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Transcript: MSNBC Special, 7/19/21

Guests: Vivek Murthy, Chris Turner, Jessica Gonzales, Diego Bernal, Senfronia Thompson, Erin Zwiener, John Bucy, Gene Wu, Toni Rose, Victoria Neave


MSNBC features a special presentation, "The Texas Democrats." More than 50 Texas Democrats effectively shut down a special session of the Texas legislature in order to stop passage of a Republican voter suppression bill. And they did this by coming to Washington to plead for passage of two voting and elections proposals in Congress.


LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: A dramatic move in Texas, Democratic lawmakers leaving the state heading to Washington.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not going to buckle to the big lie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in a fight to save our democracy.

STATE REP. SENFRONIA THOMPSON (D), TEXAS: That right is sacred to my constituents. We have fought too long and too hard.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Twenty-first century Jim Crow assault is real.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More than a dozen states have already passed GOP- backed bills that make it harder to vote.

CRAIG MELVIN, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: It adds up to the biggest push to reduce ballot access since the Jim Crow era.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have grit, we have resolve, and we are determined to find a solution.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: They have fled the state specifically to come to Washington because Washington is the one place this disaster in Texas, and this disaster in every other state where Republicans are rolling back voting rights can be fixed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Texas Democrats will use everything in our power to fight back.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Your vote matters. Your vote is your power.



LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, and welcome to this MSNBC special presentation, "The Texas Democrats."

I`m joined by my colleague Jonathan Capehart in Washington.


So, as you know, tonight is a little different than we had planned. And, as you know, when we can go tonight, more than 50 Texas Democrats effectively shut down a special session of the Texas legislature in order to stop passage of a Republican voter suppression bill. And they did this by coming to Washington to plead for passage of two voting and elections proposals in Congress.

Our plan was to have all of them together tonight in this room to talk about their fight to protect the right to vote. And everyone who was going to be in this room, Lawrence, had been vaccinated.

O`DONNELL: And then came the Saturday announcement that three Texas Democrats, all of them vaccinated, tested positive for COVID. And today we learned three more vaccinated Texas Democrats have tested positive.

Tonight, we are told those members are all isolating and experiencing mild symptoms.

CAPEHART: Representative Celia Israel canceled her wedding last week to join her fellow Texas Democrats in Washington. She is one of the members who tested positive.

And she said this, quote: I hope this instance highlights the sacrifices we`re willing to make for the cause of democracy. I would not change anything to protect the right to vote.

We want to keep the focus on what the Texas Democrats are fighting for and why. And we will be joined by more than a dozen of them this hour.

O`DONNELL: News of six breakthrough cases among the Texas Democrats follows other high-profile breakthrough cases. The Yankees/Red Sox game was postponed last week after some vaccinated Yankees players tested positive. And it comes amid rising cases and concerns about the spread of the delta variant, especially for families with unvaccinated children.

Joining us now, the surgeon general of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murthy.

Doctor, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

I want to get to this situation that we`ve seen develop with the Texas Democrats. The CDC director has referred to the state we`re in now as a pandemic of the unvaccinated. But we do have a developing story about the vaccinated. We`re seeing this more than in just the case of the Texas Democrats.

But when you saw that photograph of the 50 or so Texas Democrats on that private plane, all without masks looking like it was a normal plane ride of a couple years ago, did you look at that picture and worry for them?

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, SURGEON GENERAL: Well, Lawrence, I didn`t see the picture, but what I can tell you in general is that if you are on a plane, if you are on a train, if you are on a bus or in a subway, the guidelines say that you should be wearing masks to protect yourself and to protect others. The vast majority of infections we`re seeing, Lawrence, are among the unvaccinated. And the vast, vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths, more than 99.5 percent of deaths are among the unvaccinated.

But the vaccine, as highly as effective as they are, they are not 100 percent effective, and there will be a small number of people who have breakthrough infections.


And that`s why especially when you are in an area where there`s a lot of infection brewing or if you happen to be somebody who`s immuno-compromised or has unvaccinated at home, you may even choose to take extra steps and precautions that wearing your mask indoor settings.

But certainly, the CDC guidance clearly says when you are in public transport or when you`re with a lot of other folks, potentially mixed vaccination status, that wearing a masked is the safe thing to do.

O`DONNELL: Technically, the wearing a mask rule doesn`t apply on private aircraft, which is what that was. But it was 50 people. It looked like a commercial airline or in effect. And so -- and they`re all vaccinated.

So the first question tonight is what do we the vaccinated have to do now, what precautions do we have to take now that we are all aware that there can be breakthrough infections, and we who are vaccinated can be infected?

MURTHY: Well, let me step back for a moment. Let`s talk about what we should be concerned about if we are fully vaccinated. To be clear, fully vaccinated means you`re at least two weeks out from your last shot.

Your chances of getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19 are very low if you have been fully vaccinated. There is a chance that you could still be infected, but that too is very low. These vaccines, especially the mRNA vaccines, have more than 90 percent effectiveness against symptomatic illness.

And even if you do get sick, Lawrence, the likelihood is that your illness will be asymptomatic or mild. And so that is all good news. That`s the reason it`s so important to be vaccinated.

But if you are fully vaccinated, there may be conditions where you decide you want to take extra precautions. So, for example, if you live in an area where there`s a lot of virus circulating, if you live at home with people who are unvaccinated, you, yourself, are immuno-compromised are worried about your risk, in all those settings it makes sense, Lawrence, to take extra precautions like masking when you go out and mix with other people in indoor spaces.

Lastly, I`d just say this, Lawrence, look, the delta -- the delta variant is spreading quickly across our country. We are learning more and more about it every day. COVID-19 has taught us that we`ve got to be humble about this pandemic. It`s certainly not over, and we`ve got to recognize there are some things, a lot we know, but there are always things that we don`t know.

So while a new variant is spreading, a highly transmissible variant, you know, act out of caution, you know, make sure that you are -- you know, that you`re not taking excessive risk because this is not the time to let our guard down.

O`DONNELL: You just mentioned vaccinated people who live at home with some people who are not vaccinated. I know that`s your situation because you have small children who are not old enough to be vaccinated yet. So what does that mean for you? You live in a world where even though you`re vaccinated, you could conceivably be a breakthrough case, get infected.

Does that mean when you go home that you wear a mask in your home with your children because you fear possibly transmitting the virus to them?

MURTHY: Great question. So, I do not wear a mask when I`m at home with my children. Let me say from the outset that this is a place where different people will make different decisions based on their risk tolerance and also based on the community they`re living in. Because I live in and travel to communities that have at times high rates of circulating infection, what I do is I wear masks when I go outside, especially when I`m in indoor spaces.

I don`t wear masks outdoors because the risk of transmission is very low outdoors. But if I`m going to be in indoor settings with people whose vaccination status I don`t know, especially in these areas that have high levels of virus circulating, I do wear a mask because I want to protect my children when I come back home and I don`t want to have to wear a mask when I`m with my kids at home.

O`DONNELL: President Biden made the point today that 40 percent of the new cases now are coming from just four states that account for 40 percent. Those are states are Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri.

We have been talking for months now about how you communicate to the unvaccinated to get vaccinated. But what we`re clearly seeing now in this information that`s out there is that there is a partisan, an actually politically partisan resistance to vaccination. And the public health system has no experience with trying to communicate across a partisan divide on vaccinations.

So, what is the next step?

MURTHY: Well, Lawrence, this is one of the challenges we`re facing. The pandemic has not only been politicized but it`s been impacted by a tremendous flow of misinformation and in some cases intentional misinformation, what we call disinformation, on social media platforms and throughout our communication channels.

And so, this is a real -- a real threat. And what`s happened really, Lawrence, is that science has become politicized. And whenever that happens, what that means is that people lose out because the benefits of scientific discovery then don`t reach everyone.

So, what are we doing about it? Well, a few things. One is we`re recognizing by that fact, and recognizing we`ve got to be humble about how far our messages reach, even if we have the expertise to understand vaccines and COVID-19.

More importantly, what we`re doing is we are reaching out and working to support local trusted voices in communities. Not everyone listens to the same people, trusts the same sources in our big diverse country. But that`s why we work to mobilize and engage with doctors and nurses in communities across the country. We work to support faith leaders and educators and other community leaders so that they can speak directly to their communities and help folks understand the facts.

At the end of the day, Lawrence, this isn`t about trying to convince everybody to do the same thing. This is about making sure people have the facts so they can make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

O`DONNELL: Dr. Vivek Murthy, surgeon general of the United States, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

MURTHY: Thanks so much, Lawrence. Take care.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

The Texas Democrats are still pushing forward holding meetings virtually instead of in person, they are spending their second week in Washington with a week of events to spotlight national voting rights.

Today, 91-year-old activist Dolores Huerta spoke with the group.

CAPEHART: This is all happening, Lawrence, as we mark the one-year anniversary of the death of the honorable John Lewis who devoted his life to fighting for civil rights. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named in his honor last year in the 116th congress, is still awaiting reintroduction in the 117th today.

And, Lawrence, if I just, if I may just make a personal note about Congressman Lewis. Of all the times I spent with him, the most special happened a year ago last month as you see there where my husband and I went with him to see Black Lives Matter Plaza. We knew he was battling cancer. What we know now is that he was in the twilight of his time with all of us.

It will remain one of the great honors of my life to bear witness as that great man, that great patriot looked out over something that came to symbolize a new iteration of a fight he joined and then was a part of leading six decades earlier. And that`s why it`s important to remember that the Texas Democrats didn`t come to Washington just to lobby for a legislative action item. Yes, they want federal legislation to counter the bill. Republican state lawmakers are trying to pass in Texas.

But they came to their nation`s capitol to engage the larger fight for civil rights, a fight grounded in principle, and therefore cannot be, should not be viewed through the lens of who wins and loses the day.

When John Lewis was beaten trying to march out of Selma on his way to Montgomery in 1965, he didn`t lose because he and the 600 with him didn`t make it beyond the Edmund Pettis Bridge. On the contrary, the televised images shocked the conscience of the nation and hasten passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act five months later.

John Lewis and those marchers bent the arc of the moral universe that day because their cause wasn`t just about securing a legislative achievement. It was about calling on the nation to live up to its ideals. That is a cause as old as the republic itself, a cause that John Lewis believed was worth fighting for even as he looked out over Black Lives Matter plaza near the end of his life.

Up next, we`ll talk about that cause with the chair of the Texas Democrats who`s been a key organizer of this effort, and also with the dean of the Texas delegation, Representative Thompson. We`ll be right back with this MSNBC special presentation.


THOMPSON: Have we done enough? Have we paid the price enough? What is it going to take for us to be able to be Americans in this country? I am an American, and I want to vote without somebody infringing upon my rights and the rights of my constituents.





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They`re not trying to make these elections fair or free. It is not fair to require people to jump through hoops and fill out multiple forms just to vote. We`re not free when people can be criminalized for simple mistakes. We`re not free when you promote the rights of partisan poll watchers over the rights of others.

So, we`re not going to take it. We had the courage to take a stand, and, Congress, we need you to finish it.


CAPEHART: That is in their own words why the Texas Democrats went to Washington. The voter suppression effort they are taking a stand against in their home state comes after the 2020 election when Texas saw its highest voter turnout in 30 years.

And we are joined now by four Texas Democrats.

And I`m going to start with you, Representative Chris Turner. You are the chair of the Texas Democratic Caucus. Why was it important for you to be here in Washington?

STATE REP. CHRIS TURNER (D), TEXAS: Well, good evening. Thank you for having us.

It`s important for us to be here because more than 50 courageous Texas House Democrats made the decision to leave Texas to stop Republicans led by Greg Abbott, our governor, from passing a bill to make it harder for people to vote.


We are here to protect the rights of Texans and protect their freedom to vote.

And you have to understand that this special session is poison from the outset. It is against the backdrop of the governor trying to defund the entire legislative branch of government because he didn`t get his way on everything he wanted.

And we don`t live in a dictatorship. We live in a democracy. And the governor`s not a dictator. So that`s number one.

Number two, in addition to making it harder to vote, this bill, just like other bills around the country, is based on the big lie. It`s based on the lie that Donald Trump really somehow won the last election that all of us know he lost, and he lost it by a lot. But you can draw a direct line from the big lie to all these insidious attacks on our democracy, including the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th and now to these voter suppression bills in Texas and elsewhere around the country.

So we came to Washington because Washington, the Congress, and the president, are the only people who can help stop this attack on our democracy. And that`s why we`re here. We`re urging the Senate to pass strong federal voting rights legislation. We`ve urged the Senate to embrace the elegant solution proposed by majority whip Jim Clyburn to carve out voting rights from the filibuster. And our caucus is looking forward to meeting with Majority Whip Clyburn tomorrow.

And we hope that they`ll also pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act because we need a strong voting rights act to protect Texas voters.

CAPEHART: I just want to make sure everyone heard the bit of news you made there, that you will be meeting with House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn tomorrow.

One quick follow-up with you, Representative Turner. How hard was it to make this decision to leave Texas and come to Washington?

TURNER: Well, you know, it`s a logistically challenging decision to make. It`s challenging for our members who are leaving behind families and jobs, businesses, young children in many cases. That was what was hard about it.

But it was easy in the sense that this was the only option we had if we are going to stop Greg Abbott and other Republicans for making it harder for Texans to vote, for making it harder for our constituents to be able to exercise their democratic right. That was the easy part of the decision, and that`s why you`ve seen this extraordinary action of more than 50 courageous Texas House Democrats are now being in Washington, D.C. eight days now, and we`re just getting started.

CAPEHART: Representative Jessica Gonzales, I`ll come to you next.

You are the vice-chair of the committee on elections. What are the worst provisions in this bill?

STATE REP. JESSICA GONZALES (D), TEXAS: There are several provisions in the bill that are egregious. But I`m going to speak to the provisions that involve partisan poll watchers. Provisions that empower untrained partisan poll watchers to roam freely in a polling location, while at the same time restricting the ability of a poll worker to control their behavior.

So, the only way, as the bill is written right now, the only way that a poll worker can remove a poll watcher is if they violate a certain provision in the Texas law, which is a high threshold. So, just intimidation alone is not sufficient, to the election`s judge must observe the actual behavior. And so, a voter alone reporting this behavior is not sufficient to rise to that threshold.

And the poll worker must`ve already given one warning. So they get one free felony (ph), the poll watcher. Moreover, it adds a new violation for poll workers refusing to allow a poll watcher to be there even if they know that that poll worker -- poll watcher has been problematic in the past.

And so, what Republicans are doing is that they`re not only making the hoop smaller, but they`re also wanting to pick who the referees are.

CAPEHART: Let me follow up with you on something because when the Texas Democrats, you won a victory when you broke quorum the first time. The second current version of the bill doesn`t include provisions impacting, for instance, Souls to the Polls or making it easier to overturn an election. Is it your hope that with this second ending of the quorum that you`ll get further concessions from Texas Republicans?

GONZALES: I mean, we did see those provisions removed. And, you know, they said that it was a mistake having it in there.


GONZALES: Accidently got into the bill finally. But still the bill as is written right now still has many restrictions in there that will be very harmful for the state of Texas.

CAPEHART: Let me go to you now, Representative Diego Bernal. Can you talk about the impact to specific communities?

STATE REP. DIEGO BERNAL (D), TEXAS: Absolutely. Thanks for asking.

There`s a provision in the bill that essentially criminalizes voter assistance (ph). This is the practice of helping your neighbor, helping your friend, helping your mom or your grandmother vote.


And so, what the provision does is it criminalizes that activity in a lot of ways. It creates trap doors and tripwires.

But worst of this, there is an oath that you now have to take that said (ph) you didn`t persuade or encourage someone to select you to help them vote. And so, what that means is if I say, hey, Pia (ph), or Nana (ph), or Bobby (ph), come on, it`s Wednesday, let`s go vote. I promise you I`d take you, get your (INAUDIBLE) let`s go do it -- what that means is that when I`m filling out that oath and it says, did you persuade this person to choose you to act as their assistant, did I, didn`t I? I`m not sure.

And the penalty for that is criminal. So, if I don`t want to get myself in trouble, I might back off and say, never mind.

My aunt, my grandmother, my neighbor who I`ve gone with might say, I don`t want to get Diego in trouble, this isn`t going to work out the way I wanted to. The safest thing for both of us to do is to walk away.

They are criminalizing what we`ve done in our community for a long time, and they`re making it harder to vote. And that`s exactly why we`re here because they`re taking everyday access and making it harder. That is a hallmark of a voter suppression bill throughout history (AUDIO GAP).

CAPEHART: Representative Senfronia Thompson, you`re the dean of the Texas Democrats. We heard you at the end of the last bloc and you spoke to my heart as a black American but also, quite simply, as an American.

Put this current voting rights fight in the context of history.

STATE REP. SENFRONIA THOMPSON (D), TEXAS: Well, let me tell you what, I had an opportunity for a long time to look at this situation. I remember my grandmother buying poll taxes and going to vote. And that was a sign that says "no dogs, no Negroes and no Mexicans".

Here`s what poll taxes -- poll watchers does in a polling place. They send people that look like the Proud Boys into the Black neighborhood and the Brown neighborhood, and they have free range to walk around and look at you, mean, mad, and bad. And that has a very chilling effect in any polling place where minority persons are trying to have a say in their democracy.

And as a result of that, people are intimidated to the extent that they don`t want to cast a vote, and then the news gets around about what`s happening at the polling sites. And so, the vote gets suppressed.

So, what -- so what we are experiencing now is we`re experiencing a fight of our lives to be able to cast a vote and have a say in a democracy. And we should have a right. It is a situation where enough is enough, and we ought to be -- people ought to be tired to the extent of trying to pass laws that rip (ph) (AUDIO GAP) our voting power (ph) within this country.

We are Americans like everybody else. And we should have the same privileges as everyone to go and cast their votes.

Intimidation, you can call it any name you want, it`s still intimidation. When it comes to trying to make people feel like that they are doing something wrong to the extent that they walk out the place and not cast the vote, and that`s wrong. It`s wrong then, it was wrong during my grandmother`s time, and it`s still wrong today.

CAPEHART: I know it`s Monday but I`m going to say amen like it`s Sunday.

Texas Representatives Chris Turner, Jessica Gonzales, Diego Bernal, and Senfronia Thompson, thank you so much for joining us.

Up next, we`ll talk to some of the Texas Democratic parents who brought their very young children to Washington with them.

And we`ll do a little fact check on Texas Republican attacks about skipping work. Let`s just say a state legislator is not like a United States congressperson.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My colleagues left behind children, sick loved ones, elderly parents. They left behind their day jobs. And they took health risks to be here because there`s an active pandemic. None of this weakens our resolve in this fight for voting rights.




CAPEHART: Welcome back.

We want to let you know that many of the Texas Democrats who were supposed to join tonight in studio are watching virtually.

O`DONNELL,: It has not been easy for the Texas Democrats to come to Washington. John Bucy drove 23 hours with his pregnant wife and 17-month- old daughter Bradley.

Erin Zwiener brought her three-year-old daughter, Lark, who appeared with us last week.


STATE REP. ERIN ZWIENER (D-TX): We have two jobs here. One is to tell our story of how limited voting access already is in Texas. That is well-timed, probably. Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Oh, come on, she can come on camera, too. Yes, let`s see what she has -- what`s her name?

ZWIENER: This is Lark.

O`DONNELL: What is her name.

ZWIENER: Lark, like the bird.


ZWIENER: Ok, let mama talk.


O`DONNELL: And we`re joined now by Representative John Bucy. Representative Bucy, what has it been like for you and your family so far after that marathon drive?

STATE REP. JOHN BUCY (D-TX): You know, it`s been amazing to be here. But I tell you what, the fight for voting rights is a family affair in my household. So when we got word that we needed -- that it was go time and we had to get out of the state, my wife and I sat down, we had a conversation, and we knew the best plan for us was to stick together.

So we made the decision because Bradley`s only 17 months and is too young to be vaccinated and too young to wear a mask on a plane. But for us that meant driving.

Having the privilege to do so, we grabbed the diaper bag, we grabbed our laptops and we hit the road, making the 23-hour drive through the night. And since being here, you know, we`ve had some very impactful meetings.


BUCY: And something that Senator Warren told us continues to resonate with me. She said democracy is not a given, it is the responsibility of every generation to fight for it.

That`s why Texas Democrats are here in D.C. And I hope that by having Bradley here with us, we`re instilling that belief in her as well because soon it will be her generation`s responsibility to fight for the American democracy that we all cherish.

O`DONNELL: Representative Erin Zwiener, I think you know that lark is my favorite guest so far on this subject just in the last week. How is she holding up in your hotel room, and how has the week been for you?

ZWIENER: She is doing great. She has been happily completing puzzles and putting stickers in sticker books.

O`DONNELL: And when you look back on this years from now, maybe when Lark`s in high school, what will you be telling her about what you were doing in Washington?

ZWIENER: I`ll be telling her how much she inspired me during this fight. There`s practical reasons I brought my daughter, but I also remember that the great thing about having her with me is that she reminds me why I do this work.

I want my daughter to grow up in a world with good access to healthcare and with clean air and clean water. And I want her to grow up in a world where the United States of America is still a democracy where every single vote counts and is valued, and every American has the ability to cast that vote. Every generation does have a responsibility to expand access to the ballot to more eligible folks.

Right now we are at risk of going backwards, of going back on our promise of democracy. And I want her to know she was part of the fight to protect it.

CAPEHART: Representative Gene Wu, you are also a parent. You left your family behind in Texas, but not just your family. You also left your job behind. And this is something I don`t think people understand.

When they hear Republicans attack you guys, the Texas Democrats as absconding from work, being a state legislator in Texas is not like being a member of the U.S. Congress where you make $170,000 a year.

I just want you to talk about the sacrifice you`re making, and just give this factoid to the viewers watching. The annual salary for a Texas legislator such as yourself is $7,200. And you receive a daily stipend of $221 each day you`re in session. This is not a job you do to get rich, is it, Representative Wu?

STATE REPRESENTATIVE GENE WU (D-TX): No, not at all. Most of the times when I tell people what our actual salary is, they spit their drink out. And they cannot believe that the people that are paid to be their elected representative and govern the state are basically, they qualify for welfare.

So, all of us, every single one of us in this delegation has a day job. We have to struggle, we have to work, and we have to make ends meet just like everyone else. We have mortgages to pay.

But, you know, unlike a lot of the Republicans in our chamber, we`re not millionaires, we don`t have our own jets, and we don`t have the luxury of not working.

So, we`re sacrificing a lot more than just time away from our families. But all of that sacrifice is worth it. It`s worth it to protect Texans, it`s worth it to fight for the American dream. It`s worth it to make sure that we have a future to leave to our children.

O`DONNELL: Texas representatives John Bucy, Erin Zwiener and Gene Wu, and there is Lark, there`s our favorite guest for the week -- thank you all very much for joining us tonight. That`s the best shot of the night.

Really appreciate it. Thanks for joining us.

And coming up next, what Joe Manchin is saying in the room and what the Texas Democrats could face when they return home. That`s next.



KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know what you have done comes with great sacrifice, Both personal and political. And you are doing this in support and in defense of some of our nation`s highest ideals.


CAPEHART: Since they arrived, the Texas Democrats have had meetings with more than a dozen lawmakers and leaders including Vice President Kamala Harris. But all eyes and ears were on the meeting last Thursday with Senator Joe Manchin.

It`s the second time the Texas Democrats sat down with the West Virginia Democrat who has repeatedly said he`s not willing to eliminate the filibuster to pass legislation, including voting rights. But he also said this.


SENATOR JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): We`ve all come to a total agreement that what we want is basically to protect voting rights. That`s it, voting rights bill, that`s all.


CAPEHART: Representative Victoria Neave and Toni Rose, you were both in that meeting with Senator Manchin. Representative Neave, do you think you made any progress moving the needle with Senator Manchin?

STATE REPRESENTATIVE VICTORIA NEAVE (D-TX): Yes. Thank you so much for having us. We are really grateful to Senator Manchin for his time. And there is no doubt in my mind that we are aligned with him on the need for national standards to protect our precious right to vote.

We know that our community`s vote has the power to change the trajectory of our nation. He understands that as a former secretary of state. He understands the sense of urgency for us, our mission. And we shared with him the fact that, listen, there are powerful forces in Texas right now trying to roll back our rights. But we know that the power of the people is stronger.


NEAVE: And so we are thankful to him for his time. And to the thousands of people who are raising their voices, who are speaking out because we left that meeting with hope, and really the same hope that we have felt as more of us (INAUDIBLE) on Capitol Hill.

CAPEHART: But Representative Toni Rose, do you think Senator Manchin understands the civil rights aspect of voter suppression?

STATE REPRESENTATIVE TONI ROSE (D-TX): He definitely understands the civil rights aspect of it. During our meeting, I would say the first three- fourths of the meeting he spoke and gave us his point of view of his position. And he was very clear and he`s very supportive of voting.

CAPEHART: All right. Well, that is good to hear. Do you think -- do you think in the end he`s actually going to move on that, though?

ROSE: Well, one of the things that I understand him, it kind of seems that he`s more of a stickler for the rules, you know, when you start changing rules sometimes they can have unintended consequences. But he is definitely committed to voting rights.

CAPEHART: All right. And I want to mention something that happened during that meeting with Senator Manchin on Thursday. The Republican speaker of the House in Texas stripped Democrat Joe Moody of his position as speaker pro tempore while Moody was talking to Senator Manchin about voting rights.

Representative Moody is the first Democrat to face retaliation for breaking quorum. And Republicans have tried to strip other members of their committee leadership posts. And Governor Abbott has even threatened to arrest the Democrats when they return to Texas.

I -- you know, want to come to you, Representative Jarvis because -- I`m sorry, Jarvis Johnson, Representative Johnson. From what I understand, you are facing as a result of being here in Washington and leaving Texas, you are facing threats, a lot of threats. And from what I understand, I`d love for you to talk about this with the audience. You won`t let your son drive in Texas. Why?

STATE REPRESENTATIVE JARVIS JOHNSON (D-TX): Well, obviously, the governor has made a decision and speaker of the house has made a decision to, as they say, and I quote, "corral us, round us up" and bring us back to the state capitol to vote.

The question has to be for me, what does that mean? They are going to send police officers and law enforcement to, to look for us. While I`m here my son often times drives my car. My car has state plates on it. I am very fearful that my son potentially with those state plates and if in fact law enforcement are out looking for us as they have gone to our offices and to our homes, that my son may get pulled over.

We understand in this country at this time the relationship that has been between police officers and black males. I`m very fearful that my son may get pulled over because the police officers were looking for me. And they will end up pulling my son, which has my name as well.

And of course, I`m very fearful. I don`t want to even think about what the consequences could be. Because a routine traffic stop in America is never routine when it comes to black men. And so I`m very concerned about that.

CAPEHART: Let me get you on one more thing, Representative Johnson. After - - one of the retaliatory things that are being done by -- or being threatened by Governor Abbott is to basically threatening the salaries of the legislative staff in the Texas state legislature. How serious is that? And how worried are you about that?

JOHNSON: That`s showmanship governance. At the end of the day, the governor said in his tweet that he wanted to punish those that left their post. And so Article 10 is the legislative budget for 2,500 personnel and staff for all of us, Republicans and Democrats.

Had the governor had his choice, he could simply try to punish only Democrats. But what he has to do is to take all of our salaries away from us.

He said he wanted to punish us as Democrats. But as you heard earlier in the show we make $600 a month. So at the end of the day that`s not a punishment. But it is for our staff. And the fact that he`s also punished the sergeant at arms (INAUDIBLE) that in a sense tells me that he is willing to defund not only the sergeant at arms, which are former police officers, but every staff that works in the capitol simply because we as Democrats did not do what he wanted us to do and we`re not here to be his delegate, we`re here (INAUDIBLE) our constituents.


CAPEHART. And with that we`re going to have to leave it there. Texas Representatives Toni Rose, Victoria Neave, and Jarvis Johnson. Thank you for joining us.

Coming up we will be joined by a special guest who has a message for all the Texas Democrats in D.C. tonight.

Stay with us.


O`DONNELL: Welcome back.

And before we hear from our final guests tonight we have a message from back home from a fellow Texas Democrat to the Texas Democrats in Washington.


BETO O`ROURKE (D), FORMER TEXAS REPRESENTATIVE: To the Texas Democrats in Washington, D.C., we are so proud of you. Not only have you stopped the latest attack on voting rights in Texas, but your presence in D.C. is the moral leverage necessary to get the Senate and the president of the United States to do more to pass voting rights legislation there.

So know that we`re grateful for you. That we have your back here in Texas and we wish you Godspeed in everything that you do going forward.


O`DONNELL: Representative Rafael Anchia is the chair of the Mexican- American Legislative Caucus. You heard -- as a group you heard today from a variety of people. You`re going to continue to hear from people.

But Dolores Huerta joined you today. She`s over 90 years old. She has been fighting these kinds of causes for her entire life. What did it mean to hear from her today? And what is the Mexican-American history of voting challenges that we`re seeing also represented in this story?

STATE REPRESENTATIVE RAFAEL ANCHIA (D-TX): Well, it was incredibly good to hear from Dolores Huerta. She`s an icon for millions of Latino-Americans. And she`s put her money where her mouth is over the years in fighting for the freedom to vote. It was important for us to hear. It really strengthens our resolve.


ANCHIA: And I just want to contextualize for everybody. What we`ve been seeing here in Texas, the Texas legislature has found to have intentionally discriminated against the voting rights of Texans including Latinos and African-Americans ten times by three different courts during the last decade alone. This isn`t something that you might read in old timey text votes or see in Super 8. This is contemporary and this is digital and it is happening to us right now.

You know, there`ve also been failed voter purges by Republicans secretaries of state who have been disgraced and noncompliance with national voter registration, motor voter provisions.

So you know, what we`re seeing today is just the continuation of Republican attacks in Texas on the voting rights of Latinos. And we`re done with it. We have to fight.

And it`s important. I tell you, I take this very personally because my mother is from Mexico. My father is from Spain. In Mexico they had one- party rule for -70 years. In Spain -- my Dad grew up under absolute dictatorship.

And so when you try to eliminate our freedom to vote in the state of Texas, when you try to make it harder rather than more accessible and safer, then we`re going to stand up to protect the voting rights of millions of Texans including Latinos.

CAPEHART: And Representative Nicole Collier, you`re chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus. What will you say about what the Texas Democrats did in this moment?

STATE REPRESENTATIVE NICOLE COLLIER (D-TX): Well, thank you so much. You know, there are those who will say that elections are reserved for those who are part of some elite club. But that`s not how Abraham Lincoln said it. Abraham Lincoln said government is of the people, by the people and for the people. Communities should be able to freely elect the candidate of their choice. They should have a representative that represents their values and their interests.

Our freedom to vote is under attack. And it is happening right in front of our eyes. Too often we`re looking for obvious signs of suppression but suppression doesn`t have to be obvious. It is little things like long lines and empowering untrained partisan poll watchers. Moving your polling location. Changing the hours that the polls are open.

So we have to make sure that we`re mindful of these attacks because they disrupt the election process and it makes it less likely for people to participate. Voting doesn`t have to be hard but it should be fair and free.

The truth is, when they can`t win voters, they change the rules. And so we need your help to contact Congress. Take action. Notify your representative and ask them to pass the For The People Act, and take up the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. If you want more information, please visit

CAPEHART: Representative Collier, one quick follow-up. What`s your idea of victory. What does Victory look like?

COLLIER: Well, you know, victory can look like different things. You know, if we see Congress making steps toward passing this legislation, we`re being very realistic here. We`re not expecting Congress to pass this within the next 20 days.

But When we see movement, and when we see more people getting involved in doing their part, and exercising their right to vote, that is progress.

O`DONNELL: Representative Anchia, How long do you expect to stay in Washington?

ANCHIA: We`re here for the duration. We know that the August recess starts on August 6th. Our legislative session finishes on August 7th. We plan to be here to kill these bills in Texas that make it harder to exercise our freedom to vote.

You`ve got Democrats who are locked in. We`re planning to be here for the duration to buy Congress some time to act.

O`DONNELL: At some point, will you have to return to Texas and when you do, will the Republican control of the legislature be able to basically have their will executed in that legislature with these laws?


ANCHIA: I mean, that is the reality. If we have a backstop that from the -- from the U.S. Senate AND the Congress to make sure that we can protect voting rights, then they will not be successful. And they will have to respect the voting rights of millions of Texans. And that`s the goal of this group in Washington.

CAPEHART: Texas Representatives Rafael Anchia and Nicole Collier, thank you for joining us.

ANCHIA: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And thank you to my partner tonight, Jonathan Capehart for joining us. And to all of the Texas Democrats who joined this discussion virtually tonight -- there they are.



BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again.