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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 5/27/21

Guests: Ted Lieu, Remmington Belford, Bharat Ramamurti, Colin Allred, Ilan Shapiro

Summary

Interview with Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu of California, a member of the House Judiciary Committee and served as impeachment manager for the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump in the United States Senate. A federal judge in Washington has ruled that two Trump followers arrested after the attack on the Capitol are having to stay in jail awaiting trial because Donald Trump has made them a continuing danger to society. A small group of Senate Republicans, led by West Virginia`s Shelley Moore Capito, unveiled their $928 billion infrastructure plan counteroffer. The Republicans` counteroffer comes a week after President Biden`s $1.7 trillion compromise offer to the Republicans.

Transcript

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Lawrence, we are on the cusp of something potentially very, very important tonight at the United States Senate. There are still Republicans who still have time to make the right decision and vote, not for a conviction, not for a decision, just to investigate what happened on January 6th. I`m going to be an optimist, Lawrence, and think that ten Republicans will come around.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Well, and the thing about that math at this hour is if that`s going to happen, that would mean that some Republicans would have to change their minds over the course of the afternoon and evening because John Thune, who`s technically the vote counter although really Mitch McConnell does it, on the Republican side, he announced confidently today we have the votes, we have the votes to block this.

And so, I agree with you. I think it is possible because this is just an extraordinary thing for the Republicans to be voting against. So there might be some Republican senators at this hour who are struggling with this decision, but it would have to be a change of mind among some of them at least from this afternoon when John Thune was 100 percent confident, he and Mitch McConnell, have the votes to block this.

VELSHI: I`m unclear as to what the glory is in that, in winning that battle, but a lot of things confuse me. You know more about these thins than I do so I look forward to your analysis this evening, Lawrence. Have yourself a great show and I`ll talk to you next week.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Ali.

Well, 30,000 people work on the congressional campus which includes the Capitol building, five house office buildings and three Senate office buildings. That includes tens of thousands of congressional staff people. Those 30,000 people include cafeteria workers, building maintenance workers and, of course, that includes Capitol police officers. They all want to know what happened on January 6th when the Capitol was attacked.

But are there, are there ten Republican members of the Senate who want to know? We`re going to find that out tonight. Or will the minority, will the minority in the Senate prevent the majority in the Senate from getting those 60 votes that are needed on a procedural vote before they would even be allowed to vote on the commission itself? The vote on the commission itself can be passed with just 51 votes, but the procedural vote to get there requires 60.

They wouldn`t care if I was dead, that`s what one congressional staffer told "Roll Call", the newspaper of Capitol Hill, and that staffer seems to be absolutely right. It seems that most Republican senators don`t care. They don`t care about House staffers, that`s for sure.

Republican senators absolutely do not care about House staffers more than they care about Capitol police officers, and the deaths of Capitol police officers are not worth investigating. As far as most Republican senators are concerned, the injuries to over 140 Capitol police officers are not worth investigating.

The most ringing rebuke of a United States senator in the entire 20th senator was delivered by Attorney Joseph Welsh in 1954 in the form of question to the vicious, lying Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, have you know sense of decency? That question stopped Joseph McCarthy.

Joseph McCarthy died three years later and the disgrace of what was then call McCarthyism seemed to die with him, but McCarthyism is back in the form of Kevin McCarthyism, which is not just a devotion to the Trump lies about the election but a devotion to lying itself, about everything, including January 6th.

The Republican Senate is now filled with McCarthys. It is filled with Republicans who do not care what happened on January 6th. Republican senators supporting Mitch McConnell`s lie of what happened on January 6th, they`re saying it is not worth investigating. That`s what most Republican senators are saying. That`s Mitch McConnell`s lie, January 6th, not worth investigating.

Mitch McConnell asked Republicans to vote against the commission as a personal favor to him. A personal favor is what he called it. Now, that is very rarely done by Senate leaders, calling it in as a personal favor, and it is never done on serious votes, on important votes like this.

Earlier this week, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said that he was sure there were ten good, solid patriots on the Republican side of the Senate who would vote for the commission, and that`s what he called them, good, solid patriots. Joe Manchin pleaded with Republicans privately and publicly, and earlier today Joe Manchin released an unusually harsh statement for him about Mitch McConnell, saying, there is no excuse for any Republican to vote against the commission since Democrats have agreed to everything they asked for.

Mitch McConnell has made this his political position, thinking it will help his 2022 elections. They do not believe the truth will set you free, so they continue to live in fear. For anyone who has worked in the Senate prior to the Trump era, the dream of bipartisanship dies hard. If you ever worked on important legislation in the Senate that passed in a bipartisan alliance, as I did in the 1990s, it is very hard to give up the Senate ideal of bipartisanship. But I gave it up years ago. Joe Manchin is going to be the last Democrat to give up that dream, if he ever does give up that dream.

When senators are under pressure as Joe Manchin was and is today and tonight, and they are walking down the halls and being chased by reporters and cameras, they say things that they wouldn`t say if they had time to think about it. They sometimes use words they wouldn`t use in a more careful moment, and sometimes that`s revealing. Sometimes it isn`t.

Let`s listen to what Joe Manchin said today in one of those Senate corridors interviews on the run.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Would you be willing to break the filibuster in order to get this passed?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I`m not ready to destroy our government. I`m not ready to destroy our government. No, I think they will come together. You have to have faith there`s ten good people.

REPORTER: How frustrating is it for you to see Republicans in opposition to this?

MANCHIN: It`s frustrating. It`s frustrating to say this. I will tell you. There is a lot of negotiations and the leadership of the Democrats in both the House and the Senate have agreed to the recommendations that were made to make the adjustments. There`s no excuse for a Republican not to vote for this unless they don`t want to hear the truth.

REPORTER: What`s your message to Republican senators who are still opposing it even after meeting with the family today?

MANCHIN: Let -- the truth will set you free. That`s exactly what I`ve said. The truth will set you free.

If not, then you must be concerned that you have stuff to fear. I don`t know why anyone would not want to know what went on for the first time in the history of our country, an insurrection that`s never, ever happened before, and now they`re afraid to find out what really happened and how we can prevent it from happening again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Understandably, much is being made of Joe Manchin saying, "I`m not ready to destroy our government" in answer to a question about changing the Senate 60-vote threshold. There`s a lot of outrage out there tonight that Joe Manchin thinks a Senate rule change would destroy our government.

My guess, and this is just a guess, my guess is that Joe Manchin doesn`t actually think that. My guess is Joe Manchin fell into overly emphatic language, and sometimes senators in those situations do that in the hope that the emphatic language will make you stop asking the question that they don`t really want to answer, and they don`t really want to think about.

And today just might be one of the experiences that will move Joe Manchin closer to giving up the dream of Senate bipartisanship. It is hard to think of a bill that should have been more bipartisan than this one. It should be passed through Congress unanimously, especially after Officer Brian Sicknick`s mother went to the Senate today to try to find those ten good, solid patriots that Joe Manchin was dreaming about.

Gladys Sicknick said, "I couldn`t stay quiet anymore." Officer Brian Sicknick was forced into hand-to-hand combat with the Trump mob for hours. He then suffered two strokes and died in the hospital the next day.

Gladys Sicknick sent a statement to every Republican member of the United States senate, asking every one of them for a meeting, especially the senators planning to vote against the commission, to ask them why they were going to vote against the commission that would investigate her son`s death. In a Republican Senate full of McCarthys, most of them refused to meet with Gladys Sicknick.

Some of them had their staffs offer to meet with Gladys Sicknick. The staff whose safety they do not care about. Gladys Sicknick does not have the experience that Joe Manchin has in dealing with Republican senators, and so she went to the Senate today with high hopes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Do you think you can change minds today?

GLADYS SICKNICK, MOTHER OF OFFICER BRIAN SICKNICK: I hope so. I hope so. Brian had a work ethic like second to none, and he was just there for -- for our country and for these guys, and he just was doing his job and he got caught up in it and it is very sad.

REPORTER: Does it anger you, Mrs. Sicknick, to hear senators who do not support this commission, and what emotions do you feel when you are confronted with that?

SICKNICK: This is why I`m here today. Usually stay in the background, and I just couldn`t, I couldn`t stay quiet anymore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion is Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu of California. He`s a member of the House Judiciary Committee and served as impeachment manager for the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump in the United States Senate.

Congressman Lieu, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

You had that advantage of being on the floor of the Senate when Donald Trump was being impeached for the insurrection at the Capitol, presenting much of the evidence that would be presented at a commission like this and there would be, of course, much, much more evidence that has been unearthed since then.

What do you think would be the effect of this commission and what could it achieve beyond what you could do as fact finders in the impeachment trial?

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): Thank you, Lawrence, for your question.

Let me say that when I was presenting on the second impeachment trial, Senator McConnell actually sits relatively close to you in a small Senate chambers, and he is staring right at you. It was unnerving for the first few minutes, but after a while I thought, this is good. He`s listening to literally every word we are presenting, and to his credit he did. And that`s why shortly after the impeachment trial, he gave a speech where he said, quote, there is no question, none, that President Trump was practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of January 6th.

So senator McConnell knows how bad this evidence is, and I think that`s why he is opposed to this bipartisan commission because it can only get worse for the former president and his supporters.

O`DONNELL: We don`t know exactly what the vote is going to be in the end, but John Thune, who is supposed to be the vote counter on the Republican side of the Senate, said this afternoon that, "I don`t believe there will be ten Republican votes" for what he called the current form of the bill, the bill passed by you in the House of Representatives.

Would there be any changes that you would be willing to make in this bill to get it through the Senate?

LIEU: I`m not even sure what else we could do. We have basically put in all of the changes that the Republicans have asked for. This is a commission that is going to be half appointed by Republicans, half by Democrats, and any Republican can basically get their vice chair to object to any subpoena that the commission wants to issue.

So if this doesn`t happen, and I don`t know why Republicans would not support this, our fallback position is that the speaker could, if she wanted to, have a special select committee like the Benghazi select committee, and that committee would have full subpoena power that the Republicans couldn`t even object to. So I really don`t understand why Republicans are even objecting to this commission.

O`DONNELL: It is an extraordinary thing to watch. As I said, in any kind of normal universe -- but, of course, in a normal universe you wouldn`t have had the attack on the Capitol. But in the voting patterns of the past in the Congress, had this bill passing both houses of Congress would be unanimous.

LIEU: Absolutely. Now, in the house we did have 35 house Republicans vote for it. That was actually more than I had expected. I was only expecting about 20 because Kevin McCarthy was also full-on trying to get Republicans not to vote for it, which I still can`t understand either.

I don`t know why people don`t want to find out the truth about January 6th. It is something that all Americans should care about because we need to make sure something like this never happens again.

O`DONNELL: You know, we frequently hear us saying we don`t understand why they`re doing this and why they`re doing that, and a lot of times we do understand why they`re doing this.

I have to say on this, I do not understand why they are taking the political risk of voting against the wishes of Officer Sicknick`s mother, doing it so blatantly and so publicly. It is hard to imagine how this works in Republican`s political favor. I really do not know. I mean I`m asking that question. I`m not asking it rhetorically.

LIEU: So let me tell you about experience during the impeachment trial. We were in the separate room with the other House impeachment managers, and we had three big screens on CNN, MSNBC and Fox, and when we weren`t presenting we were watching what was happening. There were literally multiple times where Fox News would just not cover the impeachment trial. One of those was during prime time when we had one of our most important videos showing police officers being brutalized on January 6th.

If you watch fox news, you wouldn`t know that even happened. So I think we do have this problem where a certain segment of Americans really have no idea what happened on January 6th, and they`re fed this false information that in the words of Republican Andrew Clyde, quote, it was a normal tourist visit.

So that`s why we need this bipartisan commission and it is very disturbing that Republican electeds who know better are opposing it.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Ted Lieu, thank you for starting off our conversation tonight. I really appreciate it.

LIEU: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And joining us is Remmington Belford. He`s the communications director for Congresswoman Yvette Clarke. He was working in the Capitol on January 6th. He is one of the thousands of congressional staffers affected by this.

Remmington, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I wanted to have your perspective on this.

What does it feel like to be watching this bill possibly die in the United States Senate because there might not be ten Republicans who think what happened to you that day is worthy of investigation?

REMMINGTON BELFORD, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR REP. YVETTE CLARKE (D-NY): Lawrence, thank you so much for having me on.

I will just begin by saying it is disappointing because we all experienced it. It wasn`t a partisan event. Republicans and Democrats were both in fear of their lives, and I think that the staffers` overwhelming sentiment is we would like to have the commission passed to look into the facts and the circumstances surrounding the commission on January 6th.

I think it is critical. I think this was an absolute attack on our democracy and there needs to be some sort of -- there needs to be a commission into the specifics surrounding the day of infamy.

O`DONNELL: You know, I was working in the Senate when Timothy McVeigh bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City, and immediately security was increased around those buildings, but the truth is we didn`t really feel threatened by that event that happened in Oklahoma.

I was reading in "Roll Call" today what life is like there now. It is so stunning. There`s a staffer who is quoted talking about, you know, when a suspicious package is identified, prior to January 6th, people took it routinely, like, oh, don`t worry about it, it won`t be a problem.

And now he says, now you are thinking, there`s a suspicious package, did someone plant a package so everyone is evacuated and runs outside where they can have guns? Are they waiting for us? Is it part of a plot?

I can see why people would feel that way and I can`t imagine what it is like to live day-to-day like that in the Capitol.

BELFORD: Yeah, it`s really truly changed the dynamic of how the Capitol operates. It was once this microcosm of camaraderie and bipartisanship, and now it is very siloed. And I do -- I will say, venture to say that the presence of the National Guard made me feel a lot safer going to work because you never know when something like this could happen again, and the fact that there are people who are looking to prevent a commission to look into the facts and the circumstances surrounding the January 6th insurrection is alarming because we have to prevent this from happening again.

I worked on Capitol Hill prior to the insurrection, and I worked on Capitol Hill now, and for me, it`s just so completely different. Things have changed so drastically, and I think that alone is the premise for the importance of passing this commission or introducing this commission.

O`DONNELL: As you know, this does reach beyond house staffers and Senate staffers. I think of all of those cafeteria workers in the basement cafeteria and on the Senate side and in the bottom of the Capitol. There`s all sorts of places where I know they felt threatened. They felt their lives threatened that day, and they didn`t have access to televisions to find out clear, quick information about exactly what is happening in that situation.

I know that they very much want an investigation to make sure this could never happen again.

BELFORD: For sure. They are some of the most dynamic and enterprising people I have ever had the distinguished pleasure of interacting with, and to say that they experienced this alongside of us just reiterates the call, the clarion call for this bipartisan commission. They are -- like I said earlier, they`re some of the most amazing people and they deserve answers just like the American public deserves answers, unfettered, unwatered down, undiluted answers to what happened, to the facts and circumstances surrounding what led to the January 6th insurrection.

O`DONNELL: Remmington Belford, thank you for joining us and speaking for congressional staffers here tonight. Really appreciate it.

BELFORD: Thank you, Lawrence. It`s been such a pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, a federal judge in Washington has ruled that two Trump followers arrested after the attack on the Capitol are having to stay in jail awaiting trial because Donald Trump has made them a continuing danger to society. Neal Katyal will join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Washington Federal Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued two extraordinary findings in the last two days. Today in a ruling denying the release from jail of Karl Dresch of Michigan as he awaits trial for his part in the attack on the Capitol, Judge Jackson said that he remains a threat because he takes direction from Donald Trump.

Judge Jackson quoted Karl Dresch saying online, Trump`s the only big shot I trust right now. Judge Jackson wrote that Karl Dresch then continues to pose a threat because his singular source of information, meaning Donald Trump, continues to propagate the lie that inspired the attack. And the anger surrounding the false accusation continues to be stoked by multiple media outlets as well as the state and federal party leaders who are intent on censoring those who dare to challenge the former president`s version of events.

The judge didn`t mention the House Republicans` rebuke of Liz Cheney by name, but it is clear who she was referring to.

Yesterday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that another Trump supporting defendant will remain in jail because Donald Trump`s steady drum beat could provoke the man to violence. This defendant, Cleveland Meredith Jr. of Colorado, did not make it to Washington on time to enter the Capitol on January 6th because of car trouble, but he did bring firearms and ammunition with him, and he had sent text messages about putting a bullet, that was his phrase, putting a bullet in the head of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Judge Jackson wrote: The steady drumbeat that inspired defendant to take up arms has not faded away. Six months later, the canard that the election was stolen is being repeated daily on major news outlets and from the corridors of power in state and federal government, not to mention in the near-daily full fulminations of the former president.

Joining us Neal Katyal, former U.S. solicitor general and an MSNBC legal contributor.

Neal, thank you for joining us tonight. And I have to say this is one I did not see coming as a reason for keeping -- awaiting defendants in jail, but there is this outside force ready to meet them in effect outside of jail in the voice of Donald Trump to provoke them to violence.

NEAL KATYAL, MSNBC LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Exactly, Lawrence. I`m pretty sure I have never seen a federal judge do quite this. I think she did so, Judge Jackson is an extremely, extremely well-regarded federal judge, because of an unprecedented threat to democracy and lies.

As you were saying a moment ago, she called it a, quote, steady drumbeat of conspiracies. I think that may be the first time anyone has ever accused the Republicans of having rhythm, but, you know, the context here is she is trying to decide whether or not to release these defendants, these January 6th defendants from jail, and one of these people, Mr. Meredith as you were saying, was a guy who text he wanted to shoot Nancy Pelosi, who tried to bring ammunition and guns to Washington in January.

So in other words, I think many people in his party think he is probably qualified to be the 2024 nominee, but this is not someone that you want out on the street, particularly as Judge Jackson said when he and others are being aided, encouraged, abetted by the words of the former president.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, I think we -- neither one of us have been surprised. We have expected to see in these kinds of findings judges to use statements that these people made before going into jail, statements they made before being arrested as evidence of why you couldn`t safely let them out. But adding this other outside voice that they are in effect controlled by, the Donald Trump voice, which is continuing as they are awaiting trial in jail, that`s a new element in this kind of finding.

KATYAL: It is, but, you know, it is not new in one sense. I mean we all know people. The American people do take their direction from the top. That is normally in good ways when presidents, you know, set examples for us to behave by, whether it is George W. Bush after 9/11 or Barack Obama during his eight years. So it is not surprising to see a federal judge look to things like that, particularly when January 6th itself was the result of, unfortunately, a lot of his own rhetoric.

O`DONNELL: Neal, I want to get your quick read of this "New York Times" breaking news today, legal news from federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, the Eastern District of New York. They are investigating whether Ukrainians meddled in the 2020 election, including by using Rudy Giuliani. What does this mean? This is yet another investigation involving Rudy Giuliani, who is already being investigated in the -- right across the river in the Southern District of New York.

KATYAL: I don`t think this actually necessarily means anything bad for Giuliani, at least compared to all of the other bad news he has in which he is the subject of a state investigation. Here that "New York Times" story says he is not the target of this investigation. It may be that the Ukrainians were trying to use him as a dupe to try to get certain information and manipulate the election, but I think that`s all it means for Giuliani.

It does mean something bad for our election system. There are foreign actors bent on trying to undermine our democracy, and I think that`s why we need to have strict, you know, rules around this and, you know, true investigation into Russian, Ukrainian interference into the election.

There`s just one other point, Lawrence, I wanted to say back on the other story about Judge Jackson because, you know, you can look at this like Mr. Meredith and all of these people, they get a lot of attention and it makes it look like a lot of people believe the big lie.

But after all of the months of conspiracy mongering only 28 percent of Americans believe that Trump won the election. And that`s a lot to be sure, but 45 percent of Americans believe in ghosts.

So, if this is their 2024 strategy, it is worth noting that their nominee would get outperformed by like Casper or something like that. So we shouldn`t use the Merediths of the world to say, oh, that`s a barometer of where the American people are.

O`DONNELL: Neal Katyal, our master of perspective. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up, Joe Biden went to Cleveland today to explain his infrastructure bill and to make sure that Ohio voters know that exactly zero Republicans voted for the COVID relief bill that has brought them financial help, including the Republicans who claim credit for what that bill does like Kevin McCarthy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: On March 10th of last year presidential candidate Joe Biden was scheduled to speak at Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio. That speech was cancelled when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Biden campaign to go into lockdown mode.

Finally, today Joe Biden fulfilled his promise to deliver a speech at Cuyahoga Community College. And he said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even my Republican friends in Congress, not a single one of them voted for the rescue plan.

I`m not going to embarrass any one of them, but I have here a list of how back in their districts they`re bragging about the rescue plan. They touted the restaurant revitalization fund. They touted the fact that we`re in a situation where dealing with -- touted grants to community health care centers. Touted -- I mean some people have no shame.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Some of those people with no shame on that list that the president held up today of 13 Republicans included House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy who has promoted the COVID relief plan in his own district even though he voted against it.

Hours before the president spoke at that Ohio community college explaining his infrastructure plan, a small group of Senate Republicans, led by West Virginia`s Shelley Moore Capito, unveiled their $928 billion infrastructure plan counteroffer. The Republicans` counteroffer comes a week after President Biden`s $1.7 trillion compromise offer to the Republicans.

In response to the Republican proposal White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a written statement mixing concern and hope. She said, "We remain concerned that their plan still provides no substantial new funds for critical job-creating needs, such as fixing our veterans` hospitals, building modern rail systems, repairing our transit systems, removing dangerous lead pipes and powering America`s leadership in job-creating clean energy economy.

Among other things the president called Senator Capito to thank her for the proposal and to tell her that he would follow-up after getting additional detail. We are also continuing to explore other proposals that we hope will emerge."

President Biden has agreed to meet with Senator Capito next week.

Joining us now is Bharat Ramamurti, deputy director of the White House National Economic Council. He formerly served on the senate staff of Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it. I want to get your reaction first of all to what the president said in Ohio today about Republican members of Congress taking credit for what you managed to deliver into law in the COVID relief bill. Was that something with your experience in Congress that you expected to see happen?

BHARAT RAMAMURTI, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Well, I think the issue is that there`s a lot to try to take credit for. If you look at where the economy was about four months ago when the president was inaugurated and where we are now, it is an incredible difference.

You know, the three months before the president was inaugurated, we averaged about 60,000 new jobs a month. In the three full months since then we`ve been averaging 500,000 new jobs.

That 1.5 million new jobs over the first three months, no president in history has recorded that kind of job growth in their first three months in office. And so I understand the instinct of any politician to want to take credit for that kind of economic growth.

We`ve actually gone from projecting 3 percent or 4 percent economic growth this year to 6 percent or 7 percent economic growth. We`ve gone from lagging the world in our economic performance to actually leading the world, and our economic recovery powering the rest of the world`s economic recovery. And that`s in large part due to the president`s American Rescue Plan.

So no, I`m not that surprised that folks want to take credit for that kind of success back in their districts. But the key point that the president made is that he`s not trying to shame folks, but when those same folks are now standing up and saying, hey, maybe we shouldn`t take the next step and make important investments in infrastructure in this country, maybe we should keep that context in mind as we evaluate those claims.

O`DONNELL: So let`s talk about the next step. The Republican offer has come up. Your proposal went down in the Republicans` direction. Where does it stand now? What is your reaction to this new Republican offer?

RAMAMURTI: Well look, I think that there`s some good news that Republicans have come up in a few key areas. They`ve come up a little bit on rail. They`ve come up a little bit on what they want to invest in roads and bridges. Still short of what we`re looking for but that`s progress.

I think that there`s a couple of major problems. Number one, there are certain areas where they`re proposing not to make any investments at all. And to give you a couple of examples of that, there are 400,000 schools and childcare centers across the country that still get water through lead pipes today.

The president`s plan calls for investing about $100 billion to replace those pipes to protect the health and safety of our kids. The Republican proposal offers zero in those areas.

Similarly, as you just read, we propose investments in renovating our -- and updating our veterans` hospitals. The average veterans` hospital is about 50 years old. The Republicans are not offering anything in those areas.

And I want to note there`s another big issue here. The president has been perfectly clear that how he would cover the cost of these investments. He has talked about raising taxes on big multi-national corporations, on closing loopholes that encourage corporations to actually invest overseas. And that pays for every dollar of his plan.

The Republicans are talking about in large part repurposing money that has already gone to COVID relief. And if you get under the hood of that, that could mean, for example, taking money that`s ticketed for small businesses away from those small businesses. It could mean taking money that`s currently slated to go to rural hospitals away from those hospitals.

So we have some serious concerns with that approach as well.

O`DONNELL: So it sounds like you`re very far apart on the concept of the pay-for -- how this is paid for.

What about this notion that the Republican bill actually doesn`t include much new spending and your bill is all about new, additional spending beyond what we were scheduled to spend anyway on infrastructure?

RAMAMURTI: That`s right. I think that there`s a couple of ways of looking at the numbers. There`s a certain amount of money that we`re scheduled to spend, as you said. The Republican proposal sort of includes that in their total number.

It is very clear that there are several areas where the Republicans` proposed investment is far short of what the president has proposed. And I think it is important to step back and think about what that means.

We are in a critical moment, an international race. The E.U., China, Japan, all of them are making significant investments in their infrastructure. We have dropped from number one in the world for R&D spending as a percentage of our economy all the way to ninth. At the same time China has risen from eighth all the way to second.

And so if we want to maintain our standing in the world, if we want to maintain our competitive edge we have to make these investments.

O`DONNELL: Bharat Ramamurti, deputy director of the National Economic Council, thank you very much for joining us for the first time tonight. And please come back as often as you can.

RAMAMURTI: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, Texas Republicans are working on another voter suppression bill. Texas Congressman Colin Allred, who is a voting rights attorney, says that federal legislation can overrule the Republican voter suppression bills enacted by Republican legislatures. He will join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Tonight Republicans in the Texas legislature are negotiating among themselves about just how restrictive their next voting law will be.

Republican Governor Greg Abbott has said he is eager to sign the bill into law no matter how restrictive it is.

Some of the restrictions under consideration include banning drive-thru voting, banning 24-hour voting and limiting the number of polling locations in the state`s largest counties where the largest number of Democratic voters are.

Federal legislation passed this year by the House of Representatives would prevent most, if not all of the Republican voter restrictions being imposed by state legislatures.

That bill has not come to a vote in the senate where it would be forced to clear a 60-vote procedural threshold.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Colin Allred of Texas. He has worked as a voting rights attorney before entering Congress.

Colin Allred, you are still working as a voting rights attorney in effect, I`m sure, educating your fellow members as part of your daily rounds these days. What`s the latest from the Texas legislation as it is developing tonight?

REP. COLIN ALLRED (D-TX): Well, thank you, Lawrence, for covering this. It is really important. And we should also stress that whatever they do in this bill, it is on top of Texas already being one of the hardest states in the nation to vote before they add anything to this.

I know you covered some of the components that are probably going to be in this, but we also know that they talked about allowing partisan poll watchers to intimidate voters in the polling place, something that Republicans here are already planning to do in black and brown neighborhoods.

They also want to tie the hands of local election administrators to help eligible voters vote by mail. And so they`re having to get creative, Lawrence, because they`ve already done so much. It is already so difficult to vote in the state of Texas.

They`re trying to add new and more difficult things on top of it, and this is an attack on our democracy. There`s no other way to put it and it is unacceptable.

O`DONNELL: And how would the federal legislation that Congress is considering now change this?

ALLRED: Well, I`m so glad you asked that because, you know, there`s been a lot of demonization of the For The People Act on the other side, saying that it is a power grab. I think Mitch McConnell called it that.

But all it does really, Lawrence, is set national standards around voting so that our democracy is not radically different from state to state. So establishing standards for early voting with a 15-day early voting period being required, having automatic voter registration and same-day voter registration which a lot of states already have -- having national standards for vote-by-mail.

But also importantly banning partisan gerrymandering in congressional elections and that`s something that I think we don`t talk about enough.

Part of what`s happening on the Texas legislature right now has been empowered by gerrymandering and map bobbing (ph). And they want to now gerrymander the 38 seats that we`re going to get in Texas for the next decade if they get a chance.

O`DONNELL: Would it be able to reach into details like the number of polling places that Texas would have in the large Democratic counties?

ALLRED: I don`t think you could set the actual number of polling places but it would set standards around the early voting and vote by mail. But I think the really important reason I mentioned that, Lawrence, is because for voting rights folks and lawyers, when we look at this, we look at it as kind of a hydraulic system. We have early voting, we have vote by mail, and we have election day.

If you put pressure on early voting, or we squeeze early voting, we squeeze vote via mail, you put more pressure on election day. And so if obviously, if you expand those things you put less pressure on it.

And that`s what you see in the long lines, when you see Texans waiting eight and nine hours to vote which has happened recently in our state, it`s caused by the pressure they put on early voting and vote by mail, then trickling over into election day.

And so that`s what we`re trying to deal with here is to get as many opportunities as possible for eligible voters to be involve in their democracy. It really shouldn`t be a partisan issue. It should be something that we should all agree on.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Colin Allred, thank you very much for joining us once again tonight. This is the most important story facing our democracy on a day-to-day basis. Thank you very much.

ALLRED: Thank you for always covering it, Lawrence. You`re absolutely right. It`s critical.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

We`ll be right back. Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: According to "The Washington Post", the daily COVID-19 infection rate has dropped 92 percent since the month President Biden took office. Infections are down because vaccinations are up.

This week, the CDC announced 50 percent of U.S. adults are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but vaccination rates are still relatively low among the black and Latino populations.

If the biggest state, California, is going to continue to make progress on vaccinations it will have to make major progress with the Latino population, which is 39 percent of California`s total population and almost half of Los Angeles County`s population.

In Los Angeles County, just 39 percent of Latino men have received at least one shot as compared to 59 percent of white men. A Los Angeles doctor has recruited other health care workers to launch a program to convince Latino men and Latino women to get vaccinated now.

That doctor is joining us now. He`s Dr. Ilan Shapiro, medical director of health education and wellness at Altamed, one of the largest federal qualified health centers in the United States.

Doctor, thank you very much for joining us tonight. How are you going help people in the Latino community get vaccinated?

DR. ILAN SHAPIRO, MEDICAL DIRECTOR OF HEALTH EDUCATION AND WELLNESS, ALTAMED: Lawrence, we need to start the conversation. That`s one of the most important things.

We know that they want to get vaccinated but they need to actually bring the virus down. We have a lot of things and they need to choose between actually bringing food to their families or getting vaccinated. We need to make sure that we are making it easy and proactively understand how we can we actually better serve them.

One of them is actually, you know, incentives, making sure that, you know, at their jobs they get a couple hours to make sure that they get vaccinated. And other ways we`re trying to open a lot of the conversations in the community with trusted sources of information with the community health centers, in social media, in making sure that it`s not just in Spanish, but it`s actually culturally relevant for us.

O`DONNELL: We had a town hall about vaccinations in Washington. President Biden participated, as did Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra. And I want to listen to a question that I asked. This was actually Vanessa Auk`s (ph) question. She`s with Telemundo. She put that question to the president and I put this question to Secretary Becerra. Let`s listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Can anyone get this vaccine in this country without regard to immigration status?

XAVIER BECERRA, U.S. SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Lawrence, I think the president has said it, in fact, the previous president said it. Everyone should get vaccinated. Everyone means anyone. Anyone in this country, whether you`re a citizen or not, you are eligible to get the vaccine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: How much do you think immigration status affects people`s willingness to get the vaccine?

DR. SHAPIRO: Lawrence, it`s one of the barriers that we have, we have actually understanding that this vaccine is available for anybody, no matter if you`re undocumented or documented. And most importantly, this is free. 60 percent, according to Kaiser Family Foundation, 60 percent of Hispanos -- males think actually there`s a cost associated to it.

And the moment that we started the conversation, understanding that, you know -- and we have the conversation with them that it`s free, it`s there and it`s for everybody, they start actually going, ok, well, let`s bring that, let`s do that part. And making sure that we have transportation for them.

All of these things can make a huge difference in our communities, especially right now that we are having, you know, two or three jobs. They`re essential workers.

And most importantly, if we want to close that gap, we need to break those barriers.

O`DONNELL: Dr. I Shapiro, thank you very much for the work that you`re doing and thank you for joining us here tonight.

DR. SHAPIRO: Pleasure as always, and thank you so much for the invitation.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. Dr. Ilan Shapiro gets tonight`s LAST WORD.

"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.