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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Read the transcript to the Thursday show

February 14, 2013


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, HOST: Today, Republicans blocked a vote on Chuck
Hagel just because they can.


CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Well, it`s Valentine`s Day. Not a lot of love
in the air.

SEN. HARRY REID, D-NEV.: It`s shocking.

TODD: Not a lot of love for Chuck Hagel.

REID: The filibuster of Senator Hagel`s confirmation is

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unprecedented filibuster of Chuck Hagel`s

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: The debate on Chuck Hagel is not over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All roads lead to Benghazi.

GRAHAM: I`m going to fight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is willing to fight until the very end on

GRAHAM: I`m going to hit you and keep hitting you. Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who blinks first?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody is really quite certain.

REID: The filibuster of Senator Hagel`s confirmation is

SEN. JAMES INHOFE, R-OKLA.: This is not a filibuster.

REID: Filibuster of one of the president`s nominees.

INHOFE: Oh, we`re going to filibuster, who`s going to filibuster?

REID: Is this what they want?

INHOFE: This is not a filibuster.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The signal we`re sending to the world is America
can`t get its act together.

because the president insisted that it be there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president`s sequester.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republican DNA is all over it.

BOEHNER: The sequester was the president`s idea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The blame game just doesn`t work.

BOEHNER: Our Senate colleagues do nothing. Democrats must begin to
do their work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Democrats have been willing to more than meet the
GOP halfway.

BOEHNER: The House has done its work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not in control of the House of
Representatives. We don`t control the agenda.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The blame game just doesn`t work outside of the

BOEHNER: This is the House side of the Capitol. Our Senate
colleagues do nothing. Senate Democrats must (inaudible) Democrats in the
United States Senate. The United States Senate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The only certainty is much more--

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dysfunction and gridlock.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congressional uncertainty.

TODD: Well, it is Valentine`s Day.

Love is not in the air.

OBAMA: I can`t imagine a more romantic way to spend Valentine`s Day.

TODD: With all the love lost, is it time for a breakup?


O`DONNELL: President Obama`s nominee for defense secretary, Chuck
Hagel, has the 51 votes needed in the Senate for confirmation, but today he
actually needed 60 to clear a Republican procedural hurdle that would allow
the vote on his nomination to actually take place. He got 58 votes. Hagel
came up two votes short of what he needed. Today -- he will eventually
have those votes, that is for sure.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: We can get this issue revolved on the day
that we can return from the recess. Certainly there is, I believe,
sufficient votes to invoke cloture at that time.

GRAHAM: When we get back, unless there is a real bombshell, I vote
for cloture and move on to his nomination.


O`DONNELL: That is right. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham
will vote to end the debate on the confirmation of Chuck Hagel eventually,
but today they just didn`t feel like it. They toed the party line and
voted to block Hagel`s nomination. The procedure vote failed 40-58, with
one senator voting present and one senator not voting. 54 Democrats voted
in favor, as did four Republicans. No cabinet member nominated for a
national security post has ever been filibustered. Only two cabinet
secretary nominees in history have been filibustered. Both eventually
cleared their cloture votes, 85 to 8, and both were eventually easily
confirmed. Today Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid knew he did not have
the votes to clear the Republican procedural hurdle, but scheduled the vote
anyway to demonstrate this.


REID: Republicans have made an unfortunate choice to ratchet up the
level of obstruction here in Washington. There is nothing that`s going to
change in the next 10 days about the qualifications of Chuck Hagel. I
guess to be able to run for the Senate as a Republican in most places in
the country, you need to have a resume that says I helped filibuster one of
the president`s nominees. Maybe that helps. Maybe that keeps a Tea Party
guy from running against you.


O`DONNELL: Here is what President Obama said just after today`s vote.


OBAMA: The notion that we would see an unprecedented filibuster, just
about unprecedented -- we`ve never had a secretary of defense filibustered
before -- there is nothing in the Constitution that says that somebody
should get 60 votes. There are only a handful of instances in which
there`s been any kind of filibuster of anybody for a cabinet position in
our history. And what seems to be happening, and this has been growing
over time, is that the Republican minority in the Senate seems to think
that the rule now is that you have to have 60 votes for everything. Well,
that is not the rule. The rule is that you are supposed to have a majority
of the 100 senators vote on most bills. The filibuster historically has
been used selectively for a handful of issues, to extend debate, but we
don`t have a 60-vote rule. And yet that has become common practice.


O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, it seems to me that nothing proves better how
ridiculous this is than what John McCain and Lindsey Graham said, which is,
well, you know, on another day we`ll vote the other way.

JOY REID, MSNBC: And the thing -- there are so many things that are
frustrating and maddening about this, I don`t even know where to begin, but
yes, John McCain, by the way, broke his own rule and his own supposed
principle of not using the filibuster on cabinet nominees. He`s said that
in the past. He has now broken that rule to stand with his sidekick,
Lindsey Graham, who is afraid of a primary challenge. He is worried about
his re-election in 2014. The only reason I can think of to delay these 10
days, when they`ve already said it`s a foregone conclusion, that they
themselves are going to vote for cloture, is a fishing expedition. What do
they think they are going to find in 10 days? Some bombshell they think
will derail the nomination entirely, or do they just want to use it for 10
more days of excruciating, irrelevant argument about Benghazi, something
over which Chuck Hagel had nothing, no oversight, nothing to do with. It
is irrelevant to his nomination.

O`DONNELL: Chris, it sounds like for McCain and Graham, they just
want to drag it out. They don`t even sound like they`re looking for some
smoking gun.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC: I think one of the most important things for
people to -- you know this better than I -- but one of the most important
things for people to understand about the way the Senate works and the way
that the filibuster works, is that one way to look at a Congress, a Senate,
113th, is there`s a finite amount of legislating hours. Let`s say 5,000
hours of legislating, right? Now, every hour you can burn, if you`re in
the minority, that`s a win. Right? Because it`s a a finite budget.
Right? So when you can spend that time with dilatory tactics such as this,
and the filibuster eats up a lot of time, what you are doing is shrinking
the amount of time that the majority can get things done, and waiting until
the next election when you might be in the majority.

And so, one of the huge effects of the constant filibustering is less
obstruction and more chewing up the clock, right, making it impossible to
get through the broad spectrum of things you would be getting through if
you could use every hour of that legislating time. And this is the perfect
example in which the result is a foregone conclusion, but what they have
gained themselves are hours that no one is ever getting back in the 113th
Congress, because time only moves forward. And that is the fundamental
truth about legislating that this use of the filibuster exploits.

O`DONNELL: Yes. I once figured out how many legislative days we had
in a given year in the Senate, and I realized oh my God, we are not going
to get anything done.


O`DONNELL: It is very hard to explain to the outside world how that
time gets eaten up and disappears.

But Joy, one thing that I`ve been wondering about is that Chuck Hagel
unfortunately is not the idea case. This is not a John Kerry case. He
struggled in the confirmation hearing, and I`m just wondering, if he had
turned in a better and stronger performance in that room, would that picked
up a couple of votes today?

REID: I mean, I think it might have picked up a couple of votes. I
don`t think it would have changed the outcome, because I think the
political imperative for Republicans has nothing to do in a lot of ways
with Chuck Hagel. It has to do with their own parochial political
interests, and Lindsey Graham is the perfect example of it. It`s pure
self-interest, and of course his friend John McCain can relate to it,
because that`s how he ran his reelection campaign, on pure self-interest,
not having to do with anything of substance. So yes, maybe he would have
picked up a couple of votes here and there, but this isn`t about Chuck
Hagel. This is about a Republican Party that in a lot of ways is broken,
and maybe, you know, maybe you`re right, they just don`t want to get to
guns and they don`t want to talk about uncomfortable things like
immigration reform. But this is so bad. It`s such a bad precedent that
it`s hard to believe that someone like John McCain, who claims to love the
institution of the Senate, would do it.

HAYES: Particularly when we just had this -- I mean, what`s maddening
about this and to watch Harry Reid, I`m sorry, complain about it is a
little much. Because he had a chance to do something, and he bailed. He
basically had this gentleman`s agreement with Mitch McConnell. He did not
implement any real rules reform. The president saying we now have this de
facto 60-vote rule. Yes, exactly, that`s what advocates of actually
reforming the filibuster in a muscular way that you actually write in the
rules were saying is that this is the tendency -- there is nothing to
interrupt this tendency right now. There is nothing in the norms of the
institution, there`s nothing in the actual rule, short of changing them,
that is going to stop this. There is all the incentives for more of this
to happen.

So I`m sorry, it is a little hard for me to be particularly
sympathetic to Harry Reid when he gets up there saying, oh my God, look at
these people abusing the filibuster. Yes, that`s been the case, and you
had a chance to do something about it, and you didn`t.

O`DONNELL: And Republicans watched a crazy senator like Jim DeMint
retire, and replace him immediately with a possibly crazier senator from
Texas, Ted Cruz. And John McCain was outraged that Cruz questioned the
patriotism, the loyalty to this country of Chuck Hagel, but the right way
for John McCain to have expressed his outrage would have been with a
different vote today. Rather than supporting in effect the crazy Cruz side
of this argument.

REID: Yes, and I think there is this larger story about the
degradation of John McCain`s public image. You know, this is a guy who
claims to be a friend of Chuck Hagel. He comes out with all this umbrage
about what Ted Cruz said about his supposed friend, Chuck Hagel. This is a
fellow Vietnam warrior with him, that he is allowing this undignified
process to go forward and participating in it. He did not just stand by
and watch it and vote present like one member of the Senate did. He
participated in this filibuster. It is ugly and it is bad for his long-
term image.

HAYES: The grand irony of this entire thing is, you know, running the
Pentagon is a hard job. People have failed at it before. It is the
largest bureaucracy we have in the government. It is one of the largest
workforces in the world. I mean, it`s a hugely complicated thing to do,
administratively, logistically, politically. There are strong centers of
power in that building. And I have no idea whether Chuck Hagel is up to
it, nor does anyone, because none of that has been litigated at all. I
know that he talked to Al Jazeera once. I know, like, who he gave speeches
to, but the actual job the guy is going to do, I sit here as an observer, I
don`t even know if I have a dog in the fight. Do I care if Chuck Hagel is
the guy running the Pentagon? Because as far as I can tell, no one has
done much in Congress to sort of sort that out.

O`DONNELL: And the one thing that job isn`t is a policy maker. That
is not the person who decides whether we go to war. That is the person who
takes the orders from the White House about how to implement it, and that
is not the person who decides what our relationship is with any other
foreign country. Those issues belong in other jobs, and that is what they
made the whole hearing about.

REID: No, absolutely, and even their fixation on Benghazi really is
located in State.


REID: Exactly. That has nothing to do with this job either. And I
totally agree. I feel like at the end of the day, I started out saying
confirm Chuck Hagel, I liked the fact that he was an enlisted man, that he
fought in Vietnam, but now I`m at a point where I`m saying, I`m not even
sure why I support him, because they haven`t talked about him. It hasn`t
been about him at all.

O`DONNELL: Joy Reid and Chris Hayes, thank you both for joining me

REID: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, Wayne LaPierre gave his rebuttal to the
president`s State of the Union address today, and I will be joined in
rebuttal to Wayne LaPierre by someone who is on the NRA`s enemies list.
And in the "Rewrite" tonight, if there was no such thing as Democrats, if
Republicans ruled the world, would they ever raise taxes? Well, there is a
place where Democrats basically don`t exist, and where Republicans today
voted to raise taxes big time, and that is in tonight`s "Rewrite."



LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The only thing that has changed is
that Hillary and I are a little older, perhaps a little wiser, a little
less patient, particularly with political dysfunction, a little less
tolerant of BS in general, and it is probably a good thing at this point in
time that we have a chance to get some damn rest.


O`DONNELL: But according to a newspaper report today, Hillary won`t
be resting for long, because she is running for president. That is coming


O`DONNELL: John Boehner has finally figured out how to lead the House
of Representatives -- put all of the responsibility for governing on the
Senate and the president.


BOEHNER: If he is serious about enacting his agenda, I think it must
start with the part of this Congress, his part he controls, the United
States Senate.


O`DONNELL: That includes the sequester, which is scheduled to take
effect two weeks from today.


BOEHNER: We are going to insist that they finally pass a plan to
replace the president`s sequester. This sequester was the president`s
idea. His party needs to follow through on their plans to replace it. If
they are willing to pass a bill, we will find some way to work with them.


O`DONNELL: John Boehner told the Associated Press in an interview
that he is not interested in a grand bargain to avert the sequester.
Remember, this is the president`s idea, he insisted on this, and until he
puts forward a plan to replace the sequester and his Senate Democratic
colleagues pass it, we are going to be stuck with it. Frankly, every time
I`ve gotten into one of these high-profile negotiations, you know, it is my
rear end that got burnt."

Senate Democrats not as sensitive about their rear ends as John
Boehner, announce their plan to avert the sequester today. It would replace
the drastic cuts with more than $100 billion in deficit reduction. Half of
that would come from spending cuts. $27.5 billion cut from Defense, and
$27.5 billion cut from agriculture subsidies. The other half would come
from new tax revenue, eliminating tax subsidies to oil companies and
enacting the Buffett rule, the new version of the Buffett rule would
require people with incomes over $2 million a year, after charitable
deductions, to pay at least 30 percent federal income tax rates.

John Boehner was asked today about the Democratic plan to replace the


REPORTER: Would you rather see the sequester kick in than accept a
deal that includes some new tax revenue?

BOEHNER: When the Senate passes a plan, we will be happy to take a
look at it.


O`DONNELL: The House Democrats introduced the bill today, but they
are not hopeful that John Boehner will be happy to take a look at it.


REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, D-MD.: We actually think it would pass, you
know, we think that our Republican colleagues are afraid of bringing that
bill up for a vote, because it really clearly presents the priorities that
are before us. Do you want to lose 750,000 jobs or do you want to ask the
big oil companies to get rid of their taxpayer subsidies.


O`DONNELL: President Obama went to Georgia today to promote his
education agenda and spend some quality time with pre-schoolers. But even
in Georgia, it sounded like he had John Boehner on his mind.


OBAMA: What we saw in the classroom here today was, kids are taught
numbers, they are taught shapes, but also how to answer questions, discover
patterns, play well with others. And that whole play well with others, by
the way, is a trait we could use more in Washington.


OBAMA: Maybe we need to bring the teachers up.


OBAMA: You know? Every once in a while have some quiet time.


OBAMA: Timeout.



O`DONNELL: Richard Wolffe, so John Boehner now says it`s President
Obama`s sequester. He invented the whole thing. At the time, I believe he
said that, John Boehner said I got 98 percent of what I want. So it is at
most 2 percent the president`s sequester. Right? The president has got 2
percent of it.

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC: Maybe he has a short-term memory loss problem,
but as I recall, I mea, you recall the specifics of the 98 percent. There
was the whole debt ceiling crisis where they were about to default on
American debt, and send the entire global economy into a tailspin, and that
is how we ended up with the sequester.

Now, if I remember rightly, it wasn`t the president`s idea to play
around with default. But I could be wrong. I mean, what do I know?

O`DONNELL: And I thought that the president outsmarted those guys at
the time. Boehner is now retroactively trying to admit that, after having
said he got 98 percent of what he wanted.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC: Right. And he wants to blame the president for a
solution to, as Richard said, the problem he created. And this is not a
natural order of things. I mean, Lawrence, you showed a tape today that I
thought was very important, of Boehner basically saying, hey, it is all on
the Dems, it is all in the Senate. And if you go to,
opposition does not always equal obstruction or doing nothing. I mean,
Newt Gingrich, who I don`t hold up as a great example of much, at least had
the courage of his convictions to get up there and pass bills. That is not
what these guys are about. They are about obstruction, and as you said,
Richard, manufactured crises.

O`DONNELL: But this I think is a poll-tested position that Boehner is
-- it`s a new position. Boehner has finally figured out how you can sound
reasonable. He should have been saying this all along. He should have
been saying, hey, look, if the Democratic Senate passes something, we will
take a look at it. Instead he was always jumping out there, saying no, no,
no, right at the start. When he didn`t have to, because the Senate was not
going to be able to pass most of what we were talking about.

WOLFFE: So actually no leadership is actually his best form of

O`DONNELL: Exactly.


WOLFFE: That is why he is actually an accomplished politician. That
is how you get to be House speaker of this crazy mess that is today`s
Republican Party. It is the only practical way anything will happen. It
also, talking about focus grouping, if you got to go into a focus group
with Republicans` position, where cutting spending is more important than
creating jobs, or somehow cutting spending and jobs will create jobs, you
would rather do nothing, you are much better off being an advocate for
nothing than trying to go in with what is actually the official House
Republican position.

O`DONNELL: But what he is saying has actually always been the
political dynamics that exist between the two bodies. It always has been
that the House -- the speaker would always say, well, we`ll see what the
Senate can do. If they believed that the Senate could do nothing, they
wouldn`t put the House through a vote if they thought the Senate could do
nothing, and the Senate leader would always say, well, we`ll see what the
House can do, if they believed the House could do nothing. There was no
sense in putting the Senate through a vote. So, he`s actually retreating.



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