The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/07/13
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thanks to you at home as well for joining us
In the 1994, NFL draft, in the first round of the draft that year, the
Washington Redskins drafted a very, very promise young quarterback out of
the University of Tennessee. His name was Heath Shuler.
The Redskins at the time were a terrible team in the NFL, and picking
somebody good as Heath Shuler, someone who is expected to be as good as
Heath Shuler was expected to be in the NFL, that was seen as the way the
Redskins were going to turn their frown upside down. But Heath Shuler
ended up not being enough for the team to overcome the curse they put on
themselves when they decided to dig in their heels and not change their
I`m kidding. It`s not actually a curse. Actually, how would I know?
But seriously – even though the Redskins signed up Heath Shuler for a
long contract, signing him up to pay him something like $20 million. He
really never did anything for them of note. Except that one time he threw
five interceptions in one game.
So, he never really did anything for the Redskins, left the Redskins.
And then he went to the New Orleans Saints. He never did anything for them
either. Then, he went to the Oakland Raiders where he did nothing for
And then, Heath Shuler finally just decided to stuff all his remaining
money into a duffel bag and washed out of the league. When he washed out
of the NFL, he made his way to western North Carolina. And within about 30
seconds of moving there, Heath Shuler announced that he was going to run
for Congress as a Democrat.
It`s interesting. His district in North Carolina was pretty centrist
district. It`s not impossible for a Democrat to get elected there. More
than 40 percent Democrats in the district there he got elected, including
liberal college town of Asheville, North Carolina.
But all in all, the west, this western North Carolina district, the
11th district is a big district. It`s a relatively rural south.
And in order for Heath Shuler to run there and win there, he had to
run as a conservative. He ran as a Democrat but as a conservative
Democrat. He was anti-gay rights, pro-gun, anti-abortion. He was one of
the highest profile members of the conservative blue dog Democratic Caucus.
At one point, Heath Shuler refused to even say he would vote for Nancy
Pelosi as leader of the Democrats in the House. Asked who might be a
better alternative he suggested himself.
So, Heath Shuler got elected in 2006. He got re-elected in 2008. He
got re-elected again in 2010.
But in 2010, that was a big year. That was a census year and the year
of the big Republican takeover coast to coast. And what Republicans did
with the census data and control of state government in North Carolina was
that they redrew Heath Shuler`s congressional district so that no Democrat,
no matter how conservative could ever get elected in that district again.
That little liberal college town, Asheville, North Carolina, they just
carved much of it out of the district. The proportion of Democratic voters
dropped by 7 points in the district. They created the most Republican
district in the entire state. And so, tough guy that he is, Heath Shuler
Rather than defend the seat he had been holding for six years, he just
dropped out. He gave it up. And the newly deep red guaranteed Republican
seat that he used to represent went instead to this guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: You know, it is interesting
when the more we find out, the more we realize how wrong the direction
we`re going. So, what we are going to do is take back our country. 2012
is the time that we are going to send Mr. Obama home to Kenya or wherever
it is. We`re going to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Send him home to Kenya, or wherever it is.
That is now Congressman Mark Meadows of North Carolina. He`s
campaigning there in western North Carolina in summer 2012, in the district
that used to be Heath Shuler`s district, but it`s now the most Republican
district in the whole state and now belongs to Mark Meadows.
Mark Meadows was elected past November, sworn in in January. By this
summer, as a freshman congressman who never held public office before,
benefiting from a right red district drawn just for him, newbie Congressman
Mark Meadows who thinks President Obama is from Kenya started circulating
this letter demanding that Republican House Speaker John Boehner shut down
the government. Mark meadows` strategy in this document is the strategy
that Republicans followed that indeed got us the government shutdown we now
have which is in its seventh day.
The Mark Meadows letter had a demand in it. And it was, demand that
was not addressed to Democrats in the House or Democrats in the Senate or
President Obama or anybody else who you think would be on the opposite side
of a Mark Meadows demand letter.
Now, the demand was actually made to Republican House Speaker John
Boehner. The letter essentially said, I, Mark Meadows and Republican
members of Congress who signed on to the letter with me demand that you,
John Boehner shut down the government. Make the funding of the federal
government contingent on getting health reform, getting rid of health
reform, and if President Obama does not agree to get rid of health reform,
if he does not agree to that, then shut down the government. We demand
that you follow this strategy.
It is amazing to think that a brand new freshman member of Congress,
with no national profile, no additional position of power, no apparent
influence at all beyond his seat could get 80 members of Congress to sign
on to a letter like that. What is more amazing is that conservative groups
then started running targeted advertisements against 100 other Republicans
who did not sign on to the Mark Meadows letter. It`s impressive, right?
This guy who nobody had ever heard of last year is punching really,
really far above his weight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEADOWS: You know it`s interesting when the more we find out, the
more we realize how wrong the direction we`re going. And so, what we`re
going to do is take back our country. 2012 is the time that we are going
to send Mr. Obama home, to Kenya or wherever it is. We are going to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Send him home to Kenya.
It turns out that – relatively random congressman, that send Obama
back to Kenya guy, who nobody had ever heard of, is now, an out of nowhere
force in Congress who is apparently leading the shutdown strategy in the
House. It turns out that has the less to do with him being an unusually
effective member of Congress than it does with the company that he has been
keeping on the right, because Congressman Mark Meadows may be the visible
head of this effort to get the government shut down on the House side.
But he is not alone. He is just the most visible part of a plan that
has been in the works for a long time. With a lot of people who you will
have heard of even if you`ve never heard of him.
You may remember that last spring, the Robert Draper book that came
out about Republicans in the Obama era. This book made a lot of ways
because it led with this bombshell opening scene of what Republicans in
Washington did on inauguration night when President Obama was first sworn
in. The very first day that he was president of the United States, on the
day President Obama was sworn in 2009, Republicans held a meeting at a
restaurant in Washington, D.C., that night, where they made their plans to
block every single thing he wanted to accomplish as president and to make
his presidency a failure.
Even before he had done anything except become president, Republicans
had already started an overt strategy of intransigent opposition no matter
what he proposed. Well, after President Obama was inaugurated the second
time, it turns out there was a similar meeting in Washington for
Republicans to plan their second term anti-Obama strategy. And the second
term anti-Obama strategy meeting right after the president was sworn in was
for a government shutdown.
The meeting was convened at an undisclosed location somewhere where on
Capitol Hill, and it was led by the radical Reagan era attorney general, Ed
Meese, and their demand, their plan from the very beginning of the second
term was that the government should be shut down. There should be no
funding of the federal government unless President Obama agreed to repeal
“The New York Times” reported this out this weekend, how more than
three dozen conservative groups joined forces on the shutdown strategy at
the very start of the second term. Although that initial meeting was
convened by Ed Meese, what “The Times” pieces together is that many of the
groups involved and certainly, much of the considerable money involved in
the shutdown effort goes back to these guys – Charles and David Koch, the
conservative activist brothers who are billionaires because they inherited
an oil and chemical company from their dad.
Will the federal government be heading into week two of the shutdown
tonight without that $200 million that groups connected to the Koch
brothers spent over the past year, building and supporting all these
conservative organizations that are demanding a shutdown? Would the civil
war inside the Republican Party have petered out by now in a way less
harmful to the country if Koch brothers funding were not propping up all
these conservative organizations that are running the ads and demanding the
ideological purity and telling Republican members of Congress that they
cannot bend, they cannot wuss out, they cannot compromise or else there
will be hell to pay?
Who knows what mess the Republican Party would have gotten itself into
by now if it were not for the well-funded conservative infrastructure
fueling the fight that has ensnared the whole country. But that is where
we are right now, with the even worse shutdown prospect of the debt ceiling
looming in the next 10 days.
“The Boston Globe” on Friday, in the middle of all this, published a
really nice little puff piece on David Koch. The occasion was the opening
of a new child care center for people who work at MIT, at the Massachusetts
institute of technology, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. With this child care
center, MIT nearly doubles the total number of day care slots that are
available for MIT employees on campus. Now the reason MIT got this child
care center and all the new slots for child care on campus is because David
Koch personally was moved by the plight of these young parents.
Quote, “Two and a half years ago, biology researchers at MIT were
discussing their work with an outside advisory committee. `What could help
you in your job,” they were asked. One simple answer from the women in the
room, child care. David Koch, a billionaire philanthropist and MIT
graduate known as much for his conservative activism as for his generosity,
had attended dozens of meetings but never before had been so moved.” David
Koch said, quote, “I got a tear in my eye.”
David Koch decided then and there he would spend $20 million on a
child care center for MIT. Quote, “I have never seen a group of people
speak with such passion and such disappointment that a problem existed and
it wasn`t being fixed,” Mr. Koch said. “We wouldn`t miss out on some
outstanding researchers if they didn`t have proper facilities for their
So, because those particular people who needed proper facilities for
their children were lucky enough to have a personal audience with David
Koch, so they were able to explain that need face to face in a way that
made David Koch cry. He opened checkbook, swiveled wrist and took care if
their problem personally, and he put his name on the MIT child care center
in so doing.
At the same time, David Koch and his brother and their many affiliates
are spending 10 times that amount to fund a nationwide network of
organizations that has now forced the closing nationwide of thousands of
kids preschool programs, which are in fact, also child care programs for
those kids` parents because those kids` parents also need proper facilities
for their children just like the MIT employees who made David Koch cry.
This is not to take away from the great news, for the parents of those
126 infants and toddlers and preschoolers whose parents who work at MIT and
will therefore matter to David Koch when me meets them face to face. But
if your parents don`t work at MIT, David Koch and his brother have a
different message. Fund it at ten times the amount.
On Saturday, the day after the David Koch puff piece came out in the
“Boston Globe,” North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows talked to his
hometown press. They started asking him about his starring role in forcing
the shutdown of the government. Congressman Mark Meadows acknowledged
sending the letter demanding the shutdown, and pushing for the defending of
Obamacare or the shutdown of the government if it didn`t happen.
But then he also said this, quote, “do I ever want to be blamed for a
shutdown? The answer is no. Because for me, I picture every single person
that could potentially be affected.” He said, “It just breaks my heart.
Every story I get of adverse impact from the shutdown just tears at my
heart.” But do I want to be blamed for a shutdown president? Answer is
So David Koch has a tear in his eye for families without child care,
for some very specific families without child care. Mark Meadows, the
congressman who demanded the shutdown from John Boehner, said the impact of
the shutdown just breaks his hard. It breaks his hard. But he does not
want to be blamed.
You go ahead and ask Santa for that and see what you get under the
tree. I am not so sure that works everywhere in the country. Maybe it
works for you at home.
Joining us now is Ryan Grim, he`s the Washington bureau chief of “The
Ryan, thanks for being here. It`s nice to see you.
RYAN GRIM, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: Let me put the same question to you. Is the strategy – not
just Mark Meadows strategy” – but is the strategy more broadly to try to
escape blame for the shutdown, while continuing to ensure that it keeps
GRIM: Well, I think you have to be careful using the word “strategy”
in relation to what Republicans are doing right here, because I think
certainly Meadows and a lot of the Tea Partiers and Ted Cruz, they had a
strategy. And their strategy led them to this point. They – they don`t
have any strategy going forward. You know, repeal Obamacare is not an
actual strategy. That`s not going to happen.
Republican leadership never wanted to get to this point. So, this
isn`t their strategy either. That`s kind of what`s upsetting the political
balance here is that the people who now have the responsibility for getting
out of this jam, didn`t want to be in it in the first place.
So, you know – it`s – at this, at this point – it`s really
difficult to see exactly where this goes because of that.
MADDOW: Ryan, if they did want to end the shutdown. If somebody,
some magic shift in the political wind made them decide that it would be a
good idea to end the shutdown, some external event or something. Do you
have the sense that they would know how to do it? That they would actually
be able to put one foot in front of the other to keep the lights on or turn
them back on?
GRIM: It`s not obvious at this point. That they would – that they
would know how to do it. They`re really spitballing right now.
I mean, they`re – they`re flying totally blind. The hope that, the
Boehner camp has at this point – is that, maybe if they could do something
short term. That would bring, that would bring the White House off to the
negotiating table. Because they really think that the position that the
White House has, that they`re refuse to negotiate is ultimately untenable.
But we only have two weeks left until we hit the debt ceiling. So, it
is really hard to figure out how you go in practice from where we are here
– out of this.
MADDOW: We heard President Obama today – not just repeating his call
for the House to vote on a clean budget agreement to reopen the government
without having attached policy riders and things on it. And he`s been
saying that all along. Today, it got even more pointed with him
essentially saying, listen, you said you don`t have the votes. I will
prove to you that you do.
If you put that, if you put that clean funding bill on the floor, it
will pass. It was – it was interesting to see the White House get so
overt and have the president himself say that directly today.
Has there been any reaction to that on the Hill that you can discern?
GRIM: So the reaction from Republican leadership is why are you
trying to put us in this corner? You know, Boehner could actually put a
clean C.R. on the floor and ask everybody to vote against it and a lot of
them would. And then he could go back to the White House and say, look you
asked me to put it on the floor. They voted against it.
Now there are two dozen, probably, actually, 25 now, Republicans who
have, either told reporters in the Capitol or told their local papers that
they would support a clean C.R. But, when it actually comes to it, they,
they might actually not.
So, so, Boehner is, is thinking then, OK, why are you ting to jam me
into this corner here. You know, I didn`t want to be here in the first
place. And I am not – I`m not going to cave to you. I want you to – I
want you to come to the negotiating table. And, and, work this out.
So, you know, they, they feel like they`re not being treated fairly.
They feel like Obama is partly to blame for the Tea Party because he is the
one that passed Obamacare, Obamacare was, was according to them, an
overreach, because it was an overreach. That created the Tea Party. So,
therefore, he needs to deal with the situation that he helped create.
This is – I mean this is actually. The kind of place that that we`re
at in terms of the way that, that they`re interacting with each other.
MADDOW: How dare you Obama, create my hatred of you so much. Wow,
that`s amazing, asking people to account for their own enemies.
Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief of `The Huffington Post” – this is
weird, weird stuff you are covering now, man. Thanks a lot. Appreciate
GRIM: Getting weirder.
MADDOW: Yes, every day.
All right. We have long proposed that House Speaker John Boehner is
just bad at his job. Doesn`t mean he is a bad guy. Just means he is not
up to the job he`s got to do.
That hypothesis was fully developed on this show before he displayed
such trouble with counting. The counting problem is next.
Plus, a visit with the person in charger of implementing health
reform. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is here tonight, coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are enough
Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives today that if the
speaker of the House, John Boehner, simply let the bill get on the floor
for an up-or-down vote, every congressman could vote their conscience, the
shutdown would end today.
So, my simple message today is call a vote. Call a vote. Put it on
the floor and let every individual member of Congress make up their own
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ever since the country entered shutdown mode, President Obama
has been pushing that message. Take a vote. He`s been calling on House
Speaker John Boehner to bring up for a vote what everybody is calling a
clean C.R. That just means money to fund the government without strings
attached to other policy things like getting rid of health reform or
On the first day of the shutdown, the president spoke in the Rose
Garden and called for the house to hold an up-or-down vote on a clean
budget. You saw him there in Maryland late last week calling, calling on
House Speaker John Boehner, calling him out by name, calling again for an
up-or-down vote on a clean budget.
Today, speaking at the headquarters of FEMA, the president challenged
Speaker Boehner again to hold a vote, vote on it, straight up budget bill
to end the government shutdown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The truth of the matter is there are enough Republican and
Democratic votes in the House of Representatives right now to end the
shutdown, immediately, with no partisan strings attached. The House should
hold the vote today. If Republicans and Speaker Boehner are saying there
are not enough votes. Then they should prove it. Let the bill go to the
floor. Let`s see what happens. Just vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Just vote. Prove it. The reason the president keeps asking
Republicans to just hold a vote on the budget, a budget that aims to just
be a budget and not legislation defunding health reform or something, the
reason the president wants the House to vote on a clean budget is math,
very easy math.
There are 232 Republicans in the House. They are the majority. There
are 200 Democrats. There are three vacant House seats now. So, altogether
we have 432 representatives in the House.
So, the math – 432 divided by 2, carry the 1, that equals 216. That
means in order for something to pass the House, it needs one more than 216
votes. It needs 216 plus 1 which is 217. It needs 217 votes, 217 is a
majority in the House. That`s what you need to reopen the government.
President Obama says the clean version of the budget has that
majority. He is arguing that all the Democrats have basically vote for it
and so would enough Republicans to get it passed so we could reopen the
government. Now, House Speaker John Boehner said this weekend that that`s
not true. He says actually the math doesn`t work. He says he doesn`t have
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I take it from your answer that you are not
prepared to schedule a clean vote on government funding right now?
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There are not the
votes in the House to pass a clean C.R.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What are you saying is that there are not 217 members of the
House who will vote for a budget, who will vote for a budget without trying
to get rid of Obamacare or something. He says he cannot get to 217.
Let`s help him count.
So, over the weekend – 195 Democrats signed a letter asking John
Boehner to schedule a vote. So, we know because they`d sign their names to
this letter that there`s 195 votes just to start with, just from Democrats,
for a clean budget. They need 217, they start at 195.
So, we`re going to count this up for the speaker in case it is
helpful. Let`s start with 195. We know we have 195 Democratic votes.
But as Ryan just noted, a bunch of Republicans in the past few days
have said that they, too, would vote with the Democrats to end the shutdown
and pass a clean budget. So, starting with 195.
Let`s add Representative Pat Meehan. He put out a statement saying it
was time for the House to, quote, vote for a clean, short-term funding
bill. That gets us to 196.
The very civil Virginia Congressman Scott Rigell tweeted his support.
He says time for a clean C.R. That`s 197.
New Jersey`s John Runyan says he supports that as well.
Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick said, quote, “I was sent to Washington to
solve problems, not shut it down.” Up to 199.
Remember these are all Republicans in the House who would vote with
Democrats to pass a clean budget.
Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania, he told his local paper he would
absolutely support a clean bill. That`s 200 already.
New York`s Peter King told “The National Review” he would not vote for
anything but a clean budget bill – 201.
Congressman Charlie Dent told “The Huffington Post” this week that he
was prepared to vote for of a clean C.R. So, that`s one more on the list.
Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia said, quote, “It`s time to govern.”
That brings us to 203.
And aide for Congressman Michael Grimm confirmed to “The Huffington
Post” that he, too, supports a clean budget vote. That means 204.
Eric Paulson of Minnesota, told a local TV station that he would vote
for a clean budget.
Rob Wittman of Virginia told a constituent he would do the same.
Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey telling his local paper that he supports
a clean budget. That brings us to 207.
Randy Forbes of Virginia said he would vote for a clean bill.
Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania put a statement saying the same.
Congressman Leonard Lance`s office told “The Huffington Post” he was
not opposed to voting for a clean budget, which is another way of saying he
would vote for a clean budget.
Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson tweeted his support for a clean bill.
Florida Congressman Bill Young told a reporter that he support aid
Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart also of Florida, told “The Miami Herald”
he`d happily vote for a clean bill. Look, we`re 213 already.
Richard Hanna of New York says he is for it – 214.
Congressman Tim Griffin of Arkansas, 215.
Representative Don Young from the great state of Alaska said he would
vote for a clean budget. That means 216.
And Florida`s own representative, Dennis Ross, who wrote an op-ed in
“The Tampa Bay Times” explaining why he supports funding the government
without trying to end health care.
Congressman Ross brings us to –
MADDOW: Don`t want to put too fine a point on it, but the votes are
there. I mean, unless these members of Congress are telling their local
press, telling their constituents, and tweeting and putting out press
releases saying they`re going to do something that they`re not actually
going to do, the votes are there.
And we know who they are. It`s not a mysterious, esoteric, ascribing
votes to people who we think might be there. It`s members of Congress, by
name, committing to do it. It`s called arithmetic. The votes are there.
Math will not lead you astray. It works every time.
MADDOW: We`ve got some breaking news on the impact of the shutdown.
There`s been not very much clarity about how specifically members of the
military, military families and veterans would be affected by the shutdown
in the specifics. There`s been a lot of worry, but there`s been so many
moves by the Congress around this issue that it hasn`t been clear.
Well, we`ve got some news tonight from the spokeswoman from the
Veterans Affairs Department. And it is bad news.
The V.A. announcing tonight that veterans regional offices will be
closed starting tomorrow morning and nobody will answer the phones at
veterans regional offices across the country as of tomorrow. This is due
to knew furloughs of 7,000 employees of the veterans benefits
administration. There were an additional nearly 3,000 furloughs Tuesday at
the V.A. Office of Information Technology.
The V.A. is also warning that if the government shutdown doesn`t end
through the last two weeks of October, that could result in delays of the
next round of benefits payments, including disability compensation, G.I.
bill living stipends and dependency and indemnity compensation for
survivors and veterans and their families starting with the November 1
So, we have not had clarity on military families, active duty troops
and veterans and their families, but this news tonight from the Veterans
Affairs Department spokeswoman Victoria Dillon is bad news.
We`ll keep you posted.
MADDOW: Funny thing happened in New York last week when the state
rolled out its new Web site for people to sign up for health insurance
under the Affordable Care Act.
The Web site for the exchange in New York, like many states, got more
traffic than they expected on their first day. But in New York,
specifically, the Web site got so much more traffic that they expected, but
state officials started to worry maybe they had been hacked.
The traffic flow was so high at New York state`s health exchange that
the state said it would investigate the abnormally high traffic to see if
they were maybe being attacked by hackers.
It turns out they were not being attacked by hackers. Look, problems
at health care Web site not from online attack, experts say. They really
were just getting so much legitimate traffic that it looked like somebody
was hacking them. Nobody was hacking them.
By the end of the week, conservative Republican Texas Congressman
Michael Burgess has decided, yes, maybe there were traffic on the different
exchange Web sites, but he, as Congressman Michael Burgess, had figured out
the reason why.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Convinced the affordable health care law is a
bad thing, and if so, then why are so many people jamming the websites to
get more information, to find out if they qualify for this care?
REP. MICHAEL BURGESS (R), TEXAS: I think if you subtract out members
of Congress and their staff and reporters who called in those first 48
hours the numbers will be considerably lower.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ah, see if it wasn`t hackers it was members of Congress and
reporters. That`s what explains all the traffic. Millions of people went
to the health exchange Web sites on the first day they were open, something
like 9 million people by Friday.
By this weekend the main federal site which covers 36 states and parts
of some others had been taken down for maintenance in the off-peak hours.
They said they were adding additional capacity to deal with unexpectedly
high volume. But also, they were fixing some design issues that made the
site glitchier than it needed to be.
This week, Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has been continuing to
promote the rollout of the new exchanges to encourage people to sign up for
insurance coverage or at least to learn what their options are under newt
law. The rollout this week will include an event at Heinz Field in
Pittsburgh with the Steelers owner and some retired players, and other
Steely McBeam, they`re also doing an enrollment fair at Heinz Field people
can learn about their options and sign up for health insurance.
This sort of thing echoes the rollout effort in Massachusetts from
five years ago when the Boston Red Sox and Fenway Park were a big part of
the publicity effort in that state to get Massachusetts residents to sign
up for health insurance under Romneycare. I mean, nobody really calls it
Romneycare, but in Massachusetts, it is basically a single state`s version
of Obamacare, and it`s working very well, thank you very much.
Republicans are doing everything they can to make this current effort
at national health reform not work. Republicans in the Senate even wrote
to all the national sports leagues, trying to tell them to not do what the
Red Sox did in Massachusetts five years ago.
Senate Republicans threatened all the sports leagues that they had
better not get caught trying to make this health insurance thing work.
They better not get caught encouraging people to get health insurance. The
Republicans would hold it against the teams and the leagues.
But the rollout is happening. The law is in effect. The exchanges
are open or opening. And every glitch, every delay, delights the
Republicans. But it is happening.
Joining us now for the interview is Kathleen Sebelius. She`s
secretary of Health and Human Services, which, of course, is implementing
the Affordable Care Act. Secretary Sebelius, thank you for being here.
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HHS SECRETARY: Nice to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, how – in your own terms, from your own perspective. How
would you assess the rollout of the exchanges?
SEBELIUS: Well, I think the exciting thing is that we are having a
rollout of the Affordable Care Act. The final piece of implementation is
here. What we are seeing is unprecedented interest across the country.
People calling on, the toll free hot line which is open 24/7. We have had
over 600,000 calls. We have had over 10 million hits to the Web site. We
have thousand of people setting up accounts and, shopping, simultaneously.
So, there is clearly a lot of pent up desire for the Web site. You
are right. We have had some issues about volume, driving a difficulty of
people getting in.
So, we are taking it seriously. The wait time is down today over
where it was yesterday and the day before. We wanted to be as easy to use
as possible, as seamless as possible. And we are confident that every day
is getting a lot better.
But the interest is there. The product is there. We have companies
for the first time ever in the history of the United States, competing for
the business of individual policy holders. They can`t block them, because
of the pre-existing condition.
They can`t medically underwrite their condition. They can`t put a
lifetime limit on their benefits. They have to play by a new set of rules.
That it is a brand new day for millions of Americans.
MADDOW: It seems the volume issues are both heartening obviously
because it means that there`s pent up demand and people want this. It also
seems to me like it should have been expected you. I mean, you guys did
actually do a pretty good job of publicizing, what day one was going to be
and what to do on day one.
And so that initial flood, I feel like if you want to try to get over
people`s suspicions that government can`t administer anything right and
that`s why they`re suspicious of health reform because it has something to
do with the government administering these exchanges, having the exchanges
be glitchy day one, not just growing pains, not just a problem of volume,
but maybe a messaging problem for the law overall.
SEBELIUS: Would I have liked a much smoother rollout, you bet. I
think the great news is we have 26 weeks of open enrollment. And this is -
- in some ways like the kayak of health plans which has never been together
before. But unlike kayak, we won`t sell out of the product. And the price
So, day one, the prices are the same as the end of the rollout, in
March 31st. We are eager to have people come take a look. Lots of folks
need to learn about insurance. They`ve have never had insurance. They
need to see what`s available for themselves and their families.
But, you know, six out of 10 eligible folks are going to find a plan
for under $100 a month, very affordable coverage and, for the first time,
have the kind of health security that many of us take for granted.
MADDOW: In terms of the way this is rolling out, and obviously, every
state is different. There is three dozen states that have the federal
government either running their exchanges or running some part of their
exchanges, like 14 states. D.C. are doing their own.
MADDOW: Seventeen. OK.
Is there – are there additional challenges for you, in trying to make
sure this – this new law works for the country, to be having to
simultaneously deal with states embracing it, and states that are rejecting
it and fighting every step of the way? What are the challenges in the
state like Texas for example?
SEBELIUS: Well, again, a lot of the states were running federal
marketplace. Some of they less enthusiastic states at the governor`s
SEBELIUS: They haven`t embraced it. They`ve given a lot of
misinformation. People get up every morning not sure the law applies to
them, which is one of the reasons we have been so heartened by the flood of
people the Web site, because somehow that information is getting through in
spite of the best – best, you know, efforts of the opposition to stop it.
I think what we have seen though is incredible support on the ground.
Mayors in cities across this country are wildly enthusiastic, are
mobilizing outreach enrollment effort. We have faith leaders. We have
health care providers, disease groups, parents, health care advocates.
So, there is a mobilization on the ground. And that`s another point
that, yes, people can go to the Web site, Healthcare.gov. Again, it is
getting faster. We are done to very low wait times. We are building
capacity each of the nights so that more hardware, more engineers.
But there is also a toll-free call-in number open 24/7, answering
questions in 150 languages. And you actually can enroll on the phone.
Or there are people in neighborhood, in states around the country.
Every federal health center has outreach and enrollment people. There are
trained community volunteers who are able, one-on-one, to walk folks
through an application. So, we anticipated that people would need help on
the phone, on line, in person, and are building that into the process.
MADDOW: And to get coverage by January 1, the deadline is November,
December 15th. By which you have to be signed up.
SEBELIUS: The coverage again, open enrolment last all the way to
march 31st. The soonest the health plan starts is January 1st. That
requires a December signup.
MADDOW: Kathleen Sebelius, our nation`s secretary of Health and Human
Services. Good luck with this. It – for the task that you have at hand,
the faster this works the better off the country is going to be. Good
SEBELIUS: I agree with you. Thanks.
MADDOW: Thanks very much. All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: On May 1st, 2003, the president of the United States put on a
flight suit and got into a Navy jet. They had him sitting there in the
plane as the jet did a tail hook landing on to the deck of an aircraft
carrier sitting offshore off the coast of San Diego. They painted the
president`s name on the side of the plane, showing where he was sitting
when they did that landing. And they let him play land the jet on board
Then the president hopped off the plane and he walked around the place
f a while, showing off the flight suit with his helmet under his arm. He
took a lot of pictures and stuff. Before he went to change into a regular
presidential suit and tie so he could deliver a speech standing under a
banner that said “Mission Accomplished.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT: My fellow Americans, major
combat operations in Iraq have ended.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was six weeks into the Iraq war when then-President
George W. Bush declared victory and said the war in Iraq was over. Of
course, the war in Iraq actually went on for eight and a half more years
One interesting note about that day on USS Abraham Lincoln and
President Bush dressing up in the flight suit and the whole mission
accomplished thing, one interesting note that`s lost to history, is that on
that same day that President Obama was making that highest of all high
profile, terribly wrong pronouncements, about how victory had been achieved
in Iraq and major combat operations were over, on the same day, just a few
hours earlier, he had his defense secretary also declare that major combat
operations were over in the other war, in Afghanistan.
On that same day, while George W. Bush fake landing a Navy Viking jet
in San Diego to declare that we had won the Iraq war, Donald Rumsfeld was
in Kabul simultaneously declaring that we had also won the Afghanistan war.
It too was over. That was May 2003.
Just over a year later, President Bush declared victory in
Afghanistan. This time they had the president do it himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Coalition forces, including many brave Afghans, have brought
America, Afghanistan and the free world its first victory in the war on
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Victory declared by the president. Major combat in
Afghanistan declared over in May 2003. That declaration of victory from
President Bush was June 2004.
Of course now, we`re still there. The longest war in U.S. history is
still going on. It was 12 years ago today the first U.S. forces launched
the initial invasion of Afghanistan. And that means that today is day one
of year 13 of the longest war in American history. Day one of year 13 of a
war that politicians first declared to be over more than a decade ago.
More than 50,000 Americans are still serving in Afghanistan right now
The worst recent attack on American troops in Afghanistan in terms of
loss of life was this past weekend when four American soldiers were killed
by in southern Afghanistan by an IED. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel this
weekend recalled hundreds of thousands of civilian employees of the Defense
Department back to work. They had been furloughed because of the
government shutdown but he called them back to work.
We have had political skirmishes and fights in Washington, in the
past, up to and including shutdowns of the federal government, but before
this one, we have never, ever, ever as a nation had a government shutdown
at a time of war. Yes, George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld declared the
Afghanistan war to be over a decade early, and yes, Washington that they
were right when they said it was.
But the war is not over. It is 12 years old today and counting. And
thanks to the shut down, the soldiers fighting in Afghanistan tonight are
being rewarded for their service by having to worry about their kids being
kicked out of on-base child care while they are fighting that war.
Support the troops looks awesome on a bumper sticker. As policy, it
takes a little more commitment than that.
MADDOW: It`s really a bad political time right now, Ken Cuccinelli,
the Republican attorney general of the great state of Virginia, the
Republican candidate for governor trying to succeed Governor Ultrasound Bob
McDonnell. But governor ultrasound and Ken Cuccinelli are hard-core old-
school social conservatives. But running on that kind of a platform is not
a great way to get elected statewide in Virginia. So, Ken Cuccinelli has
been trying to tone it down.
Which brings us to Ken Cuccinelli`s bad day. Less than a month from
election day, at a time when it is absolutely crucial that Virginia stops
just thinking of Ken Cuccinelli as the anti-abortion, anti-contraception,
super anti-gay social conservative action activist, the Supreme Court had
to go out of its way on the first day in session today to remind everyone
that Ken Cuccinelli is the guy who has been fighting all of this time to
try to save Virginia`s sodomy law.
Sodomy. Google search`s Ken Cuccinelli`s name and Ken Cuccinelli`s
sodomy is the first thing usually that pops up. Then, the Supreme Court
quashed Ken Cuccinelli`s quixotic save the sodomy laws campaign today, thus
earning a whole new round of Virginia headlines about Ken Cuccinelli and
It`s not just good for him a month out from the election.
Also not good for Ken Cuccinelli in the headlines right now is Ted
Cruz. Ken Cuccinelli used to love Ted Cruz, having Ted Cruz come to an
event with Ken Cuccinelli right before the election used to sound like a
great idea, I`m sure, right?
Wow, Ted Cruz. Think we can get him to come Virginia and get him to
do an event with Ken. That would be so cool – until Ted Cruz became the
guy who`s 21-hour fake filibuster kicked off the Republican shutdown of
federal government. And if you think your state doesn`t like the shutdown
of the federal government, consider that Virginia has 170,000 civilian
federal employees and don`t even get me started on the number of military
families and veterans in Virginia.
The new politico poll out of Virginia that`s just out tonight shows
that the percentage of Virginians who oppose shutting down the federal
government over the issue of funding Obamacare is 62 percent – 62 percent
opposed to the shut down in Virginia. Who do Virginians blame for the
shutdown that they hate? They blame congressional Republicans by a 15-
And perhaps not surprisingly they therefore do not like the foremost
symbol and instigator of the shutdown among the Republicans in Congress who
is Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz may be a Tea Party hero but Virginia cannot stand
the guy. The proportion of Virginians who view him unfavorably is nearly
20 points higher than the proportion of Virginians who like him.
So you sure you want to do your event with Ted Cruz this weekend, Ken
Apparently not. Quote, “Ken Cuccinelli avoided being photographed
with Ted Cruz at the gala the two men headlined in Richmond Saturday night.
Mr. Cuccinelli even left before the Texas senator rose to speak. Mr.
Cuccinelli did not even acknowledge the presence of Senator Cruz in his
sport public comments.”
Yes, would you?
For his part, Ted Cruz went to speak for almost an hour, talking all
about Ken Cuccinelli and how much he loved the shut down.
And that brings us to the last terrible, horrible, very bad political
development for Ken Cuccinelli today which is that the same “Politico” poll
just out tonight which shows how much Virginia hates the government
shutdown and blames Republicans for it and particularly does not like the
Ted Cruz shutdown guy who`s been appearing at Ken Cuccinelli`s events. The
same poll shows Ken Cuccinelli now losing the governor`s race by 10 points.
And if you factor in the libertarian guy who`s also running, Ken
Cuccinelli is still losing by nine months. Either way, he`s just getting
clobbered. This is the first poll in Virginia since the shutdown hit. Who
knows how long the shutdown is going to go on? But this Virginia
governor`s race is in 29 days.
Now, it`s 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