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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 07/25/13

Guests: Jonathan Cohn, Ryan Haygood

EZRA KLEIN, GUEST HOST: Well, you`ll have to watch to find out. CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: I will watch and find out. KLEIN: Thanks to you at home for being here tonight. Rachel has the night off. This right here, what you`re seeing right here, it`s the United States of America. You`ve heard of that. There`s still 50 states in it, including -- including Texas. Texas is still in the Union. It remains an American state. It did not secede, which is actually news that was not a foregone conclusion just a couple years ago. Back in 2009, as a fight over health reform was raging from the halls of Congress to the town halls in Michele Bachmann`s district, the government of Texas got Tenth Amendment-y and threatened to secede from health care, end from the United States, itself. Very patriotic. Texas would be gone. They`d get no more highway money. There would be no more shared national defense. It would just be Texas on its own -- the land where nobody messes with the fact that poor people can`t afford health insurance. That was almost four years ago exactly. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RACHEL MADDOW, TRMS HOST: The opposition to reforming health care isn`t the most cogent thing in the world thus far. The GOP health care solutions group in Congress, you will recall, admitted this week they think it`s best if they don`t actually offer any health care solutions. They`d rather just keep saying no to whatever it is the Democrats are offering no matter what it is. But in this rollicking substance-free festival of incoherence, there is one man who is determined to be the most incoherent of all. Little known outside his home state for anything other than having beautiful hair and for threatening to secede from the Union back in April, Texas Governor Rick Perry is now threatening that Texas will also secede from health care. I told you it was incoherent. Speaking with a conservative talk show host yesterday on WBAP in Arlington, Texas, Governor Perry had this to say about what he wants to secede from next. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: It really is a state issue, and if there was ever an argument for the Tenth Amendment and for letting states find solutions to their problems, this may be at the top of the class. (END AUDIO CLIP) (END VIDEO CLIP) KLEIN: The whole Tenth Amendment, "screw you, I`m going to be my own health care-free country" thing, it didn`t really take off. Not even in Texas. But there is more than one way to skin a health care reform law, and so, the right, and activists on the right and the Republican Party, itself, they set out to try and defeat the president on this by just getting it voted down. First, they tried to prevent it from happening. All fake grassroots organizations like FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity. They organized and paid for rallies and bus tours with very fancy, cool, customized buses that had their logos all over this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: This rally organized by a collection of conservative and libertarian groups. ROBERT LEVY: Too much power, too little freedom. It is time to restore constitutional government. REPORTER: Almost all echoing a common theme. JIM DEMINT: We must stop this government takeover of health care. REPORTER: And coming after a summer of heated town hall meetings and Congressman Joe Wilson`s outburst at President Obama during Wednesday`s address to congress. REP. JOE WILSON (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You lie! REPORTER: Among today`s organizers, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, now the chairman of conservative action group, FreedomWorks. (END VIDEO CLIP) KLEIN: That wasn`t just rallies and things that these firms organized. They also sent people to hound elected officials in their districts to try and embarrass and harass them into voting against health reform. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Corporate lobbyists are organizing far right hooligan tactics to disrupt civic meetings about health care reform. This is the organized use of intimidation as a political tool in the United States, and I don`t mean intimidation euphemistically. I mean, literal intimidation. New York Congressman Tim Bishop, who we showed you earlier, he ended up having to be escorted to his car by five police officers for his own safety after his town hall event was over. (END VIDEO CLIP) KLEIN: Meanwhile, the strategy for defeating health reform back in Washington was twofold. One was lie about what it would do and to whom it would do it to. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: And now, a familiar voice is raising the temperature. Sarah Palin, just two weeks removed from office, writes on her Facebook page, "My parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama`s death panel so his bureaucrats can decide whether they are worthy of health care." (END VIDEO CLIP) KLEIN: The panels, remember death panels? They were all the rage. Literally. The rage. They made people rageful despite not being real. That was number one. Number two: The Republican politicians who hadn`t quit their jobs after serving half a term in the office to which they were elected, they decided to fight against health reform with the filibuster. In the Senate, they raised the stakes with the filibuster threat. So even though Democrats had the majority and even though health reform could have passed by a civil majority vote, it had to get a supermajority. Republicans filibustered it. And so, it needed the 60 votes. It needed a super, supermajority. Months and months of vote wrangling later, it did get the supermajority. It did pass. Despite all the astroturfing and all the death panel talk and the filibustering, it was done. It was the law. The president signed it. But, wait, one more thing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: More than a dozen states are going to court to challenge this health care bill claiming it`s unconstitutional. Our justice correspondent Pete Williams has more on that part of the pushback. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We simply can`t have Washington make the rules and we get stuck with the bill. REPORTER: Fourteen states and counting. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is an unprecedented expansion. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To have the individual mandate held unconstitutional. UNIDENTFIED MALE: It does trample the Constitution. REPORTER: Attorneys general from every part of the nation, nearly all of them Republican, are challenging the health care law in court. (END VIDEO CLIP) KLEIN: So after a year of truly insane off the wall got to get congressmen escorted to their car politics on health care, the case went all the way to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. You know what happened there, too? Again, the Republican effort to kill the law fell short. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: The bottom line here is the Supreme Court has upheld the health care case. It`s a 5-4 decision, with Chief Justice Roberts joining the courts` liberals in upholding it. (END VIDEO CLIP) KLEIN: OK. Now were we done? Health reform passed both houses of Congress. President signed it. Supreme Court said it was constitutional. Are we -- is it finally law and we can go forward and actually make the law happen? No. No, we were not done. Ever since health reform passed, Republicans in the House have voted to repeal or dismantle health reform more than three dozen times, 37 times to be exact. They`ve also over and over again tried to defund it and delay it, repealing the funding/delaying. It`s like the Republican turducken of health reform. Like the actual turducken, it is more appealing in theory than in practice and it has never quite caught on in the general public. The latest Republican attempt to undo health reform which has been law for three years now is sabotage. And I don`t use the word lightly. It is actual sabotage of the law. In order to make sure implementation goes poorly, Republican lawmakers are refusing to help their constituents who call them for help navigating the new law. They`re also trying to keep the government from funding the implementation so they can`t do a good job putting the law into place. In this new letter, Republican senators say that if Obamacare is not defunded, they will shut down the entire federal government. A dozen Republican senators, a dozen, signed that letter today. And all over the country, Republican governors have refused the federal government`s offer to pick up the bill for expanding their Medicaid program. No, no, we don`t want your free money to help our uninsured people. We just want to kill your law. And they`ve refused to set up health exchanges in their states and so the federal government has to swoop in and do it on their behalf. This is true even in states like Texas where the governor thinks health care should be run by the states. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) PERRY: It really is a state issue, and if there was ever an argument for the Tenth Amendment and for letting states find the solutions to their problems, this may be at the top of the class. (END AUDIO CLIP) KLEIN: So it`s a state issue when you want to secede, but when you`re given the chance to actually build the health law, yourself, make you own insurance marketplace, make it very Texasy, you leave it to the feds? Big the big news today, the new development in all of this, the icing on the repeal and reform, repeal and replace cake, is that Republicans are no longer arguing for secession. They`re no longer telling states to leave the Union. Now, they are telling the individual people to secede from the health care law. It`s like self-deportation, but self-secession. There is new reporting out today from "Reuters" that Republicans and their allies are gearing up to die again on this Obamacare hill. They`re going to launch a huge campaign to try and convince people to not buy health insurance, particularly young people, and to not accept the health insurance the government tries to give them, even for free. FreedomWorks has got the ball rolling with their two-week-old "Burn Your Obamacare Draft Card" campaign. You get it? Having the government help you get health insurance is like being drafted into fighting a war. It`s horrible. Everyone should rebel individually and then if you break your leg or you need your appendix taken out or you contract a communicable disease, you might go bankrupt, but hey, you went bankrupt in the name of freedom. And so, the anti-Obamacare cause will endure. The hope to kill health insurance lives on. The dream of scuttling Obamacare will never die. Even it f it means convincing the uninsured to remain uninsured. Joining us now is my friend, Jonathan Cohn, a senior editor at "The New Republic." Jon, it`s good to see you tonight. JONATHAN COHN, THE NEW REPUBLIC: Thanks for having me on the snow. KLEIN: So, let`s say they get the folks to burn the draft card and not take the insurance and they`re uninsured. What does freedom works say to a 23-year-old who in early 2015 gets into a car accident, needs medical treatment and then gets billed and can`t pay the bills? COHN: You know, that`s an awfully good question. You know, what we`re seeing here is really something I think is different than what we`ve seen before. I mean, this isn`t just fighting a law, isn`t just saying we want the law off the books. This is telling people who stand to benefit from the law -- hey, don`t take advantage of it. You know, it`s like telling people don`t take your Social Security checks because we don`t like the system. Don`t -- when you turn 65, don`t enroll in Medicare because it`s a bad idea. You know, I don`t know what they`re going to say to these people. The truth is there`s a reason we`re trying to make health insurance available to people. It`s because people get sick. They get in accidents and they end up in the hospital and are going to have very large bills. Here`s a chance to get health insurance so they don`t have the face the prospect of bankruptcy, so they can pay for their medical care. And you have groups like FreedomWorks out there saying, hey, don`t do this, it`s a bad idea. KLEIN: One of the things I find fascinating about this whole strategy is that, it means, I think, Obamacare as it rolls out is going to have incredible variation between states. So I don`t think this little Obamacare draft card thing is going to be much more than a blip on everybody`s radar. But you do at places like Texas are doing everything they can to make the health care law, which means to make their health care system in 2014 a huge disaster. And then you have California say, which has really worked hard to make it a success. You`re going to get into 2014 and 2015, and it`s very possible you could have California with a functioning pretty much universal health care system. And Texas a complete disaster zone from a health care perspective. And I don`t -- I don`t really understand, I think, myself, how the politics of that play out if it looks bad for the law or looks terrible for Rick Perry, that out of spite, he destroyed his state`s health care system. COHN: Yes, I don`t know how this plays out, either. I think it`s quite likely we will see a situation where not just California but places like Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Maryland, places where the officials are committed to making this work. It`s going to work pretty well. And then you have places like Texas or Georgia where not only the officials not interested in helping, they are, as you say, actively working to sabotage it. Now, I actually think even in those states, the system will work well enough. But I don`t know how people react. Do they get up and say, gee, this is a bad law overall? Or do the people of Texas and Georgia start going to their state officials and saying, hey, why are those people in Maryland getting all these benefits and we aren`t? KLEIN: Jonathan Cohn, senior editor at "The New Republic" -- thank you very much for your time tonight. COHN: Thanks for your time tonight. KLEIN: Still ahead, why is this woman bringing a cantaloupe to Congressman Steve King`s office? I`ll give you a hint. It`s not so they can have brunch together. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KLEIN: We`re keeping a watchful eye on the North Carolina state legislature tonight. Republicans have total control in North Carolina. They hold the governor`s mansion and supermajorities in both the House and the Senate. And today, today was slated to be the final day North Carolina legislature would be in session. In other words, today is a day when you cram everything through. Last night, state lawmakers presented Republican Governor Pat McCrory with a bill that bans courts from recognizing, court, foreign law, also known as Sharia law. So that got done. But there are also a few big- ticket items to keep an eye on. Democrats spent much of yesterday and today stalling one of the most far reaching voter suppression efforts in the country. North Carolina Republicans put forth a bill that goes after early voting and voter registration drives. And the icing on the cake, the bill bans certain forms of voter ID that ordinarily easily have been allowed in order to cast your vote. Despite the stalling tactic, Republicans in the Senate passed that voting bill tonight. It`s now back in the House, where it`s being debated as we speak. If it passes the House tonight, it will go to the govern desk for signature. And then, of course, there`s abortion. Earlier this month North Carolina Republicans set off a wave of protests across the state when they introduced an abortion bill that would have the likely effect of closing 15 of the state`s 16 abortion clinics, 15 of 16. That bill was eventually tacked on to a totally unrelated motorcycle safety bill, but it has sort of just been languishing in the Senate. That is until tonight. Republicans moved that abortion bill on to the official calendar then on to the Senate floor where it passed by a vote of 32-13. The bill now goes straight to the governor`s desk. Earlier today, opponents of that bill delivered petitions to the state capitol, containing more than 35,000 signatures. The petition tells the governor -- you promised, you promised you wouldn`t sign any bill that would restrict a woman`s right to choose, keep your word. So, it`s coming down to the wire in North Carolina tonight as we await the House`s vote on the voter ID bill and Governor McCrory`s decision on the abortion bill. You`re keeping an eye on it throughout the night, but you can also check for all of the latest developments. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KLEIN: They called it a dagger in the heart. When the U.S. Supreme Court threw out key sections of the Voting Rights Act last month, Democratic Congressman John Lewis said the decision, quote, "put a dagger in the heart of that law." For Mr. Lewis, the metaphor was one of outrage and lament because the Voting Rights Act kept states with a history of discrimination in elections from carrying out changes without first getting approval from the federal government. The Supreme Court ruled against that protection was a huge loss for progressives like John Lewis. Conservatives who oppose the reach the same conclusion about its fate, that the court had put a dagger in its heart -- though they tended to be happier about seeing that dagger there. You can tell by the way they responded to the news. Within hours of the ruling, Mississippi announced it would be going forward with a voter ID law that had not been approved by the federal government. Alabama announced that it, too, would be rushing ahead to the voter ID law. In Texas, the attorney general announced his state would put their voter ID law into effect immediately. According to data from the state of Texas, itself, up to 800,000 people in Texas would not have the kind of ID you would need to vote. And among all those people, Hispanic voters, more than twice as likely not to have the new acquired ID because all would have such a clearly, clearly discriminatory effect. The federal government had blocked that voter ID law until the Supreme Court threw out the key parts of the Voting Rights Act allowing that blocking. And Texas announced the discriminatory plan would start that same day, immediately. Texas had also been blocked by federal court for making another set of changes in election law. After the 2010 Census, Texas Republicans drew up new congressional districts with some interesting outcomes. Texas Republicans took away the seats of minority lawmakers and they configured the districts of white lawmakers so white lawmakers could more easily stay in office. A federal court noted that in the new maps, not one white member of the congressional delegation lost his or her seat to the new map. But black lawmakers -- black lawmakers woke up with their districts slipped right out from under them. The court ruled, quote, "The only explanation Texas offers for this pattern is coincidence, but if this was coincidence, it was a strange one indeed. It is difficult to believe that pure chance would lead to such results." The court decided, quote, "The plan was enacted with discriminatory purpose." But without the Voting Rights Act in the way, Texas did not need the permission ahead of time anymore, not for the voter ID time, with the discriminatory effect, and not for the redistricting plan with the discriminatory intent. The Supreme Court had put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act and Congress would not move to save it. So, that meant, that meant Texas and the other states had gotten extra scrutiny under that law, it meant they could do as they pleased or so it seemed. Today -- today, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government was not giving up on enforcing the right to vote. Mr. Holder said the federal government intends to start with Texas using a part of the Voting Rights Act that is still in place. He said that based on the discriminatory intent in the redistricting case and on the history of pervasive voting-related discrimination, the Justice Department was diving back in. "This is the first time the Justice Department has moved to protect voting rights since the Supreme Court ruled," he said, but, quote, "it will not be our last." It will not be our last. The power that the attorney general is invoking there has only been used in two states, 12 counties, two cities and two school districts according to the Justice Department`s own count. Texas conservatives as you can imagine are not happy about joining that list. Governor Rick Perry, quote, "Once again, the Obama administration is demonstrating utter contempt for our country`s system of checks and balances." Lieutenant Governor Greg Abbott, who is running for governor, said, quote, "I will fight Obama`s effort to control our elections." Texas congressman, Randy Neugebauer, "The attorney general`s announcements is outrageous." Senator John Cornyn, "Texas should not and will not stand for the continued bullying of our state by the Obama administration." You can hear the howls from Austin to the Potomac, but today, today in federal court, in San Antonio, the Justice Department cited that Texas history of racial discrimination in elections and they asked the court to put Texas back under special scrutiny for 10 years, and for however long beyond that, if the state discriminates again. So, for now, the Voting Rights Act may have been delivered a dagger to its heart. Voting rights action by the Department of Justice has not. Joining us now is Ryan Haygood of the NAACP legal defense and educational fund. Mr. Haygood, thank you very much for your time tonight. RYAN HAYGOOD, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: Ezra, thanks for having me on the show this evening. KLEIN: So how significant is holder`s move? HAYGOOD: This, you know, it`s hard to overstate the significance of the attorney general`s move today. What the attorney general signaled in a bold and very aggressive move is that the Department of Justice will use the remaining tools under the Voting Rights Act to ensure the voters of color are not made more vulnerable by the Supreme Court`s debilitating decision last month in the Shelby County Voting Rights Act case. This really is a moment where I think Congress can take its cues from the attorney general. The attorney general here having used its tools to ensure that voters of color are not made more vulnerable in this moment can receive a message of challenge to it. Congress, as your viewers know, in 2006, sought to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act in an overwhelmingly bipartisan way, 98-0 in the Senate, 390-33 in the House, and overwhelmingly found that the Voting Rights Act was needed for an additional period of time. Congress last week held two hearings both in the House and the Senate to revisit the places where the Voting Rights Acts protection are needed and it needs to continue to stay that course in this moment. KLEIN: When, inside the Voting Rights Act, itself, the part the Supreme Court invalidated was a part that gave the Department of Justice or the federal government, rather, a kind of authority over states with a deep history of racial discrimination. So what is the part that the Department of Justice is invoking now in order to try to put Texas back under extra scrutiny? HAYGOOD: Sure. So, there`s a provision in the Voting Rights Act, which is section 3-C, which provides where jurisdictions have intentionally discriminated in one aspect, particularly in voting, those jurisdictions can be subject to submitting their voting changes for preclearance or preapproval to the Department of Justice or to a three-judge federal court. Today, the attorney general filed papers in federal court in Texas asking the court to require that because of Texas` history of intentional discrimination in voting, particularly most recently in its congressional and state redistricting plans, that it should be required to submit its voting changes for preclearance for approval before they can be implemented. KLEIN: Can the attorney general do this in other states? And if so, which ones are they likely to target? HAYGOOD: Absolutely. I think there is an important moment now where the attorney general can look at the states and in your introduction you noted there were several states in the wake of the devastating Shelby County decision, have been talking about swiftly moving to implement discriminatory measures, whether it`d be in the early voting context, whether it`d be in the photo ID context, whether it be in other contexts, there`s an opportunity now to look at the entire country in those places where voter suppression tactics are proliferating, where voters of color are made particularly vulnerable and look to see whether it`s appropriate to attempt to bail in those jurisdictions under the Voting Rights Act coverage. KLEIN: You mentioned earlier the hearings in the House and Senate in the last couple weeks to look at reauthorizing and fixing the part of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court invalidated. When you watch those hearings, do they seem to you they were hearings that pointed towards an actual outcome, constructive outcome or kabuki theater that looked like they were going nowhere? HAYGOOD: You know, actually, I think there`s a reason to be very hopeful about our Congress acting in this moment. The Congress held hearings, as we mentioned, in the last week in the House and the Senate, in less than a month after receiving the devastating decision from the Supreme Court, and I think that the Congress is prepared now to engage in a robust discussion about the places in which protections are needed. Additional protections are need in the wake of the Supreme Court`s decision and in light of what states across the country are doing to aggressively make voting more difficult particularly for people of color. KLEIN: Ryan Haygood of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund - - thank you so much for being with us here tonight. HAYGOOD: Thanks for having me, Ezra. KLEIN: President Obama, President Obama`s going to do one huge, important, crucial thing about the American economy. He is going to do it very soon. And in all of his recent speechifying about the economy, he doesn`t even mention it. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KLEIN: There was something a bit weird about President Obama`s big, super hyped everybody absolutely had to watch it now economic speech on yesterday. His speech was all about laying out Obama`s long-term vision for the economy, what he would do now to set us up for growth later. But the speech didn`t even mention the single most important economic decision President Obama will make in his second term. It mentioned all these things that Obama would like to do and Republicans in Congress won`t let him do like infrastructure and these big education overhauls, but it didn`t mention the one thing he absolutely will be able to do. The one thing he`ll do that will matter most of all. And that is replacing this guy. That guy, the bald, bearded guy, that guy is Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. He is probably the most powerful economic policymaker in the world right now -- up to and including the president of the United States. That is the guy who in normal times pretty much decides how fast the economy is going to grow. He`s also the guy who basically decides how we`re going to regulate the financial sector and how we`re going to regulate mortgages and when we have a financial crisis or Europe has one or China has one, that is the guy who can create trillions of dollars out of thin air to save the entire global economy, which is what he did back in 2009 and 2008. That guy is a really important guy. So, so important. And we are pretty sure he`s leaving this year and Obama is going to name his replacement. And here`s the thing -- guys like that, and I should say up until now it has all been guys, although it doesn`t need to be all guys going forward. Guys like that stick around for awhile. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker who, by the way, is a guy who really deserves credit for breaking inflation and creating the economic boom of the Reagan years, he held the job for eight years. Alan Greenspan held it for almost 15. Bernanke has been around for eight. So, whoever Obama names to this position, they`re probably going to be in it long after Obama is out of office. And so, don`t get distracted by the speeches and the policy papers, that stuff is all important. I like me a policy paper. But that right now, that is economic politics as much as anything else. But this pick, Federal Reserve chairman, that`s going to be the most important economic policy decision Obama makes in his second term. Nothing else will even come close. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: You want a good bird dog? You want one that`s going to be aggressive? Pick the one that`s the friskiest, the one that`s engaged the most and not the one sleeping in the corner. If you want a pet to sit on the couch, pick the one that`s sleeping in the corner. You get to pick of the litter and you got yourself a pretty bird dog. Well, we`ve got to pick of every donor civilization on the planet because it`s hard to get here. They had to be inspired to come. We`ve got the vigor from the plane to come to America. (END VIDEO CLIP) KLEIN: That was last year. Back then, a lot of people were a little offended that Iowa Congressman Steve King analogized picking dogs to people who want to come to America. And then just the other day on the Spanish language network Univision, lead news person Jorge Ramos took Steve King to for his "immigrants are like dog" comments, which Steve King tried to suggest he never made. And so, the whole issue of Steve King super-race-baiting verbiage on immigration, it blasted right back to the surface of the news. But no matter how outlandish Steve King`s comments on immigration reform have been, and no matter how many times Republican leadership has tried to tell America that it bears no ill will towards immigrants, Republicans have generally failed to self-police Steve King at all, until, until Steve King said this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KING: There are kids that were brought into this country by their parts unknowing that they were breaking the law and they will say to me and others who defend the rule of law, we have to do something about the 11 million. And some of them are valedictorians. Well, my answer to that, by the way, their parents brought them in. It wasn`t their fault. It`s true in some cases. But they aren`t all valedictorians and weren`t all brought in by their parents. For every one who`s a valedictorian, there`s another 100 out there that -- they weigh 130 pounds and they`ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they`re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert. Those people would be legalized with the same act. (END VIDEO CLIP) KLEIN: So vivid. Calves the size of cantaloupes. I don`t think there a many groups of people who would take kindly as being painted as drug mules with huge calves. He did hear arguments, strident arguments against his comments from inside his own party. Late Tuesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said, quote, "I strongly disagree with his characterization of the children of immigrants and find the comments inexcusable." House Speaker John Boehner chastised King, saying, quote, "What he said is wrong. There can be honest disagreements about policy without using hateful language." Republican Congressman Raul Labrador called King`s comments irresponsible and reprehensible. Even with a solid smackdown from his own party, though, Congressman King still went on cable news last night to defend the statement. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KING: For every valedictorian, there are 100 per valedictorian smuggling drugs into the United States. And I think the numbers support that. I won`t back up on the statement. This isn`t something that just was made up out of thin air. (END VIDEO CLIP) KLEIN: Deep evidentiary backing for the valedictorian to cantaloupe sized calf drug mule ratio thing. Still not backing down, Congressman King. Neither is Speaker Boehner. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I want to be clear, there`s no place in this debate for hateful or ignorant comments from elected officials. Earlier this week, Representative Steve King made comments that were, I think, deeply offensive and wrong. What he said does not reflect the values of the American people or the Republican Party. We all need to do our work in a constructive, open and respectful way. (END VIDEO CLIP) KLEIN: When asked about Speaker Boehner`s calling his comments hateful and ignorant, congressman king had this to say today. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) KING: Well, my comments were anything but ignorant, they may have been the best informed in the entire United States Congress. So you should ask those people that I believe I said is not true, what do the think is true? What`s their number? How would they describe 80 percent to 90 percent of the illegal drugs that come into America? Where do they think they come from? They come from or through Mexico. (END AUDIO CLIP) KLEIN: Congressman King, still not backing down. The difference from the past this time, though, is that his own party is closing ranks against him. Of course, self-policing hateful rhetoric is not the same as legislating real reform. And who knows if that will ever happen. This self-policing and hateful rhetoric is a positive step towards getting something done and having a better dialogue, and toward saving, incidentally, the Republican Party from itself. Joining us now is NBC News producer Kasie Hunt. Kasie, thank you for being here. KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS PRODUCER : Thanks for having me, Ezra. KLEIN: This seems like a big deal. You`ve seen a little bit of it popping up before. On this particular issue, Republicans do seem to be policing the rhetoric and scared of the image they`re putting forward when folks like Steve King speak out like that. HUNT: The secret here is that even though in that same press conference, part of which you just showed, Boehner said that this would make it harder to pass immigration reform. In a lot of ways, it really makes it easier because it helps him define this right flank that`s opposed to immigration reform as something that`s out of the mainstream. Obviously, that`s not something that the speaker would ever say in public. But you have to remember, there is a lot of pressure on the GOP to pass something on immigration reform. It`s not just coming from the political aspects where we look at what happened in the 2012 election. It`s coming from the business community, which is a huge constituency of the GOP. It`s coming from agricultural interests. People who are really interested in seeing visa programs passed. There is a lot of support for the various pieces of this bill and Boehner, himself, has to walk a very careful tightrope. So, in some ways, Steve King has made his job easier. KLEIN: So implicit in that, is teems you`re saying Boehner is actually to some degree allied with those groups, those business groups, ag groups that want something passed. I mean, is that an accurate characterization of Boehner? It was a conventional wisdom on him but a lot of people began to think maybe to keep his own speakership, he saw this as too heavy a lift. Do you think he`s still on the side of passing the bill here? HUNT: I think that they don`t know exactly how this is going to play out still on that particular front. I posed a similar question to some of his aides earlier today. And I think, you know, they`re being very cautious in waiting to see exactly how the pressures shake out. They`re going to learn a lot when they go home in August and spend time with their constituents, get feedback in that way. And then you`ll come back in September and I think you`re going to start to see those pressures kind of fall out on either side. And you`ll see Boehner take a position at this point. I mean, there is an incredible amount of pressure on him to pass some sort of bill that can be viewed as a victory for the GOP when it comes to immigration reform, huge pressure. So does he want to pass something? Absolutely. What that will actually look likes still a question mark. KLEIN: One thing that happened in the bush years when they tried to take an immigration reform was you had Steve Kings of the world, saying things, and there also was a conservative rallying around effect around some of those folks. Not necessarily around particularly hateful language but around the kind of retrenchment approach to what was a George W. Bush/John McCain immigration joint at that point and Ted Kennedy, of course. That doesn`t seem to be happening. What I`m also not seeing is sort of the talk radio world or the sort of real conservative world rallying around either Steve King or frankly a lot of the sort anti-immigration folks in the House. It`s not that they don`t have power but they don`t seem to be the sort of clear voice of the conservative grassroots, at least at this point. HUNT: There`s definitely tension within conservatives. And you do have, like, the Ann Coulter wing of the party who are very aggressive or using the word amnesty, who are very against it, and that the Tea Party, whether it`s the Tea Party groups that are based in Washington or the Tea Party groups based in the states, they`re all very angry, say, at Marco Rubio for pushing this senate bill. You have to remember that the donors in the Republican Party as well as many of the quote/unquote "establishment" interests here, the ones who are airing ads about immigration are not those conservatives you mention. It`s not the fire breathing right wing. It`s essentially the mainstream of the party who`s saying, hey, you know, we have no future if you don`t do something here. KLEIN: NBC news producer Kasie Hunt, thank you very much for being here. HUNT: Thanks, Ezra. KLEIN: Believe it or not, the crazy, historic, unprecedented logjam in Washington may actually be kind of breaking up. Stuff may actually be about to get done. And the person breaking up the logjam, it`s kind of an amazing story. Standby. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) VOICE: Very interesting. KLEIN: Today was one of those days when finding out that the plague was discovered where lots of people like to go camping in Los Angeles. And I do mean the plague as in bubonic, as in killing off a third of the world`s population in the 14th century. That kind of plague. Today was the kind of day when the plague discovery was not actually the most alarming public health news of the day. Although, this little cartoon squirrel does look very alarmed, as I guess he probably should be. Maybe the plague started to not get a lot of attraction today because of what happened at a little private airport near Miami, Florida, called Opa- locka Airport. Midday today, we found that officials have found two open containers of depleted uranium that they did not know about. Surprise, we found depleted uranium in an airport near a major metropolitan area. The Miami Dade Fire Rescue Twitter feed sent out tweets with further developments like, a 150-foot parameter around the hazard has been evacuated and hazmat crew preparing to enter hot zone to assess severity of uranium hazard. Hot zone. We learned throughout the course of the day the depleted uranium was in solid form, is not a liquid or dust. That`s a good thing because it`s a lot easier to contain when solid. The depleted uranium was found on the parts of an airplane. Depleted uranium can be used on aircraft as a counter weight. And apparently the old plane with the depleted uranium on it had been dismantled at Opa-locka Airport. It was put in containers, but somehow, the containers became unsealed. They have been opened. We do not know how or why or who opened the depleted uranium containers. It is also still unclear tonight why those containers filled with the airplane parts, with the depleted uranium on them were sitting around the airport, or how officials happened to notice them or find out about them. Pretty much everything is still unclear. Opa-locka Airport says that they will definitely be investigating what happened there today. And, yes, please, investigate it. Humanity would appreciate an investigation. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It is well known that I have not been elected Ms. Congeniality in the United States Senate nor with the administration. I have a long record and the American people know me very well. And that is independent, and I`m a maverick of the Senate. And I`m happy to say that I`ve got a partner that is a good maverick along with me now. (END VIDEO CLIP) KLEIN: That was John McCain, declaring himself a maverick in a presidential debate with then-Senator Barack Obama. In years before he ran for president in 2008, John McCain was known for his rather frequent ability to cross the aisle, to buck his own party. He came out against torture of U.S. prisoners. He called for the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, cut the size of the Bush tax cuts. John McCain was a senator who knew how to get things done, even if it took working with Democrats. That is until he got closer to running for president in 2008, and then especially until Barack Obama beat him. After John McCain lost in 2008 election, he can kind of put away his mavericky cape during President Obama`s first term. Criticizing the president became John McCain`s new M.O., on -- well, you name it, President Obama`s Afghanistan policy, Obamacare. John McCain even led the effort to filibuster the repeal of "don`t ask, don`t tell." He kind of reinvented himself again, but this time, as a thorn in Barack Obama`s side and a very loyal Republican, until now. President Obama`s second term, now it seems that Senator John McCain may have dusted off that maverick cape and he is back to getting things done with Democrats. Take, for example, this past may, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill went head to head with Republican Senator Mike Lee on the need for a budget conference committee, something both parties used to agree on until now. Surprise, surprise, Mike Lee wants to block the conference. He called it a back room deal to move the budget to a conference. The Republicans have been demanding this for a long time. But as John McCain stepped in and bucked his Republican colleague. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MCCAIN: Again, I -- SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: It is an open process, anybody can come and listen. MCCAIN: And it is my understanding, since the budget conference is open to the public, it will also be broadcast on C-Span so that all the American people can watch what the deliberations are. So I do wonder, why would the senator from Utah say it is a backroom closed door deal, when the fact -- doesn`t the senator from Utah know that this is open to the public and seen by everybody? (END VIDEO CLIP) KLEIN: That was May. Then, a month later, John McCain decided the Senate Democrats on the comprehensive reform bill. Look, you can see him there. It`s Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, patting John McCain on the back. Big smiles all around, maverick John McCain, it is good to see you. Earlier this month, the Senate reached a last-minute agreement on executive branch nominations. And again, it was McCain that help get that that done, too. He was so integral for getting it happen that Senator Harry Reid got emotional just regarding it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: John McCain and I have worked together for a long time. I have worked with him for 31 years. And we`ve had some pretty difficult times together. But in the 31 years we`ve worked together, there is no one I have ever worked with that is more a man of his word or person of his word than John McCain. (END VIDEO CLIP) KLEIN: In that case, John McCain had helped to cut a deal to allow a whole bunch of President Obama`s cabinet level nominees to get a vote. Following the George Zimmerman verdict earlier this month, Senator McCain praised the president`s comments on race. He even endorsed the growing Democratic calls for review of stand your ground laws. The maverick seems to be making a comeback. My colleague Greg Sargent reported earlier this week that Democrats are crossing their fingers, hoping that John McCain will break from his party hoping to avert a potential government shutdown that Republicans have been threatened as of late. And it looks like he actually might. When asked about his Republican colleagues in their shut the government down threats, McCain said, quote, "Most Americans are really tired of those kind of shenanigans here in Washington." Just a couple of days ago, "Politico" reported that President Obama`s advisors now think they have found the one, and by the one, they are not talking about Michelle Obama, they are talking about, yes, John McCain. West Wing aides say they talk to John McCain every other day, since when, you might ask? Well, since John McCain teamed up with Senator Chuck Schumer. McCain, Schumer and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough are being described as a power triangle that is now making things happen in D.C. So what does it all mean? Well, we do not know how it will play out. And because Senator John McCain does have a habit of reinventing and changing things up every couple of years, sometimes even a couple of months. But for now, McCain`s maverick-ness means that the whole party line filibustering no compromise world in which we live, it might begin to unravel. Maybe, just maybe, we might begin to see a thaw in the usual Republican intransigence since John McCain leading a breakaway group of Republican senators who want to get things done. For four years during President Obama`s first term, House Republicans perfect symmetry with Senate Republicans. They essentially function as a unit. They voted against everything the president offered up. They filibustered all of it, Obamacare, Wall Street reform. But that perfect symmetry is breaking. The Senate is beginning to function again, that`s in large part thanks to Senator John McCain. And that means that the House is sort of its own, as the only part of government that is broken. If John McCain can help to break the fever in the Senate, if he can help break the gridlock there, then Republicans are not working as a unit anymore, it`s not the two parties fighting anymore. There`s no more, oh, it`s just Republicans versus Democrats. it is House Democrats alone, fighting anything from getting done. John McCain has redefined himself many times on the national political scene. But this latest role that he has carved out for himself, it could be his most interesting and most consequential one yet. That does it for us. Now, it is time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END