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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/24/13

Guests: Richard Blumenthal, Chris Murphy, Sherrod Brown

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you, my friend. ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: Thank you. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. It is a weird paradox in 21st century American politics. A lot more people call themselves conservatives than call themselves liberals. But liberal ideas are really widely popular. In fact, a lot of people who would never call themselves liberal are very much in favor of liberal policies. It`s been true for a long time. But if you take a current example, take for example President Obama`s inaugural address this week. Conservatives, of course, were outraged that it was such a liberal speech. Liberals were delighted that it was such a liberal speech. And everybody agreed that it was such a profoundly liberal speech that the president gave for his second inaugural address. And it wasn`t just liberal in the abstract. It was liberal in the specific, in the sense that he proposed and endorsed a whole bunch of liberal policy ideas. Like for example, his endorsement in the speech of marriage equality. It was a big moment in the speech, right, because no president had ever talked about gay people before, ever before in any inaugural address. It was also a landmark thing for this president, who did not publicly support same-sex marriage rights until well into his time being president. But there it was right in the inaugural address, calling for marriage equality. Right there in the inaugural address. That is freaking liberal. Also, that is the majority view held by most Americans. The NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll that came out last month polled on same-sex marriage rights, a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage rights. So it`s liberal, but it`s also what the majority believes. Same thing on immigration. Part of the reason everybody called the inaugural such a liberal speech is because the president had a big multi- sentence, full-throated endorsement of immigration reform. Even if you came here illegally, there should be some path by which you should be able to seek citizenship to become legal, to be officially welcomed and brought into this country. That is freaking liberal, right? It is also the majority view of most Americans. NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll from this month, from January, finds that a majority of Americans support giving illegal immigrants the ability to apply for legal status. It`s a liberal idea. It`s also what most Americans believe. The other reason everybody thought the inaugural address was so capital L liberal, liberal, liberal was because of the president`s shout out by name of Medicare and Social Security, which in the beltway are horrible, embarrassing profligacies that are mostly good for divining who counts as a serious person in Washington because you cannot be a serious person in Washington -- according to the Beltway -- unless you want to get rid of those programs, or at least you see those programs as a problem that needs to be addressed. President Obama in his inaugural not only name-checked Medicare and Social Security in a positive way, he defended them. He said he will support them and that they are good for the country. The only people other than a liberal like Barack Obama who likes Social Security and Medicare is everybody. Really, it`s only in Washington where these are controversial programs. If you ask the country, the country`s kind of in love with Social Security and Medicare and thinks that they work and thinks that we should not cut them. Broadly speaking, most Americans do not call themselves liberals if you ask. But broadly speaking, most Americans are in favor of liberal ideas. The marquee signifiers of liberal policy are broadly accepted as good ideas by most of the country. And that has been true for a long time. But the gears that you see clinking over each other, the gears that you see churning in Democratic politics right now, the work that is being done in Democratic politics right now, led by President Obama at the start of his second term is this effort to turn what has been long-standing majority support for liberal policies into appreciation that those policies aren`t just individual free-floating, technocratically good ideas that we all agree on. Those policies come from a worldview and a problem-solving approach that is in fact the governing philosophy of this country. We`re a liberal country. We are not a center-right country the way the right always wants to tell us. We are a country where liberal policies are widely popular. And, frankly, at the national level we express that right now by mostly voting for Democrats, by a lot. That`s the portrait of the country that the president was painting this week in his second inaugural, in tying this list of what get described as liberal policies to fundamental centrist, widely acknowledged, basically universal American values. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Today, we continue a never ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing. That while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by his people here on earth. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And then, President Obama goes on in the speech to list as examples of the ways that we must secure those American values now in our time, he lists the specific policies of equal pay for equal work, and marriage equality, and election reform, and immigration reform and a policy response to help us reduce gun violence. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm. That is our generation`s task. To make these words, these rights, these values, of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Tying the policies which he is associated with and which are associated with his party and which are associated with a liberal idea of American governance to the basic fundamental ideas of what America is. That was the whole point, right? As with the other issues that President Obama name-checked so specifically in his inaugural address this week, the things that got his speech branded as so liberal this week, what President Obama was alluding to there at the end by bringing up gun violence in his inaugural address is a set of policies that he and Vice President Biden have proposed for dealing with gun policies. And these policies get labeled liberal. But it turns out they are very popular. They are very, very, very widely popular. Gallup just did a national poll on the whole list of proposal as that President Obama and Vice President Biden have put forward on gun violence. Banning high-capacity ammo clips. That gets majority support in this country, 54 percent. Reinstating and strengthening the assault weapons ban we had for 10 years that expired back in `04. Majority support -- look at that -- 60 percent of the country wants that. Making it so only the military and law enforcement can have so-called cop killer bullets, those armor-piercing bullets, 67 percent of the country supports that. And the numbers get higher from there. Emergency response plans in schools, 69 percent support it. More cops, 70 percent support it. Cracking down on straw purchases, right, where people buy a gun because they don`t clear the background check but then they`re really buying it for somebody who won`t clear the background check, 75 percent of people support cracking down on that. More training for responding to shooters and violent incidents in schools, 79 percent of people support that. More resources for mental health programs, especially for younger people, 82 percent of people support that. These are all of the things that have been proposed by President Obama and Vice President Biden, right? And the crown jewel of what they`re proposing? Look at this. It`s the most popular one of all. It`s the centerpiece of their proposals. And it is the most popular thing of all -- requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales. Not just for 60 percent of gun sales, which is what we have now in this country, but for all gun sales -- 91 percent of the country supports that. And that is the centerpiece of what the Obama administration is proposing for guns, for gun reform, background checks for everybody, 91 percent support. And that is that number that is consistent across polls. The big "New York Times" national poll on this last month had it at 92 percent, not 91 percent. So you can split those hairs if you want. But basically, it`s kind of unanimous. "The Washington Post" did roughly the same polling, again, a national poll on these policies. But when the "Washington Post" did it, they broke it down by party, which ends up being really useful. Look at the support for the stuff from Republicans specifically. The only one that flips, that drops below majority support, the only one where Republicans do not give it majority support even though the country as a whole does, is specifically the idea of banning assault rifles again. But still, that one`s close. Even among Republicans, 45 percent of Republicans think we ought to be banning assault weapons again. That`s the only one that flips, all the rest of them still majority support even from Republicans. Banning high-capacity ammunition clips? Republicans want to do that too by a big number, 59 percent of Republicans. The big kahuna, background checks for everybody, even at gun shows, everywhere? Republicans are hugely in favor of that -- 89 percent of Republicans want that. What President Obama has proposed to do on gun reform is very popular, even among Republican voters. When you ask them about the things that the president`s proposing, pretty much Republicans think these things are good ideas, we ought to be doing them, they are in favor. And then the same "Washington Post" poll asked Republicans, OK, broadly speaking, do you like what President Obama is proposing on gun reform? And Republicans said, no, we hate it. After they said they support all the individual proposals, they said -- well, do you like the guy who`s proposing all these individual proposals that you liked? No, we hate those ideas. And that is insane. They like all the component parts of it. They like all these ideas. But then when these ideas that they like are proposed, they say they are against them because the person proposing them is President Obama. That is insane. That is mindless. Right? How do you make constructive policy in that kind of environment? People support the policy until they hear who else supports it and then they think they might be against it. How do you make policy like that? Well, today the senator who got the assault weapons ban passed in 1994, which was also a time that nobody said it could happen, that senator came forward again and said she would do it again this year. California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who herself became mayor of San Francisco because the serving mayor of San Francisco at the time was shot to death, Senator Feinstein today at this press conference made her case. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Today, my colleagues and I are introducing a bill to prohibit the sale, transfer, manufacture, and importation of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices that can accept more than 10 rounds. We have tried to recognize legal hunting rights. We have tried to recognize legal defense rights. We have tried to recognize the right a citizen to legally possess a weapon. No weapon is taken from anyone. The purpose is to dry up the supply of these weapons over time. REP. CAROLYN MCCARTHY (D), NEW YORK: I`ve watched the slaughter of so many people and I`ve met with so many victims over the years. And in Congress, nobody wanted to touch the issue. And the last several years, the massacres were going on more and more. And going through it, I kept saying, what`s wrong with all of us? How many people have to be killed before we do something? SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: I will never forget the sights and sounds of that day as parents emerged from that firehouse, learning that their 5 and 6-year-old children would not be coming home that night. SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: The gun lobby has said over and over again in the last several weeks that this is just a feel-good piece of legislation. You know what? They`re right about that. It would feel really good if Allison and Charlotte and Daniel and Olivia and Josephine and Ana had gotten to enjoy Christmas with their parents. You`d feel really good if Dylan and Madeline and Catherine and Chase and Jesse and James took the bus to school this morning. You`d feel really good if Grace and Emily and Jack and Noah and Caroline and Jessica and Avielle and Ben were alive today. You`d feel really good if parents all across this country didn`t have to wake up every morning worrying that without action, that their kids were at risk just like those kids in Newtown. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who before winning election to the senate in this past year he was the congressman who represented Newtown. Joining us now is not only Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, but actually the entire Senate delegation from the state of Connecticut, Senator Murphy joined tonight by his colleague Senator Richard Blumenthal, who you saw speak just before him. Gentlemen, I really appreciate you both being here tonight. Thank you so much for your time. BLUMENTHAL: Thank you. MURPHY: Thank you. MADDOW: Senator Blumenthal, let me -- let me start with you. You said today that this is going to be a hard fight, that nobody should think this is going to be easy. Given how hard you think this is going to be, what do you think is the best way to fight for it? BLUMENTHAL: The best way to fight for it is to recall those images that Senator Murphy and I recounted today -- the images of parents emerging from that firehouse, the community grappling with that grief, the slaughter that is wrecked upon America by these assault weapons and the high-capacity magazines, and the need for banning them. And mobilizing and galvanizing support so as to overcome the NRA and other entrenched interests, which no doubt, no question will fight them, make no mistake, there will be a fight. But as you said, the centerpiece really is a comprehensive program that has to include the background checks. I propose background checks on ammunition purchases as well as extended background checks on firearms purchases so as to cover that 40 percent of private sales and gun show sales that are not now covered and a comprehensive program of preventing gun violence has support from the majority of Americans. We need to make that support focused on Washington, D.C., so our congressional representative representatives, whether in the Senate or the House, cannot escape the brunt of that opinion. MADDOW: Senator Murphy, let me turn to you for a moment. You represented Newtown as Newtown`s congressman. Now, as senator you represent the entire state of Connecticut as their senator -- Connecticut is a small state, but it is a diverse state. It is both diverse in terms of urban and rural areas. It`s diverse in terms of its population, and in terms of its political views. How do you talk to your constituents who feel very strongly about gun rights and very wary about gun control, that this isn`t going to be something that`s going to hurt their freedoms, it`s going to help them and help their fellow citizens? MURPHY: Listen, every decision you that make on legislation is a balancing act. And on this one, the test is pretty clear. Do you want to pass a law that`s going to keep more 6 and 7-year-old kids alive in the future, or do you want to add some convenience to gun owners who want to reload a little bit less frequently or want to pretend that they`re soldiers by owning military-style assault weapons? When you pose that question to people in Connecticut and frankly across this country as you`ve shown by the surveys you that talked about earlier, people side with the 6 and 7-year-olds every single time. And the fact is that that`s true of non-gun owners and gun owners. I can`t tell you the number of responsible gun owners in Connecticut who have come up to me over the course of the last month and said, let`s get something done, I don`t need these kind of weapons or those kind of cartridges in order to enjoy my sport. And I think we`re going to find that all across the country, that there`s going to be a pretty impressive coalition that wants to get this done. MADDOW: Senator Blumenthal, when you just talked about sort of honoring the experience of Newtown, remembering those images, remembering what has created this political initiative, toward doing something about this at a time when I think people wouldn`t have in advance noted we`d be doing a gun control agenda right now, what`s the minimum to you in terms of policy that would honor the experience of Newtown? What`s your single highest priority, or what do you think is the least that we ought to do to responsibly respond to what happened? BLUMENTHAL: A ban on the assault weapons and high-capacity magazines is very important. But background checks I think are common ground where everyone can come together, whether it`s the background checks on firearms purchases and I believe very, very strongly on ammunition sales right now. You can walk into a Walmart, buy a shopping cart full of ammunition without any background check, without answering any questions -- even if you`re a convicted felon, a fugitive, a domestic abuser, a dangerously mentally ill person. To make our neighborhoods safer we need those background checks. But also mental health initiatives. Today, I helped to introduce a measure providing, as it`s called, first aid mental health assistance for the school boards and local officials. I think we need to emphasize mental health and school security. So, it really has to be a combined and comprehensive strategy. There`s no single solution. And I would just also say in response to your earlier question, you know, I know, the most important allies in this effort are the law enforcement community. And I say it as someone who served as attorney general of the state of Connecticut for 20 years, as a federal prosecutor, United States attorney for 4 1/2 years. The guys who are most eloquent and most compelling on this subject are the ones on the front lines, in the trenches, who see that they`re outgunned very often. They told me in Newtown that they could not probably have stopped that shooter even wearing the body armor that they did because of the assault weapon that he was firing. MADDOW: Wow. Senator Murphy, one last question for you. In thinking about important allies, as Senator Blumenthal was just saying there, and how to move forward and who speaks with authority here -- one of the things that we have heard from Washington is that as the Obama campaign turns its campaign apparatus into a political effort to try to marshal support for some of the president`s political priorities, they may try to work on this issue. They may essentially try to turn their campaign apparatus loose on both immigration reform and on the issue of gun reform. Do you think that this is the kind of issue on which a grassroots effort like that could be particularly effective? MURPHY: It`s the only way that this gets done in the end. Listen, I wish this weren`t about politics, but it is, right? This is ultimately going to really come down to a question for Republicans in the House of Representatives. I think we can get something strong through the Senate. But in the House Republicans are going to have to decide whether they`re going to pay a political price for standing with the gun manufacturers and against millions of families across this country who want to get this done. So, we are going to need a massive national grassroots effort, and we are also going to have to make Republicans understand that the NRA, who they have long feared, who they have allowed to essentially lead them around by the earlobe, just isn`t what they used to be. The NRA won 20 percent of the elections that they participated in, in this last election. We need a grassroots effort to try to support Republicans who want to do the right thing. We need to convince them that there`s a price to pay if they do the right thing. And we`ve got to take on the NRA to try to debunk this myth that if you cross them there`s a political price to pay. In fact, the opposite was true in the last election. The NRA barely could win elections around this country. They just aren`t the force that they once were. MADDOW: Senator Chris Murphy, Senator Richard Blumenthal, the Senate delegation from the state of Connecticut -- the whole country is looking to Connecticut for leadership, and I think also for moral resonance on this issue. And everybody`s counting on you. Seeing you guys here together tonight is a real treat for us to have you both here. Thank you. BLUMENTHAL: Thank you. MURPHY: Thanks. MADDOW: I appreciate it. All right. After years of gridlock, Congress finally had a chance to fix an enormous problem today, had a chance. Fix the filibuster day was today. Do you want to know what happened? Stick around. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The police force in Washington, D.C. is about 3,800 strong. On Monday, though, they were closer to 6,000 of them. Just for the day. Now, the force was augmented on Monday by more than 2,000 extra police officers who were flown in from 86 other jurisdictions around the country. In addition to them, 6,000 national guardsmen and women were deployed to D.C. just for Monday. Some of them were even sworn in as special police officers in Washington just for this assignment. The security presence in D.C. for an inauguration these days is just massive. The parade route and everything else is just unimaginably fit with cops and soldiers and security personnel. It`s really all you see. And according to the Capitol police, with all those extra security personnel on hand on Monday and with roughly a million somewhat ecstatic people crowding the streets for the inauguration, inevitably there were some arrests. Specifically, there were three arrests in total the whole day. One person arrested for an outstanding warrant. One person arrested for public drinking. And one other person arrested specifically for this. Ah. Anti- abortion protester stuck in a tree. At first apparently he was not very high up in the tree. Police tried to talk him down. That didn`t work, and he screamed his lungs out through the whole inaugural ceremony and especially through the president`s speech. Police decided that when they couldn`t talk him out of the tree they would go get him as if he were a kitten. They tried to get a fire truck to drive to the tree and raise its ladder to go get him. But the fire truck couldn`t get through the police barricades. So then the police brought over their own ladder to the tree. And that`s when the guy climbed really high up in the tree, 40 feet up. And that`s where he got stuck, 40 feet up. Stuck there for five hours. And they just left him be. And when he finally found his way down, he was cold and he was arrested and charged with violating a previous order to stay away from the Capitol. The same guy`s been arrested five times for doing this kind of thing in recent years, and by court order he is supposed to stay out of D.C., but he doesn`t stay out of D.C. He likes to climb trees and yell about abortion. And so he gets arrested. But he was one of only three arrests for the day. That was it for arrests. It is amazing that there were only three arrests at such a massive event, right? There were a few scattered other protests at the inauguration. Nobody applied for permits to protest at Lafayette Park, which they have done in previous years at previous inaugurations, which I noted in our coverage on Monday. But it turns out that there were five other permits to protest granted for other places, including folks protesting drone strikes, some more anti- abortion folks, and some other people, including those people from that church in Kansas who try purposefully to offend and provoke everyone around them so they end up getting media coverage for it, but we do not cover them on this program as a matter of principle. D.C. protests wax and wane with public opinion and with activist fervor about whatever is going on in Washington at any given time. Sometimes people are particularly inventive or particularly disruptive or particularly naked and therefore they get special attention. But basically, heckling and protest is kind of an accepted and expected part of doing business in our nation`s capital. Most people who do business in Washington don`t pay protesters any particular mind. And that is why it was notable today and I think important when at John Kerry`s secretary of state confirmation hearing everybody else kind of rolled their eyes and scoffed when an anti-war protester interrupted the hearing. Everybody else kind of blew it off. Ah, business as usual in Washington. But John Kerry did not blow it off. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: So thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I know there`s a lot of ground to cover -- PROTESTER: We`re tilling thousands of people and the Middle East is not a threat to us! When is it going to be enough? When are enough people going to be killed? I`m tired of my friends in the Middle East dying. I don`t know if they`re going to be alive the next day. We need peace with Iran. KERRY: Well, you know, I`ll tell you, Mr. Chairman, I -- when I first came to Washington and testified, I obviously was testifying as part of a group of people who came here to have their voices heard. And that is above all what this place is about. So I respect I think the woman who was voicing her concerns about that part of the world. And every one of you have traveled there. Some of you were there recently. Senator McCain, you were just there. You were in a refugee camp, and I know you heard this kind of thing. People measure what we do. And in a way that`s a good exclamation point to my testimony. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: In 1971, before he was Senator John Kerry, Navy Lieutenant John Kerry appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the same committee he sat before today, to talk about the war he had just returned from, which was the Vietnam War. John Kerry famously protested against that war. And now the people who are protesting against the current war and maybe the future ones are protesting at his hearing, at his confirmation. And everybody else rolls their eyes and laughs at it but he looked at her instead and said essentially, hey, that was me. Full circle. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: "The Huffington Post" headline today on what happened in Congress was "Failibuster." Fail, as in bummer. Over at "Talking Points Memo", it was, there won`t be reform, it`s just "Re-norm." Wa, wa. Sad trombone. If you need to feel better, if you need to feel better about politics in particular, you will need to feel better after we get through the details of what happened in the Senate today. But I have just the thing. I have a tonic for you coming up in our last story tonight. It is good. It is cute. It`s about politics. And it`s not a sad trombone. I swear. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Why is it that everything takes 60 votes now? I mean, it used to be 60 votes was a headline. If somebody forced 60 votes, that meant they were filibustering and that meant that they were taking an unusually strong stand against something. Now it`s 60 votes even for routine -- SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Rachel, this has to change. It`s wrong what they`re doing because it`s never happened before. The Republicans just this time have abused the system, and it`s going to have to change. We`re going to have to look at ways to change that because there should not be 60 votes in the Senate. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid during an interview with me in his home state of Nevada in October 2010. This has to change. There should not be a 60-vote threshold in the Senate. And then this was the headline today in "The Washington Post." Harry Reid : "I`m not personally at this stage ready to get rid of the 60-vote threshold." Yes. Also this -- (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REID: If there were ever a time when Tom Udall and Jeff Merkley were prophetic, it`s tonight. These two young fine senators said it was time we change the rules in the Senate and we didn`t. They were right. The rest of us were wrong -- or most of us anyway. What a shame. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Harry Reid on the Senate floor in May, saying progressive Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Merkley who were working to reform the filibuster, they were right, he should have listened to their call to alter the Senate rules, they were right and he was wrong not to have listened to them. That was then, this was today. "Progressive senators working to dramatically alter Senate rules were defeated Thursday when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his counterpart, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, set to announce a series of reforms on the Senate floor that fall far short of their demands." One more? One more. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REID: We`re going to change the rules. We cannot continue in this way. So I hope we can get something that that the Republicans will work with us on but it won`t be a handshake. We tried that last time. It didn`t work. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Harry Reid on the Senate floor in December or at the Senate in December, saying that any deal to reform the filibuster would not be a handshake deal. Today, a, quote, "handshake agreement" is how "Roll Call" newspaper described a number of the filibuster reforms that Harry Reid agreed to with Mitch McConnell. Wow. Harry Reid. Yes. This was the day everybody had been waiting for in terms of changing how the Senate operates. And if you hear sad trombones, that`s why. On Election Day this year, Americans, of course, voted overwhelmingly to re-elect President Obama four more years. That same day, the American people also voted to re-elect Senate Democrats and to send a large number of them to Congress, more than the Republicans -- more Senate Democrats than Republicans, which put Senate Majority Harry Reid in charge of the Senate for another two years. And the very next day after the election, Harry Reid in his first post-election press conference said that he was going to fix the unprecedented problem we have in Washington with how Republicans have broken the United States Senate through abusing the rules. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: It looks like there are going to be a number of -- many more filibusters on motions to proceed. Do you think -- do you have any plans to change the filibuster? REID: Yes, I do. I`ve said so publicly, and I continue to feel that away. I think that the rules have been abused and that we`re going to work to change them. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: First press conference, day after the election, Harry Reid saying that going forward things are going to change. Specifically, this was going to change. The de facto rule that Republicans have gerrymandered in the Senate for lack of a better term that pretty much everything requires 60 votes to pass now. That has never been how things have worked in this country. I mean, constitutionally it takes a supermajority to impeach a president or ratify a treaty or amend the Constitution, but not to pass an ordinary bill. Ordinary bill passage should just take a majority. But Republicans have made it take a supermajority. And Harry Reid the day after the election said he was going to change that. And that wasn`t a new promise from him. He didn`t pull that out of thin air. He`s been telegraphing for months that should Democrats retain control of the Senate, they were going to fix the rules. They were going to do away with this whole "60 votes for everything" nonsense. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) REID: It can be done if Obama`s re-elected and I still have the majority. We can do it with a simple majority at the beginning of the Congress. SCHULTZ: Think the president would go along with that? REID: Damn, betcha. SCHULTZ: You`d go that far? Would you make that commitment if Barack Obama and the Democrats keep the Senate, if Barack Obama gets re-elected and you hold the Senate? REID: Ed, I don`t know how many people watch C-Span on every given day but I`ve said so before everybody there. That`s what I would do. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: It turns out a lot of people watch C-Span, and if anybody was watching C-Span tonight about an hour ago, you would have seen Harry Reid there not at all fixing the problem that he has been saying for months now, for years now that he was going to fix. Tonight, the Senate passed a filibuster reform compromise that Harry Reid reached with Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Here`s how the great Ezra Klein at "The Washington Post" summed up what they agreed to and what was voted in in the Senate tonight. Quote, "Reid and McConnell have come to a deal on filibuster reform. The deal is this: the filibuster will not be reformed." What Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell agreed to today was a package of small changes that will marginally speed up business in the Senate and will allow bills to be debated without as many opportunities to obstruct them. It will reduce the number of hours the Senate has to wait before confirming judges and some cabinet nominees. But there is no challenge at all here to the minority`s ability to force a supermajority vote on routine business as a matter of routine. The problem in the Senate, right, has been that they are not able to get anything done. The improvement on that today is that now, they`re not going to be able to get anything done faster. Nobody was ever talking about taking away the filibuster completely. The idea was to make it something that hurt a little, that actually required some commitment, that if you wanted to block something, it was going to have to become a priority for you, you were going to have to do it in a way that took up your time, that put you in a position of having to explain why you were doing it. That meant you couldn`t get on with all the other business you wanted to work on in your little senator life because you were doing this other thing that you had to prioritize, because it was something that was important enough to you to say you know what, America, majority rule should not apply here, this is really important and I`m willing to explain why and take up time to prove it. That was the whole idea. And nothing has been done toward making that happen at all. It will still be a routine 60-vote supermajority for everything. And this is now it for two years. The one baby, baby, baby, baby, baby step toward actually shifting the burden onto people who want to block majority rule consists today of Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid agreeing between them that they will ask senators in their parties who are going to filibuster if please maybe they would consider going down to the Senate floor and please consider explaining themselves when they do it -- possibly, if they want to. The agreement from Mitch McConnell that Republicans -- the agreement with Mitch McConnell that the Republicans will even ask each other to consider doing that, that agreement is of course a handshake agreement. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REID: It won`t be a handshake. We tried that last time. It didn`t work. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes. It`s a handshake. There`s a handshake deal this time, which is the only progress toward getting anything done. It`s a handshake deal. And a handshake deal did not work last time and that should have told you something. And that is the apex of Senator Harry Reid`s achievement today after those months, those years of promises that this time he was really going to do it. But, hey, at least we`ll be able to see them get nothing done faster now. The stuff that they can`t do anything on is just going to fly by from here on out. So we have that speed to look forward to. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: On this vote the yeas are 78, the nays are 16. The 60-vote threshold having been achieved, the resolution is agreed to. SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: On this vote, the yeas are 86 and the nays are nine. Two-thirds of those voting for adoption have voted in the affirmative. And the resolution is agreed to. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Two votes tonight. Two arguably missed opportunities to do something substantive about this -- the fact that now for the first time in our history practically every bill that comes before the United States Senate requires a supermajority of 60 votes in order to pass. That did not get fixed today. It got changed. But it doesn`t seem to have been fixed. Joining us now is Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. Senator Brown, thank you for being here. I appreciate your being willing to talk to us about this. SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Sure. Of course. MADDOW: Am I -- am I wrong to think that there`s not going to be a big change to what we`ve come to accept as normal, which is Republicans requiring a 60-vote supermajority on everything in the Senate? BROWN: I think you were generally right. I think that there will be -- I mean, the steps -- we didn`t do as much as many of us wanted to do. I think it`s small progress. I think the Senate will be -- will work a little better than it did. I think the -- we`ve got some things done in the Senate. In the House, the problem more than anything, Rachel, has been this rule in the House, that the House majority, John Boehner, won`t move unless he has majority of Republicans. So, we`ve sent the currency bill over, we`ve sent the foreign bill, we`ve sent some transportation bills and some bills that would move the country forward that have died there even though they could have a majority. So we are going to keep the pressure on in the Senate. I think that last time, as you pointed out, it was a handshake. This time it was in writing if the progress isn`t significant, working with a group of people that want to stop the president of the United States and they will find ways in the rules even with improvements, to slow things down. But I think this was a step tonight. I wasn`t nearly what I know a lot of my friends wanted it to be. MADDOW: I think the disappointment from people who are Congress watchers is that everybody thought that Democratic senators were so fed up with that 60-vote supermajority threshold for everything that when you guys got the chance to change it, you would pounce on it. Is -- was that perception just wrong? Do senators just not mind this as much as you thought that we did? BROWN: Well, I think a lot of us. I think the votes weren`t there to move in that way. There weren`t enough senators -- I`m not blaming any of my colleagues in particular -- but there weren`t enough to take the bigger steps that Senator Merkley, Senator Udall, and some of us wanted to take. I think -- and this is not to deflect what you wanted to say, but I think if you listened to the inaugural address as you did, I heard your comments, one of the -- one of the things that I took out of that is we`re going to see the president use his executive powers as much as he`s allowed under federal law and under the Constitution, the more aggressive way than last time. Even if we had reformed the Senate as well as we wanted, we still would have had problems in the House. obviously -- I`m not begging off the question. But I think the president -- you are going to see the president use the executive powers that are within his constitutional legal authority. I think the progressive agenda is going to be driven that way that even if we could get things to the Senate, which we will still do from time to time, especially judges and appointees, presidential appointees, I hope, but would it had gotten to the House, I think you`ll see some good news coming that way. That`s what I heard in the inaugural address that the president wants to move on climate change, wants to move on voting rights, wants to move on gun safety, and I think he will figure things out. I think the White House is looking at those kinds of things. Labor law, Larry Cohen was on earlier talking about some of this, I think it was on "ED SHOW", not yours, I`m not sure. But, those kinds of things I`m hopeful the White House sees a path to move the country forward. MADDOW: Do you think immigration and gun reform which the president has put forward as these temporal first priorities for this first term, that they can move in the Senate? BROWN: Well, I think -- I think immigration can move on the Senate. I think that a number of these, that we can still get in the Senate, because have a way sometimes of getting over the 60 votes or speeding up the process and the House still doesn`t move on it. So, I think that perhaps immigration gets through this, I feel good about it getting through the Senate. If it doesn`t get through the House, the president is going to use executive powers that he has. I mean, it`s not ever as good using and evoking any executive powers, executive orders and other things, not as good as the Congress passing something. But, you know, it is going to be pretty hard and a lot of public pressure on Boehner and on the Senate as there should be as the president pushes us. But I think the president is going to use, the next four years, use the bully pulpit. The Republicans are going to say, he`s out campaigning. I think he is out pushing his agenda and he needs to go over the heads of the Republicans in the Senate and House to do it. So, I`m pretty optimistic that this going to be a pretty activist presidency more in that sense than it was in the first term. MADDOW: Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio -- I like talking to you about stuff that I`m excited about. And I`m particular like talking to you about stuff that I`m not excited about, because you`re such a straight talker with us. I really appreciate your being here. BROWN: Thank you. MADDOW: Thanks a lot. BROWN: Thanks always. Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Ready for a good news story? We are in era in government where it sometimes seems like there`s no technocratic skill left. The only reason anybody goes to Congress is to be in Congress, and to fight with people in Congress so that people will give them more money so that they can stay in Congress. It sometimes seems pointless. But that dysfunction that we see in Washington today shouldn`t be seen as normal. It hasn`t always been like this. Back to the year 2000, Congress was no prize then order, still dysfunctional, still a lot of pointless showboating. But in today`s news, we got a reminder. We actually got a payoff from something that the Congress was able to do in 2008 that was not a pointless thing. It was about apes. The Chimpanzee Health Improvement Maintenance and Protection Act, the CHIMP Act, created a national sanctuary for chimps who have been used in research. There have been federal support for research on these guys, who share 98 percent of our DNA, but nobody taken responsibility for where they should go once the research was over. In 2000, they fixed that. Lots of bipartisan support, 100 Democratic cosponsors, 41 Republican cosponsors, it passed, Bill Clinton signed it into law and we have a partially federally funded sanctuary for chimps. It was a practical framework set in motion by policymakers doing something practical instead of something pointless. And because they did that, today, something else that wasn`t pointless was able to happen in government. A panel at the National Institutes of Health issued its recommendations on what America should do with the chimps that we should have in captivity for research purposes. There are expert panel recommendation is that we should stop research on all but 50 of the more than 350 chimpanzees that we have in labs across the country. Part of the reason we should set those 300 chimps free is because we can, because we have somewhere they can go. We have in fact Chimp Haven in Louisiana, which we have thanks in part to Congress` CHIMP Act actually doing something useful in the year 2000. The 50 chimps who will still be kept for research purposes, the NIH panel says, should be housed in spacious conditions in groups of at least seven with 1,000 square feet for space for chimp. They can`t be kept isolated in the cage. If there is research done on the chimps who will remain for research, there`s now going to be high bars for what that research could potentially reveal. They`re going to do research on these guys, it has to be for a really good reason. You have to show there is potential for that research to be very beneficial to human. And most of the chimps we`ve got, six out of every seven that we`ve got now should be retired, free and easy. The folks at Chimp Haven are psyche to their already getting in new chimps. As their country makes this change, now they`ve got to focus on raising the portion of their budget that is privately raised to make room for a big expansion, because here comes chimps. Concerned advocacy about how concerned we are being toward these guys lead and rational scientific well-informed study, which led to legislation, which led to law, which led to a practical, real, totally feasible solution to something that needed a solution. This is the way that it needs to go. I mean, from our vantage point watching this Congress, on their pointless, outrage treadmill sometimes seems impossible, but Washington could be the means by which a problem is debated and addressed in a practical way. But it worked -- it worked for the chimps the least. Maybe it can work for all kinds of stuff. 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