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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 1/28/21

Guest: Daniella Gibbs Leger, Seth Moulton, Bill Gates, Ezra Klein, Catherine Lucey


Congressman Seth Moulton discusses the threat of right-wing violence. Microsoft founder Bill Gates speaks out. House Minority Leader travels to Florida for meet with former President Trump.


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT with my friend Ari Melber starts right now.

Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you so much.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

President Biden pressing ahead, here in his first full week in office, taking immediate action on health care today, ending a Trump era policy that restricted some abortion access, and opening up a new way for people to get health care now.

There is a policy here to expand Obamacare access, and this is what Biden is proposing, that it is critical during a pandemic that people get the health care they may need if they can. And it`s a reminder really here -- and there`s a reason I am bringing this to you as the top news right now of the hour -- it`s a reminder of how many tools this prior administration simply declined to use during the ongoing health crisis we have all been living through.

Here is the bottom line, keeping it very clear. Under the traditional rules of Obamacare, Americans who qualify for those health plans, they must sign up within basically six weeks out of the year, and that`s except unless they can prove they had a -- quote -- "major life change."

Now, think about this tonight. Haven`t we all had a major life change since the virus hit in 2020? Well, what President Biden is doing with this new order is applying that straightforward logic -- call it logic, call it humanitarian, call it what you want -- to empower people to sign up now outside of that usual legal window, which can deliver more health care coverage, especially to people who may urgently need it, given what`s going on.

As for the wider reform proposals here, well, funding better health care is something Democrats say they want to do in this Congress and a COVID and jobs relief bill. All of that will require action down on Capitol Hill.

Now, just like the last debate over those $2,000 stimulus checks stalled out when Republicans just shut down any action, any wider goals beyond what Joe Biden, President Biden, can do with his pen will take getting something through the House and Senate, where many Republicans are not even doing the usual thing that used to happen in the first few days of a new president.

They`re not even publicly pretending to have an open mind about this new president`s plans. And that brings us to the other big development tonight, and they`re related in a way. Speaker Pelosi`s counterpart, Minority Leader McCarthy went today, amongst all the things you can do, when you have a new White House, a new staff, and Cabinet nominees, amidst all that, he took a trip down to meet with ex-President Trump at Mar-a-Lago.

This is widely seen as McCarthy bowing to pressure within the party to make good and go back to being simpatico with ex-President Trump and walk away from something you may remember, because it seemed like a big deal when it happened, Republican McCarthy`s initial assertion that Donald Trump was responsible for the insurrection riot.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The president bears responsibility for Wednesday`s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.

These facts require immediate action by President Trump, except to share responsibility, quell the brewing unrest.


MELBER: Quell the brewing unrest. Do you remember that?

We follow this stuff closely in the news, so I can tell you about it was about two weeks ago. That is how the Republican Party looked for, at least for a moment, two weeks ago, with a longtime Trump ally facing the facts, that Donald Trump summoned the rioters to D.C.

And to quote McCarthy, or old McCarthy, the quelling unrest might help curb news like this tonight that`s ongoing. DHS warns right-wing extremists emboldened by that very attack are posing a rising threat.

Now, McCarthy`s shift widely seen as an effort to walk whatever he was claiming, to walk it back.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, he is down in Florida to meet with Donald Trump.

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kevin McCarthy meeting with him today to essentially try to mend fences.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now he is down at Mar-a-Lago as we speak meeting with the former president.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: To make amends face-to-face, and to make clear House Republicans still stand with a twice-impeached president.


MELBER: Sometimes, the news is pretty straightforward, and my job is to make sure we`re giving you all of the facts.

This is one of those times. This obviously matters for the security threats that face our nationwide right now, which are as serious as a heart attack. I will tell you, though, it also matters beyond that, because it dovetails with these important questions for the approach that President Biden is taking, as he continues to talk to Republican outreach and a hope for unity.

If the elected Republican who actually has power in the current government is publicly subservient to the ex-president who doesn`t have any more formal power, who doesn`t even have a Twitter account -- he is not allowed to do what a lot of citizens do every day, which is just speak in public on platforms, because they deemed him such a threat for inciting.

If this elected Republican can`t even stand by his statement condemning that same type of political violence because of pressure over just a few weeks, then how much time should the new president spend appealing to those types of members of Congress who lost their power because of what the voters did, who are talking up more obstruction when the nation is desperate for some kind of relief on the issues we have just been reporting on, from treating COVID, to funding the vaccine, to expanding health care during this crisis?

To bring in our experts here to kick us off tonight, we begin with Gene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist from "The Washington Post," and Daniella Gibbs Leger from the Center for American Progress and host of "The Tent" podcast

Eugene, your thoughts?

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, the question you pose, how long should President Biden seek bipartisan consensus, I think the answer is for a while longer, as the COVID-19 relief legislation progresses and gets assembled and gets marked up.

You know, I think he should continue inviting Republican to collaborate and to join in the effort, with the knowledge that it doesn`t look like they want to do that. It looks like they want to -- it looks like they`re so afraid of Donald Trump and the Republican base, that they don`t want to participate in bipartisan government, in which case President Biden should and Congress should proceed with $1.9 trillion relief bill, which is the first item agenda.

That`s got to get through. They should proceed with it on the basis of a House majority and reconciliation in the Senate. If it`s got to be just a one-party bill, it`s got to be that way. You don`t have to want it to be that way, but it`s got to get through one way or the other.

MELBER: Daniella?


You have got make the Republicans who vote against this bill that is going to help millions and millions of Americans -- or make them, force them to obstruct it. You know, there are very smart people who are working in this White House. They know what`s happening on the Hill. They though who they`re dealing with. I`m sure they are ready to move this any way that they need to do.

But I do think that it`s important for President Biden to show what it means to be president, and that means that you do try to actually work across the aisle. It means you do actually give people an opportunity to come to the table and try to compromise on some things.

And when the Republican Party shows them that they are who we thought they are, then you use your pen, you use the other tools in your toolbox to get relief to the American public, because that`s what`s most important right now.

MELBER: Our panel stays.

I want to add to our discussion on the primary reporting Catherine Lucey, White House reporter for "The Wall Street Journal." She has been covering President Biden`s opening agenda and the road ahead.

Tell us about some of what you have found in your reporting about why they`re specifically trying to do so much. There is an expression some time where people say, oh, you`re doing too much. They`re very deliberately saying, no, we`re showing we can do a lot. The federal government has that, particularly if we`re staffed with the right experts. That seems to be what we`re hearing.

Tell us what your reporting shows.


They really want to show that they`re diagnose a lot in these first few days. They spent months planning a real blitz of action in the first sort of 10 days of this administration to really show that they were ready to lead, that they were ready on the issues, and to try and sort of set a tone of turning over and rolling back President -- former President Trump`s policies.

So, what we have seen early on has been a lot of executive actions. Some of them are geared as liberal priorities immigration or climate change. Some of them are reversing or rolling back Trump policies, things like rejoining the Paris climate accord, for example, or reversing the ban on transgender people in the military.

So, they have pushed very hard on these things. But to your points at the top of the show, there is a couple of pieces to his agenda starting out. There are things the president can do with his pen, executive actions. There`s things that he can do within the executive branch by rule, which take a little longer, but they can do.

But the big things, they have to go to the hill and they have to work on legislation. And that is going to be the big test for them in the coming weeks, starting with this COVID package.

MELBER: Right.

And this is where there is this opening window, historically, traditionally, but certainly extra, Eugene, given the pivot that America is going through.

And so there is also the question, how soon does this president try to make it very clear to everyone, well, we want to vote tomorrow on the COVID relief bill? With all due respect to the deliberative process -- and I`m a lawyer -- we talk and think -- you have had plenty of time since March to think about how COVID has affected the economy, how unfair it`s been to regular workers, how unfair it`s been to essential workers, and whether or not you want to have -- start having votes to fund that or not.

So there is that pressure tactic. The other thing that hangs over this, Gene, is just very serious divisions and the looming political violence, something that you have spoken out on.

Take a listen to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): In the House Republican Caucus, Kevin McCarthy answers to these QAnon members of Congress, not the other way around.

This is extremely dangerous, an extremely dangerous threshold that we have crossed, because we are now away from acting out of fealty to their president that they had in the Oval Office, and now we`re talking about fealty to white supremacist organizations as a political tool.

This is no longer about a party of limited government. This is about something much more nefarious.



ROBINSON: Well, at very little political cost to himself, Kevin McCarthy could deal with some of this.

He could move to sanction Marjorie Taylor Greene in some way. He could put an end to the linkage, the tight linkage between the political violence we`re talking about and some members of his caucus, and he could tell them to cut this out and make an example of Taylor Greene.

But I don`t think he will do that. I don`t think he is that kind of leader. As I say, I don`t think that would come at a high political cost for him. I think he would come out of that looking better in the eyes of his caucus and many voters.

But I don`t think he will do it. I think he is a weather vane. He goes with the flow. He went to Mar-a-Lago to bend the knee to a disgraced president who has been twice impeached and, according to Pew, has an approval at 29 percent. So, I don`t see bravery coming from him.

MELBER: I mean, Daniella, I know that we`re supposed to just move forward, but if you will permit me a little recent history that politicos may remember, those of us who lived through it remember when the Obama White House was taking heat because Van Jones, who then worked in sort of an environmental green jobs program, was in trouble for something that he signed a decade back that he said he didn`t remember.

And they just said, well, to be very clear, we`re just cutting ties. And it was nothing like -- and I`m not making any false equivalency to, obviously, what we`re talking about here.

What does it tell you, to Gene`s point, that it`s a very low bar to just put up some guardrails if somebody is going just straight QAnon?


I was in the White House when that whole thing happened with Van Jones. And it is just a stark reminder of how far this Republican Party has gone, and how beholden they are to the most extreme element of their party.

You know, like you said, it is a very low bar, and there is very little, I think, political damage to Kevin McCarthy to say white supremacy has no home here, to not have Representative Greene sit on the education committee, when she said that the massacres at Sandy Hook were a conspiracy theory or didn`t happen.

That is disgusting. You hear me? Disgusting.


MELBER: Daniella, just to -- yes, just to echo you, and then I will give you the mic back, the idea of someone affiliated with these QAnon lies, she shouldn`t be on the Education Committee. I wouldn`t even trust her on the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill Committee, if they had a Miseducation album committee.


MELBER: She should be nowhere near the word education, because she is full of falsehoods.

And I say that -- as and some viewers may remember, I have had a lot of Trump officials on. We had Boris Epshteyn on last week. There is a important and healthy role for vision ruse debate, but it cannot be packaged in lies -- Daniella.

GIBBS LEGER: Yes, exactly.

The world of alternative facts, like, we`re done, we`re done with it. And there is proof and then there is everything else. And it really saddens me that we have members of Congress now who believe these things.

We look at other countries and we sometimes laugh and point fingers at their legislative bodies when they start fighting each other or when they have people who say really off-the-wall things, and now it`s here.

And Kevin McCarthy, if he was a leader who was worth a damn, he would do something about it.


And I`m running over a little bit on time, but, Catherine, a final word just from you. As a journalist in this opening period, what are you keeping an eye on? What should we be watching for in the days ahead?

LUCEY: I do really think to go back to the point at the beginning, what we`re watching for is how this is going to play on the Hill in the coming days and weeks.

President Biden ran as someone who could unify and also ran as someone who has long decades of experience working in the Senate, has said he can work in a bipartisan way, has really tried to strike that tone. But how long can he try and do that? I think that will be the biggest test for him. We will see in the coming days.

MELBER: Yes, and something that a lot of ace reporters like yourself are watching.

I want to thank Catherine Lucey, Gene Robinson, Daniella Gibbs Leger, for kicking us off.

We have our shortest break of the hour, just 30 seconds.

Coming up: Speaker Pelosi warning about some of these threats. Congressman Seth Moulton is here.

And coming up, my exclusive interview with Bill Gates, talking big tech, taxes, and some other goodies. This is stuff we`re airing for the first time tonight.

And later, some interesting news about that breakout star at the inaugural, poet Amanda Gorman.

Plus, an update on Bernie mittens. We have got you covered.

We`re back in 30 seconds.



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I do believe, and have I said this all along, that we will probably need a supplemental for more security for members, when the enemy is within the House of Representatives, a threat that members are concerned about, in addition to what is happening outside.


MELBER: Speaker Pelosi speaking directly about the danger and threats of violence.

We`re joined by Congressman Seth Moulton, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a veteran.

Good evening, sir.

REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA): Good evening. How are you, Ari?

MELBER: I`m all right.

This is quite serious. You know a lot more about it than most of us when it comes to assessing threats and also not overreacting or overhyping them. Walk us through, as, obviously, not a political matter, not a debate between the parties, but why the speaker is using this language, what you think is important tonight, sir.

MOULTON: She`s right. This is a very real threat.

And for anyone who doesn`t believe it`s a real threat, just watch the footage of January 6. This is a real threat not just to the Capitol, although, obviously, we have seen what can happen when a mob attacks a Capitol, but it`s a threat to everyone in America.

More Americans have died from domestic terrorist than foreign terrorists since 9/11. We have never taken this seriously at the government. It`s shocking that, despite so many people over the last two decades dying from domestic terrorism, yesterday was the first time that DHS actually issued a domestic terror warning.

So, this is real. And when it comes to members of Congress, Nancy Pelosi is talking about Lauren Boebert, who wants to carry a gun into the House of Representatives. Why? Because she saw the House of Representatives get attacked by a mob that she helped incite.

We`re talking about Mo Brooks, who went down to the Ellipse and helped incite the mob. We`re talking about Marjorie Taylor Greene, who ran on QAnon conspiracy theories, and is clearly a racist.

This is as serious as it gets.

MELBER: Yes. And I hear your candor. And I think people are concerned and whatever wasn`t done enough in warning in publicly addressing this pre- January 6, partly, according to a lot of evidence, because of the administration overseeing the -- some of those law enforcement services, should be better done this time.

How do you, as a member of Congress, navigate something that I know you care about, and that is a conflict?

It`s a real conflict between what is very much our constitutional protection, the speech and debate clause and what members are allowed to do and say -- and, generally, there`s got to be a wide birth for that -- and what it sounds like the speaker is now battling up against, based on what we just heard, which is the view that there may be things, in her view, pose a threat and thus may cross the line inside the chamber.

MOULTON: I mean, look, the Constitution does not allow you to incite violence.

The Constitution does not allow you to threaten to execute members of the opposite political party that you don`t like. That`s what Marjorie Taylor Greene, this representative from Georgia, has done.

So these people need to be held accountable. She needs to be kicked out of Congress. How am I supposed to even work with someone like that? Imagine if you were just...


MOULTON: ... to work...

MELBER: Well, Congressman, let me -- I`m going press you slightly, just to be logical, not to be difficult.


MELBER: Because I think part of what you said, I think everyone understand, and we take this very seriously.

If a member of Congress says some of those things on the floor, though, it`s a little different, right? If they have words on the floor, those are highly protected. Very rare to find charges for that.

MOULTON: Maybe not charges, but, all the time, words get taken down. I mean, it`s a sort of a technical procedure that happens within the House.

But there are all sorts of things you`re not allowed to say on the floor of the House of Representatives because they are deemed diminishing to democracy.

So, for example, if you personally insult the president of the United States, no matter how bad he is, if I go up there and just insult Donald Trump, those words will not be allowed to stand. So, actually, the House of Representatives does have rules and regulations about that.

But this is so much more serious, because we`re talking about death threats. We`re talking about members of Congress who espouse conspiracy white supremacist theories that have led to violence all across the country.

And we`re talking about members of the House of Representatives who want to just take guns on to the floor, like this is the Wild West. There is a certain point at which this -- it`s absurd.

MELBER: Yes, I got to get you on one more thing, because we`re running over on time, just 30 seconds.

Senator Hawley says his goal was never to overturn the election. He denies inciting the riot.

Your response, sir?

MOULTON: Just listen to what he said before. There is no reason why anything any us should trust anything that Senator Hawley says. He is un- American. He is unpatriotic. And he should resign.

MELBER: Congressman Moulton, really appreciate your candor and wrestling with these issues tonight, sir.

MOULTON: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Thank you.

We have got a lot more in tonight`s program. In fact, later, we will hear from Ezra Klein. Fresh from joining "The New York Times," he has got a new piece about the deadline for real changes he sees in Washington.

But up next, let me tell you, we have something new and very special. It`s airing for the first time on THE BEAT.

I just talked with philanthropist Bill Gates. We`re going to air key parts of this interview for the first time, from the power of big tech to whether billionaires should pay even more in taxes -- next.


MELBER: Bill Gates has emerged as a key leader on COVID and vaccines, and he tells me in a new interview that truth and science can still save lives.

Our talk has covered so much ground that now we turn to new parts airing for the first time now, starting with the power of big tech companies and debates over how they can ban users for life.


MELBER: I have a very simple question for you, Mr. Gates. When we look at the four largest companies in America, we have Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, and Apple.

Why are they all tech companies?


I think technology has done amazing things. Obviously, it`s -- we have got to have rules about it, but wow, the magic of software, the Internet, the ability to look at data, let scientists collaborate. Technology has done some phenomenal things.

And so my whole life, I have been evangelizing that, let`s take advantage of it to improve education, to improve health. There is a lot more to be done, but there is a lot of amazing work those companies are responsible for.

And up until my foundation work, that was my whole focus, was that work. And it continues.

MELBER: You were celebrated for it. The company famously took heat for it.

I`m curious, as we look out today. The government definitely went at Microsoft for alleged anti-competitive behavior. We`re not here to relitigate all that today, but there is a lot of informed people who look at the big tech companies today and think they`re not getting it as hard as you did.

Do you think today`s CEOs know how lucky they may be? And will that change?

GATES: Well, I think, as you go forward, there are a lot of questions.

Microsoft wasn`t in the social media business, where issues about political things and conspiracies and how should you draw the line on what`s on there. The tech companies are so important now. It`s not surprising that the governments are looking at competition, interoperability.

And so there are lessons. There are things that Microsoft learned as we interfaced with the government. I hope the others go back and look at how that all went. But it makes sense for government to care a lot about the central role of technology in making sure that we get more of the good and less of the bad.

MELBER: That brings us to something that I really want to ask you about.

I have a hunch you may not want to answer it much, but you`re so influential in these areas, I`m going try anyway. And that is the power of these social media companies to publish or delist and ban people is huge.

And, as you know, the original concern hundreds of years ago was that the government would disappear speech. Got a lot of people, especially young people, who are more concerned about where they are online than anything the federal government might do.

Are you at all concerned when tech companies can make basically unchecked decisions to take people off their platforms, that they might get the call right a lot, but then not? Any advice or thoughts on that?

GATES: There`s clearly trade-offs involved where false information that causes riots or people not to trust medicines or rewrites history like Holocaust denial.

How do you draw the line and who is in a position to do that is a great thing for people to be debating. I haven`t seen a great solution, where you draw the line in a way that everybody feels comfortable, with who is doing the interpretation and how it works.

There has been a lot of bad stuff on social media, and I`m glad at least some of that is being held back. As you say, you might go too far. But my tech career is largely over now. I`m a champion for health, and this next generation`s got to solve this problem.

MELBER: Yes, understood.

You have always been your own boss. But you also have a little bit of a style that is sometimes called being boss, the difference being, as you know, not whether you`re technically the boss, but whether you have that confidence.

And we were looking through the archives and we found a great example of this, a young Mr. Gates explaining his outlook. Take a look.


QUESTION: Do you see yourself working for somebody else?

GATES: I never have.

QUESTION: Can you see it?

GATES: Well, in the sense that we work together, but...

QUESTION: Answering to a boss?

GATES: I`m used to having a company where the ideas that I have are something that I can easily pursue. So, I think it would be a tough transition.


MELBER: How important was your confidence, in addition to your innovation, in your career?

GATES: Well, certainly, when I was young, I had the brashness of youth to pursue ideas that seemed crazy at the time, you know, a computer on every desk in every home, the central of software.

And it turned out that those beliefs really worked out very well, and that`s why have I the wealth that now goes to the foundation and is there to try and provide healthy lives even in the poorest countries.

So, I`m lucky. My interests, my personality, my timing all came together, so the Microsoft fortune is now being given away as best as Melinda and I can.

MELBER: Before we lose you, I got to ask you about your role in music and culture.

I read that you and Melinda like Willie Nelson and "The Sound of Music." But the genre where you are cited most is hip-hop. Over 125 songs cite you, Mr. Gates, including Lil Wayne`s "Bill Gates" and Rick Ross` "Bill Gates."

And the common thing here is, a lot of rappers from humble roots say they`re inspired by both your work ethic and your success.

I wanted to ask you about just three of them, where you can tell us whether, yes, they got it accurate or maybe, no, they`re a little off.

And the first is from Andre 3000. And he says what he likes about you is that you not show off your wealth. He says: "Bill Gates don`t dangle diamonds in your face when he Microsofting the place."

Accurate or no?

GATES: Well, lyrics aren`t the ultimate, full description of people, I kind of doubt.

I`m very lucky. I sometimes fly in a plane. I have -- I don`t have to worry about whether I`m going have enough money to -- for things like kids` education. So I hope taking some responsibility for the lucky position I am in by giving my time to the foundation.

MELBER: But Andre seems to like that he doesn`t think you`re showy.

GATES: Well, I will try to live up to that. I don`t try to be showy.


MELBER: Here is one about tax policy.

This is from young New York rapper Joey Badass. He says: "Just had to pay like 60 stacks in taxes. Why they take a piece of my assets? Does Bill Gates have these same fees? Please, I need the answers."

Is it accurate, do some wealthy people avoid their fair share?

GATES: You know, I have paid over $10 billion in taxes, and I think you can have a progressive tax system where people in my position would have paid more.

Obviously, you can go to an extreme, where you hurt the incentives, but the U.S. is far short of that. And on my Gates Notes, you can see some thoughts about U.S. -- making U.S. taxes more progressive. But I`m just one voter in that question.


MELBER: And then, finally, I`d love to do a lightning round where I say a word to you and you give us your thoughts in a sentence or a word.

And people can see you`re concise. So, I don`t think this will be hard for you.

In a word or a sentence, 2020.

GATES: Recovery.

MELBER: 2021.

GATES: Normalcy.

MELBER: Your microwave dinners that we have heard about.

GATES: Very dry.


MELBER: And what your next TED Talk might be about.

GATES: Well, my 2010 TED Talk was about climate change. So, climate change and pandemics are where I`m trying to help the world get good plans, so we don`t suffer the huge consequences.


MELBER: Mr. Gates is a debut guest on our new "Summit Series." These are in-depth interviews with leaders at the summit of their fields.

I want to tell you, you can see this entire conversation. That was an excerpt. The whole thing is online. Please go our BEAT WITH ARI Twitter page, and it will be the top link. You can also search "Melber Gates" on YouTube, if you want to find the longer conversation.

Also, because this is a new series, I want to tell you, if you all have ideas for other leaders that we consider interviewing for this new "Summit" series, send them on over to me at any social media site at @AriMelber, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, @AriMelber. We will take a look at the ideas. We want to do this with you.

We got to fit in a break, but, up ahead, the breakout star of inauguration is stepping into the spotlight.

And Bernie Sanders, the mittens, the meme, and now some of it helping a charity. It`s a great story want to share with you before the hour is up.

But, first, we have a special guest who says, go big or go home, with some secrets for Democrats.

That`s next.


MELBER: Welcome back.

Turning to politics in the big picture, the White House is now run by Democrats because elections have consequences. The voters who turned out in November gave the keys to Joe Biden, to much celebrating in certain parts of the country.

The Congress is run by Democrats because special elections have consequences, and the Georgia run-offs, which were initially designed in 1963 as a certain way to dilute the votes of black people, this year, they ended up electing a diverse slate of Democrats to tip the Senate, putting the House and Senate both in Democratic hands.

And while it is early, if Democrats control both political branches, why doesn`t it always seem like it? There are many answers, but a key factor is how the Republican Party has gone farther to exploit the rules in the system, even when it`s lost elections, and holds far less public support.

Republicans essentially stole a Supreme Court seat from President Obama, for example, waged a war of obstruction against him on even small items and things they previously were on record supporting. And now some progressives are concerned that Biden may not be learning that lesson enough, even though, of course, he lived through it.

And it seems to some that Biden is essentially hunting through Washington looking for a prominent Republican to work with, which these days is like hunting for a live dinosaur on the National Mall. They`re not there. They went extinct a long time ago.

This point is more about learning from what was tried than opposing bipartisanship in theory, and the history may be instructive.


FMR. SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I-CT): We could pass a health care reform bill this week with more than 60 votes, and it would be bipartisan, if he just took a few things out of the bill.

ROBERT GIBBS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Despite what you learned on "Schoolhouse Rock," it`s not 50. It`s 60 votes of Democrats. They may not all support it. You have to have the support of the many Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They wanted to make certain that federal dollars not be used to support abortion, and so they`re not. I think this goes a long way towards meeting the objectives they set early on.


MELBER: Yes, meet their objectives, and then watch the goalposts swing around and move again on you.

Now, "The New York Times"` Ezra Klein argues Democrats water bills down too much, sometimes to compromise, and also fail to ensure that voters would feel publicly and even politically the real-life impact of some of those policies.

Obamacare took effect fully four years after it passed, which was after those crucial midterms. One strategist telling Klein in a very interesting new piece -- quote -- "There is a certain belief among a certain set of Democrats that taking an idea and cutting it half makes it a better idea, when it just makes it a worse idea."

Klein argues there is a solution. Democrats need to help people, and do it fast, regardless of any Republican demands. Democrats did win the White House and two seats in Georgia. Are they learning?

Well, it was a very interesting piece, which is why we were joined now by the writer behind the article. Ezra Klein is now a columnist with "The New York Times." Viewers may recognize him from many other jobs as well.

Thanks for coming on THE BEAT.


I like that final question. It really is, are Democrats learning?

MELBER: Go for it. Take it away.

KLEIN: I don`t -- are they learning?

The center of the Democratic Caucus has moved a lot. You were saying in the intro, where is Joe Biden? Joe Biden is not where I wish he were on this, but in comments to me during the campaign, when I asked him about the filibuster, he said, well, it depends on how obstreperous the Republicans are.

The problem is not primarily Biden, though, again, like, I wish he would push harder on some of these issues. The problem are some of the Democrats on the party`s right flank, particularly right at this moment Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who, in response to Mitch McConnell filibustering the organizing resolution for the U.S. Senate, which is to say demonstrating there is nothing he will allow to pass, no matter how basic, no matter how necessary to the functioning of the body.

They, instead of saying, well, look, we don`t want to get rid of the filibuster, but if he is going act like this, we are going to have a choice, they reassured him and said, well, of course, we will never get rid of the filibuster. We will make sure you can do this forever.

So that`s a real problem. And that`s sort of always been one of these questions. And we can go into the 2009-2010 period, but a huge issue with the Democratic parties is, we talk about it as a singular, but it`s very constrained by what its couple of members on the right, particularly in the Senate, want or don`t want to do. They`re a huge constraint on policy design and procedural reform.

And that`s proving true this year, too.

MELBER: Yes, you mentioned whether the filibuster should be forever not.

I hate to quote OutKast twice in one show. Just kidding. No, I don`t, as you might know, Ezra, but, if nothing lasts forever, then what makes love the exception? And you could apply that to the filibuster. There may have been a time -- let`s grant the argument that there may have been a time, after it was abused to stop civil rights, but before it was so common that it became a supermajority requirement, that it did encourage comity with those members.

But I think what you have written about literally for over a decade and many others have identified is, that`s not the case anymore. It has no constructive purpose. You go back far enough, it was racist. You go towards now, it doesn`t do anything for bipartisanship.

And it`s not a permanent part of the Constitution. So, not unlike Andre 3000`s view of love, maybe the filibuster doesn`t need to be forever.

KLEIN: The filibuster should obviously be gone.

I will say a couple of things about this, though. One, people like to say the filibuster encourages compromise. And to that, there is a very simple objection, taken the sign from Jonathan Chait at "New York Magazine."

But if you think the filibuster encourages compromise, look around. We have more filibusters than we have ever had in American politics, and it`s not close, over the last couple of years.


KLEIN: And there is more compromise than ever, more party-line votes. The simple fact about the filibuster is, it allows the minority to stop the majority from governing, which is a good way to get made the majority if you`re the minority.

So, what it does is, it creates a system that the founders understood full well. Alexander Hamilton and James Madison both wrote about the problem of supermajority requirements in The Federalist Papers, and they that they create a situation where the minority can simply embarrass the majority.

The second, I think, just real thing to keep in mind here is, it is -- let`s say it is used for structurally racist ends. One of the things that I would really like to see Democrats do is -- or, frankly, Congress do -- I would like to see reasonable members of a body that says it believes in democracy do is enfranchise the people of Washington, D.C., make sure they have representation in the House and in the Senate, and at least offer statehood to Puerto Rico.

D.C. is bigger than two states, Puerto Rico than about 20. Those are places where primarily people who are black and brown live and they are completely disenfranchised in our political system.

So, one reason American politics continues to tilt towards the interests of whiter voters is because the number of places where voters who are nonwhite live have not been given full representation.


KLEIN: And that would pass, if not for the filibuster.

MELBER: And I want to get that in real quickly to those overlapping points.

Take a look here on the filibuster issue at President Obama.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You want to honor John? Let`s honor him by revitalizing the law that he was willing to die for.

Once we pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, we should keep marching. And if all this takes eliminating the filibuster, another Jim Crow relic, in order to secure the God-given rights of every American, then that`s what we should do.


MELBER: Just briefly, he evolved on that over his time in office.

Does Joe Biden have eight years to figure that out?

KLEIN: No, they have to do this very, very quickly. And democracy reform, as President Obama was saying, is a great place to do it.

You can`t get through budget reconciliation, the way you can economic issues. If you want to deepen democracy, you have to get rid of the filibuster.

MELBER: Ezra Klein, having thought it through, he gives it to you clear and fast.

I want to thank you for coming on THE BEAT, sir, tonight, and remind everyone Klein`s book, "Why We`re Polarized," is out now, if you want to check it out.

Coming up, a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Well, she captivated the nation, a new stage for the poet everyone knows.

And we`re going to show you a little bit more of Jimmy Fallon with Steve Kornacki.


JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": OK, you don`t want to know what`s under there. Honestly, I don`t even know. I really have no idea.

You`re welcome, Steve.



MELBER: And we end with some great updates that we enjoyed. We hope you will too.

There`s been a lot of stars popping up in our politics lately. It starts with Amanda Gorman, the youth poet laureate who really shined at the inaugural.


AMANDA GORMAN, FORMER NATIONAL YOUTH POET LAUREATE: We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.


MELBER: Gorman is breaking out with some new attention and jobs. The 22- year-old has been formally signed by the agency IMG Models.

She will be reciting a new poem before another huge audience at the Super Bowl next month. And this is real. Fashionistas are now calling her, good- naturedly, the secretary of statement coats. It`s not, according to our understanding, a Cabinet-level position.

Also an update on the Bernie Sanders mittens story. This was an important one. We put our journalistic efforts into it, you may recall. And the senator has now announced they raised close to $2 million for charity all by selling meme-related merchandise on his Web site, a great way to lean into something that so many clearly enjoyed.

And that`s not all. You couldn`t have an inauguration without an election. At MSNBC, we don`t think you could have an election without our election maestro at the board, Steve Kornacki.

Well, he just got a surprise visit in his real office from Jimmy Fallon. Take a look.


FALLON: We`re in khaki country now.

Has he been living in here? These gloves aren`t even for COVID. It`s just for this office.

Look at all these ties. Who has pre-tied ties?

OK, you don`t want to know what`s under there. Honestly, I don`t even know. I really have no idea.

You`re welcome, Steve.


MELBER: Steve was a good sport about this on "The Tonight Show."

Some of the best jokes are true. I have been near Steve`s office back in the day. It was not super organized.

Now, we will be back with one more thing.


MELBER: Thanks for watching THE BEAT.

Joy Reid is up next with a special interview with Parkland survivor David Hogg.