Interview with Washington Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Interview with Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is "ALL IN" on this Tuesday night.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now with Ali Velshi in for Rachel.
Good evening, Ali.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: That was a fascinating conversation. You and I, I don`t think we struggle with the idea that we`re both strongly in favor of unions and collective bargaining and increasing the raise of the wages --
VELSHI: -- and the working conditions of people.
Police unions in this country are unhinged. You said it well. It is -- it goes against everything that I believe a union needs to do. They`re nuts.
HAYES: The tone that emanates -- we just had the Chicago police union comparing vaccine mandates to the Nazis. There`s just literally no one in public life -- maybe with the exception of Donald Trump -- across the ideological spectrum -- no one talks like that.
VELSHI: Yeah, yeah.
HAYES: You don`t -- you don`t -- like, you and I -- no one goes on air and says --
VELSHI: First class whore (ph).
HAYES: -- that B-word has blood on her hands. It`s another planet.
VELSHI: It would be better if they were unions that represented people and got them raises and good pay. Chris, good to see y8ou, my friend. Thank you. Have a good evening.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Rachel is off tonight. She will be back tomorrow.
It`s been a day of hour-by-hour dramatic developments in Washington not just in the halls of Congress, outside those halls out on the street. 9:30 this morning, Washington, D.C., U.S. Capitol Police saw this, an illegally parked SUV in front of the Supreme Court. A Chevy Tahoe sitting definitely where it was not allowed to be.
As the Capitol Police investigated, they did a real time narrative of what was happening from their Twitter account. 9:51 a.m., quote, we are investigating a suspicion vehicle from front of the Supreme Court. Please stay away from the area. Ten minutes later, they announced, all the streets have been closed around the area. 10:48 a.m., more than hour after seeing the car, quote, we are still trying to talk to the driver. Please continue to avoid the area.
Now, everything is very close together in this part of Washington, D.C. Here you can see the police activity this morning. That`s the side of the Supreme Court building on the right. That`s the United States Capitol at the end of the street. All of this is considered part of a larger Capitol complex.
Just before 11:00, according to a "New York Times" congressional reporter, the Capitol Police alerted people in the Capitol complex that they were, quote, preparing to disrupt a suspicious vehicle in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building. A loud bang may be heard in the area. There`s no cause for alarm and no action needs to be taken by congressional staff, end quote.
And then at 11:00 a.m., the Capitol Police reported that they had, quote, extracted the man from the SUV, end quote, and he was in custody. What we learned later from a Capitol Police statement was that when they initially approached the vehicle and tried to talk to the man inside, quote, the suspect appeared to be frustrated, refused to talk to our officers and said, the time for talking is done.
Capitol Police crisis negotiation officers tried, apparently, for the next hour to talk to the man. But he refused. At which point a Capitol Police SWAT team moved in. And we`ve got tape of that movement. Take a look at it. There were one or two loud bangs. A projectile of some sort is lobbed near the vehicle. You see the driver door open and smoke billowing out.
NBC News reports that police deployed a flash bang to force the driver out of the vehicle. You can see police move in, and they take the man down. One minute later, the police have the man in custody. They lead him away. Capitol Police say they didn`t find any weapons or explosives in the vehicle.
They have identified the man at 55-year-old dale Paul Melvin of Kimball, Michigan. Now, he said they had also come to the Capitol complex in August and made concerns statements but no further details about that August incident.
So, we don`t really know anything more about this guy or what he was doing outside the Supreme Court today. But it came less than two months after a North Carolina man parked a pickup truck outside of the library of Congress right next door, another building in the Capitol complex across the street from the Capitol and the Supreme Court.
That man threatened to detonate a bomb unless he was allowed to talk to President Biden. He live streamed the five-hour standoff on Facebook. His livestream ramblings included his support for President Trump and his belief that various Democrats step down. He turned out not to have a bomb in the end.
And, again, we don`t know if today`s incident was anything like the one in August. We don`t know what kind of statements Dale Paul Melvin made when he visited in August. Today, apparently, he refused to say anything at all. But two of these events in the space of less than two months is not a pattern we want to see continue. So, we`re going to see an eye on that situation and see what more we learn.
But meanwhile inside the Capitol, Congress is in the midst of various standoffs of its own. The United States is 13 days away from defaulting on its debt obligations, roughly the equivalent of the government failing to play its credit card bill. And if the United States government fails to pay its credit bill, the economic consequences could be dire.
We don`t know exactly what would happen because the United States has never actually done this before. But repercussions could and likely would include higher, more rigid interest rates and downgrading of the country`s credit rating, which would have massive global economic ripple effects. The Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said today that if Congress doesn`t raise what`s called the debt ceiling by October 18th, it could trigger a recession. So, why isn`t Congress raising the debt ceiling?
Remember, this is money that Congress has already spent. The only question is whether we`re good for it now that the bill is coming due. Well, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate all say that it`s essential to raise the debt ceiling because of the consequences of not doing so being so dire. But Republicans say the Democrats have to raise it on their own without any Republican votes, and the Democrats have said fine. We`ve got 50 votes. We`ll do it on our own.
But when they started to vote -- when they started the voting process, Senate Republicans have filibustered it. They`ve blocked Democrats from even voting on the debt limit. In other words the Republican position on the debt ceiling is it must be raised. You must raise it alone. We won`t let you raise it alone. Why are Republicans doing this?
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has made no demands. This isn`t a case in which Republicans are demanding the Democrats do something or give something in exchange for Republican votes. Perhaps Republicans just want to create chaos. They`re certainly good at it. Or it could be that they`re trying to force the Democrats to raise the debt ceiling in a drawn out byzantine way that requires Democrats to put a specific dollar figure on the government`s borrowing capacity.
Think about this for a second. This way Republicans can run ads in 2022 midterm elections quoting some big sounding debt number that all the Democrats voted in favor of, which is something, I guess. Force the Democrats to save the country from an economic catastrophe and then blame them for it.
In any case, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer is setting up a vote tomorrow afternoon on the debt ceiling. It`s not entirely clear what plan B is when Republicans will inevitably block that vote. NBC News reports today that Democrats are considering creating a special narrow carve out in the filibuster rules to make the filibuster no longer applicable to votes on the debt ceiling, in the same way there`s no more filibuster for judicial nominations.
But a reporter asked President Biden this evening about such a carve-out for the debt ceiling, Biden called it a real possibility. Of course, lots of Democrats have been trying to change the filibuster rules for many things this year, especially the voting rights legislation that`s being blocked by Republicans in the Senate.
The Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have thus far been implacably opposed to such changes if -- and this is a big if -- if they can be convinced, these two, to make an exception to the debt ceiling, can they be convinced to make exceptions to other things too?
And, by the way, while I`ve got them on the screen, speaking of Joe Manchin on the left, Kyrsten Sinema on the right, they continue to the holdouts on passing Biden`s Build Back Better plan, the Education, Healthcare and Climate legislation that he and most of the Democrats in Congress have pegged at about $3.5 trillion. Joe Manchin has said he doesn`t want to spend more than $1.5 trillion even though the Biden administration insists everything in the plan would be paid for through taxes rather than increases the debt rather than Republican tax cuts do.
NBC News reports on a call with members of the congressional progressive caucus, President Biden says he believes he can negotiate Senators Manchin and Sinema up to the range of 1.9 to $2.2 trillion. The progressive caucus members reportedly pushed back. They made clear they think they need more than that to cover the priorities that are in the actual legislation. But ultimately, according to a source, they told the president they would support whatever top line number he could get to.
This is how Greg Sargent summed it up in the "Washington Post" today. Quote: Manchin and Sinema are still not detailing how much spending they can accept or what they want sacrificed from the reconciliation bill. Meanwhile, progressives are signaling willingness to make sacrifices to win Manchin and Sinema, and talking pragmatically about how to accomplish this without knowing what that will take. Tell me who the real realists and pragmatists are in this scenario again.
Sargent continues, quote, it`s unclear which priorities slowing the planet`s warming, tax reforms to rebalance our out of whack political economy, investments in child care, health care and paid leave to empower millions of struggling people economically will remain or at what level of ambition. Manchin and Sinema have imposed a level of abstraction and generality on this debate that has made real argument on concrete trade- offs much harder.
Progressives insist the failure to deal with those challenges poses more of a threat to our future than higher spending and high end taxation do.
But we can`t debate this because we don`t know which challenges Manchin and Sinema see as postponable for the foreseeable future, end quote.
Which is why it was striking to hear Senator Joe Manchin say this today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): We`ve been talking about it and everyone`s talking, stalling negotiations. I`ve been very, very, I think very, very vocal but I`ve been very transparent. Everyone`s talking about a price. Let`s find what needs to be done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: Everyone`s talking about a price. Let`s talk about what needs to be done. Sounds sensible.
It`s borderline shocking to hear Joe Manchin say that because he is the one who has been so fixated on the price of the bill, on a number above which he will not go. Even as he has refused to say publicly what`s specifically in the bill he wants to jettison to get to that number. And so, to the great frustration of all the other Democrats on Capitol Hill, they are the ones with being tasked with figuring out what should be cut in order to get to the arbitrary number that Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are apparently insisting on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIE TSIRKIN, NBC NEWS: When it comes to the policies in the bill, what are some areas that you are first comfortable with trimming?
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): That`s like saying pick your favorite child. These are good programs. I support the bill and its entirety and the notion that we have to choose between a child tax credit, daycare for children or family leave is an impossible choice when you consider what the modern working families face.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: This is what Democrats in Washington are struggling with right now. What`s the best way to shrink the president`s agenda to a size that will get these holdout senators on board? You shrink the entire plan funding all the programs but at a lower rate? Do you cut certain investments entirely? Do you lower the total cost by shortening the amount of time that the programs are funded for and hope they become so popular that a Congress a few years down the road will renew them?
These are the questions I`ve got about this and I`ve got just the person to ask. Joining us is Washington Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Congresswoman, thank you for being with us.
I don`t know -- that was the best effort we could get to at conveying what has been going on at Congress. But you`re actually in those meetings. You`re in the room where it happened. So, how much of what I just told the audience is accurate?
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Ali, it`s good to see you. Thanks very having me on.
Look, there`s some things that are accurate in that we are trying to get to a set of priorities that will be transformational, that will change people`s lives, that will take on climate change, that will provide paid leave, 12 weeks of paid leave to people, that will provide child care, pre- K, community college, health care, Medicare expansion, immigration, take on immigration issues. These are our priorities in the congressional progressive caucus that are in the president`s build back agenda.
This is actually the president`s agenda, just to be clear. But what is true is that we do have to get 50 senators on board. We have 96 percent of Democrats in the House and the Senate on board, but we don`t have 4 percent. And our margins are so thin that we have to get every single person on board.
So, we are in the negotiation process. We thought that 3.5 was the -- was actually the compromise negotiation position. And it came from these priorities. It was not a number that was picked out of the air. But at the end of the day, what we`re thinking about is if we have to trim a little -- and I`m saying a little -- then what we would like to do is have our priorities represented. And those are child care -- or really the care economy. They are -- it is Medicare expansive. It is immigration. It is housing and climate change.
Those five priorities that we need to include but perhaps for shorter number of years because I don`t think we can choose and pick between child care and climate change. I don`t think we can choose between pre-k and housing. These are all essential priorities. And that`s the process we`re in right now. So, let`s see where this goes. I will say that we are pushing to make sure that these -- that we think about it from the perspective of priorities. But at the end of the day when you talk about the number, let`s be clear that this is all paid for by taxes on the wealthiest corporations and wealthiest individuals so it does not add to the deficit. But it does make transformational investments in people`s lives.
VELSHI: So, that`s really the way to look at this, right? I think any government spending has to be looked at as what`s the return on the investment. I prefer we talk about these priorities, then we talk about the numbers. We do have reporting that the president said he could get the holdouts somewhere between 1.9 trillion and 2.2 trillion.
And we have reporting that you have said that you might be able to manage $2.5 trillion to $2.9 trillion. So, notwithstanding the fact that neither of us want to talk about the numbers, is there accuracy in that reporting?
JAYAPAL: Well, all I can say is that we are thinking -- it`s really different. Let`s just say we settle on $2.9 trillion. It`s going to be a different conversation if that $2.9 trillion includes our priorities versus doesn`t. It`s a different conversation if we are saying we`re going to means test a whole bunch of this, which we are opposed to, and put income caps that prevent two schoolteachers, for example, in Seattle from being able to get child care and qualify for that benefit.
So, we have to look at the details, and that`s why we don`t want to settle on the number because it is really dependent on how we structure it and how we implement it.
VELSHI: Right. So, $2.5 trillion to $2.9 trillion could be completely different things. We put up a list on the screen that talk about the priorities. On that list of priorities and some estimates that we got of what they could pay -- what they could cost, you are underscoring the fact that there`s less to negotiate on climate, less on housing, less on child care, less on Medicaid expansion. These are major priorities, so how you form whatever number you get to is important.
JAYAPAL: That`s right. And we still think that, you know, the 3.5 number was the number that we thought was negotiated. So, as close as we can get to that number, recognizing we`ve got to get all 50 senators on board.
VELSHI: So, I want to go a little further with the priorities you`ve got and the concept of return on investment. You`re calling it transformational investment. The way I look at it is if you put a dollar into the economy, you get more than a dollar back.
Climate change is just one of those examples, right? The gross cost of the $3.5 trillion plan, 1.5 percent of the U.S. GDP over the next ten years, the net cost of failing to hit the Paris climate agreement benchmarks, 8.6 percent of additional U.S. GDP in perpetuity until the year 2100. Little bits of math like that become compelling in this discussion.
JAYAPAL: That`s right, Ali. And that is such a beautiful example of what we`re calling these investments in the future. We are going to pay far more not just in terms of dollars but in term of opportunity, in terms of lives lost, in terms of, you know, lack of security for our country and for the world if we do not take on climate change in reality.
Now, the president is going to go to COP 26 in just a couple weeks, and he is -- needs to be able to say that the United States is going to lead on the issue of climate change. We are going to cut carbon emissions. And in order to do that, we have to have clean electricity performance standards in here. We have tax credits, clean energy tax credits, that sort of carrot and stick.
And if we do all of that, it will bring us enormous dollars back down the road, your concept of investment from a business perspective but also, hello, it will save the planet. So, we`ve got to do this and we`ve got to show leadership.
VELSHI: Yes, economic aside, we actually have a planet that`s burning out of control.
Congresswoman, it`s good to talk to you. Thank you for giving us a peek into what`s actually going on. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal is the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
A lot more show to get you tonight, including that explosive whistleblower testimony on Capitol Hill today about Facebook. We`re going to talk to one of the smartest thinkers I know of on the topic of how to start knitting back the social fabric that`s been ripped apart by social media. That`s next.
VELSHI: For years now there`s been one senator who, in my opinion, has been in a league of her own trying to understand at a granular level what impact social media is having on our world and our politics and what our politics may have to do to contend with it. To put it in context, Senator Amy Klobuchar introduced or cosponsored nearly double the number of bills on tech regulation as any of her competitors in 2020 Democratic presidential primary. Her bills covered all sorts of issues like data collection, privacy, monopolies and the significance for anyone be Russian troll or your crazy aunt to spread complete and utter B.S. about democracy on social media and even paid to amplify that B.S. which causes all kinds of havoc.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): No one has said yet that they will include issue ads. And that is what we just heard from Mr. Stretch, 90 percent of our paid political ads were issue ads. And as you know, somehow the radio station in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, is able to figure out what an issue ad is under the federal guidelines. And I would hope your companies can do that.
And I just want to be clear as we work to pass this law so that we have the same rules in place to disclose political ads and issue ads as we do for TV and radio as well as disclaimers that you`re going to take early action, as soon as June, I heard, before this election so that people can view these ads, including issue ads, is that correct?
Yet we have seen these political ads creeping through despite your efforts to police them on your own. And this is why I would like to pass the Honest Ads Act. One ad that went through, it says, in three battleground states, ballots marked for Donald Trump had been discarded. Poll, will voter fraud only increase closer to November. So, it stated in three battleground states paid ad ballots marked for Donald Trump had been discarded.
This played between September 29th and October 7th, 2020, had up to 200,000 impressions. Does this ad violate Facebook`s policy?
MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK FOUNDER: I don`t know off the top of my head if that specific ad violates our policies. I would be happy to follow-up afterwards on that.
KLOBUCHAR: Would you commit to a policy where people could review these ads instead of just being hit with algorithm review?
So, are you saying a human review every ad, it`s just yes or no or I don`t know. That`s --
ZUCKERBERG: Senator, I don`t know.
ZUCKERBERG: I don`t think so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: We look back now at the years of hearings in which Senator Amy Klobuchar has played a part on social media and Facebook in particular, you notice two things. One, the problems created by these under-regulated social media companies are evolving while our legislation is not. Our legislation isn`t even where it should have been in 2016.
And two, you notice that Facebook and other big social media companies are running out of goodwill here. They`ve promised change. They`ve sat on their hands too many times.
Which is why it was so striking today when a whistleblower who used to work at Facebook, in the company`s civic integrity division spoke with the Consumer Protection Subcommittee in the Senate about the biggest political moment we`ve had in this country since the election, the insurrection on January 6th and the role Facebook played in it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KLOBUCHAR: On "60 Minutes", you said that Facebook implemented safeguards to reduce misinformation ahead of the 2020 election but turned off those safeguards right after the election. And you know that the insurrection occurred January 6th. Do you think that Facebook turned off the safeguards because they were costing the company money because it was reducing profits?
FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: Facebook has been emphasizing a false choice. They`ve said the safeguards that were in place before the election implicated free speech. The choices that were happening on the platform were really about how reactive and twitchy was the platform, right, like, how viral was the platform. And Facebook changed those safety defaults in the run-up to the election because they knew they were dangerous and because they wanted the growth back, they wanted the acceleration of the platform back after the election, they returned to their original defaults.
And the fact that they had to break the glass on January 6th and turn them back on, I think that`s deeply problematic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: So, for so many years of getting the run around from these tech companies, what should the federal government be doing here to make them do the right thing?
Joining us now is Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
Senator, it`s good to see you again. Thank you for joining us tonight.
I have to wonder, you get so granular. Pleasure to have you here.
KLOBUCHAR: I enjoyed it. Thank you.
VELSHI: You get so granular in your discussions. I`m grateful that you do. But if you pull back, the issue is in hearing after hearing, there is an issue with tech companies writ large, not just Facebook, and the fact that they are helpful in some places and they are handy in some places. But they`re really dangerous.
And Roger McNamee was having whether or not there should be something like the FDA for technology in America, something that says this is dangerous, this is unsafe, and we need to figure out a way to regulate it.
KLOBUCHAR: So, I`m hoping that we broke the trend today. The trend is hearings. Maybe we get great information. Maybe the senators ask probing questions or the House member and nothing happened because every corner you turn is a lobbyist. More and more people that are paid for by tech, big surprise nothing`s gotten done.
And I think this witness today, Frances Haugen, is her name, I think she`s going to be a catalyst for change. Maybe people just had a step back sitting in that Senate hearing room and said wait a minute, this is my kids, this is my grandkids. They are putting profits in front of people. That is our own profit model, collecting data on you, targeting you with ads. And lo and behold, more suicidal thoughts on behalf of these young girls, targeting really bad information when it comes to eating disorders to kids.
And I think this is the moment that we need it because what can we do? Privacy legislation. A complete change in our economy over the last decade, no change to federal privacy legislation. We need to do something about our competition policy, Ali. That is what I`ve been advocating for, so these dominate platforms can`t decide to put their own products at the top or do things that will exclude competitors from succeeding at the cost of competition.
And then, finally, we have to do something more to protect kids online and make these algorithms which literally give profits to these companies to make them more transparent.
VELSHI: So, some of us -- it makes a lot of sense. In fact it seems to be a bipartisan slam dunk. In the world before the world we live in -- and you`ve been dealing with this for a long time. While there were people you could get on both sides of the aisle into this. Why isn`t this -- why doesn`t have this have overwhelming majorities in the house and Senate of people who get off the soap box about whether conservatives are being hidden behind serve things on social media and just say these things you just outlined -- algorithms, privacy, antitrust -- these seem to be easy.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, they`re not easy, and the companies have thrived on the fact that they`re not easy. And when things aren`t in immediate crisis sometimes -- and maybe people are starting to view what`s happening to our democracy, what`s happening to our kids as they make them addicted to these platforms. Maybe they are starting to see this as a crisis. And that will precipitate action.
So, what do I see? One, there`s bipartisan support for increasing resources to the agency. That`s about the agency. For Federal Trade Commission and for the Department of Justice and Trust Division, Senator Grassley and I passed a bill through the Senate that will add over 100 million to the agencies for enforcement. Number two, there`s bipartisan support as you can see from the word of Senator Blumenthal, Senator Markey and others on doing steps to protect kids. There are bipartisan action growing over in the house with Cicilline and Buck with Senator Lee and myself and many others to finally take on competition policy.
And again that means stopping this exclusionary conduct where we learn with the app stores that they`re charging certain companies like Spotify and match.com 30 percent of the revenue. This is from Apple and Google.
And finally, the privacy. That has been so incredibly frustrating. Recently Apple said to their customers, okay, we`ll protect your data and it`s your choice, 75 percent chose to protect their data.
KLOBUCHAR: Chose to not have their data be spread. We know the numbers. That`s why the rest of these platforms aren`t doing this, and I think that has to change.
VELSHI: There`s a Facebook post by Mark Zuckerberg with whom you`ve spoken with in many times in testimony. He said the argument that we deliberately pushed content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical. We make money from ads and advertisers consistently tell us they don`t want their ads next to harmful or angry content. And I don`t know any tech company that sets out to build products that make people angry or depressed. The moral business and product incentives all point in the opposite direction.
What do you make of that?
KLOBUCHAR: First of all, he was welcome. You know, we would love to see him, but he was sailing today.
But the second thing I would like to say is that the witness, the whistleblower so well addressed it. She said, look, they might not have intended to make their profit that way, but the metrics -- they give everything to these metrics, and they base it on the most heated and polarized content. Negative content, as you know. And that`s what got out.
And they have not done enough to police it. The whistleblower who are worked within the company, has suggested something like only 10 percent to 20 percent at most of this content gets caught. She talked about the fact that the violent content, they don`t have enough as I asked in that original question that you played. Human eyes, people looking at this.
This is over a trillion dollar company, Ali. And they don`t have enough people moderating this content and looking at this content. And so he may not have intended this, but what he intended to do, he`s done. And that makes tons of money to the tune of $50 for every user per quarter.
That is the stats they just put out. On you, Ali, 50 bucks a quarter, that`s what they`re making by getting your data.
VELSHI: That last point is very interesting, the fact they don`t have enough human eyes to curate the stuff.
Senator, always good to talk tow. Thank you for being with us tonight.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.
VELSHI: Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
Coming up, the Biden administration is preparing to go head-to-head with Republican governors over the federal vaccine mandate. What we can expect, straight ahead.
VELSHI: This is the front page of "The Anchorage Daily News" today. Take a look at the right column. Hospitals in flux with near-record patient numbers.
Quote: Alaska`s COVID-19 hospitalizations approached record territory on Monday just days after the state announced crisis standards of care were activated for 20 health care facilities as the worst surge of the pandemic drags on.
And then there`s this "Associated Press" reporting right below it. Doctors grow frustrated with COVID-19 denial misinformation. That`s the front page of "The Anchorage Daily News" today. This is still the situation in several parts of the country.
The crisis in Alaska, where 20 hospitals are rationing care, is a horrifying snapshot of this multistate trend. Communities in Idaho and Montana are going through the same thing. It`s a pattern. People make the allegedly personal choice to remain unvaccinated despite the wealth of information about the safety and efficacy of the shots and despite the 700,000 people who have died from this virus, millions of people are making this allegedly personal choice to not listen.
They get sick. They take up beds, doctors and resources needed to treat cancer and heart patients and people who need attention after an accident. And there`s no room left for the other patients. There are no resources left for them.
They do not get a choice. They cannot get treatment. This is why it`s so important to take whatever means possible to stop this surge of COVID cases in this country months after we have a vaccine. Measures like the Biden administration`s proposed vaccine mandate.
The Labor Department is working on guidelines to ensure that employers who have more than 100 workers require the vaccine or be frequently tested for the virus.
As "The Washington Post" reports today, Republicans are burning for battle over Biden`s new rule meaning top administration officials have been working to ensure the proposal is ironclad. Now, the still unpublished rule needs to be ironclad because at least two dozen Republican controlled states are preparing legal challenges already.
Except that vaccine requirements work in terms of getting employees inoculated. At United Airlines one of the first companies to institute a mandate, more than 98 percent of U.S. employees are now vaccinated according to its chief executive.
In New York, many schools went from employee vaccination rates in the 70 percent to 80 percent range when the state`s mandate was announced a month and a half ago to more than 95 percent around the deadline this week.
Hospitals in California saw similar results. We`re already seeing buy-in from businesses. But with the Biden proposal set to have an impact, tens of millions of other workers can`t withstand the potential challenges.
Joining us now is Dr. David Michaels. He`s the former assistant secretary of labor for Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA is, of course, one of the agencies now tasked with implementing the president`s vaccine rule. And in addition to his role as former OSHA administrator during the Obama administration, Dr. Michaels is professor at the George Washington School of Public health.
Dr. Michaels, thank you for being with us tonight.
I`m sort of interested given that American businesses fight anything that feels like a regulation, there`s been no pushback from the National Retail Federation, no pushback from the United States Chamber of Commerce and not even local chambers of commerce which are often in lock step with state Republicans. Business seems to be okay with this.
DAVID MICHAELS, FORMER OSHA ADMINISTRATOR: That`s right. I think businesses across the country are welcoming the opportunity to say to their workers, look, the federal government is requiring us to do this. The companies that have gone forward more quickly like united airlines have had great success.
I think it will be a challenge for a lot of employers, but right now employers see vaccinating workers, making sure workers are safe will help them. It`ll make sure workers are more comfortable coming to work. It will stop this pandemic and help us get back to normalcy.
VELSHI: Those of us who work in big businesses, offices like I do here at NBC, we see the OSHA posters, the things that are meant to keep you safe. But we also know that OSHA, when you were running it, OSHA today, it`s an understaffed place. It is hard to -- you can`t get out and police these things.
So, we actually have to depend on employers who are going to carry out both the administration`s mandate but also undertake on their own to get this done.
MICHAELS: That`s right. And you know most OSHA standards are self- enforced. Employers, when they hear that any agency is issuing a regulation, they don`t ask how is that regulation going to be enforced. They say how are we going to comply with that regulation.
I think what employers are going to start to do is speak first to their attorneys, to their hr specialists and hopefully their workers and say how are we going to do this so it works for everyone. I`m seeing it already happening now. It will certainly happen more.
And I think it`s going to have a big effect. It`s going to drive vaccine rates up. It`s going to save a lot of lives and it`s going to help these companies go back to normalcy.
VELSHI: What`s your sense of the challenges that the administration is gearing up for? We have seen reporting that the government is trying to make this ironclad. What do you know about that? How do you make something like this ironclad? We don`t live in a world of vaccine mandates typically.
MICHAELS: I think a lot of those Republican attorneys general haven`t read what President Biden has told OSHA to do because this is not a vaccination requirement. You know, the OSHA law says that employers have to provide a safe workplace. They have to make sure that workers can leave work the same condition they got to work.
So, what this requirement is it tells employers, look, what you need to do is make sure that a hazard isn`t present in the workplace and that hazard is a potentially infectious worker. So, OSHA will write this, telling the employers, look, you`ve been ensured your workers are vaccinated or you can say, look, test every week so we know you`re not infectious. Or your workers can work at home. There are lots of options.
VELSHI: I see.
MICHAELS: So, this isn`t a vaccine requirement at all.
VELSHI: It`s a hazard mitigation requirement.
Dr. Michaels, thank you for being with us. Dr. David Michaels was the OSHA administrator during the Obama administration, currently a professor at George Washington University School of Public Health. We appreciate your time tonight.
Still ahead, we saw record voting turnout in 2020 election. The response to that historic achievement might actually surprise you. That`s next.
VELSHI: The 2020 election drew the largest voter turnout in American history during a pandemic. That should be celebrated, but in response to that milestone, Republican controlled state legislatures have taken huge steps in chipping away voting rights chip by chip. Just this year, 19 states from enacted laws that will make it harder for Americans to vote. And it`s against that backdrop that Democrats in Congress are taking action against these restrictive voting laws.
In August, the House passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which is named for the late Civil Rights icon John Lewis. Every single Republican in the House voted against it. The bill would restore part of the gutted 1965 Voting Rights Act that requires states with recent histories of racial discrimination in voting to get federal approval from the justice department before making changes to their voting rules.
And today, Senate Democrats led by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont introduced their version of the bill. Now, this bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate, but the Senate judiciary committee is set to hold a hearing on the bill tomorrow, titled Protecting a Precious Almost Sacred Right, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Activists are not satisfied to wait. This was the scene outside the White House today as protesters held a giant voting rights now sign in a banner that read in all caps, President Biden, no more excuses, voting rites now.
The protest was organized by the League of Women Voters of the United States, People for the American Way and Declaration of American Democracy. They sang this "Little Light of Mine", and they urge the president and Congress to act on voting rights now. Five peaceful protesters were arrested today. They`re currently being held in jail.
Joining us now is Virginia K. Solomon, the CEO of the League of Women Voters. She was our speaker at the rally today, urging action on voting rights.
Ms. Solomon, thank you for being with us this evening.
I understand that there are still people being held in jail tonight because of being arrested at this rally.
VIRGINIA KASE SOLOMON, LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS CEO: Yes, some of our colleagues, Ben Jealous who is the CEO of the People for the American Way, Clift Aubrey, Sister Quincy Howard. So yes, and others are still being held in detention and waiting arraignment in the morning.
VELSHI: What do you want to happen? The frustration was clear that there are enough excuses. We`ve heard the executions. What we`re witnessing is what the 1965 act was supposed to prevent, state with a history of discrimination in the voting not being allowed to discriminate further in their voting. But that`s the world we live in now.
SOLOMON: Well, one of the things we want more than anything is for President Biden to use his voice, to use the power of his bully pulpit, to move the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights and Advancement Act forward. He is a master of the Senate, being in the Senates for more than 30 years. He knows how to use his political will to make things happen.
And right now, we`re hearing a lot of promises but we`re not seeing a lot of action. And really, the truth is he has the opportunity to have a moment greater than LBJ. He is trying to have an FDR moment when he can have an FDR moment with infrastructure and an LBJ moment with voting rights and that`s what we want the president to do. Deliver on his promise.
VELSHI: It`s become a partisan issue and that is what Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia is actually using as his opposition. The reason for his opposition stating I believe that partisan voting rights, he`s calling this partisan because it has no Republican support. I believe partisan voting legislation will destroy the weakening divides of our democracy so I`ll vote against the For the People Act. It`s a circular argument, right? It`s partisan because Republicans want support it.
SOLOMON: Well, but here is the thing, senator mansion actually put forward the freedom to vote about which is an updated version of the For the People Act. Some key provisions we hoped would be in there are no longer in there but the Freedom to Vote Act is put forward and approved by Senator Manchin. He`s asking to have the time to be able to move the Republicans and try to see if he can get any buy in and that`s why we need President Biden even more to act. Because alongside Senator Manchin, those two if anybody have the opportunity to move political will on the Republican side.
VELSHI: I want to tell our viewers a little about what is in the Freedom to Vote Act. The vote including automatic voter registration and online voter registration and make election day a public holiday and ensure voters have access to at least two weeks of early voting for federal elections include two weekends and ensures every state offers same day registration.
There is nothing in this list of things that any American should have any issue with. It is the idea that we`re all supposed to vote. Why just make it standard and simple to do so.
SOLOMON: Yeah, I mean, it`s amazing. You can go on any McDonald`s throughout this country, and have the same order and know what to expect. But you can`t do that in any time when you try to vote. There are so many differences.
And all we`re asking for is to even the playing field for all voters in this country so that every person`s voice can be heard at the ballot box. And that`s something that everybody should be able to get behind.
VELSHI: Thank you for joining us tonight. Virginia Kase Solomon is the CEO of the League of Women Voters, we appreciate your time tonight.
One more story you won`t want to miss tonight right after this.
VELSHI: It did not exactly roll off the tongue the first time we heard it, make America great again again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: With President Donald Trump in the White House for four more years, and with God`s help, we will make America great again, again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELSHI: We will make America great again again. That was Mike Pence at the Republican National Convention in 2020. Not totally clear by if vowing to make America great again again, it was an admission that the Trump administration didn`t succeed in making America great the first around.
But look at this, we may yet get that clarity. We received this email from Donald Trump`s main super PAC, announcing they`re undergoing a rebranding, quote, make America great again again exclamation point launches. Now according to this press release, the president`s favorite super PAC will now forever more be known as the make America great again exclamation point or in short hand, MAGA, again!
The exclamation point is key. We know how that worked out for Jeb in 2016. Please clap.
I got a lot of questions about this. Like why and how? Did I mention why? The part of the story I`m most stuck on is how it will look on a hat. Make America great again again looks a little cramped. Do you simplify it, MAGAA? How do you pronounce that? MAGAA?
Maybe apply some math to this problem. Keep the hat the way it is and add make America great again squared. You don`t need a new hat, you can sharpie it on to your own hat. Never thought I`d have to brush up on the rules of exponents to cover politics, it`d be like in middle school math again again.
That does it for us tonight. Rachel will be back tomorrow. Thanks for bearing with me.
It`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL", who has followed and been involved in politics for a long time but for all you have seen, Lawrence, you have never actually witnessed the debt ceiling being breached. We never witnessed not paying our bills.