Interview with Eric Holder, former U.S. attorney general in the Obama administration, now the chair of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. Civil rights leaders call on the Biden administration to protect voting rights in all states. Today President Biden announced that American combat troops will leave Afghanistan by August 31st ahead of the president`s original schedule.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Rachel, you always throw me off with that Friday eve thing. I am always sitting here wondering, wait a minute. I thought it was -- oh, okay.
Rachel, we are going to be joined --
O`DONNELL: We are going to be joined by Eric Holder, tonight. Because --
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Oh, good.
O`DONNELL: -- it was -- it was get out of Afghanistan day at the White House today but it was also vote rights day at the -- at the White House, today. He`s involved in a project with President Obama on voter fairness in this country which has been a battle going on for so long, that you would think -- you would think, that at some point, it would be settled.
But that meeting in the White House today was very similar to the kind of meeting that the reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to have in the White House with the president. And here we are, still, at it.
MADDOW: I just spoke with Wade Henderson, who was at that meeting today. And I was interested to hear. He is a very measured person. And he speaks - - he is one of these people, who is completely in control, at all times, and speaks in very measured terms.
But I was very interested to hear him say that he was encouraged, coming out of that meeting. There is not a lot of externally visible reason to be encouraged about voting rights right now. But hearing Wade Henderson say that the meeting was encouraging to him and that he sees the hope for progress, including on legislation, was not what I expected to hear from him. And seems -- seemed -- seems like a bright prospect.
O`DONNELL: Yeah. We`re going to have two people who are in the room, too. And he will` -- we`ll find out how encouraged they were.
MADDOW: All right. Excellent. Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you.
Well, two of the people who were in the room in that meeting today with the president and vice president are going to be joining us tonight. The White House meeting about voting rights went on for much longer than the hour that it was scheduled for. And that`s always a good sign about White House meetings, if they go on extra-long.
It was the kind of meeting, as I was just mentioning to Rachel, that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther king Jr. Used to have with the president of the United States, 60 years ago. 60 years ago. I`ll ask our first guest, tonight, former attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, whether civil rights leaders will be having urgent voting rights meetings with the president of the United States, 60 years from now.
Before today`s White House meeting, Vice President Kamala Harris returned to her alma mater for the first speech she has given there, as vice president of the United States. She said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is about all voters. It`s about all voters. This is not about Democrats or Republicans. This is about Americans. Let`s be clear about that.
And who is prepared right now to stand up for what we say are some of our fundamental values? Some of the fundamental pillars to a democracy, to our democracy. This is the fight of our lifetime. This is the fight of our lifetime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: After the White House meeting, Marc Morial, the president of the National Urban League, said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: Democracy is under vigorous, vicious, and sinister attack, beginning with the events of June -- January 6th at the Capitol and cascading, like a tsunami, through state legislatures across the nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: The new voter restriction legislation that Marc Morial is talking about in Republican state legislature is the newest version of the fight for equity and fairness in voting. What the White House meeting today actually did not discuss, the oldest method of denying voters fair representation in American government: gerrymandering.
Gerrymandering began, soon after our first president, George Washington, left office and the partisanship that he warned against began to infect our politics. Gerrymandering got its name in 1812 when the governor of Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry, succeeded in maintaining control of the Massachusetts Senate for his party by drawing a state-senate district that, according to the "Boston Gazette," in this drawing, looked like, quote, a new species of monster.
"The Boston Gazette" called the new species of monster the Gerry-mander, aligning the governor`s last name with salamander because the governor said the district linking with Chelsea via Andover was shaped like a salamander.
The only thing that`s changed about gerrymandering in the last-210 years is the pronunciation. The original Gerry-mandering has yielded to gerrymandering. And 210 years after it got its name, it has become the minority party`s most effective technique for maintaining power in Congress.
Here is Texas Republican Congressman Ronny Jackson describing the Republican strategy for next year`s congressional elections.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RONNY JACKSON (R-TX): We have everything working in our favor right now. We have re-districting coming up and the Republicans control most of that process in most the states around the country. That, alone, should get us the majority back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Former Attorney General Eric Holder is the chair of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which has launched a new program called Redistricting University by its affiliate organization, all on the line, in partnership with President Barack Obama.
In an e-mail to millions of Americans after the announcement of re- districting university, President Obama writes, in a few short weeks, the final data necessary for re-districting will be released by the Census Bureau.
This will be the moment when the re-districting process is fully underway across the country. And we need to be prepared. I believe that activism will prevail over cynicism. We must be ready to get involved in the re- districting process in our states, if we can achieve fair maps, the bounds of what is possible will fundamentally change.
And leading off our discussion, tonight, is Eric Holder -- former U.S. attorney general in the Obama administration, he is now the chair of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.
Thank you very much for joining us tonight, General Holder. Really appreciate it.
ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thanks for having me.
O`DONNELL: I want to get to this re-districting university and what is possible. Because we just heard, you know, Congressman Jackson there talk about how it`s a lock for Republicans on re-districting in the states where they control it.
HOLDER: Well, he`s as good a political prognosticator as he was a doctor I think at the White House. He`s got some fundamentally incorrect facts there. You know, the -- the -- it is not in the bag for Republicans. There is, still, a fight to be had.
Since we started the National Democratic Re-Districting Committee back in 2017, we have broken trifecta control of the governorship, as well as the two houses and state legislature in nine states. We have put in place independent commissions. We have governors in states who will be able to veto gerrymandered re-districting that Republican legislatures, undoubtedly, are going to do.
So the fight is, still, on. And that`s why re-districting u is so important because we want to try to get the people of this country involved in this fight, promote transparency, involvement of the people in this country. And to make sure that the -- the special interests don`t actually control the process in a way that, frankly, they did in 2011 when Republicans focused on this. And Democrats did not give it sufficient attention.
O`DONNELL: What are you asking of people, in terms of their participation? Do you want them going to any, say, legislative hearings that might be occurring? Or hearings in -- in state legislatures around the country about re-districting?
HOLDER: Yeah. We want them to participate in the process. Where there are hearings that are being conducted in state legislatures, go to those. Where there are going to be field hearings, attend those. Figure out ways in which you can get in touch with your state legislator, Senator, Representative, to make sure that they`re doing the right thing. There are four one-hour sessions that we are putting on if you want to figure out how you can get involved, go to mobilize.us/allontheline. And you can find out there how you can be involved.
This is four one-hour sessions that will make you a real -- real warrior in the fight for a fair re-districting process. And that`s all that we`ve been fighting for at the NDRC. We just want to make the process fair. Let`s not have policy determine understand this country by who has the ability to draw the lines that favor one party or the other.
Let`s leave the -- let`s draw fair lines and make sure that we have, you know, have fair -- fair elections.
O`DONNELL: The process has -- has been made fair, in -- apolitical in some states. One of them is California, the biggest state, controlled by Democrats, where you could -- Democrats could, conceivably, redistrict when they want to, Republicans out of congressional offices.
But Democrats don`t even have the power to do that in that state even though they control the government because it has been surrendered to a nonpartisan commission to do it. I mean, that`s -- that`s the ideal. But you can see, in this situation, where it leaves Democrats, in effect, politically unarmed in ways that Republicans remain armed.
HOLDER: Well, no. I wouldn`t -- I wouldn`t, necessarily, agree with that, Lawrence. I mean, we did the same thing in Virginia, took control of the governorship, both houses of the legislature, and decided to put in place a nonpartisan commission there, because here`s the deal. If the process is fair -- if the process is fair -- Democrats will do just fine. In fact, Democrats will, I think, in fact, prevail.
We won`t have to do what Republicans do, which is in essence to cheat. When you look at what happened in Wisconsin last go around, Democrats got about 54 percent of the votes for the Wisconsin state legislature. Got about one- third of the seats. If you have a fair process, a fair process, Democrats will -- will do -- will do just fine.
So in fighting for our democracy, we`re, also, fighting for the interests of -- of our party.
O`DONNELL: One of the approaches that seems to no longer work in -- in our politics is bringing public shame to an issue. Republicans just do not experience shame, in any way. That`s the thing Donald Trump taught them, that there`s absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. Doesn`t matter what the voters find out about Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels. Or what Donald Trump is doing, calling, you know, secretaries of state and asking them to change vote counts in Georgia. There`s nothing to be ashamed about.
And so, I mean, one of the things that I know you want to bring to this, when you bring light to it, is that, you know, Republican officeholders in states around the country would, then, be, somehow, shamed into doing something, I guess, less bad than what they were going to do. But they don`t have that capacity, anymore, do they? To be shamed about what they`re doing?
HOLDER: No, they`re not going to be shamed. But if we expose what they do, we can galvanize the people of this country to throw `em out of office, by exposing what they do, by making people aware of how they are trying to pervert our democracy, how they are attacking our democracy. That will mobilize the people of this country to participate in elections, not only at the federal level but at the state level, as well.
There are more people who are in favor of a fair system, more people in favor of having a robust democracy, than supporting the minority views of the Republican Party.
But it`s going to take people power to get -- to make this happen. That`s what re-districting u is all about. That`s what is exposing what Republicans are going to try to do to the re-districting process is all about.
O`DONNELL: There -- there used to be legal challenges mounted to redistricting. What do you see that`s -- that`s left by way of possible- courtroom remedies to really horrible versions of gerrymandering?
HOLDER: Well, we have got a couple of venues, a couple of ways in which we can challenge gerrymandering. If there are racial gerrymanders, we can still bring cases in the federal courts and we have done so and been successful there, in Virginia, for instance. If there -- if there partisan gerrymanders, you can bring cases in the state courts. We did that successful in Pennsylvania, as well as in North Carolina.
So we still have litigation options that are open to us, in -- in spite of what the -- is very ideological and very partisan Supreme Court has ruled over the course of the past -- the past few years.
O`DONNELL: We just heard the vice president say that this is the most important issue of our time, voter fairness. In terms of specific voting rights and voting rights laws, as well as the gerrymandering process. What would you say to Senator Joe Manchin and any, other Democrat, who is reluctant to change a Senate rule in order to pass federal voting rights legislation, without which, the Republicans are going to be able to continue to do what they want to do.
HOLDER: You know, I would say that all those who don`t think this is a time for action, to remember the last century. You know, fascism and authoritarian regimes rose, not because they were strong but, because democracies were weak, and because democracies were not adequately protected, and is this the time for us to protect our democracy.
One of the reality is Democrats right now, we have the power to pass the For the People Act. We have the power, right now, to pass the John Lewis Voting Advancement Bill. We have 51 senators. We have 50 senators, plus Senator Harris -- plus, Vice President Harris. We can pass these bills.
At the end of this -- this session of Congress, are we going to say that, for whatever reasons, you know, protecting some arcane-senate procedure?
Trying to get bipartisan efforts that are really not -- not going to happen. That we`re not going to use the power that we have to protect our democracy, given the history that we know of, and given the ways in which we know minority Republicans are going to use the power that they -- we will cede to them to subvert our democracy.
This is a time to stand up for democracy. This is a time to face reality. This is a time for action.
O`DONNELL: We`re now getting reports that are kind of slipping out of Justice Department, various sources that, during the Trump Justice Department, about different activities that -- that acting attorney general or Attorney General Barr, others, were involved in at different times.
Do you believe that there should be a general review, a specific review of everything that the Trump Justice Department was up to? That we are now reading about in occasional leaks, here and there?
HOLDER: Yeah. I think that what Attorney General Garland has done is correct. He`s ordered the inspector general to look at a wide range of things to -- to make sure that, that which was done, didn`t contravene Justice Department policies, regulations. And also, determine whether any laws were violated. But I think we are in an extraordinary time in the transition from the Trump Justice Department to the Biden Justice Department.
And, you know, typically, you don`t want to look back and, you know, take second views at policy changes. But what they did, at the Justice Department, was fundamentally different, fundamentally, incorrect, and may have been lawbreaking.
And so I think that generalized view of what happened in the Barr Justice Department, I think, is warranted. And I think that what Merrick Garland has done is a good first step.
But I think some degree of an aggressive look back is appropriate. Now, there will be people who will, you know, say it`s political, it`s inappropriate, he is politicizing the Justice Department. But we simply cannot let history think that what they did to the Justice Department is acceptable.
So that -- that broad look-back, I think, is correct.
O`DONNELL: Former Attorney General Eric Holder. Thank you very much for starting off our discussion tonight.
HOLDER: Thanks for having me.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And coming up. We`ll be joined by two civil rights leaders who were in the room today with President Biden and Vice President Harris to discuss voting rights, and how to get federal legislation through the United States Senate. That`s next.
O`DONNELL: Our next guests were in the Roosevelt Room, today, with the president and vice president discussing voting rights.
Here is what Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, told reporters after that meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MORIAL: When we look at what is happening in this nation, we see an effort to impose a system of American apartheid. You suppress the vote, you elevate the filibuster, you use the Electoral College. You use the nullification of the Supreme Court, which just recently undercut the Voting Rights Act, to try to thwart the power of this grand and glorious, multicultural nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Civil Rights Attorney Damon Hewitt said this after the White House meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAMON HEWITT, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: We cannot forget our past. Now, there`s been progress but we`re here to say, if you think all progress is linear, it`s time to wake up. If you think it`s all political, and it`s not discrimination, it`s time to wake up. If you think it`s just a little bit of discrimination and it doesn`t matter, it`s time to wake up. And if you think the damage is done, and that it won`t get worse, that nothing can be done about it, it`s time to wake up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion, now, Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, president and national chair of the National Council of Negro Women. Also with us, Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
And Dr. Cole, the meeting went longer than it was scheduled which is always a good sign for White House meetings. It usually means something important is happening. What -- what was your most important takeaway from this meeting today? Did you get a sense that the Biden-Harris administration has a real plan to get federal legislation?
DR. JOHNNETTA BETSCH COLE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF NEGRO WOMEN: The meeting today, indeed, did last. It was scheduled for one hour. It lasted an hour and 30, perhaps 40, minutes.
Let me, first, say, it is a privilege to meet with the president and the vice president of our country. But I, also, must say that the president and the vice president convened this meeting. It is they, who wanted to hear from eight civil rights leaders. I would not describe our discussion as being overwhelmingly optimistic, but it was profoundly realistic, as the president and the vice president agreed with us, that our democracy is at stake.
O`DONNELL: Damon Hewitt, you were in a meeting today with the president of the United States. Very similar to the kind of meeting that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had with the president of the United States, 60 years ago.
Will civil rights leaders, 60 years from now, be in the White House having meetings about voting rights?
HEWITT: Well, we -- we should be, Lawrence. You know, I think Dr. Cole`s said it well. It`s not only a privilege to be in the room but it`s where we should be, right? We like to think that progress is linear but it`s not as linear or as smooth as we would ever like. There will always be, either, improvements or at the very least refinements to be made.
So I don`t think this issue is going away. Just like the issue of racism in this country isn`t going away. Even when we see progress, there is still work to do. That`s why our organization, which is almost 60 years old and was founded at a meeting convened by President Kennedy, almost 60 years ago, in the -- in the East Room of the White House. That`s why we`re still here.
And we expect to be here 60 years from now, as well. Fighting similar fights but, hopefully, not the exact same ones. But look, as long as the clock keeps being turned back or as long as someone tries to turn it back, we will have to keep fighting to make the promise of democracy real.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Cole, Marc Morial, we heard him link suppressing the vote to the preservation of the Senate filibuster. Was there a discussion about how the current Senate rule is preventing voting rights legislation, and what to do about that?
COLE: Well, certainly, the civil rights leaders raised this question. It is a difficult position that we are in.
But I, also, sensed that, in that room, was a single-most important feeling. Not silly, kind of, optimism. Everything will be all right, but realism. Grounded in the belief that if we cannot, in 2021, protect the rights of all Americans to vote, then, our democracy, again, is in serious jeopardy.
O`DONNELL: Damon Hewitt, you -- you were in a meeting with the president and vice president -- both lawyers, both completely conversant on these issues, legally, what it means, in terms of litigation options against voter suppression and so forth -- what did that mean, for you, in terms of the kinds of discussion you could have because of their detailed understanding of the issue?
HEWITT: Well, what it means, frankly, is that we have leaders at the highest levels who can go beyond politics, and actually talk about policy, and actually talk about the impacts on real people, and how it plays out. It`s the kind of thing their posture led them to ask us not just how do we feel or what do we think? But also, for our tangible ideas, that they actually want to incorporate, as much as they can, into their strategies.
And so, you know, as an organization that litigates working alongside organizations that organize through movement. I think, together, we actually have a whole lot of rich ideas to bring to the table. Already, have and there will be more as well.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Cole, what did it mean to you? And what do you think it means to the discussion inside the Biden White House, that the vice president sitting with you in the Roosevelt Room today is a black woman?
COLE: It means everything. It means everything. If I can be quite specific, we can speak with her. And she can speak with us, out of shared experience.
I`m not saying that everyone has to be a black-American to understand the struggle that we have. But if you are, both, of color and a woman, then our discussion begins on a very fundamental and strong level.
One of the very moving experiences that I had today, and my brother, Damon, may say the same thing. It was watching the synergy between the president and the vice president of my country. It filled me with a great sense of pride.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Johnetta Cole and Damon Hewitt, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.
DR. JOHNETA COLE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF NEGRO WOMEN: Thank you.
DAMON HEWITT, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And coming up, Republicans in the Texas Senate filed their voter restriction bill today and Texas Democrats stood in front of their state capitol today and asked Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema for the legislative help they need from Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE REP. TREY MARTINEZ FISCHER (D-TX): They`re not going to force a voting-suppression bill down our throats and expect us to take it. We will fight. We will fight. We will fight.
Call your member of Congress. Call your United States Senator. Call Senator Manchin. Call Senator Sinema. And let them know that we need a national response for federal voting rights in this country. And we need it now.
CROWD: We need it now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Texas State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer this morning at the state capitol in Austin, Texas.
And joining us now, Democratic Texas State Representatives Trey Martinez Fischer and Jessica Gonzalez.
And Representative Martinez Fischer, the focus on Joe Manchin and -- and senator Sinema seems to become more and more vivid every day as you fight this battle in Texas. What would you ask of them if you could speak to them tonight?
MARTINEZ-FISCHER: Well, thank you, Lawrence. We are in the fourth quarter. This is a now-or-never moment for voting rights in America. We need every man and woman to stand up for America.
With a Senate deadlocked at 50-50, the balance of our democracy lies in the hands of Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema. This is time to take a step forward for our country, our democracy depends on you. We need you to be there for our democracy.
Let`s end the filibuster. Let`s pass voting rights. And let`s get back to the people doing their government and giving them good government for America.
O`DONNELL: Representative Gonzalez, you have already had a big win in what you`ve managed to knock out of this legislation. That plan they had about making it easier to overturn elections. That`s been thrown out of this legislation that they`re advancing.
The Sunday morning voting has -- they`re not trying to prevent that, now. Souls to the Polls will be able to continue the way it has in the past.
So, you have a couple of wins on some very important items that were in the earlier version of this bill. What are the most important elements of what you`re fighting, now?
STATE REP. JESSICA GONZALEZ (D-TX): Well, the bill was already -- the election process, I mean, Texas is already one of the most restrictive states to be able to vote in. And so, the bill on its own, even initially before these provisions got added at the 11th hour was already adding more restrictions. It was criminalizing behavior that, largely, doesn`t happen here in Texas.
Consider that the former secretary of state said in the first day of committee that our elections are fair, they`re safe, they`re secure. And so, there is really not a problem to fix. But you know, ultimately, the -- the current version that recently got filed, it -- it still bans drive-thru voting. It still allows the partisan-poll watchers, which -- which will harass people who are going in to vote.
And so overall, even though those two provisions got taken out of this, you know, version, this special session, this -- this bill, you know, it`s still not good for Texans.
O`DONNELL: Representative Martinez Fischer -- what happens next procedurally? And will it be an open process where we can all see exactly what`s in the bill and how it got in the bill?
MARTINEZ-FISCHER: Well, we hope so. I mean you know, this is a special session and there`s nothing special about it. I mean this is the suppression session -- voter suppression and other red-meat wedge issues.
Republicans have proven in the regular session that they wanted to write this bill in the dark of night. They wanted to use lawyers that were not government employees to insert this -- this offensive and oppressive language.
I hope they learned their lesson. They are now trying to sort of walk this back. They`re kind of, you know, blaming each other for this nefarious language.
But at the end of the day, you know, Texas does a very good job of criminalizing voter -- criminalizing voting. And what we need to do is we need to make sure that we shine a bright light on it. We need to make sure that we are speaking to the country. And we, also, need to make sure that we are taking this to Washington to let our national leaders know that, if they can silence our voices in Texas they will do it across America and we need to stand up.
O`DONNELL: Representative Gonzalez, do you feel as if Senator Manchin, Senator Sinema actually don`t understand how bad this kind of legislation is? I know there have been Texas legislators who have come to Washington to try to explain that to -- to them.
GONZALEZ: And -- and I -- I think with -- with our trip to Washington, I mean, we did see some progress that happened there. And -- and we saw that, you know, what`s happening here in Texas w saw that today in the White House. You know, Biden met with civil rights leaders. We saw that Eric Holder also had some conversations there.
And so, I think that -- that -- that, yes, this -- this issue is coming more to light. That people are paying more attention, especially after what happened this last-regular session here in Texas and here we go again for round two.
And so -- but yes, I mean I think that -- that they`re starting to realize, more and more, the urgency here in Texas. This is a life-or-death situation here if this isn`t happening.
O`DONNELL: Representative Martinez Fischer, do you have a new strategy for this session, that you didn`t have last time?
MARTINEZ-FISCHER: Well, we have -- we have the backing of the American people. I mean this has now become a national issue. All eyes, the eyes of the nation are on Texas right now.
MARTINEZ-FISCHER: And so we will continue to fight with all our might. We are holding the line. We will use every available tool in our toolbox and we will stand up for voting rights.
But make no mistake. Even if we were to solve these problems here in Texas, this does not save the rest of the country. And that`s why we need a national reform. That`s why we need a national standard.
I think, you know, Congress is listening. The president is listening. The House is listening. We have a deadlocked senate. It`s a now-or-never moment.
America, you need to wake up and speak out and we need to have a national For The People Act for everybody to save our democracy in this country.
O`DONNELL: Texas State Representatives Jessica Gonzalez and Trey Martinez Fischer, thank you, both, very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.
GONZALEZ: Thank you for having me.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
And coming up. For once, business and labor agree about something. Something big. Something huge. The Biden infrastructure bill.
One of the people who brought business and labor together, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh will join us next.
O`DONNELL: We are now less than two weeks away from the public stage of the most complex and delicate legislative drama that Washington has seen since the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
The first legislative action on President Biden`s infrastructure plans could begin the week after next when Senate committees begin publicly working on the legislative details of the infrastructure bills.
The staffs of those committees are already working in close-door meetings on that legislation with input from the Biden administration, including our next guest, the Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh.
Secretary Walsh and the Biden administration today revealed an unusual alliance in support of the Senate bipartisan infrastructure deal which is one of the two infrastructure bills President Biden hopes to sign into law.
Labor and business are usually on the opposite sides in legislative battles. For example, the biggest business lobbying group in Washington, the Chamber of Commerce opposes a $15 minimum wage increase and the biggest labor organization the AFL-CIO supports a $15 minimum wage increase.
But they both find themselves on the same side in support of the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
The AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce along with the powerful Business Roundtable and several other labor and business organizations issued a joint statement today saying, quote, "Infrastructure modernization is a critical component of long-term economic growth and improved quality of life for every American. Our organizations commend the bipartisan group of 22 senators and the Biden administration on finding common ground and reaching agreement on an historic $1.2 trillion infrastructure framework.
We urge congress to turn this framework into legislation that will be signed into law, and our organizations are committed to helping see this cross the finish line. Enacting significant infrastructure legislation, including investments in our roads, bridges, ports, airports, transit, rail, water, and energy infrastructure, access to broadband and more is critical to our nation and will create middle-class family sustaining jobs. Don`t let partisan differences get in the way of action. Pass significant, meaningful infrastructure legislation, now."
And joining us now is the Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Mr. Secretary. We really appreciate it.
MARTY WALSH, U.S. SECRETARY OF LABOR: Thanks for having me tonight, Lawrence.
WALSH: So you are part of a team and especially at the Labor Department, a big part of the team that put together this business-labor alliance. It`s not an easy thing to do. I`m sure they have some disagreements along the way to getting to the agreement.
How important is it that you now have business and labor united on this support of the bipartisan bill?
WALSH: I think it sends a strong message to the Senate and the Congress about the importance of this bill, that labor and business understand the importance of infrastructure.
And quite honestly, I have to give -- we have to give the credit to the president. President Biden has said from the very beginning he is going to work on a bipartisan solution. He has put his own, political capital on the line, if you will. And he -- he didn`t give up. He continues to meet with people.
And his -- his ability to be able to pull people together has been amazing to watch. And it`s great to be part of this. As you said a minute ago it`s important though, that we do finish the job. Now, it`s important that we continue having conversations and moving forward. This infrastructure bill. What it would mean to the American-business community, what it would mean to American workers and the future of our country.
It`s really amazing that we`re at this point, this moment in time to really make some tremendously incredible investments.
O`DONNELL: So we are talking about, possibly, the week after next some of the first activity in the Senate Budget Committee where the budget resolution version would be written, which would be the Democrats-only bill.
At the same time, the committees of jurisdiction for the bipartisan agreement will be going forward, possibly public, with legislative language on the bipartisan bill. Do we know which one of those bills is going to move, first?
WALSH: No, we`re not sure. I think that, you know, I have been on the phone over the last two weeks now, talking to senators and talking to members of Congress. I know that other cabinet secretaries -- Secretary Buttigieg, Secretary Raimondo, Secretary Fudge, Secretary Granholm -- we have all been working these bills and other secretaries, as well.
WALSH: So I think as long as we have a dual-track process here moving forward on both the infrastructure bill and also the build-back-better investment bill as far as Cares Economy. We are going to continue to push on both of those.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what President Biden said about this yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Experts in Wall Street, analysts have said that we`ll create millions of good-paying jobs for years and decades to come, not just in the near term.
So I`m going to be making the case to the American people until the job is done, until we bring this bipartisan deal home, until we meet the needs of families of today and the economy of tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: There`s clearly nothing more important to a secretary of Labor than jobs -- that`s your focus. But this president`s focus on this legislation every time we heard him talk about it during the presidential campaign, he always had jobs in there. And that seems to be what`s sustaining its popularity in polling so far.
WALSH: Yes. And he`s talking about good-paying jobs and of creating opportunities for people to get into the middle class.
When he first launched the build-back-better idea, he was talking about coming back stronger as a country, making sure that people had opportunities to have pathways into the middle class. This investment in the infrastructure, this investment in the Cares Economy, this investment in child care and universal pre-kindergarten -- all these different investments are so important to continue moving our country forward.
You think about we`re at a moment in time right now where this is an investment for the workforce of the future. We were able to look and see how do we make sure we continue to move America forward, continue to remain on top of all the different categories as far as manufacturing and high- tech and biotech and infrastructure work. That`s all important.
I`ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of weeks now traveling around the country. I`ve been to Iowa, Pennsylvania a couple of times, I`m in California right now, I was in Nevada, Indiana -- talking about all of these programs the president has.
And quite honestly, everyone is excited and everyone keeps asking me questions about workforce development. Are we going to be able to train the workers for the future. Are we going to be able to make investments that create opportunities and pathways.
This is what the president has been talking about since he`d been a candidate, as president and this is -- his actions right now are coming true on what he said he was going to do as President of the United States of America.
And he also mentioned a bipartisan solution for all this. He said he represents all Americans. It doesn`t matter if they`re Democrats or Republicans. And the president is sticking to that.
O`DONNELL: You`re a union member yourself, former president of a union. Clearly President Biden wanted someone as labor secretary who labor could trust. That trust is going to be tested in the legislative process as the compromises are made.
There will be compromises as you`re moving down the road that the AFL-CIO does not like. Will you be able to hold on to labor support as the bill gets compromised as it moves down the legislative road?
WALSH: Look, labor understands the art of negotiation and sometimes you don`t get everything, but it`s still a process moving forward. I think that, you know, certainly the statement that AFL put out, people are excited.
I know the building trade and other unions are excited as well and, you know, I think that there`s certain things that they`ll be able to give on and there`s certain things they won`t be able to.
I think the one thing that labor wants as well as the business community is making sure there are good-paying jobs that are created here.
O`DONNELL: And as mayor of Boston, you always had to be balancing business community interests and labor interests and several other interests at the same time. This is -- does this feel like a much bigger version of that or does it feel like some similar rhythms that you used in city hall?
WALSH: Actually it`s very similar in a lot of ways because it`s about conversations. It`s about making sure that you`re listening to all sides, making sure you`re listening to everyone`s opinion.
Everyone has an opinion on how to make the bill better and how to pass the bill. And I think it`s very similar as being mayor of the city, quite honestly at this particular moment.
It wasn`t in the beginning. It was very different in the beginning, but as we get down towards crunch time here, it`s all the same. It`s about relationships and it`s about having open dialogue.
O`DONNELL: Boston`s former mayor, now America`s Secretary of Labor, Marty Walsh -- thank you very much for joining us again tonight.
WALSH: Thank you, Lawrence. Appreciate it.
O`DONNELL: Thank you.
Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.
O`DONNELL: Today President Biden announced that American combat troops will leave Afghanistan by August 31st ahead of the president`s original schedule.
To the people who believe American troops should remain in Afghanistan, the president had two questions. How many and how long?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Let me ask those who want to us stay. How many more -- how many thousands more Americans, daughters and sons, are you willing to risk?
How long would you have them stay? Already we have members of our military whose parents fought in Afghanistan 20 years ago. Would you send their children and their grandchildren as well? Would you send your own son or daughter?
After 20 years, $1 trillion spent training and equipment, hundreds of thousands of Afghan national security and defense forces. 2,448 Americans killed. 20,722 more wounded. And untold thousands coming home with unseen trauma to their mental health.
I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome.
BIDEN: The United States cannot afford to remain tethered to policies, creating a response to the world as it was 20 years ago. We need to meet the threats where they are today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: President Biden gets tonight`s LAST WORD.
"THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts now.