IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/26/13

Guests: Marcy Kaptur, Richard Blumenthal, Carlos Matthew Soto, Jillian Soto, Carlee Soto

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour from Washington, D.C. There is a ton going on here right now. There is a ton going on in politics in general right now, even in politics outside of Washington, D.C. I want to start tonight by showing you something that just happened in Alaska. One house of the state legislature there has just passed a law that threatens to arrest law enforcement officers if they try to enforce federal laws about guns in Alaska. The law says that any guns or ammo possessed by Alaskans are exempt from federal laws. So, the state of Alaska does not recognize the authority of the United States of America and will arrest that country`s agents if they try to enforce that country`s laws. That just passed in Alaska in the Republican- dominated House there, despite passionate arguments against it like this one from Democratic State Rep. Andy Josephson. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STATE REP. ANDY JOSEPHSON (D), ALASKA: Mr. Speaker, we decided in 1955 to submit a state constitution. We joined the team. Our star is on the flag. I see it there. We didn`t have to do that. We demanded it. We implored our 48 sisters, because Hawaii wasn`t admitted yet, our 48 brothers and sisters, let us join this great team. And, you know, I care greatly about my state. But I`m very proud to be an American, very proud. And for the court to say an administration law is constitutional, it is. I think this is secessionist talk. That`s what I think it is. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Secessionist talk. Democratic State Rep. Andy Josephson. That`s the kind of existential politics that Alaska Republicans are up to right now. Also right now, in Arkansas today, the Democratic governor of Alaska, Mike Beebe decided to veto an abortion ban that passed both chambers of the Republican-dominated legislature in his state. Also in Indiana today, the Senate there passed a new forced vaginal ultrasound bill. This had been the bill where they were going to force Indiana women to have two vaginal ultrasounds at the order of the state government, but they pared it down to just one forced ultrasound and passed it today. It`s part of a larger bill to try to either force Indiana abortion clinics to close all together, or to stop them from being able to provide abortion services. Next door to Indiana in Illinois, we just had polls close an hour ago. In the first congressional election since the presidential, this is a heavily Democratic district in Illinois that used to be represented by Jesse Jackson Jr. until he resigned. Today in the primary to replace him, gun reform played a huge role in the race. We`re going to have results and whatever explanation we have got about those results coming up on the show this hour. And as that Illinois congressional election becomes sort of a test case for the Democratic Party`s newfound muscularity and confidence on the issue of gun policy -- well, today in Washington, Vice President Biden kept up his very high profile schedule on this issue. The vice president taking this meeting today with a group of really not the usual suspects on the gun issue. And also today, one key legislator announced a really important decision about what is going to happen now on the gun issue. We`re going to be getting to that. Alaska, don`t wet your pants. Something is going to happen on guns. Try to hold it together. Furthermore today in Washington, the collapse of one of the weirdest D.C. Republican tantrums in this era in which we have a lot of weird D.C. Republican tantrums as President Obama`s nominee for defense secretary finally got confirmed after a long weird delay that nobody understands. And we will have more ahead on the show this hour as well. And also today, Pennsylvania Republicans trying to move ahead with the scheme to rig that state`s electoral votes. Other states flirted with this and gave up in the face of broad criticism after the election, but Pennsylvania Republicans are pressing ahead. And in conceivably related news, Pennsylvania`s deeply unpopular Governor Tom Corbett apparently just got a new Democratic challenger in the form of Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz. And the United States Supreme Court is hearing a challenge to the Voting Rights Act tomorrow. And Republicans are threatening John Brennan`s nomination to run the CIA now as well. And 75 Republican bold-faced names, including four former governors and a whole bunch of Republicans who never said they were for gay rights before all just signed a brief to the Supreme Court telling the court to side with same-sex marriage rights -- Republicans. And Chris Christie just became the eighth Republican governor previously wanted nothing to do with Obamacare to now sign his state up for Obamacare`s provisions. And the treasury secretary nominee, Jack Lew, is probably going to get voted on tomorrow. And there are talks with Iran over its nuclear program that have just gotten under way as of today in Kazakhstan. And, and, and, and, and -- it`s that kind of day. This is that kind of news cycle. There is that much going on. There is a ton going on right now in politics. But in this city you might never know it, because the thing that is happening here that is dominating everything else, that is all but eclipsing all those other significant things going on in the country which might need some attention -- hey, Alaska is kind of seceding, the thing that D.C. is spending all its time on and that the entire federal government has been wrenched around into dealing with is none of the real crises or real fights or real opportunities for real progress in American politics right now. With all of that going on what Washington is smothered by right now is this -- the freakin` sequester which Congress and the White House agreed to which they almost unanimously agree would be a terrible thing to inflict on the country, and which they could just decide not to do simply by repealing it. But apparently they`re not going to repeal it. The White House is taking every opportunity now to spell out the harm that this thing is going to do to the country. They have put out fact sheets on the hundreds of thousands of jobs expected to be lost with workers in every state. The TSA is warning that air travel is going to become a nightmare. The president today at a shipyard in Newport News talking about the devastating expected effect, particularly on areas that are heavily economically dependent on the military. The Republican speaker of the House today for his part demanding that the Senate fix it, that they get off their starts with a rhymes with bass and do something to stop this thing, because he is not going to. Looks like it`s going to happen, even though this is a purely voluntary thing because, eh, why not inflict wanton damage on the country and throw millions of people out of work? Why not? The animating principle, the animating fear or assertion or argument behind this roundhouse punch to our own face is supposedly the deficit, right? There`s so much worry about the out-of-control spiraling deficit that we must punch ourselves in the face like this. These cuts won`t really make a difference in the deficit. But by agreeing to lose this game of chicken and go flying off this cliff, punching ourselves in the face all the way down, we will somehow show symbolic commitment or something to turn around our out-of-control deficit. That I guess is the idea. Here I guess is the deficit. Here is what it was when Barack Obama took office. In 2009, in the midst of the worst economic freefall since the Great Depression. Then here is the deficit in 2010. And here it is for the next year, and here it is for last year. Yes. And here is the track for this year. Yes, see how it`s spiraling out of control? See how much it`s growing? Higher and higher all the time? Yes, no. Actually, down is not up. Night is not day, and the deficit is getting smaller. It`s dropped by hundreds of billions of dollars during Barack Obama`s presidency. We are currently experiencing the fastest deficit reduction in several generations, and nobody knows it. We`re in the midst of a major national crisis, self-imposed, brought on by fear and loathing and worry and outrage over the supposed state of the deficit, and 90 percent of the country is wrong about what the state of the deficit is. I`m not saying 90 percent as a made-up rounded hyperbolic number. That`s the actual number. Look. "Bloomberg News" just polled on this: Is it your sense this year that the deficit is getting bigger or getting smaller or staying about the same as last year? Sixty-two percent of Americans say the deficit is getting bigger, 28 percent of Americans say the deficit is staying about the same. Yes, those 62 plus 28, that`s 90 percent of the country that gives a wrong answer to that question. So how many Americans know the right answer? A proportion of the American public who knows the correct answer, which is that the deficit is getting smaller is 6 percent, total. If we are supposedly so worried about this problem that we are willing to inflict pretty big economic pain on the country starting on Friday in order to strike a symbolic pose of seriousness in addressing this awful problem, wouldn`t you think that more than 6 percent of people in the country should be able to correctly identify what the problem is? Joining us now is Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, Democrat of Ohio, and Jared Bernstein, from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. He`s a former economic policy adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. He is also an MSNBC and CNBC contributor. Thank you both so much for being here. JARED BERNSTEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you. MADDOW: I`m sorry I made you sit through the Alaska gun rights thing. BERNSTEIN: It`s fascinating. MADDOW: There is a lot going on that we aren`t working on because we`re working on this problem that we created for ourselves. But, Jared, let me start with you. On the 6 percent issue, how it that only 6 percent of Americans understand what is true about the deficit right now? BERNSTEIN: I think it has to do a lot with all the noise that is trying to point there in the other direction. There are a lot of people in this town whose policy agenda, whose ideology really depends on everyone`s hair being on fire about the budget deficit, because their ultimate goal is to cut government, to slash government, to get rid of social insurance. And if people actually are aware of the kind of numbers you just showed, the fact that the deficit has fallen by half as a share of GDP. Now, they say we have a spending problem. I just looked at the numbers the other day. Between 2009 and 2012, spending was up 0.6 percent. MADDOW: It`s out of control, spiraling out of control obviously. BERNSTEIN: So, it`s a very ideologically motivated argument. Again, if you`re freaked out about the budget deficit, you want to slash, burn, sequester, cliff all the rest of it. MADDOW: Congresswoman Kaptur, as somebody who is in the middle of this thing -- first of all, do you agree that is what is driving the misperception of the underlying factors here? And secondly, do you think that anything could be done to avert this problem before Friday? REP. MARCY KAPTUR (D-OH), BUDGET COMMITTEE: I think in terms of political strategy on the part of the Republicans who are being so obstinate and uncompromising, they`ve managed to move the debate from jobs to sequester. I`m not sure all members of Congress could define sequester. It means automatic cuts with no thought. The meat ax just falls wherever. But they`ve managed to shift to a different turf, and, therefore, we`re not arguing about how do we create more jobs in this country? Because with a 7.8 unemployment rate, you`re not going to balance the budget. We have to cut that by half. Jared tried so hard in his own career and service to the people of our country to do that. So they`ve shifted the debate. And we`re on their turf. We need to be talking about economic growth and how what they`re proposing is actually going to cause more unemployment. Do you know that just in the defense area -- and I`m the first Democratic woman in history to serve on defense appropriations, if you can believe that, and it`s 2013 -- we will likely see over 734,000 civilian Defense Department employees furloughed with a 20 percent pay cut over the next 22 days? And -- MADDOW: That`s immediate. KAPTUR: That`s immediate. MADDOW: Three-quarters of a million people over the next few weeks. KAPTUR: That`s right. They are going to cut become on gas purchases, purchases of clothing for their children, food. This goes directly to the bottom line of growth in this economy, and it`s going to be a damper on that growth. MADDOW: Jared, from an economic perspective, the prescriptions that we have heard like Congresswoman Kaptur just explained and like the White House has been explaining, about what`s going to happen if this goes through, is that kind of rapid not paying too much attention to details contraction that we will see starting Friday if this happens, would it have a significant negative impact? KAPTUR: Not only would it, but it already is. Remember, the sequester is fiscal contraction on top of fiscal contraction. The expiration of the payroll tax holiday has already taken over $100 billion out of the paychecks of working Americans this year. Now, I`ve looked at estimates of economists across the board, nonpartisans who argue that put it all together, add the sequester on top of it, and you`re talking about growth that`s about a percent and a half slower this year than it would be otherwise. Let me just read you a quick quote from somebody today up on Capitol Hill. "Moreover, besides having adverse effects on jobs and incomes, a slower recovery would lead to less actual deficit reduction in the short- run." Now that`s not Karl Marx or Chairman Mao. That`s Ben Bernanke. He is saying not only does slower growth hurt us in the way the congresswoman is mentioned, growth in jobs, it actually is counterproductive if your goal is truly deficit reduction. MADDOW: So the deficit is getting smaller. We`re setting our hair on fire about the deficit as if it`s getting larger. And in order to show the seriousness of how on fire our hair is, we`re going the make our deficit problem worse. KAPTUR: Exactly. MADDOW: Woo-hoo! Governing (ph). KAPTUR: And we`re going to put a damper on growth. We`re going to put more people out of work. And there will be more suffering where there needs to be recovery. MADDOW: What do you see as the way out of this? In Congress, you -- since the Republicans won control of the House and were sworn in 2011, we`ve had these repeated trips to the brink, whether it`s the debt ceiling fights or the government shutdown fights and now this sequester fight. All of them coming to the 11th hour, all of them self manufactured crisis, that weren`t imposed from the country without, but were designed crises. KAPTUR: Right. MADDOW: How do we get out of it? KAPTUR: Manufactured crises. Well, we get out of it politically when people go to the polls in 2014, we need a Democratic house. But what`s happened is that gerrymandering in a state like Ohio has been so severe that a state that voted 50/50, half for President Obama, half for Governor Romney actually is only sending 4 out of 16 members on the Democratic side of the aisle. So, it`s 25 percent. We could have an additional four members just from Ohio that would be more representative of how -- what our population actually is. But we don`t have a representative House because of the gerrymandering that happened. MADDOW: Does the Democratic Party have a plan to fix that? I mean, the Republicans have -- are very overt and very proud of how they have been able to use redistricting, use gerrymandering to get more seats than they were due by the number of votes that they have. They brag about it. They say this is one of their great successes of the last election cycle. Do the Democrats have a plan to counter it? KAPTUR: Well, I tell you, Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has talked about this. She has talked about what we need to do to prepare for the future. And I know that those who are paying close attention are very aware of how unfairly representative the House currently is. MADDOW: In terms of what is about to happen and what we are on the self-imposed precipice of, Jared, how -- when you said that damage has already been done and that more damage is coming. KAPTUR: Right. MADDOW: How much of it is reversible? And what would be the best way to reverse it? BERNSTEIN: Well, first of all, it would be great if policymakers would at least take a do no harm, a Hippocratic Oath, that says, if I were pulling levers, I would implement job measures of the type the president introduced in the jobs act, the type that Congresswoman Kaptur is constantly banging up there. I actually don`t think that`s very realistic right now. So, my first argument could be to do no harm. Just put these kinds of spending cuts off until the economy is firing on all cylinders again. Now, let me be precise, I`m not implying that this fiscal drag that we have talked about, sequester, the other cuts we`ve mentioned, it`s going to throw the economy into a recession. But too often, the discussion is we`re in recession bad, or we`re not in recession good. No. The fact that growth is already slow and it`s going to be slower means that the unemployment rate is going to be stuck where it is. I mean, the congresswoman said we`re talking about the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs. When the GPD starts growing below 2 percent, which is what will happen if all this stuff goes through and sticks, we`re not going to be growing fast enough to absorb new people coming into the job market, to provide opportunities for the currently unemployed. So it`s this kind of persistent slog that just eats away at families` living standards. MADDOW: The whole -- it`s not just stop digging. I really feel like in a way it`s stop punching yourself in the face. BERNSTEIN: Exactly. MADDOW: It`s self-inflicted and wanton and it makes no mathematical sense. Tada! Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, Democrat of Ohio, Jared Bernstein, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and an MSNBC and CNBC contributors -- thank you both so much for being here. BERNSTEIN: Thank you, Rachel. KAPTUR: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. Republicans in the U.S. Senate certainly proved a point by delaying Chuck Hagel`s confirmation as defense secretary. Honestly, a point was proven. I don`t think it was the point they thought they were making, but they proved it. We will try to explic the inexplicable, coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOIW: OK. Admit it. Admit it that you have missed this. I know I have. (MUSIC) MADDOW: It`s decision 2013. It is election night once again. Today was the first election for federal office in this country since the presidential election. Polls closed in Illinois just about an hour ago in the race to replace Democratic Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. who resigned his seat late last year. The district includes parts of Chicago. It`s one of the bluest of the blue congressional districts in the whole country. Jesse Jackson Jr. carried that district by nearly 70 points in 2010; by about 80 points in 2008. For that reason, because this district is so reliably blue year after year, this is one of those weird election days where even though it`s just a primary to decide who the nominee is going to be, everybody treats this as essentially the general election. Whoever wins this Democratic primary tonight is expected to almost certainly be the next member of Congress from Illinois. Heading into Election Day, heading into today, this look to be a three-way race between former Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, former state lawmaker Robin Kelly, and Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale. There are 14 Democrats running, but it looked to be coming down to these three. As a former member of Congress herself, Debbie Halvorson at the outset appeared to be the odds on favorite, but that was before this happened. A slew of advertising from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg`s PAC all on the issue of guns. These ads have absolutely blanketed the district. They are the only TV ads running in the race. And the ads go after Debbie Halvorson for having an "A" rating from the NRA. That may have been an asset in previous elections, but no longer. This is the first federal election since the Newtown school shooting. Chicago is a city that has had real problems with gun violence. And the confluence of those factors have made this kind of an interesting test case. What maybe should have been a cakewalk for Debbie Halvorson, who had the highest name recognition in the case ended up turning into a dogfight, at least heading into today`s voting from what we could tell from the polling. Election officials today reported relatively low turnout at the polls, probably the result of this being a special election primary in an off- year. Special elections in general tend to generate less voter interest. It also could have been the result of this. This is how it looked today in Chicago. What do you like better? Rain, sleet, snow? Chicago had a good offering of all three today. So again the turnout today was reported to be low. But at this hour we can report a result in this race. With 67 percent of precincts now reporting, "The Associated Press" has declared former state lawmaker Robin Kelly the winner tonight. Former Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson has just now conceded in this race. This is a really surprising result that could have national implications. Robin Kelly made her support for gun reform the centerpiece of her campaign. She was running against somebody who had long touted her A rating from the NRA. And the A rating from the NRA lost and the proud F rating from the NRA won. Those things were paired with an endorsement for the F rating from the NRA from the Michael Bloomberg gun reform super PAC and millions of dollars worth of ads run against Debbie Halvorson on the same grounds. Again, Robin Kelly will move on to the general election on April 9th in the district that was currently or until recently held by Jesse Jackson Jr., but because of the partisan breakdown of this district, she is expected to become the nation`s newest member of Congress. This is a fascinating result. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: For the interview on tonight`s show, we are doing something that we really never do. We have three people here tonight for the interview. And when I introduce them, you will know why. I`m going to let that introduction tell the story. I`m not going to get ahead of myself. But suffice to say the interview tonight is exclusive. It is not at all our usual way of doing things, and it`s kind of a big deal for us on this show. That`s coming up in just a couple of minutes. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL (RET.), U.S. ARMY: I spent a career carrying typically they`re an M-16 and later an M-4 Carbine. And an M-4 Carbine fires a 223 caliber round of 5.56 millimeter at about 3,000 feet per second. When it hits a human body, the effects are devastating. It`s designed to do that. And that`s what our soldiers ought to carry. I personally don`t think there is any need for that kind of weaponry on the streets and particularly around the schools in America. I believe that we`ve got to take a serious look. I understand everybody`s desire to have whatever they want. But we`ve got to protect our children. We`ve got to protect our police. We`ve got to protect our population. And I think we got to take a very mature look at that. The number of people in America killed by firearms is extraordinary compared to other nations. And I don`t think we`re a blood thirsty culture. So I think we need to look at everything that we can do to safeguard our people. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: General Stanley McChrystal speaking on "MORNING JOE" here on MSNBC last month. General McChrystal, of course, was the commander of forces in Afghanistan until he resigned back in 2010 after Michael Hastings` profile of him in "Rolling Stone" that was so controversial. Last month, General McChrystal put out his own book and started doing the interview rounds to promote it. But anybody booked to talk about anything in America in early January 2013 was going to end up talking about gun violence. Because of what happened at Sandy Hook, the elementary school massacre at Newtown, even retired military commanders were asked to weigh in, and they had something to say about it. Well, today that happened at a whole another level. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LT. GEN. CHARLES P. OTSOTT, U.S. ARMY (RET): I know. I know what guns can do. MAJ. GEN. PAUL D. EATON, U.S. ARMY (RET): Guns in the right hands protect us. BRIG. GEN. STEPHEN A. CHENEY, U.S. MARINE CORPS. (RET): Guns belong on battlefields. REAR ADM. JAMES A. BARNETT, U.S. NAVY (RET): Guns belong in a place that is safe and secure. BRIG. GEN. STEPHEN N. XENAKIS, MD., U.S. ARMY (RET): Assault weapons are weapons of war. REAR ADM. MALCOLM MACKINNON III, U.S. NAVY (RET): Not for cowards to use. BARNETT: -- in movie theaters. OTSOTT: -- in classrooms. EATON: -- or on our streets. CHENEY: As a General -- MACKINNON: As an Admiral -- BARNETT: As a member of the Armed Forces -- EATON: As a gun owner, I demand a plan. MACKINNON: Demand Action. OTSOTT: Enough. CHENEY: Enough. EATON: Enough. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The latest national ad from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, senior flag rank retired military officers weighing in favor of gun reform. This is I think part of the answer to the anti-reform side trying to claim that they`re the tough guy side, that they`re the manly side in this debate. Who would you pick in a fight? I would pick McChrystal personally, even if he did have cat scratch fever. That`s just me. Today, Vice President Joe Biden`s office tweeted out this picture. You see the vice president there on the left, on one side of the table, on the other side of the table are all of the retired military officials in the Mayors Against Illegal Guns ad that you just saw. The vice president met with those flag officers at the White House to discuss the administration`s proposals to reduce gun violence. Tomorrow, Vice President Biden is scheduled to speak before the National Association of Attorneys General on the same topic. If you are sensing a rather unrelenting focus on this issue, you are right. And it may be changing things already. And what I mean by that is this -- NBC News and "The Wall Street Journal" released a new poll tonight with some really interesting new numbers on the gun debate. They asked people if laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, less strict, or kept as they are now. Sixty-one percent of Americans favor making gun laws more strict, which is a clear majority just on the face of it. But look at the evolution of that percentage. Back in October 2010, only 44 percent of the people in the country -- 44 percent of the people in the country thought that gun laws should be more strict. It was 44. Now, it`s 61. And in recent years, each time that question gets asked, that number ticks higher. If you think our gun laws should actually be less strict as a country, you stand with 4 percent of your fellow Americans in believing that. And no offense, but that means you`re kind of on the fringe and getting fringier with each passing day. If you want gun laws to be more strict, you stand with 60 percent of your fellow citizens. So why isn`t that the way we think of this debate? Well, here is what happens next. On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled to vote on four separate gun reform measures. Now, this is important strategy. They`re not doing everything together in a big combined package. They`re breaking it up a la carte measure by measure. So, one bill is an assault weapons ban. One would make gun trafficking a federal crime. A third would provide schools with enhanced security protection. So, more cops in schools for schools that want that. And the fourth measure is one that would expend background checks so everybody has to have a background check to buy a gun, even if you buy it at a gun show instead of a store. It`s not an accident that the Judiciary Committee plans to vote on each of these simply. It`s a purposeful tactical approach by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy. This way a senator who is in favor of, say, universal background checks, which have bipartisan support in something like 92 percent support from the public, such a senator could vote for universal background checks without binding his or her vote on one of those other measures that he or she may not support. So, hypothetically, a senator`s opposition to a ban on assault weapons, under this strategy should not keep that senator from voting to support more security in schools or background checks or anything else. Four separate bills unveiled today and scheduled for a vote in the Senate on Thursday. There is movement every day now on the guns issue that the Beltway told us would never see any movement. It is happening now regardless. Joining us now is Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee. He is co-sponsoring the ammunition background check proposal introduced earlier this month. Senator Blumenthal, thanks for being here. SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: As a member of the Judiciary Committee, do you think there is strategic significance in introducing these measures separately? BLUMENTHAL: I think it enables senators to be for one or three and not necessarily all four. Probably the most acceptable, the most palatable, even to potential opponents are the criminal background check proposal and the trafficking ban. Remember, the trafficking ban applies to straw purchases which incredibly are not prohibited now effectively under federal law. MADDOW: And straw purchases when you -- it`s legal for you to buy a gun, but then you deliver the gun to somebody for whom it would be illegal to purchase it. BLUMENTHAL: In effect, the licensed dealer is selling a gun to someone who knows is a straw purchaser, someone who is buying it for someone else. And that should be punished. MADDOW: Yes. BLUMENTHAL: And this bill would make it punishable. And, of course, school safety is very acceptable. The toughest climb will probably be the assault weapon ban. But remember tomorrow we`re going to have a hearing on assault weapons. And just to give you a little bit of a preview, one of the witnesses is going to be a first responder who went to that school in Sandy Hook in Newtown and saw the shattered bodies and blood and can tell the committee what these assault weapons do. Another will be a parent of a child who was killed in one of those classrooms. So, it`s going to be very powerful evidence. But, you know, the decisions truly, and I think you really have alluded to it tonight and before, are not going to be made necessarily inside the Beltway. They`re going to be made by millions of people who are paying attention to this issue as never before, and they`re organizing. They`re making their views known and that`s what makes this time different. MADDOW: When you look at the NBC polling, NBC/Wall Street Journal polling that came out tonight, more than 60 percent of the country saying they want gun laws to be more strict, 4 percent of the country saying they want gun laws to be less strict. We also look at the popularity of issues just take the universal background checks, 92 percent popularity in the last "New York Times" poll on that. What is important about or -- what`s the most important way to try to translate support like that, public opinion like that into legislative change? BLUMENTHAL: Well, first, remember that the opponents, like the NRA, are counting on the Connecticut effect, as they`ve called it, to dissipate, for people to turn their attention to other issues, and to really diminish their attention to this one. What`s required really is a sustained effort. People calling and writing their representative, I know it sounds hackneyed and corny. But it really makes a difference, and the organizing. The mayors committee, the Brady campaign, the victims themselves, the Newtown Alliance, the Sandy Hook promise, these are organizations that have sprung from this horrific tragedy -- all are making a difference in organizing that grassroots appeal for action. And it really has to be out in the communities that are no different from Sandy Hook, because if it could happen in Sandy Hook, it can happen anywhere. The quintessential New England town where you have an all volunteer, fire department, a police department that does fine on the kinds of crimes it investigates -- nothing ever of this dimension and magnitude and it could happen anywhere, and it has happened everywhere. Since Newtown, 1,900 people have been killed by gun violence in our cities and in our rural communities, all across America. If America pays attention, communicates to the Congress that it really cares, really cares as much as the folks who have been so vocal on behalf of the NRA, it will get done. MADDOW: You heard it here first. It may sound hackneyed, but when you call your member of Congress and your senator, people listen. Senator Blumenthal, thank you very much. Good to see you again. BLUMENTHAL: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. Tonight, we`ve got the interview coming up next, which is something very different than what we normally do on this show. When they appear here next, I think you will agree that it makes sense that we are talking to three people at once and that you want to hear from them. Please stay tuned. Just a minute. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Tonight for the interview we are going to do something that is unusual for us as a show. This is exclusive, but it`s also a different format for us. We have three people here tonight for the interview together. Three people who share the honor of being the siblings, the brother and sisters of Vicki Soto. And you know that name, Vicki Soto, because she was one of the teachers who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December. She died shielding her students, trying to get them hidden away within her classroom. Since then, her family has refused to let the need for a response to that tragedy fade with time. Vicki`s younger brother, Carlos Matthew Soto attended the State of the Union address, a visible reminder, a moral marker of the victims of gun violence who President Obama said at that speech deserve a vote on reform to tackle gun violence. Vicki`s mom and dad, Donna and Carlos, accepted the Presidential Citizen`s Medal for their daughter at the White House. Again, not fading away. And today, Vicki Soto`s brother and her sister took their case to Capitol Hill. They knocked on doors in the Senate and the House on behalf of their sister and her lost students. They made their case. Joining us now are Carlee and Jillian and Carlos Matthew Soto, the sisters and brother of Sandy Hook Elementary School Vicki Soto -- thank you all so much for being here. I know you guys have had a really long day already. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for having us. CARLOS MATTHEW SOTO, VICTORIA SOTO`S BROTHER: Thank you for having us. MADDOW: Jillian, let me start with you. You went to Congress today with families I know from Newtown and Virginia Tech and Aurora. You met with Harry Reid and Eric Cantor. What was it like and how did they react to you guys? JILLIAN SOTO, VICTORIA SOTO`S SISTER: It was amazing. It was nice to have people who wanted to listen to us, and when were willing to sit there and listen to what we had to say. And it just -- it was nice. And, you know, their reaction was just to listen and to hear what we had to say to listen to us ask for help and, you know, us ask them what we can do to help you do something about this and help us get some change here. So, they were very nice and open to what we were saying, and they listened to us, and very sympathetic for the circumstances that were at hand. MADDOW: Carly, when you were having the meetings today and you were talking to those members of Congress, did you get the sense they`re going to do anything? Honestly? CARLEE SOTO, VICTORIA SOTO`S SISTER: Honestly, I think that they`re going to try. I feel like after listening to our stories and after seeing the pictures of our sibling, of one of the little boys in Vicki`s room, Jesse, and just seeing the photos kind of made it real for them. And I think that after talking to us, maybe it kind of sunk is in that something really does need to change, that it wasn`t just a Newtown family. There was other families there that were, you know -- are asking for a change also. MADDOW: Carlos Matthew, you`re still in high school? C.M. SOTO: Yes. MADDOW: One of the things being put up for a vote on Thursday, I was talking with your senator about this, is the idea of letting more -- more security resources for schools that want it. So if schools want more cops or more armed guards or some other kind of security in schools, that`s one of the things that should be considered. Are you happy that they`re considering that? Do you have feelings about that? C.M. SOTO: I have mixed feelings because yes, that will help sort of. But you can`t really protect yourself everywhere you go. MADDOW: Yes. C.M. SOTO: Like are you going to put armed guards in malls and in hospitals and are you going to put them everywhere? MADDOW: What are you feel like you have a sense that your priorities are? If you could -- if you could wave a magic wand and then have anything done, or if you could at least be the most persuasive you could possibly be to members of Congress so they would change something, would what would you have them change? C.M. SOTO: I would probably be the assault weapon ban and just because no one needs those guns. There`s no reason to have them unless you`re military. MADDOW: What do you guys think about that? J. SOTO: Same. I agree. You know, like we`ve said and we`ve said it several times, we aren`t trying to take away the Second Amendment from anybody. We understand it and we aren`t trying to take it away. But there`s no reason, like my brother said, that assault rifles are on the streets, that people have access to them, because there`s no need for them. And a big thing that we feel very strongly about is that there needs to be background checks for every gun that is sold out there. There`s no reason people can purchase them without having a background check. There is no need for that. And it just is common sense that you should have to have a background check for every person to whether they`re criminal or they have mental health issue, anything. They should have to fill out the form and should it be checked. MADDOW: The senator was talking about one NRA lobbyist called the Connecticut effect, that people who don`t want changes in gun laws are waiting for the Connecticut effect to wear off, people to stop feeling so bad about what happened to your sister, and about what happened in Sandy Hook, so that maybe there`s less urgency about it. I have a feeling if that makes you have a feeling, I can see their reaction -- C. SOTO: That aggravates me very much, because if it`s not Connecticut, it`s going to be another state. MADDOW: Yes. C. SOTO: And, you know, it was shooting at an elementary school. And, you know, a month before, it was a shooting in, you know, Colorado at a movie theater. And it`s going to keep happening until something happens. And, you know, how many people need to die? How many little kids need to die? And now it was 6 and 7-year-olds that were killed. That`s disgusting. It shouldn`t happen. MADDOW: Everybody in the country knows your sister`s name, which has to be comforting in a way. But also an emotional weight for you guys. I mean, the whole idea of the Connecticut effect, even though it is being used by people who want it to go away, is that we feel so emotionally connected to what your sister did. And that -- you guys are trying to turn that emotional weight into something concrete, changing. Is it very difficult for you to do that emotional work though? I mean, people talking to you must burst into tears all the time. J. SOTO: You do, you definitely have the moments where you break down and cry about it. But we don`t want our sister to die for no reason. You know, we lost our sister, tragically, and now we`re honoring her by fighting for change in her name and fighting for change in her name, and all the other victims of Sandy Hook and all the other school shootings. And, you know, we don`t want her just be another statistics, we want her to be known for who she is and it`s an amazing teacher she was, the amazing sister she was. And ask for something to be done, and demand now something gets done so nobody else has to go through this. MADDOW: Carlos Matthew, you -- on that same issue, obviously, your big sister and guys have to deal with this as a family and you guys are obviously very close. But taking that emotional burden of how -- that loss and trying to make it a public thing, does it make it harder to deal with or easier? C.M. SOTO: I -- in my case, I think it`s easier to deal with because I feel like I`m getting something done. MADDOW: Yes. C.M. SOTO: And my feel -- I think, if I can prevent this with one family, if I can prevent one family not to go through what I`m going through right now, it will mean the most to me. And that`s what I want to happen. MADDOW: Carlos Matthew Soto, Jillian Soto, Carlee Soto, sisters and brother of Sandy Hook Elementary teacher Victoria Soto, back from a day of talking with members of Congress, the Newtown Action Alliance, Brady Campaign, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence -- you guys had a hell of a day on top of what is a very difficult time already. And to have the strength to do what you`re doing and then come here and talk about with such composure and such respect and love for each other, it`s very moving. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. C.M. SOTO: Thanks. MADDOW: Appreciate it. OK, we`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Oklahoma is a deep, deep red state. Every single county in Oklahoma voted for Mitt Romney over Barack Obama in last year`s election, when Barack Obama clobbered Mitt Romney in the country. Oklahoma has five congressional districts, represented by -- forgive the familiarity here -- represented by Jim, James, Frank, Tom and Mark Wayne. Five districts, five Republicans, all of them are Republicans, all their members of congress. Oklahoma, of course, also has two senators, and they, too, are both Republicans. When it came time to appoint a new federal appeals court judge to the tenth circuit, which is the circuit that includes Oklahoma, Senator Tom Coburn suggested to the White House a man he thought would be good for the job. Tom Coburn recommended him to the president, the other senator from Oklahoma approved of the choice, he liked him, too. President Obama agreed with those two Republican senators from Oklahoma and he recommended their chosen judge to be nominated to that court. And then -- no. Apparently, that was really not OK with Senate Republicans. Doing what they want and what they ask for is not OK. And it won`t be stood for. The judge who the Republican senators asked for was nominated in January 2012, and Republicans in the Senate filibustered him. They would not allow a vote on his nomination. They would not allow him to be voted on for 263 days. But here is the really great part, when they finally relented after 263 days, and allowed a vote to be taken, the vote on this judge was 93-0 - - 93-0, there was no objection to him. Remember, they picked him. Why would they object to him? So, if there were no objections to him, why would he have to wait 263 days? No reason, hulk smash, I mean, no reason, literally no reason. The president`s nominee to be defense secretary, former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel was confirmed today, and he will tomorrow get sworn in and he will take over at that time Pentagon. Chuck Hagel had majority support. He had all the Democrats in the Senate and four Republicans in the Senate. He got 58 votes. But it took this long to get him confirmed because Republicans filibustered his nomination. Nobody has ever done that before. Nobody has ever before used a filibuster to block the confirmation of a cabinet nominee ever in the history of our country, but they did it to Chuck Hagel. Why? Hulk smash, who knows? Republicans in the Senate pulled the fire alarm on this one, they broke glass in case of emergency. They did something that has never been done before in the history of the republic. And because they did it, there is now precedent for senators to filibuster maybe Republican president`s cabinet nominees too. They broke that precedent. They broke glass in case of emergency, for a nominee who himself had been a Republican senator, who had bipartisan support to be confirmed. And the Republicans in the Senate did it in a way that did not actually stop the confirmation. So, mazel tov, congratulations, you won nothing. But you did further break the institution where you work. There is an effort already under way to try to cover this up to say Republicans did not really filibuster Chuck Hagel but they didn`t really break the precedent here, and so now, cabinet nominees are going to be filibustered. John McCain in particular has been pushing that line, but what John McCain has been pushing is not true. Republicans, in fact, broke this rule and broke precedent for nothing, and there is no sign yet that even they know why. Just amazing. Before we go, one update on our breaking news on the primary election in Chicago. That just happened tonight. This is the election to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. in Congress after he resigned. "The Associated Press" has declared former state lawmaker, Robin Kelly, the winner of that race tonight. Former Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson has conceded. Robin Kelly made her support for gun reform a centerpiece of her campaign. Debbie Halvorson had an A-rating from the NRA and the Bloomberg pro-gun reform PAC never let her forget it. Halvorson conceded tonight. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD". Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END