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

The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/25/13

Guests: Frank Pallone, Gina McCarthy

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Happy Hump Day. William Jefferson Clinton, Bill Clinton, was elected in 1992. Look at how young they were! Bill Clinton did not win a huge proportion of the vote in 1992, because there was a third candidate. Remember, Ross Perot was running and he got a big chunk? So, Bill Clinton didn`t win a huge proportion of the vote, but he won the most, he won enough to unseat the incumbent president at the time. He unseated the one-term Republican president affectionately known by everyone as Poppy Bush. Bill Clinton`s victory in 1992 ushered in not just his own presidency, but unified Democratic control of Washington, Democrats controlled the House, Democrats controlled the Senate, and Democrats controlled the White House. And, of course, that kind of thing cannot last. And it did not last, because in the first mid-term election that took place after Bill Clinton got elected president, the Democrats just got shellacked. Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992. It was 1994 when Republicans took more than 50 seats from the Democrats in the House. And in so doing, the Republican Party got control of the House for the first time since 1954. It was a huge loss for the Democrats and a huge wins for the Republicans. And because it had been so long, it really was a huge sea change in Washington. It had been 40 years since they had seen the Republicans in power in Congress. And what did they want to do with their newfound power, now that they were in control in more than 40 years? It turns out what they really wanted to do was shut down the government. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning. The U.S. government is officially broke this morning and preparing to shut down. A late-night meeting at the White House has failed to resolve the budget impasse that has left the country without the extensions of either the debt ceiling or spending authority. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At midnight, the machinery that pumps money into the federal government stopped, caught in the political battle between President Clinton and Congress. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The U.S. government locks the doors to museums and parks, another shutdown is in effect. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: After being out of power in Congress for 40 years, within just a few months of them taking over the House, the Republicans decided they wanted to shut down the government. That was under the leadership of Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. That was the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. They had two of them actually. They had a shorter one, and right after, that they had a longer one -- the longest one in history. And the shutdown was fantastically unpopular. And by huge margins, the country knew who they blamed for this stupid shutdown in Washington that they hated so much. By huge margins, the country blames Newt Gingrich and Republicans. And then the following year after the shutdown, that was when Bill Clinton had to run for re-election. And technically, Bill Clinton was running for re-election against Republican Senator Bob Dole. But really, it kind of felt like Clinton was running for reelection against Congress, against Newt Gingrich and his Republican Congress which shutdown the government. Bill Clinton ran for reelection as president against the Congress, and Bill Clinton was reelected in a landslide. Now, it`s a decade and a half later, and we have arrived again in 2008, and a new Democratic president. This time, the new Democratic president was elected by a pretty good margin. And again, his election not only put him in charge at the White House, it brought on a period of full Democratic control in Washington -- Democrats control the White House and the House and the Senate after the 2008 elections. And, of course, that is a situation that just doesn`t last very long. So, again, just like it happened with Bill Clinton, just like it happened last time, this time, with President Obama in the first mid-term election after the new Democratic president took office, the Democratic Party got shellacked again. Once again, Democrats took dozens of Democratic seats in the House, once again, the Republicans thereby took control of the House. So, that was the 2010 mid-terms. All the new Republicans, the new speaker, John Boehner, got sworn in, John Boehner got his gavel in 2011. And then once again, Americans got to see what the new Republicans wanted to do with their newfound power to control Congress. Deja vu all over again, turns out what they want to do right away, as soon as they get power, is shut down the government. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a night for anger and recrimination in Washington and around the country, as the clock ticks down to a shutdown of the U.S. government. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was only three months after the new Republican majority and John Boehner got sworn in. Only three months into it, they were already pushing the country right to the brink of a government shutdown. But that was only for them, the first shutdown. Three months later, ah, let`s do it again. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Washington meantime, the threat of a much larger federal shutdown and what the White House describes as a potential financial catastrophe looms tonight. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So, as soon as they took power, for the first time in years, House Republicans have the country on the brink of a government shutdown. That was within three months, then, they have the country on the brink of a debt ceiling default, that was within six months. That`s number one and number two. What did they do after that? Let`s go for number three, who-hoo! Why not? Ho! Ho! (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even though the campaign rages again, there`s another bipartisan fight over government spending here in Washington. The latest deadline to come to an agreement and avert a government shutdown Friday. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was number three. Number three in less than a year. The country going through three government shutdown or debt limit deadline disasters within the first nine months of Republicans taking power in the House. That is what they do with power when they get it. That`s what they did when they got control of Congress in 1994, and what they did when they got control back in 2010. And so that is how we spent 2011, racing down a winding, downhill, mountain road, in kind of a go-cart with bad steering and no brakes and there`s no guard rails on the side of the road, and we`re teetering over the edge every few minutes. It was a harrowing 2011. 2012 was less harrowing, Republicans were still in control. And there was therefore, still a lot of talk about whether we might go to the brink. But in 2012, we did have fewer actual trips to the end of the abyss, and maybe that`s because it was an election year and everybody knows that shutdown threats are really unpopular with voters, so many be that was something you didn`t necessarily want to do, right before people were going to vote in November. So, in 2012, for whatever reason, we had a little bit of a respite. But now, it`s an odd-numbered year and it`s all back. We were back to doing this again now, apparently. As you know, Texas freshman Senator Ted Cruz talked for 21 hours overnight. Then he stopped talking. The senator was not filibustering anything, he was not delaying anything happening in Congress. There was nothing in the legislative procedures, due to the fact that he was talking. Before he started talking, there was supposed to be a vote in the Senate midday today, and then after all the talking, there was still a vote in the Senate at mid-day today. And in that vote, the Senate, even Ted Cruz, voted with everybody unanimously. Ted Cruz voted with everybody after his 21-hour long stand saying he wouldn`t, they all voted the same way. So Ted Cruz` talking pageant had no material effect on what happened. Now, the vote on what happened after Ted Cruz talked today, may avoid a shutdown, we can tell later. But I think it is likely that a government shutdown can be avoided. We`ll be talking about that in more detail coming up on the show. But as far as I can tell from here, it is unlikely I think that a government shutdown will be avoided in the next few days, because remember, even before any of this got to the Senate, Republicans in the House voted to shut down the government. Yes, maybe, Ted Cruz may be the one who is just talking about that without consequences in the Senate, and then voting to go ahead anyway, right? But the House Republicans, they actually voted to do it. Republicans voted 228 to 1 in the House that the federal government should be shut down. And so yes, it looks like we are heading into a government shutdown. What is turning out to be fascinating, though, what is turning out to be fascinating in this process goes back to 1995 and the last time they did this. Remember, Republicans were blamed and hated for bringing about that shutdown as a way of trying to get their way back in 1995. The polls, frankly, look the same today. Poll says government shutdown threat unacceptable. No matter what else you think about the government, or the parties or even what you think about health reform specifically, nobody wants this shutdown that the Republicans are forcing. Quote, "While partisan divides may exist on a number of issues, the majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents all agree that threatening to shutdown of the government is not the way to negotiate." Quote, "Republicans, Democrats, independents and Tea Party supporters alike object to the threat of a shutdown." This is not a subtle thing. The political history from the 1995-1996 shutdown is not a forgotten history. There has been an effort in talk radio land to do a revisionist of the history to say, actually, America loved the shutdown, America loved Newt Gingrich, Republicans didn`t pay a price at all. And that revisionist history presumably to somebody else who was also elected president in 1996 who was not named Bill Clinton, that who has not gotten around to rewriting that particular chapter yet. There is a conservative effort to rewrite the history of what happened when Republicans shutdown the government. But that history is too dramatic and too recent for people`s real memories of what actually happened to be replaced with fake ones that are more ideologically convenient. It`s very clear, from history and it`s very clear from today`s polls, if you shut down the government, you will pay a price. History proves it and everybody knows it. The polls show it for this time around specifically. It is a clear thing. And so, because of that we have this fascinating dynamic going on right now in the right, where we are heading toward a government shutdown. Republicans are voting to shut down the government. But they are trying to avoid being blamed for it. And the genius strategy this time to avoid the fate of the Republican Party in the `90s is to say this time that the blame for any government shutdown rests not on the Republican Party as a whole, even though Republicans are voting for it and making it happen. The blame does not rest with the Republican Party as a whole. Rather, the blame all rests on one dude. The blame all rests on that guy. And it`s kind of a brilliant idea, because that guy sort of wants to be blamed. He wants to be the bad guy. He eats that for breakfast. He wants to be the Tea Party hero, broken but unbowed. Oh, they all hate me, I must be noble. He is a brand-new fresh Republican senator from Texas who doesn`t have to run for re-election until 2018. And between now and then, he will raise money hand over fist due to his martyrdom in the eyes of the particularly extreme conservative base. He thinks he can hold onto the seat forever and he can raise money from now until forever that he was martyred for this noble cause. He doesn`t care. He will take all the blame. He loves it. So this is the plan, right? It`s kind of a win-win if it works. If you can put all the blame on the Texas guy who loves being blamed for it, then you can still shut down t government. You can still vote for it, Republican member of Congress, but maybe this time you wouldn`t have to pay any price for it. And so, you`ve got this weird situation, where you`ve got guys like Republican Congressman Tom Cole, who`s part of the Republican leadership in the House, saying things like this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. TOM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA: Shutting down the government to you know, get your way over an un-related piece of legislation is the political equivalent of throwing a temper tantrum. It`s just not helpful. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: It`s a temper tantrum. It`s not helpful. We wouldn`t shut down the government. And then there is also Republican Congressman Pete King, Peter King, of New York., making the same case. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: We can`t be going off on these false missions that people like Ted Cruz wants to go on. The issues are too important. They`re too serious to require real conservative solutions, not keep the headline-hunting schemes. Hopefully, it will be a major step and letting people know that Ted Cruz is a fraud and he`ll no longer have any influence in the Republican Party. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Sure, blame it all on Ted Cruz, the fraud. Shutdown is a terrible idea. This terrible Ted Cruz idea. But you know what, Peter King, Tom Cole, if you guys think it is such a bad idea to shut down the government, why did you both vote for it? Why did you vote to shut down the government when you got a chance to vote for it last week? The Republicans vote for a shutdown was 228-1, and neither of you guys was the one. You guys are voting for it and trying to put the backlash on somebody else. They are trying to get the shutdown that their Republican politics demands while taking none of the blame for it, because they know what happened in 1995. They know how badly it hurt them the last time the Republicans did it and they know it will happen again. Government shutdown, set to begin in six days, and there sits history just waiting to repeat itself. Joining us now is Frank Pallone. He`s a Democratic congressman of New Jersey. He was there serving in Congress in the last time Republican shut down the government in 1995. And now he is watching this new shutdown drama unfolds again. Congressman Pallone, thanks very much for being here tonight. REP. FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW JERSEY: Thank you. MADDOW: When Republicans did this in 1995 in the Clinton era, it was pretty disastrous for them politically both in the polls at the time and in the next election. Did you and your fellow Democrats at the time know how it would turn out when it was happening? PALLONE: No, definitely not. I mean, they were clearly ideologically driven then as they are now. But I don`t think anyone necessarily knew that they were going to be blamed for it. But I don`t think there is any doubt that that will happen again. I just hope it doesn`t happen because of the damage it does to the government and economy. MADDOW: In terms of the lessons learned from that time, obviously having gone from the longest government shutdown in history, we saw some of practical effects. As you say, the real harm done for shutting down the government for that long, including the start-up costs of getting it back open again after the shutdown. Is there anything politically that Democrats learned from them? Lessons that you might expect Democrats to draw on this time around as we sort of experience the same thing again? PALLONE: Well, I think it`s our obligation to continue to say that we don`t want this to happen. And to constantly say, look, we`re reaching out to the Republicans. We`d like to sit down with them. We`d like to negotiate with them. And that certainly this shouldn`t be linked in any way to the health care reform, to Obamacare. I mean, it makes no sense. I know you didn`t mention that. But that`s what they`re all saying, this right wing ideology, such as I want my way and there shouldn`t be any Obamacare. It should be delayed or defunded. And it makes no sense. I mean, that`s not going to happen. We`re all -- so many people are anticipating being able to sign up for health insurance. And so, I think we just have to continue to make the point. We don`t want this to happen. We want to sit down with them. But you know, so far they`re not offering to negotiate or sit down with us at all. And as you know, they`re in charge with the House. So, they -- if they don`t make the offer, there is not much to do other than to say this is not a good thing. MADDOW: Congressman, one of the things that has been discussed with more and more frequency, I think, as we`re getting closer and closer to the deadline, is this idea that the Republicans urgency around this, they`re sort of desperation to try to do anything they can to stop the Affordable Care Act, to stop health reform, is because people are going to like having health insurance, that people are going to like this problem -- this program, that it`s going to be politically popular especially in the long run and it`s gong to almost structurally improve Democrat`s chances, and Republicans just can`t let something like that get locked in the way the New Deal got locked in and Social Security got locked in, and Medicare got locked in, and ways that Democrats` political benefit for generations to come. What do you think of that argument? PALLONE: I think it`s true. I mean, I think that, you know, ideologically, a lot of right wing Republicans are very much opposed to Obamacare, and part of it is because they do realize it could be successful. And this is the last opportunity in their mind to derail it. But it`s not going to be derailed. I mean, what they forget is the president won the election. And during the election, Romney was saying he would repeal Obamacare if he became president. People voted for Obama instead of Romney. We have a Democratic majority in the Senate. So they`re just -- they`re trying to redo the election and that is not going to happen. So you know, I think the best thing is look, let`s try to see if there is some way to convince the Republicans between now and Monday that this is not wise. That this is not going to happen in terms of defunding Obamacare, that for the good of the country, they need to sit down with us and come up with a budget that we can agree on. MADDOW: Congressman Frank Pallone, Democrat of New Jersey, thank you for your time tonight, sir. It`s nice to see you. PALLONE: Thank you. MADDOW: Thank you. All right. We`ve got lots ahead tonight, including a big get for us on the interview. Somebody from the administration we wanted to talk to for a very, very long time. That is straight ahead. Stay with us. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: Richard Dean is a 49-year-old Vietnam veteran who worked for the Social Security Administration for 22 years now. Last year, he was hard at work in the federal building in Oklahoma City when the blast killed 169 people and brought the rubble down all around him. He re-entered that building four times. He saved the lives of three women. But Richard Dean`s story doesn`t end there. This last November, he was forced out of his office when the government shut down. And the second time the government shut down, he continued helping Social Security recipients, but he was working without pay. On behalf of Richard Dean and his family, and all the or other people who are out there working every day, doing a good job for the American people, I challenge all of you in this chamber, let`s never, ever shut the federal government down again. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So there is a new version of "American Gladiators" that was on TV over the last couple of years. And in the new version of "Gladiators," everybody is very fit and shiny and they compete in obstacle courses and they`re very good at it. So, the whole show makes everybody look like super heroes, right, like boom, bam, boom, I`m doing all right. But when I was a kid, watching the old version of "American Gladiators", that was the opposite. That was basically a show about failure, about how impossible everything is, and how there is no way you were going to be able to compete at this stuff because it was designed to make you fail and it will make you fail. Yes, technically, there is a way to run up that backward treadmill, or not fall off that rolling thing, or dogs, that giant (INAUDIBLE). But not really, you are going down, get humble, America, right? And it is this old failure guaranteed version of "American Gladiators" that I think most resembles what we have to go through now in order to avoid the Republican shutting down the federal government. None of this is about Ted Cruz talking for 21 hours. That was just for show. That had no effect on the process. But what happened today in Congress, regardless of Mr. Cruz`s speech, the vote that happened today after he was done talking started us into this obstacle course that theoretically can be navigated, in one very specific, very demanding, very narrow way. But the process, frankly, offers a million opportunities for a shutdown, any wrong turn, at any step, and, splat, you`re off the platform, bang. It only offers one basically narrow unlikely path to not having a shutdown. So, today was the first hurdle. The Senate voted to jump into the obstacle course and start their debating and voting process. That was the vote at mid-day and that vote passed. Had that vote failed, we would have had a government shutdown. Next, the Senate will vote again on a bill to keep the government funded and leave health reform as it is. That will have to happen by this weekend. If that vote passes, we`ll move on to the next obstacle. If that vote fails, we will have a government shutdown. If the bill doesn`t fail, it does actually move on, we have not been splated off our platform as American gladiators, what will happen next is the next obstacle. The bill will go back to the House, which, of course, is controlled by Republicans who just voted 228-1 for a government shutdown. If the House decides to vote on it and votes it down, hey, guess what, we have a government shutdown. If the House decides to vote on it, and votes it down, hey, we got a government shutdown. The only way we don`t have a government shutdown is if the Senate passes, then the it goes to the House, then the House decides to take it up, then the House passes it, and if any one of those steps doesn`t happen or even if they all do happen, but it all doesn`t happen before Monday, then we have a government shutdown. We`re going to have a government shutdown. A government shutdown is going to happen within the next few days, unless this very, very specific series of things happens in record time. It is an obstacle course that is much easier to fail at than it is to succeed. And all the while, tick tock, this is a time limited process. Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Let`s say you`ve just started a really high profile job as a top tier government official. And as part of being a high profile top tier government official, you have to go to Congress and answer questions from members of Congress about the thing that you do for the government. And even though you know the questions are probably going to be contentious, and there`s going to be show-boating and grand-standing, and a bunch of the members of Congress who you`re going to be facing voted against your confirmation and don`t want you to have your job, still, you know what? You go. You got to do it. It`s part of your job. Honestly though, you`re probably dreading it. And it is definitely going to be a little nervous making, right, every time you do it, but you go. And you get to this hearing and you get your place at the table. And you turn around to see who else is there in the room with you and this is what you see. What you see staring back at you is a whole bunch of people in the audience in this congressional hearing who have wrapped their heads in aluminum foil. That`s your audience. What do you do in this scenario? That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: If you fish, if you`re a person who enjoys fishing, as I do, you might be familiar with this tiny little guy. This is a fat head minnow. If you are fishing for bass and you`re going to the bait shop, and you are buying minnows, if you are lucky, you are probably getting this guy or somebody he is related to. And yes, that is sad for him. But I come for myself by telling myself that bait somehow does not know it is bait. I realize I`m fooling myself. Fat head minnows live all over North America. They are used as bait a lot. People stock them as food fish, for the bigger fish that they want to fish for in their lakes and ponds. Fat head minnows are also used to help us figure out if our water is toxic. In this building in Duluth, Minnesota, the Environmental Protection Agency grows fat head minnows, we`re minnow ranchers, you and I. We grow these little guys by the thankful, and the EPA uses them in testing about whether there are toxic elements in the air and in the water. They are specifically helpful apparently in helping sniff out toxic elements that affect the endocrine system. The EPA has been doing this kind of testing for a long time. They have even this sort of awesome training videos that teach their employees how to do it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NARRATOR: The fat head minnow is used in toxicity tests at various life stages. This video presents method developed over the last twenty years at the EPA`s mid-continent ecology division in Duluth, Minnesota. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You know, 2009 does not sound like it was all that long ago until you see a training video made in 2009, and it feels like, where is the DeLorean? Anyway, this 20 years worth of fat head minnow work at the EPA has been kind of a low key thing. It`s not really been the subject of headlines, until it started getting a few now. With the government shutdown becoming more and more likely with each passing hour, the EPA and several other government agencies, it had to make very granular decisions about which daily functions of their part of the federal government they`re going to keep doing. It may seem like a small point in the grand scheme of shutting down the largest government on earth. But honestly, a decision has to be made, right, if the government shuts down, and people who work for the agencies stay home and all the discretionary funding for everything does shuts off like a tap, what happens to the minnows? Those minnows in Duluth may or may not be enthralled with John Boehner and political arguments about whether or not to shut down the government. But if John Boehner decides to shut down the government, the minnows don`t have to eat. It turns out the decision has been made, the minnows will be spared in the shutdown. The EPA has found a way to keep at least someone on the job in Duluth to not let all the fish die even if the government shuts down. The rest of the EPA, though, pretty much will have to close. The EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, said this week that a government would effectively close the agency`s doors. The government doesn`t automatically shutter every agency. You know, troops don`t necessarily get recalled from their forward-operating bases or anything. But the parts of the budget that are discretionary, like say the EPA, those parts get hit the hardest. Without a budget deal to keep the government open, the EPA, like many other agencies is not going to be able to pay its employees. In the case of the EPA, that`s about 17,000 people. So, the vast majority of those people will be sent home while their work doesn`t get done. And if you believe that the EPA ought to exist, you probably think there is never a good time to shut it down. But even if you don`t usually kind thoughts about the EPA, maybe this seems like a particularly bad time for this particular agency to shut down. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More spills emerging from a Colorado oil patch ravaged by flooding. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have learned of three additional oil spills today, bringing the gallons spilled into the floodwaters to more that 34,000. That`s about 800 barrels. The state is tracking 11, quote- unquote, "notable spills". UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: State officials say most of the oil is coming from notable releases from the South Platte River. During the flood, 1,900 oil and gas wells were shut down in Northern Colorado, about a third has since reopened. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Massive flooding that ravaged parts of the state of Colorado last week happened to hit that part of the state that have been experiencing an oil and gas boom in the last few years. There are 20,000 active oil and gas wells in that parts of Colorado that were hardest hit by the floods. Now, one of the many challenges facing lawmakers and residents in Colorado is they start rebuilding is how to make sure their drinking water is safe, how to make sure that those 11 notable oil spills leaking into the flood waters are not going to make people sick, and not just now, but in an ongoing way. The EPA is one agency in Colorado trying to figure it out. A local environmental activist in Colorado said yesterday, quote, "We have serious concerns that because the state has so few inspectors and regulators, the oil industry is out there self-policing. We need EPA to step in and make sure the public and the environment are protected." We need the EPA to step in and make sure the public is protected. That is just one environmental disaster in one state that makes you feel like maybe it is a bad time for the EPA to have to pull down the shutters and go home indefinitely. But even with the threat of shutdown getting closer and closer, even with the hard decisions that that details, everything from those federally owned live minnows in Duluth, and to the dig out from the floods in Colorado, even with that bearing down on us in general, and the EPA in particular, that agency is also in the middle of making some of the highest high profile decisions in the past few years. Just past week, the EPA made an announcement that people who believe in science have been waiting for, for a long time. Ever since President Obama elected and specifically ever since he promised in his State of the Union addressed this year that he would act alone on climate change, even if Congress would not act. The EPA has just announced the first-ever regulation that limited how much carbon pollution, power plants, can be belched into the air. And they are tough new standards telling power plants to adhere to a lower level of pollution than even the most efficient plants have achieve today. But the new rules only apply to plants that don`t exist, plants that are not built yet. The 6,500 power plants that are already operating in the United States right now are not affected by the new rule at all. So how much of a difference is this new rule going to make anyway? When President Obama gave his big climate speech back in June of this year, he vowed that his administration would enforce tough new standards on all power plants, on new and existing power plants. He vowed that the old ones wouldn`t just be grandfathered in, so they can continue to pollute as much as they want, since after all, they pollute the most. The rules for plants that do not exist are the new rules that are out now. The rules for the thousands of plants that do exist, for those we`re supposed to wait another year at least. Why do we have to wait? If President Obama and the EPA are able to do this without needing to seek the approval of the climate change denialist caucus in Congress, why not just go all the way? Why not do it now? Joining us now for the interview is our nation`s administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy. It`s very nice to have you here. Thank you so much for being here. GINA MCCARTHY, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: It`s great to be here, Rachel. Thanks. MADDOW: So why the decision to make the rule for only new power plants now? Why do we have to wait until next year for any new rules about existing ones? MCCARTHY: Well, actually, Rachel, we announced existing ones, we announced the new plant standards that we are proposing. I`m going to take public comments on those. At the same time, we`ve launched the discussion necessary for us to lay out the proposals next June for existing power plants. So we`re doing both. We`re doing them in sequence. We know all we need to know about new plants and how to keep the plants functioning into the future. Using new technologies, reducing carbon, hopefully, taking our first big step in the president`s climate plan to address climate change -- which is really our most pressing public health threat. MADDOW: Power plants put out about 30 or 40 percent of the greenhouse gases that we have right now. Obviously, all of those are from existing plants. And those are regulations we have to wait for, do we have to wait another year because those regulations are going to be harder, harder to figure out scientifically? MCCARTHY: We have to -- we have to -- we`re not waiting, we have to have conversations with the states. The way in which the existing power plants need to be regulated is we have to work hand and hand with the states, because the EPA sets a guidance, but the states actually give us the plan for how much they can reduce in ways that make sense for those states. And we are pretty excited. We actually think we can get significant reductions from existing plants. But we need to do it in a way that is smart, that has common sense, and a way that allows states to tailor their approaches in a way that will build infrastructure that makes sense for those states. (CROSSTALK) MADDOW: -- have already been leading on it -- MCCARTHY: Many, many. Many, many. We have states. We have states that have renewable fuel standards, that have energy efficiency standards. You have 10 states in the mid-Atlantic and New England that already have the carbon trading reduction trading program. You have the state of California who`s always way out in front of this, that has their own program to reduce carbon. States have been doing it for years. Cities have been doing it for years. Mayors know that the climates have been changing. There are things that they can do that are important for them to keep their communities safe. They also know that the thing you need to do for climate, it is tremendously important for e economic bottom line for both families and cities. You can do things that make sense economically. You can drive a clean energy agenda. And you can address climate change in a very serious common sense appropriate economically viable way. MADDOW: If -- staying on that issue of the existing 6,000 or whatever power plants that we`ve got, if that is a process that is regionally tailored, that`s is looking for best cases, not just looking for best cases and applying them nationally, but also letting states and even localities finding their way, are in a -- are we looking at a future where to be blunt, states with more conservative politicians have dirtier air, and have more asthma because they`re allowed to -- they don`t believe in climate science. They don`t believe that global warming is real. They don`t want to eliminate carbon emissions, and those places end up not just because economically poor but also environmentally poor. MCCARTHY: I think there are two things we need to do. First, we have to look at the new source standard. Now, I know that that`s about future power plants, but every power plant will last for dozens of years. In fact, up to 70 years. And so, we wanted to send a signal that there -- the future is carbon constrained. The present needs to be carbon constrained. You have to use the newest technologies while you keep diverse fuels going forward. That`s the first thing that we`ve put out. Now, the second thing that we need to do with communities is that we are actually going to set a guidance. We are going to be having that guidance set it as aggressively as we can. But that is a performance standard. We`re just going to allow states to look at the most meaningful way to approaching that standard, so that it`s cost effective for them, they continue to grow the economy, but they a wealth of opportunities to that in a way that will reduce carbon. (CROSSTALK) MCCARTHY: Rachel, dealing with climate change is not going to be resolved by these rules. We need to get moving. We need to act now. That`s what the president said. This is part of the overall effort. If we do it in a way that shows people they don`t have to be afraid of a carbon constrained world, they can move forward. It can benefit consumers. It can benefit states. It can make us all more efficient. That is what we need to start moving on. MADDOW: You have a reputation as a pragmatic person, you have a bipartisan history. You`ve worked with a lot of Republicans in Congress. In the last hearing that you are in Congress that I know about -- and forgive me if you were there since -- there were a bunch of people sitting in the audience wearing the foil hats, to symbolize the climate change denialism, the sort of flat earth society of conservatives who refuse to believe that climate change is happening. How do they get over it? How -- is the debate getting any less denialist over time? And do you -- how do you see that issue resolving? MCCARTHY: I think it is. MADDOW: OK. MCCARTHY: I think it changed dramatically. I think the president having the courage to stand up and do what he did in his speech was to talk about how the climate science is certain. Humans are causing the climate change, they`re fuelling it. And we need to take action now. I don`t think those are messages that are being taken. MADDOW: You think those are sinking in? MCCARTHY: Oh, I do. I do. I do, I think people`s attitudes are changing. I went to Iowa the week after I was confirmed. I went there to talk to the agriculture community. There wasn`t a farmer there that was denying that the climate has already changed. They need help. We have over a thousand mayors, bipartisan, that have been dealing with climate issues and are committed to deal with it. They can`t afford not to. They can`t be climate deniers. Look at poor Boulder, Colorado -- are they denying climate? Are they looking at EPA? The sole federal agency whose mission is to protect public health and the environment as a discretionary agency right now? We`re not discretionary. Right now, we need to tell Congress that they have to pass a budget. They can and they must do that. These are essential services now and in the future. MADDOW: Gina McCarthy, head of the Environmental Protection Agency -- I was really looking forward to have the chance for you to be here tonight. Thank you so much for coming. MCCARTHY: Me, too, Rachel. Thank you. MADDOW: Thanks a lot. MCCARTHY: Take care. MADDOW: All right, new news for Virginia coming up. Because it is political news about the governor`s race, naturally, it is slightly not safer work. So, tuck the kids in bed and then come back for that. It`s coming right up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Here is one way you know your campaign for governor is not necessarily turning out the way you wanted it to turn out. When you get to this point in the campaign and the subsection of your Web site that`s called "the truth about you", in this case "the truth about Ken", that section of your Web site has the following subsections -- OK, so, there is divorce. And yes, that says sodomy. Wait a second, sodomy? The truth about Ken, sodomy. This is your own Web site. Yes. This is your own Web site, and this is not the Web site of someone who is sailing into the governorship. But this is what`s going on right now in the biggest political contest in the country. It turns out things are still going downhill and going downhill in the weirdest way possible in Virginia. And that story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Biggest political race in the country now is the Virginia governor`s race. And when we last checked in on the Virginia governor`s race between Republican attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, and the Democrat in the race, Terry McAuliffe, it seems like it was going to be a really close race. It`s purple, Virginia, right? It`s going to be neck in neck. Could go either way. Now, a trend is emerging in this race as it heads into its final weeks. Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican in the race, is losing. He`s losing in a new NBC/Marist poll by five points. It`s 43-38. Ken Cuccinelli is losing in a new "Washington Post" poll by eight points, 47 to 39. So, Ken Cuccinelli is losing, and he`s losing especially among women in Virginia. We talked before how in this race, there was this remarkable 18-point gender gap, women preferring McAuliffe over Cuccinelli by 18 points. That was earlier this month. Well, now, look at this -- among women, Cuccinelli its losing women by 18 points. Now, he`s losing women by 24 points. There is now a 24-point gender gap in this race. Virginia women do not like Ken Cuccinelli. So, given that distance that Cuccinelli needs to make up with women Virginia, it might seem like now would be a weird time for the pro- Cuccinelli side to start launching ads that accused Terry McAuliffe of supporting abortion rights. But weirdly, that`s what`s happening right now in Virginia. A group called Virginia Principals Fund is running this ad, running it a lot. It`s a huge ad buy, hoping that I guess this will help Ken Cuccinelli. One might argue is more likely to make Virginia women favor Ken Cuccinelli even less than they already do that Terry McAuliffe supports abortion rights and Ken Cuccinelli doesn`t. The Virginia Public Access Project reports that the generic-sounding PAC that`s running this ad is actually just funded by one guy, a hedge fund guy in New York who gave hundreds of thousand of dollars to this PAC that`s running the abortion ad. Hedge fund guy, Robert Mercer, is not only the Virginia Principal Fund`s biggest donor, he is their only donor. He has given them a whopping 600 grand, which is all the money they have got. And, of course, nobody is a loud to donate $600,000 to Ken Cuccinelli`s campaign, but doing it this way is effectively the same thing with a nice tidy way around the law. Back in 2010, do you remember the Art Robinson election? Art Robinson was the Republican who was running in Oregon trying to unseat a 12-term Democratic congressman named Peter DeFazio. Art Robinson said that global warming was a secret plot to make the American people into slaves. Art Robinson said we should sprinkle nuclear waste in the oceans and maybe around our school yards. Art Robinson was hard to talk to. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: One of the things that happens in satellite interviews, is there`s about 1 1/2-second delay between me asking a question and you hearing it. So you can interpret that as -- (CROSSTALK) MADDOW: -- as it is just the way the medium works. I`m sorry it has been so awkward for you. ART ROBINSON: No, no, your interruption was not caused by the delay. That`s the speed of light. Madam, it`s much faster than that. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: My head still kind of hurts from that not just from the banging on the desk. Art Robinson, the Republican congressional candidate in Oregon who truly believed in the many health benefits of exposure to radioactivity, so much so we should sprinkling a little bits of radioactive material in our vegetable patches and our schooling yards for our health. The guy who believes that global warming is a conspiracy to enslave America and also AIDS is a myth, or maybe AIDS is a government conspiracy, too. Art Robinson was amazing. But some secret donor spent a couple hundred thousand dollars on pro-Art Robinson, anti-Peter DeFazio ads. And this is a little district in Oregon where that kind of money doesn`t usually get spent. But in 2010 it was, because of the secret donor. That one secret donor in the Art Robinson race in 2010 turned out to be, Robert Mercer. Same dude. Same guy who`s doing the Ken Cuccinelli abortion ads right now. Robert Mercer was one of two big time donors, in fact, who tried to deliver a congressional seat to wacky Art "eat your radioactive vegetables" Robinson. And now, he`s trying to do the same thing with Ken Cuccinelli. As voting gets under way in the great commonwealth of Virginia, in this race closes in on its final days, the Cuccinelli side seems to be returning to Ken Cuccinelli`s roots. You might remember when he was a state senator, he posted a campaign ad in which he solicited donations using a stuffed elephant named Ron. Ron wants you to give Ken money. The 2013 version of that weird ad rooks like this -- a 30-minute infomercial in which she speaks directly to many cameras, switching so frequently between them it looks like he is watching a tennis match from about three inches away. Then, there`s also the amazing fact check page on his Web site with the quick link to Truth About Ken. Subsection, sodomy, and Homeland Security, circa 2007, Ken Cuccinelli`s sodomy looks like threat level orange, as far as I can tell. Out on the campaign trial, you are so tired of answering questions about sodomy that this is a real time saver. You have off to put it on your Web site. Virginia governor`s race is an amazing campaign. Sometimes, elections in odd number years turn out to be the oddest thing of all. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END