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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/30/13

Guests: Charles Schumer, Jennifer Palmieri, Sherrod Brown, David Wasserman

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thanks to you at home as well for staying with us tonight. Home base for our show is in New York City, which you may know, but tonight I am here in Washington, D.C., because we are on government shutdown watch, and it looks like it is about three hours away. I will, as I just said to Chris, also be back live tonight at midnight eastern. Midnight Eastern is when the shutdown is expected to go into effect, barring any last-minute developments. President Obama called the threatened shutdown the height of irresponsibility, saying, quote, "It does not need to happen." We`re going to be talking with the White House communications director in just a couple minutes. We are right now awaiting movement in the Senate. Just this past hour, House Republicans voted again to make funding of the government contingent on delaying the implementation of health reform. Sometime just in the next few minutes, the Senate is expected to reject what House Republicans just passed. They`ve done it before. They`re expected to do again. Then the thing will go back to the House, rinse, repeat, ad nauseam. If nothing changes, we shut down at midnight. At this hour, House Republicans are expected to be meeting behind closed doors to plan their next moves. Throughout the night, of course, we will bring you live, breaking news as it comes in. When President Obama was first elected in 2008, he, of course, came to Washington with something every president wants, a House and a Senate controlled by his own party. And in the two years where the Democrats had the White House, the House and the Senate, we got Wall Street reform, student loan reform, credit card reform, health care reform, obviously, the Fair Pay Act, expanding of the G.I. Bill, they reauthorized the Children`s Health Insurance Program, expanded national service programs. They fixed the disparity between crack versus powdered cocaine. We got the 9/11 First Responders Bill. We got the Hate Crimes Act. They ratify the START Treaty between us and Russia on nuclear weapons. They repealed "don`t ask, don`t tell". They did the cash for clunkers. They did the stimulus, which included the greatest middle class tax cuts ever. That was all done by the Congress that was elected at the same time as President Obama in 2008. They were elected in November of 2008. They were sworn in in January of 2009, and in the next two years, they got all of those things done. Then the Republicans did really well in the midterms, and the Republicans took control of the House for the first time in years, and John Boehner became speaker. And since then, there has not been a single significant piece of legislation enacted into law. There have been a couple of trade bills. There was a bill that seemed to be inspired by a "60 minutes" segment about whether or not members of Congress get insider trading tips in the course of doing business in Congress, but yes, nothing. Nothing. No significant legislation since John Boehner got the speakership. The Republicans won the elections in November 2010. They were sworn in in January 2011. Since then, zero, zip, nothing in terms of legislative accomplishment. And that, of course, is because they have been otherwise occupied. After getting sworn in in January, by April, they threatened to shut down the government. That was April. By July, Republicans had forced the first ever debt ceiling crisis in American history. We got our national credit rating downgraded for that one until they eventually blinked and decided they didn`t want to keep going. By September of that same year, Republicans were threatening another government shutdown. By April of the following year, more threats from Republicans of another government shutdown. By December, by this past December, happy New Year! Republicans were pushing us over the fiscal cliff! By January, this past January, congressional Republicans were talking about forcing another debt ceiling crisis before again backing down. And now, happy September 30th, we are due for that often threatened Republican shutdown before tonight is through. This is not an accident that just keeps happening over and over again. Republicans control one half of one branch of government, and they have never had any plan to use that control to pass anything into law. If they had had that kind of plan, they might have passed something into law, but they haven`t even seriously tried. We are deep into year three of them running the House now, and we`ve got zip from them in terms of law or policy. And we`re at seven and counting when it comes to can`t keep the lights on failures of basic governance, and that is just as they planned it. In September 2010, just a few weeks before the midterm elections, where the House Republicans won their majority and won back control of the House, a Republican congressman from Georgia, Lynn Westmoreland, he spoke to a conservative audience at a Christian Coalition event, the Faith and Freedom Conference, and he exhorted that conservative crowd that the Republicans were going to need their support when they move to shut down the government. Again, this is ahead of the election. They were already planning on shutting down the government even before they got elected that November. Congressman Westmoreland said Republicans were going to do it again this time, just like the last time they did the last time they took power in the House after the 1994 elections. The audio here is a little sketchy, but lucky we had a transcript. So, check this out. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) REP. LYNN WESTMORELAND (R), GEORGIA: He can tell you what happened. The government shut down. (APPLAUSE) That`s what I wanted to hear! I wanted to hear a good clap for that. Because here`s what`s going to happen. If we hold the line, if we get those courageous men and women to be part of our majority, if we say, look, we`re in partnership with the American people, we`re listening to the American people. This is what we`re going to do. If the government shuts down, we want you with us. (APPLAUSE) We want you with us. We`ve got to have you. We`ve got to have you there because later on, you all will call us and say, look, I didn`t get my check. Daddy can`t go to the VA. You know, the national parks are closed. We need to make sure that you`re going to be with us. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: We need to make sure that you are going to be with us when we shut down the government, which we will do if we win the majority this year. That was before the 2010 election. When we get the majority, we`re going to shut down the government. That was the plan from the beginning. That was what they were promising to their own base and getting cheers for from their own base if they got the majority. That`s what they`d do. And then they got the majority and then they followed through. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will do what we have to do to shut down the government, if we have to. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you think even if that were to happen, theoretically, it wouldn`t be as bad as people make it out to be? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I don`t think it would be, I really don`t. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think shutdown should be off the table? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything ought to be on the table. JOE WALSH (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: I`ve got to tell you, most people in my district say shut it down. This country very well may need some sort of shock therapy. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would it be a good thing fiscally and philosophically if the government did shut down for a few weeks and the American people could see life would go on without the federal government for a little while? FORMER REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: I don`t think it would hurt one bit. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even if it means showing how serious we are, OK, government`s going to have to shut down. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If liberals in the Senate would rather play political games and shut down the government instead of making a small downpayment on fiscal discipline and reform, I say, shut it down. (APPLAUSE) CROWD: Cut it or shut it! Cut it or shut it! Cut it or shut it! (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: Shut it down! Cut it or shut it! Cut it or shut it! That`s how they campaigned for office in 2010. That`s what they promised they would do if they were elected in 2010. And that is what they started to do as soon as they were elected in 2010. This was their whole idea for governance. This was their whole idea for why it`s worth it to even try to have some control of some lever of American governmental power. And so, within a matter of weeks after they were sworn in, in January 2011, Republicans were giving John Boehner a standing ovation in their caucus meeting when he said, yes, we are preparing for a shutdown. That was the first time. Hooray, a shutdown! Because this is what they promised. They weren`t promising a specific result. They were just promising to use this tactic. And I think this is crucial, the tactic itself is the point. The shutdown may or may not accomplish anything. It`s the shutdown itself that is the point. It demonstrates a willingness to go to extremes, which is fun and ideologically desirable, and it shows a decisive lack of respect for what government is. It is a tactical insult to the whole idea of governance. So, it`s just perfect for the American right, no matter what it accomplishes, even if it accomplishes nothing. The shutdown itself is the point. And so, when it started to become clear that Republicans were taking over the House -- look, this was back in 2010, ahead of the 2010 election -- pundits on the right knew what they were going to get excited for. I`m almost giddy thinking about a government shutdown next year! I cannot wait! Why shut it down? Because we`ll be able to! Because Republicans are about to win enough control in Washington to be able to do it. They knew that ahead of the election. And then they got elected. And now we`ve got, this is this week, House Republicans coming out of their closed-door meeting on Saturday when they decided to vote for a shutdown, and they did not see this as a somber thing, a sober thing that they were taking on reluctantly, a bad thing that they were reluctant to do? When they came out of that conference meeting, having just decided to shut down the government, they were psyched! (BEGIN VIDDEO CLIPS) REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: This is exactly what we hoped for. We`re all getting behind leadership. We think we`re going to get every vote? We`re excited. We`re united. (INAUDIBLE) REP. ROBERT PITTENGER (R), NORTH CAROLINA: All good. Good plan. REPORTER: How`d it go in there? REP. TOM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA: Very good. It went very well. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: Very well! It`s great! We`re shutting down the government! What could be better? They see this as great news. Reporters have been staking out the committee rooms and meeting rooms where members of Congress has been confabbing and deciding who to do and their description of the mood among Republicans is jarring. "House Republicans were ecstatic Saturday when Mr. Boehner and his leadership team presented their plan." Quote, "The mood in the Capitol on Saturday, at least among Republicans, was downright giddy. When Republican leaders presented their plan in a closed-door meeting on Saturday, cheers and chants of `vote, vote, vote!` went up. As members left the meeting, many were beaming grins." Representative John Culberson of Texas told reporters that as he and his colleagues were clamoring for a vote, he shouted out his own encouragement, "I said, like 9/11, let`s roll!" Let`s roll! Let`s bring the U.S. government to its knees, just like on 9/11, except the other way. Yes. There`s a kind of palpable glee on the Republican side about this accomplishment they are bringing about tonight. They are psyched. There is no mirror image between the two major parties. There is only one major party of the two that strives for control in government specifically because that is the place from which you can hurt government the worst. There is nothing about the last few weeks of political back-and-forth that explains why this is happening. There is nothing about health reform specifically that explains why this is happening. In 2011, they didn`t bother making it about health reform, they made it about the budget back then. Or maybe it will be Planned Parenthood funding or maybe it will be conservative. Let`s just pick something. What we want is a shutdown. What is happening tonight is happening tonight because this is what Republicans want to do. This is what they promised to do. This tactic, let`s roll, this tactic is an end in and of itself, and that is why there is no talking them out of it. Elect Republicans and they will burn the place down and they will laugh while they do it and have a great time. And then what? Joining us now is Senator Charles Schumer of New York, vice chair of the Democratic Conference. Senator Schumer, thank you for being with us. SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Good evening. MADDOW: What do you know about the latest matters of procedure this evening? We know that the House has been meeting privately to decide how to respond to the Senate`s latest action. SCHUMER: Yes, look, I think that, as you say -- there`s just a faction in the House that wants to shut the government down, that doesn`t mind taking hostages, whether it`d be a federal worker who needs a paycheck, a highway construction worker who gets a federal grant, a veteran waiting to adjust a disability claim. They don`t really care. But let me say this, the public does. The closer we get to this moment, the more and more people see what the Republicans are doing and the less popular they are. And that`s why today we`ve had many Republicans, including some conservative ones, say we shouldn`t shut the government down. The real weak kink in this, the real weak link is Speaker Boehner. Even Mitch McConnell, with the Tea Party opponent, figured out a way that he would let things move forward, not shut the government down. He voted with 24 of his colleagues not to block us, but Boehner doesn`t seem to have that strength. And a small group of real fanatics who sort of feel that they have to sacrifice innocent people to the right-wing gods so they can show how tough and resolute they are controls Boehner, and, unfortunately, controls many in the House Republican Caucus who really know better. They know it`s a disaster for their party. They know it`s a disaster for the country. They know they`re hurting innocent people. But they don`t care. There is such anger, there is such hatred that they just act on those emotions. And sooner or later, that catches up to you. I don`t think -- I would hope that they come to their senses tonight. You know, they always thought we`d cave, but we are united from one end of this Democratic Caucus to the other. The White House is strong. Tonight, the president said we`re not doing this debt ceiling either and we haven`t caved. And now, the leadership of the Republican House is stuck -- stuck between these fanatical right-wingers and what they know is wrong not only for the country, but actually, for the future of their party. MADDOW: Senator, you`ve seen a lot of different confrontations in Washington come and go, you`ve seen a lot of iterations of the Republican Party as they have changed over the years, particularly in the last few years. What do you think specifically about Republican senators? So, Republicans in your chamber advising the House on what they ought to be doing, advising House members to defy their leadership, to defy Speaker Boehner and do instead what the Senate wants? SCHUMER: We`ve never seen anything like it. But the bottom line is that Senator Cruz and his small band did not get a majority of support in the Republican Senate, and there were some courageous profiles and coverage of people like Lindsey Graham, Lamar Alexander, who had Tea Party opponents but who knew they shouldn`t go along. These are more mainstream conservatives. But this small band, given the fact that they have talk radio, they have a whole blogging radio, Jim DeMint does far more damage outside than in with the Heritage Action Foundation. They frighten these Republicans and say you don`t go along with us. Even though you know it`s wrong, you know it`s irrational, you know it`s bad, we`re going to give you primary. And too many Republicans in the House shrug their shoulders and say, OK. I think the jubilation you saw there is not universal in the Republican caucus. There are large numbers in the Republican House caucus who know this is wrong. Very few have the courage of Pete King to stand up and say so. But privately, they admit it. And I think that, you know, God forbid we`ll shut down the government, there is going to be such a reaction against them that they`re going to have to back off, hopefully after a few days. MADDOW: Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. Thank you for your time tonight. I know you`re in a middle of vote, sir. So, I`ll let you go. Thank you very much. SCHUMER: Thank you. Good to talk to you. MADDOW: Senate voting right now. And again, what`s expected is that between now and midnight, you see the shutdown clock in the corner of your screen there. Between now and midnight, a decision`s going to have to be made one way or the other. Fix this, or if it is not fixed, the shutdown happens automatically starting at 12:01. We are winding down toward the first government shutdown in 17 years, 800,000 jobs and some of the pillars of the American economy are on the line. Stay with us. The White House communications director joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Today, the United States Marine Corps fired two generals for not adequately protecting a U.S. base in Afghanistan that was attacked by the Taliban last year. Today also, Venezuela expelled three U.S. diplomats from that country. The president of Venezuela actually said the phrase "Yankee, go home," when he was threatening to throw them out, something like a conspiracy theory that the U.S. is engineering Venezuela`s power outages now. Today, also, the prime minister of Israel met one on one with our president, at a time when our decades-long standoff with Iran is changing shape rapidly. So, it`s not like there`s nothing going on in the world, right? It`s not like there`s nothing going on in the world, in Washington, in the federal government, but we are, apparently, shutting it down, regardless. That is what we are barreling toward right now. The White House communications director is our guest next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One faction of one party, in one House of Congress, in one branch of government, doesn`t get to shut down the entire government just to refight the results of an election. Keeping the people`s government open is not a concession to me. Keeping vital services running and hundreds of thousands of Americans on the job is not something you give to the other side. It`s our basic responsibility. You don`t get to extract a ransom for doing your job, for doing what you`re supposed to be doing anyway, or just because there`s a law there that you don`t like. The American people sent us here to govern. My hope and expectation is that in the 11th hour, once again, that Congress will choose to do the right thing and that the House of Representatives in particular will choose the right thing. Thank you very much. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama speaking at the White House this afternoon, sounding rather exasperated to my ear. Joining us now to give us a sense of the current mood and current strategy at the White House is Jennifer Palmieri. She`s White House communications director. Ms. Palmieri, thanks very much for being with us. JENNIFER PALMIERI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Very happy to be here, Rachel. MADDOW: So, we`ve heard that the president has spoken this evening with Speaker Boehner on the phone. What can you tell us about that conversation and anything else the president is doing directly to try to resolve this? PALMIERI: He spoke to Speaker Boehner and the other three leaders to, you know, say we still have a few more hours, it`s pretty apparent where the solution here lies. We believe that if Speaker Boehner would just put the -- you know, a clean version of the funding bill on t floor, that would fund the government for two months without any special packages attached to it, that that could pass. And that`s obviously -- we believe this will ultimately end up and that the speaker should allow that vote to happen tonight so that we can avoid the shutdown. So, that was the basis of -- that was pretty much the conversation that he had with Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell, but it`s not apparent that that`s where we`re going to end up tonight. MADDOW: As we head toward midnight and toward a potential shutdown, what you just described there as the White House`s view of how this should be resolved, something you`ve been pretty consistently explaining for the last few days and weeks when it seems like this was possible. PALMIERI: Right. MADDOW: Will that change at all once we`re in shutdown mode? Does strategy change at that point? Does what you want or expect change once a shutdown has happened, if indeed that happens at midnight? PALMIERI: Our strategy doesn`t have -- I mean, the president has -- you heard him say, today, you heard him say a lot over the last couple weeks, Congress has two duties they need to do right now. They`re going to have to -- they need to pay their bills and they need to pass a budget. And we`re not interested, nor are we willing to make special concessions to them in order to just do these two basic things. You know, other times where we faced sort of budget showdowns, there`s been a situation where there is sort of a general agreement on both sides that we are trying to achieve something other than just regular business. We are trying to achieve a deficit reduction package like we did in 2011 or in the fiscal cliff, the fight from of December this past year. We were trying to pass middle class tax cuts and make those permanent. All we are asking is that Congress pass a six-week funding bill to keep the government open. No more, no (INAUDIBLE) spending. And so, we`re not really sure what there is to negotiate around. And so, that is -- I don`t expect -- our strategy`s not going to change, our message is not going to change. It`s clear what Congress needs to do. You see more and more Republicans on the House side coming out, admitting that there is support, enough support in the House that they could pass a clean funding bill, if they would put that on the floor. And so, that`s what we`ll continue to push for them to do. And in the meanwhile, we`re getting ready tomorrow health care, too, tomorrow. MADDOW: Right. In the meantime, there is also a massive national health reform bill that`s going to be implemented tomorrow. PALMIERI: Yes. MADDOW: Let me -- you know, it seems like what we are all watching is the House Republican Caucus. They are the ones who have to make the decision about what to do here. PALMIERIE: Right. MADDOW: Does the White House have any leverage whatsoever with any Republicans in the House? The president obviously started off his time in office with very overt and high-profile efforts to have good bipartisan relationships. Republicans seem to have basically rebuffed him in that way. Does he call Republicans in Congress? Is he lobbying Republicans or does he expect Republicans to work this out themselves? PALMIERI: That -- he has, particularly on the Senate side, had lot of good interactions, particularly in this year, and developing relationships with people that are interested in working on budget issues. But, you know, we keep hitting some walls here, which is they`re not willing to consider new revenues or they still want to hold some things hostage, like for example, they want to hold Obamacare, use that as a negotiating tool. So, I don`t know that there is a lot. You know, I don`t want to give people the sense that in this particular case, we`re just talking about this really narrow funding bill that just goes two months, and likewise, just getting Congress to pass legislation to pay their bills when it comes to the debt ceiling. I don`t know that there`s a lot of negotiation for the president to do directly. He`ll continue to make the case to the American people. We feel that that case -- you know, I think there will be more attention paid to this, and that breaks through. But it`s apparent what needs to happen. And you know, our expectation is that Republicans in the House will eventually see that way. MADDOW: White House communications director Jennifer Palmieri -- thank you very much for your time tonight and for your optimism. Nice to have you here. Thank you very much. PALMIERI: Well, eventually, Rachel. Got to me, yes. MADDOW: Eventually can mean a long time. All right. Not long ago, a member of Congress had to be restrained in their public discourse, lest they be voted out of office in the next elections cycle. Luckily, one of our two political parties has developed an antidote for that. The clock is still ticking. Stay tuned. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Did you see the market today? Jitters in the markets today, the economic forecasting, it is all bad about what`s about to happen at the strike of midnight tonight. It`s like dystopia New Year`s Eve here in Washington tonight, counting the minutes, waiting for it all to shut down when the clock strikes 12:00, like a big ball dropping on the economy. And it turns out, the people making it happen have every rational short-term political reason to go for it, which is an important part of figuring out why this is happening and maybe how to undo it. And that story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The first time the Senate convened today, they convened very briefly to tell the House Republicans that they were not going to go along with the Republican shutdown plan. The whole thing was over quickly. There was no real drama about the vote. Everybody knew how it was going to go, and the procedural stuff just went, chop, chop, chop. They did it again just minutes ago, same deal. But the first time they did it today, the whole thing was done in less than a half an hour, and that less than half an hour time included a prayer from the Senate chaplain, that was kind of a kick in the pants to kick the whole thing off. This was kind of amazing. Check this out. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REV. DR. BARRY C. BLACK, SENATE CHAPLAIN: As our nation stumbles toward a seemingly unavoidable government shutdown, keep our lawmakers from sowing to the wind, thereby risking reaping the whirlwind. When they remember that all that is necessary or unintended catastrophic consequences is for good people to do nothing. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The Senate chaplain today, Barry Black, chopping the hides of Congress for, in his words, stumbling toward a government shutdown. All that is necessary for unintended, catastrophic consequences is for good people to do nothing. That was about 2:00 p.m. this afternoon. The Senate was done with its business and the shutdown issue got back to the House within the hour. Meanwhile, President Obama was meeting with his cabinet, discussing how shut down all of their agencies in a way that would allow them to keep providing the services that are considered too essential to stop altogether. The president also today meeting with the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, who wept through his way to note, what a weird time this is to be in Washington. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Mr. President, thank you for welcoming me and my delegation. And what I know, it is a very busy day for you in Washington today. There are many things on your plate, but I know that you know -- (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: There are a lot of things on the plate of the government of the United States of America all the time, even without one-half of our legislature pouring water in the gas tank and setting recreational fires in the bedroom. But that is what we`re doing today. That`s what we are doing tonight, right now, fact. And the question coming into focus is not necessarily whether Republicans will succeed in shutting down the government before midnight tonight, but how long the shutdown will last. Joining now is Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, fresh off of a vote on the Senate floor. Senator Brown, thank you so much for being with us. SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Good to be back, Rachel. Thank you. MADDOW: Just within the last 15 minutes, I understand the Senate voted to reject the amendment passed by the House that would have made the funding for the government contingent on another delay to health reform. Just in terms of what happens next here, what do you expect? BROWN: I don`t think we know what to expect. The House of Representatives still has the Senate continuing resolution. The issue is, will John Boehner act like -- will he be the speaker of the radical right wing of the Republican Party or will he be the speaker of the United States House of Representatives, because if he just takes the Senate language -- you know, we went through a bipartisan process in the Senate, we passed this. If he takes the Senate continuing resolution, puts it to a vote for all 435 members of Congress, almost all of whom were elected in November and sworn in in January, then it`s clear to most of us, maybe all of us, that that would pass the House of Representatives. You`d get virtually all the Democrats and the responsible Republicans that know this is the wrong thing to do for our country. That would pass before midnight, the president would sign it before midnight, there would be no government shut. The answer`s pretty easy, pretty obvious, whether the leadership in the House shows leadership -- shows real leadership or not is obviously the question. MADDOW: Senator, I know you were -- you were in the House the last time the government shut down. Do you feel like that experience, both for us as a country, but also for the legislature of our country, had lessons that we`re willfully ignoring right now, or is it that every 17 years we`re ready for another one of these. BROWN: Maybe it`s like the 17-year locust. I think they`ve forgotten. I mean, I think these new far right Republicans that don`t think anything good happened in the country until they arrived in Washington, they don`t know much history. If they know history, they would know that there was the same opposition to Medicare from the John Birch Society, the Tea Party of those days, maybe, the doctors, the insurance companies. And five years later, the country really appreciated Medicare. I think they`d know that lesson, if they knew anything about history, because we`re seeing this rerun. I know five -- I`m certain five years from now, people will think the Affordable Care Act, which is a big deal arguing about, is working for our country. So, these aren`t people that ever studied history, ever read history. So, they`ve really learned nothing about the damage it did to the country, to the budget, to the country, to job creation 17 years ago, let alone the damage it did to their political party. MADDOW: In terms of the challenges we have right now as a country and the things that we are working on as a country and specifically as a government, do you think that this shutdown will affect or could affect our country`s room to maneuver, our ability to lead and try to get what we want on all these other issues that are moving right now, that are totally separate from the shutdown, on things like Syria and the chemical weapons on Iran, winding down Afghanistan, and everything else we are doing as a government. Does this shutdown interfere with our ability to get something done? BROWN: I think certainly it damages our reputation around the world, especially as the far right approaches the debt ceiling debate later -- well, next month. I guess today`s the 30th, in mid-October. But there is an opportunity cost. We`re not working on immigration. We`re not working on job creation. We`re not working on a job-creating farm bill. We`re doing none of the things that we should be doing because we`re lurching from crisis to crisis, self-induced, human-made, congressional- induced crisis to crisis. There`s simply no reason we need to be going through this as a nation. Talk to anybody at home. If you get outside, if the bubble is outside of the country club and talk radio and a few old right wing kind of rigged town hall meetings, they`re going to see that the country doesn`t like this. The country wants us to focus on jobs and delivering health care and getting this health care law implemented. So, hundreds of thousands of people will get Medicaid in my state, will be joining exchanges, will have consumer protections. A million seniors have already gotten free preventive care. One thing after another is happening. We need to cooperate to make sure it`s done right. MADDOW: Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, thank you very much for your time tonight, sir. Good luck. I know it`s going to be a late night. Thank you. BROWN: Thanks. MADDOW: All right. We are still looking down the barrel of a midnight shutdown, less than 2 1/2 hours from now. What else might happen between now and then to potentially stop that? And the linchpin political thing that made this kerfuffle possible. That`s all coming up. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: You are not the only one on Twitter tonight. The president of the United States just tweeted this. Can we put it on screen? "It is time for Congress to do the right thing for our country and pass a budget that represents a #governmentshutdown." And it`s signed "B.O." When you see "B.O." at the end, I think of the president`s dog. But no, it means that the president himself sent the message. Now, we have to find out who is following him in the House of Representatives. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, the whole reason we are barreling toward the shutdown of the federal government right now is because Republicans control the House, and it`s kind of a funny reason why Republicans control the House. Because in the last election, when every single one of the seat the House was up for a vote, Democratic candidates for the House got way more votes than the Republican candidates did. Overall in the last election, if you add up the total number of people who voted for a Democratic congressional candidate and total number of people who voted for a Republican congressional candidate, it looks like this -- look -- about 1.5 million more votes for Democrats than for Republicans. And yet, Republicans maintained control of the House. Fewer people overall voted for them, but they still won more seats! Nice trick. Here`s how that looked state by state, and this is kind of nuts. In the great state of Michigan, more than 2.25 million people voted for Democratic House candidates. Just over 2 million people voted for Republican candidates. The results of Democrats getting lots more votes is that Republicans got lots more seats! The Democrats won just five seats and Republicans got nine. Democrats got more votes and fewer seats in. Across the lake, in Wisconsin, same deal. More Wisconsin voters voted for Democrats, but Republicans get two more seats than the Democrats did. In Pennsylvania, more people voted for Democrats that Republicans and yet Republicans won almost three times as many seats as Democrats. In Virginia, Republicans got 4 percent more votes, OK, but they won almost three times the number of Democratic seats. In Ohio, same deal, Republicans won a few more votes that be the Democrats did but they won triple the amount of Democratic seats. The number of Republicans and Democrats sent to Congress from states like Michigan and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and Virginia and Ohio, those congressional delegations are totally out of whack with the actual statewide vote totals. And that is the point. Partisan legislators drawing congressional districts during a census year, which was 2010, so that it only takes a handful of votes to elect people from their own party but it takes a miracle for anybody from the other side to get elected. The Republicans aggressive use of that tactic after the big wins in 2010 election, that really has two consequences for where we are now. First, it means that Republicans as a whole really have no fear at all of them losing control of the House. The districts are drawn, so there are so many safe Republicans seats in the country. They almost can`t lose their majority. The other consequence, though, is this. In making sure that Republicans are representing Republican-only, Republican-safe districts where there will never be a chance that they`ll lose to a Democrat, sure, must be nice for them to fear no plausible Democratic challenger, but that also means that the real contest for their seat is in the Republican primary in their home district. And where the only thing Republicans are worried about is a challenge from their right flank, then you have Republicans always worried about trying to get as far to the right as possible. You can never waver from the conservative orthodoxy, you can never have less than 100 percent approval for whatever conservative movement will blanket your district with ads calling you a squish and an Obama lover. When you tilt the playing field to give yourself an advantage, sometimes the tilting has other unintended consequences. Would we be having a shutdown fight right now if the House wasn`t so gerrymandered to help Republicans? And what can this dynamic tell us about how this more right wing than though spiraling crisis might finally come to an end. Joining us now is David Wasserman. He is the editor specifically for the House at "The Cook Political Report." Mr. Wasserman, thanks very much for being here. DAVID WASSSERMAN, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Thanks. And welcome to D.C. MADDOW: Thank you! It`s a weird time to be here. But let me ask you about those dynamics I just described. Obviously, I did sort of sample states there, but how is the current class of Republicans in the House different from, say, the Republicans that presided over the last shutdown 17 years ago or interim classes? WASSERMAN: Well, this is six or seven beer goggles ugly right now and there`s a lot of high theater. But really, this has its roots in arcane and boring processes like redistricting and gerrymandering. And, you know, I`ve heard Republicans being described as fanatical, as delusion. I think they are rational responding to the constituencies that have elected them. Blame Congress all you want. I tend to blame the voters who have gotten what they`ve asked for in a lot of these primaries on both sides of the aisle. And let`s be honest, Democrats would have done the same thing had they won the 2010 as far as gerrymandering. MADDOW: But how much more Republican are Republican districts now than was normal before? WASSERMAN: Well, check this out -- back in `95 and `96, when Republicans had 236 seats during that shutdown, there were 79 out of the 236 seats that were carried by Bill Clinton in 1992. That was many more than the 17 districts that Republicans represent that were won by Barack Obama in the 2012 election. So, you`re talking about going from 79 districts, where there`s some incentive to compromise, to just 17. MADDOW: Wow. WASSERMAN: Republicans are living in a completely alternate universe from the rest of the country. Their districts are 75 percent white, compared to 63 percent to the national average and 50 percent for Democratic districts. Consider that only 37 Republicans in the House today, out of 233 were around for the `96, `96 shutdown. And then, you also have the fact that 48 percent of all House Republicans, and this blows my wind, were elected after George W. Bush left office. These people owned no allegiance to John Boehner. They ran against not only Democrats but Republican leadership to get to Congress and are reflecting what the primary electorates which decided their elections back home wanted in the first place. MADDOW: So, do you think that in describing the character of the sort of average House Republican`s district, am I overstating that when I say they`re worried about primary challenges from their right? I mean, it may be that they`re not trying to posture themselves as being as far to the right as possible. They may simply be reflecting the very unusual politics of their tightly drawn districts. WASSERMAN: You`re absolutely right, and they`re in districts that on average voted for -- out of the 80 letter-signers who were essentially what Democrats would call the hostage takers -- MADDOW: Yes. WASSERMAN: -- Obama actually lost their districts by an average of 23 points. So, you`re talking about Republicans sitting in district, and I call this the extreme index, fewer than a third of House Republicans in `95-`96 came from districts that were at least 10 points more Republican than the national average. Today, more than half House Republicans come from districts at least 10 points more Republican on a national average on "The Cook Political Report`s" partisan voter index. So, we`re talking about a situation where Obama actually has negative leverage. If he comes out and tells America that he supports one thing, that drives the incentive on the right to push things more. And so, what`s actually gong to end this stalemate in the House? Well, I tend to think Wall Street has more leverage with middle of the road Republicans in the House and, you know, it`s a marvel to think that Eric Cantor can be seen as a bellwether within the House Republican Conference, but that`s where we`re at, and certainly, President Obama and Democratic leadership has with House Republicans. MADDOW: Yes. And all of the pundit-driven appeals to say ah, this turns off moderate voters. There`s no moderate voters when they`re voting in these congressional races that make a difference to these guys. It`s fascinating. David Wasserman, House editor of "The Cook Political Report" -- this is really I think an important part of why this is happening. Thanks a lot, David. WASSERMAN: Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. We`ll be right back. (COMEMRCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: President Obama used 22 pens when he signed health reform. And what he signed into with those 22 souvenir pens was law. He signed the bill into law after it passed both Houses of Congress and then the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality. After midnight tonight, millions of people who have not had health insurance will be able to buy affordable health insurance because of that law. It`s law. We know from the polling that makes a difference what you call health reform. So, more people say they oppose something called Obamacare than something that`s called the Affordable Care Act, even though Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act are the exact same thing, what you call it makes a difference as to how people feel about it. Which is why despite the Congress passing it and the president having signed it into law with 22 pens and the Supreme Court ruling that the law was constitutional, despite all of those factual indications that it is, in fact, law, Republicans constantly like referring to the law as a bill. They call it this bill and the bill named after the president and 100 percent the president`s bill. You know what? Health reform is not a bill any more. It has had it`s varmitsa (ph). It has gotten its wings. Girl, it`s a woman now. Pick your metaphor. But health reform is a law, not a bill. No matter how desperately Republicans have tried to rebrand it as something that is simply pending and not something that is on the books and going into effect. Even after the bill became a law and was upheld by the Supreme Court, Republicans thought they might have one more crack at undoing it by asking the country to elect a Republican president who promised that he would get rid of it. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan built their national campaign around the promise to repeal Obamacare, and then they lost by a lot, in the popular vote and in the Electoral College. They got beaten pretty badly, and the Republican Party lost seats in both Houses of Congress alongside them. And now, the vice presidential nominee from that losing contest tells "The Wall Street Journal" that the Republicans and Congress feel the need to get right to the brink and over it, to get their way against health reform, specifically because they lost the fight at the ballot box. Congressman Paul Ryan telling "The Wall Street Journal", quote, "We do not have an election around the corner where we feel we are going to win it and fix it ourselves. We are stuck with this government another three years." Yes, the government you guys are stuck with is the government that the people elected when they voted, which is how we do things in our system. We subject competing ideas and competing candidates to fair, small D democratic competition among the voters and that whoever wins gets to enact the policies that they campaigned on. That`s the system. I mean, what you can do is constrained by the Constitution. But the judiciary is the arbiter of that. Once they have decided within those lines, democracy is how we choose what happens to us. Republicans have decided that they did not get the government they wanted in the last election, so they are shutting the government down as of midnight as a way for Republicans to forcibly get what they could not get within the political system that they apparently have real problems with. At this hour, the Senate has just finished rejecting the latest House proposal to make funding for the government contingent on delaying health reform. Instead the Senate is asking the House again to pass a temporary spending bill that just keeps the government, without any other policy matters included, offending health reform or denying women access to contraception through their health insurance or anything else. What the House will do in response we do not yet know, but it is their turn and there`s two hours left. Lather, rinse, repeat, lather, rinse, repeat, until the stroke of midnight, when if nothing has changed, the U.S. government will begin shutting down. This is a big night for politics and for policy and for the country. MSNBC will continue our special coverage of this developing story tonight. "THE LAST WORD" takes over next. Then, Chris Hayes will return with a special edition of "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" at 11:00 p.m. Eastern, going right up until midnight. I will be back with a live new RACHEL MADDOW SHOW at midnight, whether or not we have a fully functioning federal government. Fire up the popcorn machine. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD". Stay with us. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END