The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/25/13

Guests:
Jonathan Cohn, Ryan Haygood
Transcript:

EZRA KLEIN, GUEST HOST: Well, you`ll have to watch to find out.

CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: I will watch and find out.

KLEIN: Thanks to you at home for being here tonight. Rachel has the
night off.

This right here, what you`re seeing right here, it`s the United States
of America. You`ve heard of that. There`s still 50 states in it,
including – including Texas.

Texas is still in the Union. It remains an American state. It did
not secede, which is actually news that was not a foregone conclusion just
a couple years ago.

Back in 2009, as a fight over health reform was raging from the halls
of Congress to the town halls in Michele Bachmann`s district, the
government of Texas got Tenth Amendment-y and threatened to secede from
health care, end from the United States, itself. Very patriotic.

Texas would be gone. They`d get no more highway money. There would
be no more shared national defense. It would just be Texas on its own –
the land where nobody messes with the fact that poor people can`t afford
health insurance.

That was almost four years ago exactly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RACHEL MADDOW, TRMS HOST: The opposition to reforming health care
isn`t the most cogent thing in the world thus far. The GOP health care
solutions group in Congress, you will recall, admitted this week they think
it`s best if they don`t actually offer any health care solutions. They`d
rather just keep saying no to whatever it is the Democrats are offering no
matter what it is.

But in this rollicking substance-free festival of incoherence, there
is one man who is determined to be the most incoherent of all. Little
known outside his home state for anything other than having beautiful hair
and for threatening to secede from the Union back in April, Texas Governor
Rick Perry is now threatening that Texas will also secede from health care.

I told you it was incoherent. Speaking with a conservative talk show
host yesterday on WBAP in Arlington, Texas, Governor Perry had this to say
about what he wants to secede from next.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: It really is a state issue, and if there
was ever an argument for the Tenth Amendment and for letting states find
solutions to their problems, this may be at the top of the class.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: The whole Tenth Amendment, “screw you, I`m going to be my own
health care-free country” thing, it didn`t really take off. Not even in
Texas.

But there is more than one way to skin a health care reform law, and
so, the right, and activists on the right and the Republican Party, itself,
they set out to try and defeat the president on this by just getting it
voted down.

First, they tried to prevent it from happening. All fake grassroots
organizations like FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity. They
organized and paid for rallies and bus tours with very fancy, cool,
customized buses that had their logos all over this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: This rally organized by a collection of conservative and
libertarian groups.

ROBERT LEVY: Too much power, too little freedom. It is time to
restore constitutional government.

REPORTER: Almost all echoing a common theme.

JIM DEMINT: We must stop this government takeover of health care.

REPORTER: And coming after a summer of heated town hall meetings and
Congressman Joe Wilson`s outburst at President Obama during Wednesday`s
address to congress.

REP. JOE WILSON (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You lie!

REPORTER: Among today`s organizers, former House Majority Leader Dick
Armey, now the chairman of conservative action group, FreedomWorks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: That wasn`t just rallies and things that these firms
organized. They also sent people to hound elected officials in their
districts to try and embarrass and harass them into voting against health
reform.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Corporate lobbyists are organizing far right hooligan tactics
to disrupt civic meetings about health care reform. This is the organized
use of intimidation as a political tool in the United States, and I don`t
mean intimidation euphemistically. I mean, literal intimidation. New York
Congressman Tim Bishop, who we showed you earlier, he ended up having to be
escorted to his car by five police officers for his own safety after his
town hall event was over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: Meanwhile, the strategy for defeating health reform back in
Washington was twofold. One was lie about what it would do and to whom it
would do it to.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: And now, a familiar voice is raising the temperature.
Sarah Palin, just two weeks removed from office, writes on her Facebook
page, “My parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front
of Obama`s death panel so his bureaucrats can decide whether they are
worthy of health care.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: The panels, remember death panels? They were all the rage.
Literally. The rage. They made people rageful despite not being real.
That was number one.

Number two: The Republican politicians who hadn`t quit their jobs
after serving half a term in the office to which they were elected, they
decided to fight against health reform with the filibuster. In the Senate,
they raised the stakes with the filibuster threat.

So even though Democrats had the majority and even though health
reform could have passed by a civil majority vote, it had to get a
supermajority. Republicans filibustered it. And so, it needed the 60
votes. It needed a super, supermajority.

Months and months of vote wrangling later, it did get the
supermajority. It did pass. Despite all the astroturfing and all the
death panel talk and the filibustering, it was done. It was the law. The
president signed it.

But, wait, one more thing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: More than a dozen states are going to court
to challenge this health care bill claiming it`s unconstitutional. Our
justice correspondent Pete Williams has more on that part of the pushback.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We simply can`t have Washington make the rules and
we get stuck with the bill.

REPORTER: Fourteen states and counting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is an unprecedented expansion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To have the individual mandate held
unconstitutional.

UNIDENTFIED MALE: It does trample the Constitution.

REPORTER: Attorneys general from every part of the nation, nearly all
of them Republican, are challenging the health care law in court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: So after a year of truly insane off the wall got to get
congressmen escorted to their car politics on health care, the case went
all the way to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. You know
what happened there, too? Again, the Republican effort to kill the law
fell short.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: The bottom line here is the Supreme Court
has upheld the health care case. It`s a 5-4 decision, with Chief Justice
Roberts joining the courts` liberals in upholding it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: OK. Now were we done? Health reform passed both houses of
Congress. President signed it. Supreme Court said it was constitutional.

Are we – is it finally law and we can go forward and actually make
the law happen?

No. No, we were not done. Ever since health reform passed,
Republicans in the House have voted to repeal or dismantle health reform
more than three dozen times, 37 times to be exact.

They`ve also over and over again tried to defund it and delay it,
repealing the funding/delaying. It`s like the Republican turducken of
health reform. Like the actual turducken, it is more appealing in theory
than in practice and it has never quite caught on in the general public.

The latest Republican attempt to undo health reform which has been law
for three years now is sabotage. And I don`t use the word lightly. It is
actual sabotage of the law.

In order to make sure implementation goes poorly, Republican lawmakers
are refusing to help their constituents who call them for help navigating
the new law. They`re also trying to keep the government from funding the
implementation so they can`t do a good job putting the law into place.

In this new letter, Republican senators say that if Obamacare is not
defunded, they will shut down the entire federal government. A dozen
Republican senators, a dozen, signed that letter today. And all over the
country, Republican governors have refused the federal government`s offer
to pick up the bill for expanding their Medicaid program.

No, no, we don`t want your free money to help our uninsured people.
We just want to kill your law. And they`ve refused to set up health
exchanges in their states and so the federal government has to swoop in and
do it on their behalf.

This is true even in states like Texas where the governor thinks
health care should be run by the states.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

PERRY: It really is a state issue, and if there was ever an argument
for the Tenth Amendment and for letting states find the solutions to their
problems, this may be at the top of the class.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KLEIN: So it`s a state issue when you want to secede, but when you`re
given the chance to actually build the health law, yourself, make you own
insurance marketplace, make it very Texasy, you leave it to the feds?

Big the big news today, the new development in all of this, the icing
on the repeal and reform, repeal and replace cake, is that Republicans are
no longer arguing for secession. They`re no longer telling states to leave
the Union. Now, they are telling the individual people to secede from the
health care law. It`s like self-deportation, but self-secession.

There is new reporting out today from “Reuters” that Republicans and
their allies are gearing up to die again on this Obamacare hill. They`re
going to launch a huge campaign to try and convince people to not buy
health insurance, particularly young people, and to not accept the health
insurance the government tries to give them, even for free.

FreedomWorks has got the ball rolling with their two-week-old “Burn
Your Obamacare Draft Card” campaign. You get it? Having the government
help you get health insurance is like being drafted into fighting a war.
It`s horrible.

Everyone should rebel individually and then if you break your leg or
you need your appendix taken out or you contract a communicable disease,
you might go bankrupt, but hey, you went bankrupt in the name of freedom.

And so, the anti-Obamacare cause will endure. The hope to kill health
insurance lives on. The dream of scuttling Obamacare will never die. Even
it f it means convincing the uninsured to remain uninsured.

Joining us now is my friend, Jonathan Cohn, a senior editor at “The
New Republic.”

Jon, it`s good to see you tonight.

JONATHAN COHN, THE NEW REPUBLIC: Thanks for having me on the snow.

KLEIN: So, let`s say they get the folks to burn the draft card and
not take the insurance and they`re uninsured. What does freedom works say
to a 23-year-old who in early 2015 gets into a car accident, needs medical
treatment and then gets billed and can`t pay the bills?

COHN: You know, that`s an awfully good question. You know, what
we`re seeing here is really something I think is different than what we`ve
seen before. I mean, this isn`t just fighting a law, isn`t just saying we
want the law off the books.

This is telling people who stand to benefit from the law – hey, don`t
take advantage of it. You know, it`s like telling people don`t take your
Social Security checks because we don`t like the system. Don`t – when you
turn 65, don`t enroll in Medicare because it`s a bad idea.

You know, I don`t know what they`re going to say to these people. The
truth is there`s a reason we`re trying to make health insurance available
to people. It`s because people get sick. They get in accidents and they
end up in the hospital and are going to have very large bills. Here`s a
chance to get health insurance so they don`t have the face the prospect of
bankruptcy, so they can pay for their medical care. And you have groups
like FreedomWorks out there saying, hey, don`t do this, it`s a bad idea.

KLEIN: One of the things I find fascinating about this whole strategy
is that, it means, I think, Obamacare as it rolls out is going to have
incredible variation between states. So I don`t think this little
Obamacare draft card thing is going to be much more than a blip on
everybody`s radar. But you do at places like Texas are doing everything
they can to make the health care law, which means to make their health care
system in 2014 a huge disaster.

And then you have California say, which has really worked hard to make
it a success. You`re going to get into 2014 and 2015, and it`s very
possible you could have California with a functioning pretty much universal
health care system. And Texas a complete disaster zone from a health care
perspective.

And I don`t – I don`t really understand, I think, myself, how the
politics of that play out if it looks bad for the law or looks terrible for
Rick Perry, that out of spite, he destroyed his state`s health care system.

COHN: Yes, I don`t know how this plays out, either. I think it`s
quite likely we will see a situation where not just California but places
like Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Maryland, places where the officials are
committed to making this work. It`s going to work pretty well.

And then you have places like Texas or Georgia where not only the
officials not interested in helping, they are, as you say, actively working
to sabotage it. Now, I actually think even in those states, the system
will work well enough.

But I don`t know how people react. Do they get up and say, gee, this
is a bad law overall? Or do the people of Texas and Georgia start going to
their state officials and saying, hey, why are those people in Maryland
getting all these benefits and we aren`t?

KLEIN: Jonathan Cohn, senior editor at “The New Republic” – thank
you very much for your time tonight.

COHN: Thanks for your time tonight.

KLEIN: Still ahead, why is this woman bringing a cantaloupe to
Congressman Steve King`s office? I`ll give you a hint. It`s not so they
can have brunch together.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KLEIN: We`re keeping a watchful eye on the North Carolina state
legislature tonight. Republicans have total control in North Carolina.
They hold the governor`s mansion and supermajorities in both the House and
the Senate.

And today, today was slated to be the final day North Carolina
legislature would be in session. In other words, today is a day when you
cram everything through.

Last night, state lawmakers presented Republican Governor Pat McCrory
with a bill that bans courts from recognizing, court, foreign law, also
known as Sharia law. So that got done. But there are also a few big-
ticket items to keep an eye on. Democrats spent much of yesterday and
today stalling one of the most far reaching voter suppression efforts in
the country. North Carolina Republicans put forth a bill that goes after
early voting and voter registration drives. And the icing on the cake, the
bill bans certain forms of voter ID that ordinarily easily have been
allowed in order to cast your vote.

Despite the stalling tactic, Republicans in the Senate passed that
voting bill tonight. It`s now back in the House, where it`s being debated
as we speak. If it passes the House tonight, it will go to the govern desk
for signature.

And then, of course, there`s abortion. Earlier this month North
Carolina Republicans set off a wave of protests across the state when they
introduced an abortion bill that would have the likely effect of closing 15
of the state`s 16 abortion clinics, 15 of 16. That bill was eventually
tacked on to a totally unrelated motorcycle safety bill, but it has sort of
just been languishing in the Senate. That is until tonight. Republicans
moved that abortion bill on to the official calendar then on to the Senate
floor where it passed by a vote of 32-13. The bill now goes straight to
the governor`s desk.

Earlier today, opponents of that bill delivered petitions to the state
capitol, containing more than 35,000 signatures. The petition tells the
governor – you promised, you promised you wouldn`t sign any bill that
would restrict a woman`s right to choose, keep your word.

So, it`s coming down to the wire in North Carolina tonight as we await
the House`s vote on the voter ID bill and Governor McCrory`s decision on
the abortion bill. You`re keeping an eye on it throughout the night, but
you can also check MaddowBlog.com for all of the latest developments.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KLEIN: They called it a dagger in the heart. When the U.S. Supreme
Court threw out key sections of the Voting Rights Act last month,
Democratic Congressman John Lewis said the decision, quote, “put a dagger
in the heart of that law.”

For Mr. Lewis, the metaphor was one of outrage and lament because the
Voting Rights Act kept states with a history of discrimination in elections
from carrying out changes without first getting approval from the federal
government. The Supreme Court ruled against that protection was a huge
loss for progressives like John Lewis.

Conservatives who oppose the reach the same conclusion about its fate,
that the court had put a dagger in its heart – though they tended to be
happier about seeing that dagger there. You can tell by the way they
responded to the news. Within hours of the ruling, Mississippi announced
it would be going forward with a voter ID law that had not been approved by
the federal government. Alabama announced that it, too, would be rushing
ahead to the voter ID law.

In Texas, the attorney general announced his state would put their
voter ID law into effect immediately. According to data from the state of
Texas, itself, up to 800,000 people in Texas would not have the kind of ID
you would need to vote.

And among all those people, Hispanic voters, more than twice as likely
not to have the new acquired ID because all would have such a clearly,
clearly discriminatory effect. The federal government had blocked that
voter ID law until the Supreme Court threw out the key parts of the Voting
Rights Act allowing that blocking. And Texas announced the discriminatory
plan would start that same day, immediately.

Texas had also been blocked by federal court for making another set of
changes in election law. After the 2010 Census, Texas Republicans drew up
new congressional districts with some interesting outcomes. Texas
Republicans took away the seats of minority lawmakers and they configured
the districts of white lawmakers so white lawmakers could more easily stay
in office.

A federal court noted that in the new maps, not one white member of
the congressional delegation lost his or her seat to the new map. But
black lawmakers – black lawmakers woke up with their districts slipped
right out from under them. The court ruled, quote, “The only explanation
Texas offers for this pattern is coincidence, but if this was coincidence,
it was a strange one indeed. It is difficult to believe that pure chance
would lead to such results.”

The court decided, quote, “The plan was enacted with discriminatory
purpose.” But without the Voting Rights Act in the way, Texas did not need
the permission ahead of time anymore, not for the voter ID time, with the
discriminatory effect, and not for the redistricting plan with the
discriminatory intent.

The Supreme Court had put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights
Act and Congress would not move to save it. So, that meant, that meant
Texas and the other states had gotten extra scrutiny under that law, it
meant they could do as they pleased or so it seemed.

Today – today, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the
federal government was not giving up on enforcing the right to vote. Mr.
Holder said the federal government intends to start with Texas using a part
of the Voting Rights Act that is still in place.

He said that based on the discriminatory intent in the redistricting
case and on the history of pervasive voting-related discrimination, the
Justice Department was diving back in.

“This is the first time the Justice Department has moved to protect
voting rights since the Supreme Court ruled,” he said, but, quote, “it will
not be our last.” It will not be our last. The power that the attorney
general is invoking there has only been used in two states, 12 counties,
two cities and two school districts according to the Justice Department`s
own count.

Texas conservatives as you can imagine are not happy about joining
that list. Governor Rick Perry, quote, “Once again, the Obama
administration is demonstrating utter contempt for our country`s system of
checks and balances.” Lieutenant Governor Greg Abbott, who is running for
governor, said, quote, “I will fight Obama`s effort to control our
elections.”

Texas congressman, Randy Neugebauer, “The attorney general`s
announcements is outrageous.”

Senator John Cornyn, “Texas should not and will not stand for the
continued bullying of our state by the Obama administration.” You can hear
the howls from Austin to the Potomac, but today, today in federal court, in
San Antonio, the Justice Department cited that Texas history of racial
discrimination in elections and they asked the court to put Texas back
under special scrutiny for 10 years, and for however long beyond that, if
the state discriminates again.

So, for now, the Voting Rights Act may have been delivered a dagger to
its heart. Voting rights action by the Department of Justice has not.

Joining us now is Ryan Haygood of the NAACP legal defense and
educational fund.

Mr. Haygood, thank you very much for your time tonight.

RYAN HAYGOOD, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: Ezra, thanks for having me on
the show this evening.

KLEIN: So how significant is holder`s move?

HAYGOOD: This, you know, it`s hard to overstate the significance of
the attorney general`s move today. What the attorney general signaled in a
bold and very aggressive move is that the Department of Justice will use
the remaining tools under the Voting Rights Act to ensure the voters of
color are not made more vulnerable by the Supreme Court`s debilitating
decision last month in the Shelby County Voting Rights Act case. This
really is a moment where I think Congress can take its cues from the
attorney general.

The attorney general here having used its tools to ensure that voters
of color are not made more vulnerable in this moment can receive a message
of challenge to it. Congress, as your viewers know, in 2006, sought to
reauthorize the Voting Rights Act in an overwhelmingly bipartisan way, 98-0
in the Senate, 390-33 in the House, and overwhelmingly found that the
Voting Rights Act was needed for an additional period of time.

Congress last week held two hearings both in the House and the Senate
to revisit the places where the Voting Rights Acts protection are needed
and it needs to continue to stay that course in this moment.

KLEIN: When, inside the Voting Rights Act, itself, the part the
Supreme Court invalidated was a part that gave the Department of Justice or
the federal government, rather, a kind of authority over states with a deep
history of racial discrimination. So what is the part that the Department
of Justice is invoking now in order to try to put Texas back under extra
scrutiny?

HAYGOOD: Sure. So, there`s a provision in the Voting Rights Act,
which is section 3-C, which provides where jurisdictions have intentionally
discriminated in one aspect, particularly in voting, those jurisdictions
can be subject to submitting their voting changes for preclearance or
preapproval to the Department of Justice or to a three-judge federal court.

Today, the attorney general filed papers in federal court in Texas
asking the court to require that because of Texas` history of intentional
discrimination in voting, particularly most recently in its congressional
and state redistricting plans, that it should be required to submit its
voting changes for preclearance for approval before they can be
implemented.

KLEIN: Can the attorney general do this in other states? And if so,
which ones are they likely to target?

HAYGOOD: Absolutely. I think there is an important moment now where
the attorney general can look at the states and in your introduction you
noted there were several states in the wake of the devastating Shelby
County decision, have been talking about swiftly moving to implement
discriminatory measures, whether it`d be in the early voting context,
whether it`d be in the photo ID context, whether it be in other contexts,
there`s an opportunity now to look at the entire country in those places
where voter suppression tactics are proliferating, where voters of color
are made particularly vulnerable and look to see whether it`s appropriate
to attempt to bail in those jurisdictions under the Voting Rights Act
coverage.

KLEIN: You mentioned earlier the hearings in the House and Senate in
the last couple weeks to look at reauthorizing and fixing the part of the
Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court invalidated. When you watch those
hearings, do they seem to you they were hearings that pointed towards an
actual outcome, constructive outcome or kabuki theater that looked like
they were going nowhere?

HAYGOOD: You know, actually, I think there`s a reason to be very
hopeful about our Congress acting in this moment. The Congress held
hearings, as we mentioned, in the last week in the House and the Senate, in
less than a month after receiving the devastating decision from the Supreme
Court, and I think that the Congress is prepared now to engage in a robust
discussion about the places in which protections are needed. Additional
protections are need in the wake of the Supreme Court`s decision and in
light of what states across the country are doing to aggressively make
voting more difficult particularly for people of color.

KLEIN: Ryan Haygood of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund -
- thank you so much for being with us here tonight.

HAYGOOD: Thanks for having me, Ezra.

KLEIN: President Obama, President Obama`s going to do one huge,
important, crucial thing about the American economy. He is going to do it
very soon. And in all of his recent speechifying about the economy, he
doesn`t even mention it.

That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KLEIN: There was something a bit weird about President Obama`s big,
super hyped everybody absolutely had to watch it now economic speech on
yesterday. His speech was all about laying out Obama`s long-term vision
for the economy, what he would do now to set us up for growth later.

But the speech didn`t even mention the single most important economic
decision President Obama will make in his second term. It mentioned all
these things that Obama would like to do and Republicans in Congress won`t
let him do like infrastructure and these big education overhauls, but it
didn`t mention the one thing he absolutely will be able to do. The one
thing he`ll do that will matter most of all. And that is replacing this
guy.

That guy, the bald, bearded guy, that guy is Federal Reserve Chairman
Ben Bernanke. He is probably the most powerful economic policymaker in the
world right now – up to and including the president of the United States.
That is the guy who in normal times pretty much decides how fast the
economy is going to grow. He`s also the guy who basically decides how
we`re going to regulate the financial sector and how we`re going to
regulate mortgages and when we have a financial crisis or Europe has one or
China has one, that is the guy who can create trillions of dollars out of
thin air to save the entire global economy, which is what he did back in
2009 and 2008.

That guy is a really important guy. So, so important. And we are
pretty sure he`s leaving this year and Obama is going to name his
replacement.

And here`s the thing – guys like that, and I should say up until now
it has all been guys, although it doesn`t need to be all guys going
forward. Guys like that stick around for awhile.

Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker who, by the way, is a guy who
really deserves credit for breaking inflation and creating the economic
boom of the Reagan years, he held the job for eight years. Alan Greenspan
held it for almost 15. Bernanke has been around for eight.

So, whoever Obama names to this position, they`re probably going to be
in it long after Obama is out of office. And so, don`t get distracted by
the speeches and the policy papers, that stuff is all important. I like me
a policy paper. But that right now, that is economic politics as much as
anything else.

But this pick, Federal Reserve chairman, that`s going to be the most
important economic policy decision Obama makes in his second term. Nothing
else will even come close.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: You want a good bird dog? You want one
that`s going to be aggressive? Pick the one that`s the friskiest, the one
that`s engaged the most and not the one sleeping in the corner. If you
want a pet to sit on the couch, pick the one that`s sleeping in the corner.
You get to pick of the litter and you got yourself a pretty bird dog.
Well, we`ve got to pick of every donor civilization on the planet because
it`s hard to get here. They had to be inspired to come. We`ve got the
vigor from the plane to come to America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: That was last year. Back then, a lot of people were a little
offended that Iowa Congressman Steve King analogized picking dogs to people
who want to come to America.

And then just the other day on the Spanish language network Univision,
lead news person Jorge Ramos took Steve King to for his “immigrants are
like dog” comments, which Steve King tried to suggest he never made.

And so, the whole issue of Steve King super-race-baiting verbiage on
immigration, it blasted right back to the surface of the news.

But no matter how outlandish Steve King`s comments on immigration
reform have been, and no matter how many times Republican leadership has
tried to tell America that it bears no ill will towards immigrants,
Republicans have generally failed to self-police Steve King at all, until,
until Steve King said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: There are kids that were brought into this country by their
parts unknowing that they were breaking the law and they will say to me and
others who defend the rule of law, we have to do something about the 11
million. And some of them are valedictorians.

Well, my answer to that, by the way, their parents brought them in.
It wasn`t their fault. It`s true in some cases. But they aren`t all
valedictorians and weren`t all brought in by their parents.

For every one who`s a valedictorian, there`s another 100 out there
that – they weigh 130 pounds and they`ve got calves the size of
cantaloupes because they`re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the
desert. Those people would be legalized with the same act.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: So vivid. Calves the size of cantaloupes.

I don`t think there a many groups of people who would take kindly as
being painted as drug mules with huge calves. He did hear arguments,
strident arguments against his comments from inside his own party.

Late Tuesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said, quote, “I
strongly disagree with his characterization of the children of immigrants
and find the comments inexcusable.”

House Speaker John Boehner chastised King, saying, quote, “What he
said is wrong. There can be honest disagreements about policy without
using hateful language.”

Republican Congressman Raul Labrador called King`s comments
irresponsible and reprehensible. Even with a solid smackdown from his own
party, though, Congressman King still went on cable news last night to
defend the statement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: For every valedictorian, there are 100 per valedictorian
smuggling drugs into the United States. And I think the numbers support
that. I won`t back up on the statement.

This isn`t something that just was made up out of thin air.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: Deep evidentiary backing for the valedictorian to cantaloupe
sized calf drug mule ratio thing. Still not backing down, Congressman
King. Neither is Speaker Boehner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I want to be clear,
there`s no place in this debate for hateful or ignorant comments from
elected officials. Earlier this week, Representative Steve King made
comments that were, I think, deeply offensive and wrong. What he said does
not reflect the values of the American people or the Republican Party. We
all need to do our work in a constructive, open and respectful way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: When asked about Speaker Boehner`s calling his comments
hateful and ignorant, congressman king had this to say today.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

KING: Well, my comments were anything but ignorant, they may have
been the best informed in the entire United States Congress. So you should
ask those people that I believe I said is not true, what do the think is
true? What`s their number? How would they describe 80 percent to 90
percent of the illegal drugs that come into America? Where do they think
they come from? They come from or through Mexico.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KLEIN: Congressman King, still not backing down. The difference from
the past this time, though, is that his own party is closing ranks against
him. Of course, self-policing hateful rhetoric is not the same as
legislating real reform. And who knows if that will ever happen. This
self-policing and hateful rhetoric is a positive step towards getting
something done and having a better dialogue, and toward saving,
incidentally, the Republican Party from itself.

Joining us now is NBC News producer Kasie Hunt.

Kasie, thank you for being here.

KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS PRODUCER : Thanks for having me, Ezra.

KLEIN: This seems like a big deal. You`ve seen a little bit of it
popping up before. On this particular issue, Republicans do seem to be
policing the rhetoric and scared of the image they`re putting forward when
folks like Steve King speak out like that.

HUNT: The secret here is that even though in that same press
conference, part of which you just showed, Boehner said that this would
make it harder to pass immigration reform. In a lot of ways, it really
makes it easier because it helps him define this right flank that`s opposed
to immigration reform as something that`s out of the mainstream.
Obviously, that`s not something that the speaker would ever say in public.

But you have to remember, there is a lot of pressure on the GOP to
pass something on immigration reform. It`s not just coming from the
political aspects where we look at what happened in the 2012 election.
It`s coming from the business community, which is a huge constituency of
the GOP. It`s coming from agricultural interests. People who are really
interested in seeing visa programs passed.

There is a lot of support for the various pieces of this bill and
Boehner, himself, has to walk a very careful tightrope. So, in some ways,
Steve King has made his job easier.

KLEIN: So implicit in that, is teems you`re saying Boehner is
actually to some degree allied with those groups, those business groups, ag
groups that want something passed. I mean, is that an accurate
characterization of Boehner? It was a conventional wisdom on him but a lot
of people began to think maybe to keep his own speakership, he saw this as
too heavy a lift.

Do you think he`s still on the side of passing the bill here?

HUNT: I think that they don`t know exactly how this is going to play
out still on that particular front. I posed a similar question to some of
his aides earlier today.

And I think, you know, they`re being very cautious in waiting to see
exactly how the pressures shake out. They`re going to learn a lot when
they go home in August and spend time with their constituents, get feedback
in that way. And then you`ll come back in September and I think you`re
going to start to see those pressures kind of fall out on either side.

And you`ll see Boehner take a position at this point. I mean, there
is an incredible amount of pressure on him to pass some sort of bill that
can be viewed as a victory for the GOP when it comes to immigration reform,
huge pressure. So does he want to pass something?

Absolutely. What that will actually look likes still a question mark.

KLEIN: One thing that happened in the bush years when they tried to
take an immigration reform was you had Steve Kings of the world, saying
things, and there also was a conservative rallying around effect around
some of those folks. Not necessarily around particularly hateful language
but around the kind of retrenchment approach to what was a George W.
Bush/John McCain immigration joint at that point and Ted Kennedy, of
course.

That doesn`t seem to be happening. What I`m also not seeing is sort
of the talk radio world or the sort of real conservative world rallying
around either Steve King or frankly a lot of the sort anti-immigration
folks in the House. It`s not that they don`t have power but they don`t
seem to be the sort of clear voice of the conservative grassroots, at least
at this point.

HUNT: There`s definitely tension within conservatives. And you do
have, like, the Ann Coulter wing of the party who are very aggressive or
using the word amnesty, who are very against it, and that the Tea Party,
whether it`s the Tea Party groups that are based in Washington or the Tea
Party groups based in the states, they`re all very angry, say, at Marco
Rubio for pushing this senate bill. You have to remember that the donors
in the Republican Party as well as many of the quote/unquote
“establishment” interests here, the ones who are airing ads about
immigration are not those conservatives you mention. It`s not the fire
breathing right wing. It`s essentially the mainstream of the party who`s
saying, hey, you know, we have no future if you don`t do something here.

KLEIN: NBC news producer Kasie Hunt, thank you very much for being
here.

HUNT: Thanks, Ezra.

KLEIN: Believe it or not, the crazy, historic, unprecedented logjam
in Washington may actually be kind of breaking up. Stuff may actually be
about to get done. And the person breaking up the logjam, it`s kind of an
amazing story. Standby.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VOICE: Very interesting.

KLEIN: Today was one of those days when finding out that the plague
was discovered where lots of people like to go camping in Los Angeles. And
I do mean the plague as in bubonic, as in killing off a third of the
world`s population in the 14th century. That kind of plague.

Today was the kind of day when the plague discovery was not actually
the most alarming public health news of the day. Although, this little
cartoon squirrel does look very alarmed, as I guess he probably should be.
Maybe the plague started to not get a lot of attraction today because of
what happened at a little private airport near Miami, Florida, called Opa-
locka Airport.

Midday today, we found that officials have found two open containers
of depleted uranium that they did not know about. Surprise, we found
depleted uranium in an airport near a major metropolitan area. The Miami
Dade Fire Rescue Twitter feed sent out tweets with further developments
like, a 150-foot parameter around the hazard has been evacuated and hazmat
crew preparing to enter hot zone to assess severity of uranium hazard. Hot
zone.

We learned throughout the course of the day the depleted uranium was
in solid form, is not a liquid or dust. That`s a good thing because it`s a
lot easier to contain when solid. The depleted uranium was found on the
parts of an airplane. Depleted uranium can be used on aircraft as a
counter weight.

And apparently the old plane with the depleted uranium on it had been
dismantled at Opa-locka Airport. It was put in containers, but somehow,
the containers became unsealed. They have been opened. We do not know how
or why or who opened the depleted uranium containers.

It is also still unclear tonight why those containers filled with the
airplane parts, with the depleted uranium on them were sitting around the
airport, or how officials happened to notice them or find out about them.
Pretty much everything is still unclear.

Opa-locka Airport says that they will definitely be investigating what
happened there today. And, yes, please, investigate it. Humanity would
appreciate an investigation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It is well known that I have not been
elected Ms. Congeniality in the United States Senate nor with the
administration. I have a long record and the American people know me very
well. And that is independent, and I`m a maverick of the Senate. And I`m
happy to say that I`ve got a partner that is a good maverick along with me
now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: That was John McCain, declaring himself a maverick in a
presidential debate with then-Senator Barack Obama.

In years before he ran for president in 2008, John McCain was known
for his rather frequent ability to cross the aisle, to buck his own party.
He came out against torture of U.S. prisoners. He called for the closing
of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, cut the size of the Bush tax cuts. John
McCain was a senator who knew how to get things done, even if it took
working with Democrats.

That is until he got closer to running for president in 2008, and then
especially until Barack Obama beat him. After John McCain lost in 2008
election, he can kind of put away his mavericky cape during President
Obama`s first term. Criticizing the president became John McCain`s new
M.O., on – well, you name it, President Obama`s Afghanistan policy,
Obamacare. John McCain even led the effort to filibuster the repeal of
“don`t ask, don`t tell.” He kind of reinvented himself again, but this
time, as a thorn in Barack Obama`s side and a very loyal Republican, until
now.

President Obama`s second term, now it seems that Senator John McCain
may have dusted off that maverick cape and he is back to getting things
done with Democrats.

Take, for example, this past may, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill
went head to head with Republican Senator Mike Lee on the need for a budget
conference committee, something both parties used to agree on until now.
Surprise, surprise, Mike Lee wants to block the conference. He called it a
back room deal to move the budget to a conference. The Republicans have
been demanding this for a long time.

But as John McCain stepped in and bucked his Republican colleague.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: Again, I –

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: It is an open process, anybody
can come and listen.

MCCAIN: And it is my understanding, since the budget conference is
open to the public, it will also be broadcast on C-Span so that all the
American people can watch what the deliberations are. So I do wonder, why
would the senator from Utah say it is a backroom closed door deal, when the
fact – doesn`t the senator from Utah know that this is open to the public
and seen by everybody?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: That was May. Then, a month later, John McCain decided the
Senate Democrats on the comprehensive reform bill. Look, you can see him
there. It`s Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, patting John McCain on the back.
Big smiles all around, maverick John McCain, it is good to see you.

Earlier this month, the Senate reached a last-minute agreement on
executive branch nominations. And again, it was McCain that help get that
that done, too. He was so integral for getting it happen that Senator
Harry Reid got emotional just regarding it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: John McCain and I have
worked together for a long time. I have worked with him for 31 years. And
we`ve had some pretty difficult times together. But in the 31 years we`ve
worked together, there is no one I have ever worked with that is more a man
of his word or person of his word than John McCain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KLEIN: In that case, John McCain had helped to cut a deal to allow a
whole bunch of President Obama`s cabinet level nominees to get a vote.
Following the George Zimmerman verdict earlier this month, Senator McCain
praised the president`s comments on race. He even endorsed the growing
Democratic calls for review of stand your ground laws. The maverick seems
to be making a comeback.

My colleague Greg Sargent reported earlier this week that Democrats
are crossing their fingers, hoping that John McCain will break from his
party hoping to avert a potential government shutdown that Republicans have
been threatened as of late. And it looks like he actually might. When
asked about his Republican colleagues in their shut the government down
threats, McCain said, quote, “Most Americans are really tired of those kind
of shenanigans here in Washington.”

Just a couple of days ago, “Politico” reported that President Obama`s
advisors now think they have found the one, and by the one, they are not
talking about Michelle Obama, they are talking about, yes, John McCain.
West Wing aides say they talk to John McCain every other day, since when,
you might ask? Well, since John McCain teamed up with Senator Chuck
Schumer.

McCain, Schumer and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough are
being described as a power triangle that is now making things happen in
D.C. So what does it all mean?

Well, we do not know how it will play out. And because Senator John
McCain does have a habit of reinventing and changing things up every couple
of years, sometimes even a couple of months. But for now, McCain`s
maverick-ness means that the whole party line filibustering no compromise
world in which we live, it might begin to unravel. Maybe, just maybe, we
might begin to see a thaw in the usual Republican intransigence since John
McCain leading a breakaway group of Republican senators who want to get
things done.

For four years during President Obama`s first term, House Republicans
perfect symmetry with Senate Republicans. They essentially function as a
unit. They voted against everything the president offered up. They
filibustered all of it, Obamacare, Wall Street reform.

But that perfect symmetry is breaking. The Senate is beginning to
function again, that`s in large part thanks to Senator John McCain. And
that means that the House is sort of its own, as the only part of
government that is broken. If John McCain can help to break the fever in
the Senate, if he can help break the gridlock there, then Republicans are
not working as a unit anymore, it`s not the two parties fighting anymore.
There`s no more, oh, it`s just Republicans versus Democrats. it is House
Democrats alone, fighting anything from getting done.

John McCain has redefined himself many times on the national political
scene. But this latest role that he has carved out for himself, it could
be his most interesting and most consequential one yet.

That does it for us. Now, it is time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE
O`DONNELL.”

Have a great night.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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