynamic in this fight over the stimulus?
WALSH: You know, really, it really seems to be. I really don‘t know how you can have a bipartisan bill that does not result in the end result that we need which is change for the economy. I mean, I feel like Obama is learning some important lessons here about what it‘s going to take to make change and he started from the premise that he wanted to reach out.
I think it‘s ridiculous to say that there was no consultation. This bill was full of tax cuts from the get-go. They started out on their heels saying we‘re going to give you tax cuts because that‘s what you want, even though most economists agree tax cuts are really not going to get the economy going again. We need to put money in the hands of people who will spend it, and that does tend to mean the working-class and low-income people who need to spend, and we need to make the government, the employer in many situations.
There were premises you could lay out that made a difference, and I think he failed to lay out those broad themes. He failed to really sell it. And he‘s making up for lost time now. I was thrilled to hear his speech last night but he should have given it a couple of weeks ago.
MADDOW: Well, we are still in the middle of this process in essence.
WALSH: We are.
MADDOW: We‘re going to have a debate in the—further debate in the Senate. We‘re going to have voting in the Senate, we‘re then going to have more backroom negotiations. We‘re going to have this conference committee process, which is pretty opaque to the rest of us who aren‘t in Washington.
MADDOW: A lot is still to happen. I think we‘ll still get more bully pulpit action from President Obama. But, Joan, as this moves forward, do you think that all of these compromises that were made to attract Republican support, 42 percent of this bill is tax cuts. Should those be taken off the table if the Republicans aren‘t going to support it anyway? They sort of can almost force this through.
WALSH: They almost can. I mean, you know, we could sit here for the whole hour and talk about this crazy filibuster rule and the way the Democrats have agreed to let themselves be tied up by the need for 60 votes. They could just say—get out there and filibuster, and do, you know, do it the old fashioned way. Force them to get out, force the Republicans to get out and make speeches, and try to block the bill that way.
Instead, they‘ve agreed to these ground rules that really tie their hands—and, you know, Obama was elected, Democrats were elected to change. There was a mandate for change. There was a mandate for doing more than giving tax cuts to wealthy people. There was a mandate to really examine the fundamental premises of our economy that have brought us to this state. And he‘s got to get out there and do it.
So, I do—I do worry about it, Rachel. I also think this idea that they‘re compromising on the size of it. I don‘t know any economists out there saying, “This needs to be smaller.” I know economists saying, “This needs to be bigger.”
They have one chance to do it right. So they‘re cutting? There‘s no—the only reason to cut is political. You can argue about what it should do, that‘s one issue. But to simply—but to cut is crazy-making. It‘s craziness and it‘s strictly political. It‘s not about economics. And it‘s not about what‘s good for our country.
MADDOW: It‘s making the policy worse because the politics demand it which probably .
MADDOW: . probably means that the politics should change.
MADDOW: Joan Walsh, editor-in-chief of Salon.com—thank you so much for joining us. Joan, it‘s great to see you.
WALSH: Thanks for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Coming up next: More on the stimulus. Emphasis on the term “more on.” Some parts of the debate, I think, are totally bullpuckey. Honestly. I‘m just going to explain what I think is wrong with this debate thus far. I hope you will indulge me.
Plus, Hilda Solis‘ confirmation as labor secretary is being held up by Republicans because her husband supposedly has a tax problem that‘s resolved and wasn‘t very big. This is another dose of those “Obama‘s people are tax cheats” hyperventilating from the GOP that we have endured for a week now.
But I will tell you, I do not think it is about the husband‘s tax lien. The Hilda Solis fight is an opening shot in the coming war about unions that could decide whether or not we have a middle-class in the future in this country. It‘s going to be a very ugly fight. We will have more on that ahead.
MADDOW: Tonight: There is a new figurative and literal symbol of the Republican Party trying to reinvent itself in exile.
MADDOW: Dick Cheney, code named “Angler” by the Secret Service, was reportedly meant to be the guest of honor next month at the annual dinner hosted by the American Museum of Fly Fishing. There is just one tiny, teenie, teenie, tiny, little problem with this plan, and that is that the museum is in Vermont. In Vermont, Dick Cheney is a wanted man.
In the city town of Brattleboro and the town of Marlboro, Vermont, which is only about 50 miles from the museum, voters last year passed resolutions calling on their local municipal attorneys to draw up indictments against Mr. Cheney and George W. Bush for violating the Constitution. You know, sort of a felony.
The police in those towns are authorized to arrest Mr. Cheney on sight, which means that the former vice president of the United States is not only risking arrest for war crimes if he ever sets foot outside this country again, he can‘t even go to Vermont now. Maybe the fly-fishing people can just mail him a certificate or something?
MADDOW: Tonight‘s breakthrough stimulus bill compromise came at the very end of a very dramatic day of legislative stimulus wrangling, including the drama of the expected return to the Senate of its ailing liberal lion, Ted Kennedy, fighting to survive brain cancer. He is said to be traveling back to Capitol Hill to cast his ballot.
Today‘s drama on Capitol Hill started with drama of the worst kind in economic indicators. Unemployment claims for January were 598,000. That‘s the largest one-month job loss in 35 years. You file that under reality, sobering or don‘t. Actually, don‘t. If you would rather make political hay than try to fix this problem, don‘t admit to the sobering reality of just how urgent this crisis is. If instead of coming up with the most effective way to solve it, you‘d like to use it to get your “What would Ronald Reagan do” ideological dance card punch for political purposes at the expense of your country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JIM DEMINT, ® SOUTH CAROLINA: And try to rush this through this week, and Harry Reid has said, “You guys aren‘t going home until we pass it this week.” The biggest bill in history they want to do it in one week.
SEN. TOM COBURN, ® OKLAHOMA: And now we‘re told by the majority leader we need to hurry up? Hurry up is what‘s got us in this trouble.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, ® SOUTH CAROLINA: We need to slow down, take a time-out, and get it right.
SEN. ROGER WICKER, ® MISSISSIPPI: Delay is preferable to error.
Let‘s not rush into doing this the wrong way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: No rushing. No need to hurry. Slow down.
You know, I hate to be the one to call bullpuckey here, but bullpuckey. We‘re in this economic crisis because people aren‘t buying enough stuff. There‘s supply but there‘s no demand. People aren‘t buying.
Every job that gets lost, every day a job is lost, means that someone‘s got even less money to buy stuff, which means that less stuff gets bought, which is worse for business, which begets more unemployment. This is something that snowballs. The timing does matter. There is urgency.
There is actually, literally, scientifically, economically, a big need to hurry. It‘s not a matter of perception. It‘s the truth.
And while we‘re calling bullpuckey here as we consider exactly why this stimulus bill had to be watered down to a 58-to-42 spending to tax cut compromise that compromises the likelihood of the rescue doing any good—consider the argument by the side that demanded the watering down. Arguments that frankly would get you flunked out of Econ 101 and that should get you heckled by people who are losing their jobs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DAVID VITTER, ® LOUISIANA: This so-called stimulus bill is really just a long laundry list of Washington, big government spending programs. Not anything focused or disciplined that will really create jobs in the short term in this economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Again, I‘m sorry to be the one to say here but—bullpuckey. Republicans may not like it, but the way to create jobs fast is through spending. The point of the spending is to save jobs by spending money, by buying stuff—which is the thing that isn‘t happening in the economy right now. How many times does this have to be said?
In some cases, the way to create jobs and to save jobs is to directly provide them—jobs doing stuff like repairing roads and building schools and fixing bridges. Literally giving money to people who will spend it in the economy that needs people to be spending money in it—that is stimulus. Government spending programs—that is actually what economic stimulus is, technically.
Could I get a little help here? Mr. President?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Then you get the argument, “Well, this is not a stimulus bill, this is a spending bill.” What do you think a stimulus is?
OBAMA: That‘s the whole point.
OBAMA: No, seriously. That‘s the point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That‘s the point.
Now, the Republican response to President Obama—came in part from the one senator whose economic ideas were really embarrassingly, thoroughly, directly rejected this past November.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCAIN: The whole point, Mr. President, is to enact tax cuts and spending measures that truly stimulate the economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ah—bullpuckey. Bullpuckey. I‘m sorry.
Any time somebody says tax cuts when they‘re talking about stimulus, they ought to be laughed at. Not because you‘re mean and you laugh at people who are dumb, but because it‘s dumb. Despite that economically inconvenient truth, that tax cuts are way less stimulative than just spending, Republicans have just been running with it anyway.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN THUNE, ® SOUTH DAKOTA: What my amendment essentially would do is say that that $936 billion ought to be divided evenly among people who file income tax returns in this country. There are 182 million filers, all of whom could have a significant tax cut if you took a $936 billion price tag and divided it up among those 182 million filers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: But what would it be for? We‘re actually talking about an economic stimulus package, not $936 billion worth of tax rebates which, frankly, is a neat idea, but it‘s not a stimulus. This is bullpuckey.
According to Moodys.com, every dollar spent on nonrefundable tax rebates generates about $1.02 of economic activity. Every dollar spent on, say, infrastructure, which Senator Thune would like to gut, creates $1.59 in economic activity. Why would we waste 57 cents on the dollar? Why would we waste our money on tax rebates when actual spending works better?
A stimulus bill like the one we have ended up with, as of now, which is 42 percent tax cuts, gets the American people 42 percent punk. It is a waste. At a time we can‘t really afford to waste and we can‘t afford to dither, we need economic stimulus which frankly—I‘m sorry to say—is spending.
Another idea being offered up by a conservative but bipartisan group of senators—was reportedly to attract Republican support for this measure by cutting funding for food stamps. What is the single most productive stimulus that we know of? Food stamps. Every dollar spent on food stamps puts a buck 73 back in to the economy. We don‘t know of anything that is more stimulative than that.
Giving people who have very limited income extra money is like stimulus on steroids. The money will be spent, almost every dime of it. And that‘s the point. Cutting food stamps funding to attract Republican support is proof positive that the Republicans are not trying to come up with an effective stimulus here.
If your house is on fire and you call the fire department, and your fire department tells you to pour gasoline on the flames, they‘re not actually making a good faith effort to help you put out the fire. They‘re not a good fire department. If you‘re working up policy to fix an economic crisis characterized by they‘re being no spending in the economy, and someone in that debate says, “OK but cut the spending out of the rescue plan,” they‘re bad at making policy.
And you know what? It matters when you‘re wrong. A whopping proportion of the Republican rhetoric about stimulus is wrong. It‘s wrong. It‘s total, economic bullpuckey. It‘s just wrong.
The time is now to take the radical step as Americans, as civic-minded Americans concerned about our future. It‘s time to take the radical step of privileging correct information over incorrect information. The stakes are too high to let the bullpuckey survive in this debate.
If you are wrong from here on out, you should lose the argument, and you should lose your political potency. Form a flatterers club or something—where you talk enthusiastically to each other about your made-up economic ideas that aren‘t based in reality, but get out of the way of the people who are actually trying to save the country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NADYA SULEMAN, OCTUPLET‘S MOTHER: I feel as though I‘ve been under the microscope because I‘ve chosen this unconventional kind of life. And I didn‘t intend on it being unconventional. It just turned out to be. All I wanted was children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A little later on in the show, my friend Kent Jones will attempt to explain to me why everybody is talking about that person and her many children.
First, though, it‘s time for a couple of holy mackerel stories in today‘s news. You know, there is substantive criticism of the stimulus bill. There is 100 percent pure bullpuckey criticism of the stimulus bill and then there is the criticism of the stimulus bill that is insane.
You know how TV preacher Pat Robertson has a broadcast network called CBN. He also has a, quote, “university,” Regent University. That‘s where Bush found the geniuses to staff the Justice Department. Pat Robertson also sells an age-defying protein shake which he says gives him the strength to leg press 2,000 age-defying pounds.
In addition to all that, Pat Robertson also has a law office, a right-wing legal organization that has decided to apply its big Pat Robertson-affiliated brains to the stimulus bill. The American Center for Law and Justice is sounding the alarm that the stimulus bill will ban Bible study. It will ban prayer groups. It will forbid students from doing anything even vaguely religious at any school.
The source of their freak-out is language in the stimulus bill that has been in school funding bills for 46 years. It‘s language that says federal money shouldn‘t be used on buildings used primarily for religion - buildings like, say, churches. That language has been in school-funding bills since 1963 at least.
But this year, this year Pat Robertson‘s legal eagles decided that language means that Barack Obama is attacking religion. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina took to the Senate floor this week to sound off on what Pat Robertson‘s lawyers said he should be upset about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JIM DEMINT (R-SC): Students can‘t meet together in their dorms if that dorm has been repaired with this federal money and have a prayer group or a Bible study. Someone is so hostile to religion that they‘re willing to stand in the school house door like the infamous George Wallace to deny people of faith from entering any campus building renovated by this bill. This cannot stand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This cannot stand. Actually, Senator, this has been standing this way for 46 years and you are making a complete fool of yourself. The funding bill says, for example, in addition to the religion stuff you‘re upset about, it also says you can‘t use this money to renovate, say, your sports stadium.
And that doesn‘t mean George Obama Wallace is standing in the schoolhouse door banning football players from entering into campus buildings. There is no anti-Christian discrimination in this stimulus bill. You need to take it all back. Nice try, though.
Finally, on Wednesday night‘s show, Rep. Barbara Lee of California, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, voiced her opposition to Barack Obama‘s nomination of Sen. Judd Gregg as Commerce Secretary. One of Rep. Lee‘s biggest concerns, Gregg‘s record on the census, which has major funding and policy implications for cities and states across the country and it‘s something that minority groups in particular want to make sure is done right.
The reason Congresswoman Lee is concerned is because the census reports to the Commerce Department and would-be Commerce Secretary Judd Gregg fought against efforts by the Clinton administration to boost funding for the census.
The big follow-up to the story is that yesterday, it was reported that the White House is going to take the census out of the Commerce Department, and by extension, away from no-friend-to-the-census, Judd Gregg. The Census Bureau will reportedly now report directly to the White House.
I‘m not saying that our discussion here had anything to do with this, of course, but I was wearing my lucky socks on Wednesday night. I‘m just saying.
MADDOW: The proverbial blood still staining the floor from the Senate fight over the stimulus? You want to know what the next fight is going to be after this? It‘s Republican opposition to Labor Secretary nominee Hilda Solis of California.
At first glance, this sort of looks like a typical nominee fight, a typical speed up, slow down personnel fight. But don‘t be fooled. This is the start of an ideological battle royale where the parties are going to try to prove the reasons they ought to exist.
Mrs. Solis‘s confirmation vote was delayed this week ostensibly because her husband only recently paid off $6,400 of unpaid tax liens on his business, liens that dated back 15 years. Not an ideal situation for a cabinet nominee obviously, it‘s true.
Another Democrat with a tax issue. What‘s with the vetting? What‘s Obama doing? But is this really the holdup on Hilda Solis, a repaid tax lien on her husband‘s business? Consider the fact that Republicans have been holding up Mrs. Solis‘s confirmation since December when no one knew about the old spousal tax lien.
The Solis nomination fight is the first act in what is probably going to be the biggest, most ideologically polarized policy fight we will see this year including stimulus, including health care.
This big fight is going to be about EFCA. EFCA? I know, lamest acronym ever. But I‘m telling you, hugest fight ever. EFCA - the Employee Free Choice Act - is a bill that would make it easier essentially to form unions. Workers would get a choice of whether to have an election like they have now, or an easier system by which a majority of workers just has to send in cards saying they want to unionize.
Sounds like a little change really, not that big of deal. But the forced election thing now has the effect of stopping a ton of unionization drives so this little change would probably mean a lot more Americans who wanted to join unions would actually get a union. More unions, more unions. Nothing freaks out Republicans like the idea of more unions.
Hilda Solis, a labor advocate, gives Republicans an opportunity to draw an early line in a fight they will do anything to win. And if you think that is TV liberal hyperbole, well, think back to the auto bailout fight. You will recall that the Republicans insisted that the government unilaterally reduce wages of big three auto workers to bring them down to the nonunion wages paid by foreign owned plants in the U.S.
Republicans insisted on a pay cut for blue collar labor to try to break the unions. Republicans are fighting Solis to gear up for fighting unions. Unions are definitely ready to fight them back.
How about the Democrats though? Where are they in this fight?
Joining us now is Congressman Phil Hare, Democrat of Illinois. He‘s on the House Committee on Education and Labor. Congressman Hare, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
CONGRESSMAN PHIL HARE (D-IL), MEMBER, HOUSE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND
LABOR: Thank you for having me, Rachel. It‘s great to be here.
MADDOW: Why do you think that Republicans are holding up the Hilda Solis nomination for Labor Secretary?
HARE: Well, I think it‘s really - as you said, I think it‘s a lot about EFCA. It‘s labor‘s single biggest piece of legislation that‘s coming up. We‘re going to be considering it in the House Education and Labor Committee fairly soon. This is a good, decent woman.
And, you know, there are other things besides EFCA. You know, we‘ve had three mine disasters since I‘ve been elected two years ago. We have OSHA that‘s basically - doesn‘t do anything. And you know, I think that they‘re drawing the line in the sand as you said and I think we have to push back on this.
Hilda Solis is a wonderful person. She is smart. She‘s energetic.
She knows what she‘s doing. And she‘ll make a great Secretary of Labor.
So I think this has everything to do with the push back coming from EFCA. And heaven forbid we would let workers, you know, sign a petition to join the union.
And by the way, in this bill, the opposition always says, “Well, you have to have the secret ballot.” If the workers want a secret ballot under this piece of legislation, they can have it. So their argument just doesn‘t stand. But, you know, it‘s, I think, the typical way they‘ve been doing business here.
MADDOW: I just want to reiterate that point because it‘s so important. The fight about EFCA already, even before it‘s got into a legislative stage, is already very skewed. I mean, EFCA - what it would do would be to give workers the choice of whether they wanted the secret ballot election like they have now or whether they wanted to do card check, right? It leaves it in the hands of the workers.
HARE: Absolutely. And currently, when I go back to my district I talk about - this is a fairness issue. Currently, if the workers who are unionized don‘t want to be represented anymore, they sign a petition of 50 percent plus one, they present the petition to the manager of the plant and the union is, for all intents and purposes, decertified. They don‘t have to negotiate with them.
But heaven forbid that we would to allow workers to join unions using the very same thing. And again, as I said, this is exactly - this argument about the sacred secret ballot. Rachel, we had people come into our committee and testify that the people who, when they were going in to vote in their secret ballot elections, they were identified as union supporters.
When they were walking down the hallways, the lights mysteriously went out for an hour to hold up the election. So, look, this is serious business here and these folks understand. But at the end of the day, I believe we‘re going to pass it from the House with a substantial number of votes.
I believe that we‘re going to get it out of the Senate. I believe it‘s going to become the law of the land. And I believe it will raise the middle class up. More importantly, to hold a good, decent person like Hilda Solis up on what is just absolute nonsense, from my perspective - you know, we‘ve got a lot of work to do. We have to keep workers safe. We have to have OSHA.
These last eight years, by the way, we‘ve had one OSHA standard and that was we had to sue the president of the United States even to get that. And by the way, the former Secretary of Labor, as you mentioned - I was on that committee for two years - I saw her two times. One in a car with Mitch McConnell, her husband when he was running for election in Kentucky. And the other was the day Barack Obama was inaugurated as president of the United States. This is not an activist Secretary of Labor we had here either.
MADDOW: Do you think this is the issue on which Republicans are going to sort of try to define their reason for existing, that unionization is going to be the issue around which they coalesce and really fight to the end?
HARE: Absolutely. They‘re dug in. And we‘re dug in, too. This is going to be a battle. But look, you know, we Democrats believe in the simple matter of being fair. If people can decertify with a petition, they can join the union with a petition. That‘s all we‘re asking for.
And when we do, you know, we only have 12 percent of the country now that is currently organized. We could do much better. And, you know, when you hear about this, if you look at the polls, most people - well over 60 percent of the people will say they would join the union if they were given the opportunity.
So give them the opportunity. I mean, that‘s all we‘re asking for in the bill. If they want the secret ballot, they‘re more than welcome to have the ballot.
MADDOW: Representative Phil Hare, Democrat of Illinois, thank you, Sir.
It‘s a pleasure to have your insight on this.
HARE: You‘re welcome, Rachel.
MADDOW: Enjoy your weekend.
HARE: Nice to be here. Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Thank you. Remember there was that one nuclear scientist guy in Pakistan who sold nukes to Libya and Iran and North Korea? That guy? The guy who sold all those nukes? He was set free today.
Guess that‘s another few weeks without sleep for me. We will be joined in just a moment by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright.
MADDOW: I don‘t mean to brag, but I sort of think we have a pretty good Web site for this show. It‘s Rachel.MSNBC.com. You can find ring tones there of things that I‘ve said on the show which sound funny taken out of context. You can see things created by other people who watch this show.
And there‘s you know the usual Web site vanity stuff. There‘s a very well-photoshopped picture of me, for example, that doesn‘t show the big bags under my eyes that I have in real life.
However embarrassed I am about the vanity of posting stuff like this on a Web site about myself and this show, that embarrassment was deeply, deeply undercut today when I finally went to the personal Web site of a guy named A.Q. Khan.
His bio on his own Web site says, quote, “It is rare that a person in a single lifetime accomplishes so much. This is done only by men who are endowed with special abilities by God.” It says, “So numerous are his activities that every segment of society has praised him in different forms.”
Wow. You know, I hate to rain on the ego parade here, but in addition to all that praise from every segment of society that Mr. Khan enjoys in his own enormous head, he is also known internationally as the guy who gave Kim Jong Il the bomb. He is Mr. End of the World. He‘s Mr. Nuclear Jihad.
A.Q. Khan is the scientist who led Pakistan‘s own effort to build nuclear weapons. He confessed five years ago that after developing nuclear weapons for Pakistan, he sold the technology to Libya and Iran and North Korea.
So in other words, you remember that whole “smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud” thing?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE BUSH, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of mushroom cloud.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If the smoking-gun, mushroom-cloud threat ever turns out to be true, you will not have Saddam to thank. It will probably be this guy. This self-aggrandizing, criminal dirt-bag, fanatic annihilist, jive turkey, nuclear profiteer, end-of-the-world guy who is, by the way, a national hero in Pakistan.
The guy who gave Kim Jong Il the bomb for his own personal profit is a national hero. After Khan confessed in 2004, Pakistan pardoned him. There was this kind of loose sense that he was under house arrest, but it was at this really plush villa and he still went out to restaurants and wrote newspaper articles and stuff.
But even that farce ended today when a special, not-that-independent court set up by the Pakistani government sprung him. A.Q. Khan is a free man now, free presumably to tell Iran how to build a nuclear weapon small enough to fit on one of its Shahab-3 missiles.
All the nightmares about scary people smuggling nukes are worse nightmares of who might get the bomb, who could get nuclear technology. A.Q. Khan is the guy who has made those nightmares the closest to reality.
And in some cases, reality.
Pakistan has never let the CIA or anybody else question him. And today, our great ally Pakistan - they just set him free. And he‘s presumably still willing and able to sell the end of the world to the highest bidder. I know it‘s Friday night and everything. But does anybody else besides me lie awake at night worrying about these things?
And is the Obama administration going to be any better at dealing with threats like this that the last guys were, please?
Joining us now is former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Her latest book is called, “Memo to the President-Elect: How We Can Restore America‘s Reputation and Leadership.” Secretary Albright, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: Great to be with you, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: I know not everyone freaks out about nuclear terrorism as frequently as I do. But I would love to hear whether you think that we are, right now, diplomatically up to the task of stopping threats like this, especially given the situation in a country like Pakistan?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think we are always all concerned about nuclear terrorism. But I have to say, in the book that you kindly referred to, I talk about Pakistan. I actually think Pakistan has everything to give you an international migraine. It has terrorism. It has nuclear weapon, extremism, poverty, corruption. It is in a very difficult place, a weak government, and now this.
So I agree with you that I think that this is a very peculiar decision and quite worrying. I speak only for myself, Rachel, but I really do think that some explanation of this would be very useful.
And I do believe that we have to have a very productive relationship with Pakistan. But this just adds to my headache about Pakistan.
MADDOW: I want to ask you one question about Russia, Secretary Albright. A CIA officer who was already in prison espionage was indicted again last month for selling information to Russia, even though he was in prison. He was using his son, apparently, as a go-between.
Then this week, Kyrgyzstan said they are kicking us out of a base that we are using there to supply our troops in Afghanistan. And it sort of looks like Russia kind of put them up to that.
If Russia is poking around with our operations in Afghanistan, if they‘re still paying our spies, do you ever get the sense that the Cold War didn‘t really end on the Russian side?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I do think the Cold War ended, but it does not mean that we have a totally friendly relationship with Russia. They are a major country. They have their interests. I happen to disagree with the way that they are going about this because they see expansion of NATO as a threat when we made very clear that the new NATO had nothing to do with pushing them around.
But President Medvedev gave a number of speeches, and one the day after President Obama was elected basically talking about a special privileged space around Russia. And I think I‘m worried about what just happened in Kyrgyzstan and talks about creating a rapid response force in the former Soviet Republics, the Stans.
And I think there‘s going to be some pretty tough negotiations with Russia. What is important, Rachel, is that we need to redo some of the arms-control agreements that, in fact, expire at the end of the year and try to get some cooperation from them in terms of dealing with the nuclear nonproliferation issue.
We started with A.Q. Khan. Ultimately, the only way to get control over nuclear weapons is to deal with the Russians and to develop some partnership. So I think we‘ve got to be pretty realistic, push back on them where we have to and try to find areas where we have to cooperate. And nuclear proliferation is certainly a major one.
MADDOW: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, thank you so much for coming on to the show tonight. It‘s nice to see you.
ALBRIGHT: Good to see you, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: Coming up on “COUNTDOWN”, the nominee for CIA chief Leon Panetta says waterboarding is torture but that he‘s not going to prosecute people who did it. Keith asks Jonathan Turley, why not?
And next on this show, I get just enough pop culture from my friend, Kent Jones. Because apparently, everyone is talking about this person and her octopus or octuped or something.
MADDOW: Now it‘s time for “Just Enough” with my friend Kent Jones who force-feeds me just enough pop culture so I can be allowed out in public. Hi, Kent. What have you got?
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Good evening, Rachel. Because I know you occasionally miss the tiny little stories in the back of the paper. Everyone is talking about Nadya Suleman, the 33-year-old single mom who gave birth to eight children last week and has six more children at home. She gave her first and only TV interview to NBC‘s Ann Curry this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANN CURRY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: People feel, you know, this woman is being
completely irresponsible and selfish to bring these children in the world
NADYA SULEMAN, MOTHER OF OCTUPLETS: All I have to say is -
CURRY: ... without a clear source of income and enough help to raise them.
SULEMAN: I know I‘ll be able to afford them when I‘m done with my schooling. If I were sitting down, watching TV and not being as determined as I am to succeed and have a better - provide a better future for my children, I believe that would be considered, to a certain degree, selfish.
CURRY: So the world outside is saying, “What are you doing?”
SULEMAN: I‘m providing myself to my children. I‘m loving them unconditionally, accepting them unconditionally - everything I do. I‘ll stop my life for them and be present for them and hold them and be with them. And how many parents do that?
I‘m sure there are many that do and many don‘t. And that‘s unfortunate and that is selfish. I feel as though I‘ve been under the microscope because I‘ve chosen this unconventional kind of life. You know, I didn‘t intend on it being unconventional. It‘s just how it turned out to be. All I wanted was children, I wanted to be a mom. That‘s all I ever wanted in my life. I love my children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: Oh, yes. And Rachel, in case that wasn‘t just enough for you, more of that interview airs on the “Today” show on Monday morning and on “Dateline” on Tuesday. Find out what her other six kids think about the new octuplets. I‘m going to look for that.
MADDOW: Thank you, Kent. And thank you for being the one to tell me about this so I did not find out about it on my own. It would have been too distressing.
Thank you also for watching tonight. We will see you back here on Monday night. I‘ve got to tell you though on Sunday night, there is, on MSNBC, a special presentation. Twelve years ago, NBC documented the birth of three babies who were born in Newark, New Jersey. All three had fathers who vowed to be there for their kids.
Now, MSNBC catches up with those kids - they‘re all 12-year-olds now - to see whether the promises were kept. It‘s called “A Father‘s Promise.” It premieres at 8:00 Eastern this Sunday here on MSNBC.
I‘m telling you about this now because two friends of this show, Melissa Harris Lacewell and Cory Booker, my friend who is the mayor of Newark, they are featured in this special and it is totally worth checking out. So we recommend.
“COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann starts right now here on MSNBC. Have a great weekend. Good night.
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