October 5, 2013
Guest: Jake Sherman, Judith Browne Dianis, Benjy Sarlin, Bob Franken, Raul
Reyes, Tara Dowdell, Kavita Patel, Lynne Thorp
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning my question -- what exactly
is the job of Texas` attorney general?
Plus, we wanted to do a segment about the speaker of the House, but there
doesn`t seem to be one.
And, the GOP predicts the end of the world about as well as the ancient
But, first, Republicans are playing with themselves, but who can blame
them? They`ve got a raging Boehner.
HARRIS-PERRY: Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
This week we learned the government shutdown is very serious business. I
mean hungry children serious. The fact that 53 percent of American infants
rely on WIC benefits, benefits that would run out at the end of the month
if the government does not reopen.
Now, WIC is, of course, women, infants and children, the nutrition program
run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and it provides food and
nutrition, counseling to pregnant women and the mothers of infants and
children up to age five. OK, WIC is food for babies, food that includes
baby formula, an expense that can run up to $2,000 for the first year of
life. Let`s just be clear. Kids and babies who could go hungry if we
don`t open for business soon. The government shutdown is serious. And the
political reality of letting little ones go hungry may be sinking in for
House Republicans. Friday, they voted to, quote, refund WIC, but only
after there was a major outcry in the media about it, and still without an
offer to fund the rest of the government. But something that advocates for
WIC called a cynical ploy to use low-income, nutritionally at-risk mothers
and young children as political pawns for political ends. That could not
take the place of actual long-term funding. So instead of producing
serious alternatives, Washington just keeps on giving us nuggets of
absurdity. And we here in "Nerdland" are big fans of political absurdity
so, even though we get just how serious this whole thing is, it just seemed
right to pause and recall "Nerdland`s" favorite moment so far in "Shutdown
First up, is this hot mike moment between Senator Rand Paul and Senate
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL, (R ), KENTUCKY: Do you have a second?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R ), KENTUCKY SENATE MINORITY LEADER: I`m all wired
PAUL: I just did CNN and I just go over and over again, "We`re going to
compromise. We`re willing to negotiate. I think - I don`t think they poll
tested "we won`t negotiate." I think it`s awful for them to say that over
and over again.
MCCONNELL: Yeah, I do, too. And I just came back from that two-hour
meeting with them and that was- that was basically the same view privately
as it was publicly.
PAUL: I think if we keep saying we wanted to defund it, we fought for
that, but now we`re willing to compromise on this, I think they can - and
we`re gonna - I think well, I know, we don`t want to be here, but we`re
going to win this I think.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Guys, how have you not learned the assume the mike is hot
lesson? Which brings me to a second great moment. This is GOP House member
Marlin Stutzman doing his best Rodney Dangerfield impression.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARLIN STUTZMAN, R-IND.: We`re not going to be disrespected, and so
that`s where we`re at today where we have to get something out of this.
And I don`t know what that even is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I don`t even know what it is. We`re going to get something.
Of course, Democrats, including the president, pounced on his remarks.
Stutzman later walked back his comments. But there`s that saying in D.C.,
a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth. Another fave of the week is
Congressman Mark Meadows considered by some to be the architect of the
shutdown. Listen to this fascinating assessment of the connection between
Obamacare and the current shutdown crisis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC.): This fight now has become about veterans and
about National Guard folks that perhaps -- reservists that are not getting
paid. That`s where the fight is today. Obamacare is mandatory spending.
It`s going on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why not vote on a full, just say, full CR if you
don`t care about Obamacare anymore?
MEADOWS: Uh -- uh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Uh -- Uh -- Congressman Meadows went on to choke out
something about how critical it is for the decisions he makes to be as
least harmful as they possibly can. And, of course, there is this,
Congressman George Holden of North Carolina napping while his fellow
Republican, Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas held the floor. The full
embodiment of the absolute absurdity, unrelenting exhausting absurdity of
the current manufactured crisis that has shut down the government and
endangered the basic needs of the most vulnerable among us. But what the
hell? At this point I`m with Joe Biden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I`m getting a cookie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Me too. Good cookie. Joining me now is syndicated
columnist Bob Franken, also Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the
Advancement Project. Benjy Sarlin, political reporter for msnbc.com and
attorney and NBC Latino and "USA Today" columnist Raul Reyes. Now I have
cookie on me. But listen, there really, I just kept thinking on the one
hand this seems so serious, Benjy, but on the other hand, it just - I just
could feel like we are reporting on this thing that is completely
BENJY SARLIN, POLITICAL REPORTER, MSNBC.COM: Well, a lot of the absurdity
of this is that people have been calling it the "Seinfeld" shutdown, the
shutdown about nothing, which is that we don`t really know what it`s about
from day to day, which makes it very hard to talk about because it started
with this huge apocalyptic fight over Obamacare, and now that it`s actually
here we barely are talking about it. As Meadows said, it`s about national
guard and parks and WIC. It`s like this meta-debate about the effects of
the shutdown, as if it`s some natural disaster that rolled in. So it makes
it very odd to talk about when you don`t know what one side`s demands are.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is that the thing that makes it, Bob, different then --
because this isn`t the first time that we shut down, that`s why we`re
calling it shutdown 2013. There have been previous shutdowns sometimes
with a Democrat in the White House. But is the different that we don`t
know any more what it`s about?
BOB FRANKEN, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, first of all, I think that a lot
of people who are saying what is this about? I mean Ted Cruz led them down
the primrose path. I do have to point out that you probably missed the
best audio moment, which was John Boehner saying this isn`t a damn game.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, yeah, yeah, right.
FRANKEN: And I got to say, yes, it is.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, it is! Totally a damn game.
FRANKEN: You saw the senators from Kentucky forgetting rule number one,
which is never talk about anything of consequence around an open mike.
FRANKEN: But if you ever wanted proof that this is a game, all you had to
do is to listen to that conversation.
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. And that for me I guess, the fact that on the
one hand it is a game, it is absurd, and yet, Judith, there are real people
- I mean we started in part with WIC because it`s such -- it`s so
indicative of just how real these consequences are for ordinary people on
JUDITH BROWNE DIANIS. CO-DIRECTOR ADVANCEMENT PROJECT: That`s right. I
mean we`re talking about millions of families, of poor folks. Head Start.
People who had no alternatives this week because their head start program
was closed down. Mothers who actually now have to divert money that they
didn`t have to finding daycare so they can go to work. And, you know, my
view of this is a little biased because I live in the Washington, D.C.,
DIANIS: So, seeing the trickle-down of it, it`s pretty incredible.
People, you know, in New York, Brooklyn may not know about it. But I can
tell you, in D.C., you know, first of all, yes, for some of us it`s great,
because there`s no traffic, but at the same time, my neighbors are staying
home. My neighbors are federal government workers. And then the
collateral consequences of the businesses that rely upon government
workers, we`re going to see the economy hit at this last (inaudible).
HARRIS-PERRY: This point about federal government workers and your
neighbors being federal government workers, of course, Raul, the other
piece of it is that for these congressmen, for these senators, but
particularly for the members of the House, their constituents are federal
government workers. We took a - just sort of took a look at -- there`s a
group of people who are the -- we`re calling them the reasonable
Republicans, the 20 or so who is Boehner brought a clean CR to the floor,
they would be willing to vote for that clean CR. And when we just sort of
took a look at, you know, Representative Simpson and Mean (ph) and Peter
King, these are people when you look at their districts, they have a high
percentage of federal government workers in their district. Is that what
has to happen here?
RAUL REYES, USA TODAY COLUMNIST: Well, it`s so confounding because when
you look at those districts and those workers it just makes no sense. And,
you know, each day when I read about this, I`m just trying to figure out
what exactly do they want? And one thing that I am very fascinated about
this whole -- the crazy caucus, they have been obsessed from the beginning
with this whole idea of legitimacy. First, you know, they include the
birthers. They were obsessed that President Obama was not legitimate, then
they were obsessed with the fact that Obamacare was not legitimate, that it
was not lawful. Now that we`ve passed that. And who are the ones who are
acting, basically as insurrectionists, in our government? Them? And I
mean that is the sense these illegitimate sources very hard to wrap my mind
around that we have gotten, as Benjy said, to this point.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mm-hmm. But let me ask you then about this question,
because this idea there are some insurrectionists, you`ve got 20 reasonable
Republicans, at least, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: Potentially more. But we were looking at the polls about
who is to blame for the shutdown. And, you know, Republicans,
congressional Republicans are being blamed at about 44 percent. President
Obama and Democrats are being blamed at about 35 percent. This is a CBS
News poll. But when I`m looking at that, I think we`re not even at 50 -
there`s not even some sort of consensus among Americans at 50 percent about
who is to blame for this.
FRANKEN: Well, I think that a lot of people in politics count on the fact
that a lot of people aren`t interested in politics. There is a line about
certain politicians, and I think I`ll leave them nameless for the moment,
that he says things that dumb people think are smart. And I think that
there is an awful lot of people -- Ted Cruz, Ted Cruz --
FRANKEN: -- a lot of people who are playing that game. You know, he`s
supposed to be the person so highly educated, he went to Princeton and
Harvard, and here he is, he doesn`t even understand how a bill becomes law.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s probably my fault. Like I used to teach at
Princeton. Maybe like - maybe it`s all Princeton and Harvard faculty
members and political science departments ought to feel very ashamed that
we have graduated people who can win elected office who apparently don`t
know how a bill can become a law.
FRANKEN: A lot of soul searching for all of us.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, then a lot - but let me ask this question, just
handicap for me, Benjy, what`s the likelihood, you think that we get a vote
on a clean CR in the next seven days, in the next we`ve got a time. I`m
sitting here a week from today?
HARRIS-PERRY: Really low?
SARLIN: Just low. Neither side really has much impetus to back down right
now. For the White House, this isn`t even a battle about the specific
terms of negotiations. It`s a battle about whether to negotiate at all.
They`re trying to keep Republicans from enshrining this principle that you
can threaten to destroy the government, threaten to destroy the economy if
you don`t get huge legislative policy concessions, because that could
follow the next president and the president after.
REYES: Or even if you get small policy concessions.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, and it`s ...
REYES: That`s a dangerous precedent.
HARRIS-PERRY: Exactly this is a question on the small ones I want to come
back to because clearly what`s happening is if it is low then we`re going
to get a clean CR vote, what seems to be high, because all these piecemeal
offers being made. Now, I want to talk more about that when we come back.
So everyone stays with us because right now the House of Representatives is
back in for a special Saturday session. Look, there they are at work. And
they`re going to get paid. We`ll explain what they`re doing and why when
we come back.
Oh, by the way, also, Miley Cyrus hosts "Saturday Night Live" tonight.
House Republicans, Miley Cyrus. House Republicans. Miley Cyrus. What`s
the name of her new song again?
HARRIS-PERRY: The fight over government funding is continuing, well, right
now. The house opened a rare Saturday session this morning to vote on
giving furloughed federal workers back pay and restoring funding to more
chunks of the government. House Republicans earlier this week already
voted to restore funding to allow the National Institutes of Health to
continue clinical trials, to reopen national parks, and to allow the
District of Columbia to continue operations. The Democratically controlled
Senate has refused to take up the piecemeal funding bills. The Democrats
are also attempting to use a bit of procedural trickery to force the House
to vote on a clean bill that would fund the government at sequester levels
without any strings. NBC News correspondent Luke Russert joins me from
Capitol Hill with the latest. Good morning, Luke.
LUKE RUSSERT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, professor. How are
HARRIS-PERRY: Pretty good. So, I always work on Saturday mornings, but
you guys are at work. You know, what do you think will actually happen
today? I just - I just heard from my guest, Benjy, he doesn`t even think
we`re going to get a vote on a clean CR this week. So, what are they up to
RUSSERT: So, it`s a continuation of this House Republican strategy to put
forward a lot of piecemeal bills to really try and put Democrats on their
heels, being against popular functions of government. This is really about
messaging more than anything else. Republicans will tell you they`re
trying to keep the vital aspects of government open, but more so it`s
really made to put Democrats on their heels, they can run ads against
Democrats in competitive districts on these type of things in 2014, and it
also buys John Boehner some time to try and figure out how he`s going to
get out of the hole that Ted Cruz has dug for the House GOP conference. As
what they`re doing today exactly, they`re going to vote on this bill for
federal workers to get their pay back after they`ve been furloughed.
The White House says they actually want to veto this one, so there`s a good
chance this one could become law. And that`s very significant because
there is a lot of anxiety amongst federal workers if that be of the
appetite for cutting spending from the Tea Party Republicans that they
would not pass something like this. So this is actually something where
the house GOP leadership, the old establishment guard, if you will, has
moved something and they`ve gotten their more conservative brethren to
follow along. They`re also going to be voting on a bill that allows
furloughed chaplains to practice religion on Army bases. This is an issue
that got a lot of traction in the conservative blogosphere. There`s some
concern from catholic priests who have been furloughed and they were
contracted to serve, that if they went back on their base they could be
arrested for saying mass. This bill is moving forward so that would not
So, as I said, messaging war, putting Democrats back on their heels, but,
guys, I will say this -- President Obama and the Senate Democrats have said
they will really stop a lot of this. So, it is good to see the federal
workers back pay going forward. But don`t expect too many of these move -
to move all the way to the president`s desk.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me just - ask you just one question about that. So,
on the one hand, it certainly makes perfect sense to me for the White House
to say OK, this one is important, so once we finally do come to an
agreement, we get this back pay, but is it also an opening? I mean part of
what the administration has done at this point is a pretty hard line about
the refusal to negotiate. Does this mean that we`ll start seeing some of
the piecemeal stuff happening?
RUSSERT: I don`t think so, because I think where you`ve seen the
administration willing to negotiate is when it comes to actual pay for
individuals and their livelihood. So, you saw them move on money for
troops. You`re going to see them move on money for federal workers. If
this becomes law, federal workers who are furloughed, they all breathe a
lot easier --
RUSSERT: -- because I`ve got to tell you, just a few days ago this was no
guarantee. This - I spoke to some Republican who said why should we pay
federal workers for not doing their jobs?
RUSSERT: They had a, quote, unquote, vacation. So this is something I
think the administration wants to take and file away, get it done quickly.
HARRIS-PERRY: Luke, thanks so much for that update. I think it`s a really
useful one. Thanks. And have a good day, you`re working there on
RUSSERT: Oh, yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Nowhere else I`d rather be.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me come on back out to the panel on this question -
question about pay. We were just talking about the North Carolina
Republican who she said - this is Congresswoman Ellmers says "I need my
paycheck. That`s the bottom line. I understand that there may be some
other members who are deferring their checks and I think that`s admirable,
but I`m not in that position. That`s Representative Renee Ellmers out of
North Carolina. I was, like, what? What do you think is happening as a
result of the government shutdown here?
SARLIN: Yeah. And this is getting into a recurring issue, which is a lot
of these debates are about the Congress themselves. For example, the big
Republican demand right now is to slash their own staffers` health
benefits, which has led to a lot of consternation. There is Harry Reid`s
staff leaked all these emails about how John Boehner was trying to prevent
that because it`s his own staff, it`s his own health care, so you see this
with the pay too. They`re talking about cutting federal workers` pay, but
then it gets very difficult when you`re talking about your own. It`s just
the nature of this kind of shutdown.
FRANKEN: Well, first of all, I should disclose right now that my wife
works for the federal government with the "Voice of America," which is
probably having an awful time right now explaining this to the rest of the
FRANKEN: Linda is going into work. And so not only do I support what
they`re doing today in the House of Representatives, but I think that the
federal workers who do work should get double pay. Don`t you think?
DIANIS: Yeah, yeah.
I think people don`t really understand that essential workers are actually
at work and not getting paid for it, like when the whole thing went down
with the woman outside the Capitol building.
DIANIS: Those Capitol police officers are working without pay. How do we
let this happen? And the Republicans are getting away with it. Except
when it comes to them.
REYES: But I think they`re getting away with it to a point, because, you
know, the poll numbers you put up from that CBS poll, in that same poll -
you know, and also when we look at the polling in this situation, it often
depends on the wording, but in that same poll, 72 percent of the public
said they did not agree with the overall idea of shutting down the
government over Obamacare. So I do think as this drags on people are wise
to what is happening. They get it.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet I wonder if the - because, you know, I think they
first impulse to say, oh, man, they are making a mess of this, this is, you
know, this is worse than drawing those red lines around Syria and chemical
weapons, right, Cruz has put Boehner in a hole. But then, the digging out
of the hole, right, never underestimate the GOP on this, is now they can
say President Obama doesn`t like kids with cancer because, you know, they
are not - the Senate is not willing to pass this sort of piecemeal --
you`ve got Newt Gingrich, right? Newt Gingrich who`s said he will
personally pay to restore the electricity for panda cam, so that we can
have panda cam back. Right?
HARRIS-PERRY: So, President Obama hates kids with cancer, but, you know,
Newt Gingrich loves pandas and will bring them back to you.
DIANIS: Right. This is - I mean it`s now a PR campaign. But at the end of
the day, Boehner -- he`s put himself in a pickle, right. He doesn`t have
an exit strategy. He needs -- and his other problem is that those
insurrectionists, the Tea Party, he is - we now have a 2 1/2-party system.
We`ve got Democrats, Republicans, and we`ve got a Tea Party.
DIANIS: And the Tea Party can now do a whole lot more takeovers running up
until the 2014 election cycle to show their muscle within the Republican
HARRIS-PERRY: Because a clean CR at this point is still just sequester-
level funding and it`s still just, you know, for about six weeks, right? I
mean we`re not even talking about a long-term solution. So, stay right
there. We have got a little bit more on exactly this. And I want to dig
in, because I am interested in your point about capital workers - and other
- capital police who were working without pay. Let`s talk a little bit
more about this when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Just this morning, there is a new interview with President
Obama released by the Associated Press. And I want to take a listen just
for a moment here to the president talking about the fact that this
shutdown is not just about this moment, but it`s also about the looming
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: There are enough
votes in the House of Representatives to make sure that the government
reopens today, and I`m pretty willing to bet that there are enough votes in
the House of Representatives right now to make sure that the United States
doesn`t end up being a deadbeat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, this question of deadbeat has to do with raising the
debt ceiling. Speaker Boehner has continuously indicated he`s not going to
allow default, but if we don`t get this dealt with, are we going to bump up
against that debt ceiling conversation?
SARLIN: We absolutely are. And the big talk right now is that this one of
the reasons the shutdown is expected to go on a while, is that it seems
inevitable we`re going to have to resolve these two things at once. It`s
going to have to get far enough that Boehner can talk about these two
things as one issue and say, OK, we have this October 17th deadline, which
is what the Treasury has named for a default, and we have designed ongoing
shutdown, let`s talk about them both. But the situation is in some ways
exactly the same, which is that the White House refuses to even consider
negotiating on the debt ceiling.
SARLIN: It`s something they have to do. And since Boehner says we`re
never going to default, what`s the motive to give any concessions? Either
you believe this is going to destroy the economy or you don`t. And if you
do believe this is going to destroy the economy, what`s your leverage? No
one wants that.
REYES: Right. And he has to hang tough now because, you know, liberals
and progressives absolutely want that. People recognize that this is
causing -- you know, as the ripple effect continues, it is causing pain to
people. But remember, ask anyone in law enforcement what`s the rule when
you have a hostage situation? Drop the gun, release your hostage - you
know, put down that bomb, and then we will talk. He cannot, you know, be
led down that path again. And I do think he has finally learned the lesson
with this totally unreasonable caucus.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Raul, so on the one hand there`s this fundamental
question about governing that you`re pointing out here, right, and the fact
that we cannot negotiate with people who are holding the government
hostage. On the other hand, there is kind of nasty underbelly to this and
that is there are some folks winning as the results of this shutdown.
We`re just looking at the DNC and the GOP fundraising numbers, Bob. And
you`ve got - you`ve got the DNC raising slightly less than $850,000 from
30,000 donors in the first 24-hour period leading up to the shutdown, and
you`ve got the Republican National Committee claiming that it did even
better, raising a million dollars in just less than 48 hours from Monday to
Wednesday. Even as we are about to go bump up against this debt ceiling,
is there - in other words, are the parties winning as they are positioning
themselves in all this?
FRANKEN: Well, there`s a bit of wisdom in politics that when it comes to
fund-raising, losing is winning. And right now you have both sides really
up in arms right now and able to go out there and excite their people into
giving some money. That kind of thing. So, yeah, there are any number of
winners and there are also going to be some political winners in all of
this. One other point. I think what we`re seeing is a classic hard-nose
negotiation, the kind of thing you see when there`s a lightning strike or
something like this. And the administration right now has the tactical
advantage. I think that when Barack Obama, President Obama, called that
meeting at the White House, the main reason for that was to get the hopes
up of the Republicans that he was going to stop rubbing their faces in it
and all of that, then nothing happened, and so it really just sort of
played with their heads. I think finally what`s going to happen, whether
it happens immediately or whether it happens in mid-October, there`s going
to be the search for some sort of face saver, some sort of way to stop
playing cognitive dissonance, stop being the nasty guy and so giving them
something that they can claim as a victory, being thee Republicans.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, and this notion of face saving in hard line
negotiations, whether it`s a lot on the line, is normally what we`re
talking about when we are doing international relations, right? This is
normally what you have to do when you`re dealing with the head of another
state, another government, and you`ve got to give them some room. And we
actually have just seen President Obama manage with some deftness that
question of Syria on - when it felt like everybody was boxed in and there
were no exit strategies --
HARRIS-PERRY: -- in fact, generating some exit strategies and some
alliances with people like Putin, who you wouldn`t think those alliances
would be possible. Do you think that is possible even in the domestic
context? Can we get a Putin to help us out? A domestic Putin I mean.
REYES: But you know, I just have to say, even if it is a small concession,
why should they get any concession for basically upending the governance?
And I think that still sticks in the craw of many on the Democratic side.
It`s just so unreasonable. Even if it`s a small thing. It`s not cool.
HARRIS-PERRY: No domestic Putin helping.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, protests are scheduled to begin in less than two
hours all around the country. Believe it or not, these are not protests
about the government shutdown.
HARRIS-PERRY: The American people really want Congress to get back to
work, real work, work like immigration reform. Today as we speak, people
across the country are preparing to join in more than 100 rallies in
marches to demand that the House of Representatives take up an immigration
reform bill passed by the Senate in June. The March for Immigrant Dignity
and Respect, as the event is being billed, is a prelude to a rally Tuesday
at the National Mall, where organizers hope to draw tens of thousands of
people. So, Raul, there`s a reminder that sometimes Congress, you know,
passes bills, creates legislation, and that none of that is happening in
the middle of all of this drama.
REYES: Right. Right. And, you know, it`s interesting because immigration
reform has continually -- it`s briefly on the front burner, and then a
crisis happens, Syria, you know, this debt ceiling, all these different
things, and it gets pushed back. So, this is an attempt just to put it
back on the burner and remind people that, you know, we have a very
mobilized Latino electorate. When I talk to different people, especially
younger people, you would be amazed. Benjy and I were talking about it.
They are all in on this issue, you know, these rallies are a big deal, and,
you know, they are keeping -- the pro-reform supporters are keeping up the
pressure. They do not want to let this go away. And every time when
people ask me, or you`re optimistic, you think it`s going to happen? I
tell them, you know, you have to be optimistic, because when you look at,
you know, 1,100 people being deported a day, 400,000 people in detention --
REYES: -- the humanitarian crisis on the border, I feel that we have to be
optimistic just to make it happen for the sake of all these foot soldiers
and young people and activists who are walking the walk and out there
trying to make it a reality.
HARRIS-PERRY: Benjy, you wrote a piece about the new bill just this week.
Tell us a little bit about this.
SARLIN: So what`s happening here is that there has been a lot of movement
in the House, but little - little signs of movement on immigration, but it
really hasn`t produced a full bipartisan bill yet. In fact, there were
some bipartisan talks that collapsed. So, right now Republicans are still
figuring out their own plan. So, to put pressure on them, Democrats are
uniting behind their own bill, which isn`t likely to pass, but it`s kind of
setting down a marker saying look, we`re going to prove we`re united on
this issue, this is to pressure you to start showing that you care about it
too. And the bill is basically just the Senate bill --
SARLIN: It`s the Senate bill plus a border security bill that passed with
a unanimous bipartisan support in the House Homeland Security Committee.
So what they`re trying to say is, look, we`re showing we`re unified, yes,
this is a Democratic bill, but we`re not putting some far left marker out
saying that this is the start of our negotiating position. What we`re
trying to show you is that we have an appetite for compromise.
SARLIN: A lot of our members don`t like the Senate bill, they`d want a
much clearer path to citizenship, they don`t like a lot of these border
security surge, but we`re willing to come together and endorse some ideas
Republicans have already voted for.
REYES: And that bill is very important not just as a placeholder. You
know, it`s not likely to be - you know, to pass, but it`s important for
people following this debate who think, oh, immigration is dying in the
house. This is drawing the line. So they can say no, House Democrats have
a plan, immigration is dying with House Republicans.
HARRIS-PERRY: How important does that end up being - I`m just sort of
thinking forward to the 2014 election, if we are just lurching from one
crisis, manufactured crisis to another, how important does something
substantive, like the issue of immigration reform, the reality that there
is a House bill, then there is a Senate bill, how does it - does it make
any difference come election time?
FRANKEN: I mean they better get it together on this one.
DIANIS: You know, the Latino electorate, which is called the rising
electorate, really will extract some pain in November 2014 if they don`t do
the right thing. And so I think this show of all of the protests that are
going to happen and rallies that are going to happen really is about
keeping it front and center and letting them know just because the
government shut down doesn`t mean that the people are shutting down.
FRANKEN: But I hate to be the skunk at the picnic --
FRANKEN: Actually, I like being the skunk at the picnic --
FRANKEN: But we`re talking about a Congressional election, and the issue
of gerrymandering comes up here. The truth is that in these districts of
true believers, that is to say particularly of a hard line Republican
district, there is no pressure to come up with anything about immigration.
Now, obviously there is a nationwide feeling that we have to be more humane
when it comes to our immigration policy, but I don`t think there`s going to
be any pressure this year or next in Congress.
HARRIS-PERRY: What about - what about for those off-year gubernatorial
elections? So, I mean, so I understand we`re talking about a bill that
would be passed at the federal level, and yet folks that are running at the
statewide level in these off-year elections nonetheless get attached to
their party in a variety of important ways.
SARLIN: And I was just in Colorado last month, which is a state that has
gone from leaning red to almost completely blue, even in the 2010, the
great Republican year, Republicans were still losing. And it`s most - and
not entirely, but a lot of it is because of the Latino vote. They really
have risen up and immigration has been the key issue. So the House
Republicans there, for example, who are thinking about this, even if their
districts relatively safe, they have to think if I`m ever going to run for
statewide office --
SARLIN: I have to get right on this issue.
SARLIN: And that`s a point of pressure. It`s a point --
FRANKEN: That`s my point, that this is more relevant in a national
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Right. Come 2016 presidential. Undoubtedly.
DIANIS: But that`s short term. That`s short term. I mean with the
changing demographics, I mean, it`s moving so quickly. That yeah, you
might get 2014, but after that, you know --
HARRIS-PERRY: At a certain point you can no longer gerrymander
sufficiently. And so exactly on this issue of statewide elections, up
next, I actually do have a letter to a candidate, a candidate in one of the
biggest races of the year.
HARRIS-PERRY: On Thursday, thousands of Texans finally heard the official
announcement they`d been waiting for.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE SEN. WENDY DAVIS (D-TX, RUNNING FOR TX GOVERNOR): I am proud to
DAVIS: -- my candidacy to be the 48th governor of this great state!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, she`s smiling, but Wendy Davis knows she`s the
underdog. But being a lone voice among lawmakers in the Lone Star state
doesn`t seem to intimidate Miss Davis. She`s been hearing chants of "Run,
Wendy, run" ever since her epic 13-hour filibuster in June. That was when
the state senator made national news for taking on Texas` extreme anti-
reproductive rights legislation. So now all eyes turn to Texas as we
anticipate who will replace good old Rick -- I know there`s a third federal
agency I`d close -- Perry. So, I thought it would be a good time to
address a letter to Wendy Davis` likely opponent and current favorite in
the race, Texas Attorney General and Republican candidate for governor,
Dear Greg, it`s me, Melissa. How are you taking the news of Wendy Davis`
bid? Now, I remember how you responded to this assessment of her potential
candidacy from one of your supporters when he sent this tweet in August.
"Greg Abbott would absolutely demolish idiot Wendy Davis in gov race. Run,
Wendy, run. Retard Barbie to learn life lesson." Your response? Ignore
it. I mean we can`t be responsible for everyone tweetiadas((ph) or maybe
express at least a little outrage at such incivility and sexist name-
calling, you know, take the highroad. Nope. Greg, you simply tweeted
back, "Jeff, thanks for your support." But who wants to be judged by their
lowest social media moment? I`m going to let that one slide and talk about
your record. You like to describe your job as attorney general by saying I
go into the office, I sue Barack Obama, and then I go home.
Well, in Texas, they say go big or go home, and you have certainly been
going big on that suing Barack Obama self-mandate. 27 lawsuits since
President Obama took office at a cost of more than $2.5 million to the
state of Texas. 17 of those lawsuits aimed at the Environmental Protection
Agency. What is your beef with the EPA? Maybe it`s your commitment to
those oil and fracking executives in Texas, many of whom have been going
big when it comes to campaign contributions for you. But maybe it really
is just about suing President Obama. You have vowed to never stop fighting
the Affordable Care Act, which means you proudly rejected Medicaid
expansion in Texas, even though your state has the highest percentage of
uninsured residents in the country. Clearly you are against anything
bearing President Obama`s name.
Is that where your protege Ted Cruz got this whole shut down the federal
government over nonsense idea? Mr. Abbott, this strategy has an expiration
date. President Obama is only going to be president a few more years.
Then you may have to actually be for something. And right now you seem to
be for the new restrictive voter I.D. law in Texas that is being challenged
by the Department of Justice. You`re also a big fan of gerrymandering
districts to decrease Democratic influence, even if those redrawn districts
are illegal and discriminate against black and Latino voters. You are
against President Obama and all he stands for, and you`re for using the
power of the state to reduce and dilute minority voting. Well, at least
Texas voters will have a stark choice in their next gubernatorial election,
and if they`re all done with you suing the president, maybe they`ll be
ready to see you go home. Sincerely, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: The past seven days may go down in history as a week of
federal government shutdown, but at the state level, this was a week in
voter suppression! North Carolina`s new voting law, the most restrictive
in the nation, is the target of a Justice Department lawsuit filed in
federal court on Monday. The suit is challenging key provisions of the law
-- strict voter I.D. requirements, cutbacks in early voting days, the
elimination of same-day registration, and a ban on provisional ballots cast
outside a voter`s home precinct. The department is also asking that North
Carolina be required to get federal clearance before making any further
changes to its voting laws. Meanwhile, in Virginia, just one month in
advance of the state`s highly contested governor`s race, a federal lawsuit
is challenging a purge list that struck 57,000 voters from the roles.
The Virginia Democratic Party has named Governor Bob McDonnell and Attorney
General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli in the suit,
which claim many of the purged voters are, in fact, eligible to vote on
November 5th. Judith, seriously?
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I mean, on the one - on the one hand, right, you have
the federal government sort of engaged in this make-believe madness, but
this is real, right, what`s going on in terms of voter suppression --
HARRIS-PERRY: -- particularly in these border states, right? Virginia,
North Carolina. These are swing states.
DIANIS: Right. I mean it`s great that the Department of Justice jumped
into North Carolina. The Advancement Project filed a suit on behalf of the
North Carolina NAACP, and now here comes the Justice Department. Actually,
you know, being aggressive again. You know, they filed in Texas, which, by
the way, is stayed. They filed a motion to stay it because of the
shutdown. They can`t move forward in litigation. But they filed this case
in North Carolina, which is, like, exactly the same case that we filed, and
it`s good to have we, the people, actually on the side of voters.
HARRIS-PERRY: You said aggressive. I want to listen to Attorney General
Eric Holder because he really - he sort of laid down the gauntlet as he
talked about North Carolina and the ways in which he fully plans for this
to be indicative of what he would do in other states. Let`s listen for a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: To other states considering voting
restrictions like North Carolina`s, I want to say this. I and my
colleagues at every level of the Justice Department will never hesitate,
never hesitate to do all that we must do to protect the constitutionally
guaranteed civil rights of all Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That is pretty clear.
FRANKEN: Well, sure. I mean what we`re talking about now is if this law
in North Carolina were to prevail, I think you could arguably say that
whatever government came out of was illegitimate. Certainly in the context
of our Constitution and all that. But the other one to look at is
Virginia, which of course you just brought up. It`s an interesting issue
there, and I think it`s kind of a slam dunk legally. The state has said
that each county can decide whether to enforce the provisions of it. So
it`s an easy argument to make in court that this provides unequal
protection under the law. So I think that this one is so blatant. By the
way, it has to do with duplicate residences, which is really foolish when
you think about it because people move around the country all the time.
DIANIS: And the problem with that case is that, you know, trying to purge
right before an election, a little dicey because it`s usually for a
political reason. Right?
HARRIS-PERRY: And in fact, it`s interesting because McCrory says - or
McDonnell, there is no actually - this is -- says is -- the politics here
are happening as a result of -- this is McCrory in North Carolina, right?
Saying, no, the politics are on the side of the Justice Department. Let`s
listen for a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. PAT MCCRORY (R ) NORTH CAROLINA: I recently saw a video of President
Obama voting in Chicago. And one of the first things he did was show a
video I.D. -- a photo I.D. One of the first things President Obama did
was show a voter I.D. And I believe if showing a voter I.D. is good enough
and fair enough for our own president in Illinois, then it`s good enough
for the people of North Carolina.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Just intellectually dishonest. Right?
HARRIS-PERRY: That is just not what - I mean he - the president may have
shown an I.D., but in Illinois there`s a very open law. You can also show
any sort -- you can show a utility bill.
DIANIS: You know, the thing is that North Carolina law is not just the
DIANIS: It`s like the kitchen sink of voter suppression. It rolls back
early voting. It cuts same-day registration. 70 percent of African-
Americans who voted in 2012 actually voted by early voting. And so, this
was taking it back. In a state where turnout -- they have the 11th highest
turnout in the country in 2012. And so this is about going backwards
because they`re scared about moving forwards.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to ask you, well, you are still enthusiastic, still
at least vaguely optimistic about the possibility of immigration reform.
What about the idea that this Congress could give us a new section for a
formula, they could develop a formula since, you know, since it was sent
back from the Supreme Court. Do you think this Congress, after it gets
over itself, could give us a formula that will work?
REYES: I`m not sure about that. I would like to be optimistic, but now
that we are in the post Shelby County world, we don`t know this - you know,
with this Congress, there are so many wild cards. And what`s so troubling
to me - I am, you know, as Judith mentioned, I am also very happy that the
DoJ is pursuing this. But what`s so troubling in the post Shelby County
world, now before when we had preclearance for states, the burden of proof
was on states to show that they were not disenfranchising voters. Now it`s
flipped and that multiplies the effort required by the Department of
Justice to stop these laws. And this law -- you know, if our government --
I was reading one of this article, you know, he`s the expert on this, he
says it`s like the mother of all voter suppression laws. And that even
although they require government I.D., very interesting, they do not accept
government I.D. for public workers --
REYES: -- or government I.D. issued to someone who`s on public assistance.
REYES: So it`s so blatant. Yes.
FRANKEN: What`s really insidious is this is just an antidemocratic way to
FRANKEN: The states that are doing that are trying to eliminate all the
voters who might inconveniently vote against them and all that kind of
thing. That is, as I said, is extremely insidious and it`s particularly
notable in Virginia. You have a close race for governor there.
FRANKEN: And here at the last minute they`re coming in and trying to
suppress vote that would in all probability go to the Democrats.
HARRIS-PERRY: And because it really is fine to win because you convinced
more people to your side. I mean like, you know, it`s a democracy. Right.
It`s a democracy.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s even reasonable to say, OK, I have a better ground
game. I get more of my voters out. Right? But that`s very different than
the notion -
DIANIS: -- change the rules of the game so that people -- and this was --
HARRIS-PERRY: It also --
DIANIS: We have to understand it`s not just about now. Right?
DIANIS: It`s about this changing electorate.
DIANIS: And if you can line up the rules to keep people disenfranchised
for years to come then you can slow down where this country is going.
HARRIS-PERRY: And because it`s more complicated and it feels technical and
nerdy it can be hard to get people to focus in on this. Right? I mean
you`ve been in North Carolina.
Except in North Carolina. Well. Reverend (inaudible) has got more on
Monday and himself just into ad infinitum. Judith Browne Dianis and Benjy
Sarlin, thank you so much for joining us today.
Coming up, is that Ari Berman? No, it`s not. But we`ll page Ari Berman
later. Will the real John Boehner please stand up? We`ll take a closer
look at the House speaker`s rise to power and how he`s dealing with the
pressure right now.
Plus, the early prognosis for Obamacare. Tough medicine for Republican
critics. There is more "Nerdland" at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. The soap opera
nature of the government shutdown has been complete with a fascinating cast
of characters, none more so than the man in the middle of it all, this guy,
House Speaker and Ohio Republican, John Boehner. After all, this is the
guy who could end this government shutdown right now, ten minutes,
whatever. I mean, if he wanted to. Shortly after the shutdown began, we
were seeing reports that Boehner, in fact, had the votes from at least 17
Republicans who said they`re ready to pass a so-called clean bill to fund
the government with no strings attached. Of course that means John Boehner
would need to rely on Democrats to deliver most of the votes to pass the
bill. And John Boehner has decided no, he`s not going to do that.
So, there you have it, one guy, one decision. He could do it. He knows he
could do it. He won`t do it.
Which leaves us asking why? Is there something we ought to know about John
Boehner and what he does and doesn`t want? He is a guy more than just a
guy who`s perpetually tanned and easy with the emotions.
He has of 12 brother -- he has 12 brothers and sisters. There are 12. And
Boehner is the second oldest, growing up in a working-class family and
working at his family`s tavern.
After being honorably discharged from the Navy with a bad back after eight
weeks, he worked a lot of different jobs to pay his way through college,
including as a night janitor. This is a hardworking guy.
His first elected office is one many of you out there in Nerdland may have
yourselves -- a seat on his neighborhood homeowners association. He was
elected to Ohio`s general assembly in 1984 before Ohio`s eighth district
first sent Boehner to Congress in 1990.
He was part of a gang of seven -- look how gangy they are. Look at the GOP
freshmen in the House, including Rick Santorum right up there in front who
positioned themselves as the insurgents, countering the establishment on
everything, from House banking scandal, to congressional parks. They just
look like revolutionaries?
In the years since, Boehner has either been moving on up or falling up in
Washington, depending on your view. He built ties with tobacco lobbyists,
helped draft the Contract with America. He was a major backer of No Child
Left Behind. He also voted for the $700 billion TARP financial bailout.
In 2011, he received a rather massive gavel when he took over the
speakership of the House of Representatives.
Now, here`s the funny part. He received that gavel thanks to a 63-seat
gain made in the 2010 elections fueled by the Tea Party fervor that, as it
happened, arose shortly after President Obama was elected. So the very
people who turn out to be a little more insurgent to Boehner`s gang of
seven were the very people who helped position him at the head of the
establishment. It`s a group that very nearly ended Boehner`s speakership
earlier this year after voting down his plan B solution to avoid us going
over the fiscal cliff. Do you remember that?
So, now, he ends up here -- having just this past August warned that
shutting down the government over the Affordable Care Act was bad idea, now
perhaps in a desperate attempt to not get voted out of his job, he is the
single person most responsible for exactly that -- which begs the question,
was John Boehner thinking, what does he want?
Joining me now: syndicated columnist Bob Franken, Jake Sherman,
congressional reporter with "Politico", Tara Dowdell who is Democratic
strategist, and still with us, Raul Reyes, NBC Latino contributor and "USA
Jake, I don`t want to turn into an armchair psychologist here, but --
JAKE SHERMAN, POLITICO: It`s tempting though.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, it is really tempting with this guy, especially the
fact that he was -- he may still see himself as an insurgent like these
very folks he now needs to get in line.
SHERMAN: I think the important thing to remember is John Boehner became
speaker because of the Tea Party, as you noted. But the Tea Party came to
power almost in opposition to people like John Boehner who had been in
Washington for a long time, who had been in power for 20 years. John
Boehner first got elected to the House in 1990. So, he`s been there for a
But we have to kind of remember that Boehner never wanted to shut the
government down. He actually crafted a plan that would have passed a clean
C.R. and given his members kind of a show vote on the health care law.
Boehner is a realist. He understands that he`s not going to defund the
health care law. Any and most sane and pragmatic Republicans understand
the reality of this, right?
I mean, the votes aren`t there, as you guys have been talking about, but he
has to do this now. He`s being kind of driven by the 232 Republicans who
are, you know, hell-bent against the health care law and who -- they failed
every time to defend this law, defund this law, roll this law back. So
they feel like now they`ve been unsuccessful for so long that they thought
they needed to shock the system by shutting down the government.
HARRIS-PERRY: Cover of "Time", right? Majority rule, right? And then
markdown, right? No majority rule.
But it`s not just like majority of the House or even majority of American
who is voted in this House. It`s actually majority of the Republican
Party. If they weren`t voting pure preferences, if they didn`t think
they`d be held accountable in a particular way, pure preferences are
probably not to allow the country to default and not to shut it down over
something that is already law.
BOB FRANKEN, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: A couple of things that need to be in
the mix. One, you have a lot of Republican who is probably would vote to
reopen the government and to end the debt ceiling fight, who are worried
about their primaries. I mean, it`s simple as that. The one thing that
the Tea Party and all of its tributaries are very good at is taking
somebody and kicking them out of office, number one.
The other thing is, if your question is, why is John Boehner doing what
he`s doing now? I`ve known him a long time and I`ve watched him operate.
He is somebody who tries to maneuver and is kind of Machiavellian, and he
knows that if they right now severed the indignity of reopening the
government, that the country could, in fact, face default.
Now, maybe, I`m giving him too much credit, but, again, based on my
experience with him, this guy is a legislative operator who oftentimes
looks two moves ahead.
HARRIS-PERRY: Look, I really appreciate that because, you know, I
sometimes will hear people make critiques of what`s happening in the media,
and they`ll say media does, blah, blah, blah, or something about higher
education. I think, you don`t know how this works. I so wish I could tell
you how this is working underneath and inside.
And I`m not a Washington insider. And, Tara, sometimes I think to myself,
there has got to be something going on here that I just don`t quite get.
I`m wondering if there`s any insight in Boehner himself, or in the
constrains that Boehner is facing, that might help us to understand this as
something more than Boehner`s bad at his job.
TARA DOWDELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Melissa, you are spot on. One of the
things that no one`s talking about is the role that many in the business
community are playing in this fight. Behind the scenes, the business
community is not supporting everyone. Let me be very clear -- there is a
segment of the business community just as opposed to this health care law
as those Tea Party Republican representatives, and you better believe these
are people who fund campaigns, that they are behind the scenes maneuvering
to make sure that their interests are protected.
HARRIS-PERRY: So there are players here that are relatively invisible to
us. And that sort of fundraising part would matter to Boehner, right, as
he`s thinking of himself as a party leader?
SHERMAN: For sure. And playing off both their point, I think John Boehner
for a long time hit the critique that drives his staff crazy and I`m sure
they`re watching and will be driven crazy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is John Boehner`s staff watching? Come sit at the Nerdland
SHERMAN: The criticism of him is he`s very hands off and he kind of lets
the world around him happen. John Boehner knows where he wants to end up.
He knows where he wants to end up.
But he would rather people come to that independently of him leading them.
So when they crafted this -- when they decided to definitively defund the
health care law in the C.R. about a week ago, which was their kind of
fallback plan after the clean C.R. was rejected by the majority of House
Republicans, they said let`s let Ted Cruz deal with this. We`ll show House
Republicans that Ted Cruz is a fraud, that he doesn`t have the votes, he`s
raising money after the health care law.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, right.
SHERMAN: And he wanted to show that this guy can`t do what he says he
could do. He wants to let the situation develop on its own. He believes,
he understands the system well enough, and that`s what you were alluding
to, that it kind of germinates and happens without him having to push it in
a certain direction.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this description of Boehner, Raul, sounds an awful lot
like some of my observations of President Obama, in that he`s not a puppet
master, he doesn`t want to control the whole thing. Know where is he wants
to end up.
But, you know, I`ve often called President Obama a process democrat, with a
little "D", which is to say he believes the process itself has an inherent
value that is distinct potentially from the end. So, even if I could get
there with this mean, if the mean is not itself democratic -- do you think
maybe part of what`s going on here is you have two people with similar,
slightly hands-off styles and some people on each side of them who are
willing to be quite hands on? Is that potentially what`s happening?
RAUL REYES, NBC LATINO: I have to wonder. I see where you`re going in the
sense that sometimes we see President Obama backing off. You know, he`s
there, but he`s unwilling to really take a strong role in certain
situations. But I`m just -- I`m so confounded by this situation.
I actually wondered, do you think that Speaker Boehner has an end game that
he wants in this situation right now with the government shutdown that back
themselves into this corner? Do you think he knows --
SHERMAN: I`ve been covering Boehner since 2009 when he was in the minority
actually. And the one thing he wants is a big fiscal deal. You see him
with the president in 2011 to get the grand bargain. I mean, him and Obama
are not very far off and you can read all the behind-the-scenes tales and
kind of go back and forth on whose fault it actually is.
But, right now, that`s what he`s talking about. We`ve written it, the "New
York Times" written it, "The Post" has written. Him and Paul Ryan are
trying to craft a mechanism where they could get to a grand bargain that
would -- it would make the debt ceiling and the government funding thing
look like just ride-alongs. They`re just coming along for the ride.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay with me. This is great.
Stay with me but I do want to report very briefly on this. There is fresh
news this morning: the House has now passed a bill that would guarantee
furloughed federal workers their pay for all of the time off the job they
incur during the shutdown once the government reopens. It`s basically the
back pay. President Obama has expressed his support for the bill.
When we come back, John McCain of yesteryear is the biggest foe John
Boehner faces today. More when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, on this show, sometimes we call House Speaker Boehner
grue (ph) and we say he`s bad at not keeping his minions in line. But that
might be unfair because the big part that House Speaker Boehner has is his
job. Speaker of the House, that`s supposed to be a really powerful job.
It`s in the echelon of president and chief justice and actually -- well,
not much else in Washington is in that echelon.
Speaker of the House is supposed to be a super powerful person. But John
Boehner is not a powerful speaker and in part, he has John McCain to blame
Here is John McCain when he was the Republican nominee for president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The first big pork spending earmark bill
that comes across my desk, I will veto it, I will make them famous and you
will know their names. You will know their names.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, of course, he lost that race, but Senator McCain got
the anti-earmark snowball rolling downhill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sounding like he`s been to a Tea Party, the top
Republican, Senator Mitch McConnell, reversed his own position on federal
money for earmarked pet projects.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Republican senators met last night and agreed to
a two-year nonbinding, nonbinding earmark moratorium. They joined
President Obama and newly minted House Speaker John Boehner, who also
supports the ban.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Both parties in Congress
should know this -- if a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will
veto it. I will veto it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So in March of 2010, earmarks were cut out of the
legislative process, changing forever a Congress where financial favors for
one state or district were often traded to help get bills passed. In fact,
we used to teach how a bill becomes a law.
More than a year later, Boehner went on TV to brag about helping get this
done, but with one complaint.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: No earmarks. Who can
imagine? You know, we`ve been through 16 months, not one earmark. It`s
made my job a lot more difficult in terms of how to pass important
legislation because there`s no grease. I got no grease. So, no earmarks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: No earmarks, no grease. Guess what? No power.
I mean, this is a suggestion that it might not matter who`s there, that
Boehner is trying to govern without the thing that used to make government
SHERMAN: The funny thing is Boehner has never taken earmark in the 23
years he`s been in Congress. He was against earmarks before it was cool, I
That being said, I mean, I`ve seen a huge spending bill, bipartisan
spending highway bill go down, appropriations process is an absolute mess,
a process that Eric Cantor is in charge of.
So, Cantor who did take earmarks. So, earmarks definitely do help the
process. Nancy Pelosi used them to her favor. She was an appropriator,
longtime appropriator. And, basically, the problem is no one has the
incentive to help leadership because they can raise a ton of money on their
SHERMAN: So they don`t care about the National Republican Congressional
Committee. The leadership has nothing they can give essentially.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is this the end of political parties? I mean, this is how
Congress in part developed what the parties are.
SHERMAN: Well, you know, so what are effective incentives? I think the
only answer is blackmail.
SHERMAN: You know, doing things we don`t want to talk about on family TV.
But the point is this whole process has been undermined by this sanctimony
that came from the outside. Washington works the way it does, like it or
not. It`s the way that our government operates.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, an earmark is not inherently bad.
HARRIS-PERRY: Earmarks can be bad. They can also be a fine way to
designate spending. And there is -- this goes back and to my point about
sort of knowing and understanding what`s happening inside even as you begin
to make reforms.
It`s part of my angst every time I hear filibuster reform, I think, yes,
but there are reasons why some of these rules operate the way they do.
What does the speaker have if the speaker no longer has earmarks? What are
the carrots and the sticks that Boehner might be able to employ here?
DOWDELL: Well, he still has some power. I mean, to say he doesn`t have
any power anymore is not really fair. But I think, you know, when it comes
to committee chairmanships or chairwomanships, he still has the power to
Additionally, you know, the speaker is still a very powerful position,
third in line to the presidency of the United States of America. So that`s
a big deal.
I think also another part of it is that these appointments, these judicial
nominations, things of this nature, there`s a lot of deference give on the
speaker to make some of these determinations or to be in those meetings
where these deals are being cut at a leadership level and then being shared
with the members. But I do think you raise a very good point about the
outside influences. And this is what`s been a problem for Speaker Boehner
in addition to I think his leadership style.
I think what`s been another problem is that you have all these outside
DOWDELL: -- that are being funded by major corporations, to go back to my
point, and they are identifying individual members who they are basically
sponsoring to carry out their agenda. And that is -- and Citizens United,
not to bring that back in again, you know, I`m going to beat that horse,
HARRIS-PERRY: Beat it!
DOWDELL: Yes, exactly. Maybe we need to beat that horse by bringing that
back in. That has allowed these groups to have so much power and to
operate in relative secrecy relative to the levels of transparency in other
HARRIS-PERRY: And you end up with these newbies in office, right? It`s
also sort of the institutional knowledge of thousand process works goes
away starting in 2010, or maybe doesn`t go away but it`s diminished in 2010
with the entrance of these --
REYES: Many of these folks are not necessarily interested in that process
of compromise and horse-trading, all things that have traditionally done
behind the scenes in government. They`re not interested in that. And not
only did Citizens United unleash the floodgates Tuesday, the Supreme Court
hears the next course on campaign finance, the McCutcheon case, and that`s
again about private donors who want to give unlimited amounts to these
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let`s Boehner went down. Let`s say, Boehner, who is
very powerful in this sense, he could call the vote tomorrow, right, or
today, this afternoon, right? He could put the clean C.R. out there.
Let`s say he does it, he closes this chapter down with his 20 reasonable
Republicans. If he loses his speakership, who else is there? What are the
other folks who are in line?
SHERMAN: Two -- one quick point on what you said a second ago. Washington
is about getting power, keeping power and increasing power. So, John
Boehner is not going to go against 215 out of 230 Republicans. It`s an
insane, it`s a wrong, it`s a false construct that exists out there. It`s
basic power structure. Eric Cantor is next in line but there`s a case to
be made and a case that was made in "The New York Times" today that Eric
Cantor has that same stink on him from these years.
These have not been an easy few years. But then there`s Paul Ryan, who`s
making moves and who is very popular. That`s where it stops basically.
Those are the two people who are most mentioned for the speakership.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to follow up on this real quick, this idea about
power because for me this is -- it was the initial genius of the founders.
People as colonists coming out from under a monarch who they saw having
used power in bad and evil ways did not assume that people with power would
use that power in benevolent way.
And so, part of why they tie this to these election systems and part of why
things like the ability to bring things home to your people, there was an
assumption in order to get power and to keep power, you would have to do
what was right by your constituents and then your constituents would reward
you with power by keeping you in office. That`s kind of the brilliance of
that system. And part of what happened with the gerrymandering and the
voter suppression is it takes away the very thing that was the link that
the Founders understood to hold that desire for power to the interests of
FRANKEN: First of all, excuse me, let`s not forget that the Founding
Fathers also did an awful lot of wheeling and dealing.
FRANKEN: Many things that are possibly coming back to bite us right now
are the result of the deals that they made. So, that`s always been the way
of government and all that.
And one other point, when we talk about the absence of earmarks, that
doesn`t mean that there`s still not little wonderful things like a weapons
system that employs people, you know, in 35 different congressional
district, all that kind of thing.
FRANKEN: So it`s not as lily pure as they`re making it right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, it didn`t clean up Washington. It just certainly
reduced the elbow grease available.
Jake Sherman, thanks for coming, really interesting insights on our friend
Before we take a break, I`ve got a quick update here on some dangerous
weather this weekend. I want to check in with NBC meteorologist Bill
Karins for the latest.
HARRIS-PERRY: Bill, I`m telling you -- you are now officially my favorite
meteorologist here. You can come back any old time when the report is it`s
just rain in New Orleans. I`m all good.
BILL KARINS, NBC METEOROLOGIST: That`s it. Let it go.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you.
And up next, Obamacare`s first checkup. What`s the prognosis so far?
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s been five whole days since the exchanges for the
Affordable Care Act opened up.
Despite the best predictions by the GOP that Obamacare would cause the end
of the world, and some initial technical glitches, we`re all still here.
And, in fact, things are looking pretty good.
Check it out -- 2.8 million is how many people visited the Web site,
healthcare.gov in the first 24 hours, 70,000 visits were recorded on the
health care exchange for the state of Illinois on the first day and 1,100
is how many applications were submitted by the folks in Illinois that day.
Seventy-eight thousand people clicked on Kentucky`s health care exchange in
the first 24 hours, 4,700 applications were started by those Kentuckians.
Fifty-five Coloradans visited their state`s exchange on day one and 1,450
of the people that logged on in Colorado went on to create accounts.
Sixteen thousand people in California tried to access the state`s health
care exchange per second. Just on the first day at some points. And 30
million was the number of visits New York state`s health care exchange Web
site received in the first two days after it opened.
Three to 4.3 is the percentage the stocks went up for some of the country`s
biggest insurers and exchange after the opening of the exchanges, clearly
showing Obamacare is good business. And 8.6 million is how many unique
visitors healthcare.gov received this week.
But here`s the problem in spite of the promising numbers: 26. That`s how
many states rejected or chose not to move forward with the Medicaid
expansion at this time. And 23 is how many of those states are run by
Republican governors, 100 percent is the percentage that the federal
government covers the Medicaid expansion through 2016, and 90 percent is
how much the federal government will cover Medicaid expansion after 2016,
which leads us to 8 million.
One more time -- 8 million. That is the number left uninsured because
their states opted not to participate in the Medicaid expansion.
So, when we come back, there are some similarities we would like to tell
you that are shared by those 8 million uninsured people.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, take a look at this map. It`s a map from the 26 states
that have chosen not to participate in the Medicaid expansion.
Now, remember, the federal government is picking up 100 percent of the cost
for this expansion through 2016. Look at the map.
Now, what do you think these states have in common? Well, of those 26
states, 23 of them are run by Republican governors. And according to an
analysis by "The New York Times," the refusal by these governors to
participate in the Medicaid expansion will leave 8 million Americans
uninsured. Why? Because they make too much for Medicaid and not quite
enough to qualify for the federal subsidies of the new health care
What`s worse -- the similarities between the majority of these people.
They`re poor. They`re people of color. They`re single mothers. And
they`re low-wage workers. They`re the very people this program was meant
At the table: Bob Franken, a syndicated columnist; Kavita Patel, a primary
care doctor at Johns Hopkins Medicine and a fellow at Brookings
Institution; Tara Dowdell, a Democratic strategist; and NBC Latino
contributor, Raul Reyes.
So, let me start with you, Kavita. How did we end up with that
circumstance where 26 states have opted out of something that is 100
percent paid for, for the next several years?
KAVITA PATEL, JOHNS HOPKINS MEDICINE: It really came on the heels of the
Supreme Court decision that allowed for this option, and that`s when state
who is really had leaders, legislators, as well as governors that were
opposed to Obamacare saw this as a window to say here`s our way to plant
our opposition to this important law that would be and is the signature of
HARRIS-PERRY: So, when we`re looking at the numbers of clicks, right, the
people who are going and looking and gathering information, beginning to
start applications, whatever the discourse in the land of cable news is,
clearly, people have a sense that they need access. Do -- are these
Republicans going to be held accountable by the folks in their states who
are now not going to have access to Medicaid expansion?
PATEL: Absolutely. Even, Melissa, what`s amazing is that hospitals and
doctors, you rarely see hospitals and doctors and insurance companies
agreeing on something. They all agree in these states that we need to not
have this essentially a donut hole of perverse sorts for communities of
color and women and young men and have this donut hole that prevents
You know, it seems to me that the other story of this week, Tara, in part,
is -- you know, we`ve been giving the Obama administration a pretty hard
time about not having done a good enough job in communicating and telling
people and, you know, our viewers don`t even know where to go. But then
apparently they did. I`d like to take credit for it but I don`t have that
many viewers, right, for that many folks to have been able to go and click.
Did the administration do a better job than we maybe initially thought in
terms of communicating?
DOWDELL: I think initially we were right, they did not do a very good job
in getting the information out. I think what happened was as the process
went on they developed a much more cohesive strategy and a much more
aggressive strategy. But what you see are the states supporting the health
care reform law have done a very good job of running interesting very
commercials, compelling commercials, eye-catching sometimes, a little blue
So, I think that also helped. But I think it is incumbent upon the this
administration to ensure that these states, where people do not have that
option, that they get the information out about how important it is so that
people -- because people may want to push back. People may not know what
they are not getting.
DOWDELL: So, if they don`t know what they`re getting, we can`t expect them
to be outraged if they`re not getting it. So, the administration needs to
make clear. It needs to get the information out and find channels to do
that through organizations in those states -- I know some of that is
happening, but much more aggressively so people can protest if they so
REYES: I think that`s going to start to happen. Once this, as it`s
implemented and people start to realize, hey, why -- say, my cousin who is
another state, say California, is getting these things that are not
available to us, I think that is happening. I find this so interesting
that this week the Republicans actually gave gift to the administration
because there were some problems with a rollout of the online exchanges and
the technical glitches, and that was largely overshadowed by all of this
mess over the government shutdown.
So, in a way they benefited that, it gave them cover to fix it, to work on
it to get them ready.
HARRIS-PERRY: Although, you know, one of my favorite nerd moments is you
can always go in and look at the backside and there was a whole group of
programmers who were, like, are you serious? Are you writing this script
like 1994? I mean, there`s great hilarity about what the Web site was
doing and failing to do.
FRANKEN: Speaking of nerves, you have the inevitable start-up. Anytime
you upgrade IT, there are going to be problems. The smartest thing they
did was to begin this several months ahead of when they needed to do it.
But let me just interject one cold political calculation here, and that is
those 8 million people don`t make campaign contributions. And that is
something that factors into the mix, a very hard mix.
The other thing is they`re not considered organized. That is to say they
are not considered a potent voting mix. I think that perhaps a strategy of
the Democrats in particular should be to organize them, get them to the
polls, notwithstanding the voter suppression stuff. Overcome that. That
is 8 million people who could make a difference in an election.
HARRIS-PERRY: This goes back to your point that Medicaid expansion
certainly. I get this point. This is part of why it`s easy to allow them
to fall through that hole because they`re the least empowered, less likely
to vote. But if the hospitals and the doctors want it, those are voters
and campaign contributors.
PATEL: In Florida and Texas right now, two of the states that have this
problem are a source of many of these millions who will go in this gap.
The doctors and hospitals have been clamoring since the Supreme Court
decision came out and said do not do this. Our hospitals already face a
disproportionate burden from uninsured people. Do not do what will break
our backs and prevent us from providing care.
So, I actually don`t know if you need to wait for the polls or the
political mobilization. It`s been happening in D.C. and outside.
HARRIS-PERRY: This was so surprising to me about my governor, Bobby
Jindal, on this because right now, the sort of rebuild post-Katrina of New
Orleans is really based on our hospitals. Like that`s what`s going to be
driving all the changes in mid-city and the idea of rejecting Medicaid
expansion just seems -- I mean, I always believe money interests are going
to find the way. Yet in this case they seem not to be.
PATEL: The administration did try what you`ve seen some governors in some
conservative states say, we won`t do a Medicaid expansion purely. We`ll
let people have the expanded Medicaid through the exchange, which was kind
of a compromise.
HARRIS-PERRY: If that`s happening on the federal Web site because they
refuse to set up a state-based exchange.
PATEL: Exactly. Gives them a loophole.
DOWDELL: This is my point. It`s so important. I think we do need a
cohesive strategy to let people know because this is a lot of information.
DOWDELL: And if you`re a single mother, you`re working, you`re picking up
the kids, you`re doing all these things. We cannot expect people to
necessarily always connect the dots. I go to the hospital, I`m told I
can`t get Medicaid, and doctors are busy. They`re got going to explain the
intricacies of health care reform when they`re inundated with people.
HARRIS-PERRY: And brought us to exactly where I want to go right after the
break, which is because the framers of this law recognized this is going to
be complicated, they put somebody in, they put in the navigators to help
people navigate it. And you know what? That`s not -- they`ve been trying,
but the people who are trying to help the customers sign up, there are
states actually fighting the navigators, trying to help the people. It`s
crazy town -- when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Florida Governor Rick Scott gets the GOP medal for health
care obstructionism this week. Not only is his state among the 26 states
deciding to not move forward with the Medicaid expansion, but Scott took it
one step further. Just under three weeks before Obamacare went into
effect, the state health department issued an order banning navigators
hired under the ACA from helping the uninsured at county health
Yet counties like Miami-Dade quietly defied the governor by taking steps
that allow navigators on other county owned facilities. Take that, Rick
Joining me to talk about the state of Obamacare in Florida is Lynne Thorp,
a navigator. And she`s with the navigator project. She`s the director for
southwest and gulf central Florida.
Nice to see you this morning, Lynne.
LYNNE THORP, FLORIDA ACA NAVIGATOR: Thank you for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Just talk to me a little bit about this job. How have you
and your fellow navigators been able to help people if you`re not allowed
in the county health facilities?
THORP: Well, we`re partnering with community agencies around our region.
We have ten counties that we`re covering in the region that I`m working in.
We`re working with social service agencies like the United Way. We`re
working with RCMA. We have partners who are already doing -- working with
people on the community. So, our navigators are working through those
agencies to help people they`re already seeing.
HARRIS-PERRY: To me it seems so important when you have a great, big,
enormous new law like this that is complicated, to help people just
understand what their rights are, what`s available to them. When you have
been talking to folks on the phone, what are the big questions they`re
THORP: Oh, I`ve had great conversations with people. People are really
happy to be talking with somebody on the phone in person. Some people are
calling me specifically with me we make $35,000, I have two children, will
we qualify for help?
People are calling me with pre-existing conditions and they want to know
where they can go to get immediate assistance. It`s been interesting. I
thought as a navigator I`d be working with people with disabilities or who
needed extra help or didn`t have a computer or Internet.
As it`s turning out, everybody is needing help understanding the
marketplace in general, and many people have never had insurance before.
So, common terms like deductible and co-pay and maximum amount of pocket
are really confusing.
So, the people that we are focusing on is growing. There`s a lot more
people to work with than I had originally thought.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Tara, Lynne made such a good point here about just the
basic information and the value of not just having a Web site, which can be
so hard to navigate, even if it`s a good Web site, but somebody you can
call on the phone.
DOWDELL: And that`s a big deal. That`s one of the things I think needs to
be pushed even more. I think as much as they put the healthcare.gov
everywhere, they need to brand those phone numbers and have them
everywhere, because number one, when the Web site does have trouble, the
lights went out at the Super Bowl --
HARRIS-PERRY: Hey, hey, hey. We are not going to talk about the lights
going out at the super bowl. That was very painful for us.
DOWDELL: These things can happen. When you have technology involved,
these things can happen. So, to have people that you can call and talk to
specifically and go through these very basic questions, which the Web site
may not consider because the Web site is about giving you basic information
and getting you signed up.
The Web site does not consider whether you understand what a deductible is,
and a lot of people, to her point, to the navigator`s point, have not ever
had insurance. This is very foreign to them.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it feels to me like this role that Lynne is playing,
Lynne and others like her, it`s a nonpartisan issue, right? There`s a law.
The law is beginning to go into effect as of October 1, and people need
information about it. Is there any way to pull this aspect of sort of
widely known information out of the partisan politics of all of this?
PATEL: Absolutely. When it gets down to it, this is about basic human
principles, and the questions she`s getting are questions we probably have
even though we`re highly educated and have a lot of access to Web sites.
So, this is not partisan, and honestly it reminds me when Medicare was
implemented. The exact same thing happened. And look at how much we love
this program now. People hold on to that sand say, don`t let the
government interfere with my Medicare.
HARRIS-PERRY: With my Medicare.
PATEL: You know, Lyndon Johnson had to send and thought about sending in
national guard to kind of make sure that black and white patients were
integrated under the Medicare program in the hospitals, that they weren`t
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, this point is such an important point. Part of
the ability for Lynne to do her work or any of these navigators in this
context is for it to be believable that they are not -- and for it to be
true that they`re not shills for Obama, that they`re not, you know, Rick
Scott`s guy, right?
It feels to me like the notion there is information that is not attached
with some kind of ideology is something that is officially difficult for us
now to even believe.
FRANKEN: Well, as a matter of fact, the Republicans keep trying to make
the point that if you support Obamacare, that is a political act. As a
matter of fact, you`ll recall when the NFL was approached about running
commercials to inform people, that was exactly what Mitch McConnell and
some of the other Republicans told them.
So I don`t think you can pull the politics out of this. What is scaring
the Republicans and why they`re making such a push now is what happens, as
you described, if, in fact, this becomes the norm and everybody says, hey,
this is pretty cool. They`ve lost their effort to undermine this.
I mean, you know, if they get power in four years, let`s say, they`re not
going to be able to repeal it because it`s going to be popular.
HARRIS-PERRY: Lynn, let me come back to you for just a second here.
There`s a lot of folks to help in the state of Florida. Are you feeling
generally pretty hopeful at this moment that you`ve got the time and
resources necessary? Or if this was your moment to say, we need this one
additional thing, what would it be?
THORP: I would love for there to be some commercials in our area. I have
to be honest, one of the biggest challenges for me to create awareness that
the marketplaces exist. There are people at every level of education, very
bright people in the business who don`t understand that the marketplace is
open, that it`s open to not just for underinsured people, it`s open for
people who are -- have insurance that`s not affordable, and there are --
people are allowed to go in and shop the marketplace.
There`s no public awareness. We are really at a grassroots campaign in my
area. I am delivering flyers and handouts to hospitals, social service
agencies. I`ve got a volunteer group who`s going to meet me at the United
Way next week to help me. At that level, that`s how we`re trying to get
the word out.
HARRIS-PERRY: Lynne Thorp, that --
THORP: I`m not talking about just in the rural. I`m talking about in the
cities. So, it`s a different challenge in the rural communities I`ve met
with, the Hendry County medical system out there, and they`re taking the
flyers and handing them out. Some of our local hospitals are enrolling to
be certified application counselors, to be able to help people one-on-one
in the hospital.
But we really just have to start expanding our capacity down here and our
HARRIS-PERRY: Lynne, it is stunning to think a program the size of
Obamacare and you`re having to take the flyers. But that said, I was going
to say, thank you to you and to your fellow navigators no matter how hard
to make this job --
THORP: You`re welcome.
HARRIS-PERRY: -- are doing incredible work.
So, thank you to Lynne Thorp in Florida.
Also, thanks to Bob Franken, Kavita Patel, Tara Dowdell and Raul Reyes here
at the table.
And up next, the people who could teach our politicians a thing or two.
Our foot soldiers are next.
HARRIS-PERRY: For communities across the country, the federal government
shutdown has meant a disruption of critical services, ranging from the
education for low income children provided by Head Start, to Meals-on-
Wheels for seniors, to the ability of rural residents to access home
mortgages offered by the Department of Agriculture.
For federal workers deemed essential, the shutdown has meant showing up for
work every day not knowing when you`ll get paid as we saw this week in the
case of the capital police working for free while risking your life, or for
the 800,000 so-called nonessential government workers, it means not showing
up for work at all and not getting paid still until the government reopens.
And yet, despite the personal disruption to their lives, many of those
furloughed federal employees are focusing on giving back.
This week, we don`t have just one foot soldier. Instead, we want to
recognize all of the furloughed workers have been out volunteering during
Like Scott Matthias (ph) in Durham, North Carolina. He and 29 other
employees from the environmental protection agency pruned trees and put
down mulch in a local park.
In Virginia, Craig Nichols (ph) from NASA, Derek James (ph) from the U.S.
Navy and some of their colleagues helped to build a new children`s wing at
Yorkshire Presbyterian Church.
Also in Alabama, Shania Collins, Takei Robinson (ph) and other furloughed
workers have set up an all volunteer class for children whose Head Start
classes have been closed. And in D.C., a council of workers representing
the Justice Department, the library of Congress and other government
agencies have created a federal workers guide to the shutdown for D.C.
volunteering. They`ve been distributing the guides outside of some of the
museums and monuments, telling tourists which tractions are open and which
In the midst of a government shutdown, furloughed workers like these across
the country are continuing to provide public service to their communities,
even as they face uncertain financial futures of their own. And for
showing the politicians in Washington what public service is really about,
these furloughed workers and the others like them are our foot soldiers of
the week. We hope you get back to work soon.
That`s our show for today. Tomorrow morning, we are back at 10:00 a.m.
Eastern. It is a very special edition of MHP. It is the second annual
student town hall for Education Nation. I hope you`ll join us.
Right now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT." Mara
Schiavocampo is in for Alex.
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