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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 10/1/21

Guests: Katie Porter, Scott Gottlieb, Marva Sadler, Porter McConnell

Summary

Democrats continue to push to pass Biden`s agenda. Interview with California congresswoman and deputy chair of the Progressive Caucus, Katie Porter. According to Merck, their experimental COVID pill reduced the risk of hospitalization or death in COVID patients by around 50 percent.

Transcript

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Brian Stevenson, thank you so much, it`s always such a pleasure to have you and I cannot wait to visit the new museum. Have a great weekend, thank you.

That is "ALL IN" for this week.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now with Ali Velshi, in for Rachel.

Good evening, Ali. I`m sorry I`m late.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: It`s not my show to give the time away, but I was really enjoying that conversation. Had it been mine, I would have said keep going. That was very, very interesting.

Good to see you, my friend. Have yourself a great weekend.

HAYES: You too.

VELSHI: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Rachel`s got the night off and happy Friday to all of you and happy October.

Especially to everyone in the United States House of Representatives because for them, Friday has actually just started. For most of us today, we were all of us living in Friday, October the 1st. However, in the United States House of Representatives it was still Thursday. It was September.

You`ll recall that we spent all of yesterday waiting for a vote in the House on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the roads and bridges bill. That vote never came and yesterday felt endless. But in the weird arcane time space continuum that governs the U.S. House it turns out that yesterday really was endless. As in, it did not end. Until tonight. Let me explain this to you.

When lawmakers left Capitol Hill last night to get a few hours of sleep because their work wasn`t getting done, before coming back this morning to keep working toward a deal, they did not adjourn the House like they do at the end of a workday. Instead they went into a recess, which kept the House in the Thursday, September 30th legislative day even though as the Earth outside its windows continued to turn on its axis into Friday, October 1st, a parallel universe, if you will, existed at the United States Congress.

You knew Nancy Pelosi had many powers but you didn`t realize she could actually control time. But as extraordinarily long as that Thursday was, and as it comes to an end, and as Capitol Hill joins the rest of us, here in the month of October, we know one thing, the vote on that roads and bridges bill that speaker Pelosi was holding the floor open for tonight and through most of today, well, that vote`s not happening, certainly not tonight. And not this weekend either.

Remember what this bill is. It`s the small piece of President Biden`s legislative agenda, the roads and bridges part, the stuff you used to call infrastructure. The vast, vast majority of Democrats on Capitol Hill want to pass all of Biden`s agenda which means also passing the much larger Build Back Better legislation that contains the Democrats` initiatives on health care and education and climate.

Now because Democrats` majorities in the House and Senate are so slim, if Democrats want to do anything they`ve all got to be in it together. But a handful of Democrats want the House to pass the smaller infrastructure package right now, and leave the rest for later.

The overwhelming majority of Democrats want to pass it all together because leaving the rest for later may mean leaving it for never. You know how that goes. And the Democrats who want to wait until conclude all be passed together, led by the congressional progressive caucus, well they`re holding the line, they`re saying that if the smaller bill is brought up for a vote they will vote it down.

And so, Speaker Pelosi has not brought that bill up for a vote yet because if there`s one thing we know about Nancy Pelosi, she`s a vote counter. She does not bring bills to the floor if they are not going to pass. So this is all very frustrating to everyone, especially all the people, not politicians, all the people in this country who are -- the ins and outs of the legislative drama in Washington, all the people who cannot just stop time whenever they want and drag out September for an extra day, Americans who just want to see progress on all of the incredibly popular things that are in this agenda.

And for American voters and Democratic lawmakers who want to see these things become reality, this is a scary time as well. Everyone is very aware that the Democrats` entire agenda hangs in the balance here which has massive implications for the future of the country and because those Democratic majorities in Congress are so slim, all it takes is for a couple of Democrats in the House, or literally one United States senator to walk away and it`s over.

But in terms of just trying to get a basic handle on where things stand right now, good or bad, progress or stalemate, home or imminent doom there seems to be quite a distance right now to how things look to people on the outside and how they look to people on the inside. See, after this vote did not happen last night there were all these headlines about the president`s agenda being in peril, about an impasse or defeat for Democrats.

[21:05:05]

"The New York Times" wrote, last night`s lack of a vote was a, quote, significant setback for Biden`s agenda that Democrats are in a feud, and that there is a liberal revolt and yet, what we are actually hearing from actual Democratic lawmakers and from the president himself is that things are actually going pretty well, that they`re in a better position today than they were yesterday. You can chalk that up to spin if you want but there aren`t even anonymous quotes from Democratic lawmakers or insiders warning this whole thing is about to fall apart. It`s not like Democrats are putting on a brave face in public but in private they`re despairing. We have -- in there, if they were, we`d know. We can tell, lots of Democrats haven`t been this optimistic about getting to a deal on the president`s agenda in a long time.

Take this from Punch Bowl News, a sort of ultimate Capitol Hill insider newsletter. Quote, Thursday`s events forced all parties to the table and there`s something to that. Everyone`s cards are face up now and that`s a step toward ultimately advancing Biden`s agenda.

Well, president Biden went to Capitol Hill today to meet with House Democrats, the White House was reportedly on the phone with Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, one of the two Senate Democratic holdouts on a deal, right up to the moment that he went to the House. President`s meeting on the Hill wasn`t long, about 30 minutes, and as he and the lawmakers left the meeting, I`m going to let you be the judge of whether these are people who are staring into an abyss, or people who are optimistic that they`re going to pass the president`s agenda.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m telling you, we`re going to get this done.

REPORTER: When?

BIDEN: It doesn`t matter when, it doesn`t matter whether it`s in six minutes, six days, or six weeks. We`re going to get it done.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): He`s the president and he is wonderful, and he was really clear that we need to get both bills done and that`s what we`re going to do. We`re going to get both bills done. It`s going to be tough, we`re going to have to come down in our number and do that work. So we`re going to get to work.

REP. HENRY CUELLER (D-TX): He basically said two things, one, it`s not going to be 3.5, maybe 2 instead of 3.5. So he set that. And then the other thing he basically said we need to pass both.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): I think the good news that we can take out of the meeting tonight is that the American people are going to be well taken care of. The president has not wavered from his agenda. I think most of the members of this caucus who know we have to govern are happy because they see the light at the end of the tunnel. And we see the ability for Democrats to get this done.

REP. CORI BUSH (D-MO): Hearing from him directly was really good for the entire caucus, and I think that like now we can go and do some work and see what we can come up with. The House needs to get this done.

REP. RICHARD NEAL (D-MA): He pointed out that there were two members of the Senate that have not yet subscribed of the full package and simultaneously he talked about the value of the package, and how we can`t miss this opportunity. I think he reassured everybody. I`ve got to tell you, been around a long time. I thought it was really good.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Been around a long time, I thought it was really good. That was Congressman Richie Neal. He`s the chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Plus, the president himself and a cross section there of the Democratic Caucus all basically singing from the same hymnal, feeling good, moving forward, both the large Build Back Better legislation and the smaller roads and bridges bill will pass, not clear when. And the larger bill may have to get smaller.

NBC News is reporting tonight that inside the meeting President Biden told Democratic lawmakers that negotiations on the budget reconciliation bill are now in the $1.9 trillion to $2.3 trillion range, down from their desired $3.5 trillion figure, that`s according to multiple sources in the room.

And, look, that`s a long way from an actual deal. This is obviously not guaranteed. Things could still fall apart at any moment. It means a big fight over whether and how much and in what ways the Build Back Better plan is going to be shrunk. And it will never not be frustrating to the vast majority of Democrats that they`re being asked to scale back the plan, largely because of these two, two senators whose demands are shifting, contradictory, and often nonsensical.

But you heard Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee in that clip a moment ago talking about lawmakers, quote, who know we have to govern, end quote, being happy about where things are at. This is what you have to do when you are a party that is actually trying to engage in substantive, serious governing.

We may have -- we`ve kind of forgotten that last few years. We`ve lost that muscle memory what it looks and feels like when lawmakers actually govern. Don`t forget what the Republicans on Capitol Hill are doing right now.

Over in the Senate, Democrats are trying to pass a simple bill that would do nothing other than prevent the United States from defaulting on its debt, which would cause economic calamity.

[21:10:09]

Republicans in the Senate are actively blocking Democrats from doing that, laughing about the Democrats trying to protect the full faith and credit of the United States. Republican Senator Rick Scott of South Carolina saying - - I`m sorry, of Florida saying this is going to be a ball. I`m going to have so much fun.

Republican Senator Kevin Cramer, quote, it`s sort of fun to watch their chaos.

One of the two parties has just been totally checked out from actual governing for a long time now. We may not remember what it`s like when politicians argue and negotiate, and haggle in an attempt to actually hash out legislation through compromise rather than just try to exert dominance and create chaos.

But we are watching an attempt at real governance in real-time right now and as Joe Biden likes to say, part of the Democrats` job right now is to show that Democratic governance still works.

Joining us now, NBC news Capitol Hill correspondent with whom I share both a first name and a last initial. Ali Vitali.

My friend, thank you for joining us, it`s gotten quiet behind you tonight. What is happening right now?

ALI VITALI, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, apparently, we all hit Friday at the same time, and lawmakers as soon as they voted, they got out of town because the House at least is going to be gone for the next roughly two weeks. They`re now in a position where they are going to be given 72 hours notice before they have to come back for votes and that sort of leaves us in an open ended question of what the timing is on this.

I think that something I heard from a lawmaker after the Biden meeting rings true for the vibe of the entire caucus right now, this lawmakers said that Biden told her keep hope alive and as I was talking to members of both moderate caucuses and progressive caucuses, it`s clear that there is an optimism here, a reenergizing from hearing from the president himself.

That`s not to say that there aren`t moderates who are upset. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, for example, continuing to reiterate that in her view these bills are delinked and that she`s only going to consider each on their own merits. At the same time, though, what I`ve heard from progressives is that they feel bolstered by the fact that they have been clear in their demands from the beginning, that they want to have reconciliation in tandem with the bipartisan infrastructure bill and as they huddled tonight and I caught up with them after, what they`re doing now is figuring out the policy piece of this. Not the price tag, and that`s the focus for them.

The shifting this conversation away from whether it`s $2 trillion or $3.5 trillion, which it`s not going $3.5 trillion, that much is definitely assured at this point, but for them, it`s a conversation about what they need to be in there, and that`s mow they`re going to get to the price tag. That`s not just a political gamble for them to try to get all of the policy things there that they need, it`s also a way for them to continue to remind people of what`s actually in this bill. As I`ve been talking to sources throughout this entire negotiating period, one of the frustrations that I`ve heard from Democrats is that the conversation has gotten away from the policy, and when you look at a lot of this policy it is very popular. It makes sense why they want people to be hearing that it`s about a child tax credit, that it`s about free community college, that it`s about child care and helping women get back into the workforce.

Those are things you`re going to hear progressives talking about as they move forward on this. It`s not about the Manchin/Sinema debate over 1.9 trillion or 2.3 trillion, thought that is going to be very important.

But for progressives it`s more about the larger policy debate, something you and I have been covering during the 2020 presidential election all the way through now when this is the chance for them to make good on those promises.

VELSHI: It`s a bigger winning argument, right, to talk about the things that it will do for people than the price tags. We did hear from Congresswoman Jayapal, she said we will take as long as it takes. It seems to be a bit of a walk-back from the hard line that everybody was taking, progressives are saying we`re not voting on the other bill until you vote on this bill and moderates are saying we`re -- we need to get this other infrastructure bill, the smaller one, done first. Everybody seems to have quieted down on which one comes first.

VITALI: I think that`s true. Mostly because if you look at the last few days the time crunch seems to have been the motivating factor to jump starting negotiations that had been pretty much at a stalemate. Neither of these sides have changed where they`re at. Moderates want what they want. Progressives want what they want. And Biden still wants the agenda passed.

What has changed is the strict adherence to the day the vote has to happen and frankly, even, in what order. Monday was the initial day we were supposed to see a vote on this. It slipped to Thursday. A lawmakers told me yesterday, I could see a world in which this ends up slipping into next week.

And you heard the president there saying if it takes six weeks, it takes six weeks. I was the one who asked Congresswoman Jayapal what she thought the plan was over the court of the next few days, there is a thinking and this is how things always go here, they`re going to continue meeting and talking and conferencing virtually over the weekend, even as people go home.

[21:15:08]

The work doesn`t stop even though physically many of them won`t still be here but the time crunch that we`re feeling or were feeling over the course of this week seems to have dissipated because Biden went into the room and effectively reminded these lawmakers, I wrote the bill. The words a lawmaker told me he used, reminding them they have Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and this is the Democratic president`s agenda here.

VELSHI: My friend, it is good to see you as always. Thank you, Ali Vitali, NBC Capitol Hill correspondent.

I want to bring in California congresswoman and deputy chair of the Progressive Caucus, Katie Porter.

Congresswoman Porter, it`s always good to see you. Thank you for being with us this evening.

I am so taken by something that Ali Vitali was talking about, which I`ve been thinking about for a long time, and that is getting caught up on 3.5 trillion versus 2.2 trillion versus 1.9 trillion when this is a bill full of popular things for the American public. It might be better talking about the bill than the money in the bill.

REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): Well, I think that`s exactly what we have been trying to do, that is certainly, as someone who represents a competitive seat about equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, they are interested in what this bill is going to do to improve their lives and to strengthen the economy. And so that`s why we`ve really been talking about child care, that`s our priority. Free community college, that`s our priority. And the "our" I mean here is Democrats and the president.

So the more we tell people what`s in this bill the more feedback we get from them about what`s important to them, the better job we can do crafting legislation that really will deliver on the president`s agenda.

VELSHI: So are there real negotiations when Kyrsten Sinema says the bill is too high. When Joe Manchin starts talking about inflation and he won`t pay that much money. Real negotiations when somebody says what do you not like in here or is it progressives dealing Nancy Pelosi and the White House, we need this bill passed, versus moderates telling the White House and Nancy Pelosi we need this passed.

Are we actually whittling this down into something that everybody will support?

PORTER: Progress is definitely being made, and I think you heard that in the president`s tone today when he talked about hope, he talked about we`re going to get it done and I think everybody regardless of their particular view left the room feeling like this was going to be a positive forward going negotiation. And I think where wee really are starting to make progress, as you said, is moving away from, you know, vague kind of general objections, to very specifics, to talking about exactly what this program would do, how fast it would help people, how we can make sure the program is effective and makes the best use of tax dollars that it can.

This is what it looks like when Congress does its job. I think, as you mentioned, it`s been a while since we`ve seen Congress really take the time and debate, go back and forth, have those negotiations, and they`re multi- party negotiations to your point. It isn`t that we`re all 500 are not in the room together. We`re having multiple conversations but everybody is very, very fortunate to be guided by President Biden here who has set out a clear agenda that has the support of the vast majority of Americans regardless of political party.

VELSHI: Are there red lines in here, places where you and your progressive colleagues will not go? Are there places that your moderate colleagues will not go or have we -- what sounded like came out of that meeting in Washington -- at the Capitol is that we`re going to work to get to something. It may take a my more days but we`re going to work to come to a deal.

PORTER: Well, we absolutely have to see the details. We`re not playing the "Price is Right". We`re not just guessing at a number. We`re asking ourselves how much would it cost to solve this problem and improve the situation. We talk about the cost of community college, when we talk about elder care and talk about health care, housing, how much does it take to improve this problem and how can we design the very best program that stretches those tax dollars to do the very most that it can and how can we pay for this bill?

And that part of it is incredibly important as well and I think there`s real progress from Senator Sinema and Manchin on that front. It`s putting together both what we`re going to do and how we`re going to pay for it.

VELSHI: Yeah, a whole other conversation you and I can sit and have one of these days, every five year preoccupation we have with the national debt and how to deal with that.

Great to have you here tonight, California Congresswoman and deputy chair of the Progressive Caucus, Katie Porter.

Coming up next, amid the terrible deadlines about the pandemic, there is at least one piece of very promising news today, something that very smart people are calling it a possible game changer. That`s up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:23:51]

VELSHI: We have crossed yet another awful threshold in our fight with the coronavirus today. According to NBC data, more than 700,000 Americans have now died from the virus and we have crossed that threshold ten months after an effective vaccine was first made available. The problem is we`ve got a huge amount of vaccine hesitancy in this country and that resistance, the hesitancy is not a personal choice, as you may have seen repeated over and over in your Facebook feed.

It`s a public health decision. Your choice affects the health and welfare of the public around you. It can help or hurt your community. Your choice can be a life or death decision for someone else.

Look at this, this is from the Seattle times, quote, I have no beds. Hospitalizations spike in rural Washington, amid fifth COVID-19 wave. With an influx of COVID patients who each require a lot of hospital resources, central Washington hospital now has a backlog of heart surgeries to grapple with. The director of intensive care at the hospital described it this way.

Quote, we`ve got a backup of 30 cases that need to be done. They wanted to do one Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday this week, I have no beds.

[21:25:02]

I have one clean bed in the ICU. The intensive care director also spoke of witnessing vaccine hesitancy in her own hospital, quote, it`s astounding to me, the number of people we have intubated that right up until the time we put those in, they`re fighting with you to say this is not real, or can I have the shot now?

This is happening in Washington state right now where patients swarming those hospitals at both state -- are both state residents and Idaho residents who cannot receive care in their own state, prompting Washington`s governor to call on Idaho politicians to do more to curb the virus in their state.

Alaska has enabled crisis standards of care for its state last month for any hospital that needs it. This week, another hospital in that state decided they needed to ration care, cases are still on an upward trajectory there. That`s where we are right now, on October 1st, 2021. There might be some hope for the future.

Pfizer vaccine approval for kids age 5 to 11 is on the horizon, possibly as soon as November. The FDA scheduled a meeting of its advisory panel to discuss the vaccine for young kids for October 26th. That`s in the works right now.

And we know more parents are open to vaccinating their kids than they were a couple of months ago, today more potentially hopeful news, the pharmaceutical company Merck just released the results of a clinical trial of a pill it`s developing for people who are already sick with mild or moderate cases of COVID, they say it works.

According to Merck, their experimental COVID pill reduced the risk of hospitalization or death in COVID patients by around 50 percent. And unlike other treatments already in use it`s easier to administer. You don`t need an IV. Take it at home. It can potentially help keep people with COVID out of a hospital. Merck plans to apply for FDA emergency use approval as soon as it can. This could be a very big deal.

Joining us now is Dr. Scott Gottlieb. He`s a former FDA commissioner who sits on Pfizer`s board of directors. He`s the author of the book "Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic."

Dr. Gottlieb, good to see you.

I mean, on one level I`m never as a business journalist comfortable with getting announcements from publicly traded companies, right? I would wish they would go through the process and we`d learn it through journals and organizations. But bottom line is, Merck says this pill could work and that`s a big deal, if true.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: Yeah, and the results are coming out this week because we`re trying to move very quickly in the setting of a crisis. Normally these results would be published in a journal, I suspect. This is probably one of the most profound treatment effects I`ve seen from an orally available pill in the treatment of a respiratory pathogen, perhaps ever.

This could be a real game changer and the important detail from this clinical trial is that the patients enrolled in this trial for whom you saw that treatment, saw a 50 percent reduction in hospitalization or death, these were patients with risk factors for COVID, risk factors that put them at risk for severe outcomes from COVID, including advanced stage obesity. To see that kind of treatment effect in an at risk population is quite profound.

The bottom line is we will get a drug to treat this disease. It`s not a virus that should be hard for us to target with an orally available medicine. There`s other drugs in development, including one by the company on the board of Pfizer, both in advanced development. One or more of these drugs is likely to work, if one doesn`t work, there`s many more behind it.

So, I think we will have a pill for this disease. Again, it`s not a substitute for vaccination. This is a pill that could be used for people who are vaccinated and have breakthrough infections and are still at risk of a bad outcome.

VELSHI: But you`ve made the point earlier today that it could have a psychological effect, the idea that there`s a drug to treat it. Tell me what you mean by that.

GOTTLIEB: Right, I think that the two things that still cause people a lot of concern, even people who have been vaccinated is, one, children have not been vaccinated. A lot of adults vaccinated are worried about going back into the office to normal activities for fear they`ll develop a mild or asymptomatic infection and bring the infection back into the home with other vulnerable people in the household.

So, I think getting a vaccine for children is very important to restore consumer confidence, and I think the idea of having a pill that you could take, the first symptoms of COVID, to prevent progression to more symptomatic and severe disease is going to give people a lot more confidence to go out and about, even if they`re vaccinated and there`s going to be people who remain unvaccinated for those individuals which pill could be effective as well. We`re not going to be able to able to vaccinate the entire public. At the end of the day if we get to 85 percent of the adult population over the age of 18 vaccinated, I think that`s a very good result. We`re at 78 percent right now.

So, we`re doing quite well. We still have a ways to go.

[21:30:00]

VELSHI: What you said worried me for a second, are people who are not prepared to get vaccinated at this point, it`s ridiculous, right? We`ve got the evidence we need. It`s not reasonable to accommodate people who no longer want to be vaccinated. Is this going to encourage them not to get vaccinated because there might be a pill to solve COVID?

GOTTLIEB: Yeah, I certainly hope not. I suspect on the margins it will. The idea that there`s a drug available for people, it will. We need to continue to push all the things we`re doing to try to get more people vaccinated.

The bottom line is if you look at pediatric vaccinations where we have mandates in place, vaccines are a requirement to go to school. The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, we get about 90 percent of kids vaccinated and in the best years 94 percent vaccinated. With an adult vaccine where there`s some discretion whether or not people take it I don`t know that we`re able to achieve levels much above 85, 86 percent. If we get there, it`s quite a good result.

Remember, if we were dealing with the old Wuhan variant, or b.1.1.7. If we had 78 percent of the people vaccinated. That would be quite a wall of immunity. The reason why we need to get more in the public is we`re dealing with a much more contagious variant in this delta variant.

VELSHI: Dr. Gottlieb, good to see you again. Thank you for being with us. Dr. Scott Gottlieb is a former FDA commissioner. He`s a member of Pfizer`s board of directors and the author of "Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic," we appreciate your time tonight.

Still ahead, some important developments as the Biden justice department takes on Texas. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:35:37]

VELSHI: Today marks one month since Texas abortion bans took effect, essentially overturning Roe v. Wade in the state. One month since the Supreme Court declined to intervene to stop the law from taking effect.

Now, the law bans abortions after about six weeks, for the men in the audience that sounds like what Texas Republicans want you to think it is. Six weeks into pregnancy, the way pregnancy works, however, no surprise to women in the audience, six weeks is well before many women know they`re pregnant and this ridiculous Texas law empowers everyday citizens to sue anyone who assists a woman in getting an abortion after six weeks. The incentive is a $10,000 reward.

The Justice Department sued Texas last month to stop the enforcement of the law and in their emergency motion to block the law shared personal stories how the law has had an impact on women in Texas. The Justice Department writes, quote, one minor who was raped by a family member traveled eight hours there Galveston to Oklahoma to get an abortion. Another patient facing violence at the hands of her husband is attempting to leave Texas without her husband finding out and scraping together the funds needed for an out of state abortion.

Today, a federal judge in Texas held a three-hour hearing to hear arguments on the government`s emergency motion to stop the law. Justice Department lawyers laid out the cruelty of the law saying, quote, a state may not ban abortions at six weeks. Texas knew there but it wanted a six week ban anyway so the state resorted to an unprecedented scheme of vigilante justice that was designed to scare abortion providers and others who might help women exercise their constitutional rights.

The judge questioned the cornerstone of the law, the use of civilians, to enforce it. Quote, if the state is so confident in the constitutionality of the limitations on a woman`s access to abortion, then why did it go to such great lengths to create this very unusual private enforcement mechanism, rather than just simply do it directly?

We don`t know when or how the judge will rule and whether or not he will grant the government`s emergency request to block the law, but we do know that this law is having an immeasurable impact on the women of Texas.

Here to talk with us is someone on the ground seeing the effects firsthand. Joining us now is Marva Sadler. She`s director of clinical services for the Whole Woman`s Health in Texas, operating four abortion clinics in the state.

Marva, thank you for being with us.

As we saw from the examples that the Department of Justice has used in the court case, this is having a disproportionate effect on women who lack means or who are in some sort of compromised position. If you`re wealthy and free to travel, you can still get an abortion if you`re in Texas, you can just go to another state. But for a lot of women, that`s not the reality we just heard two examples of how bad and dangerous this law is.

MARVA SADLER, WHOLE WOMAN`S HEALTH FORT WORTH DIRECTOR: Absolutely and that`s only two examples of many. We`re meeting many of these women every day coming into our clinic, hoping for some type of resolve, or some type of resource to be able to access the health care resources they need and unfortunately we`re having to turn those women away. And tell them that those resources are just not there.

VELSHI: Tell me in terms of numbers or percentages what that looks like, how many fewer abortions are you able to perform compared to what you would have before this law came into place?

SADLER: Well, we do know the vast majority of women walking into our door we`re currently turning away. Right now, it`s about 70 percent of those patients we`ve seen are not able to continue forth with those abortion procedures.

VELSHI: What do you tell those women?

SADLER: You know, unfortunately we have to tell them the truth and the truth is that in the state that they live in and that they work in and that they`re raising children and paying taxes in, has turned their back on them and it`s forcing them to leave the state to access the health care that they need.

VELSHI: I want to just listen to Representative Barbara Lee. She`s actually Texas born as we know, she was testifying at the House oversight committee on the -- at an abortion hearing yesterday. Let`s just listen to what she said and I`d like to talk to you about it on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BARBARA LEE (D-CA): As a black woman, these state level abortion bans are deadly. I`m compelled to speak out because of the real risks of the clock being turned back to those days before Roe versus Wade, to the days when I was a teenager and had a back alley abortion in Mexico.

[21:40:06]

Remember, I just turned 16. Now, I was one of the lucky ones, madam chair. A lot of girls and women in my generation didn`t make it. They died from unsafe abortions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: Some of us only learned recently about this story of Representative Barbara Lee who went to Mexico to get a back alley abortion at the age of 16. And the point she makes is not one that is entirely familiar to a lot of Americans who are prosperous, including a lot of American women who are under a certain age that people died getting abortions back in the day.

SADLER: Absolutely. History has proven itself over and over again that just because you make abortion illegal and/or inaccessible it does not stop it from happening. A woman is pregnant and does not want to be pregnant will try her best to figure that out. It can be dangerous and deadly for women without those means.

VELSHI: What do you see happening? What`s the best outcome?

This weekend, there are going to be marching all across this country by women who understand that Texas is the tip of the spear on this one. It is the beginning. We have a number of states whose attorney generals and governors have said we`re looking carefully at this law to emulate it in our own states.

The thing that people didn`t think could go away, Roe v. Wade, the protections of a woman to have an abortion, even though it`s not an abortion law, this could come apart very quickly.

SADLER: Absolutely. I think it goes without saying that Roe v. Wade is being chipped away at. There`s been a law that -- access of women`s health care and her constitutional rights. They`ve chipped away and have chipped away and so at this time, finally, they have successfully enacted what appears to be an almost complete ban of abortion in the entire state.

VELSHI: Marva Sadler, thank you work that you do. Marva Sadler is director of clinical services for the Whole Woman`s Health in Texas. We appreciate your time tonight.

Coming up next, a story that makes you completely rethink the way you look at the post office.

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VELSHI: On May 15th, 1918, in the middle of our country`s last pandemic, the U.S. Postal Service flew this plane that you`re looking at from a racehorse track in Queens down to D.C. It was the first full -- first flight of the first regularly scheduled airmail route ever.

Now this is dangerous and risky and totally new. The pilots in that era flew planes like that with open cockpits through unpredictable weather. In the first decade of airmail service, 34 of the 200 or so U.S. Postal Service pilots lost their lives in crashes, while delivering the mail. But still the post office attracted the best pilots in the world, among their ranks this pilot on the far right who at the time held the record, the world record for the fastest trip around the globe, and though it was dangerous, and risky and expensive the U.S. Postal Service stuck to it, reengineering the planes and the routes and tinkering with every piece of the process because the U.S. Postal Service had a vision that airmail was the future and they wanted to make that future a reality.

The innovative spirit of the post office leadership is nowhere to be found today, as the post office enacts changes making its services both slower and more expensive. As of today, the Postal Service as cut its first class airmail service by nearly half. Yesterday if you mailed something first class within the United States Postal Service from Chicago, it would take two days if the destination was close. Three, if the destination was anywhere else in the continental U.S. sometimes it would be faster than that.

Today, if you send that same piece of mail first class, it would take three days even if it were just a few states away and it could take up to five days to reach the coast. At times, services from the post office are getting, at the same time, services from the post office are getting more expensive. They`re likely to keep going up, about twice a year, even as the service gets worse.

So what`s going on? Why is the once innovative and reliable post office going in the wrong direction? Well, it`s part of a ten-year plan, from the postmaster general and Trump administration hold over, Louis DeJoy. You might remember General DeJoy from his role removing 10 percent of mail sorting machines before the start of the election last year. Despite the massive amount of mail-in ballots going USPS, people wanted to vote by mail because there was a global pandemic.

Or maybe you remember him from the still ongoing FBI investigation into campaign fund raising activity involving his former business where he allegedly pressured his employees into a straw donor scheme where they would donate to political campaigns, Republican ones, that he supported and he would then reimburse them through bonuses, which is illegal. That guy, this guy, Louis DeJoy, is somehow still in charge of the United States Postal Service.

So are we stuck with Louis DeJoy, and how do we get the post office that we love back?

Joining us now, Porter McConnell, co-founder of the Save the Post Office Coalition, a coalition of more than 300 organizations like the ACLU, the NAACP and the American Postal Workers Union that formed in response to Louis DeJoy`s work at the post office with the goal of saving it.

Ms. McConnell, thank you for joining us tonight. There are those like me who love the post office who love the postal workers, thinking they`re dedicated, hard working Americans but they have a troublesome boss who is wrecking the system.

PORTER MCCONNELL, SAVE TEH POST OFFICE COALITON CO-FOUNDER: Yeah, you know, you wouldn`t be alone. About 90 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the post office and that`s the highest rating of any government agency. I myself am also a post office geek.

[21:50:00]

What is happening right now just boggles the minds. I think your video laid it out pretty well. It is a false theory of how you bring the post office back and, you know we are going to do all that we can to put the post office back on track.

VELSHI: What does that look like? When you say we are going to do all that we can to get the post office back on track -- it looks like the problem is one main guy. But I don`t know if that`s simple? Is that simplistic? Is it oversimplified? Are there bigger problems that would be there even in Louis DeJoy wasn`t?

MCCONNELL: I would say that there is a history of dumping on the postal service, and there have been -- Congress certainly hasn`t helped the situation over the years. There was a 2006 law that made it very difficult for the Postal Service to innovate and bring new revenue sources on line. Basically, any time they have tried to innovate over the course of their history, if it comes into conflict with a private industry, Congress has said, no, you can`t do that product line.

That said, stepping into this history in Louis DeJoy, uniquely ill-suited to the moment. It is at just him, I`m afraid. You will have probably seen last year in the midst of the extreme mail slowdowns right when Louis DeJoy started that the board who hired him in a highly irregular process said they were tickled pink about his performance. It is from a group of older white gentlemen who were very happy with his performance.

So, one of the key solutions to shaking up the current mess is reappointing a couple of new members to the board of governors. And that is absolutely within President Biden`s power to do.

VELSHI: Right. What is stopping that from happening? Do you know if this is high on President Biden`s agenda? Obviously he knows you are all out there and making the case. Have you had a chance to get the president`s ear and say, can we get this done?

MCCONNELL: You know, I think there are a lot of fires to put out. And if you had asked me several months ago why is this not happened yet, I would have said -- well, the first three round of nominees has come through and they are in post and they have been confirmed. Now it`s getting a little late, honestly. I can`t think of a bigger fire to put out than the postal service in this moment. So, I do think that many of us are asking the question, if not now, then when?

VELSHI: Right. And we are at the same time thanking the postal workers of America for all the great work they put in day in and day out despite leadership lacking at the top of their organization.

Porter McConnell is a cofounder of Save the Post Office Coalition. Thank you for your time tonight and thank for your work that you are going to make the United States post office better than it is.

Up next, a major update on an alarming story we brought you earlier this week. Stay with us.

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VELSHI: We have an update tonight to a story that Rachel told you about two days ago. It is about this guy that allegedly vandalized the headquarters of the Democratic Party in Travis County, Texas early in the morning on Wednesday. Authorities announced today they arrested this guy for the crime. The smiling mug and the mug shot belongs to 30-year-old Ryan Faircloth of Austin, Texas. I thought you were not supposed to smile in mug shots.

An investigator with the Austin Fire Department and the joint FBI task force said during a presser this afternoon that they were able to catch him so quickly partly because of the excellent security footage at the crime scene. But the security cameras were not always there. The Democratic Party of Austin installed in a previous attack in early November by what police believed to be a right wing group. No charges were filed in that case but the incident prompted tempts to prepare for more.

Their new system caught the suspect throwing a Molotov cocktail into headquarters in Travis County. When the cocktail, which according to investigators was made with a bottle of sock and ignitable liquid didn`t light up, the suspect allegedly placed a second explosive device through the broken glass he had smashed. Within seconds, security cameras captured a real fire and lots of smoke. Then, boom, a big explosion, possibly the Molotov cocktail finally going off. You can see it there.

A neighbor saw what was happening, came rushing to put out the fire. Thankfully, no one was injured and there was no major damage. The attack was accompanied by a written letter a threat to Texas Democrats, the note said this is just a warning that things like this will continue to happen.

The accused, Ryan Faircloth, doesn`t have a criminal history. He`s a resident of Austin who authorities say confessed today he decided to target the local Democratic party for political reasons.

All right. I don`t think we`ve got that video. So just take my word for it that he confessed to the police and said he decided to target the Democratic Party for political reasons. I was doing a dramatic pause there.

The suspect is being held in a Travis County jail on second degree felony arson with a combined bail of $40,000 for both charges. We`re going to keep an eye on this story for you.

And that does it for us tonight. I will see you again tomorrow morning on my show, Velshi, 8:00 a.m. Eastern. I have been on the road doing what I love to do, talking to folks across the country. I was in San Antonio this week as part of a Hispanic heritage month. I talked to a fantastic group of Latinx Texans about abortion to COVID to immigration. Here`s a quick preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON HINOJOSA, YOUTH DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM DIRECTOR: We know that in particular in San Antonio if it want for immigrants, if it wasn`t for Mexicans coming across the border, we wouldn`t be the successful city and state that we are. But I also think there is a sort of focus on not being interested in working. These folks will come in and do this work and make a commitment because they only want a successful life for their family and their kids.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: You can catch the rest of that conversation and more tomorrow morning, 8:00 a.m. Eastern.

Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD". Jonathan Capehart in for Lawrence O`Donnell tonight.

Jonathan, I love when I two times in a week to finish my show and hand it over to you. So, I hand it over off to you and your expertise about covering the kind of stuff that`s going none in Washington, which is -- which is puzzling even for the experts.