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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 10/12/21

Guests: Shannon Selden, Jason Fuhrman


After what may have been only a temporary slump in polls, President Biden`s polling numbers appear to be recovering with the latest Reuters poll showing his job approval. Jason Fuhrman was the chair of President Obama`s Council of Economic Advisers and he says the reconciliation bill Democrats are negotiating in congress might be the last chance Democrats have to advance their agenda for a very, very long time.



And it will be midnight in Washington in a couple of hours, but it`s going to be midnight in Washington right here on THE LAST WORD with Adam Schiff --


O`DONNELL: -- talking about his new book.

And thank you, Rachel, for sending overall those questions that you used last night that`ll get me through my entire interview with Adam Schiff tonight.

MADDOW: If I didn`t write 100 questions for every five-minute interview that I do, I can get on other things in life. But you know me, I overwrite.

O`DONNELL: Uh-huh. And, you know, he actually made some other news today, so there`s a bit more to talk about than just that.

MADDOW: Fantastic. Go with God. Indeed.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Today, our first guest, Congressman Adam Schiff, said that the special House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol on January 6 will pursue criminal contempt charges against anyone who tries to defy the committee`s subpoenas. Insurrectionists in suits and ties is how Adam Schiff describes the Republican members of the House whose rhetoric encouraged and helped provoke the attack on January 6th.

One of the witnesses subpoenaed by the January 6th committee, Steve Bannon, in Adam Schiff`s new book, "Midnight in Washington: We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could," he tells a story of Steve Bannon testifying to the House Intelligence Committee, while he was a member of the White House staff. This was the first year of the Trump`s presidency, the House of Representatives was controlled by Republicans, and the chair of the Intelligence committee was then republican Devin Nunes.

On page 153, Adam Schiff writes: Steve Bannon showed up for testimony one afternoon with a list of only 25 questions he would deign to answer in the entire investigations, notwithstanding the fact that he was a key witness. More stupefying, he admitted that the list had been written by the White House, complete with a one-word answer to each questions. No.

That is what the January 6th Committee can expect if and when Bannon actually shows up to testify before the committee. A year before, Adam Schiff stood on the Senate floor, on the third day of the first impeachment trial of Donald Trump and said this.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): No Constitution can protect us. Right does not matter anymore. You know, you can`t trust this president do what`s right for this country. You can trust he`ll do what`s right for Donald Trump. He`ll do it now. He`s done it before. He`ll do it for the next several months. He`ll do it in the election if he`s allowed to.

This is why if you find him guilty, you must find that he should be removed, because right matters, because right matters. And the truth matters. Otherwise, we are lost.


O`DONNELL: In his new book, Adam Schiff says during the attack of the Capitol, members of the House kept saying to him, you warned us. On page 12, he writes, fear was receding and anger at the president was quickly taking at its place, one of my Democratic colleagues came up to me, and was the first to say, what I would hear versions of for weeks to come, you said this would happen, she said.

Adam Schiff describes what he was feeling when Capitol Police was trying to move members of Congress to safety. He wrote, you need to get out a police officer shouted. Move, I made my way down to the well and joined the remaining members and staff filing out looking back at the doors being hammered to the rear of the chamber, glass now shattering, police officers pushed large cabinets in front of the doors and would soon draw their weapons.

You can`t let them see you, a Republican member said to me.


He`s right, another Republican member said. I know these people. I can talk to them. I can talk my way through them. You are in a whole different category.

In that moment, we were not merely members of different political parties, but on opposite sides of a much more dangerous divide.

At first I was oddly touched by these GOP members and by their evident concern, but by then I had been receiving death threats for years and that feeling seem gave way to another. If these Republican members had enjoying the president and falsely attacking me for four years, I wouldn`t need to be worried about my security, none of us would.

Adam Schiff writes that in the first impeachment trial of Donald Trump in which Adam Schiff was the lead prosecutor in the Senate trials, Republicans proved to Donald Trump, that the Republicans in Congress would never confront, him never constrain him, and had been fully and successfully cowed.

None of the Republicans have been more cowed by Donald Trump than the House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy who will become speaker of the, House if the Republicans win back control of the House of Representatives.

In his book, Adam Schiff writes this about Kevin McCarthy: I learned all I would ever need to know about Kevin McCarthy on a plane, or to be more precise, shortly after landing. About six months before the 2010 midterm elections, we were both heading back to Washington from California happened to be seated together on a United Airlines flight.

Although we are both from California, our districts are separated by almost 100 miles and we will never really had the opportunity to get to know each other. While Democrats were still in the majority, the elections were shaping up to be tight, our margin was small, and there was growing doubt about whether we would retain that majority. During the flight, I express confidence that the economy would remain positive and we would continue to leave the House. Not surprisingly, he took the contrary view. It wasn`t much of a conversation, just the type of small talk you would have all waiting for a movie, any movie to star on a plane.

I thought nothing of it. The next morning I picked up one of "The Hill" newspapers. Everyone knows that Republicans are going to win the House, McCarthy and told a group of reporters after arriving at the Capitol from our flight. He said that he spoke to me on the plane and even I admitted Republicans would take back the majority.

Kevin, if we were having a private conversation on the plane, I would`ve thought it was a private conversation. But it wasn`t, you know I said the exact opposite of what you told the press. I know, Adam, was his reply, but you know how it goes.

I was incredulous. No, Kevin. I don`t. You just make stuff up, and that`s how you operate? He just shrugged.

That was simply how we operated, and how he still operates today. The man who warned us, in the first Trump impeachment trial, that Donald Trump would do it again, has a new warning for us.

Republican legislatures, all across the country have continued Trump`s big lie about massive voter, fraud initiating phony new audits of the election results and replacing independent election officials, with the ones beholden to partisan legislatures. They are preparing the battlefield, and the struggle to overturn the next presidential election, if it doesn`t go their way, and should they regain the majorities in congress, they just might be successful.

The Trump presidency was a stress test for our system, for the results must wake us up, the survival of our institutions, and the rule of law, depends on what we do next.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He`s the chair of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the January 6th Select Committee. He was the lead impeachment manager in the first impeachment trial of Donald Trump. His new book is "Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Democracy and Still Could."

Thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate.

I want to begin with that story you tell about Kevin McCarthy, because we see in that story, in 2010, 11 years ago, behavior, that is purely Trumpian, if you just substitute Donald Trump for Kevin McCarthy in that story, and usage around the, plane and you had that conversation, and then he went out and just lied about it, everyone would just go well sure. Of course Donald Trump did that.

And so, the idea that Donald Trump had to somehow turn Kevin McCarthy, corrupt Kevin McCarthy into something he wasn`t, is no longer my view, after reading your book.

REP. ADAM, SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, I think that`s absolutely right.


Certainly, Kevin McCarthy was made for a moment like this, but he is who he is, and he`s always been a suspect, who he is today. In fact, one of the running themes as you know throughout the book, is something that Robert Caro, the historian once said, that power does not corrupt as much as reveals, it may not reveal the best, of us but it reveals a lot about who we are.

And power has revealed more and more, about who Kevin McCarthy is. It revealed on Sunday who Stephen Scalise is when he was unable on Chris Wallace`s program, to simply state the fact that the election was not stolen. It revealed about Bill Barr. It revealed a lot frankly, and the very inspiring and positive side about people like Maria Yovanovitch, and Alexander Vindman.

It`s not all stories of villainy. There are some real heroes that have emerged from this period, but you`re absolutely right, Kevin McCarthy was ahead of his time, but he has really made for a presidency that believes that truth is not true. That everyone is entitled to their own alternate facts, in the idea that he would ever step foot in the speaker`s office, is just a terrifying one.

O`DONNELL: Well, tell us about that idea, if the Republicans win, and get the House back in the next, election next year, Kevin McCarthy becomes speaker, what does that mean for the country, in the next two years of the Biden presidency?

SCHIFF: Well, I think what that means is a couple of things. One is people have speculated well could Donald Trump actually be the speaker, because you don`t need to be in Congress to be speaker, the reality is, he would need to be the speaker, because essentially, Kevin McCarthy would do anything Donald Trump told him to do. I think that`s all too apparent.

And, one of the most profound indications of that is what took place after the insurrection. For a moment, you could see Kevin McCarthy putting his finger to the winds, and sensing that the direction of the wind was running against Donald Trump, he adjusted incited a violent attack against the Capitol, and he made statements attributing responsibility to Donald Trump. But it took all of a matter of, days before he went down to Mar-a-Lago to pledge his undying fealty to Donald Trump once again, because it was clear that the wind was blowing in the other direction.

And I have to say, among the most painful parts of this past several years to me, Lawrence is the fact that after we had to endure that terrible insurrection, and we might I have turned the corner as a country. We had the absolute wrong person leading the Republican Party in the House, in Kevin McCarthy, and even Mitch McConnell. Who you can see struggled with, this and wanted to throw Donald Trump overboard, lack the courage and conviction to do, and now we are forced to suffer, this again, until we can expunged him from the political scene.

O`DONNELL: So, did Donald Trump, in your view, corrupt the Republican Party in Congress, or did he give them a chance to reveal who they really are?

SCHIFF: I think really both, it was really astounding to me, that someone is deeply flawed as Donald Trump, in a matter of for sure years or less, could completely remake one of America`s great political parties, in his flawed image, but he did it. And the reason he was able to do it, was because all too many of the Republican leadership in the Congress, did not turn out to care anything about anything they said they cared about.

One of the most frequent questions I get from constituents and others around the country`s to the Republicans really believe what they`re saying publicly, when you talk to them privately? In the answer is all too often no, they don`t. They don`t believe in the ideology that they profess, they don`t believe in conservative, values they don`t believe in family values.

It turns out they only believe in the maintenance of their own position and power. That is where power has revealed, in these last four years. And to me, it was a terrible epiphany, that these members, that I`ve worked with, McCarthy per se, but others who I respected, some of who I admired, because I believed that they believed what they were saying. It turned out not to believe it at all.

And, to me, it doesn`t matter how brilliant the constitution, is or how well crafted era laws are, if -- as you played in that clip from the impeachment trial, if people don`t give content to the provisions in the Constitution, if they don`t live the spirit which they were written, if they don`t apply right and wrong, and the truth, then none of it is good enough to protect us.

O`DONNELL: If Democrats lose control of the, House in the next election, that means, that the January 6th committee, really only has about 13 months left, in which, to do its work, complete its work. What can you tell us about, where you are in that first round of subpoenas? There are reports indicating that two of the first subpoenaed witnesses are in some contact with the committee. Mark Meadows, Kash Patel, but it`s not clear at all whether Steve Bannon in the other two are in any contact with the committee about the subpoenas, and how will you enforce them?

SCHIFF: Well, I think that Steve Bannon has been pretty public about his unwillingness to cooperate in any way. And from my point of view, it`s not up to him. He is required to show up. He`s required to testify. And if he does not, and does not have a reason, a legal reason to proffer which he doesn`t, then we will hold him in criminal contempt, and we will refer that to the Justice Department for prosecution.

That will be true of the other witnesses as well, if they do not comply. And, I think the reason why Steve Bannon, you know, you read it from the book, the reason why he feels empowered to do, that is because for four years, we had a Justice Department that did not apply the law equally. In Bill Barr, we had someone who was essentially running the presidents the, former president`s personal criminal defense firm.

But the situation has changed. We now have an attorney general of integrity, we have a Department of Justice that believes no one is above the law, we have an administration that is not asserting privilege to stymie the public from finding out what led to January 6th, and that gives me every hope and expectation, that not only will we move quickly, but that the Justice Department will also.

O`DONNELL: Well, what has not changed is that full legal enforcement and the congressional subpoena like this does take time, and if it becomes a matter of criminal prosecution, for defying that subpoena, we could be talking about years.

SCHIFF: Well, civil litigation, Lawrence, you`re absolutely, right. The civil litigation took us years, took us almost two years to get the testimony finally. The weight of a criminal prosecution, I think, has a very different impact on witnesses, and potential witnesses.

And you`re right, they could take even a long time to prosecute a criminal case. But you prosecute one criminal case, and every other witness that looks at that says, okay, the Department of Justice is serious. The Congress is serious. I better comply, because I do not want to face prosecution.

So, it`s a big club. And it`s necessary, because for four years, effectively the rule of law was undermined, by the leadership of that department. In those days are gone. To me, this will be a real test of the recovery of our democracy, if the Justice Department does not view anyone`s being above the law, and that`s fully my expectation that they will uphold that principle.

O`DONNELL: So if you`re Steve Bannon sitting home tonight watching this, ignoring the subpoena that you and your committee absent to him, and he`s laughing at this, how long will Steve Bannon be able to stay at home laughing about this before he feels the weight of some kind of enforcement of that subpoena?

SCHIFF: We intend to act very quickly, with uncooperative witnesses. So I can`t be specific as to any one person, but without any dissent, without any disagreement, all the members of the committee are quite uniformed, that we will not abide delay, we will not abide efforts to play rope-a-dope with us as we saw in the past. And, look, Steve Bannon, this one story about the last administration to me is so.

The man runs for president on a platform building a wall that he says Mexico will pay for. It`s an absurd promise of course. He doesn`t build a wall. Mexico doesn`t pay for it. A bunch of his fellow grifters, including Steve Bannon, and start up a fund, a private fund to build the wall. They steal money from the supporters of the president and what is Donald Trump do? He pardons Bannon.

No wonder Steve Bannon feels that he can go on with the grift. But it`s not Donald Trump`s Justice Department anymore. It`s the Justice Department that believes it serves the public interest, not the interest of the person of the president. And if Steve Bannon does not have that message, yet he is not paying attention.

O`DONNELL: Chairman Adam Schiff, thank you very much for starting us off tonight. I really appreciate it.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Chairman Schiff`s new book is midnight in Washington, it is "How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could".

And coming up, the American Medical Association has filed an appears court brief in opposition to the new Texas abortion law. The attorney rule that brief, Shannon Zeldin, will join us next.


O`DONNELL: Last night, the U.S. Justice Department, asked a federal appeals court, to prevent Texas from enforcing the states new abortion law, while that law is being challenged in federal court. In its pleading, the Justice Department call the law and unconstitutional scheme, and said, if Texas is scheme is permissible, no constitutional right is safe from state sanction sabotage of this kind.

Last week in Texas, Federal Judge Robert Pitman blocked the law from being enforced, while it was being challenged in federal court, but two days later, federal appeals court reversed that decision and allow the Texas law to remain in effect.


Bridget Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, told "USA Today", a legal fight has quote created devastation and chaos, in Texas, where patients were given a glimmer of, hope before their appointments began getting canceled, it`s really hard on staff and providers and patients, to have this whiplash you said, it`s destabilizing, it`s dehumanizing, and it really should not be happening.

The American Medical Association, along with over a dozen other medical organizations, filed an amethyst, brief in the case written by our next guest. The brief says that the Texas abortion law not only endangers the health and when being a pregnant women seeking care, but also forces medical professionals to choose between long establishments effect ethical in clinical standards of care, and their personal and professional risk of being bankrupted by lawsuits.

Joining us now is Sharon Selden, who serves as counsel to the 19 medical organizations, and the amicus brief filed against the Texas abortion law.

Thank you very much for joining us, tonight we really appreciate it. Your brief is fascinating because one of the issues, in bringing this legal challenge, has been the challenge of standing, and standing generally meaning, you have standing to sue, and bring legal action, if you are somehow being harmed. And it seems that the medical profession, is the target of this law, you are representing in a sense the medical profession in this amicus brief.

SHANNON SELDEN, REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS ATTORNEY: That`s right, in this amicus brief, the medical organizations, which include the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatricians, and many, many other leading medical organizations, are weighing in, to support the government`s case against Texas. So, this case, the medical organizations are not asserting their own briefs, they`re not bringing their own suit, but they are weighing in to say, these issues are essential to the members of our organizations, and the patients that we serve, because the Texas law cuts at the very heart of the doctor-patient or clinician-patient relationship, interferes with safe ethical, medical evidence based care.

And that`s something that we should all be concerned about, both patients are seeking abortions to end, unwanted or unintended pregnancies, but also everyone who is or could be pregnant in Texas is vulnerable because of the way in which this law interferes with the safe evidence based provisional medical care.

O`DONNELL: You`ve seen the arguments that the state of Texas is making in this case so far. What is the most challenging argument, that you have to meet? That the state of Texas is making here. What is the legally most difficult points that you have to get over?

SELDEN: For the government, for the United States, government and its fight with Texas, the initial fight is really a threshold question, can the United States government go into court and sue the state of Texas, because the state of Texas has stripped away individual rights, protected by the United States Constitution. And, you see the United States in its brief, so the Department of Justice in its briefs, relying on some older cases, this is not something that frequently happens.

But it does happen, and it happens in ways that the courts have recognized, and in ways that the courts have recognized that the United States government has an equitable right, a general equitable right, not written in the Constitution, not written in federal statute, but one that has long been recognized, by federal courts in this country. That the United States can go into its federal courts, to protect the constitutional rights of its citizens, and that`s with the department of justice`s saying it has to do here.

That`s a tough argument, not because it`s conceptually difficult, that`s kind of the promise, at the very core of our constitutional scheme. It`s a tough argument because whereas to be made. It has to be made in the circuit, may actually be made in the Supreme Court. It`s the made in courts that are attending is seen in other cases, challenging as the Texas abortion law to side with the state of Texas, and to defer to it, and to allow it to adopt and enforce this unconstitutional ban on abortion.

So, I think it`s a well rooted argument, but it`s one that faces particular challenges because of the deference that these courts have given to the state on this issue.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Dr. Amna Jermish said about her experience with one patient.


DR. AMNA JERMISH: The first patient who I saw after the law went into effect, when I told her that we could see cardiac activity in her, she just curled up into a ball on the table and just started sobbing.

And she asked me if she could hold my hand. And that was all I could do for her in that moment. She was a college student, had a (INAUDIBLE) failure. You know, she was a person who was in a situation where she could be pregnant.


O`DONNELL: Will the appeals court recognize the timing urgency in a case like that when stories like that are being told every day.

SELDEN: I certainly hope so. It is hard to think a constitutional that is more time sensitive, more intimate than the ability to decide whether or not to continue a pregnancy.

And I`m so glad that we are hearing this stories directly from doctors and some of the briefing in the U.S. versus Texas case, you hear some of the stories of patients who have been looking to get care during this period.

And this law is just unconscionable in the way that it treats women and girls in Texas. It is isolating. It separates pregnant women and girls from their family, from their friends, from their (INAUDIBLE), the resources they could talk to about their pregnancy.

Why? Because it puts all of those people into liability to a significant monetary damages. And patients know that by talking to their doctors, their family or friends are putting them in jeopardy and it takes away basic essential reproductive care which is what abortion is.

And you know, abortion is among the safest ones of reproductive care and an essential part of kind of reproductive care that doctors provide to their patients all the time. And in banning it, Texas is really endangering the health and the well-being of women and girls throughout the state.

O`DONNELL: Shannon Selden, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

SELDEN: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, John Heilemann and Eugene Robinson will join us next on the politics of the Biden legislative agenda in Congress.



O`DONNELL: After what may have been only a temporary slump in polls, President Biden`s polling numbers appear to be recovering with the latest Reuters poll showing his job approval at 48 percent approval with disapproval at 47 percent.

And with voters perception of the economy being closely linked to presidential approval it is good news for Joe Biden that the most recent Gallup poll finds that 57 percent of Americans say their financial situation is good or excellent, the highest in 19 years.

After the first pieces of the Biden legislative agenda flew through the Congress, seemingly quickly and delivered what felt like immediate COVID relief assistance to voters, the progress of the Biden infrastructure package has appeared to be slow going and noisy by comparison as Democrats publicly with increasing frustration have been negotiating with Democrats.

"Washington Post`s" Eugene Robinson writes, "What I see is a pretty normal exercise in legislative give and take except that it`s all happening within the Democratic Party while Republicans swoop, holler and obstruct from the peanut gallery.

When it comes to Congress, things never go as quickly as they might and there always comes at least one moment when it appears that all is lost.

Joining us now Eugene Robinson associate editor, Pulitzer-prize winning columnist for the "Washington Post" and John Heilemann, host and executive producer of Showtime`s "The Circus" and host of the "Hell and High Water" podcast from the recount. Both are MSNBC political analysts.

And Eugene, I love your column about this because it does actually looks like the normal legislative process. And the first speed through legislation that the Biden administration, the Democrats were doing did not look like the normal process at all because it was going so very smoothly. That may have gotten some spectators out there spoiled into thinking that`s the way it`s always going to work.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they got some people -- you know, Lawrence from your experience in the Senate that is not the way things work.

You know, $1.9 trillion does not just zoom through the Congress in a matter of, you know, days or mere weeks. It takes a long time to work this sort of thing out. There`s a lot of give and take and the Democrats have very slim majority, you know, 50/50 Senate, three-fourth votes in the House.

So yes, I think the ease with which the rescue package went through, spoiled some people or made them forget what legislating is really like.

And then the other thing that`s sort of turbo charge this, I think largely false narrative of Democratic doom and a Biden collapse was a poll about a week ago showing his approval at 38 percent.


ROBINSON: Quinnipiac poll, good pollster but that poll increasing looks like an outlier for all the poll since show essentially what that Reuters IPSOS poll showed. The Biden above 48.7 or 49.46 percent or 50/50.

None of them show him under water much less way underwater there (INAUDIBLE) IPSOS poll showed. Nonetheless, my newspaper, our network, other news outlets continue referring to that shocking Quinnipiac poll in (INAUDIBLE) the sort of definitive status check on President Biden which it now -- do we have evidence that it isn`t.

And it`s -- you know, I don`t like to do media criticism because there are lots of people who do that. but this just seems kind of crazy to look at the world in a way that it really just isn`t.

O`DONNELL: John, my coverage of the Biden two-track infrastructure plan started off with just I could not fathom how you could do this. I don`t understand how these two 747s, you know, land on the same runway at the same time, I just didn`t get it.

And then I watched it go remarkably smoothly. And kind of very, very surprised especially when they got to the point where they actually voted in the Senate -- all 50 of them voted for the $3.5 trillion budget resolution and if you have got a problem with the 3.5. That`s the time to have the problem. And they didn`t. They voted for it.

You know, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema and so that made me think this thing was going really smoothly and now they`re arguing about the 3.5, they`re kind of deciding to do that at the end of the process instead of the beginning after they already voted for it.

And so now we are seeing what I consider like the realistic section of the legislation.

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. I mean look, I mean Lawrence there`s the Senate as it should and there`s a Senate as it is. I think you are familiar with both. I mean the Senate as it should is the Senate where all the Democrats vote for that budget resolution and then don`t quibble over numbers going forward.

But the Senate as it is, is the one where Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema just voted for that thing inside ok, whatever, negotiate, use our leverage later.

So here we are and, you know, at a pile a little bit of the same analysis, and I think, you know, look, I don`t think there is a lot right now, a lot of Democrats who have gone through this process and gotten to this point.

I number one, think most of them think that eventually they believe this, I am not saying it`s true, but they think eventually it will -- both these bills will get passed.

But there`s also now a lot of them who have an enormous sense that there`s a lot of momentum, and there`s a lot of trust between the two sides, which is a little bit of a problem right now because the reality is that moderates and Democrats both feel betrayed in various directions and they have to eventually come together if they`re going to get this done.

I`d say my political analysis goes a little bit in the same direction in terms of Eugene`s assessment which is there`s the world as it is and the world as it should be. It makes no sense perhaps and I did not -- I`m the last person who`s going to say Joe Biden is in collapse, he is not.

I don`t think the Democrats are in disarray, they are not. They`re on normal levels of whatever they are. But I will tell you right now if you go around and talk to House Democrats in competitive districts, they`re looking at their numbers and they`re not happy right now.

And there is a lot of concern about turn-out next year, about the base being frustrated and about voters in the middle of the party being frustrated for a slightly different -- for slightly different sets of reasons.

And so what I just hear over and over again from my reporting is that House Democrats are terrified about what`s going to happen in 2022.

O`DONNELL: Yes. And one of the challenges is how to describe what they are doing and last night on this program, Anat Shenker-Osorio (ph) had what so far is the line of the week, at least up until this segment when she said the Democrats have to stop selling the recipe and start selling the brownies.

And Eugene, someone`s got to teach them how to do that pretty quickly.

ROBINSON: Yes. Well, you know, I have complained for years and years, the Democrats are just lousy at modern communications and strategic communications. They never come up with a phrase. They never emphasized, you know, what this is going to do for you rather -- you know they`re talking about these imaginary $3.5 versus $1.8.

I mean talk about what it`s going to do for you, for the constituents. And please, that`s all I can say. Please.

O`DONNELL: Eugene Robinson and John Heilemann, we`ll have brownies for you next time. Thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.


O`DONNELL: Thank you.

HEILEMANN: Thank you Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, Jason Fuhrman was the chair of President Obama`s Council of Economic Advisers and he says the reconciliation bill Democrats are negotiating in congress might be the last chance Democrats have to advance their agenda for a very, very long time. That`s next.




JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president feels that we`re continuing to make progress. We are having important discussions of what a package that is smaller than $3.5 trillion would look like, those conversations have to happen with a range of members.

We are at the point I should where there are choices that need to be made. That`s the point we`re at now. Given there will be fewer dollars that`ll be spent.


O`DONNELL: Last week in the meeting with House Democrats, President Biden told them that they will have to lower their target to around $2 trillion to get a reconciliation bill that can pass the Senate as part of the Biden two-trac infrastructure package.

Today Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged the lower overall spending target for that legislation.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I`m very disappointed that we are not going with the original $3.5 trillion which was very transformative.

We have to make sure we have a bill which I also said is that we have to have something that`ll pass the House and pass Senate. Pass the House and pass the Senate and I am not asking members to vote for something that has no chance to pass in the Senate.



O`DONNELL: Democratic John Yarmuth, chair of the House Budget Committee has suggested that the Democrats could take up another reconciliation bill next year to expand on what they might pass this year.

Jason Fuhrman served as the chair of President Obama`s Council of Economic Advisers told the "New York Times" quote, "The problem now is this may be the last train leaving the station for a long time -- that could be five, ten, 20 years before there`s another shot at a lot of these issues.

Joining us now is Jason Fuhrman, professor of the practice of economic policy at Harvard`s Kennedy School. He served as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Obama administration.

Professor Fuhrman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. What do you mean five, ten, 20 years? How could there possibly be that kind of blank space between these kinds of legislative efforts?

JASON FUHRMAN, HARVARD`S KENNEDY SCHOOL: Look, Lawrence, most presidents get one big fiscal thing done. You know, President Obama got two. He got the Recovery Act and the Affordable Care Act.

President Trump got one. His tax cuts.

President Biden is on track to getting three done. Enormous rescue plan, an infrastructure bill and this reconciliation bill which focuses around climate change and childcare. So it`s a lot.

I`d love to see more next year. I`d love to see more the year after. I just don`t think anyone should count on that.

O`DONNELL: Well, yes. You know, when I read that quote of yours today, I looked back at and remembered that the Clinton health care bill, comprehensive health care reform bill, Democrats dream, 1994, it fails in the House and Senate. Doesn`t pass. Doesn`t even come to a vote in the House. Doesn`t come to a vote in the Senate.

And it`s 16 years later that the Democrats take up health care in the Affordable Care Act. And in between, nothing. Not a single sentence of health care reform did the Democrats try to advance in Congress.

FUHRMAN: Yes, that`s absolutely right. Or look at the Waxman Markey climate change bill in 2009. It passed the House. It is held in the Senate. It`s now 12 years later the first serious legislative effort at climate change.

You can always cobble things together. President Obama did some things on administratively using his regulatory authority. We had some tax credits extended. But you know, it`s taken 12 years since the failure of the last major climate change legislation.

Again, I hope that`s not the case. Democrats should keep trying again next year if they need to compromise with Republicans next year or the year after. They should try to do that too. Anything to move the ball forward.

I just think you want to try to get all of your big things in now. You want to lock them in to be permanent. Don`t leave them at the wiles of the future Congress. I mean unfortunately you`re going to prioritize and make sure you do some things really well so that they contribute a lasting (INAUDIBLE).

O`DONNELL: I think part of the importance of what we`re talking about right now and what you`ve I can identified in here is that this is what the argument is about. This is why the people who`ve been fighting for the bigger package, the $3.5 trillion have been fighting as long as they`ve been fighting and why they`re trying to hang on as long as they can to as much of it as possible because I think they recognize what you`re talking about. This is their only chance for a very long time.

FUHRMAN: Yes. Look, from an economic perspective, I`m an economist. We can afford $3.5 trillion. We could afford even more than $3.5 trillion. Including paying for some of it with tax increases, Medicare reforms and also some borrowing because these are investments and interest rates are really low.

From an economic perspective, it can be big. But you know, Lawrence, if all we can get is $2 trillion, you can do a lot with $2 trillion. You can dramatically reduce child poverty. You can take a gigaton of emissions out -- carbon emissions every year. You can make health care more affordable for millions of people.

So $2 trillion isn`t just better than nothing. $2 trillion, you could do really meaningful things if you prioritize and spend that money well.

O`DONNELL: Well, yes. And that is what the final legislative decision comes down to. There will be a number. It might be 2. It may be somewhere in the neighborhood of two or around there. Where everyone stares at it and realizes this is it. We vote for this or we get nothing. And that`s going to be the moment when the Democrats make their final choice about what they`re voting for.


FUHRMAN: Yes. $2 trillion is not just better than nothing. $2 trillion could be historic for climate change, for children, for health care. Again, if can you get more than $2 trillion that would be even better. You get $3.5 -- that would be wonderful.

I just don`t think you can right now. You heard Speaker Pelosi say you can`t get that. So focus not on the money, not on the dollars but what outcomes you`re trying to achieve. And you know, as the price tag shrinks, you`re going to need to be smarter about that. You`re going to need to prioritize. You`re going to need to figure out how to do a few things well. Either it`s focus on children, on climate change and on, you know, coverage of health care.

O`DONNELL: Professor Jason Fuhrman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

FUHRMAN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: We`ll be right back.



O`DONNELL: Earlier tonight, the House passed the identical debt ceiling increase that the Senate passed last week which will extend the debt ceiling into early December. The House vote was 219 to 206.

Every Republican voted against raising the debt ceiling that would cover the $8 trillion in increased debt that created by the Trump presidency a debt that they approved during the Trump presidency.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD.