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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 6/17/21

Guests: Colin Allred, Norm Ornstein, Andre Gaines


Stacey Abrams today is saying that she can support the Manchin voting rights proposal. Today, the United States Supreme Court in a 7-2 decision once again upheld the Affordable Care Act, and Joe Biden once again used his most famous phrase ever to describe what a very big deal that is. Polls show voters approve of Joe Biden because he gets things done. And polls show they overwhelmingly support the Biden infrastructure bill. President Biden signed the legislation to make Juneteenth a U.S. Federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Lawrence.

I listened to your discussion about the Supreme Court decision. Of course, upholding the Affordable Care Act, and also the possibility that it could be one of Stephen Breyer`s last great important decisions if he were to step down. And this notion that if we talk about it, it will make him more resistant to the completely rational choice to step down at this time, strikes me as just so childish. I mean, senators face this all the time. Members of the court have faced it throughout our lives, the question of should so-and-so not run for re-election, and adults deal with that.

And he should understand that, of course, there`s plenty of rational reason why he should step down. This is the perfect summer for him to do that. And the notion that if we talk about it, he just might stay there until he`s, I don`t know what, he`s 82 now, I don`t know.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": Do you not feel even the least bit superstitious about it, though? I mean, given what we have just been through with the last few vacancies on the court. Is there like a little, like, don`t walk under the ladder, don`t cross the black cat, superstition feeling for you about talking about it? Or is that just me?

O`DONNELL: You`d have to prove to me that Stephen Breyer is not an adult. And then I could entertain things like superstition. But with adults in Washington, you know, who hold these positions, come on. I mean, come on. Of course, of course they`re going to talk about it.

MADDOW: Rationally, I am with you. But the little fear center at the core of my heart flutters and twinges with every utterance about this subject.

O`DONNELL: Rachel --

MADDOW: I`ve got to leave it to you.

O`DONNELL: I will never mention it to you again. I will mention it to millions of people on this program. But I just won`t, I won`t stress your heart that way again.

MADDOW: I just am going to leave, I have to get my heart rate and my blood pressure out of the ceiling now. I`ll be right back.

O`DONNELL: I get it, I get it. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Well, as the moment of truth approaches for voting rights legislation in the United States Senate, we had a big breakthrough today when Stacey Abrams announced that she agrees with and can support Joe Manchin`s proposed changes in the For the People Act.

A week ago when Joe Manchin wrote an op-ed with the title that broke Democrats` hearts, "Why I`m voting against the For the People Act," Democrats complained Joe Manchin did not mention anything in that article that he disagrees with in the For the People Act, or that he would like to change. And so, yesterday, Joe Manchin met that criticism head on with a memo that he made public specifying the changes that he would like to make in the bill. And that was stage one of the breakthrough.

Now, that felt like a significant development yesterday, but it was not until today that we saw how significant it is, when Stacey Abrams began her day on television saying that she can support the Manchin proposal.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Is that a compromise you could support?

STACEY ABRAMS, FOUNDER AND CHAIR, FAIR FIGHT ACTION: Absolutely. What Senator Manchin is putting forward are some bake building blocks that we need to ensure that democracy is accessible no matter your geography. Those provisions that he is setting forth are strong ones that will create a level playing field, will create standards that do not vary from state to state, and I think will ensure that every American has improved access to the right to vote despite the onslaught of state legislation seeking to restrict access to the right to vote.


O`DONNELL: Joe Manchin`s changes to the bill include making election day a public holiday, automatic voter registration, banning partisan gerrymandering, and requiring some form of voter ID with a range of possibilities that could include, for example, a utility bill. Democrats have opposed voter ID provisions that could exclude many voters if it`s limited to driver`s licenses and other forms of IDs that Republican legislation use.

And here`s what Stacey Abrams told Nicolle Wallace today about why she can now accept Senator Manchin`s version of voter ID.

Let me read to you what Stacey Abrams said since that video`s not going to tell you. She said: It`s about making sure that, yes, you can demonstrate you are -- who you are, but that the restrictions placed on how you do so should not be untenable. You should not be allowed to use your gun license in Texas, but not your student ID. And so, across this country, we are seeing a clamor for people to say they want democracy to work for everyone, that there should be minimum standards that do not change based on your race or your geography.

Georgia Democrat Senator Raphael Warnock said that he`s very encouraged by Joe Manchin`s proposals and told NBC News, quote, I have never been opposed to voter ID, and in fact, I don`t know anybody who is who believes people shouldn`t have to prove that they are who they say they are. But what has happened over the years is people have played with commonsense identification and put into place restrictive measures intended not to preserve the integrity of the outcome, but to select certain groups.

As Senate Democrats began uniting around a version of the bill that they could all support, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced he`s going to file a cloture motion, which he did, that would allow him to bring a vote early next week, probably on Tuesday. That vote on Tuesday will require a 60-vote threshold that the Senate needs on a vote like that in order to proceed then to actually voting on the bill itself, passing the bill itself after that 60-vote threshold, only requires 51 votes.

That means that 10 Republicans are going to have to vote with the Democrats in favor of proceeding to that bill next week. And Joe Manchin is the Democrat who is trying to find those 10 Republicans.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I`ve been talking to Stacey. I talk to everybody. And I`ve been working across the aisle with all the Republicans, trying to get people to understand that that`s the bedrock of our democracy -- an accessible, fair, and basically secure voting. That`s it.

And right now, a divided country -- this is not about me, it`s about our country. People better start looking at how we got to where we got to January 6th and why we don`t want to fix it.

REPORTER: Do you think you can get Republicans to vote for the reforms that you --

MANCHIN: I hope, I hope.

REPORTER: Have you talked to Republicans?

MANCHIN: I`ve talked to everybody.

REPORTER: Who said they would support?

MANCHIN: Well, I`m talking to everybody. You know that basically Murkowski signed on to the John Lewis Voting Rights Act with me. So, that`s a start. And bottom line is you`ve got to keep working, you can`t give up on this stuff, and you can`t separate our country any further.


O`DONNELL: So, after that, after Joe Manchin said he`s once again in search of Republican votes, after that, Mitch McConnell once again proved that what President Biden said about him yesterday is always true.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mitch has been nothing but no for a long time. And I`m sure he means exactly what he says. But we`ll see.


O`DONNELL: Nothing but no. And here what is Mitch McConnell said today. After Joe Manchin said he was in search of Republicans.

Here`s what Mitch McConnell said about how many Republicans will support Joe Manchin`s version of the bill.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): All Republicans I think will oppose that.


O`DONNELL: And so when Joe Manchin is on the Senate floor next week for that vote, watching every single Republican oppose him, will he then be ready to change the Senate rule on the 60-vote threshold as he recently said in a private discussion with a nonpartisan group he is willing to do under certain circumstances?

Leading off our discussion tonight is Democratic Congressman Colin Allred of Texas. He has worked as a voting rights attorney before going to Congress. Also with us, congressional historian Norm Ornstein. He`s an emeritus scholar at American Enterprise Institute, and coauthor of "It`s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism."

And, Congressman, let me begin with you and the question of the day for Democrats. Do you agree with Stacey Abrams? Can you support Joe Manchin`s compromise bill?

REP. COLIN ALLRED (D-TX): Lawrence, I think this is like Christmas come early, because this meets the thresholds of what we talked about last time I was on your show. Which is number one, it allows Americans to register to vote, allows them to vote early by mail and on Election Day, free from interference, and makes sure their votes are counted and not diluted through partisan gerrymandering.

And so, you know, the first hurdle we had to get over was to get enough Democratic votes in the Senate for a voting rights bill. We have that now in this form from Senator Manchin. And that`s the first hurdle.

Of course, you`ve had about what the next one is, which is how we get around the filibuster. I think this is a very good development for anyone that cares about voting rights, and we all should.

O`DONNELL: Norm Ornstein, you were here last night discussing the fact that Joe Manchin when he was kind of caught on tape saying he is willing to change the 60-vote threshold in various ways, including an idea first proposed by you and by Senator Al Franken, requiring a 41-vote to block cloture, as opposed to the 60-vote threshold. The pressure then would be on the Republicans to come up with the votes, not the Democrats.

Is there any suspense after what Mitch McConnell said today -- is there any suspense about what happens on that 60-vote threshold vote, probably on Tuesday next week, on this bill?


And if you noticed in that little clip with Mitch McConnell, he had Roy Blunt on one side of him, John Barrasso on the other. John Barrasso the other day said, never mind a one-term president, I want to make Joe Biden a half-term president. And Roy Blunt who in that private conversation, Joe Manchin said was his very dear friend, immediately came out and said, no way would I do this, and then turned around and said, now it`s the Stacey Abrams bill, which itself is a pretty awful thing to have done.

But, you know, Manchin has made it clear for a while, if you read between the lines, or read between the lines, that he wanted to test the Republicans when it came to the big issues, the January 6th commission and voting rights. Once you`ve tested those, I think we`re on a path to getting changes in the filibuster that are going to give us opportunities in a lot of different areas, and this particular compromise, and I`m really delighted to be on with Colin Allred, who`s a star in Congress, as he was before.

But this particular bill passes the test. And the voter ID, there are lots of ways of doing this that actually will be beneficial and not cost people and not make it difficult for them to get it.

And if you do something -- you know, I had proposed a long time ago with Andy Young and Martin Luther King III, putting an ID photo voluntarily on a Social Security card. You can get anywhere. Get it in a post office. It won`t cost anything. Then you can use it in state and local elections as well as federal ones.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Allred, the voter ID provision in this bill, if it is passed into law eventually, would that override any of the voter ID provisions that already exist out there in some Republican states that, for example, allow you to use a gun license, don`t allow you to use a student ID?

ALLRED: Unfortunately you`re talking about my state, there, Lawrence, because we have only a limited set of IDs we could use. And it would.

The voter ID we had in Texas before they passed the restrictive photo voter ID was exactly what Senator Manchin is talking about, which is that you could bring a utility bill. I used to go with my mom when she would go vote, she would just bring her water bill, and she could vote with that.

So that`s actually just going back to where we were in Texas previously. And as Norm knows, as you know, Lawrence, there are a lot of folks who don`t have a photo ID because they don`t need one, because they`re elderly, but they like to vote in person, or they never had to get one because they`re not traveling, they don`t have a bank account.

And, of course, disproportionately, those folks are African-American and Latino, especially in the South. We`ve had court case after court case that has shown how discriminatory that can be. But proving who you are by having to bring something like a utility bill is a reasonable step and something that I can support.

O`DONNELL: So, Norm, take us to what happens let`s say on Wednesday, assuming the Democrats don`t get to the 60-vote threshold on Tuesday, whenever this cloture vote comes up. Play out for us what then happens in the Senate. Joe Manchin confers with the Democrats, and what happens?

ORNSTEIN: So I think Manchin may want to wait until there`s a second vote on the January 6th commission, which is what really I think started him down this path. But I think we`re going to see the Democrats caucus with Manchin, Sinema, and everybody there, and begin to work through the reasonable options that Manchin himself has said he would support.

The one that Al Franken and I have proposed, including talking filibuster elements so you really put the burden on the minority, moving the number to 55. And in an ideal world, also making that present and voting -- ways as he said himself that shift the burden back to the minority. They`re not going to want to have those burdens.

We`re still a little ways away from actually getting the right strategy and the right approach that all the Democrats would support. You`ll need all 50 and the vice president in the chair. But we`re getting much closer. And I think it`s 100 percent clear that we will get no more than one or two votes, if any, among the Republicans for this very reasonable bill in which Manchin tried to reach out to them with the voter ID issue. And then we`re on a path towards something positive. And it would be something that should make us all very happy.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Allred, we`ve come a long way from some Democrats during the presidential primaries thinking that Joe Biden was still working in the old world where you could do business with Mitch McConnell. There he was yesterday saying that Mitch is going to say no all the time. He always does.

And then today, Mitch, of course, says no. Exactly the way the president predicted.

So Joe Biden expected us -- expected Mitch McConnell, anyway, to be exactly where he is tonight.

ALLRED: Yeah, you know, President Biden knows what`s happening. And he`s been paying more attention I think than folks give him credit for.

But what I think President Biden needs to do, what Chuck Schumer needs to do, is treat Senator Manchin like Dirksen was treated by LBJ in the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, which is put his arm around him, even though he`s a Republican, and say, this can be your legacy. You can save our democracy by being the one who makes this happen.

That`s how LBJ got Dirksen to lead the fight and to pass the Voting Rights Act in 1965 on a bipartisan basis to get around Southern Democrats who were trying to block it.

What we need now is the White House, Senator Schumer, anyone else, speaking with Senator Manchin to say, listen, this can be your legacy. You`re the one who can turn back this tide we`ve had since 2013 with the Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act, you can restore American democracy.

What we saw January 6th, you can respond to this. That`s what I think this can be about.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Colin Allred, voting rights expert, former voting rights lawyer, supporting the Manchin compromise, which has also been endorsed by Stacey Abrams -- thank you very much for joining us tonight. Getting your important expertise on this.

And, Norm Ornstein, as always, thank you very much for your perspective on this.

ALLRED: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, today, the United States Supreme Court in a 7-2 decision once again upheld the Affordable Care Act, and Joe Biden once again used his most famous phrase ever to describe what a very big deal that is. What happens to the party that has been lying for ten years that it is going to repeal and replace Obamacare?

David Plouffe joins us next.



BIDEN: The president of the United States of America, Barack Obama.


This is a big (EXPLETIVE DELETED) deal.


O`DONNELL: That bleep comes in the middle of what is the most memorable quote that Joe Biden ever delivered as vice president of the United States. He didn`t want us to hear what he said to President Obama at the signing of the Affordable Care Act 11 years ago.

But today, he`s kind of proud of it. Today, Joe Biden said it again when the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of the Affordable Care Act in a lawsuit brought by 18 Republican state attorneys general, led by the most legally unhinged attorney general in the United States, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The Supreme Court crushed the Republican attorneys general today, saying that they did not even have the right to file that lawsuit.

After the Supreme Court ruled today, President Biden said his famous phrase once again, in code, in a tweet. With millions of people relying on the Affordable Care Act for coverage, it remains, as ever, a BFD. And it`s here to stay.

So what happens now to the political party that has been lying to its voters for a decade that they are going to repeal and replace Obamacare?

Joining us now is David Plouffe, former campaign manager and White House senior adviser to President Barack Obama. He is an MSNBC political analyst.

David, this feels like, you never know, feels like the last chapter of the Republican attempt to get rid of the Affordable Care Act.

DAVID PLOUFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that`s right, Lawrence. I mean, that was the original big lie. They spent a decade, essentially, defined by the lie that somehow they were going to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. That`s been replaced now by the effort to destroy our democracy.

So they failed on eliminating health care for millions. They`re very much alive in their efforts to kill our democracy. And listen, wouldn`t it be great over the next few months if we could say the Affordable Care Act is alive forever, and the filibuster as we know it is dead forever?

That`s kind of where we could go as a country. Yeah, I think, listen, what`s fascinating for me is in the 2012 re-election, which was awhile ago, that is really when the affordable care act began to grow in popularity. The reality, the benefits were available to people, it wasn`t just theory.

I think you see enrollment numbers up. Again, the lesson, as you remember, there was a lot of Democrats, not many, but enough, after Ted Kennedy passed away, who said, we kind of need to give up on health care. We`ve been sitting here, tens of millions of people without health care, a lot of people would have died, a lot of people would be a lot more sicker than they were, they`d be bankrupt.

The lesson here is, when you`ve got the power, the Democrats have it right now, you`ve got to use it. You`ve got to use it to the maximal amount you can to help as many people as you can, because you never know when that`s going to change.

O`DONNELL: So, by the way, if you had given up, it`s hard for me to think of, what is the number two Obama administration domestic legislative achievement? I mean, this number one is so big, so important, so historic, that I know you guys pulled off more than that. But imagine -- imagine what this legacy would be tonight without it.

PLOUFFE: Well, I have a list, of course. I still think it would be a strong legacy. But yeah, I mean, health care in this country reformed in a major way that made health care available to just about everybody had eluded the country for 100 years. We had Medicare, Medicaid.

So that was, I think, President Obama, Senator Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, held everybody together in saying, if we don`t do it now, it could be 10, 20, 30 years before we have the opportunity. So, whether it`s infrastructure, tax reform changes, protecting democracy, immigration reform. I`m more optimistic today than I was yesterday, prior discussion with your guests was super illuminating, because I think you can see a pathway now where maybe enough Senate Democrats say, enough`s enough, protecting our democracy, on some of these economic measures, on immigration reform, we can move forward.

O`DONNELL: Yeah. So, what is the lesson from the passage of the Affordable Care Act in that tragic and dramatic moment, Senator Ted Kennedy died and at that moment the Democrats had before he died, 60 Democrats in the Senate, 60 votes. Went down to 59.

It did look like all is lost. It looked just plain hopeless but somehow it got done. What`s the lesson that you take from that into the legislative struggles that are going on now, voting rights, infrastructure?

PLOUFFE: Well, Lawrence, you`re a great student of history. So first of all, when you have an opportunity, when you have the power, it`s going to be fleeting. Maybe it lasts a number of years and cycles, maybe it doesn`t.

So the things that you ran on that you think are important for the country, I tend to think when you do the right thing for the country, there`s good politics to follow. Even if not, I`ll they have forget, I was not in the White House at the time, but I was in the Oval Office with President Obama the night Scott Brown won that special election in Massachusetts. We talked about health care.

And this is going to sound like the "West Wing" episode, forgive me, but it`s true. He said, you know, we didn`t run in that campaign last year, in 2008, to occupy this office. We ran to do something with it.

And I think enough Democrats back in 2009 and 2010 cast a lot of tough votes because they understood that. That`s what has to happen now. I will say our democracy has never been in this much peril, Lawrence. There`s a whole bunch of things we need to do to make progress in this country.

But this is existential. If you think that this Republican won`t go to the most furthest extremes to hold on to power, to steal power, to deny voters their franchise, I don`t know what you`re watching. It`s happening in front of our eyes right now.

And so we have to find a way. And I think this effort by Joe Manchin today is incredibly constructive to provide a way to stop those that want to kill our democracy from doing so.

O`DONNELL: That, by the way -- that president Obama line you gave us in the oval office is, I believe, the best Oval Office line I`ve heard not written by Aaron Sorkin.

David, before you go, as you see what`s happening with Senator Manchin and you know how difficult it is to get to these compromise positions, what do you see unfolding next week, assuming that the cloture vote fails because it doesn`t get 60 votes in the Senate on the voting rights bill?

PLOUFFE: Well, first of all, I think Mitch McConnell is really going to rue the day that he decided to play politics and deny the commission to investigate January 6th. I think that for Joe Manchin and some other Democrats in the Senate really was a forcing function. So, I don`t think Joe Manchin would put this out today as an empty gesture. How much of this he`s coordinating with Schumer, I don`t know.

But my sense is there`s a chess -- a bunch of chess moves that are now in motion. And I think that -- you know, the fact of the matter is, this is a very good proposal today. It doesn`t have everything everyone would like.

But in terms of protecting democracy, making it easier to vote, extending early vote, there`s a lot of really solid proposals here Which is why everybody from Colin Allred to Stacey Abrams is supporting it.

So my guess is that there`s a plan here. And I think at the end of the day, as you know, Lawrence, when people have said they`re opposed to something, so in Joe Manchin`s case, he`s opposed to the "For The People Act". He`s opposed to filibuster reform, but now we know he`s showing a little openness.

But there`s got to be an exit ramp. And I think the exit ramp for Sinema or Manchin is what the Republicans are doing all over the country. They`re not hiding what they`re doing. You know, they`re not only trying to make it harder to register to vote, they want to change who gets to decide -- who gets to decide who wins elections and give that power to state legislatures.

So I think what they can say, we didn`t want to do this but we were forced to do it because the Republicans clearly have their aims on harming, if not ending, our democracy. So I think that the opening act of the play was really today. And I`m excited to see what happens next week.

O`DONNELL: David Plouffe, you have that combination of experience that I could listen to all night, expertise in presidential campaigning and expertise in governing in the Obama White House. Thank you very much for joining us again tonight.

PLOUFFE: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, polls show voters approve of Joe Biden because he gets things done. And polls show they overwhelmingly support the Biden infrastructure bill. And now the moment of truth seems to be arriving about how to get that done.

Maria Teresa Kumar and Eugene Robinson will join us next on what`s ahead for the Biden agenda.


O`DONNELL: President Biden has arrived back from his first foreign trip and has landed in the middle of Washington`s moment of truth about what is really possible for the Biden agenda in congress. 68 percent of Americans support the Biden infrastructure bill but it seems at the moment less than 50 percent of the Senate supports the Biden approach as of tonight.

Moderate Senate Democrats met with Chuck Schumer today to discuss their bipartisan compromise on infrastructure. Chuck Schumer and Budget Committee chairman Bernie Sanders are preparing a version of the infrastructure bill that could be done with Democrats only in the budget reconciliation process.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on available legislative time on the Senate floor. With the senate scheduled to be in its traditional summer recess for the month of August.

Joining us is Eugene Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post". He`s an MSNBC political analyst. Also with us Maria Teresa Kamar, president and CEO of Voto Latino and an MSNBC contributor.

And Gene, let me begin with you know August is coming as everyone in Washington does and the lines get shorter for anything you might be standing in line for because Congress has departed.

And so these days are ticking down. And of course, when we say moment of truth in Washington what we mean is season of truth. You know, maybe four to six weeks here where we figure out what`s really happening with the Biden agenda.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, and when we say season of truth, when we say four to six weeks, it could be -- it could look like nothing happens for two weeks and then everything has to happen in a day.

O`DONNELL: Yes. Yes.

ROBINSON: Or even a half day or whatever, that`s the way things work. And so that`s what -- you know, buckle your seat belts, that`s what it`s going to be like.

And yet we`ll see. I mean we`ll see if there`s a way forward for any sort of infrastructure bill or piece of an infrastructure bill that gets Republican support. We`ll see if reconciliation, we`re talking about reconciliation for what`s left over after that or for the whole package.

And frankly, we don`t know. I am skeptical that there are 10 Republican votes for anything. But we`ll see.


And Maria Teresa, we have a complexity here we`ve never seen before, especially on the infrastructure bill, which is we are -- we, you know, some Democrats, working on a bipartisan version of this that which would go through with 60 votes which infrastructure has always needed.

And then you have Bernie Sanders who has to do the budget resolution that would start the reconciliation process on the Budget Committee working with Chuck Schumer on a 50-vote version of this that could be done with Democrats only.

And we`ve never seen them, the Democrats, in control of the Senate, tracking two different bills, two different infrastructure bills at the same time, on two different tracks. At some point they have to pick a track.

MARIA TERESA KUMAR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, and the challenge is that these are so -- it`s such a massive bill.


KUMAR: We`re talking about -- we`re talking about trillions, right? So it`s not small. And that`s -- I think that`s the challenge is that, how are you going to be able to satisfy the whole breadth of the party?

What Bernie Sanders wants to ensure is that it includes in the infrastructure bill a lot of this human capital piece that we`re talking about of how do you actually make sure that the American people are scaffold (ph) as we scaffold our bridges? How do we ensure that there`s climate change and climate justice in these infrastructure?

Pieces of the legislation that the Republicans have already flagged they`re simply not interested in. And you have a few Democrats who have said that they`re not interested in. So it will be quite, interesting to see how the president weighs in on the final bill because at the end of the day, it`s going to be his call.

Is he going to scaffold human infrastructure as he claimed that he wanted to do? And is he going to really make a huge bet on climate change?

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said about the possible compromises here.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO CORTEZ (D-NY): I think our number one priority and what democrats should prioritize is not process and how, but are we passing the deal that helps working people the most? Are we passing the deal that makes the most jobs? Are we passing a deal that brings down the most climate emissions? Are we passing a deal that raises wages and actually improves our infrastructure for the next generation?

And if a bipartisan deal sucks up trillions of dollars in bridges to nowhere because it makes people feel good, then that`s going to be a huge concern.


O`DONNELL: Gene Robinson, so there is another side of what Joe Manchin`s working on and what the so-called moderate Democrats are working on in the Senate.

ROBINSON: Exactly. And President Biden and Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders have to work with that side too. You know, whatever can come through, you know, bipartisan support means you`ve got to have the Democrats on board and in both the House and the Senate. You`ve got to have all the Democrats on board or you don`t get it through without Republican help. And so it`s just a real tightrope that has to be walked.

On the infrastructure bill, infrastructure is something that you and I recall being universally popular. It allows congress to shower the folks back home with goodies.

O`DONNELL: Yes, it was always bipartisan. Maria Teresa, you have Joe Manchin now being apparently driven into the arms of Chuck Schumer by Mitch McConnell, who every day finds a new extremist, unreasonable thing to say about zero chance of getting Republican votes that gives Joe Manchin nowhere to go except with his Democrats.

KUMAR: Well, he had a chance -- Mitch McConnell had a chance to secure Manchin had he allowed his party to vote for the insurrection, for the commission to actually investigate the January 6th insurrection.

He decided no. He decided that he was going to completely take his marbles and go home. And Manchin could not believe that someone would not want to investigate the individuals that wanted to hurt our democracy.

And so as a result, Manchin, we now have Manchin at the table saying, you know what, we do need to do some sort of Voting Rights Act. Let`s sit down, let`s roll up our sleeves, and let`s come to the negotiating table.

I have to share with you, we do a lot of work on voting rights. This is a huge deal that we now have a pathway for conversation to modernize our election system for the 21st century.

O`DONNELL: Maria Teresa Kumar, Gene Robinson -- thank you both for joining our discussion tonight.

KUMAR: Thank you Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, fighting for voting rights 60 years ago could get you killed in this country. And it did get Medgar Evers killed and Martin Luther King killed and it got their dear friend and favorite comedian Dick Gregory arrested over a hundred times. The new Showtime documentary "The One And Only Dick Gregory" tells the story of a man I`m proud to say was a hero of mine and appeared on this program before his death in 2017. The one and only Dick Gregory is next.


O`DONNELL: 60 years ago when Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was fighting for voting rights in this country, he often had his favorite comedian by his side. Dick Gregory was with Dr. King when he gave his "I have a dream" speech at the march on Washington in 1963.


DICK GREGORY, COMEDIAN: I`d like to say thank you very much, and it`s a pleasure being here. And nice being out of jail. And I`m very confused this year because I never thought I`d see the day I would give out more fingerprints than autographs.


O`DONNELL: Dick Gregory was the hottest, edgiest comedian of the early 1960s.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dick Gregory was one of the greatest political comedians to ever live.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sacrifices he made aren`t necessarily required of every artist. They are very special people. Every few generations we`re blessed with, that are willing to do that. And when you see these people, you should give them your love and you`re your respect, protect them to whatever extent you can, and try to recognize that they`re doing something very difficult for the benefit of all of us. He set a very high bar.


O`DONNELL: The new documentary "THE ONE AND ONLY DICK GREGORY" is filled with awe expressed by the greatest comedians of our time. Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Wanda Sykes, Kevin Hart and many others. And it is filled with the history of the civil rights movement and the struggle for voting rights in this country.

We have seen many entertainers lend their voices and their time and their money to social justice crusades. But we have seen only one completely give up show business and dedicate himself to the movement.

That is what Dick Gregory did after his dear friend Medgar Evers was assassinated in his driveway in Jackson, Mississippi when he arrived home one night. Dick Gregory never worried about money, but he knew what the loss of show business income would mean to his growing family. And so he turned as he always did in moments of doubt to his wife, Lillian.


GREGORY: I called up Lia and I said, honey, are you willing to eat in a tent, go back to where we were for right? And she said yes. She told me -- as she told me so many other times that the true test of a rich man is strip him of all his wealth, and see how much he`s worth.


O`DONNELL: You will see ow much Dick Gregory is worth in the beautiful and moving documentary "The One And Only Dick Gregory" which will premiere on Showtime appropriately on the 4th of July.

Joining us now is Andre Gaines, the director of "The One And Only Dick Gregory". Andre, I just want to say, thank you. This is a -- this is a necessary film and I`m -- and I really want to thank you for all of our kids who were too young to have seen Dick Gregory`s work and too young to have known his work.

And it must have been a joy and also filled with tragedy and agony putting this film together because it covers so much ground from this great comedy stuff to the assassination of Medgar Evers and so much more.

ANDRE GAINES, DIRECTOR: Yes. I mean it was incredibly challenging. I think, you know, I first of all I want to say thank you to you. I mean you have been an incredible supporter of the project really for quite sometime and it was a joy really to see how many people Dick Gregory inspired.

And it was a challenging story. I mean this, again, was a guy who was part of every major American event since basically 1959 when he first came on to the scene until the time of his death in 2017.

And he still remains as the, you know, unique entertainer that actually sacrificed everything in order to fight for the civil rights movement and to fight for liberation. It is an incredible story. He was an incredible human being. I was lucky enough to know him, lucky enough to know his family. And just all of the beauty that he had around him.

And there was moments of controversy. There was moments of tragedy. But it`s one of these few entertainers that everyone has something great to say about and they were all so willing to come into the film and actually speak about that.

O`DONNELL: Well, I knew Dick Gregory. I read his books. I thought I knew everything -- I did know everything that was publicly available about him but I learned so much in every minute of this film that I did not know about Dick Gregory.

One of the things I love seeing is the way the comedians working today, the great stars of today see him and see him in the history of their business.

GAINES: Yes. It is true. I mean, you know, there are so many moments we couldn`t put in the movie that, you know, all these entertainers, how much they were inspired by Dick Gregory, especially the comedians. And there were so many people that he touched in the business that we didn`t realize.

And you`re not the only person to say that. There were so many people who have screened the movie or maybe have seen versions of it before we, you know, finally ended up selling it to Showtime that said we thought him knew him.

And I mean a lot of his own kids said this. I mean they grew knowing their father was kind of the father to the world or a father to the world also, and he was traveling a lot and so there were many elements of his life that even his own family didn`t get to see that we`re able to actually present in the film.

O`DONNELL: There`s so much detail in here about the way J. Edgar Hoover sent the FBI after him just like Martin Luther King and the way he turned against Vietnam, just like Martin Luther King and the way he joked about Vietnam was just extraordinary as everything he did.

Andre Gaines, the film is "The One And Only Dick Gregory". Thank you very much for making this movie. We will be all be lucky enough to see it when it premiers July 4th at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on Showtime. That`s what I`ll be watching that night.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Andre.

GAINES: Thank you so much for having me.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, tonight`s LAST WORD goes to the 94-year-old woman who is called the grandmother of Juneteenth.


O`DONNELL: Today just before President Biden signed the legislation to make Juneteenth a U.S. Federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States he took a knee. He knelt in front of 94-year-old Opal Lee known as the grandmother of Juneteenth because she has been advocating for over 40 years for Juneteenth to be a federal holiday.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Looking out across this room, I see the advocates, the activists, the leaders who have been calling for this day for so long, including the one and only Miss Opal Lee.


O`DONNELL: In his remarks President Biden said this about Opal Lee.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You are an incredible woman, Miss Opal. You really are. As a child growing up in Texas, she and her family would celebrate Juneteenth.

In Juneteenth 1939 when she was 12 years old, a white mob torched her family home. But such hate never stopped her.


O`DONNELL: In February of this year Opal Lee again called on congress to pass the legislation that President Biden signed into law today.


OPAL LEE, GRANDMOTHER OF JUNETEENTH: Juneteenth can be the unifier that`s used to bring this country back together. As you begin the conversations that acknowledge the effects of the past sins of slavery on the present human condition, we can then accept that those same sins contribute to the systemic racism we see and experience every day.


O`DONNELL: Opal Lee gets tonight`s LAST WORD.