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

Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 4/23/21

Guests: Judith Browne-Dianis, Shevrin Jones, Philip Bump, Jess Morales Rocketto, Carlos Curbelo, Eleanor Holmes Norton


D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton discusses statehood for her city. A CDC panel recommends resuming the Johnson & Johnson vaccine shots. President Biden`s economic plans are examined. The movement for police reform gains steam. Florida looks to crack down on protesting.


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: THE BEAT starts right now with the fabulous Alicia Menendez in for Ari.

Hi, Alicia.

ALICIA MENENDEZ, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Have a wonderful weekend.

And welcome to THE BEAT. I`m Alicia Menendez, in for Ari Melber, on a very busy news day.

President Biden has a major plan to announce, and new signs the movement for police reform is working, with pressure on McConnell to act.

But we start with breaking news in the coronavirus fight. Moments ago, a CDC panel recommended resuming the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Shots were paused for two weeks after 15 cases of blood clots were reported from 6.8 million shots, officials saying the vaccine will now carry a warning about the rare risk of blood clots.

The CDC director now has to sign off.

I just interviewed Dr. Fauci. And here is what he said.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, the J&J vaccine is clearly a highly efficacious vaccine. And I think the pause, which some people may have taken as a real concern, the pause should underscore how seriously we take safety, because the risk of this is extremely low, a very, very low risk of this adverse event.

And the fact that the CDC and the FDA originally paused this should underscore to everyone that we take safety very, very seriously.

So, when a vaccine is let out again to be able to be vaccinating people in this country, you can rest assured that that`s a safe and efficacious vaccine.


MENENDEZ: As officials work to combat vaccine hesitancy, GOP Senator Ron Johnson is undermining it.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): The science tells us the vaccines are 95 percent effective. So, if you have a vaccine, quite honestly, what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?

What is it to you? You have got a vaccine, and science is telling you it`s very, very effective. So, why is this big push to make sure everybody gets a vaccine?


MENENDEZ: But former President Trump is on the record encouraging Americans to get the shot and saying he`s all in favor of the vaccine.

And think about how far we have come in this COVID fight. It was one year ago almost to the minute that President Trump shocked the world with this comment:


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning?

Because you see it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs.


MENENDEZ: Yes, that dangerous inanity happened one year ago today.

A year later, over 90 million Americans are fully vaccinated, 135 million have one dose.

Joining me now, Dr. Natalie Azar, rheumatologist with NYU Langone, Katty Kay, Washington anchor for BBC News, and former Florida Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo.

Dr. Azar, I want to start with you.

What is your reaction to this new Johnson & Johnson news?

DR. NATALIE AZAR, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: So, Alicia, here are what I would say my takeaways are from today.

You could really tell -- look, this was six hours of deliberation -- that the guiding principle really here was harm reduction, and they really seemed to want to stick to science, think about implementation and equity.

It was never on the table, I think, that the vaccine was no longer going to be administered. Rather, it was really about, how do we communicate, how do we get the information out both to providers, as well as to the population, that we do think that the benefits far outweigh this risk?

They had a list of potential outcomes. The one that they chose was number one, which is essentially that they are recommending that the vaccinations will be green-lit, but with a very nuanced, updated FDA label.

They`re also really, really committed to having the CDC and the FDA be able to communicate effectively to potential recipients about this potential risk, Alicia.

MENENDEZ: Dr. Azar, officials say we have enough with Pfizer and Moderna. I mean, we know there was hesitancy before. This has injected new hesitancy. How do you get people to take this J&J vaccine?

AZAR: You know, I think context is very important here.

And one of one of the things that was done today was that they had a -- they had a modeling system, which essentially said, look, if you were -- they tried to say let`s stratify based on sex and based on gender. And, in fact, that cohort that the women under the age of 50 are the ones who are more at risk, theoretically more at risk for something like this.

But it`s all about how we communicate that risk. And so I think, at the end of the day, what was accomplished today was that there was a really good microscopic look at the situation. And the conclusion was that this is something that does and should be in the arsenal for the U.S., as well as for globally.

Let`s not forget the entire world is affected by this. And I really have to also reinforce that there are significant communities in this country who need to benefit, need this vaccine who weren`t getting vaccinated the last 10 days. And that`s all about this harm reduction that was really motivating their decision today,


I will say, for what it is worth, I am a woman under 50. I received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine three weeks ago, before the pause. Knowing the risks now, I would do it all over again.

Katty Kay, when we started talking about vaccine hesitancy, there was a lot of focus on the black community, on the Latino community. But now what we`re finding is a poll showing that half of GOP men will not get the vaccine.

On top of that, you have Senator Johnson going on the radio, sort of asking this question about why everyone needs to do it, what the rush is, as though he`s never heard of herd immunity. What does that tell you about the politics that are at play here?

KATTY KAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, Adam Kinzinger, the Republican congressman from Illinois, has just tweeted about Senator Johnson`s comments, and he said: "It shows a desire to belong to a tribe overtakes a desire to actually lead people to a better future."

And that`s what this smacks of, that Senator Johnson must know the value of encouraging people who support him, who vote for him, who listen to what he says to actually get the vaccine.

And his suggestion that, well, if you get the vaccine yourself, why do you care about whether your neighbor has got the vaccine, it`s pretty callous, isn`t it, to say, well, look after yourself, but don`t care about what`s happening to other people. It doesn`t sound very American to me.

There`s not much generosity in that statement. It`s also dangerous. I mean, we know that the vaccine hesitancy rates are rising amongst white Republican men. There actually is very little vaccine hesitancy at the moment between African-Americans and Latino communities.

The problem there is equity and distribution centers. It`s not in a willingness to get the vaccine. But what Ron Johnson is saying is causing a problem that is already a problem. He`s just exacerbating a problem amongst vaccine hesitancy amongst people who would support him.

MENENDEZ: And, Dr. Azar, I want you to talk about what that means to doctors like yourself, to the medical community.

I mean, I hear this question, what do I care about my neighbor, and I think, well, I have children who don`t have access to the vaccine. So, for example, I worry about children who are not vaccinated. I worry about at- risk members of the community who, for whatever reason, have not had access to the vaccine yet.

From a medical perspective, how dangerous are those comments?

AZAR: Oh, gosh, not even from a medical perspective. I would say they`re really starting -- startlingly ignorant.

With all that we now do know about the vaccine and about the disease and about disease transmission and the chain of transmission and the discussion about herd immunity, it is really shocking that somebody would still actually communicate that which is so not based in the science that we have been trying to teach for the last year or so, in addition to the fact that the vaccines themselves are not 100 percent protective.

We know that. Although the science is promising, it`s not definitive, that vaccination can prevent asymptomatic transmission. So, from every aspect or every angle you try to analyze that, there`s just really no reasoning in that comment.

MENENDEZ: I mean, Congressman, doctor, Katty, I think they have laid out what is at stake here for us as a society, for us from a health perspective.

So, I do want to pivot to the politics of this.

I mean, you have Mitch McConnell saying, go out there, get the vaccine, understanding that it`s going to be the quickest way to open up the economy. What then does it mean to have someone like Senator Johnson out there delivering this dangerous message?

FMR. REP. CARLOS CURBELO (R-FL): Well, Alicia, what Senator Johnson is doing is carrying the legacy of Donald Trump.

You mentioned just a few minutes ago, a year ago, Donald Trump came out and told the American people that maybe (AUDIO GAP) who were maybe giving Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt, were maybe excusing some of his past behavior, realized just how dangerous and reckless the former president was, and realized that decisions weren`t being made by health experts, that the president wasn`t acting on the advice of health experts and doctors.

He was just saying whatever he had heard last, or maybe something he had heard on a cable news network or looked up on the Internet.

So, kudos to those Republicans who are fighting back and saying, no, what Ron Johnson is saying today and what Donald Trump said a year ago is reckless and irresponsible, because it could cost people their lives. And whatever any Republicans have to criticize of the current administration, they cannot deny that, when it comes to health care policy, experts are making the decisions, doctors are in charge.

And that should be very reassuring to the American people.

MENENDEZ: Katty, I just want to Zoom out and talk about where we are now, where we were a year ago, where you have former President Trump out there making those remarks about injecting bleach.

A year later, we are getting to a point where large swathes of the population are finally vaccinated. Many Americans have their first shot. I mean, just go really big-picture for me. What does that tell you about how far we have come in a year`s time?

KAY: I mean, look, we have all learned a huge amount.

Just listening back to Donald Trump, I mean, it was crazy at the time. It sounds particularly crazy now. And it`s been a miracle of science, the fact that we have vaccinated so many people, that we have a vaccine. That this is this effective so fast, and that so many people are getting it, is a huge triumph.

I think it is worth remembering that there are countries around the world who are suffering enormously at the moment. And I think there is an onus now on wealthy countries, like the United Kingdom that has a very good track record on vaccination, like the United States that similarly does, to ask themselves, why are we sitting on tens of millions of vaccines, as the U.S. is, when a country like India is on its knees, I mean, crippled, as we are talking and desperate for supplies, desperate for vaccines, desperate for oxygen?

And it`s great, what the U.S. has done. It`s great that we have all got as far as we have. We have to think globally. We have to think about the equity of distributing vaccines globally, not just for those countries, because we`re not going to be able to move around the world until we do.

Trade, business, the global economy is going to be impacted until we can all move more freely. And that depends on getting vaccines to those countries too.

MENENDEZ: Yes. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it has taught us what it means to live in that global economy.

Dr. Azar, here`s what Dr. Fauci just told me about COVID variants. Take a listen.


FAUCI: I think there`s this misperception that, because you`re young, there`s no chance of your getting a serious outcome. That`s not the case, particularly with the variant that`s dominant now, the 117.

The vaccine works very, very well against that variant. But in the unvaccinated situation, that variant can spread very rapidly, and also infect young people more so than the previous strain of the virus that was circulating.


MENENDEZ: Dr. Azar, I want to get your response to what Dr. Fauci just said there, especially around this idea, this possibility of the COVID virus becoming a young people`s virus.

AZAR: Well, Alicia, certainly, as the older population becomes fully vaccinated, we are going to see infection in younger individuals.

And, number one, with the variants, we know that they`re more contagious, and some of them do appear to be more virulent, meaning that they cause more severe disease. And that, we are seeing, is happening in younger individuals.

But let me tell you what I`m seeing in our practices. And that is young, completely healthy people who have developed long COVID, whose lives have been completely upended. It`s a conversation that is absolutely happening, but needs to happen more and more.

There was a -- there was a time when I myself pivoted, when I became much less concerned about having a bad fatal outcome from COVID to saying, my God, I do not want to get this disease. I can`t wait until I can be vaccinated.

So, you hear a few narratives of these young, otherwise completely healthy people who are no longer able to work and who really can`t see a light at the end of the tunnel just yet. And that should inspire every single person under the age of 50 to run to get vaccinated, Alicia.

MENENDEZ: Especially true, Dr. Azar, given how little we know about these long-term complications. That`s the frustration that I have heard from every long-hauler I have spoken with.

Dr. Natalie Azar, Katty Kay and Carlos Curbelo, thank you all.

And, this Sunday, my full interview with Dr. Fauci. Congressman Raul Ruiz will also join an "AMERICAN VOICES" special report, "Latinos and the COVID Fight," Sunday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC.

Coming up in just 30 seconds: what Republicans got wrong about the Biden/Harris economy.

Also, my interview with a lawmaker fighting a new push to let drivers literally run over BLM protesters.

Plus, we will break down the dog whistle language used to oppose D.C. statehood and give you a 2021 tale of politics and love, the Capitol rioter who was turned in by his would-be date on Bumble.

We`re back in just 30 seconds.


MENENDEZ: Next week, Joe Biden will address Congress for the first time. He is expected to lay out a sweeping, progressive economic agenda.

Here`s the thing. The speech will come almost exactly 100 days after Biden took office amid a COVID economy the Trump world predicted he would make worse.

Here`s what team Trump said leading up to the election.


STEPHEN MOORE, FORMER DONALD TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Joe Biden`s economic plan, I think, would be catastrophic.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only real threat to our economy is a Joe Biden presidency.

LARRY KUDLOW, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Do you want to go back to a stagnant economy, which will make everybody worse off and lower living standards?


MENENDEZ: "The Washington Post" reporting on Republicans still waiting for the Biden depression.

Instead, today`s -- quote -- "Rebounding economy is heading for its best year since 1984," with over 1.3 million jobs already added since the election, and that, even by Trump`s preferred metric, the stock market, Biden is outperforming his predecessor at this stage of his presidency.

Next week, Biden is expected to detail tax hikes on the wealthy, households with income over $400,000, intended to fund programs for child care, family leave, pre-K, and poverty.

Polls show broad support for raising taxes on income above $400,000, 65 percent approval. That is the political dynamic as the next big economic fight takes shape.

Joining me now is political director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Jess Morales Rocketto, and national correspondent for "The Washington Post" Philip Bump.

Philip, I want to start with you.

Pull back the curtain for us. What is your reporting telling you about how the Biden administration came to the basic contours of this proposal?

PHILIP BUMP, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, if you think about what the Biden administration -- or, I should say, the Biden campaign was saying last year, there was -- there were the rough outlines of what we`re seeing now.

We heard on the campaign trail, for example, about this proposal to tax people who earn more than $400,000 a year. It was attacked by then President Trump while he was opposing Biden. But that was something that he ran on. He ran on these proposals that he was going to very specifically target pandemic relief, which, obviously, we already saw a bill pass on that.

And, as he has become president, and he`s taken these big swings at how he actually wants to approach these issues, he`s incorporated a lot of smaller details of smaller programs and smaller ideas underneath these large umbrellas of things like pandemic relief and infrastructure, which really signal how he sees his ability to reshape the economy through Congress.

And so one of the things that we`re expecting to hear next week is a more detailed and more explicit sense of what a Biden economy looks like. He obviously has goodwill from the voters. His approval ratings are doing well. He`s been able to pass these -- at least the COVID relief package. He`s working on infrastructure.

And so there is momentum for him to reshape the economy, as he said he was going to do last year.

MENENDEZ: Right, to fundamentally reshape the economy.

Jess, those talking points that we heard from Republicans are probably going to get a second life in the wake of these proposals. And there`s going to be a lot of emphasis and a lot of talk about the tax rate.

So, let`s talk instead about what all of that is paying for, fighting poverty, reducing child care costs. It`ll make pre-K and community college free to all. It will establish a national paid leave program.

Jess, if there isn`t momentum for all of this in the wake of the pandemic that highlighted the risks of poverty, the need for child care and national paid leave, I`m not sure what other set of circumstances could possibly create more momentum.

So, to me, this feels like a make-or-break moment.


I mean, you know that there has been a record number of women who have come out of the economy during the pandemic. And not only that, but I would say there`s also a record number of people who understand that paying for things like child care has to be a collective responsibility that families alone cannot shoulder the burden of.

So, this is a hugely important moment, not just for American families, as the plan is called, but also for our economy more broadly. We have heard Joe Biden talk about wanting to be a racial justice president.

And one of the ways that he`s going to be able to do that is if he can pass this plan, and make sure that not only the economy is reflecting our values, but also actually putting money in people`s pockets, making it more affordable to do basic things like care for your children, afford to go to college.

And I think that that`s honestly more than just a families plan. It really is the way that we remake the modern economy.

MENENDEZ: So, Philip, we have talked about what is in this plan. Let`s talk about what is not in there, including an up-to-$700 billion effort to expand health coverage or reduce government spending on prescription drugs.

Do you have a sense of why that was not in there, what the thinking was behind that?

BUMP: This seems pretty obvious that one of the things the administration wants to do is be very careful about how it spends its political capital.

We saw last week, for example, this eruption of frustration at the administration when it became known that they were not going to raise the refugee cap. That was something they didn`t want to spend political capital on at this moment. But, of course, a lot of Democrats saw that as a moral issue, not a political issue.

And so there was a lot of blowback, and the administration was forced to change what it was doing. It was very revealing, because what the administration is doing is being very specific about the way in which it advances its policies in a way that it feels can actually have the best chance of succeeding.

This is a very experienced administration. And I keep saying that we`re used to four years of Donald Trump, where everything was sort of thrown at the wall and there wasn`t the same sort of these are political actors who understand how to operate politically. That`s not the case with Biden`s team.

Biden`s team is very, very experienced in this. And so one of the things that we`re seeing is, they`re very specifically trying to tailor what it is that they`re doing and message it consistently in a way to maximize their chances of success. So, the odds are extremely good.

We also know that Biden pays attention to polling. So these are things which -- they`re making these decisions based largely on politics, with an eye towards maximizing the effect that they can.

MENENDEZ: Jess, you have like 10 jobs, and one of them is focused on immigration reform.

So, I saw you almost jump out of your chair when Philip mentioned the refugee cap. So, feel free to circle back to that.

But I do want to take a look at these approval numbers from young people that came out of the latest Harvard study; 59 percent of college-age students approve of President Biden`s job performance overall. That`s compared to 28 percent approval of President Trump.

Those numbers are even more pronounced, Jess, when you`re talking about black and Latino young people. What do those numbers tell you just about where we are and where the Biden administration needs to be focusing its efforts?

MORALES ROCKETTO: I mean, young people are discerning voters.

One thing we know about them is, they care a lot about ideology. They care a lot about moral standing. And they`re responding, I think, to these really early bold swings that the Biden administration has taken around immigration, around care, around fighting poverty.

And now they are definitely going to be looking in this next phase, was this just about the campaign honeymoon, or is he actually going to be a truly progressive president? And, as I said, those high-information, discerning voters are absolutely going to be looking for him to keep his promises.

I think the good example of the refugee cap is an example of him not keeping his promise. Why did he face so much outrage? Because it just wasn`t what he said he was going to do. When he sticks to his guns, and does what he says he`s going to do -- he`s going to pass immigration reform, he`s going to make sure that the economy changes, he`s going to make college affordable, he`s going to work on climate change -- that is when young people support him.

When he gets a little -- a little crazy, a little afraid of those polls, and backs away, that`s when he will see his support go away as well.

MENENDEZ: Phil, I do want to ask you about the Republican Party, because they are struggling to unite against President Biden on pretty much anything.

Is that then an opening for the president to get his agenda through Congress?

BUMP: No. I mean, flatly, no.

I mean, the problem in Congress -- I mean, look at the COVID relief bill, right? This was a bill that was widely popular, included sending out $1,400 checks to millions of Americans, and the Republicans objected to it, so they could maintain their ability potentially down the line in Republican primaries to say that they opposed the Biden agenda, right?

I mean, like, this is a sharply partisan moment. It is perhaps -- I don`t know if it`s any more or less partisan than past Congresses, but it is a very, very partisan Congress. And the fact that Biden, there`s been no Republican who has so far have stood up to say, yes, I will go along with you on that particular thing is indicative of the fact that the Biden administration seems to be operating under the assumption they`re not going to get Republicans to join them.

And I think that`s probably a fair assumption.

And I will say, too, to the prior point about spending, it`s important to remember too, there`s an age divide in the parties, right? I mean, it is not the case that all Republicans are older and all Democrats are younger. But the Democrats are much more densely young and the Republicans are much more densely old.

And that also plays into whether or not you think it`s worth spending money on things like schools and education and children, right? And so there`s that divide too that I think is important to recognize.

MENENDEZ: Philip Bump, your disdain for a rhetorical question has been noted.


MENENDEZ: I thank you for your time.

Jess Morales Rocketto, always good to see you.

Coming up: inside President Biden`s speech to Congress prep. And we know, the Republican tapped to respond, it has not always worked out.

But first: The movement for police reform and accountability is popular, and it is working. Wait until you see what Republican governors are doing now.

That`s next.


MENENDEZ: The pressure is mounting on Mitch McConnell to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

The country wants police accountability and reform; 60 percent say we should do more to scrutinize police misconduct, "The Washington Post" reporting the concerns reaching peak levels in the last 30 years. George Floyd`s killing sparked worldwide protests, call to action for change.

And this new George Floyd bill and its popularity is because of the work of activists. So, Republicans are trying to stop the movement by introducing 81 anti-protest bills this year across 34 states, including Florida, where Republican Governor Ron DeSantis enacted a law he calls -- quote -- "the strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement measure in the country."

But this isn`t about rioting. This is about stopping a movement that is surging and popular.


BRITTANY PACKNETT CUNNINGHAM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: This is straight out of the Jim Crow textbook.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a constitutionally unjust bill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Almost a slap in the face.

BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF GEORGE FLOYD: We want to make it loud and clear that this is not communist China. This was Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have just declared war on the First Amendment in the state of Florida.


MENENDEZ: Joining me now, Florida state Senator Shevrin Jones and civil rights attorney Judith Browne-Dianis, executive director of The Advancement Project.

Senator, what does the fact that the governor is choosing to prioritize this tell you about the priorities of Republicans in your state?

STATE SEN. SHEVRIN JONES (D-FL): It just goes -- well, first of all, thank you for having me, Alicia.

It goes to show you where the priorities are Florida is at. The priorities of Florida is not on COVID. The priorities of Florida is not on us making sure that the lives of black men and boys who are being killed at the hands of police officers is being protected.

The governor found the need back in September, not January 6, to bring the idea that he wanted to make the toughest law in the country to make sure -- to make sure protesting becomes criminalized.

And that`s what he did. And that`s what we are right now talking about. When we look at the law that we`re looking at today that is now the law of the land in the state of Florida, it takes us back to the Jim Crow era. They tried to silence us for voting. They tried to silence us for protesting.

And the governor once again is trying to silence a group of people. And those individuals are black and brown who look just like me.

MENENDEZ: Well, Senator, this new law allows authorities to hold arrested protesters until a first court appearance. It requires local governments to justify a reduction in law enforcement budgets, makes it a felony to destroy or demolish historical memorials or flags.

That would include things like Confederate Flags. What do those pieces of the law, Senator, tell you about who this law is targeting?

JONES: Right, exactly.

I mean, that`s the exact thing. When the governor came out back in September to make it clear of this law that he was going to come out with, initially, there -- he had a law -- he had a provision in there for stand your ground if a business owner felt as if their business was being threatened.

That law came out after January 6. When that bill was filled, they said that it was to do with the insurrection, but not one time did the governor mentioned the insurrection when he had his press conference in Florida last week.

And just what you just made mention of what the law allows, it`s protecting everyone but who should be protected. Let`s be clear about something, Alicia, that the reason why the Black Lives Matters and the allies are out protesting is because of the silence that is happening within the state of Florida right now.

And if we continue, we continuing go down this road, this legislation is not going to stop individuals from going out to make our voices heard. It`s going to make it more exemplified to go out to Protest or to go out to demonstrate.

And because the governor continues to do this, and because the governor refuses to do what is right for all the Floridians, the 22 million people here within the state of Florida, his legislation doesn`t stop anything.

As a matter of fact, it makes sure that we go out and make it known that we will not stand for the injustice in Florida and in this country.

MENENDEZ: Judith, this isn`t just happening in Florida. Bills are being passed across the country, in Oklahoma, in Iowa.

Their laws grant immunity to motorists who hit protesters. I think about the voter suppression law coming out of Georgia and the fact that even people who might consider themselves apolitical went through the list of provisions in that law and said, you can`t give someone a bottle of water at a polling site? That just doesn`t make sense to me.

I think people, again, who may not be tuned into this conversation hear that you`re making it legal for someone in their car to run over a protester, and they think, how can that even be legal?


And we have to -- I mean, you did a great job, Alicia, of connecting the dots between what is happening on voter suppression and what is happening on the suppression of the First Amendment rights of people.

And we have to connect it, because what we know is that black people turned out in record numbers at the polls, black people and people of color and young people took to the streets last year, and the outcome of that election is what they want to stop.

And they want to kill this movement, because that they know that this multiracial movement that is coming together is going to get rid of them. And so they don`t care. They would rather throw the First Amendment out, they would rather have people hit by cars in the street than make sure that people have the right to protest and to hold them accountable.

MENENDEZ: So, Judith, again, I would ask you who this is meant to intimidate, but the answer is right here again.

A Minnesota bill would prohibit those convicted of unlawful protesting from -- get this -- receiving student loans, unemployment benefits, or housing assistance.

So, yes, this is partly about race and ethnicity. It is also partly about socioeconomics. How do you then protect those communities? How do you engage those communities, so that they can begin to push back?

BROWNE-DIANIS: Well, I mean, I think there -- first of all, there are going to be a lot of lawsuits on this stuff, right? We have seen the lawsuits around voter suppression. We`re going to see lawsuits around the First Amendment.

We should expect and we should have some of our friends like the libertarians, who are, like, unsuspecting friends, but who love the First Amendment, coming out on this, because this is what it is. It`s an attack on democracy.

And so we have all got to come together on this. And we know that what we`re up against is very serious. People could go to jail without bail, because they saw bail funds put together, because they know that we were able to organize and get people out when they were protesting.

And so we`re going to be fighting back everywhere. We have got to fight that because this is about our democracy and making sure that our voices are heard in the voting booth and in the streets.

MENENDEZ: Senator, I asked you what this means for Republicans in Florida.

But I want to take that even bigger picture. When you look at the voter suppression legislation we`re seeing across the country, these anti-protest bills, what does that say about Republicans nationally?

JONES: They know they`re losing.

And so, when you know you`re losing, you start moving the goalposts further and further away. And we -- and Ms. Judith just made it clear that we saw record numbers of voters come out in the state of Florida in the last election.

And because of that, now you move the goalposts further and further. It`s no different than the Jim Crow era, in which we have seen this before, to where, when black folks started voting, you move the goalposts. When black folks started voting, you put more rules in place.

And that is what is happening right now in the state of Florida and across the country. When you lose, you change the rules.

MENENDEZ: Florida state Senator Shevrin Jones and Judith Browne-Dianis, thank you both so much.

Ahead: why Democrats are calling out Republican Senator Tom Cotton, accusing him of dog whistle language.

And later news: on the Capitol riots and how a dating Web site led to an arrest.



REP. MONDAIRE JONES (D-NY): I have had enough of my colleagues` racist insinuations that somehow the people of Washington, D.C., are incapable or even unworthy of our democracy.

DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), WASHINGTON, D.C.: My life as a third- generation Washingtonian has marched toward this milestone mindful that my own family has never known equality.


MENENDEZ: It all sets up a fight in the Senate, House Democrats passing a bill this week to make Washington, D.C., the 51st state.

Not a single House Republican voted for it.


REP. JODY HICE (R-GA): D.C. would be the only state, the only state without an airport, without a car dealership, without a capital city, without a landfill.

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): D.C. wouldn`t even qualify as a singular congressional district. And here they are. They want the power and the authority of being an entire state in the United States.


MENENDEZ: Those are not requirements for statehood, although it is worth mentioning D.C. does have car dealerships and a landfill and three nearby airports.

Some other Republicans are making this argument:


SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): Look at this ridiculous map. Look at it. Look at it. It`s got 90 sides. Yes, Wyoming is smaller than Washington by population, but it has three times as many workers in mining, logging and construction.

In other words, Wyoming is a well-rounded, working-class state.


MENENDEZ: Democratic Congressman Mondaire Jones with this reply:


JONES: One Senate Republican said that D.C. wouldn`t be a -- quote -- "well-rounded working-class state."

I had no idea there was so many syllables in the word white.


MENENDEZ: And here is a different factual comparison between Wyoming and D.C.

Wyoming has a population of under 600,000. It is 1.3 percent black. It is a state. D.C. has a population of just over 700,000. It is 46 percent black. It is not a state.

One person confident the Senate will pass the statehood bill is D.C.`s only at-large delegate in Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton.

She says -- quote -- "I think we are well on our way to statehood."

We will talk to the congresswoman right after this break.


MENENDEZ: We are back with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, fresh off that historic House vote to make D.C. a state and give her constituents representation.

Congresswoman, why are you so confident that the Senate is going to pass this?

NORTON: Well, I`m confident that the Senate will pass the bill eventually, and maybe even soon, because of the fight the Senate was in this year to get rid of the filibuster.

The reason Democrats won back the Senate in the first place is because Republicans filibustered everyone. So, the first thing the Democrats did was to hold off getting organized to try to get rid of the filibuster. They didn`t -- they didn`t quite make it, but it shows the determination, if you want to get anything done, to get rid of that filibuster. And if it goes for everything else, it will go for statehood too.

MENENDEZ: Well, several Democrats, like Joe Manchin, are not supporting D.C. statehood yet. What is your message to them? How do you move them?

NORTON: Well, I think we move them -- first of all, he`s not the only one. There are a few Democrats.

Remember, we have more than 90 percent of the Democrats. As we move towards statehood, I expect that we will have them all most of them. And this is what I really expect.

Because President Biden is doing so well, I expect to get even more Democratic senators next term.

MENENDEZ: Well, I want you to listen to what Republican Senator Tom Cotton, months before the Capitol riots argued, that D.C. statehood would leave the Capitol vulnerable. Take a listen.


COTTON: The founders made Washington, D.C., independent, so that the federal government would never again be at the mercy of a mob.

The wisdom of this decision was on display just days ago, when violent riots erupted near the White House. One can only imagine how much worse the destruction would have been if those federal officers hadn`t been there.

Should we risk the safety of our Capitol on such a gamble?


MENENDEZ: Wow, one can only imagine.

So, that was before the Capitol riots. What would you say to Senator Cotton now?

NORTON: I would say to Senate Cotton -- I would say to Senator Cotton that all we needed during the Capitol was not even statehood. It was to give the District control over its own National Guard.

As it was, the District police saved the Capitol, because President Trump held out, held back the National Guard, because it`s he who started the insurrection in the first place.

MENENDEZ: So, you heard Senator Cotton`s argument sort of earlier.

Then there are other Republicans, like Senator Romney, who support making D.C. a part of the state of Maryland. Your response to that?

NORTON: Oh, I think you ought to ask Maryland.

The fact is that Steny Hoyer, the lead Democrat in the House, except for the speaker, majority leader, is from Maryland, supports statehood. So do the two senators from Maryland, and every member of the House from Maryland supports D.C. statehood, except the lone Republican member.

MENENDEZ: 2016, 78 percent of D.C. residents voted for statehood, 78 percent; 13 percent were against it.

For people who have not lived in Washington, D.C. -- because I think, once you live in Washington, D.C., much of this becomes very apparent -- why is it so important for D.C. residents to see the District become a state?

NORTON: Well, it`s most important for D.C. residents because they have only me in the House. I don`t even have the final vote on the House floor, although I do have votes in committees, and, therefore, I`m able to get things done for the District.

But what District residents need most from Congress is two senators. When I passed a bill -- and, last year, I was named the most effective House member for passing bills -- I have to go to the Senate. And I don`t have any senators.

Thankfully, I do have allies that help me get things done in the Senate. We need our own senators to help me get things done in the Senate.

MENENDEZ: All right, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, we`re going to continue to follow this. I hope you will join us again.

Thank you so much for your time tonight.

Staying now on politics, Republicans have announced Senator Tim Scott will give their response to President Biden`s speech to Congress next week. This is both a reward and risk.

On a few rare occasions, young party stars have used this response to make a mark.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A vision of America that says we can rebuild to a stronger economy, we can create better and more secure jobs, and we can really put this country back to work.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our objective tonight is not to disagree with our president and his party, though our differences are many. Like all Americans, we must celebrate any success that builds a better future.

STACEY ABRAMS, FOUNDER, FAIR FIGHT: It should be no different in our nation`s capital. We may come from different sides of the political aisle, but our joint commitment to the ideals of this nation cannot be negotiable.


MENENDEZ: But, for most politicians, there is a greater chance of that moment turning into a meme.

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer gave the 2019 Democratic response together, and went viral on Twitter after they were likened to the famous American Gothic painting, though, to be fair, it is hard to share a podium with someone. It`s why people normally don`t do that.

In 2011, Michele Bachmann gave the Tea Party response, but left many wondering what exactly she was looking at.

Perhaps most famous or infamous was Marco Rubio`s water bottle speech in 2013.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): In the short time that I have been here in Washington, nothing has frustrated me more than false choices like the one that president laid out tonight.


MENENDEZ: Rubio got some comic treatment afterwards from "Saturday Night Live" and my colleague Al Sharpton.




MENENDEZ: Senator Scott, what can I say? We will be watching.

A January 6 rioter, a dating Web site, and an outcome you need to see -- next.


MENENDEZ: Finally, tonight, the Justice Department expanding its January 6 probe in what one prosecutor has already predicted will be the largest, most complex criminal probe in U.S. history.

The DOJ saying it expects to charge more than 500 people for their role in the insurrection at the Capitol; 440 people have already been charged.

And that includes this man, Robert Chapman. He was turned in by a prospective love interest on the dating app Bumble. The court filing in this case includes their Bumble messages back and forth, in which he brags -- quote -- "I did storm the Capitol." He adds: "I made it all the way into Statutory Hall -- Statuary Hall."

That would-be date writes back -- quote -- "We are not a match" and alerted the authorities that very same day.

That does it for me.

A reminder: You can always catch me every weekend 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Eastern on "AMERICAN VOICES."