Republican leaders in Texas getting much criticism for their
response to the deadly winter and the failed power grid affecting many
Texans. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX) is interviewed regarding the current
state of Texas with many more still without power, heat, water and food and
the actions her team has done to help. Millions in Texas now in need of
clean drinking water as some food banks are scrambling to distribute foods
when the supply chain has been disrupted by the extreme weather.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: You`re going to see my conversations with activists
and ordinary citizens from all walks of life, from a city that is steeped
in America`s struggle for racial justice and equality.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAKAYA MADDOX, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: All we want is for you to see we want
is for you to see us as humans. We`re humans. We want to be treated with
the same dignity and respect that you would give somebody white or anybody
else. All I did was came out of my mother`s womb just like you and trying
to make the best out of this life that God has given me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: More of that this weekend, 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. I am live from
Birmingham, Alabama. It`s time now for "The Last Word." My friend, Jonathan
Capehart in for Lawrence O`Donnell this evening, something I get used to do
doing on Saturday, but Sunday mornings I get to do now. Good evening,
JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ali. And I can`t wait to see
your show from Birmingham having visited there many times. It`s a very
powerful place to visit. Thanks a lot, Ali.
VELSHI: Thanks, Jonathan.
CAPEHART: I`m Jonathan Capehart in for Lawrence O`Donnell. Tonight, day
five of the humanitarian crisis in Texas. The good news, power`s been
restored to most of the state. The number of households without electricity
is down from 4 million to around 100,000. But there`s a new danger putting
Texans at risk, millions are now confronting a water crisis.
Thirteen million Texans don`t have safe drinking water due to cracked
pipes, frozen wells and water treatment plants that have been knocked
offline. The people of Texas are suffering because of decades of Republican
intransigence. Republicans refuse to take action to weatherize water
systems from the cold.
And the "Texas Tribune" reports Texas officials knew winter storms could
leave the state`s power grid vulnerable, but they left the choice to
prepare for harsh weather up to the power companies, many of which opted
against the costly upgrades.
Now, Texas Republicans are to blame for these failures, let`s be clear, and
Democrats are now working to right these wrongs starting at the top. On
February 14th, the first day of the power outages in Texas, President Biden
signed an emergency declaration that authorized FEMA to provide the state
with critical equipment like generators and resources such as water and
President Biden spoke with the governor of Texas last night, and today at
the governor`s request, announced that he`ll be signing a major disaster
declaration that will provide even more relief to the state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As I said when I ran, I`m going
to be a president over all America, all red, blue -- there`s no red or
blue. It`s all about commitment to the American people made to one another.
And so, we`re going to sign that declaration once it`s in front of me, and
God willing, it will bring a lot of relief to a lot of Texans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAPEHART: On the local level, the White House has consulted with 17 mayors
and five county judges around the state to ensure their areas are getting
FEMA resources. You might have forgotten what it looks like, but that`s
leadership. Leadership isn`t tossing paper towels into a crowded church in
Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
Leadership is listening to people. It`s hearing people`s needs and then
helping address those needs. President Biden said that he`ll be making a
trip to Texas next week, but only when he hears from the people on the
ground that his visit won`t take away from relief efforts because he`s not
going for a photo op. He`s going because he`s a leader.
This week has lefts Texans angered and looking to their local officials for
answers, but many of those leaders refuse to step up or even to tell the
truth. Republican Governor Greg Abbott, who`s already been under fire for
his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, is blaming the crisis on
electrical grid operators, and get this, the green new deal, a proposal
that`s never passed Congress.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz had a frigid home without electricity this
week, like millions of his constituents, but instead of using his position
to help fellow Texans, Senator Cruz hopped a plane to Cancun, and then lied
about the trip when he was called out on it.
Even his fellow Republican senator, John Cornyn, isn`t that bad. Cornyn
isn`t usually at the top of the list of officials deserving praise, but he
worked with the Energy Department to allow federal rules to be set aside
during emergency conditions, giving Texans more leeway to recover.
Our first guest is leading where others won`t, Democratic Congresswoman
Lizzie Fletcher who represents parts of Houston, says Texas is facing an
all hands-on deck situation. Today, Congresswoman Fletcher along with four
other House Democrats wrote a letter to Governor Abbott demanding answers
for why the state didn`t take steps to prevent crises like this from
happening after a report in 2011, 10 years ago, raised alarms about the
ability of Texas infrastructure to handle winter weather.
The letter says, "The events of this week demonstrate that there are
significant shortcomings in preparations and more must be done to protect
communities disproportionately impacted by winter power outages. We`re
concerned that the underlying issues that contributed to the 2011 massive
power failure have not been fully addressed."
Texans deserve answers. They deserve leaders who lead, and they deserve
leaders who tell the truth. Some Texas leaders used to know that, like
former Governor Ann Richards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANN RICHARDS, FORMER GOVERRNOR OF TEXAS: We`re not going to have the
America that we want until we elect leaders who are going to tell the
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Not most days, but every day.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Leaders who don`t forget what they don`t want to remember.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAPEHART: And leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic
Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher of Texas. She`s a member of the House Energy
and Commerce Committee. Congresswoman Fletcher, thank you very much for
coming on the show tonight.
You know, the letter that you sent to Governor Abbott asking for answers
about the 2011 power failures reminded me that the 2011 power failures,
that wasn`t the first time Texas was hit by a massive power failure. The
first time was in 1989. Now that you`re a member of Congress, and from
Texas, how surprised are you that your state has had two opportunities to
get it right and has failed both times?
REP. LIZZIE FLETCHER (D-TX): Well, Jonathan, first of all, I want to say
thank you so much for having me on to talk about these issues and I really
appreciated that you started this conversation with the wonderful clip of
our former governor, Ann Richards, who was the governor when I was growing
And I`m sorry to say that, you know, I`m sad but not surprised that we have
failed to respond to these challenges, clearly identified problems. I think
what we`re seeing now is a massive failure of our system and it`s both the
grid and ERCOT, the public utility commission, but also our elected leaders
and state government.
The governor, the legislature oversee the system and ultimately it`s a
complex system, but we`re not getting the oversight that we should and
we`re not having the leadership to make sure that Texans have what they
need, really, the bare minimum. Heat in their homes and the lights on, on
the coldest day in years across the state of Texas.
So, you know, I am hopeful because we have incredible leaders in our local
community here in Houston. Mayor Turner, Judge Hidalgo, the mayors of lots
of smaller towns and villages that I`ve been on the phone with this week,
we`ve got a lot of leaders here in Texas. But unfortunately, we`re not
seeing the leadership in Austin that we need.
CAPEHART: And to that point about the leadership that you want, if you were
-- if you were to get the leadership that you want, what are the three
things that you would ask a governor with his ears open to have that person
do to bring relief to the people of Texas right now?
FLETCHER: Well, right now, as you mentioned, we have an unfolding crisis. I
do hope that much of the power crisis is behind us, but we have a water
crisis right now, and there are cascading effects from that. I am one of
those 13 million Texans that has boil water notice, that can`t take a
shower or do, you know, the dishes without boiling the water.
And so, it`s really critical for us to address the water crisis as quickly
as possible. But that also means as we have frozen roads and other
challenges that people are going to the stores and there`s not enough food
on some of the shelves. People are hungry. People are thirsty. We need to
deal with that immediate humanitarian crisis that`s unfolding.
The next thing we`re going to see as things start to thaw here is broken
pipes everywhere. And I`m hearing from my constituents. My husband and I
helped our neighbor across the street who found a leak in her house
yesterday. We helped her cut off the water at the street. And that`s
happening all over Houston. It`s happening all over the state of Texas.
So, we`re going to need a lot of help dealing with those. The
infrastructure issues both in people`s homes and in our public
infrastructure that`s going to result from this freeze. And so those are
some of the immediate things we have to do, but we also have to look long
term at how we make sure this does not happen again.
And that was the purpose of my letter with my colleagues on the Energy and
Commerce Committee. We very much need to understand exactly what happened,
why it happened, and how we make sure it never happens again.
CAPEHART: Congresswoman, this has been happening since Sunday. You are an
elected official. Did you feel that it was your personal responsibility to
jump in and pitch in where you could be helpful without a second -- without
a moment`s second thought?
FLETCHER: Absolutely. And you know, unfortunately, our community is no
stranger to disasters. We`ve had several recent events. And I think that
the lesson that I have learned from that is that everybody just needs to
This was actually something I talked about a lot after Hurricane Harvey
because I think so many of us when that happened who were relatively lucky
who didn`t have flooded homes wanted to help and we kind of didn`t know
where to go sometimes, where were we the most needed.
And the lesson from Harvey that I took away was just show up. You know,
where there are people in need, things that need to be done, you don`t have
to be an expert or know exactly where there are things that need to be
done. You don`t have to be an expert. You don`t have to know exactly what
to do. You just show up. Show up and be there and be a helping hand.
And so certainly now that I am a member of Congress, I see that I have many
things that I can do. And I`ve been on the phone this week with the Speaker
of the House. My team`s been in touch with the White House. We`ve talked to
FEMA. We`ve talked to the division of emergency management here in Texas,
really trying to make sure that the needs of our community and the needs
statewide are being met.
So, there are certain things I can do but, you know, today I was passing
out water with volunteers because it is an all-hands-on-deck situation and
we need everybody to play a part. And there`s something everybody can do.
CAPEHART: And you know, there`s a reason why I asked what might have
sounded like a leading simple-minded question, and that is, I`m just
wondering, what did it mean to you and to Texans that one of its senators
instead of doing what you did, handing out water, being on the ground and
being helpful, left the state, left the country, left Texans to fend for
FLETCHER: Well, Jonathan, it`s certainly not the decision that I made or
would have made, and I don`t think it`s the decision that most of our local
leaders here in our community are making. I mean, when I`ve been on the
phone with mayors, one of the mayors who is in my congressional district
owns a brewery and he was boiling water and handing it out to the citizens
in his town.
I talked to another city council member today who was handing out water
bottles himself going from house to house for folks who had special needs.
So, that`s what we expect of our leaders here in Texas, certainly, here in
Houston where we pride ourselves on taking care of each other.
So, I think that, you know, the decision that we expect here and that we
deserve here is the one we`ve seen reflected in the vast majority of our
local leaders here in Houston.
CAPEHART: Congressman Lizzie Fletcher of Texas, thank you very much for
coming to "The Last Word."
FLETCHER: Thanks so much, Jonathan. So glad to be with you.
CAPEHART: And good luck down there.
Coming up, food banks in Texas have gone into disaster mode. They are
ramping up operations to tackle a surge in hunger after the unprecedented
freezing conditions disrupted almost every part of the food supply chain.
More on the crisis in Texas next.
CAPEHART: The human toll in Texas is beginning to come into focus. At least
30 people have died in the state, including a 60-year-old man who froze to
death in his living room. Authorities say it felt like the same temperature
as the air outside.
An 11-year-old boy was found dead by his mother in their unheated mobile
home. Authorities suspect hypothermia. Other Texans have died from carbon
monoxide poisoning just trying to keep warm, and many fear the worst is
Local officials don`t know when millions of Texans will regain access to
clean drinking water. Residents have waited hours in long lines at water
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: We`ve been hunting. We`ve gone different places looking for it and
can`t find it.
UNKNOWN: It`s pretty tough to find bottled water. We are having to boil,
you know, to wash dishes or do anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAPEHART: There`s also a food crisis in Texas. Many grocery stores have
closed due to lack of power and those that have remained open have little
food to spare. The food shortage is also impacting food banks. At least
eight food banks have asked the state for extra help feeding residents
according to the CEO of Feeding Texas. And the pain of this crisis, like
the pandemic, is disproportionately affecting black and Hispanic
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: I`m trying so hard not to cry because we have to pay for this
stuff to be able to survive. Pay light, pay rent, pay the car. I`m very
stressed too with everything going on. It`s hard, but I`m trying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAPEHART: Joining us now is Democratic State Representative Chris Turner
who represents Grand Prairie, Texas. He is the chair of the Texas House
Democratic Caucus. And also joining us, Eric Cooper, president and CEO of
the San Antonio Food Bank. Thank you both very much for being here. It is a
dire situation there in Texas. Mr. Cooper, let me start with you. From your
vantage point, please tell the audience exactly how dire the situation is
ERIC COOPER, PRESIDENT & CEO, SAN ANTONIO FOOD BANK: Well, thank you,
Jonathan. You know, at the onset of COVID-19 here in San Antonio, we went
from feeding 60,000 people a week to 120,000 people a week. And in this
storm, it`s been paralyzing and really the inability for us to move. Roads
were unsafe and so we knew there is this huge demand, but it was a struggle
to get the families the food that they desperately needed.
So, we really pivoted to meals. Many of these households lost power, so
they couldn`t prepare their groceries we were planning on delivering. They
lost water. And so as the temperature has risen yesterday, today we`ve been
able to put together the distributions.
Today alone, we fed 24,000 people all desperate for groceries because
they`ve tried to seek groceries at the grocery stores and as was mentioned,
you just -- they`re sold out. They just don`t have the inventory. Everybody
needs water. And so water has been a huge demand item and we`re just doing
the best we can to make sure families get this basic need taken care of.
CAPEHART: You know, Representative Turner, from your vantage point as a
member of the Texas state legislature, what are you hearing from your
constituents and what can you do to help them when it comes to getting
access to food and water?
CHRIS TURNER, STATE REPRESENTATIVE, GRAND PRAIRIE, TEXAS: You know, thank
you for having me and, you know, I`m so inspired listening to Mr. Cooper
talk about the incredible work that he and his team are doing in San
Antonio. And I`m seeing that play out across north Texas as well. There`s
good people working hard to help their fellow Texans who are in a dire
situation right now.
As for myself, my staff and I have spent all week working to help our
constituents with basic necessities of life, getting electric power turned
back on in their homes, getting natural gas service restored in their homes
because one of the things we discovered a couple of days ago is, yes, a lot
of people were without electricity, but the natural gas system had taken a
So, some people got their power back on, but their heaters that are powered
by natural gas wouldn`t turn on. So their houses were still 40, 45 degrees
inside or colder. And so we`ve been working to solve those problems house
by house, constituent by constituent.
And yes, we have -- I also represent the city of Arlington, which is under
a boil order because the water pressure dropped to a dangerous level a
couple of days ago. They hope that by Sunday the water will be safe to
drink again. But my constituents in Arlington are facing the exact same
situation as 14 million other Texans are right now.
CAPEHART: You know, Representative Turner, the "Texas Tribune" had an
article yesterday with the headline "Texas was seconds and minutes away
from catastrophic months-long blackouts, officials say."
And it says, "Texas` power grid was seconds and minutes away from
catastrophic failure that could have left Texans in the dark for months if
operators had not acted in that moment, the state could have suffered
blackouts that could have occurred for months and left Texas in an
indeterminately long crisis."
That`s pretty startling, but I`m just wondering, is Texas out of the woods
yet just given the fact that we know that the last cold -- big cold snap in
2011 led to recommendations that weren`t followed?
TURNER: Well, you`re absolutely right. And so I would say we`re out of the
woods this week because the temperatures are warming up now and we`ll be
above freezing tomorrow and staying above freezing tomorrow, at least here
in north Texas. But we fully expect and know that we will have severe
weather again in the future. Maybe it`s not this year, but it could be next
year, it could be the year after.
That`s the nature of weather, particularly in this time of changing climate
where we have more and more extreme weather events. So Texas has to do a
better job of being prepared. And you`re right, in 2011 that was a
catastrophic storm, not as bad as this one, but we should have at that time
required power generators to weatherize their equipment so this type of
thing wouldn`t happen. And it was left to be completely voluntary and
that`s one of the reasons where in the mess that we`re in this week.
CAPEHART: You know, Mr. Cooper, there was a story in the "Texas Tribune" on
Wednesday about how the Texans running out of food as weather crisis
disrupt the supply chain, and as I was listening to you, I thought of this
article because, you know, once things get back up to the point where you
are able to get enough food again, and enough water again to Texans, the
fact that this -- the food supply chain has been disrupted where, you know,
livestock growers are running out of feed, how long do you think the food
disruptions in particular will last once the power is back on, once the
water is back on?
COOPER: You know, it`s going to be a very long-term recovery for Texas
agriculture. I mean, I talked to some dairy farmers that were dumping milk
because they couldn`t get trucks there to pick it up. Cattlemen couldn`t
feed their cattle because they couldn`t get feed in. And the Texas produce
across the winter garden, this freeze is going to damage so much of that
And so it`s going to increase costs, place a lot of produce items maybe out
of reach for the families we serve. It will mean less donations, less
support that we might typically get, but it will start to come back. It`s
just going to take time, and I think bridging the gap from today to that
time is what Texas food banks are trying to do.
And the disparity for families, I mean, many of the families that came
through the line today, a husband and wife, they had tested positive for
COVID. They were trying to stay quarantined, keep their kids from getting
the coronavirus, and their lights went out. Their water stopped.
Their house was freezing. Their kids were trying to get in bed with them to
stay warm. These are desperate circumstances for families and, you know,
we`re doing all we can and our community is trying to support us, but more
needs to be done.
CAPEHART: Wow. Texas state representative, Chris Turner and Eric Cooper,
thank you very much. You know America is with you and praying for you. Good
TURNER: Thank you, Jonathan.
COOPER: Thank you.
CAPEHART: Coming up, Republicans are trying desperately to stop President
Biden`s COVID relief legislation, but they`re facing one big problem, it`s
really, really popular, even with other Republicans. That`s next.
CAPEHART: Congressional Democrats are closer than ever to getting much-
needed relief into the hands of Americans.
Today House Democrats unveiled the 591-page text of President Biden`s
coronavirus aid package. The House Budget Committee is set to take up the
legislation on Monday, and the bill is expected to come to the House floor
for a vote late next week.
President Biden called out Republican critics of the package this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me ask them. What would they
have me cut? What would they have me leave out? Should we not invest $20
billion to vaccinate the nation? Should we not invest $290 million to
extend unemployment insurance for the 11 million Americans who are
unemployed so they can get by?
This is the United States of America for God`s sake. We invest in people
who are in need. Do we not invest $35 billion to help people keep a roof
over their heads? I could go on, but you get the point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAPEHART: For all the obvious GOP criticism, Republicans are actually
struggling to derail the president`s relief plan because it`s so popular.
"The New York Times" reports many of its core provisions hold strongly even
with Republicans. More than seven in 10 Americans now back Mr. Biden`s aid
package according to new polling for the online research firm Survey Monkey
for "The New York Times".
That includes support from three-quarters of independent voters, two in
five Republicans, and nearly all Democrats.
Joining us now are Renee Graham opinion columnist and associated editor at
the Boston Globe, and Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for the
PBS News Hour and an MSNBC political analyst. Thank you both for being
Yamiche, I`ll start with you. In that clip that we saw of President Biden,
I mean, he was pretty forceful there in taking it to Republicans about, you
know, well, what would you have me cut. But that even still, even though
the bill is popular, how much support is President Biden`s plan getting up
there on the hill?
YAMICHE ELCINDOR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what we saw was President
Biden getting angry and really using this forceful tone to fight for what
he believes is urgent need for the American people and the American people
that are dying at higher rates, that are getting evicted from their homes.
This is, of course -- this is really underscoring all of the things that
President Biden is saying he wants to do.
And when you look at the Hill, this is really still very much Democratic-
backed bill. From the very beginning, though of course, President Biden was
talking about unity, he also was backing this process for reconciliation
which allows Democrats to pass this bill with no Republican votes.
And the White House is really doing this thing where they`re trying to
redefine what bipartisanship is. Of course traditionally it`s about whether
or not Republicans in Capitol Hill -- whether or not they vote for the
bill. But they`re saying that because it has backing from Republican voters
as well as Republican local officials, mayors, and governors who are in
desperate need for help, they`re saying we still feel comfortable calling
this a bipartisan bill.
So we`re likely going to see a bill that has very little, if any,
Republican support. But that might have Republican support outside of
CAPEHART: And you know, you know, Renee, that makes me wonder. Does it even
matter to voters -- or does it, yes -- does it even matter to voters if
this bill passes without any Republican votes? Will voters even care?
RENEE GRAHAM, BOSTON GLOBE: I don`t think they`re going to care at all,
Jonathan. I think what they`re concerned about is getting help.
You know, you`re talking about people who`ve been struggling in this
country for almost a solid year, and people aren`t going to care if, you
know, who crosses the aisle and who does what. They just want the bill to
pass. They just want to get the relief that they really need.
And I think what was good about what President Biden did today was he was
almost kind of shaming the Republicans and saying, well, are you going to
take away people`s homes? Are you going to keep them hungry? He`s laying
this on them.
You know, he`s saying, look, we have this bill to help the American people,
and the GOP is not interested in doing that. I think that`s a really
important point to make, so I think that not only do people not care if
it`s a bipartisan bill, they`ll be able to look at why it was a bipartisan
bill and who stood against getting aid to the American people.
CAPEHART: You know, the clip that we showed of President Biden there in
Michigan being real fiery about his COVID relief bill, that wasn`t the only
speech he gave today. He spoke to the Munich security conference, which he
went to all the time when he was a member of senate and chair of the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee.
Have a listen to what he had to say to our allies in Europe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I`m sending a clear message to the world, America is back. The
transatlantic alliance is back. And we are not looking backward, we are
looking forward together.
Democracy doesn`t happen by accident. We have to defend it, fight for it,
strengthen it, renew it. We have to prove that our model isn`t a relic of
history. It`s the single best way to revitalize the promise of our future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAPEHART: And Yamiche, with that speech President Biden is sending a clear
message to the alliance that the last four years are done, the United
States is back wanting to assume its role as the leader of the free world,
a bulwark of the western alliance.
Do you think, though, that that message is being well received in Europe?
ALCINDOR: Well, it`s a welcome message. But it`s a message that is also
coming as President Biden is trying to really do away with some of the
damage that was caused over the last four years.
He`s trying to essentially say to our allies, the last four years are an
anomaly. They were not reflective of American values.
But let`s be very clear, for a very long, long time the United States will
be known around the world as a country that elected President Trump. And
that President Trump also former President Trump also had 75 million people
vote for him the second time around.
So our allies are also looking at this -- our country and saying, what
exactly is going on in America? So while President Biden, of course, is
signaling that America wants to again embrace our allies, there`s really a
lot of damage that needs to be had there.
And you know, our allies, including Europe and other places, they`ve
figured out how to function with an America that was weaker and that didn`t
want to be part of the multilateral deals and multilateral agreements.
So you also are entering back into the world stage with countries that are
saying we`ve figured out how to talk about climate change, how we talk
about the pandemic without America being part of a partner of that. And now
this is really President Biden wanting to go back into the fray (ph).
I think that there are -- based on my reporting, there`s a lot of people
who welcome that idea, leaders who welcome that idea. But I think that it`s
still very early because America has that stain, really, and that
reputation now because President Trump went to these conferences, went to
these gatherings and really did damage there, really did -- poked his
finger in the eye of a lot of our allies.
CAPEHART: And you know what, Renee? To Yamiche`s point, I`m just wondering,
is it too late now? Because the allies have figured out how to do things
without American leadership. Now that America wants to exert its leadership
again, I`m just wondering, is it too late for America to do that in the
eyes of the rest of the world, even though they`re our allies?
GRAHAM: Well, you know, I think the main point of the speech today was
supposed to be, you know, a warm glass of milk or, you know, the night cap
of your choice to help America`s allies sleep a little more soundly at
You know, it was "This time I`ll be sweeter" speech, right. But there is
this idea -- you know, Joe Biden`s job is to win back the trust of the
allies. These last four years have been very, very difficult. And I think
that`s what his task is to say not just to say ok, we`re back, you guys
stand over here, we`re taking over again because as Yamiche said they
figured out how to do this without America.
So Joe Biden has to kind of win them back over in a way that, you know,
hasn`t had to be done before because we haven`t had the last four years
that we`ve had.
But I also think what was interesting in the speech that he gave was also a
message to the American people that we`re not just citizens of one nation,
but we`re citizens of the world.
And that`s why I think he made a point of mentioning the solemn promise of
Article 5 of NATO, you know, an attack on one is an attack on all. He`s
trying to sort of bring America back into the fold and to convince
Americans that we`re better off within these alliances that were broken so
badly in the last four years.
CAPEHART: It`s amazing that the speech President Biden gave today had we
not been through the four years of President Trump would have been a
mundane speech, would have been a boring speech.
But the mere fact that he mentioned that, you know, America stands by
Article 5 after four years of a president who refused to do that, that
speech today by President Biden, as you said, is a warm glass of milk or
the after-dinner drink of your choice.
Renee Graham and Yamiche Alcindor, thank you very much.
Coming up, the wild winter weather has slowed vaccine distribution efforts
across the country, but the White House is already working to make up for
More after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: The American people can take the truth. They can handle anything. I
can`t give you a date when this crisis will end, but I can tell you we`re
doing everything possible to have that day come sooner rather than later.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAPEHART: That was President Biden today in Michigan touring a Pfizer
vaccine manufacturing plant. After weeks of ramping up COVID vaccination
rates, severe winter weather affecting key distribution facilities has now
delayed the delivery of six million doses. Thousands of Americans have had
their vaccination appointments canceled or delayed.
But the White House -- the White House says work is already under way to
make up for the loss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDY SLAVITT, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR ON THE COVID-19 RESPONSE: The six
million doses represents about three days of delayed shipping. And many
states have been able cover some of this delay with existing inventory.
1.4 million doses are already in transit today, and we anticipate that all
the backlogged doses will be delivered within the next week with most being
delivered within the next several days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAPEHART: Joining our discussion now is Dr. Uche Blackstock, an emergency
medical physician. She is the founder and CEO of Advancing Health Equity
and a Yahoo News medical contributor. Doctor Blackstock, thank you very
much for being here.
So from what we just heard there from Mr. Slavitt from the White House
COVID-19 task force, we shouldn`t be too worried about the weather delays
of the vaccine, should we? Do you buy that actually is the question?
DR. UCHE BLACKSTOCK, CEO, ADVANCING HEALTH EQUITY: Thank you so much for
having me on, Jonathan.
What I will say is that I am reassured by how organized and methodical this
administration is in responding to this mini crisis of the vaccine delays.
You know, to be honest with you, a few days will not truly make a
difference in terms of people receiving their first or second doses.
However, we need the site to be able to flex to these delays, to have
increased hours, open early, close later to increase the number of
vaccinators on site, and to quickly reschedule the appointments for people
who have missed their appointments. Hopefully that could be done in the
next three to five days.
CAPEHART: Dr. Blackstock, we`ve got two pieces of good news that we`ve
gotten this week when it comes to the vaccine. The first one has to do --
this was reported in "The New York Times -- studies find people who had
COVID only need one vaccine. What`s your reaction to that?
BLACKSTOCK: So these are -- you know, that`s certainly reassuring signs. We
actually -- we would probably need a very thorough randomized control trial
to actually make sure that one dose actually works. These are smaller
studies. It`s not going to change any of our practice.
But it`s good to know that in case we need to conserve doses or we run into
vaccine shortages, that one dose in someone who has previously been
infected is adequate enough.
However, we need to know how long that immunity will last for and how --
whether it`s a partial or full immunity coverage.
CAPEHART: And then. Dr. Blackstock, the second piece of good news, I think
it`s good news, but you tell me. This is reporting from CNBC, Pfizer
seeking FDA approval to ease vaccine storage regulations. So being able to
store the vaccine at not so frigid temperatures. Am I getting that right?
BLACKSTOCK: Yes. This is definitely good news and could be a game changer
for Pfizer. As you know, Pfizer requires ultra-cold storage and special
storage containers to be transported because the mRNA technology is very
However, Pfizer is now saying their vaccine does not require the ultra-cold
temperature. It just may require a regular freezer, so that will actually
enable delivery to rural sites, even urban areas that are under-resourced
and don`t have these ultra-cold storage containers which are incredibly
And not just in the U.S., but that could mean use of Pfizer vaccine in
parts of the world that don`t have ultra-cold freezers and may have regular
refrigerators or freezers. So definitely this is a game changer.
CAPEHART: And last question, Dr. Blackstock. In terms of access to the
vaccine by communities of color, we`ve been talking about this disparity
for weeks if not a few months now.
When are we going to stop having this conversation? When will communities
of color, which as you know, we all know, have been disproportionately
impacted by the pandemic? When will they be able to access the vaccine as
quickly as other people?
BLACKSTOCK: Well, this is definitely the conversation that we need to keep
having, we need to keep applying pressure for accountability. I would say
that there`s encouraging news that the Biden-Harris administration has a
health equity task force led by Dr. Marcella Nunez Smith (ph), who is
definitely paying attention to these issues.
But we also need accountability from the states in terms of reporting
racial and ethnic demographic data. We need to ensure that every state has
programs with outreach to black communities and other communities of color
to ensure that people understand what the vaccine does.
And that also we need to make sure that we have points of accessibility for
vaccines in black communities. It`s imperative. So outreach, plus
accessibility, will be key to ensuring that black communities are
vaccinated over the next few months.
CAPEHART: Dr. Uche Blackstock, thank you very much.
BLACKSTOCK: Thank you.
CAPEHART: Coming up. Georgia Republicans are doubling down on racist voter
suppression tactics. After black voters turned out in record numbers, the
GOP wants to make it harder to vote. Surprise, surprise.
Ari Berman of Mother Jones joins us next.
CAPEHART: It`s well known, by now, that after losing elections, Republicans
don`t try to appeal to a broader electorate. Instead, they try to stop
people, particularly people of color, from voting altogether.
And after their 2020 losses, the GOP kicked those efforts into overdrive.
This year, 165 new voting restrictions have been introduced in 33 states.
Some of those restrictions are coming out of Georgia, where state
Republicans introduced a bill that would tighten the timeline for
requesting and returning absentee ballots, and limit access to ballot drop
The GOP bill would also eliminate, get this, early voting on Sundays, when
black churches, traditionally, hold "Souls to the Polls" voter turnout
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund submitted testimony today opposing the
legislation. Saying, quote, "The legislature is considering a bill poised
to create unnecessary barriers and burdens on voters that
disproportionately impact racial minority, low income, elderly, rural,
disabled, and/or student voters."
Joining us now is Ari Berman, a writer at Mother Jones and the author of
"Give Us the Ballot: the Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America".
Ari, thank you for being here.
You write in the latest Mother Jones. You quote Anna Dennis (ph), executive
director of Common Cause Georgia and this is a great quote. "This bill is
Jim Crow with a suit and tie".
ARI BERMAN, WRITER, MOTHER JONES: That`s absolutely right, Jonathan.
Because you look at just the provision eliminating Sunday voting. That, as
you mentioned, is when black churches do Soul to the Polls voter
mobilization drives. Black voters in Georgia are about 30 percent of the
electorate but they were 37 percent of those people that voted on Sunday.
And this is a real tell here because this has nothing to do with election
integrity. Giving people more time to vote on the weekends, simply makes it
more convenient. And the fact that Georgia Republicans are trying to get
rid of a method of voting that`s extremely convenient for all voters but
particularly, used by black voters shows this has nothing to do with
It has everything to do with voter suppression. And Georgia Republicans and
Republicans elsewhere are weaponizing Trump`s big lie now to try to make it
harder for Democratic constituencies to vote.
CAPEHART: So Ari -- I mean you write Georgia has become ground zero for GOP
voter suppression efforts following the 2020 election. So, the line is
clear. Not only did Joe Biden flip Georgia from red to blue. But both of
those senate seats flipped from red to blue. And so, Republicans in Georgia
want to make sure that that doesn`t happen again. That`s why this is
BERMAN: That`s absolutely right. Last year, the Republican secretary of
state bragged that Georgia had the gold standard of voting laws. They had
automatic-voter registration. They had early voting. They had no-excuse
But what did they do after the 2020 election? Georgia Republicans have
introduced bills to get rid of all of those things. All of the voting
methods that worked so well and that black voters, in particular, took
advantage of. Georgia Republicans, are now trying to get rid of it.
And Georgia is passing (ph) test case. The Republican secretary of state
said, over and over, there was no fraud. The system worked. And instead of
applauding that system and trying to make it easier to vote and expand
voting access, they are trying to get rid of all the things that made the
system work so well simply because in this one election, it worked better
for the other party than their party even though Georgia Republicans wrote
every aspect of the state`s voting laws.
CAPEHART: And you know, Ari then, what are the prospects of this bill -- is
it going to pass?
BERMAN: Well, there is divides within the Republican Party in Georgia.
Obviously, these provisions are getting a lot of scrutiny. People are
wondering where did the elimination of Sunday voting come from? Nobody was
talking about that, as a problem in the last election.
And so, I think, the Republican Party is divided but I think this puts
additional pressure on Democrats in Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting
Rights Act and to pass the For The People Act. So that Democrats can use
the power they have in Washington to make sure that Republicans aren`t able
to undermine democracy for the next decade in states like Georgia and other
states around the country where they are introducing so many new
restrictions on voting.
CAPEHART: And since you brought up The John Lewis Act. What`s the
possibility of that actually passing in a Washington that, you know, the
majority -- the Democratic majority is like super thin in the senate, and
less than it was in the House.
BERMAN: More than likely the only way they are going to pass the John Lewis
Voting Rights Act and the For The People Act is if they get rid of the
And Democrats have a choice here. They can do nothing and keep the
filibuster and allow Republicans to undermine democracy for the next
decade. Or they can get rid of the filibuster, pass sweeping democracy
reforms and block anti-democratic effort.
So, the choice is really, really clear here in terms of the stakes for
democracy right now.
CAPEHART: Well, we have got a front-row seat to that, Ari. Ari Berman,
thank you very much for coming to the LAST WORD.
That is tonight`s LAST WORD.
I`m Jonathan Capehart. You can catch me Sundays at 10:00 a.m. Eastern on
"THE SUNDAY SHOW" right here on MSNBC.
"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts right now.
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