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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guest host: Chris Hayes

Guests: Ezra Klein, Michael Isikoff, Rep. Anthony Weiner, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Atul Gawande


CHRIS HAYES, GUEST HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  Thanks so much.

I am keeping the seat warm for Rachel for one more night.


And we begin tonight with the much anticipated changing of the guard here in the nation‘s capital.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY:  God bless you, Speaker Boehner. 

God bless you, Congress.  And God bless America.



HAYES:  And with that, Republicans officially took control of the United States House of Representatives for the first time in four years.

Today was filled with lots of ceremonial pomp and circumstance that accompanies the first day of the new Congress.  As is the custom in the House, it‘s the outgoing House speaker, in this case Nancy Pelosi, who officially hands over the reins the next speaker.

Before she did that in what was essentially her final act as House speaker, Nancy Pelosi took a moment in front of all of the incoming Republicans who campaigned against her personally to run down a list of things that Democrats accomplished while they were in charge.


PELOSI:  We have made the largest ever commitment to making college more affordable, enacted Wall Street reform with the greatest consumer protections in history, and passed a strong Patients Bill of Rights.


PELOSI:  Thanks to all of us, we advanced the defining American cause of equality for all.  From the first days of the Congress with the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to the last days with the repeal of the “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” policy.



HAYES:  With that bit of smack-talking finish, Speaker Pelosi then got down to the business of introducing her replacement, a job made all the more challenging in this particular case given that her replacement is a gentleman who was known to get a tad emotional during big moments like this.


PELOSI:  He is a man of faith—faith in God, faith in our country, and faith in his family.  It is very important for us in acknowledging that for us to acknowledge his family, his wife—Mrs. Boehner is -- 


PELOSI:  As we congratulate him, we congratulate and thank Debbie for sharing him with us and Lindsay and Tricia and, indeed, the entire Boehner family.


HAYES:  To his credit, Mr. Boehner managed to keep it together for most of the proceedings today—proceedings that honestly took a turn for the awkward as Ms. Pelosi finally got to the big moment, the handing over of the speaker‘s gavel.


HAYES:  Now, recognizing our roles under the Constitution, united in our love of our country, we now engage in a strong symbol of American democracy, the peaceful and respectful exchange of power.  I now pass this gavel, which is larger than most gavels here, but the gavel of choice of Mr.—Speaker Boehner, I now pass this—



HAYES:  It possible just going forward to just pretend that moment didn‘t happen?  Can we all just sort of collectively agree to erase that memory from our memory banks?  Just delete it from the archives?

Speaker Boehner was then sworn in by the dean of the House of Representatives, Democratic Congressman John Dingell of Michigan.  In addition to holding the awesome title “Dean of the House,” Mr. Dingell holds the distinction of being the third longest serving member of Congress ever.  He experienced this day in December of 1955.

The new House speaker, Mr. Boehner, then officially administered the oath of office to the brand new Republican controlled House.

With Republicans now officially in charge in the House, Mr. Boehner used his first speech as house speaker to declare his party have been given a mandate by the American people.


BOEHNER:  Hard work and tough decisions will be required of the 112th Congress.  No longer can we fall short.  No longer can we kick the can down the road.  The people voted to end business as usual and today we begin to carry out their instructions.


HAYES:  See, business as usual.

Today, we begin to carry out their instructions.  The new Republican majority in the House has a laundry list of instructions they say the American people provided to them in November, things like repealing health care reform, repealing Wall Street reform, essentially repealing anything and everything that President Obama and Democrats ever got done over the last two years.

And on this first day of being in charge, before the ink on their new majority is even dry, House Republicans are apparently not even bothering to try to manage expectations at all.


REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA:  I want to tell you, get ready—get ready to be impressed with what Republicans are about to do.


HAYES:  Are you ready to be impressed, America?  Are you ready?

For all of the glorious and justified pomp and circumstance of the day, it‘s worth remembering for a minute what Republicans did here.  They won the popular vote in one House of Congress in a midterm election with an electorate that‘s frankly much older, whiter and conservative than the American electorate in general.  They do deserve credit for that.  They deserve their day in the sun and they got it.

But they still only control one half of one third of the United States government.  That‘s a fact worth keeping in mind before we decide it‘s John Boehner‘s America and we‘re just living it.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York.

Congressman Weiner, thanks for being here.


HAYES:  So, Congressman, you‘ve been in the minority, and you‘ve been in the majority.  You‘re back in the minority.

What do you see as your role and more broadly, the caucus‘ strategy going forward once again being in the minority?

WEINER:  Well, look, I think we can agree on a couple of things.  One is the Democratic Party in the last couple of years under President Obama and the Democratic leadership of Nancy Pelosi did a lot of good things—at least that‘s what I believe.  On the other side of the things we can agree upon, Republicans succeeded in being no on all of those things and spending a lot of time either changing the subject or lying about the things that we did.

Well, it‘s going to get harder for them to keep doing those things.  You can‘t be no when you‘re the majority party.  And also, sooner or later, the reality takes hold on some of the things that we‘ve done.

I mean, you look a couple of examples.  They‘re against the stimulus bill.  They don‘t talk about the idea that included one of the largest middle class tax cuts in American history.  They talk about against the health care bill and now, they‘re remitting this week that it saves the Treasury $1.3 trillion over 20 years.

They spend enormous amount of time talking about the financial regulatory bill being a bill that had nothing but bailouts in it when actually it was a bill that prohibited bailouts.

The reason I make these points is that now that they‘re in charge, they have to have some kind of an affirmative agenda that they talk about and we as Democrats have to force them every single day to say what it is that they‘re in favor of now that they spent so much time talking about what they‘re against.

HAYES:  Let me ask you this question.  You see poll after poll of people always say we want more bipartisanship.  The president has said he‘s looking for bipartisanship and at the same time, that‘s happening we‘ve seen an evolution particularly in the House of Representatives towards a more parliamentary body, towards more party unity.

Do you think there‘s an opportunity to turn back the clock on this or is this going to be fundamentally more of the same kind of party unity lock-step parliamentary sort of body we‘ve been seeing over the last 10, 15, 20 years?

WEINER:  Well, it‘s a good question.  You know, Americans send us contradictory messages as members of Congress.  They say—

HAYES:  They sure do, Congressman.

WEINER:  They say that we like bipartisanship but don‘t compromise on privatizing Social Security, don‘t privatize and making Medicare a voucher program and don‘t compromise on rolling back the health care bill.  You know, frankly, I think Americans want to see, at least on my side of the aisle, a little bit more fight.

You know, I started a Web site called just that,, where people can say, listen, here‘s the idea that I have on standing up to the Republican initiatives.  And I think the president also needs to adopt more of that fighting sense.

My abiding philosophy is what the American people really want is for us to do smart things that benefit them.  That‘s why when you ask them, do you want the repeal the health care bill and roll back all the good things in it—by and large, they say, no.  They say, we might want to improve it or implement it as you go.  But very few people believe what the Republicans do—which is: if you roll it back you‘re going to be better off.

HAYES:  Yes, I‘m curious if you se the repeal fight which the Republicans have cued up as the first fight to have.  They‘re going to have this vote on January 12th to repeal the, quote-unquote, “job-killing health care bill”—if you see that as an opportunity to make—to improve the messaging on the bill which, let‘s be honest, it was not popular when it was passed and it‘s been, I think, pretty unpopular throughout.  Is this an opportunity to turn that around?

WEINER:  I sure think it is.  I mean, we wanted another bite of the apple.

Look, there is a certain kind of tail between your legs wing over the party who says, oh, no, we don‘t want that fight again.  I think the increasing wisdom among Democrats and I think the White House is starting to get this also is we want to have a conversation about this.

The Republican Party fundamentally believes that giving help for people in the donut hole for prescription drugs should not get it.  We should roll that back.  They fundamentally believe people with pre-existing condition shouldn‘t get coverage.  They fundamentally believe that young people 21 to 26 that are now getting coverage shouldn‘t get it.  Even the small business tax credits, which they always talk about being in favor of, they want to roll back when it comes to health care.

I think we want this fight and if that‘s what people are saying over and over again—give us this chance to make the case.  I mean, obviously, I hope we do it better this time.

HAYES:  Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of my hometown, New York

thanks so much for your time tonight.  I really appreciate it.


WEINER:  Thank you.

HAYES:  House Republicans took back the majority today, propelled, they‘ll have you believe, by their Pledge to America, the founding document of their triumphant rise to power.  But you don‘t remember it?

Amazing how they trampled all over that sacred parchment before they even got to work today.  That‘s next.


HAYES:  Used to be THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW avoided reporting on Congresswoman Michele Bachmann‘s kooky rhetoric because it was—well, so kooky.  My, how time has changed, Michele Bachman—certified friend of Wall Street and willing protector of rich predatory industry.  Details ahead.


HAYES:  It‘s funny in a way that Republicans rolled to victory in last year‘s elections and took over the House today in large part because the people who voted for them hoped Republicans might change things.  As of today, Republicans are in charge of the House and they make—they have the chance to make that change.

Months before John Boehner received the hammer of Thor this afternoon from Nancy Pelosi, he led Republicans in presenting a Pledge to America, which laid out the promise they had in store if they gained control.  On page six you will find, quote, “We will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone.”

Impressive, right?  Well, as “The New York Times” puts it, Republican leaders are scaling back that number by as much as half because the current fiscal year which began October 1st will be nearly half over before spending cuts could become law.  Maybe we could let them slide if fiscal years didn‘t always start every year on October 1st, a fact now Speaker Boehner should have known when he presented the pledge on September 23rd.

In “The Huffington Post,” Howard Fineman reported the cuts could be scaled back to $30 billion and that the $100 billion figure meant $100 billion from a budget the president proposed, which was never passed.  So, that‘s one promise up in smoke already.

Next: the rules package.  The House Republicans passed this afternoon is missing a provision Republicans had indicated would be there, one that would have made committee attendance public.

Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas didn‘t like that, stripped it out -

along with it the transparency of government Republicans had promised.  I could go on for a while.


But here‘s one more.  Republicans love—love to holler about how they weren‘t allowed to add amendments to health care reform.  Well, guess what?  As they seek to repeal it, they‘re unlikely to allow Democrats to add amendments to what they are calling the Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.

Last night, FOX News‘ Greta Van Susteren took Congressman Dave Dreier to task for this.


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS:  And so, what‘s the story?  You promised that there would be amendments to the rules and right out of the box, you‘re not doing it.

REP. DAVID DREIER ®, CALIFORNIA:  Well, let me tell you what we‘re doing.  We promised the American people that we would, coming right out of the chute, repeal the job killing health care bill before us.  We‘ve said we‘d have a more open process.  We just gone—

VAN SUSTEREN:  Then why don‘t you do it?

DREIER:  We are.

VAN SUSTEREN:  No, no, no.

DREIER:  We are.

VAN SUSTEREN:  The fact is you have a bill or you‘re going to file a bill to repeal health care—

DREIER:  A one-sentence bill.

VAN SUSTEREN:  I don‘t care, seven sentences, 2,800 pages.

DREIER:  We‘re used to—we‘re used to 2,800-page bill.  You know that, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN:  But you promised.  This is what you promised.


HAYES:  Joining us now is Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who represents the Illinois‘ ninth district.

Congresswoman, thanks for your time.

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS:  Thank you, Chris.  Good to be with you.

HAYES:  So, I guess—is it surprising the speed and alacrity with which they are walking back these promises?

SCHAKOWSKY:  Well, let‘s look at those promises anyway. The big promise when they talk about spending cuts is that they‘re going to reduce the deficit.  They‘re going to cut the debt.  What they did in their rules package makes a parity of fiscal responsibility.

They‘re talking about spending cuts—and from my point of view, the less they do of spending cuts, because you know what they‘re going to go after.  From a progressive‘s point of view, we don‘t want them going after education and job training and investments and infrastructure.  These are good things that we want.  So, all the better that they reduce—

HAYES:  You are applauding.


SCHAKOWSKY:  Yes, I‘m glad to hear it.  But the reality is they‘re adding—they‘re prepared to add trillions of dollars to the deficit because their rules say the only thing that counts is spending, reduce taxes all you want, eliminate taxes.  Give more tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans.  They are for that and are willing to add trillions of dollars to the deficit.

HAYES:  Right.  So, they—my understanding is they replaced what had been the operating rules for the Democratic House which is called PAYGO, which is that you had to have pay-fors, that you have to essentially balance out expenditures, right?  With this new thing called CUTGO, right?  Is CUTGO going to work or is CUTGO going to deliver us?

What‘s different about CUTGO from PAYGO?

SCHAKOWSKY:  Well, what they‘re saying is that if you want to spend a dime on anything, this could be the most wonderful thing for us, like investing in education—then you have to offset that not with an increase in revenue but with a cut somewhere else.  Well, there just isn‘t that much fat, particularly because they have put defense cuts off the table.

Now, let‘s remember that the secretary of defense said there‘s plenty to cut within the defense budget.  But, no, they didn‘t want to touch that.  So, we‘re really talking about those programs that help the middle class, they are talking about further shredding the safety net for Americans and I really don‘t think that‘s their mandate.

HAYES:  You know, Paul Ryan, who is talking this morning, and it‘s not just defense, right?  They also want—it‘s veterans, homeland security—


HAYES:  -- defense, and then they also—they say they‘re not going to touch Social Security and Medicare.  So, they are now—they‘re kind of slicing down, down, down.

Paul Ryan said this morning on “The Today Show,” I can‘t tell you the answer to that one when he asked what they were going to reduce.  He basically said, we‘re going to reduce all domestic discretionary spending.

What does that look like in real it terms?  I mean, do you think that‘s going to—that is something that is going to come out of the House and is going to find a willing partner in the Senate?

SCHAKOWSKY:  First of all, let me tell you, you could eliminate all of the rest of discretionary spending and I wouldn‘t be close to budget balance.  Paul Ryan knows better.  I was on the deficit commission, the fiscal responsibility commission with Paul Ryan.  The difference there is everything was on the table and we considered tax cuts the same as we do spending.

HAYES:  Because they show up the same.


HAYES:  I want to ask you this: I think that there‘s a conception people have that the Republicans, or they are the guarantors of the fiscal nation‘s fiscal probity, right?  That they are sort of going to return us to this era of virtue.

And not only that, they are going to rein in spending.  What is the history say about a Republican Congress say about that?  I mean, you mentioned Paul Ryan.  Paul Ryan himself, if I‘m not mistaken, cast the deciding vote for Medicare Part D, isn‘t that correct?

SCHAKOWSKY:  That is correct.  That was a major program, actually a very unnecessarily complicated program that put seniors into a spin on their prescription drugs, unpaid for.  In other words, put on credit cards.

It is—you know, we have such short memories as Americans.

HAYES:  Yes.

SCHAKOWSKY:  It was really just a decade ago that there was a surplus in the budget as far as the eye could see—that was when George Bush took over.  The fiscal responsibility was through the Clinton administration.  And you come to the George Bush administration and you find record deficits created.

Why they continued to be allowed to wear the jacket of fiscal responsibility eludes me altogether.  And now, they really want to make it worse.  This is really about Wall Street versus Main Street.  Who are they going to cut?  Who are they going to benefit?  Who pays?

We have the biggest disparity right now between the rich and everyone else.  The richest Americans control 34 percent of the wealth -- 90 percent of Americans control only 29 percent, you know?  I mean, this is not good for a democracy, not good for our economy.  And they‘re going to make it worse.

HAYES:  Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of the great state of Illinois—

I appreciate it.  Thanks.

SCHAKOWSKY:  Thank you.  Thanks, Chris.

HAYES:  Thanks.

For two whole years, this program has talked about, argued about, reported about and generally obsessed about the Senate idiosyncrasy called the filibuster.  Two years against the, frankly, better commercial interests of not talking about it because it‘s really important.  And today, today there is movement.  What?  You think we‘re not going to report about it?

We‘ll be right back.



SEN AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA:  Get rid of the secret hold.  Why does America want bills and judges and nominees to be secretly held?  They want to know.

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES:  The secret hold gives any individual senator the power to bring the Senate to its knees.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI:  We‘re not asking anybody to give up their holds.  We‘re only asking people to identify who they are.

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS ®, GEORGIA:  I intend to vote against the motion to proceed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They‘re going to block any legislation, any other legislation from coming up for vote during this lame duck session.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I will vote against the motion to proceed to this bill.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER:  If cloture is invoked on a motion to proceed, there‘d then be 30 minutes of -- 30 hours of debate.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Even if we had cloture filing tonight or something, you‘d still have two days more of debate before that ripens and you vote on it, after which you then have 30 hours of debate providing that it would pass.

SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D), NORTH DAKOTA:  A motion to proceed brought to the floor on something that there is no controversy on is subject to a filibuster.  And then they cloture petition has to be filed and then two days have to pass before it ripens.  And then you have a cloture vote and then following the cloture, the minority says, well, we insist that the 30 hours post-cloture be used, and so, 30 hours has to be burned off.  And only then can you get to a vote on a noncontroversial issue.


HAYES:  That is what was wrong with the 111th Congress, among other things.  A Senate gummed up with secret holds and filibusters and votes that were against even the notion of deliberation and debate.

So, what is the 112th Congress doing to fix it?  Senators Tom Udall of New Mexico, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Jeff Merkley of Oregon offered up this today—a rules reform package that they say, quote, “helps increase transparency, restores accountability and fosters debate.”  The reform package won‘t actually be voted on until the Senate reconvenes to the end of the month.

But what could it actually change?

To try to answer that, we are joined once again by Ezra Klein of “The Washington Post,” “Newsweek” and MSNBC.

Hello there, Ezra.


HAYES:  OK.  We talked about this earlier on the phone today and I

want to get your sense of how much this is going to change, and I want to -

I‘m going to lay out three areas.  So, I think if you look at what was wrong, right, it was that there was a super majority requirement that one senator was able to do all sorts of crazy stuff in secret and that everything ate up too much time.


How does this rank along those sort of three distinct Senate problems?

KLEIN:  It doesn‘t really change, number one.  It does change number two, but I think number two is more offensive than it really was a problem, in the sense that it actually didn‘t change the Senate very much.

HAYES:  By number two, you mean the secret holds?

KLEIN:  Secret holds.

HAYES:  Right.

KLEIN:  You will still be able to do a hold, right?  Tom Coburn can still say, I do not like this or that and I‘m going to put a hold on it.  He simply has to come out and say, I am Tom Coburn.  I am doing this.  I sign my name here.  That is better.

It‘s offensive—the idea that senators who we elect would do this stuff secretly, but it is not a particularly—it‘s not going to be a very big change.  You‘re not going to have a different number of holds presumably.

HAYES:  OK.  So, one change is no more secret holds.  You got to come out and say it.  What else is in the package?

KLEIN:  OK.  So, there‘s two changes to the—three, sorry, to the filibuster itself.  One change is that after judicial nomination, there‘s no longer 30 hours of post-cloture debate.  Only two hours.  That‘s good.  It wastes a little bit less time.  It isn‘t a huge deal in the scheme of things.

When you get to the actual filibuster it self, it does not change the 60-vote requirement.  It does not change the number of time it takes to get there.  You can‘t filibuster a motion to proceed because then you‘re filibustering the debate itself.

And then, finally, when you do filibuster—in theory, you‘re going to be on the floor and talking as opposed to saying, look, I‘ve put in a motion to filibuster here, I‘m going to get dinner, I‘m going to go to the bathroom, when I can get back if you got 60 votes.


KLEIN:  So, those things, those major things won‘t change, though. 

And that‘s important for people to realize.

HAYES:  Right.  OK.  But let‘s—now, let‘s zoom in because this stuff is bewildering even for me who covers it full time.  So, let‘s zoom in on this one issue, right, which is that everybody has the “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (INAUDIBLE) their head.  That‘s not what‘s being fulfilled.  Senators Merkley and Udall say, “Let‘s restore that.”

So, this calls for basically—if you want to filibuster, there has to be a member of the minority member talking on the floor for the duration.  Won‘t that change things?  I mean, doesn‘t that impose a logistical organizational cost on the filibusterer?

KLEIN:  Not that much.  I don‘t believe it will.

So, imagine you are Mitch McConnell.  What this would do in a world of individual filibustering is it would be very, very difficult on that individual, for that one guy out there.  He‘d have to go to the bathroom, eventually.  Get tired, his knees would buckle.

But if you are controlling 43 Republicans or whatever the number is now, maybe 47, you just do shifts, right?  You say, OK, you are doing an hour, 7:00-8:00, you‘re doing 8:00-9:00, you‘re doing 9:00-10:00.  It‘s difficult.  You need somebody to schedule it, but it isn‘t the end of the world.

HAYES:  It‘s not the end of the world—

KLEIN:  The way I just should put this for people, though, is that there‘s no piece of legislation you can think of that this shakes loose.  This doesn‘t do—say what Bill Frist wanted to do if he passed his bill there to end the judicial nominations, a bunch of judges would be confirmed the next day.

This really is in some ways sort of procedurally admirable on the part of the Democrats.  It‘s about making the rules make a bit more sense.  It doesn‘t do them any good in the short term.  It doesn‘t make it easier for them to pass legislation in the next two years.

HAYES:  So, you are saying this is the opposite of a power grab.  This is essentially some sort of—generally salutary positive but marginal reform to process?

KLEIN:  I‘d go even further than that.  The one really significant reform in here is the minority party is guaranteed three amendments on every bill.

HAYES:  Right.

KLEIN:  So, actually, the one thing that really does change it, the one thing that is a change, a real difference in procedure, is that the minority party gets a right—really gets a right, gets guaranteed a right that they have wanted for some time and that can‘t be taken away from them.  So, it‘s a little bit funny.  This is what happens when Democrats try to change rules and grab power.  They end up they end up doing something I think you would have to say is courteous.

HAYES:  Yes, it‘s like bizarro world of tyranny.

KLEIN:  It was—

HAYES:  Ezra Klein, writer for “The Huffington Post” and “Newsweek” and an MSNBC contributor—thanks so much for spelling it out.  We‘re going to keep our eye on this and have you back, I am sure.

KLEIN:  Thank you.

HAYES:  All right.  Sure, Michele Bachman is going to Iowa and probably not because it‘s near Minnesota.  Yes, she‘s putting on a class in the Constitution for her fellow Congress people.  But those are not even the most important and compelling news items about Congresswoman Michele Bachman this night.  She‘s against all the Wall Street reform that happened as well and you get one guess which industry gives nearly mega bucks levels of money to her.


HAYES:  You probably know by now, mostly because they won‘t stop talking about it, House Republicans first order of business after their fundraisers with lobbyists is a vote to repeal the health care reform bill signed into law last year.  And now, we have a new entry into the repeal-apalooza, Tea Party Caucus founder and ardent Constitution fetishist, Michele Bachman, also wants to repeal the Wall Street reform bill.

Her hometown paper, “The Star Tribune,” obtained a letter she sent to House colleagues on Tuesday.  Quote, “Seeking co-sponsors for legislation repealing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law.”  In the letter, Bachman wrote in the letter, “It is time to repeal this job killer.”

Why would Congresswoman Bachmann want to repeal the bill that‘s supposed to impose tighter rules on Wall Street and require more public disclosure?  Well, it probably doesn‘t hurt that according to “Open Secrets,” among the top five industries that find Bachmann in 2010 were finance and security investments industries coming in at three and four respectively.  And look who is in the Bachmann top 15 contributors, the American Bankers Association, who donated $10,000 to her.

Altogether, Congresswoman Bachmann, who sits on the Financial Services Committee, has received almost $500,000 from the finance, insurance and real estate sector in 2010.  Now, she‘s looking to repeal Wall Street reform.

And Bachmann may be the most entertaining person whose influence over financial sector regulatory policy is compromised by all the dough she takes in from the financial sector, but there are so many, many more you have to hear to believe it.

Joining us now is NBC News national investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff, who has a new report out that highlights how Wall Street helped Republicans win back the House.

Michael, thanks so much for being here.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWS:  Good to be with you.

HAYES:  OK.  So, you did this investigation of how hedge funds specifically funneled money into Republican campaigns in the midterm elections.  And what did you find?

ISIKOFF:  Well, this is an investigation we did with the Center of Public Integrity and it actually is one of the really big money—untold money stories of the last election.  The numbers you were talking about there are chicken feed to what Wall Street hedge funds were pouring in in a variety of different ways to a lot of Republican accounts in absolutely staggering levels.

What we found is half a dozen of these big firms put something like $10 million into Republican Party accounts.  A lot of this didn‘t get reported during the election because, “A,” it came late in the campaign.  So, it didn‘t have to be disclosed later.  A variety of different methods, Republican Governors Association joined fundraising committees which are hard to trace—

HAYES:  Yes, we were talking about those.

ISIKOFF:  Yes, and, of course, the political nonprofit groups that didn‘t have to disclose at all.  We stuck to what could be absolutely documented and what we found is just a small number of these—

HAYES:  Very small, right?

ISIKOFF:  Yes.  SAC Capital, Steve Cohen, Elliott Management, one of the biggest money most powerful money men in the Republican Party today, publicity shy.  You never hear much about him.  Put millions of dollars in and you could say they got their money‘s worth.

HAYES:  Now, you had one example which I thought was sort of particularly galling.


HAYES:  Which was a congressman from New Jersey who is actually going to be in charge if I‘m not mistaken in the new Congress, of essentially chairing the committee that will regulate hedge funds.

ISIKOFF:  Right. This is probably the most fascinating finding.  Scott Garrett, little known Republican from New Jersey, he‘s going to be the new chairman of the capital markets subcommittee on financial services, regulating Dodd-Frank financial reform, overseeing the capital markets, all of Wall Street and hedge funds.

Starting in late August when it became clear it looked like the Republicans were going to win, this one hedge fund, Elliott Management, run by this guy, Paul Singer, rallies to boost Scott Garrett‘s fortunes.  They held a fundraiser for him -- $195,000 in the course of a couple weeks pour in from that one hedge fund, much to it to this joint fundraising committee, because it‘s like with the NRCC, National Republican—it can take larger than the standard limits, $2,400 -- got about $150,000 of that.  That accounted for 96 percent of all the money it had raised.

So, 96 percent of everything raised in that one committee came from this one hedge fund and now, he‘s the guy who is going to be overseeing the hedge fund industry in the House of Representatives.

HAYES:  Scott Garrett or his campaign set up a joint fundraising committee.


HAYES:  This joint fundraising committee which has like a P.O. box somewhere, right, in Atlanta.

ISIKOFF:  Right, a post office box in Athens, Atlanta.  Right.

HAYES:  And then one hedge fund basically comes through and they give him $195,000.  It‘s basically everything this committee raises and now, he‘s going to regulate it.

ISIKOFF:  Exactly.  I mean, this—I mean, that is—you know, even by the usual standards, that‘s pretty staggering.

I should point out that a lot of these guys had given to Democrats in the past, in ‘08 and even as late as ‘09.  They didn‘t like Dodd-Frank.  They didn‘t like some of the tax proposals.  They didn‘t like, generally, Obama‘s economic policies and they really, you know, moved big time to the Republicans and that accounts for these kinds of numbers.

HAYES:  Michael Isikoff, national investigative correspondent for NBC News, really appreciate it.  Thanks a lot.

ISIKOFF:  Good to be with you.

HAYES:  Do you remember Alan West, the new Republican congressman from Florida who called the left wing a, quote, “vile, vicious, despicable machine that he‘d bring to its knees?  Well, that Alan West will be on “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O‘Donnell.

And like skorts, feathered hair, and Cavariccis, incoherent threats about death panels are a fashion we all wish we could leave in the past.  Wish not granted.


HAYES:  How does an idea that seems near perfect on paper turn into a lie?  And then turn into a policy despite the lie and then turn back into a lie?

Well, let‘s start with the idea.  Turns out that end-of-life care is really expensive.  According to one study, a third of all Medicare spending is spend in the last year of life, and of that, one-third is spent in the final month.

So, here‘s where the near perfect idea comes in.  It also turns out if you have a conversation about end-of-life care with your doctor, you end up getting more effective, less wasteful care without any impact on your life expectancy.  So, spend less money, get better care, no side effects whatsoever, but, wait—that‘s not all.

It gets even better because in Washington, the icing to any idea cake is a thick layer of bipartisan support, which end of life planning had.  Here‘s is the Medicare End of Life Care Planning Act of 2007 sponsored by a Democrat and co-sponsored by Republican Senator Johnny Isakson.

So, that‘s the near perfect idea.  Reimburse doctors for the time they spend talking to patients about what kind of end-of-life care they want.  And that idea was part of the Obama administration‘s health reform plan—until this happened.


DICK MORRIS, FOX NEWS:  No, you can‘t give this person a hip replacement, they‘re too old.  And this will be done by this federal board, which is really the death panel that Sarah Palin was talking about.

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS:  The death panels, yes, back in the news again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She warned Americans about so-called death panels.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS:  Those death panels which created a big controversy.


HAYES:  A near perfect idea became a lie and what was that 30 seconds?

So, the money saving, imminently, humane, formerly bipartisan idea was taken out of the bill signed into law last year.  Remember, that‘s not the end of the story.  The near perfect idea became a lie but then, amazingly, it turned into a policy.

Wait.  What?  Yes, yes.  Thanks to a provisional change in Medicare regulation last month, quote, “The government will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care.”  A near-perfect idea to a lie to a policy and then today, apparently haunted by the specter of another round of pulling the “plug on grandma,” the Obama administration reversed itself.

In new Medicare regulations, the explicit inclusion of end-of-life care as part of Medicare reimbursement has been rescinded.

And honestly, who can blame the White House for wanting to avoid the whole death panel thing again when it‘s busy defending all of health reform from the new Republican Congress that wants to repeal it?


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  This is symbolic.  They understand that this is not going to land on the president‘s desk.  It‘s not likely to pass the Senate.  That this is a bit of huff and puff.

What this means is going back to a health care system where insurance companies are in charge and call the shots, where a child that is sick with a pre-existing condition doesn‘t have to get coverage in the greatest, strongest, most powerful country on the planet, where seniors don‘t get help with their prescription drug costs.


HAYES:  A near perfect idea to a lie to a policy and back to a lie—which was celebrated in an e-mail blast today by the right-wing activist who carted around the health care bill and led the whole death panel canard.  When Betsy McCaughey is applauding the Obama administration, you know mercury is in retrograde or something more worldly is amiss.

Joining us now is Dr. Atul Gawande, surgeon, staff writer at “The New Yorker,” and author of many books, including “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right,” which is now out in paperback.

Dr. Gawande, thanks so much for being here.

DR. ATUL GAWANDE, THE NEW YORKER:  Thanks for having me.

HAYES:  So, you‘ve written quite eloquently and extensively on end-of-life care.  What do you make of this, the arc of end-of-life care policy that we‘ve just laid out?

GAWANDE:  It is a travesty.  The struggle to me as a doctor is seeing what has become this history which you neatly outlined of studies over the last couple of years that show that when patients have more time with their doctors, and actually have a discussion, especially a terminally ill patient, about their needs as they near the end-of-life, they get better care.  They arrive at better decisions.

They are less likely to die in a hospital or an ICU and some striking information, including a study this summer showing that, for example, advanced lung cancer patients who end up having discussions with palliative care physicians and choose hospice earlier in the cost of care, less likely to choose the fourth round of chemotherapy, less likely to end up in the ICU and, guess what?  They actually lived 25 percent longer by avoiding and coming to good decisions about avoiding aggressive care that was harming them more than helping them.

And here we‘re equating these kinds of discussions and the compensation to allow—to make it so that doctors are paid to have longer make it so that doctors are paid to have longer conversations than we do in our 20-minute typical visits that are the expectations of care.  Having that opportunity become the debate over death panels, a way of branding an entire legislative package is ending up leading to a process that‘ll hurt patients.

HAYES:  It sounds to me like from what I‘ve gotten from the White House today, as they‘ve kind of been dealing with this time story, it looks like, in terms of what they‘ve done, in terms of these regulations, you can still—doctors obviously can still be reimbursed for patient visits in which end-of-life care is discussed.  So, it‘s not like this has been prohibited.  It‘s that they‘re sort of not explicitly identifying it as something that Medicare is going to reimburse.

Is that right about the policy?

GAWANDE:  Yes, that‘s right.  I‘m a cancer surgeon.  I have conversations with my patients about their end-of-life frequently.  But I wrote a story about a 35-year-old patient of mine who had a—I was one of the doctors on our team, she had lung cancer that was found to be incurable, and diagnosed in eighth month of her pregnancy with her first child and it turned out to be her only child.

And as you walk through, what are all of the barriers that came between us and providing good care at the end-of-life, there were a variety of barriers.  One is that there was no one who—it wasn‘t just that payments were preventing us from having an end-of-life care conversations, it was also the fact that these are conversations that no one wants to quite have in a serious way.  These are emotional discussions.  They take time.  And they‘re really hard to do.

I had avoided it with this patient because I just didn‘t want to talk about the reality that we all knew that she wouldn‘t make it through the year.  So, the—and the result was she died in the place that she didn‘t want to—going back and forth from the hospital and ultimately spending her last days in the hospital rather than with her, still not quite 1-year-old child.

The truth here is we are in a system of care that does not provide great care for patients with terminal illness.  When you have terminal illness, few of the patients are guided to understand the clear options there are, early enough to recognize what‘s the best time to choose, say, hospice care, when‘s the best time to avoid aggressive treatment, and we need policies, as well as teaching, that starts shifting that norm.  And the death panels‘ conversation has chilled that entire conversation.

HAYES:  Dr. Atul Gawande, surgeon, staff writer at “The New Yorker,” author of “The Checklist Manifesto”—thanks so much for joining us tonight.  It was really great to talk to you.

GAWANDE:  It‘s great to be on.

HAYES:  It‘s not just that Speaker John Boehner‘s austerity move to cut 5 percent of his own budget amounts to a blade of grass in the field of the size of Nebraska, his symbolic move is way less than feckless.  Think about it: his office didn‘t suddenly get a 5 percent reduction on its workload.  So, who‘s going to do the work?

A crash course in the un-seemingly economy of influence on Capitol Hill coming up.


HAYES:  When you‘re finally getting your turn at power, when you‘re about to be principal or coach or boss or a speaker of the House, people start wanting to listen to you.  So, you start saying stuff.


BOEHNER:  How about we start with cutting congress?  I‘m going to cut my budget, my leadership budget, 5 percent.  I‘m going to cut all of the leadership budgets by 5 percent.  I‘m going to cut every committee‘s budget percent by 5 percent, and every member is going to see a 5 percent reduction in their allowance.

Altogether, that‘s $25 million, $30 million and it would likely be one of the first votes that will be cast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK.  But you admit that‘s not very much money?

BOEHNER:  We‘ve got to start somewhere and we‘re going to start there.


HAYES:  Got start somewhere so how about right here?  The incoming House Speaker John Boehner proposed cutting every congressional district‘s budget by 5 percent.

The obvious critique mostly here is that it‘s almost purely symbolic.  The estimated $30 million or so it will save sounds like a lot, $30 million sounds like a lot, unless you‘re one of those hedge fund dudes that we just talked about.

But here‘s the yearly federal budget, about $3.5 trillion with a “T” dollars.  And here‘s a portion of that big number represented by Boehner‘s proposed budget cut -- .001 percent, 1000th of 1 percent.  Hoping to close the budget deficit with a 5 percent in House office budgets is like planning to buy a new mansion in Aspen by digging for change in your house cushions.

So, everyone knows that this is intended as a symbolic gesture, but it‘s much worse than that because it‘s actually bad policy with the potential to do real harm.

CNN projects the new speaker‘s 5 percent across-the-board cut to congressional budgets is worth about 1 ½ staffers in each congressional district.  That‘s ½ people doing the work of keeping the congressman‘s office running, opening up the mail, posting on the official Twitter account, that kind of stuff.  More importantly that‘s 1 ½ people doing the work of running the actual congressmen, by which I mean reading the thousands of pages of bills across the congressman‘s desk every session, combing through them, making sense of what they say.

You think that congressmen do that work themselves?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sit down, my son.  We don‘t read most of the bills.


HAYES:  Members of Congress have ever read most of the bills, it was way before our campaign finance system turned lawmakers into 24-hour fundraising machines.

The best legislators rely on the best staffers—the smartest, hardest working people that they can get to put up with Washington, D.C.  And if those smartest, hardest working people go away, you know who‘s left to pore over the bills and tell members of Congress what‘s in them and how they should vote?  Lobbyists, that‘s who.  Corporate types hired by vested interest to fine tooth their way through legislation and get what their clients want.

If you subtract the staffers, you‘re left with the lobbyists and they‘ll be happy to have the work.  In fact, if you asked a lobbyists what the ideal staffing at a congressional office should be, they‘ll likely to tell you, one lawmaker and someone to transfer the lobbyist‘s calls directly to the lawmaker.

Speaker Boehner‘s 5 percent cut of congressional budget moves us a little closer to the world.

And there‘s a knock on effect.  If the lobbyist spends time helping you, they‘re more likely to want something in return and they‘re more likely to get it.  You run the risk of legislation, that‘s larded up with perks and thank yous and favors—even more than it already is.

So, that $35 million that you thought that you were saving could end up costing you in the long run.

So, call Speaker Boehner‘s mover pure political symbolism.  Don‘t stop there, because it happens to be bad in very real terms for this country.

Well, that does it for us.  You can follow more my work at or on Twitter, username ChrisLHayes.  We‘ll see you again tomorrow night.



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