Live coverage of President Biden`s first address to a joint session of Congress continues. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) delivered the GOP rebuttal to President Biden`s speech. One of the most difficult jobs in all of American politics is to follow the imputed majesty of a state of the union address or a joint address to Congress with a response that is always delivered somewhere else.
JOSEPH R. BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I need to -- I need not tell anyone this, but gun violence has become an epidemic in America. The flag at the White House was still flying at half-mast for the eight victims of the mass shooting in Georgia, when 10 more lives were taken in a mass shooting in Colorado. And in the week in between those two events, 250 other Americans were shot dead in the streets of America -- 250 shot dead.
I know how hard it is to make progress on this issue. In the `90s, we passed universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and high- capacity magazines that hold a hundred rounds, that can be fired off in seconds. We beat the NRA.
Mass shootings and gun violence declined. Check out the report over 10 years. But in the early 2000s, the law expired. And we`ve seen daily bloodshed since. I`m not saying if the law continued, we wouldn`t see bloodshed.
More than two weeks ago in the Rose Garden, surrounded by some of the bravest people I know, the survivors and families who lost loved ones to gun violence, I laid out several of the Department of Justice actions that are being taken to impact on this epidemic. One of them is banning so- called ghost guns.
These are homemade guns built from a kit that includes directions on how to finish the firearm. The parts have no serial numbers. So they show up at crime scenes. And they can`t be traced.
The buyers of these ghost gun kits aren`t required to pass any background checks. Anyone from a criminal or terrorist could buy this kit and within 30 minutes have a weapon that`s lethal. But no more. And I`ll do everything in my power to protect the American people from this epidemic of gun violence. But it`s time for Congress to act as well.
I don`t want to become confrontational. We need more Senate Republicans to join the overwhelming majority of Democratic colleagues and close the loopholes required in background check purchases of guns. We need a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And don`t tell me it can`t be done. We did it before and it worked.
Talk to most responsible gun owners and hunters. They`ll tell you there`s no possible justification for having a hundred rounds in a weapon. What, do you think the deer are wearing Kevlar vests? I`ll tell you, there are too many people today who are able to buy a gun but shouldn`t be able to buy a gun.
These kinds of reasonable reforms have overwhelming support from the American people including many gun owners. The country supports reforms and Congress should act. This shouldn`t be a red or blue issue.
And no amendment to the Constitution is absolute. You can`t yell fire in a crowded theater. From the very beginning there were certain guns, weapons that could not be owned by Americans. Certain people could not own those weapons ever. We`re not changing the Constitution.
We`re being reasonable. I think this is not a Democrat or Republican issue. I think it`s an American issue. And here`s what else we can do. Immigration has always been essential to America. Let`s end our exhausting war over immigration. For more than 30 years, politicians have talked about immigration reform and we`ve done nothing about it. It`s time to fix it.
One day one of my presidency, I kept my commitments on a comprehensive immigration bill for the United States Congress. If you believe we need to secure the border, pass it because it has a lot of money for high tech border security. If you believe in a pathway to citizenship, pass it, for we`re letting a million undocumented folks, the vast majority are (ph) here overstaying visas, pass it.
If you actually want to solve a problem, I`ve sent a bill, take a close look at it. We also have to get at the root problem of why people are fleeing, particularly to our southern border from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The violence, the corruption, the gangs and the political instability, hunger, hurricanes, earthquakes, natural disasters.
When I was president -- my president -- when I was Vice President, the President asked me to focus on providing help needed to address the root causes of migration. And to help keep people in their own countries instead of being forced to leave.
The plan was working but the last administration decided it was not worth it. I`m restoring the program and ask Vice President Harris to lead our diplomatic effort to take care of this. I have absolute confidence she`ll get the job done.
Look, if you don`t like my plan, let`s at least pass what we all agree on. Congress needs to pass legislation this year to finally secure protection for DREAMers. The young people who`ve only known America as their home.
And permanent protection for immigrants who are here on temporary protective status who came from countries beset by manmade and natural made violence and disaster.
As well as the populated cities of the farm workers who put food on our tables. Look --
-- immigrants have done so much for America during this pandemic and throughout our history. Our country supports immigration reform, we should act. Let`s argue over it. Let`s debate it but let`s act. And if we truly want to restore, to solve America we need to protect the sacred right to vote. Most people--
More people voted in the last presidential election than any time in American history in the middle of the worst pandemic ever. It should be celebrated. Instead, it`s being attacked. Congress should pass H.R.1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and send it to my desk right away.
The country supports it and Congress should act now.
Look, in conclusion, as we gather here tonight, the image of a violent mob assaulting this Capitol, desecrating our democracy remain vivid in all our minds. Lives were put at risk, many of your lives.
Lives were lost. Extraordinary courage was summoned. The insurrection was an existential crisis, a test on whether our democracy could survive and it did but the struggle is far from over.
The question of whether a democracy will long endure is both ancient and urgent, as old as our Republic. Still vital today. Can our democracy deliver on its promise that all of us created equal in the image of God had a chance to lead lives of dignity, respect, and possibility?
Can our democracy deliver the most -- the most pressing needs of our people? Can our democracy overcome the lies, anger, hate and fears that have pulled us a part? America`s adversaries, the autocrats of the world are betting we can`t and I promise you they`re betting we can`t.
They believe we`re too full of anger and division and rage. They look of the images of the mob that assaulted the Capitol as proof that the sun is setting on democracy but they`re wrong. You know it. I know it. But we have to prove them wrong.
We have to prove democracy still works. That our government still works and we can deliver for our people. In our first 100 days together, we`ve acted to restore people`s faith in democracy delivered.
We`re vaccinating the nation. We`re creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs. We`re delivering real results to people. They can see it, feel it in their own lives.
Opening doors of opportunity, guaranteeing some more fairness and justice, that`s the essence of America. That`s democracy in action. Our Constitution opens with the words as trite as it sounds, "we, the people." Well, it`s time to remember that we the people are the government, you and I not some force in a distance capital. Not some powerful force we have no control over.
It`s us. It`s we the people. In another era when our democracy was tested, Franklin Roosevelt reminded us, in America we do our part. We all do our part. That`s all I`m asking that we do our part, all of us. If we do that, we will meet the center challenge and the age by proving that democracy is durable and strong.
Autocrats will not win the future. We will. America will and the future belongs to America. As I stand here tonight before you in a new and vital hour of life and democracy of our nation and I can say with absolute confidence I have never been more confident or optimistic about America -- not because I am president but because of what`s happening with the American people.
We`ve stared into the abyss of insurrection and autocracy, pandemic and pain, and we the people did not flinch. At the very moment our adversaries were certain we`d pull apart and fail, we came together; we united. With light and hope, we summoned a new strength, new resolve to position us to win the competition of the 21st century, on our way to a union more perfect, more prosperous and more just, as one people, one nation and one America.
Folks, as I told every world leader I`ve ever met with over the years, it`s never, ever, ever been a good bet to bet against America. And it still isn`t.
We`re the United States of America. There`s not a single thing, nothing, nothing beyond our capacity.
We can do whatever we set our minds to do, if we do it together.
So let`s begin to get together.
God bless you all. And may God protect our troops.
Thank you for your patience.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: He started by thanking the speaker of the house for having him. He finished by thanking all those watching for their patience.
No one yelled "you lie". The speaker didn`t rip up the speech on live television. So by the standards of the last 20 years, it was a successful evening where the speeches are concerned.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs followed by one time rival Bernie Sanders. Our mics are open. We`re going to pause and try to catch some of this as he talks with Congresswoman Waters, Senator Reed.
BIDEN: How are you? How are you doing? How`s mom? Give her my love.
The veteran Democrat, Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, having something of an intense fist bump moment with the president.
It`s by now a cliche but this is truly where Joe Biden is the most at home, in this and especially the neighboring Senate chamber among pals, among elected officials, 36 years is a tough habit to break, and then that was followed by eight years residing over the Senate as vice president, meeting the new sergeant at arms.
After four years of a monotone shout, it was bracing to hear a speech delivered at times by a whisper. His use of voice modulation was rather extraordinary given the television era, and it served as cover at times for unspooling an ambition in this speech that was Rooseveltian in size and scope.
He treated the sparse crowd with a kind of intimacy in the chamber that may very well have translated to the television audience at home.
At his best, he reminded America what Americans are capable of, something presidents do, something presidents say in the midst of what is by any standard a huge vaccine victory, he couldn`t resist saying there`s no wall high enough to keep out the pandemic.
But his last line now that we`ve lost the ability to hear him in the crowd -- we are the United States of America. There is nothing, nothing beyond our capacity, nothing we can`t do if we do it together.
That`s an easy one. It`s always been true. We just haven`t heard it in a while, and right now, a good many folks need to hear it. Pat Leahy, senior serving member of the U.S. Senate, Democratic side.
Rachel, over to you and our friends.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Brian, thank you.
It`s telling and I think interesting in its own right that the president made tracks when he came into the chamber. That is often something in normal times that takes a very long time for the president to make it down that aisle with members of Congress crowding the aisle wanting to be seen with the president. There have been times when the president at that moment signs things or otherwise poses with members on their way in.
In this case, walking in, that was not what President Biden wanted to do, but now it is done and the opportunity is there for him to as we`ve seen in these last few minutes ask, how`s your mom, tell her I said hi, talk to individual members of the United States Senate, even the House, showing that he knows them.
Rosa, when he had that moment with Rosa DeLauro, I had to think that had to be about the child tax credit, which was her life`s work, as a longstanding member of Congress from Connecticut. You get that child tax credit in place, which will have a massive effect on the family finances of working families all over the country.
If you have kids, you`re going to start getting checks from the government this summer, every month as a tax credit for having kids in this country. Rosa DeLauro made that happen. The president tonight promised that he will do his best to get that made -- extended so it`s not just part of the temporary COVID relief bill but it lasts as he said tonight until 2025.
There was some news tonight the president I think appearing to tell -- a little unclear but I think he was saying Vice President Harris will be helming the effort to establish high-speed broadband nationwide. And he talked about ARPA, an advance research project for health, which would be an extension of sort of cancer moonshot that he helmed during the Obama administration. You see the president there with Republican Senator Rob Portman.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST, "DEADLINE: WHITE HOUSE": That`s Portman who`s not resigned -- I mean, who`s not running for reelection. Tim Ryan announced he`ll run for the seat.
MADDOW: There will be lines that stand out from this speech both for history and for their impact when she said. And most -- we should note, the speech is about 50-50 adlib and prepared remarks.
But when he said go get vaccinated, America, go and get the vaccination, they are available, you are eligible now and the room erupted from that.
Hard to make it more clearer than that when he said white supremacy is terrorism. It`s not exactly the way it was written in his prepared remarks. He ad-libbed, add to those remarks, making that incredibly powerful statement.
When he said: To all to the transgender Americans watching at home, especially the young people who are so brave, I want you to know your president has your back. That will land like a proverbial bomb on LGBTQ communities across America. It`s huge to have the president not just sort of name check you, but put it in those terms and that sort of -- in those sort of personal guarantee terms.
I think that`ll be a very powerful moment for all the scope and all the policy that he talked tonight. That one is going to stick.
WALLACE: You know, and I think you`re pulling the thread that was so brilliantly woven through this speech. I mean, the speech was crafted obviously by him and his staff. And every ad-libbed line was him, and there`s one ad-lib line he wrote down and said, I don`t want to get confrontational with you. It`s around gun control.
His connections to the people in this room, I`m not even sure if all of them are deserving of them, but he does not care. He gives to them the benefit of the doubt, the benefit of his goodwill. I thought it would be a hard speech to make optimistic, he did, and I -- you know, with my black sharpie, I think I wrote all the way through to the table this whole section about the insurrection.
And, you know, I think that to come out of a section about our enemies, the autocrats who wish to see our democratic experiment fail will not win. When you come out of that darkness of what happened in that chamber was so remarkable.
I have to say one other thing. I was thinking of the two people who have shaped him so much who weren`t in the room. His son Beau Biden, that was another ad-lib line when he was talking about commitment to cancer research, and his friend John McCain who made one of the book-ends in this speech when he talked about the ideologies that would end up in the ash heap of history. I think he`s trying to put America`s dark days behind us in that same ash heap of history.
MADDOW: America`s adversaries, the autocrats of the world, are betting that our democracy cannot deliver. They believe we`re too full of anger and division and rage. They look at the images, the mob that assaulted this Capitol as proof that the sun is setting on American democracy. They are wrong and we have to prove them wrong. We have to prove democracy still works.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST, "THE REIDOUT": Yeah, I mean the part he said, you know, I spent a lot of time with president xi and these autocrats are convinced democracies by definition can accomplish things because there`s too much division.
I had to go to one line that wasn`t ad-libbed. This was at the end when he did say, our Constitution opens with we, the people, and it`s time that we remember that the people and the government are us, which I think it was important -- you know, in this sort of place that had to be evacuated because of an insurrection, I feel like government came back and occupied it, and Biden occupied it with a kind of politics that is bread and butter real working class politics.
This was working class Joe. And he was just asking the question, are we still capable of doing big things together? Are we so broken as a society that we can`t do big things like Eisenhower did with traversing the country with the railroads, et cetera?
It was an optimistic speech because it was about things the government can deliver to you, specific you can see, that are specific that you can feel, that you can see, that are visceral, whether it`s emotional as you said, with trans kids feeling that the government is just -- it isn`t against them, or whether it`s African-Americans hearing the president say, no, I get it, I understand the real terrorism is this white nationalism that threatens your vote and threatens your ability to be full citizens or just saying, look, we can build stuff.
REID: We can still do that. And he does a kind of nostalgia. Trump did a different kind of nostalgia that was dark. His kind of nostalgia is saying, we`re still capable of doing big things and that we can be bigger than this messiness, you know? And I think it was important for people to hear that.
I feel like this speech with working class -- and it`s not just working class white voters, Democrats have issues with working class black and brown voters, too.
REID: Because they`re saying, am I going to be able to compete if I don`t have a college degree? Am I going to be able to get a decent job anymore? Am I going to be competing with workers in low wage countries and are my jobs going to get exported?
That actually kind of dings with black and brown voters, too.
REID: So working class in general, he`s saying, yeah, we are going to take care of you.
MADDOW: He says, if you -- they`re talking about millions of jobs and millions of jobs --
MADDOW: He says if you are hearing this right now and you`re wondering whether that is about you, let me talk to you at home and let you know the vast majority of these jobs, you do not need a college degree.
REID: That`s right.
MADDOW: You do not even an associates degree. This is about the working class. This is about the middle class. And this is about good, well-paying jobs, building stuff that`s going to make America a better place and make us compete competitively.
And that`s a -- you know, it`s an economic populism that I think a lot of Democrats have been wanting -- wanting to hear from the top levels of the party for quite some time.
But to pair that with what you`re talking about, Nicolle, in terms of that darkness and light, we have stared into the abyss of insurrection and autocracy, a pandemic and pain, and we the people did not flinch. At the very moment our adversaries were certain we`d pull apart and fail, we came together.
And it`s -- so, it`s the high and the low. It`s him talking about where we`ve been pretty unflinchingly.
WALLACE: Well, it`s him taking really the inverse view of the country as the previous guy.
MADDOW: Uh-huh, American carnage.
WALLACE: I mean, that president`s first speech to the country was American carnage, delivered obviously at his inauguration, but at the beginning. I thought it would be a challenge to balance the clarity, the clear-eyed nature of what this threat was with this forward-looking view, but every page and we have the pages that every couple minutes it`s littered with extensions and generosities to Republicans.
If you don`t pass my bill, send me something. He mentioned (ph) -- she gave a shout out to the Republican, very pared down, sort of roads and bridges approach to infrastructure that we talked about.
MADDOW: Let`s get to work, he said.
WALLACE: Yeah. You know, that`s fine, that`s -- he is willing to cast in good faith anything from the Republicans, and it brings into sharp relief what they`re doing. They have redefined with the public things to have bipartisan support in the country.
They are the first White House to make that -- they have redefined bipartisanship for the first time. And he used it to the most effect tonight around gun control debate.
WALLACE: Because he didn`t just put the 85 percent of all Americans who support all of the things that is in their proposals, he put gun owners of it, and that`s always been what I thought should have cross-pressured the NRA. It never did. He used that to (INAUDIBLE).
REID: Can we talk about the things we talked in the background we`re going to see what the Republicans were standing up and cheering for, but he put some things out there that would be very hard for them to say they don`t like. He said we cut child poverty. It didn`t look like anybody really stood up.
He said we`re going to build millions of Americans jobs. I don`t know if they stood up.
But he`s presenting a platform that is so basic, just sort of basic jobs, jobs, jobs politics and it`s going to be difficult. I do have to say that a lot of what he said President Obama said, but because Joe Biden is Joe Biden, he`s an older white guy, it comes across differently to the country, to the people who are the most triggered by people like Obama. It doesn`t come across as super academic or Harvardian or whatever it is or it`s not a black guy, right?
So, I think he has -- I seem to understand every time he speaks why Donald Trump was afraid of him, why he feared that guy being the nominee because that is a very difficult politics to oppose.
MADDOW: We`re about one minute or perhaps less out from the Republican response from South Carolina Senator Tim Scott. Any thoughts from you before we hear from him in terms of him being the choice for this response.
WALLACE: He at the table negotiating police reform, which is one of the centerpieces of tonight`s address.
REID: And he`s from what I -- folks I`m talking with in South Carolina, even Democrats who know Tim Scott and oppose him on lots of policies do believe he`s sincere and believe he sees this as a chance to make his mark, something he hadn`t done up to now.
MADDOW: Brian, over to you.
WILLIAMS: And with that the clock, by the way, started when Joe Biden exited the chamber. That is the exact 5-minute warning to the start of the response. As we`ve been saying, it will be Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. Let`s go to that now.
SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): Good evening. I`m Senator Tim Scott from the great state of South Carolina.
You just heard President Biden`s first address to Congress.
Our president seems like a good man. His speech was full of good words, but President Biden promised you a specific kind of leadership. He promised to unite a nation, to lower the temperature, to govern for all Americans no matter how we voted.
This was the pitch. You just heard it again.
But our nation is starving for more than empty platitudes. We need policies and progress that brings us closer together. But three months in, the actions of the president and his party are pulling us further and further apart.
I won`t waste your time with finger-pointing or partisan bickering. You can get that on TV anytime you want.
I want to have an honest conversation about common sense and common ground, about this feeling that our nation is sliding off its shared foundation and how we move forward together.
Growing up, I never dreamed I would be standing here tonight. When I was a kid, my parents divorced. My mother, my brother and I moved in with my grandparents, three of us sharing one bedroom.
I was disillusioned and angry and I nearly fell out of school, but I was blessed. First, with a praying mom -- and let me say this to the single mothers out there who are working their tails off, working hard, trying to make the ends meet, wondering if it`s worth it, you can bet it is. God bless your amazing effort on the heart of your kids.
I was also blessed by a Chick-fil-A operator, Jon Moniz. And finally, with a string of opportunities that are only possible here in America.
This past year, I`ve watched COVID attack every rung of the ladder that helped me up. So many families lost parents and grandparents too early. So many small businesses have gone under. Becoming a Christian transformed my life, but for months, too many churches were shutdown.
Most of all, I`m saddened that millions of kids have lost a year of learning when they could not afford to lose a single day. Locking vulnerable kids out of the classroom is locking adults out of their future.
Our public schools should have reopened months ago. Other countries did. Private and religious schools did.
Science has shown for months that schools are safe. But too often, powerful grown ups set science aside and kids like me were left behind. The clearest case I`ve seen for school choice in our lifetimes because we know that education is the closest thing to magic in America.
Last year, under Republican leadership, we passed five bipartisan COVID packages. Congress supported our schools, our hospitals, saved our economy, and funded Operation Warp Speed delivering vaccines in record time.
All five bills got 90, 90 votes in the Senate. Common sense found common ground.
In February, Republicans told President Biden we wanted to keep working together to finish this fight.
But Democrats wanted to go it alone. They spent almost $2 trillion on a partisan bill that the White House bragged was the most liberal bill in American history. Only one percent went to vaccinations, no requirement to reopen schools promptly. COVID brought Congress together five times. This administration pushed us apart. Another issue should -- that should unite us is infrastructure.
Republicans support everything you think of when you think of infrastructure. Roads, bridges, ports, airports, waterways, high-speed broadband, we`re in for all of that. But again, Democrats want a partisan wish list.
They won`t even build bridges to build bridges. Less than six percent of the president`s plan goes to roads and bridges. It`s a liberal wish list of big government waste plus the biggest job-killing tax hikes in a generation.
Experts say, when all is said and done, it would lower wages of the average American worker and shrink our economy. Tonight, we also heard about a so- called family plan, even more taxing, even more spending to put Washington even more in the middle of your life from the cradle to college.
The beauty of the American dream is that families get to define it for themselves. We should be expanding opportunities and options for all families, not throwing money at certain issues because Democrats think they know best. Infrastructure spending that shrinks our economy is not common sense.
Weakening our southern borders and creating a crisis is not compassionate. The president is also abandoning principles he`s held for decades. Now he says, your tax dollars should fund abortions. He`s laying ground work to pack the Supreme Court. This is not common ground.
Nowhere do we need common ground more desperately than in our discussions of race. I have experienced the pain of discrimination. I know what it feels like to be pulled over for no reason, to be followed around the store while I`m shopping. I remember every morning at the kitchen table, my grandfather would open the newspaper and read it, I thought.
But later I realized, he had never learned to read it. He just wanted to set the right example. I`ve also experienced a different kind of intolerance. I get called "Uncle Tom" and the "N" word by progressives, by liberals. Just last week, a national newspaper suggested my family`s poverty was actually privilege because a relative owned land generations before my time.
Believe me, I know first hand our healing is not finished. In 2015, after the shooting of Walter Scott, I wrote a bill to fund body cameras. Last year, after the deaths of Breona Taylor and George Floyd, I built an even bigger police reform proposal.
But my Democratic colleagues blocked it. I extended an olive branch. I offered amendments. But Democrats used a filibuster to block the debate from even happening. My friends across the aisle seemed to want the issue more than they wanted a solution.
But I`m still working. I`m hopeful that this will be different. When America comes together, we`ve made tremendous progress. But powerful forces want to pull us apart. One hundred years ago, kids in classrooms were taught the color of their skin was their most important characteristic.
And if they looked a certain way, they were inferior. Today, kids are being taught that the color of their skin defines them again. And if they look a certain way, they`re an oppressor. From colleges to corporations to our culture, people are making money and gaining power by pretending we haven`t made any progress at all, by doubling down on the divisions we`ve worked so hard to heal.
You know this stuff is wrong. Hear me clearly. America is not a racist country. It`s backwards to fight discrimination with different types of discrimination. And it`s wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.
I`m an African-American who`s voted in the south my entire life. I take voting rights personally. Republicans support making it easier to vote and harder to cheat and so do the voters. Big majorities of Americans support early voting and big majorities support voter ID including African- Americans and Hispanics.
Common sense makes common ground.
But today, this conversation has collapsed.
The state of Georgia passed a law that expands early voting, preserves no excuse mail-in voting, and despite what the president claimed, did not reduce Election Day hours. But if you actually read this law, it`s mainstream. It will be easier to vote early in Georgia than in Democrat-run New York.
But the left doesn`t want you to know that. They want people virtue signaling, by yelling about a law they haven`t even read.
Fact checkers have called out the White House from the statements.
The president absurdly claims that this is worse than Jim Crow.
What is going on here?
I`ll tell you -- a Washington power grab. This misplaced outrage is supposed to justify Democrats` new sweeping bill that would take over elections for all 50 states. It would send public funds to political campaigns you disagree with and make the bipartisan Federal Elections Commission partisan.
This is not about civil rights or our racial past. It`s about rigging elections in the future.
And no, the same filibuster that President Obama and President Biden praised when they were senators, the same filibuster that the Democrats used to kill my police reform bill last year has not suddenly become a racist relic just because the shoe is now on the other foot.
Race is not a political weapon to sell every issue the way one side wants. It`s far too important.
This should be a joyful springtime for our nation. This administration inherited a tide that had already turned. The coronavirus is on the run.
Thanks to Operation Warp Speed and the Trump administration, our country is flooded with safe and effective vaccines. Thanks to our bipartisan work last year, job openings are rebounding.
So why do we feel so divided, anxious?
A nation with so much cause for hope should not feel so heavy laden. A president who promised to bring us together should not be pushing agendas that tear us apart.
The American family deserves better. And we know what better looks like.
Just before COVID, we had the most inclusive economy in my lifetime. The lowest unemployment rates ever recorded for African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians and a 70-year low nearly for women.
Wages for -- hear me -- wages were growing faster at the bottom than at the top. The bottom 25 percent saw their wages go up faster than the top 25 percent. That happened because Republicans focused on expanding opportunity for all Americans.
In addition to that, we passed opportunity zones, criminal justice reform and permanent funding for historically black colleges and universities for the first time ever. We fought the drug epidemic, rebuilt our military, and cut taxes for working families and single moms like the one that raised me.
Our best future will not come from Washington schemes or socialist dreams. It will come from you, the American people.
Black, Hispanic, White and Asian, Republican and Democrat, brave police officers in black neighborhoods, we are not adversaries. We are family. We are all in this together. And we get to live in the greatest country on Earth, the country where my grandfather in his 94 years saw his family go from cotton to Congress in one lifetime.
So I am more than hopeful, I am confident that our finest hour has yet to come. Original sin is never the end of the story. Not in our souls and not for our nation. The real story is always redemption.
I am standing here because my mom has prayed me through some really tough times. I believe our nation has succeeded the same way because generations of Americans in their own ways have asked for grace and God has supplied it.
So I will close with a word from a worship song that really helped me through this past year of COVID.
The music is new, but the words draw from scripture. May the Lord bless you and keep you, make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May his presence go before you and behind you and beside you in your weeping and your rejoicing. He is for you. May his favor be upon our nation for a thousand generations and your family and your children and their children.
Good night, and God bless the United States.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: One of the most difficult jobs in all of American politics is to follow the imputed majesty of a state of the union address or a joint address to Congress with a response that is always delivered somewhere else. It is always staged in some way that`s supposed to look different but equivalent.
It`s hard when it is a Democrat responding to a Republican president. It is hard when it`s a Republican responding to a Democratic president.
But that was Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina for the Republican Party with the response to the president`s joint address to the Congress tonight.
I -- correct me if I`m wrong here -- I may be wrong, but I believe that was a longer response than we`re used to getting in term of the opposition party`s response. I think that Senator Scott is incredibly talented at delivering these sort of things. I do think it`s going to be hard for most people who are paying attention to politics to swallow the Republican support making it easier to vote line and the whole line that he had -- the long passage he had about how Democrats are the ones who are blocking police reform.
There`s some stuff there that may make sense in a sliver of Republican world. But in the news world I don`t think will ring.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: Well, this is a speech delivered from a planet where facts don`t matter which is where the current Republican Party resides. So it`s not really his fault. But it is his responsibility to get his facts straight.
He said this. That Biden inherited a country that had already rounded the bend on COVID. 4,000 a people a day were dying in January, so I don`t know again on what planet we had rounded the bend. And Operation Warp Speed didn`t do anything to get a needle into an arm.
So a lot of disinformation. It felt almost scripted by someone close to the president who wanted that revisionist --
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: President Trump. Correct
WALLACE: I think that the most reprehensible thing in the eyes of clear- eyed people of any party about the Georgia law, the reason Major League Baseball left isn`t because it makes it easier to vote in Georgia than in Democratic-run New York is -- you know, again, if you`re so proud of a lie, tell the truth about it.
The lie would have removed Republican Brad Raffensperger from a decision- making place. So it`s just disingenuous to say that the law is so good, we`re so proud of it. If it were that good Major League Baseball wouldn`t have moved their game.
So it wasn`t true in my view was the biggest flaw.
Well, I mean he even went back to the old pretending that Republicans and Trump saved historically black colleges, Rep. Alma Adams, you know, the Futures Act. There was a Republican who co-sponsored with her. That is not Republicans saving black colleges. They keep on using that line.
It was -- I was surprised to be honest with you. This was standard Republican pabulum. This could have been delivered by Tom Cotton or Mike Lee. America is not a racist country. There is no racism here.
I`m not sure what the purpose of this was. His audience to me appeared to be conservative white Republicans who are angry over certain things, of cancel culture and the same sort of cultural nods that we hear on Fox News. And he was out here to throw them a lifeline.
It was disappointing. He had an opportunity to really speak about his work on the -- you know, on the George Floyd Act and what he`s trying to do to offer his own amendments to it. He didn`t. He just came out and talked about the amendments he tried to offer before which were seen as inadequate by mainstream people who are involved in trying to do criminal justice reform, saw his previous bill as inadequate yet it failed a cloture vote.
They can`t get a cloture vote on the one that`s going through the Congress now. He said nothing about the work that he wants to do on this act for which I had just given him credit before he started speaking in which -- for which he`s getting credit from Democrats who are working with him.
People see him as being a genuine in trying to work on criminal justice reform. And rather than make even one single salutary (ph) point on that, he came out and lied about the Georgia bill saying it`s easier to vote in Georgia than in New York.
I am -- I am shocked and a bit embarrassed for him. This was a lost opportunity. Tim Scott had an opportunity to make his mark on criminal justice reform, and this isn`t going to do it. This one didn`t (ph).
MADDOW: Let`s bring into the conversation our friend and colleague Lawrence O`Donnell. Lawrence, you`ve been watching alongside with -- alongside us this whole night watching both the president`s address and that response. What do you think tonight?
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: I just want to say one thing about the response and that`s the first sentence of it. And it`s something -- it`s a concept that Joe Biden would never use. Tim Scott said -- these were his exact words -- "Our president seems like a good man."
Now, he couldn`t bring himself to say to Republican voters who he wants to raise money from, "Our president is a good man".
If you ask Joe Biden about Tim Scott there`s no circumstance in which Joe Biden wouldn`t say Tim Scott`s a good man and then he`d go onto talk about his disagreements. But that construction is a 21st century Republican construction in that sentence about a Democratic president of the United States.
"Our president seems like a good man". And then the rest of the paragraph is dismantling this fraud that was just put up there on the stage for you. So that`s 21st century Republicanism.
Joe Biden`s speech, Rachel, was really fascinating for me because Joe Biden by my count -- rough count has been to about 50 addresses to the Congress by presidents. 44 state of the union addresses as a senator, vice president. Another probably half-dozen special addresses to congress by presidents of different times and crisis and other times.
And now we know -- now we know what Joe Biden was thinking every single time he was sitting there listening to those speeches. I want to hear more about jobs. I want to hear more about jobs.
And so I mean this is someone who he talked about climate change in a short passage about it and he said the most important word about climate change is jobs.
He discussed this infrastructure bill which is the most complex infrastructure bill that`s ever been introduced as it should be because it`s 21st century infrastructure, which includes elements that we didn`t have in the 20th century in our infrastructure. And the name of that bill is the American Jobs Bill.
The name of the infrastructure bill during the Clinton administration was the Intermodal Surface Transportation Act. So Joe Biden has been paying attention, and the simplicity of the language in every single line, I never lost my place in this speech.
There was no soaring rhetoric, really, but there was heart and there was feeling. Barack Obama could deliver the most beautiful paragraphs of soaring rhetoric in speeches like this. Joe Biden didn`t attempt that. But every single sentence had a very clear point to it. And every line of it had that Biden humility in it, which is a very hard thing to convey when you are president of the United States.
MADDOW: Well, fair point. I`m going to ask the control room a second to do this, but the sound that Lawrence is talking about and eloquently describing in terms of how it landed is the third spot that we cut -- the third piece of sound on tape.
I`ll give the control room a chance to turn that around before we go to our next break. That moment where he talked about what climate policy is, is jobs and the room erupted. I want to make sure we turn that around in just a second.
Lawrence, we`re going to bring into the conversation though now Congresswoman Karen Bass of California who has been working with Senator Cory Booker Democrat of New Jersey, and Senator Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, who we just heard on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
Congresswoman Bass, it is great to see you tonight on this big night. Thank you so much.
REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): Thank you.
MADDOW: So talk to us a little bit about what we just heard from Senator Scott. My beloved colleague here Joy Reid was just expressing her disappointment that she didn`t hear more substance from Senator Scott on what`s possible in police reform and what he wants to do and what could happen in the future. It sounded to me like he was just saying Democrats are against policing reform.
As somebody who`s intimately involved with this issue, how did you hear it and what should we know?
BASS: Well, I heard him probably speaking on behalf of his caucus and his party. But I will tell you in my conversations with him in the meetings and discussions that we`ve been having he has been very open, very inclusive.
And at the end of the day says I am a Republican. I am a conservative but I am a black man who has experienced harassment and being pulled over and stopped by police and wants to get this on President Biden`s desk.
So although I didn`t have the opportunity to hear all of it because I was working over from hearing the president, what I did hear it sounds like he was speaking the party and not the man.
MADDOW: In terms of the president`s remarks tonight they were emotional remarks and vivid remarks talking about the knee on the neck of African- Americans, talking about white supremacy as terrorism.
The president had in his prepared remarks a very powerful section of writing on this topic, but he diverted from his prepared remarks to give even more emotional, even stronger remarks on the subject.
Can you talk at all about the support or interaction that you have with the administration, with the executive branch in terms of trying to get this done? It seems like this is something that means a lot to both the president and vice president.
BASS: Well, the administration has been very clear they want it done. They want it done quickly. They have been extremely accessible and helpful and providing us information and anything that we needed to help get this across the finish line.
And so I was happy to hear him talk about it because -- and what a relief it was. I mean, it was an uplifting presentation. I love the way he connected climate to jobs. I think it`s something that Democrats have not done enough. And the way he even talked about how the jobs that would be available you don`t necessarily need a college degree for, maybe not even a community college degree.
And so to me all of those issues are interconnected because when you look at employment, where is the employment very high, which is in the black and brown communities. So and so he talked about racial inequity. He talked about white supremacy, just like he did in his inauguration speech.
And I think for African-Americans and other people of color, it`s just an opportunity to exhale and to relax, especially after four years of somebody who spent every day of his presidency trying to foment racial division.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Karen Bass of California, it is such a pleasure to have you with us tonight, Ma`am. Thank you for taking the time. I know it`s a celebratory night and a big night tonight. Thanks for being here.
BASS: Thank you.
You should know, as we`re talking with Congresswoman Bass, the Justice Department has just taken all of these very dramatic actions on policing, right.
The pattern in practice investigation into Minneapolis --
MADDOW: -- which, of course is the George Floyd case and the Daunte Wright case, pattern in practice investigation in Louisville, a federal civil rights investigation into what happened in North Carolina with Elizabeth City, North Carolina, hate crimes charges today against three Georgia men in the Ahmaud Arbery killing.
We`ve got news tonight out of Minneapolis about a potential civil rights indictment of Derek Chauvin and three other officers. We saw Georgia sheriff indicted on federal civil rights charges for mistreating prisoners in his care.
I mean that`s all happened in the week -- I don`t want to put this all on her but it`s all happened in the week since Lisa Monaco has been installed as the deputy attorney general, the number two official at the Justice Department. That -- having that kind of energy from the Justice Department alongside this legislative effort for police reform, boy, does it feel like a different world.
REID: And then here, I don`t mean to pick on Tim Scott -- I`m sorry to pick on him but that is why it is -- this is a gimme, this is easy. Convicting Derek Chauvin, that wasn`t hard. That was the most open and shut case of police brutality probably in the history of the United States.
They had ten police officers testify against him including the chief. That was not a difficult thing -- you know, it wasn`t a difficult -decision to come to.
Policing reform at this point, police need credibility in order to do their jobs. You cannot police a community that doesn`t trust you, that won`t talk to you, that sees you as an invading army.
There`s an opportunity here. I would urge people like Tim Scott to lean into that right now.
WALLACE: But you know what, I think what Karen Bass just alluded to was that she heard Tim Scott totally different than we did. She heard him speaking on behalf of his caucus and his caucus may very well be exactly where he communicated from tonight with that sort of real narrow understanding of what happened in Georgia that was so bad that Major League Baseball moved their game.
What I heard her say when she said he was speaking for his caucus, made me think that maybe she`s seeing a very earnest and open person.
REID: That`s all I`ve heard behind the scenes. All I heard behind the scenes is that he`s honestly negotiating. So you`re right, maybe he was speaking what Mike Lee and Tom Cotton --
WALLACE: He seemed to hint that --
MADDOW: Let`s bring into the conversation our beloved colleague Chris Hayes, the host of MSNBC`s "ALL IN" who has been working his thumbs overtime tweeting throughout the night. I know a little bit about what you think you saw this evening, Chris.
What is your takeaway from these speeches?
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: I find the Joe Biden presidency pretty fascinating and in some ways unexpected in surprising ways. I mean, it is, you know, there`s -- Benjamin Disraeli, the British politician wrote a novel in which he coined this phrase, "Tory Men and Whig Measures", by which he meant conservative politicians pursuing essentially liberal reformist aims. That that was the sweet spot, right. The Tory Men and Whig Measures -- the people wouldn`t be scared off. You had Tory Men, you had sort of good, you know, tried and true conservatives actually doing reformist liberal things.
I feel like that`s been a little bit of the Joe Biden approach here. Here`s Joe Biden 40 years in the spotlight, 40 years, it`s the center of the Democratic caucus. Someone who was, you know -- voted for the Iraq war and was on the side of bankruptcy reform and these things.
He`s never been a radical. He`s never been a socialist. As he said, I beat the socialists trying to essentially push through a kind of social Democratic agenda in America that is very popular and has been defeated in the past by a lot of sort of cultural war wedge issues.
And so just find it very effective. I mean they`re picking things that are good substantively that Biden clearly believes in, that the Democratic coalition is behind and things that are polling at 60, 65 percent.
If you say to America, what do you think about getting rid of all the lead pipes in America. How does that poll? Should we not run the risk of brain poisoning our children and loved ones? Let`s do it, right?
And then you see counter to that in Tim Scott the just utter ideological exhaustion of conservatism in this moment. I mean there was a time when conservatives would have licked their chops at the sheer scope of the agenda that Biden is proposing in these two packages coming off COVID relief and Scott spent a few minutes on it and he threw some tax and spend and socialism. And then he got into the things conservatives care about which is like the culture and what they`re teaching you in school about American racism and restricting voting, which is where all the action, which is what the base cares about because there`s no substantive ideological agenda about the big questions of political economy in American life anymore. There`s none.
There`s nothing there. They don`t have arguments on the other side anymore. They forgot how to make them.
MADDOW: The post-policy era in Republican Party politics.
Chris, I`m going to let you go now because I know you are coming back live for an hour at midnight Eastern time --
MADDOW: -- so we`re going to let you go to get prepping for that.
In the meantime we`re going to bring in New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries who is a member of Nancy Pelosi`s leadership team in the House.
Congressman Jeffries, we really appreciate you being here tonight. Thank you so much.
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Great to be with you.
MADDOW: We`ve seen the response from Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina. His response to the president`s address tonight. The president`s address just over an hour, laying out his very ambitious agenda.
What do you think is the most important thing people should take away from these speeches tonight?
JEFFRIES: Well, that Joe Biden recognizes that we have big problems in America. It`s a big moment for this country and it requires big solutions. And Joe Biden is not running away from the big solutions that are necessary. He`s running toward them and laying them out in a very clear and simple, yet compelling fashion.
Both as it relates to what we have already done, the American Rescue Plan as well as what is necessary in terms of how we`re going to move forward the American Jobs Plan in terms of infrastructure, broadly defined, and of course the American Families Plan.
MADDOW: In terms of the relationship between the two parties, this chief critique that we saw from Senator Scott tonight and that I think is the chief critique from the Republicans, although I wouldn`t put words in their mouth, has been that they themselves do not support his legislative agenda. They themselves do not support COVID relief. They themselves do not support the things he`s doing and therefore those things are not good because they are not bipartisan endeavors.
What is your response to that? because they believe that the American public wants to see both parties working together to pass things to improve conditions in the country.
JEFFRIES: I think the American people definitely would prefer to see Democrats and Republicans working together whenever and wherever possible. And that`s exactly what Joe Biden has been trying to do and will continue to try to do, and he expressed that very clearly during his remarks tonight.
But the Republican Party has lapsed into a very familiar playbook, which always occurs when they have a Democratic president. That`s obstruction today, obstruction tomorrow, obstruction forever, and try to prevent and deny the Democratic president from solving challenges on behalf of the American people.
Well, with Joe Biden, it`s just not working because the things that he has proposed are broadly supported by the American people. And I also think, Rachel, that the way that he laid things out today and then Tim Scott`s response, shows the differences between Democrats and Republicans.
Republicans tried to convince the American people that we are competing against each other. That`s part of the effort to divide us. Joe Biden made it clear that we`re in this together. If we`re competing with anyone, it`s the rest of the world, particularly the autocrats who think that democracy is about to sunset.
And so he rallied the American people together both in terms of the principles of American exceptionalism but also by leaning into the challenges of the working families, the middle class -- those who aspire to be part of the middle class here in America.
MADDOW: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York, a member of the House leadership team. Thank you so much for being with us on this big night, sir. It`s a real pleasure to have you here.
JEFFRIES: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: All right. A special edition of "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts right now.
Thank you for being with us tonight. Our live coverage here on MSNBC continues.