'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, April 8th, 2011

Guests: Mike Viqueira, Chuck Todd, Rep. Anthony Weiner, Rep. Diana DeGette, Mordecai Lee


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Lawrence.  Thank you.


And thanks to you at home for joining us on what is turning out to be a way more exciting Friday news day than any of us have any right to deserve.

We are expecting it to include a public statement from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid any second now.  With vigilance, we will bring you all the latest on whether the federal government shuts down in approximately two hours and 59 minutes and 37, 36, 35.

There‘s new and unexpected news from Ohio and Wisconsin tonight.  A big anti-Republican Midwest backlash continues to unfold in some surprising ways.

And as a commemoration of one of the scariest and most unpleasant interviews I‘ve ever don on this show, which happened last night, as a commemoration of that little hole in time, as well as the fact we‘re barreling down into what looks like a government shutdown, tonight, this Friday night, we will end the show tonight with a drink.  With a delicious drink powerful enough to bring the dead back to life.  Or at least that‘s how it‘s advertised.

That‘s all coming up over the course of this hour.

But we begin tonight on Capitol Hill, where we are at the moment expecting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to speak publicly about the ongoing negotiations to fund the federal government for the remainder of this fiscal year and avoid the shutdown of many, but not all federal government offices and services.  If Senator Reid speaks, you will see it live right here.  The last few hours have seen lots of sourced reporting out of Washington which variously said there was a lot of progress and an impending deal.  And, also, that there was not so much progress on key points and that there was no deal in sight.

The simplest summary of all this reporting that has happened in the last couple of hours in particular is that there are negotiations are on two planks.  One on the number of dollars to be cut from the budget; the other on what they‘re calling “policy riders—riders to the budget which among other things would defund Planned Parenthood and limit their regulatory power of the Environmental Protection Agency over carbon emissions.  What does this have to do with the budget?  Yes.

At this hour, there‘s no deal.  It‘s about, well, now, it‘s two hours and 58 minutes until the deadline.

Very close to the action is Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York.  He sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  He‘s part of the Democratic Party‘s leadership team in the House.

Congressman Weiner, thanks very much for your time tonight.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK:  It‘s my pleasure.  Thanks.

MADDOW:  When we last spoke a couple days ago, you were pretty pessimistic in thinking that the government probably should shut down.  How do you feel about it tonight?

WEINER:  Well, it seems like a lot of the reporting we‘re hearing is they‘re getting closer to a deal.  Senator Reid is going to take the floor in a little while and let us know.  I‘m hearing the number $39 billion in the number of cuts.  But I got to tell you, this has been a really instructive exercise because we know how serious now the Republicans are and Tea Party are about really shaking some things we believe in this country.

For example, there‘s already a law against federal funding for abortions.  That‘s not good enough.  They want to defund Planned Parenthood.

We already have a pretty good balance between environmental regulations and economic growth, they want to take away the authority from the EPA.

We have to realize something about this Tea Party Republicans—they are serious about deconstructing many of the successful programs that we have in this country.  They may it not get it in this deal, but they are serious about getting them.

MADDOW:  Well, they‘re being successful in one sense.  And it may not just be the Tea Party Republicans.  It may be the Republicans in general.

But if we‘re talking about $38 billion being agreed upon, whether or not the Democrats decide to budge on this huge attack on women‘s health services—I mean, $38 billion would be the largest cut from the budget I think ever.  I don‘t think there‘s ever been a cut of that magnitude.

How are the Republicans getting this far, even before we‘ve got a full continuing resolution that would be the full year?

WEINER:  Well, for one thing they have been very successful at driving this idea that our problem with deficits and debts are entirely a spending issue.  I think most of us realize that when you have dramatic reduction revenues because we give tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires over the course of the last decade, that‘s going to cause a problem.  They‘ve been successful in kind of saying, pay no attention to the fact that we‘ve funding wars in Iraq and Afghanistan without paying for them.  So, they‘ve done a great job driving this narrative, that only when we slash enough money, our problems will be solved.

And then you have this mythology of Paul Ryan‘s plan for next year, which looks like they‘re even starting to win that debate.  I am concerned that this back and forth we‘re seeing, regardless of how it turns out in the next couple of hours, shows we really need to get some more fight in our game if we‘re going to defend some of the programs we care about.

MADDOW:  Well, Harry Reid has been very overt about the issue of women‘s health, about these Planned Parenthood.  These anti-abortion cuts that they are insisting on, saying even as he is willing to agree on a giant number for cuts, a giant number that would frankly take a lot of money out of the economy when we‘re in a fragile recovery, even if he‘s agreed on the cuts, he will not budge, he says, on that issue of women‘s health funding.

What I‘m wondering, though, is if these women‘s health issues are put on hold, do they just come back next week?  Do they come back next month?  Why would we believe that part of the debate is over, even if he fights them hard on that?

WEINER:  Yes, you‘re exactly right.  There‘s a fundamental truism about our country right now.  We are a pro-choice country with an anti-choice legislature in Washington.  We saw that play out during the health care debate and we‘re seeing how much leverage they have now fighting over these issues.  Again, it‘s not clear as we sit here.

I‘m fairly confident that the president won‘t sign a continuing resolution and Harry Reid in the Senate won‘t go along with it.  I think we‘re going to win the fight because the American people fundamentally believe we should.

But it‘s going to keep coming back.  And if part of the deal is they get to attach this to some other bill, we‘re no better off when that happens.  There is no doubt, we‘re playing defense when it comes to a woman‘s right to her reproductive freedoms and even just a woman‘s right to basic health care.  We‘re on our heels on this, and we may win this round but that doesn‘t mean we have smooth sailing.

MADDOW:  We‘ve been just been told, “Reuters” is reporting that at 9:45 Eastern, so, about 40 minutes from right now, House Republicans will be meeting.

Let me ask the control room.  Are they meeting together or they are meeting with somebody else?  They are meeting as a caucus, I‘m being told, to discuss whatever the proposed the deal that‘s on the table.

Do you feel like John Boehner is actually in the position so negotiate for his caucus?  Or is there somebody else that we should understand is actually sort of really making the baseline decision about what Republicans agree to?

WEINER:  No.  I think John Boehner is in charge there.  But he‘s buffeted but all these forces.  You know, Eric Cantor is playing this game by cultivating the Tea Party to the right, to make even more problematic.  Their internal politics is fascinating to watch.

And make no mistake: we have seen all week that a lot of John Boehner‘s caucus cheers when you talk about government shut down.  That‘s the problem that he has.  And that‘s why we really some leadership out of him.

But the question is going to be, when you see the number comes out, even if Americans say, you know what, all right.  They put those riders aside—I‘m going to be very interested to see a part of the deal as a specific commitment to bring them back at another time and context, because if that‘s the deal I suspect we‘ll be no better off then.  The only difference will be, we won‘t have sort of a government shutdown hanging over our head.

MADDOW:  Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York.  I will tell you that you are one of the only people who is actually an elected official who constantly talks about how Democrats can get back on the offense, and I think that‘s why you say things that a lot of Democrats won‘t otherwise say.  It always makes it a pleasure to talk to you, sir.

WEINER:  Well, I don‘t like look like much but I can handle myself.

MADDOW:  I know you can.

We have been reporting for weeks now on the huge battles in the states, almost all of which have been disguised by Republicans as budget battles and almost none of which have actually been about budgets.  And so, it is tonight on Capitol Hill, a high-stakes fight advertised to be about cutting the federal budget deficit—but by all reports, it seems to be actually hinging on defunding Planned Parenthood and the shackling of the Environmental Protection Agency.  That is not about the budget.  It‘s also next.


MADDOW:  We‘ve got one eye on Washington as we are keeping an eye on this potential shutdown tonight, as well as one whether or not we are going to hear from the negotiators who are involved in supposedly trying to fend it off.  The very latest on the very slowly breaking news that the government may shut down at midnight Eastern tonight.

Plus, a look at what‘s supposed to be about the budget battle is really a battle about.

Stay with us.  We‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  How about a little bit of national perspective on what is going with this government shutdown, a little bit of national perspective that you can really best get from the states.

Take Kansas for instance.  Kansas in recent decades had a fairly comfort legislature but it‘s generally been a pretty balanced state.  They‘ve had frequently elected divided governments, a Republican legislature, say, but a Democratic governor.

But in the last election in November, Kansas took a hard right turn and they elected probably the most conservative legislature they have ever had.  And they also elected the most conservative governor that not only Kansas has ever had, but that almost any state has ever had.  They elected Sam Brownback to be their governor.

You remember him?  He was a senator and a C Street guy.  He used to run for president a lot.  His line when he ran for president when talking about something he didn‘t like, he would say he wanted to take it out behind the barn and kill it with a dull ax.  Thus, leaving potential Brownback voters with the vivid impression of a man who not only wanted to kill something bad, but to kill it inefficiently so the killing process would be slower so he would enjoy it more.

Mr. Brownback was never favored with his party‘s nomination but he is now the governor of Kansas.  So, Kansas‘s long extant conservatism pulses are constrained.  Republicans there can run the table.

And that‘s a good way to find out what people really value.  What they can do anything they want, what do they do?  In Kansas‘ case, this year, they have already sent two anti-abortion bills to the governor for his signature, including one that bans abortion after 22 weeks and another one that requires anyone under 18 seeking an abortion to get permission not from just one parent, but both parents, notarized in writing.

It also requires doctors to read patients a script that is written by the Kansas legislature.  It overrides the doctor‘s actual professional opinion and makes him or her read something written by politicians instead.

The Kansas House also passed a measure that would have made it harder to get a divorce in Kansas.  And a bill that would have made porn shops illegal in certain parts of the state.  How‘s that small government conservative thing working for you, Kansas?

There are also making it wicked hard to register to vote in Kansas.  It will probably be the hardest place to get registered to vote when Governor Brownback signs the state‘s new voter ID bill into law.  Under the bill, registering to vote requires: (a), birth certificate or a passport, unless you have a list of even more obscured documents.  Where do people tend to register to vote for the first time?  You know, like at the post office, at the grocery store, maybe there‘s a voter registration drive going there or at your college campus?

How likely are you to have your birth certificate on you in one of those settings so you can register to vote or your passport?  Less than half of Americans have passports.  I have one, but I don‘t tend to carry it around with me like to the grocery store.  I‘m afraid I will lose it.  But that‘s what you will need to show in order to register to vote in Kansas.

If that one worries you, if you‘re in Kansas and you‘re worried about this and you‘re thinking wow, I guess I better go ahead and get that passport now.  I‘ve been thinking about it but I better go do it.

I need to let you know that we just got this note from the U.S. State Department today telling us that they‘re very sorry to inform us that passport day in the USA was scheduled for tomorrow, but it‘s been cancelled because of the impending government shutdown.  Passport day is a yearly event where all the places you can get a passport nationwide open their doors for citizens to get passport services without an appointment.  They do it once a year.  It‘s supposed to be tomorrow and it‘s not happening tomorrow—thank you shutdown.

And in Kansas, that means if you want to register to vote, find your birth certificate or your Bureau of Indian Affairs card or your final adoption decree.  Passport processing now goes to emergency only, coast to coast.

The single most succinct explanation of why the government is shutting down in two hours and 45 minutes was probably Ryan Grim‘s at “The Huffington Post” today.  He said, “The United States government is on the verge of shutting down over a dispute about subsidized pap smears.”

That‘s why the U.S. government is shutting down.  The uber far-right politics of making it harder to get divorced, and impossible to register vote and doubly and triply banning gay marriage and proposing a new anti-abortion bill every week for as long as the legislator is in session, all of the frenetic fringy right wing stuff we associate with the Republicans in the state legislatures, that is what‘s going to shut down the federal government now.

John Boehner is in back of the barn, killing the government with a dull ax.  Die slower.  The reason the federal government is going to shut down in two hours and 48 minutes is because of Planned Parenthood.  Title X 0 of the Public Health Service Act provides funding for thousands of health centers, including than Planned Parenthoods around the country.

Even though one of the things that Planned Parenthood does is provide abortions—it‘s about 3 percent of what they do—the federal government doesn‘t provide funding for abortions.  That‘s illegal, explicitly.  It has been for years.

As the secretary of health & human services said today, quote, “Federal funds have never supported abortion, do not support abortion and will not support abortion.”

There is no funding for abortion right now in federal dollars.  None, not happening.  So, what will Republicans succeed in shutting down?  If by threatening the entire federal government of the United States they get their way and they shut off funding to Planned Parenthood?  It will have no affect on abortion because that is not federally funded anyway.

What will it affect on?  It will only have an affect on the other things Planned Parenthood does, which do get federal support.  Stuff like mammograms, pap smears, sexually transmitted disease screening, contraception.  That‘s what Planned Parenthoods do with their federal money.  Again, not abortion.

But if you think about it—I mean, all of those things they do sound sort of vaguely abortion-esque, kind of, if you think about it.  I mean, pap smears, what are those testing for?  Cervical cancer?  You know where the cervix is?

Mammogram, what‘s that for?  What‘s that testing for?  What‘s mammogram trying to find out?  Breast cancer?  What‘s the root of that?  Breast.

Getting screened for sexually transmitted diseases?  Well, come on, one of the things men go for is for prostate cancer screenings.  You know where that is?

I mean, honestly, this fight over what the federal government is getting shutdown over is getting short-handed as if it is an abortion fight, this will not have any affect on abortion whatsoever.  There‘s already no federal funding for abortion.  What this is stopping basic health care, cancer screenings and contraception.

Oh, contraception?  Yes, contraception.  Last year, we reported on the edge of the anti-abortion movement, taking an even further right turn into not just crusading against abortion rights but crusading against birth control, too.

Do you remember these “the pill kill” guys?  It seems like sort of a warning sign at that time that what had been just a radical anti-abortion movement was becoming even more radical and becoming anti-contraception, too.

Think about this—theoretically, if you are anti-abortion, you want there to be fewer abortions.  Not if you‘re anti-contraception, too?  This is Hester Prynne territory, man.  Paging Margaret Atwood.

When we reported on the anti-birth control people, we thought we were reporting on an unknown fringe area of the conservative movement.  It turns out it is not the fringe of the conservative movement.  It is not just taking over Republican politics.  It is now taking over and shutting down the federal government in order to get its way.


REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA:  Some would have us focus our energy on jobs and spending.  But as you attest today by your presence, you know that we must not remain silent when great moral battles are being waged but start by denying all federal funding for abortion at home and abroad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you willing to hold up this entire budget over defunding Planned Parenthood?

PENCE:  Well, of course, I am.


MADDOW:  We‘re all Kansans now.

Joining us is Democratic Congresswoman Diana DeGette, from the great state of Colorado.

Congresswoman DeGette, thank you very much for joining us on this very busy and news-packed night.


MADDOW:  Let me ask you about this ongoing standoff.  John Boehner did not seem eager to talk about it.  The Democrats who are involved in these negotiations said over and over and over again they agreed on a number but they could not agree on the issue of Planned Parenthood.

What do you make about the dispute over that?

DEGETTE:  Well, you now, it‘s not just Planned Parenthood.  It‘s all Title X money.  So, it‘s all the money for family planning and cancer screening and women‘s wellness visits in the federal budget.

And they don‘t deny that they‘re holding the entire budget.  They‘re willing to shut down the government over these extreme right-wing riders.  And the main one seems to be directed at the Title X funding and Planned Parenthood.

So, what I think is if John Boehner really doesn‘t want to shut down the government, he really wants to come to an agreement, just take those riders off the table.  Just say right now, you know, we‘re going to talk about these issues later.  Let‘s talk about the much.  Let‘s talk about how we can avoid shutting down the federal government and costing 800,000 jobs.

MADDOW:  Congresswoman DeGette, we‘ve just received word from NBC‘s Chuck Todd, he‘s reporting just in the last couple of minutes, that there is an existing deal now.  And that now what means to happen is everybody needs to review it.  The first group that‘s expected to review it is the House Republican Caucus that will be meeting in about 25 minutes to start going over this deal.

Do you expect that at the end of this process there will be a deal or do you think that the government shutdown is actually a goal?  It‘s actually a feature and not a bug at this point and Republicans want a shutdown?

DEGETTE:  Well, I think that—I think that there are some Republicans that want to shut it down.  I think the Tea Party activists want to shut it down.

But I think there‘s a desire on everybody‘s part to keep the government opened.  Military pay for the troops.  The passports that you talked about—all the issues you talked about.

What I‘m hearing is that if there‘s a deal tonight, it‘s probably only a 72-hour deal.  So, we‘re going to still have to keep fighting over these riders all weekend long.

You know something, Rachel, this is only part of the assault against women‘s health that we‘ve seen all year long.  The very first bill that we voted on in January was a bill to repeal the health care measure, right?  Well, what this did was it gave a lot of women‘s health and it gave gender equity in health care.

And then we‘ve been voting on expanding restrictions on abortion, expanding restrictions on birth control and pap smears and breast cancer screening.  So, you know, a lot of us really see this as sort of an assault on women‘s health, period.

MADDOW:  Why did you think that‘s so central to these politics?  Again, we‘re hearing from NBC‘s Chuck Todd that there is a deal all sides are reviewing, starting with House Republicans meeting at 9:45 to review it.  You said that if you heard that if there is deal, it‘s like to be a very short-term deal, something like a 72-hour deal.

If that‘s true we‘re right back here, essentially, after the weekend, having the same fight again.  Would you expect at that point that these social issues—that these women‘s health issues and the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency, these types of issues would be back at the center of the fight?

DEGETTE:  I would expect that this fight is not going to end.  We‘ve been having this fight since the Republican majority took over in the House and it is.  It‘s a hard-right agenda with these riders.

These riders don‘t have anything to do with cutting the federal budget deficit.  If the Republicans were really interested in coming to an agreement, which is what, frankly, representative government is supposed to do, they would ask it down and talk about how we can do a six-month budget, continuing resolution, that will fund the government for six months, that will be fiscally responsible, that will keep our government opened and will begin to bring our budget to control—and take away all of these right-wing philosophical agenda items.  We don‘t need to be talking about that right now.

MADDOW:  In terms of the overall negotiations here, it seems to me that the Democrats have given away a ton -- $38 billion less than was in the president‘s budget request because Republicans have insisted on it.  But that also means the Democrats have offered a lot.  Offering a $38 billion cut is a huge, huge give-away by the Democrats.

Are they getting anything from Republicans in return?  Are Republicans giving up anything that they otherwise thought they were going to be able to hold on to in exchange for this giant amount of money they‘ve got, out of the Democrats?

DEGETTE:  You know, here‘s the problem is these freshmen Republicans -

a lot who are aligned with the Tea Party—don‘t think they should have to compromise at all.  And what they want to do is gut the government.


When you ask the citizens of America, they say, look, we want to have a balanced budget.  We want to try to have fiscal sanity.  But when you talk to them about the extent of the cuts that these Tea Party adherents want, it would just gut our government.  And what‘s worse, it would cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.

And, really, we need to be talking about putting our fiscal house in order, but at the same time, creating jobs.  And so, you know, really, all of these other social issues and these drastic cuts, they should be off the table.  We should sit down in a bipartisan way and talk about how to bring our system into check.

This is why a lot of people like me are reserving judgment on the final agreement because we tend to be fiscal moderates.  We want to balance the budget.  But we want to see exactly where these cuts are going to come.

The cuts need to be shared by everybody.  The cuts need to be shared by the oil and gas companies that had record profits again last year; by large agriculture conglomerates.  They need to be shared by the Defense Department.  And every part of our budget needs to share these cuts.  They can‘t just be on the middle class.

MADDOW:  Colorado‘s Democratic congresswoman, Diana DeGette, thank you very much for joining us tonight.  I imagine it‘s going to be a late and busy night for you.  So, I really appreciate your time.

DEGETTE:  Absolutely.

MADDOW:  Thanks.

DEGETTE:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  The latest on the budget shutdowns still impending at midnight.  Again, the latest news we are hearing from Chuck Todd, NBC‘s Chuck Todd, that there is a deal on the table right now.  It is to be reviewed by all sides.  The first side to review will be the House Republican Caucus, which is expected to meet, oh, 19 minutes in order to pass their judgment on that.

Again, the federal government shutdown impending at midnight.

Please stay with us.


MADDOW:  NBC News political director Chuck Todd reporting just moments ago that negotiators have reached a deal to avert a government shutdown.  But, of course, all parties need to review it now, starting with the Republicans in the House.  They are slated to caucus at 9:45 Eastern Time tonight, which is just about 15 minutes.

Whether or not there is a deal, nobody should believe it‘s a done deal yet—not until everybody signs off.  There has, during the process, been some question as to whether or not House Speaker John Boehner is even really empowered to negotiate on behalf of his caucus.  Whether he can really make binding agreements on their behalf that he can guarantee Republicans will follow through on.

After the Republicans caucus tonight, to discuss a deal that he negotiated on their behalf, we should know more about where John Boehner stands, vis-a-vis, all the other Republicans he supposedly speaks for.

NBC News‘ White House correspondent is Mike Viqueira and he joins us from the White House with the latest.

Mike, thanks very much for joining us.  What do we know about the status of these negotiations?

MIKE VIQUEIRA, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Rachel, you‘ve heard of the 11th hour—we‘re literally down to the 11th hour and it appears that there has there‘s been a breakthrough.

You know, all afternoon, late in the afternoon, Chuck Todd and I have been hearing from the White House and from Capitol Hill, that really was an agreement, that they were sort of clearing away some of the last underbrush, dotting the I‘s, crossing the T‘s.

But a lot of sensitivity, obviously, about a premature declaration of a deal, as you‘ve been point out.

John Boehner—you mentioned it—Democrats have accused him of moving the goalpost over and over and over again.  There was a provision you reported on over and over yourself to cut the federal funding for Planned Parenthood and other women‘s health centers, that provide abortions among the other medical services that they provide, that apparently has been shelved, tabled, deferred, dropped, however you want to put it—they‘re going to fight on it another day.  Republicans perhaps bringing it up in a stand-alone measure in the House of Representatives, perhaps saving it for the major fight that‘s coming in just a few weeks, the fight that‘s going to dwarf, if you can believe it, the counter-attempts we‘ve seen over the last week on the short-term funding bill and that fight has to do with raising the national debt ceiling.

But what we can say is, as you reported it, at 9:45, John Boehner is going to go to the GOP conference.  They meet in the basement of the Capitol.  We can presume that he‘s going to present to them the outlines of this deal.  They‘re going to have to act fast, Rachel.  If the GOP conference, in fact, signs off on it, $39 billion in cuts, that‘s what we‘re going to expect Boehner and John Boehner‘s surrogates, people, lieutenants, to emphasize.

The White House started this week at $33 billion in cuts, insisting that they had come more than halfway of meeting the Republicans‘ $61 billion in cuts.  Remember, we‘re talking about just funding to end the fiscal year through September 30th.

Boehner, with this Planned Parenthood, cutting funding for that and hanging there, the number kept getting higher throughout the day.  Last night, we understand they agreed to $38 billion with the dropping of the Planned Parenthood provision.  It‘s now up to $39 billion as we understand with, the dropping of the Planned Parenthood provision.

We can expect them to emphasize John Boehner and House Republican leaders to emphasize that they got the highest, maximum number of cuts that they could.  We know that there were some pressures starting to mount from Senate Republicans.  We understand that now that Mike Johanns, a Republican senator from Nebraska, has already put out a statement prematurely, lauding a deal that House Republicans are very loathe and very sensitive to announce it this very moment anyway.

The way this will work tonight publicly, it appears is that if, in fact, the house GOP conference sells—buys what John Boehner has bargained on their behalf, as you phrased it, then we would, in all likelihood, see the president sometime very late tonight, perhaps the next hour or two, but just before midnight, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Mike, do we know anything about the length of the deal that‘s on the table tonight?  How long this continuing resolution will be?

VIQUEIRA:  Well, sure.  We‘re talking about two different things.  First of all, we‘re talking about a continuing resolution.  I‘m not going to go back and provide all the legislative back-and-forth, but this would last through the fiscal year, through September 30th.  October 1st starts F.Y. 12, fiscal year.

Then, separately, they would have to do something to keep the government running while they examine and vote and debate on the bill that‘s been negotiated at this moment.  That presumably is going to be lasting three days, that very short term C.R.  That‘s sort of a sideshow at this point for the viewers.

The important thing, the bottom line here is, the headline is—this bill that they‘ve been fighting about, going back-and-forth, the bill that has threatened to lead to a government shutdown if there were no agreement, there appears to be—appears to be now an agreement. We want to caveat that because a lot of people have to sign off on it first.

But there appears to be an agreement to fund the government.  Remember, this is slightly more than trillion dollar bill we‘re talking about.  And they were, you know, arguing around the margins really if you want to look at it in that context of $2 billion, $3 billion, $4 billion, $5 billion over the course of the last week.

But this bill would fund the government through September 30th, there‘s a fight over F.Y. 12 that‘s coming as well.

So, budget is the battleground.  We‘re going to fight over the debt ceiling.  We‘re going to fight over the F.Y. 12 budget.  We‘re going to fight over Paul Ryan‘s budget proposal, and we all know the controversial proposal what he wants to do with Medicare and Medicaid, as well as some other provisions.

But this first stage of what is a major battle that‘s going to last all year appears to have come to a resolution, Rachel.

MADDOW:  NBC News‘ White House correspondent, Mike Viqueira, it‘s going to be a late night.  Thanks for helping out tonight.  I appreciate it.

We‘ll more news on the budget deal as soon as we have it.  Again, we‘re looking at House Republicans going into caucus in 10 minutes right now to discuss a deal that John Boehner seems to have negotiated on their behalf.

We are hearing that the defund Planned Parenthood thing—the defund Planned Parenthood sword of Damocles that the Republicans were holding over the Democrats‘ head has been taken out of the deal.  We don‘t know anything until which see it for sure but that‘s what‘s being reported.

We‘ll stay on it, and we‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  Thank you for being was on this big night in politics.  Right now, we are awaiting the House Republican Caucus meeting in the basement of the House.

Apparently, a deal has been negotiated.  Among those negotiating to avoid a government shutdown: Speaker John Boehner, about whom questions have been raised, whether or not he can actually speak for his caucus.  Whether he‘s pulling their chain or they‘re pulling his.  Speaker Boehner is heading back to meet with his caucus, supposedly, reportedly, with a deal in hand.  And they will be reviewing that to decide whether or not they‘ll sign off on it.

At that point, we may expect comments from the president after the House Republican caucus, I think probably depending on what happened and depending on what happens on the other side of the negotiations.  This is all trying to avoid a got shutdown at midnight.  We are keeping an eye on these things as they unfold.  It‘s very exciting.

My favorite political blogger, my favorite daily news and politics blogger is a guy named Steve Benen.  Steve Benen writes at WashingtonMonthly.com.  “Washington Monthly” is lucky to have him.  And, frankly, if Steve would uproot his comfortable life and move to New York City, I would steal him away from him.  But Steve will not do that and he‘s doing great at “Washington Monthly.”

But, today, Steve took a look at the Wisconsin election story—the story that is so hinky.  As he often does, he nailed it.  He said, quote, “Imagine there was a close, important race, and the conservative candidate eked out a narrow win, and the very next day, a Democratic donor with a sketchy election record discovered 7,000 additional votes for the liberal.  What do you think we‘d hear from the right under those circumstances?”

Ding, ding, ding!  Exactly, he‘s talking about the Supreme Court race in Wisconsin.  The first statewide election since the great Republican union-stripping overreach of 2011.  A political proxy war between a former Republican state legislator, conservative incumbent justice who Scott Walker said he would vote for, and an outside challenger backed by everyone who was mad at Scott Walker for his union-stripping thing.  After David Prosser, the conservative finished 30 points ahead of his nearest challenger in the primary just a month and a half ago, interest in challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg surged on a wave on anti-Republican sentiment.

Would it be enough to give her a huge upset victory over this incumbent conservative judge?  We don‘t know.

By the time election night was over, there was no clear winner.  By the time “The A.P.” was saying 100 percent of precincts were reporting, Ms.  Kloppenburg had a couple hundred votes lead.  She declared victory and it looked like a recount was imminent.

But, then, out of the blue, a day late, the court clerk from the largest conservative county in the state announced that she had turned up an extra 14,000 votes that she didn‘t count before and those votes, voila, gave the conservative incumbent justice a 7,000-vote lead!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m apologizing.  It was human error.  It was just human error.  This is human error, which I apologize for, which is common in this process.


MADDOW:  Before becoming Waukesha County clerk in 2002, Kathy Nicholas spent 13 years working as a computer specialist for the state assembly Republican caucus, that is one of four partisan groups that was dismantled in a Wisconsin political scandal that sent a number of politicians to jail.  Kathy Nicholas made an immunity deal for herself with prosecutors in that case.  She has since refused to answer questions about her role in it.

For part of her time in that job, though, Kathy Nicholas‘ boss in the assembly was the conservative candidate in the Supreme Court election, David Prosser.

Once she became county clerk of the largest conservative county in the state in 2004, dozens of voters in that county were given the wrong ballots in a primary election.  Their votes were counted anyway.  The following year in 2005, Kathy Nicholas was headlines add “red-faced” after she gave local papers sample ballots for a county executive election that were pre-marked with a vote for one of the candidates.

Ms. Nicholas blamed human error.  The year after that, in 2006, Ms.  Nicholas‘ county was plagued with a whole slew of botched election problems, with some familiar details.  One candidate who had been shown to be winning actually lost.

One of the reasons for the mistake?  An entire city‘s data had been misrecorded.

The next year in 2007, another candidate in a Kathy Nicholas election went through the same—you won, no you lost—when late in the process, Kathy Nicholas figured out that some votes had been missed, which happened to swung the election the other way.

Three months ago, Waukesha County audited Kathy Nicholas‘ operation and recommended that she improve her security and backup procedures.  She would not commit to doing it.  She said she would only take the suggestion into consideration.

None of this county clerk‘s record says this election has been hinked with.  What was it that Steven Benen said about this?

“Imagine there was a close, important race, and the conservative candidate eked out a narrow win, and the very next day, a Democratic donor with a sketchy election record discovered 7,000 additional votes for the liberal.  What do you suppose we‘d hear from the right under those circumstances?”  Exactly!

Joining us again tonight is Mordecai Lee.  He‘s the professor of government affairs at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  Professor Lee is also a former member of the Wisconsin state assembly and the Wisconsin state Senate.

Professor, thanks very much for your time.  It‘s good to have you here.


MADDOW:  Let me first ask, if I got any of that history wrong.  It was sort of—I quick political history of Waukesha County.  Did I say anything wrong that sounds like to you?

LEE:  You know, Rachel, I think you now Waukesha political history better than I do.  There are one or two stories there that I wasn‘t familiar, but you really nailed it.

MADDOW:  It is reported that state election officials are now on their way to Waukesha County to review Kathy Nicholas‘ tallying procedures from the night she missed an entire city‘s 14,000 votes.  Do you have confidence that state election officials can sort this out?

LEE:  I do have confidence.  And it‘s exactly for the same reason what we talked about last night.  The state election‘s board is now governed by a nonpartisan board of retired judges.  And so, instead of it being a partisan board of let‘s say three Democrats and three Republicans, we know that this is nonpartisan civil service, straight down the middle of the road, professional public administration.

So, if Kevin Kennedy‘s sort of flying squad comes back and says—it‘s OK, then I‘ll believe it.  I wouldn‘t believe it if it were a partisan-controlled kind of deputation.

MADDOW:  This latest mistake notwithstanding, there have been a lot of issues.  Waukesha County has had issues big enough to make the papers at least that we found in the archives in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, now, 2011 -- all under Ms. Nicholas‘ leadership as the person in charge of elections in that county.

Is that an unusual record?  Do all counties have these kinds of discrepancies in almost every election?

LEE:  You know, professors sometimes take too long to say things so I‘ll give you a one-word answer—no.  This is very unusual.  This is exceptional.  I‘ve never seen any story with so many rounds. And each time that she says—it was just a mistake.  I think after a while one starts seeing a pattern.

MADDOW:  Some people who have crunched the numbers on this, including Nate Silver, who has been very good on making political statistics make sense to laymen, some people say statistically, the revised results from Waukesha seem sound.  They don‘t seem like statistical outliers.  They look like real numbers.

Do you concur with that?

LEE:  I think that‘s a very good analysis.  And, in fact, Craig Gilbert (ph) from “The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel” came up with the same results.  So, I think these are trustworthy results, but it‘s so just stunningly surprising that that‘s why everybody just sort of has a kind of, oh, are you sure that‘s OK?

It‘s really interesting the way you introduced the segment in terms of what if the shoe was on the other foot?  And it really reminds me not of just Wisconsin politics, but Washington, D.C. politics, that Democrats think they‘re right, but Republicans know they‘re right.  They never have any doubt.  They‘re great on message.  They‘re fabulous at how they communicate and Democrats just always seem to be behind the game.

MADDOW:  Former Wisconsin state senator and Democrat, Mordecai Lee, now a professor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a man that knows of which he speaks—thank you for joining us again tonight.  I really appreciate it, sir.

LEE:  Thank you.

MADDOW:  The very latest on what looks like it could be a budget deal on Capitol Hill coming up in just a moment.  The last thing we have heard from our NBC sources on Capitol Hill is that an aide to Speaker John Boehner says there is no deal yet.  At his meeting with the Republican caucus, the speaker will talk to the members of the conference about the status of the talks.  That means that the deal must be sold, still.

We are keeping an eye on what‘s going on in Washington tonight.  It seems like it‘s all happens right this very minute.  Please, stay with us.


MADDOW:  On nights like this, breaking news nights like this, this is my favorite thing about working in a building like this, you get shots of all the live feeds people set up in case something happens there.

So, just moments ago, we had the official flag unfurlers come out.  And in front of this camera, not only put the flags there perfectly and unfurl just so they‘d be perfectly fluffed so when the Republicans come out of their caucus meeting, they will be standing in front of flags that have just the right amount of flex in them.  I love it.

You can see members of Congress going into the meeting right now.  The latest from Washington as the deal is apparently on the table for Republicans to review, when we come back.


MADDOW:  House Republicans are meeting right this very minute, meeting as a group right now, discussing a deal to avert a government shut down that negotiators reached earlier tonight.  It‘s not a done deal.

As an aide to Speaker John Boehner told NBC News just moments ago, the speaker still has to talk to members of his conference about the negotiations.  After that, we should have a better idea.  There‘s Speaker Boehner right now.  There is just moments ago, excuse me, heading into that meeting with his conference.  We will have a better idea whether a shut down will still happen at midnight Eastern Time tonight.

NBC News political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd joins from the White House with the latest now.

Chuck, thank you for joining us.  What can you tell us about where things stand right now?

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR:  Well, look, they have—as I said, the negotiators feel like they have found the best thing that they can sell to each side, which is $39 billion in cuts approximately—the White House did draw a line in the sand on getting to $40 billion.  The rider, particularly the most crucial one, the Planned Parenthood rider, would be gone.

Now, last night, when they left here at the White House, Rachel, they had a deal of $35 billion or $38 billion if the rider would be dropped.  And that wasn‘t clear.  And that‘s basically what they‘ve been negotiating those days, how to get rid of this rider.

That‘s what the Democrats have been trying to do and the White House has been trying to do.  And apparently, it cost a billion dollars.  I think when all the stories are going to be told, that‘s what happened.  It cost about a billion dollars to get the rider gone and that is part of the sale that Speaker Boehner is now trying to make to the rank and file of the Republicans, which is, look, he got the best deal he could.  He brought the numbers up.  He brought the White House up.  And that this entire debate has been about how much is going get cut.

And at the end, that is why they can declare some political victory here.

And Democrats can feel good about the deal because they stood their ground on the riders, particularly this one on Planned Parenthood, particularly this one that is very important to a lot of women, a major constituency to the Democratic Party.

So, at this point, nothing is done until this House Republican conference approves it and until Speaker Boehner feels like he‘s got enough Republican support that he‘ll get behind it.  That‘s why you‘re watching, Rachel, everybody else sort of stay on the sidelines and letting Boehner do his work and try to sell the deal.

MADDOW:  Chuck, what is your expectation?  Your professional prognosticator expectation about whether or not House Republicans are going to sign off on this?

TODD:  Well, look, I can tell you that there‘s a whole bunch of Senate Republicans that want House Republicans to sign off.  S, they are getting pressure inside their own party to say, guys, get this deal done, there are bigger fights to have.  Debt ceiling is coming up in the couple of months.  The 2012 budget fight obviously is already getting started with Paul Ryan.

So, the incentive is there to get this done, politically at this point.  So, it feels like it‘s going get done.  The White House seems to be making preparations on the expectation that the deal is going to get done.

Look, there‘s a lot of I‘s that have to be dotted just in the next hour or so if, in fact, everybody agrees on this.  You‘ve heard Mike Viqueira report, you‘ve got a deal with actually funding the government for the weekend.  You got to deal with funding the government even overnight.  You can‘t just get this giant deal through the House and the Senate very—as fast as they would like to have.

So, there‘s still enough speed bumps to cause folks some heartburn,

but I can tell you everybody seems to think that this deal is basically

done.  But again, all pending on how—particularly the Tea Party Caucus -

responds to it right now as Speaker Boehner sells it.


MADDOW:  And given everything that they have done this year has defied expectations, at this point, I wouldn‘t bet either way on any of this.

TODD:  No.  I mean, I guess—my gut is, it seems as if—here‘s the way one White House aide put it to me earlier today.  They get the sense that Boehner was not going to walk from the table without a deal.  That he did want a deal.  They didn‘t feel that way yesterday.  They felt that way today.

MADDOW:  NBC News political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd—thank you, Chuck.  I know you‘ll be working late on this.  I really appreciate it.

TODD:  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  We will be right back with the latest.


MADDOW:  Right now, House Republicans are meeting to discuss a reported deal worked out by Speaker John Boehner.  I guess he got the caucus to sign off on it.  What you see here on this other thing on the screen, this was the—what the live shot camera caught as the Republicans were all heading into their conference discussions.  These are the people whose job it is to fluff the flags so that when Republicans come out of their meeting in their conference—I went to college with the redheaded guy in the left.  It‘s when the Republicans come out of the conference room after they have discussed it and they want to walk up to the microphone to make their deal, you see what they are doing?

The flags have to be perfectly arranged.  And apparently, we have just learned tonight that the way that they fluff the flags perfectly is by sticking them full of wire hangers.  I will let you make the commentary on that based on tonight‘s policy discussions on your own.  Consider my mind blown.

Stay with MSNBC through the time for the latest on the budget.  Next up, the special edition of “THE ED SHOW” hosted tonight by Chris Hayes from Washington.



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