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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 7/30/21

Guests: Nicole Collier, Senfronia Thompson


According to an internal report, the CDC concluded that delta variant vaccine breakthrough cases may be as transmissible as unvaccinated cases. Texas state Democrats have been in Washington for 18 days in a desperate last-ditch effort to block one of the nation`s most restrictive voter suppression bills from passing in a special session of the Republican-led state legislature. Today the Senate jumped over the next procedural hurdle to move forward with the consideration -- with consideration of the bipartisan infrastructure package.


JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC HOST: Today the CDC released the results of a study of a COVID breakthrough among vaccinated people. The study convinced CDC scientists, quote, "the war has changed".

According to an internal report, the CDC concluded that delta variant vaccine breakthrough cases may be as transmissible as unvaccinated cases. The study is part of the data behind the CDC`s recommendation that vaccinated people should wear masks, indoors, in areas with high or substantial virus transmission.

The outbreak at the center of the study happened in Massachusetts which has the highest -- second highest vaccination rate in the nation. 63.9 percent of its population is fully vaccinated.

Over the July 4th weekend in Providence Town, 74 percent of the 469 people who got infected with the delta variant were fully vaccinated. Incredibly important to note. Only four vaccinated people were hospitalized, not a single person died.

The study concludes vaccination is the most important strategy to prevent severe illness and death.

In Las Vegas yesterday, an unvaccinated father of five died of COVID. One of his last text messages to his fiance was quote, "I should have gotten the damn vaccine."


JESSICA DUPREEZ, FIANCE DIED OF COVID: Our babies now don`t have a dad. You can`t say I`m young and it won`t affect me because it will. I expected to get 30 more years with him. I didn`t expect him to be gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was the best daddy anyone could have.


CAPEHART: Joining us now is Dr. Uche Blackstock, an emergency medical physician. She is also the founder and CEO of Advancing Health Equity and also an MSNBC contributor.

Dr. Blackstock, thank you very much for being here. It`s just heartbreaking to see what that family is going through knowing the text message that father of five sent to his family just before he died. What are we learning from the new CDC data about the importance of getting the vaccine?

DR. UCHE BLACKSTOCK, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. First of all, thank you so much for having me, Jonathan.

I think what this data is showing, and the game changer is that breakthrough infections, although still very rare, that fully vaccinated individuals who are infected carry a lot of virus with them, as much virus as someone who is unvaccinated.

And so, there is a possibility that those fully vaccinated, infected people may actually be able to transmit infection to unvaccinated individuals. And that was not the case with the prior version of this virus.

CAPEHART: Let me show everyone a tweet that you sent out this morning. And it was a conversation you had with someone on the street. You wrote, just got stopped on the street by an older black man who has seen me on MSNBC, and he wanted to share that he successfully convinced two friends of his, also older black men, to get vaccinated today. This vaccination effort is a grassroots effort too."


CAPEHART: Dr. Blackstock, I`m wondering are more people getting vaccinated like that man, not only because of seeing you on TV but news of the surge is moving people to get vaccinated?

DR. BLACKSTOCK: Well, we know that in states that have seen, you know, increase -- you know, most profound upticks in cases that they`ve also seen an increase in vaccinations.

So I do think that some level, this delta variant is scarier, rather motivating some people to get vaccinated. But I think there are other people that maybe unmoved by this. And as we know from a lot of the Kaiser Family Foundations polling, people have a variety of reasons for not being vaccinated.

We know that often specially in communities of color, there is a distrust towards institutions that have harmed our communities. And I know that a lot of conversations I had, especially with that gentleman who stopped me on the street -- that was one of the concerns of his friends. But with conversation, patience and a lot of discussion, they decided to get vaccinated.

CAPEHART: You know, one of the other data points or one of the things I`d noted in this report is that the delta variant is as transmissible as chicken pox.

And so what does that mean for parents of children under 12 years old for whom the vaccine has not even been approved?

DR. BLACKSTOCK: Right. And I have a four and six-year-old that I definitely -- when I was reviewing this data, you know, I was also very concerned.

You know, the delta variant is more transmissible than most of the respiratory viruses actually in history. And so the concern is going into the school year, ensuring that schools are using multilayered strategy of masking, physical distancing, testing, ventilation is incredibly important.

This virus is like chicken pox is airborne. And so ventilation is going to be key. And the concern that I have is in those states where their governors have restricted mask mandates even in schools.

We`re already seeing surges in those particular states. And we probably will see, you know, outbreaks related to schools in those same areas as well because of these mask mandates being restricted.

CAPEHART: And speaking of mask mandates, I`m wondering, you know, here in Washington, they`ve been reimposed. In Los Angeles, they`ve been reimposed. And I`m wondering for folks who are seeing the news about the delta variant and might have, you know, family reunions and things like that that are coming up in the next month, certainly in the next month since August is just two days away. How concerned should people be about going to big family gatherings as a result of the delta variant?

DR. BLACKSTOCK: Right. And so I know for probably a lot of people, it feels like two steps forward, one step back.


DR. BLACKSTOCK: You know, essentially, this is a dynamic situation. The situation is evolving. We now have a delta variant that has thrown a wrench into a really -- what was a promising situation, especially for the fall.

But I would say for people who are considering family gatherings for August is to obviously avoid indoor areas and even outdoor crowded areas are also incredibly risky.

We`re going to have to think about, you know, smaller gathering just like we did last fall. We`re going to probably have to repeat a lot of those things, sort of physical distancing, restrictions that we had before, especially if we`re in settings where there are other people, we don`t know their vaccination status.

And so things are changing. As I said, it`s a dynamic situation. We`re going to have to be able to flex to it.

CAPEHART: Dr. Uche Blackstock, as always, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

DR. BLACKSTOCK: Thank you.

CAPEHART: Coming up, the Texas Democrats might have won another victory in fighting the Texas voter suppression bill exposing a provision that could afflict (ph) more than 100,000 people`s ballots at risk.

Texas Democrats Nicole Collier and Senfronia Thompson will join us next.



CAPEHART: Texas state Democrats have been in Washington for 18 days in a desperate last ditch effort to block one of the nation`s most restrictive voter suppression bills from passing in a special session of the Republican-led state legislature.

But to focus on the end of the fight, the bill is to overlook what Texas Democrats have already won, a provision that would make it easier to overturn election results -- removed. A provision ending Sunday voting, a.k.a. Souls to the Polls -- out. And this week Texas Democrats may have won another victory after Nicole Collier sounded the alarm during a hearing yesterday about a provision that could put more than 100,000 Texas voters at risk of having their ballot rejected.


STATE REP. NICOLE COLLIER (D-TX): I just want to talk about one of the provisions in the bill. Miss T. and forgive me (ph), say for instance, she registered to vote 20 years ago. There is a provision in this bill that would require someone who is eligible to vote by mail to insert their last four digits of the driver`s license or social security number or say they don`t have one.

Now Miss T. may have registered 20 years. She may not remember which one she provided when she originally registered to vote.

Under the provisions of this bill, if she put down the other number, even though it`s a correct one, her ballot would be rejected, and there is no cure opportunity within this bill to cure her ballot. And she would not even know that her ballot had been rejected.


CAPEHART: And now, here is what Texas Republican Congressman Pat Fallon said following up.


REP. PAT FALLON (R-TX): I got a text from your colleagues that are in Austin. And on your concern, Represent Collier, about the TDL and the social security number not matching, they are aware of it, they said they discussed it with you all. And they are going to cure it via an amendment.



CAPEHART: Joining us now are Texas state representatives Senfronia Thompson, who represents the Houston area. She is the dean of the Texas House Democratic Caucus. And Texas state representative Nicole Collier, who represents the Forth Worth area. She is chair of the Legislative Black Caucus.

Thank you both very much for being here.

Representative Collier, do we have confirmation that Republicans are going to pull the provision?

COLLIER: Well, you know, that`s the first time I heard that. I had not been in contact with them. They had not reached out to me. I was unaware.

In fact at the hearing, the 23-hour -- more than 23-hour hearing that Miss T, the dean of the Texas Democratic delegation was at, they offered amendments to the bill and they were all rejected under party lines.

So this is just another play that they did in the regular session where they made promises and made commitments but they were all unfulfilled.

So I would hope that they would keep their promise but I`m not going to hold my breath on it.

CAPEHART: So you haven`t -- you haven`t heard anything at all about what the congressman said to you, just to confirm?

COLLIER: No, in fact, I had to go to Congress. I had to come to Washington, D.C. to hear from a congressional member that the Texas house members are willing to negotiate or make revisions to their anti-voter bill.

CAPEHART: Representative Thompson, great to see you again. You have been in town, as has Representative Collier, 18 days. You have yet to meet with President Biden. Are you hopeful that you will be able to meet with him in the time that you are here? And if you do, what would you want him to understand about the fight for voting rights, not just in Texas, but what it means for America?

STATE REP. SENFRONIA THOMPSON (D-TX): I would like for him to understand that we are Americans who deserve the same voting rights that every citizen has. And that it is time for us to stop fighting the same fights of the past in order to be able to have a voice in our democracy.

CAPEHART: You know, you said something to me in our conversation that I had with you on my podcast at "The Washington Post", Representative Thompson. You said "We`re regressing. We`re regressing back to a place in history where we want to limit minorities` right to participate in their democracy. Just like my grandmother was limited in her right to participate in her democracy."

In the end, do you think, when this is -- when this is all done, when you have to go back to Texas, that you will be able to go back to Texas, both of you and say that you did indeed win something as a result of this fight?

THOMPSON: I do believe we can. Because when we came here 18 days ago it seemed to be an issue on the back burner. But our tenacity on the Hill, and our calm (ph) persistence has caused the needle to be moved to an activity.

Even today, we learned that the Speaker of the House, the Majority Leader and another senator went to meet with the president to talk about the bill, the voting bill.

And we know that we need preclearance, and we need preclearance with retro activity to two to three years. And that would solve the problems. We would not have the problems we`re having, Mr. Capehart, if Texas was not a state that`s 83.5 percent people of color.

Mk1: Representative Collier, I think this is going to be last question to you, and that is this. In your meetings in Washington here, how prominent is the discussion -- or how prominent is talk of the filibuster, doing away with it, reforming it, you know, carving out a provision so that voting rights doesn`t have to -- doesn`t have to survive a filibuster. How big is filibuster in your conversations?

COLLIER: Well, you know, I think we need to get to the substance of the measures. You know, what are they going to do? Are they going to amend the For The People Act and add a provision? You know, what we really need to see is a preclearance revision with a five-year look back.

And whether that preclearance is based on historical data of a state like Texas who has a history of discrimination against people of color. Or are we going to look at those states that are now having a higher rate of people of color and look at the practical implications?


COLLIER: So we just want to make sure that they are continues to have the discussions and moving the needle forward like Miss T. said to make sure that they can get towards that discussion of the filibuster.

But we`ve got to start with the substance of the bills and make sure that they can have a consistence so they can move forward quickly.

CAPEHART: Texas state representatives Nicole Collier and Senfronia Thompson, thank you both very much for joining us tonight.

Coming up, next week could be make-or-break week for President Biden and Chuck Schumer`s very ambitious two-track plan on infrastructure. That`s next.


CAPEHART: Today the Senate jumped over the next procedural hurdle to move forward with the consideration -- with consideration of the bipartisan infrastructure package.


CAPEHART: Senators voted 66-28 on a motion to proceed, a vote that will open up the package to potential changes through the amendment process. It remains to be seen whether there will be any amendments because the final text of the bill hasn`t been released.

Majority Leader Schumer believes amendment votes could happen this weekend, keeping the chamber on track to pass the deal before the August recess.


SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The senate remains on track to reach our goal of passing both a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a budget resolution with reconciliation instructions before the start of the August recess.

It`s an ambitious deadline, absolutely. But the hard work put in by senators and staff means that we are on the right track to get it done.

Given the bipartisan nature of the bill, the Senate should be able to process this legislation rather quickly. We may need the weekend, we may vote on several amendments, but with the cooperation of our Republican colleagues, I believe we can finish the bipartisan infrastructure bill in a matter of days.


CAPEHART: Joining us now is Sahil Kapoor, national political reporter for NBC News. Ok, Sahil, when will we actually see the text of this bipartisan package?


It is a good question. And as of two hours ago I was told by an aide involved in writing this that it could be done as early as tonight.

Now, the night is running out of moments left, if I look at the clock, so I suspect it`s not going to be done tonight. But the hope is that it`s done tomorrow and at some point this weekend they can begin this process, hopefully to stay on Chuck Schumer`s schedule for Democrats. Wrap it up by early next week and get the budget resolution done -- that $3.5 trillion vehicle -- before they head home for the August recess.

CAPEHART: Ok. So you and I both know Capitol Hill, and we certainly know how Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell operates. You and Benjy Sarlin have written a piece, "What`s in it for McConnell", because he hasn`t blown this up. So what is in it for McConnell?

KAPUR: It`s a question a lot of people on Capitol Hill are asking, Jonathan. Of course, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is best known for denying bipartisan victories to a Democratic president. He has self- styled himself the Grim Reaper of progressive legislation, and he appears to be going along with the top priority of President Biden. So why is that?

And there are a couple of reasons according to many conversations I have had with his top allies and even some of his critics. The first is that many Republicans in his Senate caucus want this bill, they`re invested in it.

That includes retiring members like Rob Portman, you know, who is in legacy mode, thinking about how he will be remembered. It includes people like Lisa Murkowski who came to Washington to do things and not just obstruct thing.

McConnell is not omnipotent. He`s got to give them what they want sometimes, otherwise his own position could be jeopardized.

The second reason is that McConnell is eager to preserve the filibuster and there are two moderate Democrats, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who are strong supporters of the filibuster. They happen to be offer of this bipartisan bill allowing this to pass would give them the talking points they need to got to progressives and say, the Senate actually works. We don`t have to nuke the 60-vote threshold.

That and the fact that infrastructure is popular. There`s little opposition to it. And former President Trump`s missives trying to blow up this deal have, according to one Republican senator I spoke to, have had almost zero impact on the caucus. So there`s just little downside for McConnell to allow this to happen.

CAPEHART: In the less than a minute that we have left, Sahil, could you tell me, explain why Senator Kyrsten Sinema -- Kyrsten Sinema -- is threatening to scuttle the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill? What`s up with that?

KAPUR: Sinema has said she opposes the $3.5 trillion price tag. Now, she did not say why, She did not identify policies specifically that she opposes because there aren`t policies in this bill. It is currently just kind of a concept.

So that`s her position, $3.5 trillion is too much. In theory $3.4 trillion could be viable for her. So she is not necessarily trying to blow it up all together.

That said, the fact is progressive viewed $3.5 trillion as a compromise itself. They wanted $6 trillion to $10 trillion.

And some progressives I spoke to including Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Progressive Caucus in the House, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York are not happy with the fact that she is objecting to $3.5 trillion. AOC accused Sinema of trying to nuke this entire process, including their infrastructure deal, including that reconciliation bill which, by the way, are tied together in the House.

These have to come up around the same time in order for Speaker Pelosi to consider either because the House Progressives have threatened to blow up the bipartisan deal unless they get President Biden`s other priorities, Jonathan.

CAPEHART: And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made it clear she wants them both together.

NBC`s Sahil Kapur, thank you very much.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD.

I`m Jonathan Capehart.


CAPEHART: You can catch me tomorrow on a special edition of "THE SUNDAY SHOW" here on MSNBC. I will be joined by former Texas Congressman Beto O`Rourke and the Reverend William Barber to discuss their four-day voting rights march from Georgetown, Texas to Austin.

So watch "THE SATURDAY SHOW" tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Eastern on MSNBC.

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