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

Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 7/23/21

Guests: Norm Ornstein, E.J. Dionne, Daniel Alonso, Normaliz Rodriguez, Nahid Bhadelia, Raja Krishnamoorthi

Summary

Senate on the brink of bipartisan infrastructure bill as President Biden marks six months in office. Sen. Manchin: "Pretty Much" got bipartisan deal on infrastructure, should be ready on Monday. Former Trump inaugural chair released on $250 million bond. COVID-19 cases up in all 50 states. Democrat lawmakers want $34 billion for global vaccines.

Transcript

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I forgot to note this time last night that it was Friday Eve, so I hope it hasn`t taken you by surprise. Happy Friday. That`s going to do it for us for now. I`ll see you again on Monday night.

Now it`s time for "The Last Word" with the great Lawrence O`Donnell who has made his triumphant return. Lawrence, it`s great to see you.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. And you know, there`s nothing I would like better than a good long Friday night chat with you. But as I understand it, correct me if I`m wrong, I believe your weekend officially begins when I say good night, Rachel.

MADDOW: 47, 48, 49, 50.

O`DONNELL: Good night, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence. Good night. Bye.

O`DONNELL: Bye. Well, the Biden-Harris Administration completed six full months in office this week. And tonight, the Biden-Harris agenda faces challenges - its biggest challenges in the United States Senate.

Now, no president in history served in the Senate longer than Joe Biden and no president in history has understood the Senate that he is dealing with better than Joe Biden understands his current Senate.

Joe Biden said this week that in effect, the Senate is broken. He said that the rule on the 60-vote threshold is no longer working the way it was supposed to. And he said he supports a change in that rule. But some people think they heard him say there should be no change in the Senate rules.

But what I heard Joe Biden say indicates that he will support a change in the Senate rules, probably for voting rights legislation after - after he has accomplished what he can in the Senate under the current rules.

In that sense, the Biden infrastructure bills and voting rights bills are strategically linked. Joe Biden clearly believes he cannot come up in full opposition to the current Senate rules while trying to hold on to a fragile bipartisan coalition of senators for his infrastructure bill.

But President Biden is clearly giving signals about what needs to be done to pass voting rights legislation, including a change in Senate rules. And so tonight we will consider the Biden legislative strategy in sequence, beginning with the Biden-Harris Administration`s massive two track infrastructure legislation followed by voting rights and the Senate rules.

The Senate will vote on Majority Leader Chuck Schumer`s motion to proceed to a bipartisan Senate bill on infrastructure on Monday. Monday`s vote requires at least 10 Republicans to join Democrats to reach a 60 vote threshold. Here`s what the President said he expects on Monday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: You think it`s going to move forward in the Senate on Monday?

THE PRESIDENT: I do. Here`s what I think. What happens is, the vote on Monday is a motion to be able to proceed to this issue. Then they`re going to debate the issue of the elements - the individual elements of this plan to make sure we`re going to fix that damn bridge of yours going into Kentucky.

CROWD: (Applause)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: President is referring to the Brent Spence Bridge across the Ohio River that joins Ohio and Kentucky. Mitch McConnell, the senior senator from Kentucky is opposing the bill that will fix that bridge, which was built in 1963. Here`s what President Biden thinks is going to happen when the Senate debates and votes on the bipartisan infrastructure deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: I think it`s going to get done. You may find in the amendments that take place on the detail - the detail of whether or not - and I`m the guy that wrote this bill to begin with, and so I`ve had to compromise to make changes in the bill. When I say "I," I campaigned on this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: A new national poll by the Associated Press released yesterday found that 59 percent of Americans, including 50 percent of Republicans approve of President Biden`s handling of infrastructure. The poll found that 83 percent of Americans, including 79 percent of Republicans favor an infrastructure package that includes funding for roads, bridges and ports. And that is exactly what is in the bipartisan infrastructure bill in the Senate.

NBC News is reporting that the bipartisan group of senators, "say they`re on the brink of finalizing a huge bipartisan infrastructure deal." On Wednesday, Republican Senator Rob Portman said, 11 Senate Republicans have committed to supporting a vote to at least begin debate on the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Monday.

Yesterday, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who is one of the leaders of the bipartisan negotiations said this.

[22:05:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I think we`ve moved and pretty much gotten an agreement on the infrastructure bill, the - what we call traditional infrastructure. We pretty much down the road on that. Hopefully, we`ll have everything. I think the letter - 11 had been signed - Republicans - exactly what`s been asked for and that should be presented. And Monday we go from there. But we`re just starting on the--

REPORTER: But do you have a deal on bipartisan infrastructure?

MANCHIN: I think pretty much - they`ve pretty much got it worked out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight, Congressional Historian Norm Ornstein. He`s an Emeritus Scholar at the 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 E.J. Dionne, as well as the Opinion Columnist for "The Washington Post" and a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

E.J., let me begin with you and with it with where the infrastructure plan sits tonight. Monday`s vote in the Senate is the biggest moment yet in this infrastructure crusade for Joe Biden?

E.J. DIONNE, THE WASHINGTON POST, OPINION COLUMNIST: It is. And I think it`s possible, by the way, that Monday vote could slip till Tuesday, because they`re still arguing about a lot of stuff. And now the fact that they`re arguing specifics is probably a good sign that they actually are going to negotiate a bill, just to tick through a few of them.

Davis-Bacon rules, will this infrastructure bank they have in there also require prevailing, i.e. higher wages that the unions have always insisted on. There are arguments about the split between transit and roads and bridges between Democrats and Republicans.

Tammy Duckworth, the Senator from Illinois has worries about infrastructure for drinking water and sewage. So they`re - but they`re arguing about specifics, which means they are moving on.

I think the biggest issue here - and one of the reasons why President Biden is tiptoeing around that filibuster issue in a way that I think is a little dangerous, but we`ll see what happens, is because, if mitch McConnell really decided to torpedo this bill, he might be able to pull enough Republicans away to deprive the Democrats of the 10 votes that they need.

The Republicans are having a big argument among themselves. People like Portman say, look, we`ll be in a stronger position to oppose the big bill if we support the kind of infrastructure we want. The other side of the party says don`t give Biden any victories, because if he pulls off a bipartisan infrastructure bill, it will be a very big deal. And I`ll leave out the other word Joe Biden lights to us, because this is a family program.

O`DONNELL: Norm, a massive majority of Republican voters - in that poll, massive majority of Republican voters want the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

NORM ORNSTEIN, CONGRESSIONAL HISTORIAN: So, I`ve been a skeptic, in part, because we`ve been through this Foe Fandango (ph) over the Affordable Care Act where Republicans Grassley and Enzi stretched it out with no intention of ever reaching a deal.

And we saw it on a tax package with Biden in his second term with some of these same Republicans. But I think this has been handled beautifully by the president and by Chuck Schumer and Democrats.

Remember, that Republicans opposed in unison the American Rescue Plan - almost $2 trillion, with a lot of very popular things. And then you had many of them try to say, well look at the good things were getting. But they had opposed it. If they all vote against an infrastructure plan, given its popularity, they`re going to have a harder time taking credit for anything. So, they`re all on the line on this one.

But I think there`s a larger point that we need to emphasize here, which is that if this bill and the larger package, eventually pass-through reconciliation, with climate change in a big way, and that larger package with an extension of the child tax credit, which is the most significant thing to end child poverty in the history of the country, and we add that to the American Rescue Plan. We`re talking about a series of things that are the equivalent if not greater than the Great Society but done without the swollen majorities that Lyndon Johnson had.

This would be an amazing set of accomplishments. And it`s not a surprise that Biden doesn`t want to get in the way at this point with an argument about the filibuster.

O`DONNELL: Yes. I mean, E.J. to Norm`s point that we we`ve seen failed attempts at bipartisan agreement before, that made a lot of people think at the beginning of this process, we`ve seen this before, we know what`s going to happen.

But Joe Biden has seen it before, Chuck Schumer has seen it before, and every Democratic senator has seen it before. And they are all so much the wiser this time around, which is why I`ve been betting on them getting it right this time, because they know just how slippery the other side can be on this.

[22:10:00]

And that`s what Schumer has been doing with the insisting on having these votes, because he`s not going to let them run out - just let the calendar run out.

DIONNE: Yes. No, I love Norm`s term Foe Fandango, that`s a political science term, I think. And I think the word that Democrats repeat to themselves every 10 minutes is Obamacare. They remember what happened in 2010. They remember Republicans saying, well, if you give us this amendment, maybe we`ll vote for it. And if you give us that, maybe we`ll vote for it. And they extended the time of negotiation farther and farther and farther out.

Of course, the longer a process continues, the more people focus on the process and not what`s in the bill. And I`m glad Norm listed some of the things in the bigger bill. And so what Schumer has done, what Biden has done, what all the Democrats have done is said, look, we will not let you drag this out forever. We would rather have no bipartisan bill, if it means waiting until October. And so, I think, Schumer has already drawn one line in the sand.

And I think these this group of senators actually wants to get to an agreement. Because the other thing about the first infrastructure bill - the bipartisan one - is the Biden people and the Democrats put a lot of stuff in there that`s very good for a lot of Republicans.

They talked for example, about resiliency against climate change. That`s really big in a lot of coastal states that have Republican senators. Then there are a lot of these projects, like that bridge you showed, that really matter to Republican state. So I think both in terms of the pressure and in terms of the carrots they have structured this to win it.

O`DONNELL: Norm, for me, it`s not clear what McConnell wants. If McConnell - does McConnell really want to kill the bipartisan bill? Because if he does, I believe he can. All he has to do is pull away one or two Republican senators, which I believe he can do if he really wants to do it.

Or does he want to oppose the bill, and then watch that bridge in Kentucky get fixed, because this bill actually does pass?

ORNSTEIN: I think it`s more of the latter than the former Lawrence. But we also have to keep in mind that as they`ve talked about how they`re close to a deal. There`s still a lot of question marks here, including how you`re going to pay for it, and whether those pay-fors will work.

But that aside, I think McConnell is in a very tough place on this one, something he`s not used to. You`re absolutely right. He can command his troops and keep this from happening if he really, really, really wants to do that.

But remember that, Mitch McConnell also cares about winning a majority in the Senate in 2022 and he has some vulnerable senators. And if they`re on record, as opposing infrastructure, all of those things that are popular in their states, and popular with those voters, as the poll showed, that`s going to be a bigger problem for him.

So I don`t think he is going to pull out all the stops to kill this. And if it goes through, and it goes to the House, Nancy Pelosi is going to sit on it and wait until we see that larger package happen.

And one other big point, which is you need all 50 Democrats to get the second part of this package, you`re not going to get the 50 unless there is a clear belief among the recalcitrance that they`ve done everything they can to get this bipartisan deal done. So there are real reasons to move that forward to get the second piece of it, which is the big enchilada.

O`DONNELL: And E.J., the sequencing here of bipartisan bill first, get it through the Senate, then move to the Democrats only infrastructure bill. At that point when that gets through the Senate, that seems to me to be the moment where it`s the moment of truth, in effect, for Joe Biden and the Democrats on the 60 vote thresholds rule when it comes to voting rights legislation.

We`re not there yet because of the sequencing of this legislation. But when we get there, Joe Biden is saying that he`s interested in some of the kinds of changes in the Senate rule that Norm has been talking about.

DIONNE: Joe Biden gave a very, very strong speech on voting rights, and he basically said it`s a fundamental moral issue of our time. And if the only reason that bill fails is because of the archaic Senate filibuster rules, Joe Biden just can`t be in a position to say, well, the filibuster really matters more to me than this historic effort to guarantee the right to vote.

[22:15:00]

And I think the reason his comments at that town hall probably a lot of people, is not because he tried to kick the issue down the road, which I think everybody understands for the reasons you described. But he really went into a fairly detailed defense of the filibuster and said, there`ll be chaos if we got rid of the filibuster. Well, there`s going to be chaos if we don`t fix our voting rights rules. And so that`s why he got the pushback.

I think the push back is useful, because you use the right term, it is a moment of truth for Biden and for the country, that when they face up to the problem of voting rights, and they`re just - Democrats are going to have to do it. And I worry that there are still some senators who won`t get there. And I think it`s going to take enormous pressure to get it done.

O`DONNELL: We`re going to consider that in the next segment. E.J. Dionne, thank you very much for joining us. Norm Ornstein, please stick around for our discussion of the filibuster. Next, we need your expertise on that.

And coming up, this week, Joe Biden actually said that he does want to change the Senate`s filibuster rules. But he said other things at the same time that left people kind of confused as E.J. just mentioned. We`ll take a look what the President had to say and what that means for voting rights legislation next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:20:00]

O`DONNELL: I know many of you heard what President Biden said this week about the so called filibuster rules in the Senate. But let`s listen carefully to it again, because technically, what Joe Biden is calling for now actually does require a change in Senate rules.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: I`ve been saying for a long, long time: The abuse of the filibuster is pretty overwhelming. When I got to the United States Senate at a time when we had guys like Jim Eastland and Strom Thurmond and Robert F. Byrd and a whole range of people who were very, very, very, very, very, very conservative on race, to say the least - even then, if you were to filibuster, you had to stand on the floor and hold the floor.

And that`s why Strom, I think, set the record at 24 straight hours or something. Don`t hold me to the number. But, you know, so you had to take - there were significantly fewer filibusters in those days. In the middle of the civil rights movement.

LEMON: But let me talk to you about that.

BIDEN: Well, let me finish my answer, because I`ll tell you what I`d do. I would go back to that where you have to maintain the floor. You have to stand there and talk and hold the floor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Jonathan Alter, columnist for "The Daily Beast" and MSNBC Political Analyst. He`s the author of "His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, a Life," and Norm Ornstein is back with us.

And Norm, that sounds like the President of the United States has been listening to you. And your suggestions about how to change the Senate rules.

ORNSTEIN: I was very happy with those comments. I cringed at what he said, as you pointed out earlier about abolishing the filibuster bringing, as E.J. said, chaos. But this was heartening in a lot of ways.

Biden is open to reforming the filibuster. One way of doing that is to just go back to a present voting standard. But what he`s really talking about is putting the burden on the filibusters, on the minority. And I think we are in a pretty close range of getting 50 votes when the time comes to reforming it, to go back to what it was in a sense, which is to put that burden back on the minority.

There are a lot of ways of doing it. I`d be thrilled if he picked the one that I favored the most and crafted early on with Al Franken. But there are a lot of ways to go here and he`s left that door open.

Let`s be clear, though, Lawrence, there are not now 50 votes to eliminate the filibuster. There will not be 50 votes to eliminate the filibuster. So the latter part of his comments don`t mean a whole lot in terms of what we need. There are, I think, likely to be 50 votes with a push from the president when the time comes to make an important change.

BIDEN: And, Jonathan, just to go to that other point, the part of the - what the president said that did bother a lot of people. He - well, did go on to say, if you got rid of the whole thing now he said, "you`re going to throw the entire Congress into chaos." And these are the keywords, "and nothing will get done."

Now, what if this is after both infrastructure bills have passed and virtually all of the first term Biden agenda has passed, the stakes about what will then get done after some change of Senate rules become very, very different?

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, they do. But you know, first you have to get through this period of getting these big infrastructure bills through. So, I think, progressives or Democrats have to not put the cart before the horse here. So there`s more flexibility to do things on the filibuster a little bit down the road.

I think what he`s talking about is, that if you did something precipitous now, you would upset an awful lot of senators. And not just Manchin and Sinema on the Democratic side, there are a number of Democratic senators who are worried about what would happen if Mitch McConnell was not restrained at all and became Senate Majority Leader under a Republican president in 2025.

[22:25:00]

So I think people have to understand that it`s not really "Ds" versus "Rs" necessarily on this issue. It`s more complicated inside the Senate.

The other big thing I think people need to understand about H.R. 1 is that, setting the filibuster aside, there are not 50 votes for H.R. 1 right now. And so this idea that, oh, if we only got rid of the filibuster, we`d have voting rights reform, is not accurate, at least as things stand today.

O`DONNELL: Norm, it seems to me that that if you`re going to convince - if Joe Biden is eventually going to convince Joe Manchin to go along with him on a Senate rules change, he`s not going to be able to - that won`t happen publicly. That would be something that would - they`d have to have very close, quiet conversations about, because Joe Manchin doesn`t want it to look like in West Virginia, that the president bullied him into doing this.

ORNSTEIN: And, if you look at what Joe Manchin has said, and parse it out. He`s very much open to some of these changes and Biden can have an impact on him. I think Jon`s point is a very important one, though. We`re not going to see H.R. 1, as it is written before the People Act.

We`re going to need the president to step in, not just quietly, privately, persuasively, to get a change in the rule, we`re going to need the president to put all of his efforts - and the vice president - into crafting a kind of voting bill that will get 50 votes. Manchin`s put out a - kind of white paper, just talking points, but it`s got some good changes in it that could work.

And I think they also have to include not just the Voting Rights Act, but the bill that Raphael Warnock, the Senator from Georgia has put in, that would obviate some of these terrible efforts to enable Republican legislators to overturn election results, because they don`t like them.

Put that package together, and I think Biden can play a very constructive role. And then I think we`re really online to get something extraordinarily important done.

BIDEN: Yes, Jonathan, that`s what I`ve been following in this voting rights issue in the Senate. Is that it is a complex, longer term game than, obviously, than it is in the House. And it`s always difficult for people to watch that and wait for the sequential elements of the game to play out.

ALTER: And people have to understand that H.R. 1, for the reasons Norm just described, is obsolete right now. It was written years ago before the 2020 election.

There are two big problems, voter suppression, which everybody knows about, it`s been around for a long time, and voter subversion, which is a new problem of people trying to act like they`re living in a banana republic - Banana Republicans basically trying to overturn election returns with endless audits.

This one in Arizona has been going on since February. And these fraudit`s must be stopped. These are extraordinarily dangerous for democracy if it`s, heads, we win; tails you lose, which is a Republican position right now. They will protest the results of any election that they don`t win, and that must be dealt with legislatively. So H.R. 1 must be amended to include Warnock`s provisions and perhaps some other ones.

And also Democrats need to go on offense on this, and not just be playing defense. So my feeling is that when the human infrastructure bill comes to the floor, the one they`re going to push through with 50 votes and reconciliation.

Because election equipment has been declared critical infrastructure by the Department of Homeland Security, they should have a provision that says that any state that wants any of that money for that critical infrastructure to upgrade their election systems must provide no excuses, absentee ballots, at a minimum so that they don`t curtail people`s right to vote by mail-in ballot if they choose.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter, Norm Ornstein--

ORNSTEIN: Let me add to that--

O`DONNELL: Sorry, we`re out of time on this segment. Thank you both very much for joining our discussion. Really appreciate it.

And coming up the latest Trump friend to be indicted was released today on just $250 million bail. Daniel Alonzo joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:30:00]

O`DONNELL: Sorry, we`re out of time on this segment: Thank you, both, very much. Appreciate it. And coming up, the latest, Trump`s friends to be indicted was released today on just $250 million bail. Daniel Alonso joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: The worst week of Tom Barrack`s life ended today with his release from federal custody. Tom Barrack, a billionaire friend of Donald Trump`s spent three nights in a cell, in Los Angeles before being released today. On Tuesday, Tom Barrack and two other men were arrested after being indicted on charges of illegally lobbying Donald Trump on behalf of the United Arab Emirates.

Prosecutors alleged that Tom Barrack had been working at the direction of senior UAE officials to influence then candidate Donald Trump`s foreign policy positions during the 2016 campaign. Those influence efforts continued once Trump became president through April 2018. Tom Barrack is also charged with obstruction of justice and making false statements to federal law enforcement agents during a

[22:35:00]

2019 interview. Because of his vast wealth and foreign ties, Tom Barrack is considered a flight risk. His location will be monitored by a GPS ankle bracelet. He has been forced to surrender his passport and he must limit his travel between California and New York, where he was charged. Tom Barrack is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in federal court in Brooklyn.

Joining us now, Daniel Alonso, a former federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York and a former Chief Assistant District Attorney, in the Manhattan District Attorney`s Office, he advises clients on compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. He`s an MSNBC legal analyst. Tom - Dan, I`m sorry, this is very much kind of case you`d be handling if you were back in your old job as a federal prosecutor. What do you make of this indictment, as we understand it so far?

DANIEL ALONSO, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR EASTERN DISTRICT NEW YORK: The indictment seems pretty strong, relatively straightforward. It`s a statute that`s not used very often. You know, it`s about - it`s related to the Foreign Agent Registration Act. But it`s not exactly the Foreign Agent Registration Act. It`s a statute that requires people who are acting as agents of foreign governments to register with the Attorney General, not used all that often. It carries up to 10 years in federal prison. And it`s a very, very serious charge, obviously, because the United States needs to know who is lobbying our government.

And so, it`s obviously very, very important. These charges are very serious. I will say, the bond amount is higher than I`ve ever heard in my career, right. $250 million, is the biggest bond I`ve ever heard of, I don`t know if it`s the absolute record, but it`s pretty hot.

O`DONNELL: But like everything in the life of the super-rich, it is leveraged, he really only had to put up $5 million in cash against the $250 million. But if he doesn`t show up in court, that`s when he owes the government $250 million. That`s the theory of it, as you know, but obviously, they seem to have enough control over his movements that they believe that they`re going to get him to show up in court.

ALONSO: Yes, this is not an unreasonable package. I mean, first of all, that concept applies to everybody. It`s a more common bond, it might be 250,000, secured by $50,000 in equity in a property. So that`s a not uncommon thing to have partial security. But the bond amount, yes, you`re right, it`s owed in its entirety. If the person doesn`t show up to court, a lot of times judges will add additional conditions like they did here. The ankle bracelet is a classic one, the passport is an obvious one. So, it`s not unreasonable. This is something that was thought about long and hard. And the judge really is required to issue an order like this, if he or she finds that it will reasonably assure the defendants return to court, which I think this will give all the conditions.

O`DONNELL: And whenever we`re talking about a friend of Donald Trump, whose charges actually - criminal charges involved Donald Trump, because this lobbying was of Donald Trump. One has to wonder what this defendant might have to offer prosecutors about Donald Trump.

ALONSO: Well, what always wonders that and in federal court, unlike the cases we`ve been talking about over the last few weeks, the case is in the Manhattan DA`s office, it`s a stronger squeeze. Right? It`s a more attractive option to cooperate, because the likely consequences in the likelihood of winding up in federal prison are greater in federal court for a whole number of reasons. So sure, yes. I think the prosecutors are always going to say to the defense lawyers here, if he wants to come in, obviously we`d be interested in hearing what he has to say.

Now, big question. Somebody is close to Trump as he is whether A, he has information but B, if he`s willing to, to give it. On this exact crime, by the way, traditionally, the president would be a victim of an unregistered foreign agent act. Now, did Trump know about it? We don`t know. There`s the indictment itself doesn`t say anything about Trump knowing about it. But ordinarily, the president should be outraged that there`s somebody out there lobbying or acting on behalf of a country without telling that he`s doing that.

In this case, obviously, with a president as unique, shall we say, as Donald Trump and Mr. Barrack`s close relationship, that may not be the case.

O`DONNELL: Dan Alonso, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

ALONSO: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, a Republican governor says, it`s time to start blaming the unvaccinated. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:40:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: And Alabama only 33.9 percent of people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The lowest vaccination rate in the country. Here`s what Alabama`s Republican governor Kay Ivey had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. KAY IVEY (R) ALABAMA: Almost 100 percent of the new hospitalizations are unvaccinated folks and the deaths certainly occurring with unvaccinated folks. These folks are choosing a horrible lifestyle of self-inflicted pain.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is it going to take to get people to get shots.

IVEY: I don`t know you, tell me. Folks supposed to have common sense. But it`s time for to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It`s the unvaccinated folks that are letting this happening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But as the leader of the state, don`t you think it`s your responsibility to try and help get the situation under control.

IVEY: I`ve done all, I know how to do. I can encourage you to do something, but I can`t make you take care of yourself.

[22:45:00]

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious disease physician and Dr. Normaliz Rodriguez, an emergency medicine physician at Johns Hopkins All Children`s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. And Dr. Bhadelia, what`s your reaction to the way the governor put it there?

DR. NAHID BHADELIA, INFECTIOUS DISEASE PHYSICIAN: Lawrence, I feel the frustration right, because the greatest human cost is being carried by people who are unvaccinated. But in medicine and public health, we tend not to blame the people who are carrying that cost. We tend to not to blame the patients, and we tend to look upstream to try to figure out what brought them there. And the truth is, for most people who are at this point, there are still people, pockets of people who need their questions answered.

And I think that we need to continue to work to do that, to instill more confidence in the vaccines. But for others, they`re being fed a steady stream of disinformation and misinformation. And even the efforts to get the vaccinations out or to take any public health measures have all been politicized. dorsal (ph) outreach was politicized, vaccine mandate. are politicized, mask wearing is politicized. And they`ve been told this section of the population has been told that COVID is no worse than flu, which has led them to now say, well, then why should I take a vaccine?

And I think that`s what`s leading to this and we have to work the rhetoric back and for governments like Governor Ivey, I would insist that the way that we go about this is to continue stressing the importance of vaccines and making vaccination as easy as possible for people and potentially mandating it in universities and schools and hospitals to increase that uptake.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Rodriguez, what was your reaction to the way the governor put it?

DR. NORMALIZ RODRIGUEZ, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: I would totally agree that we need to have empathy. I think blaming people is not the way to go. Most people. I`m an altruist. And I believe that most people really care about their families, they care about their community. And their decision to not be vaccinated is based on fear for themselves and their families. So, it`s really about going into these communities, having conversations with our patients, and really addressing their fears, and talking about the reasons why vaccination is important.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Bhadelia, at what point does the refusal to get vaccinated become kind of the medical equivalent of say, cigarette smoking and lung cancer?

BHADELIA: I think we`re there, right, because I think it`s similar to smoking. When you don`t vaccinate, it`s not just about your body and your health. But when you don`t become vaccinated, you potentially might get infected and pass that infection to other people who are not vaccinated. A portion of people who are vaccinated may be immunocompromised. Because a community that is highly vaccinated in that community, you`re less likely to see a person, a single person is less likely to get infected, less likely to get hospitalized or die, less likely to have long-term effects, and most importantly, less likely to come across other people who are infected.

And that`s why I think we need to stress that communal aspect, that it`s not just your family, your health is actually your community`s ability to get back. That`s going to depend on that high level of vaccination.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Rodriguez, you`re in Florida, that`s one of the States that`s leading the increase in infections. What is your experience there now?

RODRIGUEZ: So, I`ve seen an exponential increase in cases over the last two to three weeks. Every day that I go in, there are more and more cases, mostly children, obviously, that`s what I see. And then obviously, the complications associated with that. And then it`s in the community as well. Children obviously don`t have such a significant illness, mortality, morbidity, as adults do. But they do spread it to their caregivers, their grandparents who are elderly, who have chronic conditions that are more likely to be hospitalized and have fatalities as a result.

Let`s listen to what White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We`re reached to a point where there are some communities even states where they`re 70 percent, 80 percent or higher vaccination rates, other communities where there`s 40 percent, 50 percent, or otherwise, that`s not just a health issue. It`s a huge health issue. It`s an economic issue.

We`ve seen how that can impact local communities as it may lead to shutdowns of different businesses that - it`s an economic issue as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Dr. Bhadelia, do you see anything changing, this pattern?

BHADELIA: I have some hope, Lawrence, that we might be seeing something the states that are actually seeing the greatest increase in the rate of vaccinations are actually those that are the heaviest hits, and maybe some of this message about the vaccinated, unvaccinated creating the greatest burden or carrying the greatest burden may be coming through to some people. But Jen Psaki is

[22:50:00]

Exactly right. And that reality is not just true here in the U.S., in terms of the states that will be able to get back economically, socially, psycho socially, but also globally, the longer these outbreaks go on, the more, the longer the recovery will lag for those communities.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Bhadelia and Dr. Rodriguez, thank you both very much for joining us tonight. Thank you. Coming up, Congress wants America to do more, much more to get the vaccine to people in countries where they have no access to the vaccine yet. That`s next. And Msnbc.com`s special series of essays, the next 25 in celebration of MSNBC`s 25th birthday continues. Today`s featured essay is by the person who`s usually in this chair on Fridays, Ali Velshi, who shares his thoughts on peace in the Middle East.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:55:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: As millions of Americans continue to refuse to get vaccinated, less than 1 percent of people in low income countries have received the vaccine, more than 6 billion people around the world have yet to receive COVID vaccine. Today, a group of 70 Democratic members of Congress joined in support of accelerating the production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccine around the world.

In a statement they said, no investment in the fight against COVID-19 is more urgent and cost effective now than an investment in getting the world vaccinated as quickly as possible. Joining us now is Democratic congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois. He is a member of the House Oversight and Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, as we try to convince people in the United States to get the vaccine, people who absolutely refuse to do it. Billions of people around the world are desperately waiting for.

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): That`s right, Lawrence. That`s why I and others introduce something called NOVID. This NOVID Act which is a play on words, no more COVID would set up a system to basically help to vaccinate 60 percent of the population of the world`s 92 poorest countries. It`s not only the right thing to do, but it`s also the smart thing to do, because, unfortunately, the variants that we saw abroad, for instance, the Delta variant which sparked this initial NOVID Act four months ago, has come here and it`s ravaging us.

And epidemiologists tell us that it`s only a matter of time before variants appear on the landscape that defeat our first generation vaccines.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what the Secretary of State said about this on Morning Joe, today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We had vaccines in our stockpile, 80 million that we`re making available to countries around the world, we started doing that about a month ago, of the 80 million, 60 million had been distributed. The other thing that`s happening is because of our leadership, other countries are stepping up. The G7 countries, our European partners, Japan, are also committing additional vaccines. And production is increasing, what we have to do is get to a place where we`re getting as many vaccines as we possibly can, to as many countries as many people as fast as we can. If we do that, we can get ahead of the variants and win the race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Congressman, that`s 80 million in a need that as we say goes into the billions.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes, I don`t think we should be talking about millions anymore, Lawrence. We should be talking about billions. The need is about 8 billion doses of vaccine. And although, I applaud the Biden Administration for this down payment, if you will, and its commitment to helping other countries, at this point, we`ve got to hustle. We can`t wait any longer.

Four months ago, I and some others pointed out that the Delta variant which was ravaging in that case, my home, my birth country, where I lost three of my family members to COVID. And basically saying, look, that Delta variant is going to make its way over to here to the United States very shortly if we don`t vaccinate people abroad, unfortunately, that came to pass. And now a Lambda variant has arrived on the landscape. And what`s next.

Already in Israel, they`re seeing the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine go down significantly, even in response to the Delta variant. And so, we have to be at this point, vigilant, and we`ve got to hustle and get money out there - get vaccines out there and spend the resources to do so.

O`DONNELL: The only thing I was surprised about in your group`s announcement is that there were not more members of Congress joining this effort.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: We wanted to put something together quickly to make sure that we could get this into the reconciliation package quite frankly. We think that it`s absolutely crucial to allocate this money as quickly as possible, because, to me, this is cheap insurance compared to the trillions of dollars that we`re going to be spending on the economic recovery. And of course, with regard to the health aspects of the pandemic.

I am confident that the majority of our caucus is behind this. And I think that we`re going to get this into the package, but we`ve got to push as hard as quickly as possible right now.

O`DONNELL: Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, thank you very much for joining us.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s Last Word. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts now.