President Joe Biden pushes for voting rights protections but not for ending filibuster that blocks them. Texas Democrats call for federal action amid voting rights standoff in their state. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) is interviewed on filibuster reform. Tennessee top vaccine official Michelle Fiscus says she was fired after simply doing her job of raising vaccine awareness among teenagers.
AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Let us remember, in the middle of an insurrection, whether the lady should have been killed or not, is a totally different subject. They were in the middle of an insurrection.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: That`s right.
SHARPTON: And the officers had a duty to protect the people.
REID: And they want to -- they want to out this officer`s identity which would put that officer in jeopardy. Reverend Al Sharpton, Michael Daly, thank you.
That is tonight`s REIDOUT. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice over): Tonight on ALL IN.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The big lie is just that, a big lie.
HAYES: The President outlines the greatest threat to democracy since the Civil War.
BIDEN: Stand up for God`s sake and help prevent this concerted effort to undermine our election and the sacred right to vote. Have you no shame?
HAYES: Tonight, the Biden`s speech, the rig system, and the outcry for reform to fix it.
Then, Texas democrats fleeing their state to protect voting rights meet with the Vice President as the Texas Governor threatens arrests.
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): As soon as they come back into the state of Texas, they will be arrested, they will be cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done.
HAYES: And Tennessee`s tough vaccine official is fired one day before the state removes all vaccine outreach to minors for all diseases, including COVID-19. That fired official, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, joins me live when ALL IN starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES (on camera): Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes. Today, more than six months after the insurrection with no real precedent in American history, a transfer of power marked by violence not by peace, the President of the United States, the man who the mob tried to stop from occupying the office, came forward to say the country is facing a major crisis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: So, hear me clearly. There`s an unfolding assault taking place in America today, an attempt to suppress and subvert the right to vote and fair and free elections, an assault on democracy, an assault on liberty, an assault on who we are, who we are as Americans. We`re facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War, that`s not hyperbole, since the Civil War.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: It`s an incredibly powerful thing to say. I mean, he says it`s not hyperbole, it`s kind of Biden-ism, but I agree with him, it`s not hyperbole. Republicans are passing laws making it harder to vote in states across the country. Of course, they`re using the predicate of the big lie to do so.
Conservatives on the Supreme Court have gutted sections two, four, and five of the Voting Rights Act. I mean the country has basically only been an actual multiracial democracy in a recognizable since s1965 when the Voting Rights Act was passed. It`s a very short history we`ve been working on. And the President made the case today there`s an urgent problem. And again, he`s right.
Unfortunately, the solution to that problem, the path forward all comes down to this question about whether Democrats will restore majority rule in the United States Senate. Do they use the power entrusted to the Democratic Party by the majority of Americans in the House and in the Senate, and by 8 million-plus more voters, 81 million in total, to protect the basic fundamentals of American democracy by finding the votes, the unanimous 50 votes, to weaken or eliminate the filibuster and pass the agenda or do they let principles or road because of some, frankly, ridiculous quasi accidental reactionary procedural norm that creates a status quo that`s completely indefensible?
That`s the question. That`s the choice. And despite his very strong rhetoric, President Biden did not mention the filibuster in his speech today. He was pressed by reporters after the event.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, why didn`t you talk about the filibuster?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why didn`t you talk about the filibuster, sir?
BIDEN: I`m not filibustering now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to meet with the Texas Democrats? Are you going to meet with the Texas Democrats?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: What`s the big deal when House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn who helped pave the way for the Biden presidency, perhaps as much as any single individual, called for voting rights carve out on the filibuster, saying if you could make exceptions for nominees and reconciliation, you can make exceptions for legislation to protect fundamental constitutional rights.
He`s also suggesting the president is working senators behind closed doors telling me LA Times today "I just don`t think you negotiate these kinds of issues from the microphone. You do it much better from the telephone." And that may be true. I will tell you, I have no dog in the fight of how Biden and Senate Democrats come to get consensus on getting rid of the filibuster and passing an agenda to protect voting rights, whether that`s done in public or in private or how best to move reluctant Democrats. Democrats on the record opposing getting rid of the filibuster, including Senators Manchin and Sinema.
Everyone is sort of throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks. I don`t know the answer to those questions. I`m not sure anyone does. President Biden is right about the threats America is facing. And if Democrats are not going to address the filibuster, then the threats will only get worse.
At least 51 Democratic members of the Texas State Legislature have fled the state. They are now in Washington D.C. They met today with Vice President Kamala Harris in the afternoon. And they`re in D.C. instead of Texas, because Republicans want to pass a bill that will make it even harder to vote in the state.
Now, there is no filibuster in the Texas legislature, which is the case in most states. It`s just majority rule there, right? And they`re in the minority. They don`t have the luxury of that supermajority threshold. So, they`re taking desperate, extraordinary measures that in some ways the filibuster once actually represented in the U.S. Senate, to flee the state and break quorum -- you need a quorum to conduct legislative business -- because they think the threat to voter access in their state and Texas and democracy is so extreme.
They have flown down to D.C. where one of the two houses of Congress does not function by majority rule, to go plead with congressional Democrats who do have control, majority control of the Senate to use that control. I mean, think of it from their perspective, as Texas State Representative Jasmine Crockett said last night on our show, use the power you have to pass voting legislation to preserve and protect the right to vote across the country, please.
And this points to something that I think is easy to overlook but I think is really important to focus on, which is the fundamental asymmetry and unsustainability the current status quo because state legislatures are by and large run by majority rule. And in states that control, Republicans can pass legislation to restrict the vote, even in states like Georgia where Joe Biden just won an election where they elected two Senate Democrats.
There`s no filibuster in the state senate, it`s majority rule. But then, if you want to protect voting rights at the national level, well, then it takes 50 votes -- 60 votes, and those votes are just not there because Republicans won`t play ball.
Not only that. Think about this craziness. You know, the filibuster, as we say often on the show, it`s not some sacrosanct non-negotiable principle. It has changed over time. Indeed, I covered it changing. Back in 2013, Democrats got rid of it for most presidential nominations because Republicans were using the filibuster to make it impossible to fill courts and executive office appointments.
That was a big deal. Republicans at the time said you`ll regret it. And in some ways, probably true. Donald Trump got to confirm a lot of judges, historic judge confirmation rate. But that`s just what democracy looks like. That`s the way the cookie crumbles.
One thing Democrats did leave in place back in 2013, right, they said we`re getting rid of the filibuster for all these nominations, but we want to retain the filibuster for Supreme Court justices. It made a certain amount of sense, although again, what gets carved out what doesn`t, right? So, Democrats rightly furious that Republicans stonewalling Merrick Garland`s Supreme Court nomination, remember, as soon as Trump and McConnell takeover, the first thing they did was filibuster Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch.
And what Mitch McConnell do? Well, he just got rid of the filibuster of Supreme Court nominees. Done, that`s it, we have control. We`re not negotiating on this. We`re going to use our power. And so, what we`re able to do? Install three Supreme Court nominees for lifetime tenure with 54, 50, and 52 votes respectively. None of those are 60.
So, if you`re keeping score at home, here`s where things stand. Republican state legislators can make laws to restrict the right to vote with just the majority vote. The Supreme Court has already gutted the part of the Voting Rights Act that would have stopped them from doing that through preclearance. Democrats need 60 votes to try to protect the voting rights people fought for decades to achieve. But then Republicans also just needed 50 votes to appoint Supreme Court Justices who have been and will continue to tear down the voting rights laws one after another.
Well, this doesn`t make any sense. I mean, put simply, the system right now is rigged against democracy and it won`t get better unless Joe Biden and all the Democrats in the United States Senate come together to use their power to fix it.
Democratic Congressman Mondaire Jones of New York says President Biden should do more to push the issue of voting rights, saying before today`s speech, "If he is serious about saving our ailing democracy, he will void his support for, at the very least, reforming the filibuster to pass the For the People Act on a simple majority vote in the Senate. Anything less at this point is an insult to the voters, organizers, and activists who understand the dire stakes of this moment and are counting on him to act.
And congressman Mondaire Jones joins me now. Good to have you on, Congressman. What was your reaction to the speech today and to what`s been happening in In Washington from both the White House and the Capitol?
REP. MONDAIRE JONES (D-NY): It`s a weighty question and it`s great to be on, Chris. Let me start by giving credit where credit is due. This is a president who has saved American democracy once before by defeating the twice-impeached, disgraced former president of the United States, Donald J. Trump. But now we find ourselves at the precipice again. And the only way to get through this, the only way to walk back is to pass the For the People Act and, of course, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. We cannot do that without filibuster reform.
And so to your point earlier, he was accurate today, the President, in describing the crisis, in diagnosing the crisis and the problem, but his prescription really fell short. There is no way out of this in terms of salvaging our ailing democracy without at a minimum, making an exception to the filibuster for purposes of securing the fundamental rights to vote in this country.
HAYES: I mean, there`s certain things that Joe Biden has fairly unilateral power on, certain things he just does not, right? So, you know, huge parts of the immigration infrastructure of the country enforcement, there`s tremendous amount of executive latitude, things like clemency. There`s certain things a president really can do. But this is the Senate`s own rules.
I mean, I guess the question is, let`s say Joe Biden comes out today and says, reform the filibuster, and Joe Manchin and Kristen Sinema say, like, no, thank you.
JONES: Yes, well, you have to try. And that`s the thing, right? I mean, you don`t -- you don`t get to just do a speech and be taken seriously on a subject without also laying out a path forward. And the path forward cannot, I will note, be just expecting black and brown and AAPI voters to turnout at higher rates than they have already been doing. I mean, I think people are, first of all, tired of having to save democracy all the time.
Now, to your point earlier, Democrats have unified control of the federal government, and can deliver on the promise of a multiracial democracy by simply passing voting rights legislation on a majority vote, right? So, we have to try. This president can have an LBJ moment where he makes multiracial democracy the singular project at this stage of his presidency.
And he can prevail. I`ve got to believe, especially given some of the eight historical, illogical arguments set forth by Senators Manchin and Sinema with respect to the origins of the filibuster, and what happens when you get rid of the filibuster, that there is something that they want. There was something that he can do in exchange for their support for salvaging our ailing democracy. But he has to try.
And to be taken seriously by them and by the American people, I think he has to describe a solution that is credible. And that requires knowing that we can`t get 10 Republican senators to even support a bipartisan commission to investigate the deadly events on January 6, dispensing with a sip the filibuster and protecting the right to vote because the consequences otherwise are dire for our democracy.
This is the party of insurrection. These folks, two-thirds of my House Republican Colleagues voted not to certify that free and fair presidential election, just after nearly dying alongside hours earlier. These are people who are not interested in the project of government or delivering real relief for the American people. These are folks who will first, redistrict Democrats out of power for next -- for the next decade if we don`t pass the for the people act. And then they can`t be trusted to vote to certify the next presidential election if a Democratic president is fortunate enough to be elected president in November of 2024 in a voter suppression environment. Those are these things.
HAYES: Congressman Mondaire Jones laying out quite clearly there. Nice to have you on the program, sir. Come on back.
Adam Jentleson, you may remember, he was the deputy chief of staff to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid when Reid first week in the filibuster in 2013. He`s the author of the Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate, the Crippling of American Democracy. And he joins me now.
I thought you`d be a good person to talk to since you were sort of, you know, in the room the last time Democrats did this, right? It`s been changed -- it was changed in 2013, then McConnell killed off the Supreme Court Justice carve out in 2017 to get Gorsuch confirmed. What kind of work had to be done just from this sort of tactical question here, right, Joe Biden can`t wave a magic wand. Like, how did it have to get there in 2013? What lessons are there for this moment?
ADAM JENTLESON, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADER HARRY REID: Yes, that`s right. I think that`s the key point. You know, people who sort of point to the difficulty this effort say, well, what can Biden do? He can`t just wave a magic wand as you said, and that`s true. But that`s not whatever fires. There`s no one weird trick here. There`s no magic bullet. What it requires is relentless engagement from the White House and the President on a near-daily basis and constant pressure.
It took basically the full year of 2013 to sort of set up a series of votes and to demonstrate to the Senate caucus, Senate Democrats, that this reform was necessary. That`s what is required. And we didn`t reform the filibuster until November of 2013. I think people have had an education about Republican obstruction since then. I don`t think we necessarily have to wait until November to do this.
But what is required is the muscle memory of seeing Republican obstruction for themselves, seeing that there is no way to forge a bipartisan compromise on the issue at hand, combined with a president who is engaged on a daily basis, talking to senators, taking the case to the public, but also making phone calls, inviting senators to the White House, consistently applying all of the tools of pressure that are available to the president from the White House to the entire Senate clock.
HAYES: And this was -- and was that the case the last time around? Was this a joint White House, Obama White House-Harry Reid effort on this score?
JENTLESON: Yes. I mean, it was Obama`s nominees who were being blocked. And so, you know, this was something that was being done on his behalf. And there was definitely engagement from the White House. That was just for nominations. So, you know, it was incredibly important change to the filibuster, one of the biggest reforms to the filibuster in many decades. Doing it for legislation is even higher stakes. So, the level of engagement is going to have to be higher here. But yes, it takes --
HAYES: Well --
JENTLESON: It takes a partnership. It takes the White House working in concert with congressional leaders, and that`s what is required.
HAYES: And we should also note, with slimmer margins. I mean, Harry Reid was very, very, very deft, you know, vote counter and vote whipper. He lost three Democrats, if I`m not mistaken, on that vote to reform the filibuster. I think it was Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Carl Levin of Michigan. You know, one of those guys is still there, you know, eight years later and remains unconvinced.
JENTLESON: That`s right. I mean, look, you know, you get the votes you need to get the thing passed. And, you know, you lose the people that you can lose. You let people take votes that they need to take. But I think a lot has happened since 2013. We`ve had eight years of relentless Republican obstruction.
In 2013, people still thought that the fever was going to break, that the Tea Party might get passing fancy. Since then, we`ve seen Republicans go far off to the right, to start to head in an authoritarian direction. And, you know, if Democrats can sort of take the education of those years and apply them to apply those facts to the situation at hand, you know, I think that`s a problem.
But I have faith that they can do that. I think that we have learned a lot. I think the Democrats can be realistic about the prospects for voting rights, and how dire those prospects are if we don`t reform the filibuster.
HAYES: So, you just think -- I mean, what I`m hearing for you is like, you just work this and you pressure and you push and you push and you push, and that push does have to be coming from the White House, clearly in a focused and sustained fashion day after day, otherwise it`s not going to happen.
JENTLESON: Yes, that`s right. I mean, look in 1964, LBJ, you know, didn`t - - there wasn`t some one phone call or one, you know, act of persuasion that won the day on the Civil Rights Act. There was a three-month-long filibuster that focus public attention on the opponents were blocking the bill and constant pressure from the White House. When Senator Reid passed the Affordable Care Act, he brought the bill to the floor in November, and they didn`t pass it until Christmas time.
It was on the floor for months, it had the public option, and when it came to the floor, there were massive deals that were cut while the bill was on the floor. But the act of getting it to the floor, applied public pressure, and forced senators to get serious about forging compromises and making decisions. He also backed the Senate up against a Christmas blizzard to help bring pressure.
These are the kinds of tactics that you need to apply and it has to come from the White House working with congressional leaders.
HAYES: All right, Adam Jentleson, your perspective on this as always super valuable. Thank you so much for joining us tonight.
JENTLESON: Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: As I mentioned earlier, more than 50 Texas House Democrats who fled the state to block the voter restriction bill currently are in Washington D.C. Now, Texas Governor Greg Abbott is threatening to arrest them when they return. We will have the latest after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAFAEL ANCHIA, DEMOCRATIC STATE REPRESENTATIVE, TEXAS: You`re sad for democracy in the state of Texas. And we took a solemn oath to protect the Constitution of the United States.
SENFRONIA THOMPSON, DEMOCRATIC STATE REPRESENTATIVE, TEXAS: When I looked at the African American Museum, I thought about the struggle of my people who fought in this country to get the right to vote. I`m not going to be a hostage that my voters -- my constituents` right to be stripped from them. We have far too long and too hard in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: One day after fleeing the Texas State House to stop debate on a Republican voter restriction bill, Texas Democrats met with Vice President Kamala Harris and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and they pleaded with them to pass legislation that will protect voter rights across the country.
Meanwhile, back in Texas, the State Senate Republicans who do have a quorum and are in session, pass their own voter restriction bill tonight along party lines 18 to four, though I should note, a whole bunch of the Democrats in the State Senate also fled. State House Republicans meanwhile voted to send the sergeant at arms to detain the Democrats that left even though they have no authority to make arrests outside Texas.
And Texas Governor Greg Abbott promised to pass Republican voter restriction bills even if he has to imprison Democrats to do so.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABBOTT: I can and I will continue to call special session after special session after special session all the way up until Election next year. As soon as they come back in the state of Texas, they will be arrested, they will be cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now live from Texas, Adam Serwer, staff writer for The Atlantic, author of The Cruelty is the Point which is now in bookstores and you should absolutely pick up. Adam, you know, Abbott seems -- I mean the uniform intensity and focus on this agenda not just in the state of Texas, but other states, we`re seeing on display in Texas, is always so striking to me. Like, they`re more focused on this, it seems, than almost anything else. And you can see that Abbott views this as like a challenge that he seems happy to take.
ADAM SERWER, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Well, I think there are a couple of things going on here. One is that, you know, Texas Republicans did very well in the last election. They have no reason to be concerned about their ability to hold on to the state. Nevertheless, they`re proceeding with this elections bill because ideologically, they are invested in disenfranchising the other party`s constituency, as a matter of principle, not simply as a matter of survival.
Second, this is a pretty conservative state. So, Abbott is not concerned of -- you know, when he`s talking about, you know, bringing the Texas democrats back at gunpoint, you know, he`s not concerned about facing a liberal backlash in Texas. He`s concerned about primary challenges to his right. So, there`s -- so there`s almost nothing he could do in terms of being too conservative from his perspective that would put him at risk. His risk is that somehow he gets tagged as a RINO, and some insurgent candidate from the right takes him out in a primary.
HAYES: You`re also seeing -- I mean, I want to play what Schumer said today, because in some ways, I`m reminded of the Texas Democrats doing this back in the Bush years when Karl Rove engineered this completely absurd mid-decade redistricting gambit. And, you know, it`s never been done before, but he was like, we can grab a few more congressional seats. We`re going to do it mid-decade. Texas Democrats fled. Eventually, they had to come home and you know, it got redistricted.
Here`s Schumer basically saying, look, these people are doing all they possibly can. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Democrats are doing all they can to block the dangerous partisan bill. They are brave, they are bold, they are courageous, and history will show them on the side of right. And the Republican governor, I saw him on TV this morning, on the side of deep, dark, ugly wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I mean, I think that Democrats know that they don`t have the power here and that you have to just fight with any tool at your disposal. Is that your read?
SERWER: Yes, look, I`m afraid that what Schumer said is incorrect. History is written by the powerful to the extent that the Republicans succeed in this effort to disenfranchise the vulnerable constituencies that support the Democratic Party, they`re going to be writing that history. And they`re going to be writing it with themselves as heroes saving democracy from the corruption of these non-American voters who have no right to participate in American democracy.
So, Schumer is incorrect about that. Where he is correct, is that the federal government has to act here. Texas Democrats can`t hold this off forever. It`s just not a sustainable thing to have to stay out of the state indefinitely to block this bill. You know, to the extent that Democrats want to defend the rights of their constituents, they`re going to have to do so at the federal level.
And as long as, you know, Senate Democrats like Kristen Sinema and Joe Manchin are willing to give the Republican Party a veto on their own constituents` rights, that`s impossible.
HAYES: You know, one of the elements here that I just keep coming back to on the proposed legislation would ban drive-through early voting and overnight early voting. And these were these two innovations put into place in Harris County by Lena Hidalgo, the county supervisor there. And you know, it just -- it made life easier for working people. It made people easier to vote. There was zero evidence that it had any negative effect whatsoever.
And again, as you said, Texas Republicans did well that night, even with all those people voting. It is a kind of principled objection, I think.
SERWER: It is a principled objection to keeping, you know, more voters of color and poor working-class voters out of the electorate. That`s what they want. Unfortunately, it`s going to disenfranchise some of their constituents as well. But for them, it`s a matter of principle. They want to keep these people from participating fully in Texas democracy and American democracy. And that`s why they`re going all the way forward with this.
And there`s another factor here, of course, which is that Abbott has stayed in Trump`s good graces. And the more he pushes this election bill, the more he stays in Trump`s good graces which of course is relevant to a potential primary challenge.
HAYES: All right, Adam Serwer, that was really great. Thanks so much for your time tonight.
Don`t go anywhere. We got Senator Chris Murphy on the Presidents big speech. What`s next to the filibuster as his colleagues race to pass the infrastructure bill? We`ll talk about that and much more right after this.
HAYES: Democrats have the rarest of things in governance at the federal level. They have what`s called the trifecta, right? They control the White House, control the House, and the Senate. But that senate majority is as slim as possible. And it`s not just the filibuster, just getting all 50 members on board, a unanimity in the caucus is difficult. We`ve seen this back and forth sausage-making on the infrastructure bills.
Today, a piece by one of my NBC colleagues caught my eyes. Democrats plow ahead with party-line spending bill for Biden`s economic priorities. And this quote from Brian Schatz of Hawaii, "I have not been this optimistic in many, many months about getting that that agenda passed. A member of party`s leadership team told NBC News we`re going to do this." Brian Schatz and Chris Murphy, senator from Connecticut are famously very public Twitter friends. And Senator Chris Murphy is a Democrat from Connecticut. And he joins me now.
And I wanted to get a temperature check with him if you`re feeling the same way about the direction of both the sort of reconciliation spending part of the package and the bipartisan part of this package.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): I would never ever contradict Brian Schatz. And he is indeed Right. I mean, this is an optimistic moment. Right now, we are being bold, right? We recognize the stakes. I would argue that the future of the country in many ways rides on what we do in the next several months because people are hurting out there.
There`s benders massive sort of economic and political power shift in the last 20 years from the middle class to these sort of cabal of billionaire elites and we have to have an answer. Donald Trump had an answer, the Mexicans are to blame, the blacks are to blame, the immigrants are to blame. He enacted that agenda, he started building the wall, he banned Muslims from the country, nothing got better. That`s why he`s not the president.
So, we now have an opportunity to provide the right answer, which is to shift power and money from those elites to raise taxes on the billionaires and use that money to fund universal childcare and paid family leave and tax cuts for poor families. And guess what, if we do that, it will work. And it all has to happen in the next couple of months. Because as we know, presidents get the short honeymoons by the time the end of this year, the beginning of next year rolls around our window may be gone.
So, we`re doing it in a slightly complicated manner. We`re passing a bipartisan package, and then we`re using the reconciliation process to pass another bigger bill with 50 votes. But I think today, there`s a good chance that we`re going to get it done. And hopefully, you know, right decades of economic wrongs in this country in one fell swoop.
HAYES: The President`s speech today on voting rights comes at another sort of fraught moment for this. We`re watching what`s playing out in Texas. I know that you`ve been watching this, you know, across the country. I wonder like, some of the rhetoric you hear from Democrats, even from the President, right, is pretty existential. You know, the greatest threat to democracy since the Civil War, which I happen to agree with. But is that -- do people privately feel that way or they just say that? Like, is that actually a felt belief of you, for instance, and your colleagues?
MURPHY: So, I do feel that. And I`ve listened to your interview with Adam, who`s so smart, in the prior segment. I have a little different take on it. You know, it is strange that Republicans have been consistently attacking mail-in voting, because it used to be that mail-in voting advantaged Republicans. And so, it`s not clear, you know, in the end, what the practical impact of all these changes are going to be, it`s probably going to be the less poor people and people of color vote.
I think, really what they are trying to do is just perpetuate this idea that there is fraud endemic in voting so that when Democrats win, an election in Texas for Senate, Governor, or the next Presidential Election, Republicans can invalidate that election. And that, in the end, is the agenda that I worry about is in 2022 or 24, a big election being won by Democrats and Republicans in a place like Georgia or Texas invalidating that election.
If that happens, there`s going to be a conversation in this country as to whether we can still be all in this together if voters really don`t -- their opinions don`t matter in certain parts of the country, and their choices can be invalidated. That is an existential threat to the United States of America. I think that`s in part why I worry about what`s happening in Texas and other places.
HAYES: And do you think that -- I mean, the Voting Rights Act was one of the most -- you know, we said all the time in this program, we`ve showed the statistics of, you know, registered Black voters in Mississippi from one year to the next after the voting rights passed. I mean, one of the most successful pieces of legislation in American history and a signature turning point in making the country like truly democracy, genuinely, I would argue for the first time, in certain sense, that you know, if the stakes are that high, can the caucus get to unanimity on it?
MURPHY: Yes, good question, Chris. You know, right now, we have not been able to convince -- right now, we haven`t been able to convince all of our Democratic colleagues that the stakes are that high. Thus, we shouldn`t give Republicans in the Senate a minority, a minority veto. My hope is that we will be able to deliver a change in rules. We`re talking about making it potentially limited to changes in voting laws. That may be a way to get our caucus together.
But if we don`t, I really fear that we`re going to be sitting here two years from now, four years from now, with a Senate Democrat having won an election in a red state, and Republicans in that state refusing to seat them. And at that point, my colleagues in the Senate will wish that they had used this opportunity to take preventative steps to stop something like that from happening.
HAYES: All right, final question on, I would say an issue near and dear to your heart and an issue near and dear to the heart of the President, and also I`m kind of a train guy myself, I will say. You said this recently. FYI, an infrastructure bill that doesn`t fix the broken northeast rail corridor isn`t worth doing. It shouldn`t take seven hours to get from Boston to D.C. This is our one chance to speed up service along quarter that represents 18 percent of U.S. GDP. Are you optimistic about that aspect of it?
MURPHY: Yes, I mean, this is still to be decided. I do not think it`s worthwhile to spend $4 trillion on infrastructure in this country if we have a rail line in the most highly populated part of the country that is fundamentally broken. We are not going to be able to attract companies and jobs to the United States if it takes seven hours to get from Boston to D.C. There`s not enough money in the bipartisan agreement in order to create high-speed rail in America. And shame on us if we don`t use this opportunity to do that. China will continue to eat our lunch if they have high-speed rail and we don`t.
So, one of the projects that is left undone right now is to make sure that between the bipartisan package and the reconciliation bill, we have enough money there to build high-speed rail. By the way, it`s so important for climate as well. The only way that we fulfill our climate obligations is to get people out of their cars, to convince people to get out of planes, and onto rail lines, the most green of all mass transit options.
HAYES: Every time -- the more that I study the like, strategy here, the reconciliation by partisan, I keep thinking like I`m watching a sidewalk three-card Monte person like, am I -- do I know where the ball is or am I being tricked? I keep losing sight of that, but well -- I guess we`ll find out at the end. Senator Chris Murphy, thanks for making time tonight.
HAYES: All right, ahead, my interview with the top vaccine official in Tennessee who says she was fired for the crime of promoting vaccines. But what the state did next is maybe more shocking and that story is coming up.
HAYES: Today, more than a million people rushed to make vaccine appointments in France. Why? Well, the surge in vaccination appointments came less than a day after French President Emmanuel Macron mandated special COVID passes showing vaccination or a negative test for anyone wants to go to restaurants or hospitals or shopping malls or get on trains or planes next month. Macron also announced that vaccines would be mandatory for all healthcare workers.
This state intervention comes at a time when France is seeing a drop in vaccination rates. And there`s one thing we know that the code vaccines at this point, not from clinical trials, from real-world data, is that they`re doing exactly what they`re supposed to do which is preventing the kind of hospitalizations and deaths that we saw across the world before we have them.
When vaccines were first approved, Israel, U.K., and the U.S. were doing a better job than anyone at getting shots into arms. At one point, during the first 100 days of the Biden administration, the U.S. was doing a better job than anyone on Earth. But over the course of a few months, our vaccine pace has hit a wall. And that`s not for lack of trying. It`s the White House trying to figure out what to do.
Officials working on the COVID response acknowledge that none of their outreach efforts are likely to supercharge vaccination rates. So, now, the U.S. vaccination effort has actually been surpassed by countries we were laughing before like Italy and Germany, for instance.
Now, part of the reason for that I think comes from, well, a kind of American exceptionalism. The fact that other countries do not have one-half of their political movements, their parties, essentially whipping up fear against the vaccines. Instead of taking more active steps to get people vaccinated, particularly as the Delta variant continues to cause cases to spike among people have yet to get the shot, the Republican Party is increasingly taking steps to discourage vaccination.
So, in the state of Tennessee, only 38 percent of population has been vaccinated. That`s low. According to the New York Times, the average daily case rate has increased by a whopping 404 percent over just the past two weeks. Again, not great.
Well, today we learned that the Tennessee Department of Health, which is a state agency, will halt all adolescent vaccine outreach not just for the Coronavirus, but all diseases amid pressure from Republican state lawmakers according to an internal reporting agency e-mails that were obtained by the Tennessean Newspaper. "The health department will also stop all COVID-19 vaccine events on school property. It will no longer send postcards or other notices reminding teenagers to get their second dose of the Coronavirus vaccines."
The state has also fired its top vaccine official, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, for her work trying to get teens vaccinated. In a statement, Dr. Fiscus wrote, "It was my job to provide evidence-based education and vaccine access so that Tennesseans could protect themselves against COVID-19. I have now been terminated for doing exactly that."
Who is making these decisions in Tennessee to prevent its citizens from receiving a life-saving vaccine? Who fired Dr. Michelle Fiscus. I`m going to ask her that question when she joins me here right after this break.
HAYES: Right now, in the U.S., virtually all new COVID deaths and hospitalizations are among unvaccinated people. Doctors say they`re seeing more and more young people hospitalized with the virus. And COVID vaccines have been approved for emergency use in the age -- in anyone over the age of 12. But only 25 percent of 12 to 15-year-olds are fully vaccinated right now, less than 40 percent of 16 and 17-year-olds.
And that`s one of the reasons that Dr. Michelle Fiscus, Tennessee`s top immunization official, wrote a memo that suggested some teenagers might be able to get vaccinated against COVID without their parents` permission. State Republicans were quick to accuse Fiscus of applying quote peer pressure to get young kids vaccinated.
Now, Fiscus says she was fired after simply doing her job of raising vaccine awareness among teenagers. The Health Department who fired her is putting an end to all vaccine outreach for teens for all diseases, not just COVID.
Joining me now is Dr. Michelle Fiscus who until yesterday served as Tennessee`s Medical Director for Vaccine Preventable Diseases and Immunization Programs. Doctor, it`s great to have you on the program. I thought maybe we just first start with telling us what was your job? What was your role in the public health agency there particularly in -- with respect to COVID in the state of Tennessee?
MICHELLE FISCUS, FORMER MEDICAL DIRECTOR FOR VACCINE PREVENTABLE DISEASES AND IMMUNIZATION PROGRAMS, TENNESSEE HEALTH DEPARTMENT: Well, as medical director of the Tennessee Vaccine-Preventable Diseases and Immunization Program, I was responsible for the vaccines for children program, which is an entitlement program for children who are insured by Medicaid or don`t have insurance to make sure that they can get the immunizations they need.
I`m responsible for the Tennessee immunization information system which is the immunization registry for the state. And I`m responsible for vaccine- preventable disease outbreak mitigation and response. So, Hepatitis A outbreak, Measles outbreaks, and then eventually COVID-19 became a vaccine- preventable disease. And I was responsible for the rollout of that vaccine across the state and to make sure that that was done equitably and in a way that any Tennessean who wanted to access that Maxine would be able to get one.
HAYES: From your perch, what are the challenges been in your state to getting a higher vaccination rate than what you currently have?
FISCUS: Well, we`ve had several. You know, initially it was vaccine supply. Fortunately, that is no longer an issue. Then it became getting providers to be willing to give the vaccines because there have been challenges just with logistics of dry ice storage and large quantities for minimum orders with some of the vaccines.
And then there is vaccine hesitancy which we have seen in different ways. You know, some folks that are unsure about the government, unsure about the vaccine but are vaccine hesitant and willing to have conversations with their providers willing to listen to information that`s given to them. And then this political divide, or this new kind of toxic politicization of COVID-19 and the vaccine where we now have our most hesitant population being rural male, conservative whites, who really do hang their hat on this political ideology that COVID-19 isn`t real, isn`t a threat, or that getting the vaccine somehow props up the left-wing part of our political system.
And, and so it`s really that, that politicization of public health and in people`s choosing not to protect themselves that has been the biggest challenge for us to overcome.
HAYES: So, you were -- you were discussing, I understand, moralizing sort of what the legal authority, what the sort of parameters were for vaccine research teenagers, and that`s what triggered this firestorm that led to your firing or resignation. What happened?
FISCUS: So, you know, on the cusp of the Pfizer vaccine becoming available for children 12 years and older, I began to receive questions from some of our COVID-19 vaccine providers across the state about what they were to do if a child showed up unaccompanied to receive a vaccine. And they just weren`t sure where the lines were.
So, I reached out to our Office of General Counsel at Department of Health, I was given language around to seize mature minor doctrine, which is case law from 1987 as Tennessee Supreme Court ruling that children ages 14 and older can receive medical care under their own consent without the consent of their parent.
And I took that language that I was told in an e-mail, was blessed by the governor`s office, and that I could share with anyone that I so choose, put it into an e-mail to our COVID-19 providers and send it out. And over time, over a very short period of time, there was some backlash from some of our providers who felt that that was an inappropriate e-mail or memo to put out, that the information shouldn`t have been shared, and that it was somehow targeting our youth, even though this was a memo sent to our medical providers like every other memo we send to our medical providers.
That then sparked some backlash from our -- some members of our legislature who went so far as to call for the dissolution of the State Department of Health because of this information that I had shared. And that has now devolved into the Department of Health not only pulling back on messaging to teenagers about getting COVID-19 vaccine, but creating barriers for their ability to access the vaccine. And now it has devolved into a moratorium on messaging for any kind of vaccine to children, whether that`s infants or children for back to school vaccines, or HPV vaccines, and even canceling school-based flu immunization clinics scheduled for the fall as a result of the saber-rattling amongst some of our legislators.
HAYES: So, you check -- you really check the legality, you send the supreme -- State Supreme Court decision of Tennessee, right, to say this is what the law says, right? This backlash ensues, you are then fired quickly. In the last little bit here, who fired you?
FISCUS: I was fired by the Commissioner of Health via letter that was delivered to me by the Chief Medical Officer of the department and a member of the human resources team. I was offered the opportunity to resign or to be terminated. And I have done my job very well serving the people of Tennessee. And that is my job, and so I chose to be terminated.
HAYES: I want to read -- you said, I`ve been terminated for doing my job because some of our politicians have bought into the anti-vaccine misinformation campaign rather than taking the time to speak with the medical experts. I`m afraid for my state. I`m angry for amazing people of the Tennessee Department of Health who have been mistreated by an uneducated public leaders who have their own interest in mid.
Dr. Michelle Fiscus, I am sorry that happened to you, but thank you so much for the work you`ve done and for making time tonight.
FISCUS: Thanks for having me, Chris.
HAYES: That is ALL IN on this Tuesday night. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.