Interview with Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). The House is going to vote on Build Back Better bill tonight.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): My minimum tax through, the one I have with Senator King, and we`re going to get it through.
The one that says giant corporations, Amazon, pay nothing in taxes even when they`re reporting billions in profits, 15 percent minimum tax. It`s going to raise $300 billion.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": That is in the BBB being voted on tonight.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, thank you very much.
That is "ALL IN" on this Thursday night.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you so much, my friend. Much appreciated.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
It is called the port of Newcastle. It`s the largest coal port in the whole world. It`s in Australia. About $20 billion worth of coal gets shipped through that one port every year. That`s more than any other place on Earth.
And yesterday, all operations at the port of Newcastle in Australia were brought to a complete halt because of something that port had never before had to contend with. It was a young woman named Hannah and her friend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNAH: My name is Hannah and I`m here I`ve sailed off the largest coal port. I`m with my friend and we`re stopping this coal terminal from loading all coal into ships and from unloading all coal from coal trains.
This is part of the largest coal part in the world and we`re here with blockade Australia stopping the operation. And right now, we`re on -- (INAUDIBLE) country, which is being used to ship off coal that`s come from countries -- from first nations lands all across this continent and being sent to be burned overseas as part of the money-making machine, which is perpetually causing climate crisis, which is driving us ever further towards the point of social collapse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Hannah is 21 years old. Her friend Zianna is 28 years old. And yesterday, these two young women rappelled off this giant piece of machinery at the port of Newcastle to protest Australia`s use of coal and Australi`s role in distributing coal all over the world.
"The Washington Post" posted this video of them making their case to the world while they waited for the police, saying this is us responding to the climate crisis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNAH: This is humans trying to survive. This is humans trying to overcome the system that is killing us, that is enslaving us, and we`re trying to induce the social tipping points which will give us a chance at another generation. What a wild thing to want.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What a wild thing to want. These two young Australians climbed up this giant piece of machinery at daybreak yesterday. They strung themselves up and hung there in those harnesses for hours. And that did halt the export and the throw-through of coal at that huge port, again, the largest coal port in the world.
Eventually the two young women were brought down and arrested as they knew they would be.
I don`t know if it`s something in the proverbial water right now or what, something about this time that we are in, but part of what is going on in the news right now, which doesn`t always get talked about as something that is propelling the news. But part of really what is going on in the news right now is what feels like an explosion of peaceful but also dramatic, direct action from all kinds of people from all kinds of places and all kinds of issues, people trying to call on people`s consciousness and move leaders and elected officials to do the right thing.
This was Oklahoma City last night. This group of protesters stationed themselves outside the governor`s mansion in Oklahoma City to try and persuade the governor of Oklahoma to stop the planned execution of a man named Julius Jones. His execution was scheduled for 4:00 p.m. local time this afternoon. Julius Jones has been on death row in Oklahoma for 19 years for a murder he says he didn`t commit. There have been questions raised about the fairness of his trial and whether or not he`s truly guilty of the crime for which he was sentenced to death.
But as his execution date approached, lots and lots and lots of people in Oklahoma of all different stripes mobilized to try to move the governor to please not kill this man, to please call off the execution. The pastor of one major Oklahoma City church was arrested last night for refusing to clear the street when police asked him to leave. As they arrested him, he said this is what is called civil disobedience.
This protest last night was the culmination of what has been a dramatic week in Oklahoma City. High school students all over Oklahoma City and in other parts of the state have poured out of their classrooms in a surprisingly large and sustained series of high school student walkouts to protest today`s scheduled execution of Julius Jones.
In Oklahoma City today, lots of students left class and marched straight to the Capitol. They held protests and prayers and vigils outside the governor`s office and in the Capitol rotunda. Hundreds of people returned to the state Capitol building as 4:00 p.m. inched closer and the governor was running out of time if he was going to commute Julius Jones` sentence.
But then as the time clicked down, with just a few hours left on the clock, it worked. It happened. The governor did commute Julius Jones` sentence, sparing him from execution and sparring him from the death chamber.
And you can listen to the reaction from people at the Capitol.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: All those people who had been organizing for days, that`s them getting the news. You can see it spread around the room as everybody on their phones starts getting the confirmation and telling everybody what the word was. This was shot right outside the Capitol. You can see the emotion there from the people who are outside the Capitol building.
This was outside the prison where Julius Jones is incarcerated right after the news broke. You hear the crowd chanting "We`re going to be all right." This was Oklahoma this week. This was Oklahoma today.
Here`s direct action of a very different kind, but also going the distance, also getting to the goal. Yesterday union workers at John Deere finally ratified a new contract, which brings to an end their labor strike. Last month more than 10,000 people who work at John Deere walked off the line.
Five states, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, John Deere workers have been in the streets for 35 straight days trying to get better working conditions. As a result of their strike, they won. They won a 10 percent pay increase that goes into effect immediately. They`ll also get a signing bonus and better retirement options. That`s what they were asking for.
Here was direct action of yet another kind and yet another place. This was Glynn County, Georgia, today outside the trial of three white men who are accused of killing an unarmed black man who was jogging in his neighborhood, a man named Ahmaud Arbery. For days now, the defense attorney for one of the men who`s accused of killing Mr. Arbery attempted to have prominent African-American pastors removed from the site of the trial, removed from the courtroom because he says they were intimidating.
He says it`s Black pastors specifically that are intimidating, and he wants the Black pastors removed. The just Black ones.
And so, today, more than 100 Black pastors showed up outside the courthouse to establish themselves there as a peaceful, powerful, prayerful presence and to pray with Mr. Arbery`s family. After court was adjourned for the day, they marched in Glynn County.
This was yesterday outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. This was a group of 50 activists. At this point in the day, they stood in a circle. They read stories about their loved ones who had died of COVID. And these folks were there to urge Congress to pass a bill that soon could be up for consideration.
It`s a bill for global access to vaccines and a bill that would help us better prepare for the next pandemic. About a half dozen of those activists walked to the front steps of one of the Senate office buildings. One of them traveled from as far as Texas to be there yesterday. And these folks held cardboard tombstones with the names of their loved ones who died of COVID, and then they spread their loved ones` ashes on the steps.
You can hear them chanting "Bringing the dead to your door, we won`t take it anymore."
Now, the global vaccines bill, the pandemic preparedness bill that they want passed, it`s part of the defense authorization bill, which is going to move soon in Congress. But it`s an amendment to the defense authorization bill. There`s 700 of those.
This is something that has bipartisan support and, indeed, bipartisan co- sponsorship, but these activists were willing to do this yesterday and to get arrested for it to try to make the moral case for that legislation, just as wrenching and as blunt and as clear as they can so they can try to make sure it gets done. And I can`t explain why we`re seeing this in so many places so potently on so many issues right now, for whatever reason right now, one of the unsung, propulsive currents in the news right now is this kind of nonviolent direct action.
We`re just seeing this kind of thing everywhere. Creative, nonviolent, conscious-calling direction action. And, of course, that kind of direct action does not always work. We`re going to be talking about later on about voting rights, a situation involving our small "D" democracy in this country in which it seems all the targeted nonviolent action directed at that issue is not moving, specifically one person, is not moving Democratic Senator Joe Manchin to do what he needs to do to get legislation passed in the Senate. We`re going to talk about that this hour.
Direct action certainly doesn`t always work, but sometimes it feels like it`s the only thing that does. And I think it deserves a little more recognition in terms of what is driving some of the moral framing of these issues that are all moving right now in the news, driving some of the moral framing and the narrative around these policy changes, these changes, these commitments that leaders are being asked to make, and how they understand the stakes of them.
I say that because tonight we are seeing the results of, among other things, what has been a long and relentless campaign of direct action from all different kinds of groups and individuals urging Congress to pass President Biden`s agenda. The sunrise moment is a national campaign of young activists dedicated to pushing for solutions to the climate crisis. Ever since President Biden first proposed major climate action as part of his presidential agenda, they have just been dogged in their pressure to try to get gross see it through.
That has included this remarkable thing that happened over the past few weeks. For 14 days young activists from the Sunrise Movement staged a hunger strike first outside the White House and then outside the Capitol building to try to pressure holdout senators like Joe Manchin. By the end, they had to be carted around on wheelchairs. Their bodies were so weak, several were eventually hospitalized after not eating anything for two straight weeks.
That action by those young members of the Sunrise Movement was just one part of a much larger series of protests that we have seen, not just from climate activists, but from all sorts of different people urging lawmakers to pass the president`s agenda, specifically to pass this Build Back Better bill.
When Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is in Washington, he lives on a yacht, which he likes to call a houseboat. You might remember our coverage from September, a group of activists from his home state of West Virginia paddled up to Senator Manchin`s yacht in their own kayaks. They called they must kayak-tivists. They held up signs saying things like, support Build Back Better and don`t sink our bill.
They caused enough of a stir they eventually got Senator Manchin to come out and talk to them from the deck of his yacht and listen to their concerns and debate his concerns. You might also remember right around that same time Congress held its annual congressional baseball game. Republicans and Democrats faced off against each other for seven innings at Nationals Park. During this year`s game, activists dropped banners over the bleachers that said stuff like our lives are not a game, pass 3.5T, the price tag for the build back better bill. They had one that said Dems, don`t F this up. Democrats don`t F this up, didn`t say "F."
The following month, October, we saw members of the venerable disability rights group Adapt staging a protest outside where the Hart Senate Office Building, which is where Senator Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema both have offices. Fifteen protesters from Adapt were arrested that day.
But by the next day, several of those same disability rights activists were already at another nonviolent direct action outside the Capitol which turned out to be a 24-hour vigil. For 24 hours, disability rights activists camped outside the capitol and talked about why so many lives depend on Congress passing Build Back Better, specifically the billions of dollars of support in that bill for home and community-based care for elderly and disabled people.
So, elderly and disabled people who need extra help don`t have to be institutionalized if that`s not otherwise in their interests, they can get help home. There`s dollars for that in the Build Back Better bill.
And I`ll tell you, that part of President Biden`s agenda hasn`t gotten as much attention but it affects a huge number of Americans. Right now, the number of elderly and disabled Americans who are on the waiting list for that kind of care, for home-based care services, it`s about 800,000 people on the wait list.
At one point in the night during their 24-hour vigil, activists held up this illuminated sign that said "care can`t wait."
And that phrase "care can`t wait" has been a rallying cry among supporters of President Biden`s agenda, people trying to get Congress to follow through.
A few weeks later in yet another direct action, just this past month, health care activists held a rally outside a Senate office building urging senators to support some of the health care provisions in build back better, of which there are many. They set up chairs outside the building to make it look like they were in a doctor`s waiting room. Remember care can`t wait?
They blocked access to that building peacefully, not violently, and they told stories about loved ones they had lost because they lost access to health care. In the end, there were multiple arrests at that peaceful direct action protest.
So we`ve been watching these sort of passionate, dogged, relentless, nonviolent direct action campaigns over this particular bill for months now. It really has not let up.
Just this week, there were protests and marches and direct action in Washington, D.C., urging depress to finally get this bill done. And tonight, we are seeing the results of, among other things, that pressure by all of those thousands of Americans who participated in those things. Here we are now.
I mean, that`s the walk that you walk. But here`s what you get at the end of it. What the House is going to pass tonight, this is, you know, hearing aides finally being covered by Medicare, finally. A hard cap on what anyone has to pay out of pocket in any one year for their prescriptions. That seems reasonable. Why didn`t that we do before?
Also, finally, relief for Americans who use insulin. Insulin used to be cheap and now it`s unpredictable pricing. Some people going over $1,000 a month.
If you need insulin, it`s not like optional. You need insulin. Well, now under this bill, the costs for anyone who needs insulin will be capped at $35 a month for your insulin, finally. The first ever federal paid leave program, you have a family member who`s sick, an older parent or grandparent who had some sort of medical crisis, or maybe you got the happy news of a new baby in the family.
Four weeks paid family and medical leave, the first federal family and medical leave program ever in this country.
Also preschool. Preschool now available for all kids in the country for all 3 and 4-year-olds. And way more support for kids to get free meals at school and money to fix crumbling and out-of-date school buildings, Pell Grants that help people pay for college. We`re short on health care workers in this country, but now we`ll support the national nurses corps and the national health service corps. That should help with recruiting more health care professionals.
We need more teachers, right? This funds teacher recruitment and training all over the country. And as I said, for people with disabilities or for older folks who want to stay at home but need some help, this is the first time we are going to invest as a country in people`s ability to get help me at home so they can stay at home with a little extra help instead of having to go to a nursing home if they don`t otherwise need to go.
Eight hundred thousand Americans on the waiting list for that kind of care, they`re finally going to be able to get that kind of care supported by this bill. It`s also, as you`ve heard, the biggest investment in climate resilience, including the biggest investment in climate and weather forecasting and research. Yeah, that would be better if that was better.
We`re also going to make the post office vehicles electronic now. You know that mail trucks get ten miles per gallon? Why not the post police vehicles all electric vehicles? This bill will do that. Also, trash trucks, also school buses. That should`ve been done a gazillion years ago. Now we get to it now with this bill.
Pipes for drinking water that are made of lead? Never was a good idea in the first place, but here`s, finally, billions of dollars to take those lead pipes out and replace them with water pipes that don`t poison our kids anymore, finally.
Also increasing our vaccine production capacity as a country, that seems like it`s well in time, right? Maybe we`re a little overdue on that one. Rebuilding and modernizing our ancient and out-of-date V.A. facilities for our veterans. So many facilities are 50 and 60 and more years old.
I mean, that`s, like, not even the half of it. For most of this stuff, how did this get done before? But never mind that now. We know.
You watch the people who did everything they could, everything in their human power to get it done. It`s easy to see that it took moving heaven and earth to get us to the point where we are going to do it now. But tonight we are doing it. This is passing the House tonight.
We`ve been talking throughout this whole long and windy road of a process with the chair of the progressive caucus, Pramila Jayapal, who`s been assuring me from day one it would get down. Tonight, in the House, it is finally getting done. I`ve been cynical this whole time, she told me it would pass. Right now, it`s passing in the House.
She`s going to join us just off the House floor, just ahead.
Lots to get to tonight. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD): It will invest in child care, universal pre-K, and home care. The Build Back Better Act makes the largest commitment toward addressing the climate crisis ever considered by any nation in history.
REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): This build back better legislation will make health care accessible and affordable for 2.2 million low-income, uninsured Americans.
REP. RICHIE NEAL (D-MA): Tonight, the vote we cast is about history. We`re going to change the lives and livelihoods for Americans for generations to come.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It`s a late night in Washington tonight where the House is on the verge of passing the signature piece of President Biden`s agenda, the Build Back Better Act.
And getting to this point has been quite a saga. Seemingly endless negotiations over the scope of the bill and the cost of the bill, heated standoffs over the wisdom of splitting this stuff off from the smaller bipartisan physical infrastructure bill, that smaller bipartisan infrastructure bill was split off, passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by president Biden this week.
That, of course, all happened, though, only on the condition that there would also be support for this larger spending bill that is going through the House tonight. Tonight it does look like Democrats are on the cusp of passing this bill in the House. That`s the first big necessary step towards sealing a historic legislative advance for President Biden and for the country. It would be a potentially transformational piece of legislation.
I think it`s fair to say that we wouldn`t be where we are tonight without the work and the advocacy of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and its leader, Washington Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. From the beginning, she`s been a vital part of the negotiations, equally cheerful and unrelenting.
Earlier in the day today, Pramila Jayapal posted this photo of herself with a mascot that looked like it jumped out of Schoolhouse Rock. You see the caption says, loved meeting the build back better bill today. There`s bill. Hi, bill! I wouldn`t have guessed white pants, but still, hey, it`s all right.
She says: Now, let`s vote this bill through the house and move one step closer toward making this transformational package law.
MADDOW: Joining us now from the Capitol where the House is set to vote on this bill is Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington, chair of the Congressional Progressive caucus. Congresswoman Jayapal, it`s nice of you to make a moment in this busy night to see us. Thanks for making time.
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Thank you, Rachel. I told you we`d get it done and we`re going to get it done.
MADDOW: Well, I never count my chickens before they are hatched. Are you saying that you believe the votes are there for sure?
JAYAPAL: Yes. It will pass tonight the House of Representatives. And Rachel, I`m so proud of the progressive movement, the Progressive Caucus that has been holding the line and saying that these two bills, the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better bill, had to go together. 85 percent of all of that good stuff that you covered, that is 85 percent of the president`s agenda. That is in the Build Back Better Act.
And it is transformational. So when we insisted -- six weeks ago, Rachel, remember, there was no negotiated agreement. There was no framework. There was no legislative text.
There was no vote on a rule, and there was certainly no vote on the actual Build Back Better Act because progressives held the line. We got all of that, and this is a phenomenal package. We will pass it through the House. We will send it to the Senate.
President Biden has assured us that he has 51 votes in the Senate. I have had my own conversations with senators over there. We are going to get this done, and Democrats are going to deliver for the people.
MADDOW: Now, when you say you had your own conversations with senators over there in terms of its likely hood of it passing, I`m going to ask you what you mean, and you`re not going to tell me directly, but please tell me indirectly what you mean by that because that`s the whole enchilada in terms of whether this becomes law.
JAYAPAL: Well, what I`ll say is the negotiations were taking place over the last five weeks with Senators Manchin and Sinema and the White House. Almost every aspect of this bill has been pre-conference. There are a lot of things that are not, Rachel, and we just have to be real about that. We put paid leave in. Senator Manchin has not agreed to that yet.
But I will tell you there are some phenomenal, strong women senators over there that I hope will be able to convince Senator Manchin that that is the thing to do. But there`s hardly anything else that is not pre-conference, not already agreed to.
And so when the president said trust me that I am confident I can get 51 votes, of course it`s his word, along with the fact that these negotiations have been going on. We`ve had conversations and I believe that we will have 51 votes in the Senate. How did that do it for you?
MADDOW: That`s -- it was indirectly, but you hit two angles, so technically that`s a bank shot. So I almost understand.
Let me ask you more specifically. In terms of the items that aren`t pre- conferenced, as you say, you mentioned paid leave is one of them, are there enough items in that basket, things that basically haven`t been pre-agreed to by particularly those two senators, are there enough things in that basket that if the Senate went south on all of them that this bill might become something that ultimately you and your progressive colleagues would balk from and decide it`s not worth passing?
JAYAPAL: It`s not going to happen. The framework that President Biden laid out was actually the framework that was the pre-conferenced part, right?
Now, in addition to that, since the progressives said we were going to wait to be able to get a real agreement, be able to pass both of these bills together, we have added prescription drug pricing. Finally, we`re going to cut the cost of prescription drugs.
We have added -- there is a piece around immigration that will depend on the parliamentarian that has less to do with the senators and more to do with the parliamentarian rules. But that is still in our bill. But really, we have been able to add things and keep it to the framework that was originally agreed to.
So I don`t believe that we will weaken beyond the framework that the president laid out, plus, of course, prescription drug price, which was already agreed to. But there`s just one or two things and we`ll see how that goes. I`m confident that the senators will do a great job of delivering 51 votes and keeping their side of the bargain as we have done over here.
MADDOW: Well, let me ask, you know, you said a number of times that you have been the relentless optimist. We described you as the official optimist of THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW through this process. I hear it in your voice now, and not just optimism but confidence. But you also said, you know, knowing it`s going to work out in the end doesn`t mean it`s not going to be rocky or a difficult process. I know that`s still ahead.
Can I ask you for an assessment about what the impact of this process has been on you and other progressives, on the progressive caucus, on the way that you decided to approach legislating with narrow margins? Has this rocky process beaten you guys up a bit? Has it exposed riffs? Has it made things for difficult or has it brought the caucus together now that you`re actually voting yes on something all the same time?
JAYAPAL: It has really brought the caucus together. It`s not just progressives, Rachel. I will tell you, I was on the floor today and just really taking in all of the people across the caucus, including people outside of the progressive caucus, who were thanking us for holding the line, who were thanking us for our tactical decisions, who are saying we would never be where we are without you doing what you did.
So I feel incredibly good and strong. And I want to say that people should understand, it`s not just a few progressives. This was dozens and dozens of people, more than half of the progressive caucus that stuck together, held the line, as well as others outside of that who may not have been quite as vocal.
But this was an incredibly powerful moment because, first of all, this is the president`s agenda. We said that from the very beginning. We were not asking for something more in this moment than what President Biden was asking for. What he laid out to Congress that is a transformational progressive agenda. And so, that`s the first thing.
The second thing is that courage begets courage, and I think people have forgotten what it looks like to fight, to fight hard for the things that aren`t just easy. The bipartisan bill, Rachel, was not easy, but it was easier because it`s bipartisan and it carved out things that there`s a lot of support for on both sides of the aisle.
This is something we`ll do with 51 Democratic votes. I guarantee you there`s going to be a bunch of Republicans who go home after voting no, but they will take the dough and they`ll hold it up just like they`ve been doing with the infrastructure bill, the people that voted no are still bragging about what they did.
This is going to benefit people across the country. The infrastructure bill is fantastic, we`re touting its benefits. But the thing that is different about this is you will wake up -- anyone watching this show, you will wake up and see your costs cut.
You will see child care. Finally, you`ll have child care. You`ll see that you`re able to afford the cost of housing because there will be more housing, the biggest investment in housing in our country`s history.
You will know if you`re a young person that you`re going to have a planet, and that we are actually taking real action to reduce carbon emissions.
There are so many things in this bill about changing how you feel when you wake up in the morning, and that is what we have to do to reach Americans across the country and say government`s got your back. That`s what the Build Back Better Act will do.
MADDOW: Washington Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, in the midst of the final debate on this bill tonight that is due to pass. Pramila Jayapal just told us confidently it`s going to pass tonight. The votes are there.
Congresswoman, I know it`s going to be a late night. Thank you for taking this moment.
JAYAPAL: Thank you, Rachel. Don`t forget my optimist in chief plaque for THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW.
MADDOW: Unfortunately, it`s frosting on a big cookie, but I`ll send it anyway. We`ll get it through. All right.
All right. Much more ahead tonight as we wait for this big vote. I should tell you, all awards handed out by THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW are by statute edible. So, anything we`re sending out, you have to be able to eat it and share with your colleagues.
All right. Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is a story. This is worth getting your head around. The first time they tried it was a decade ago after the last census in 2010. The Republican county commissioners in Galveston County, Texas, who are all white, incidentally, they drew up new voting maps, which is you can do after a new census. The maps they drew up had a very specific purpose.
Those new maps split up and diluted the relatively large minority population of Galveston County so that in the new maps, there wouldn`t be any districts that had too many minority voters. The new map would result in the only two Democratic county commissioners in Galveston likely losing their seats, including the only commissioner who was African-American, right? Voila. Thanks to one new map, the entire county government would presto, be run by white Republicans. It`s a neat trick.
The white Republican commissioners in Galveston didn`t bother to tell the black commissioner at the time. They approved the new maps as a surprise to him. Look what we did. Did we forget to tell you?
The federal government stepped in and stopped that. The Justice Department said the new maps were illegal and discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act. The courts agreed, the maps were blocked. This happened after the 2010 census.
But then in 2013, something else happened in Washington. In a ruling authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, the United States Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act.
And once the Supreme Court did that, literally as soon as they did that, Galveston County was one of the first places in the country to go try again. To try to do the things they had not been allowed to do because under the Voting Rights Act, it was to racist to be legal.
Well, after that Supreme Court case which gutted Voting Rights Act in 2013, with the Feds no longer allowed to look over their shoulder while they did this, the Republican commissioners in Galveston County, Texas, went ahead and enacted a big section of their plan that had previously been blocked. They didn`t get all the way to where they wanted. They did get rid of one of the Democrats, but that one black Democratic county commissioner was still there.
And so now, ten years after their first go at it, now they`re finally getting it done. This week, the Republicans, the all-white Republicans on the Galveston County Commission unveiled new voting maps, maps that break up the one district where Black and Hispanic voters compromise a majority of voters. This will almost certainly result in that one black Democrat on the county commission losing his seat, meaning that after the next election in Galveston County, which is 45 percent nonwhite, the highest levels of local government will be entirely white and entirely Republican for the first time in decades.
To vote on these new maps, the new commissioners convened in an annex building in a tiny meeting room less than half the size of their meeting place in the courthouse. There were no microphones or room for the citizens who showed up. Nevertheless, those outraged citizens showed up.
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HANNAH MELCER, GALVESTON COUNTY, TX RESIDENT: I`m neither Democrat nor Republican. What I do know as a woman born in the South and raised in the South is that this map, both of them are racist. We know it. I ain`t no fool. Neither are these people.
EDNA COURVILLE, GALVESTON COUNTY, TX RESIDENT: What they`re doing is destroying totally precinct 336, which is a destruction of the community, the community in which I live and have lived in over 50 years.
STEPHEN HOLMES (D), GALVESTON COUNTY COMMISSIONER: I want you to know to all members of the commission, we are not going to go quietly in the night.
We are going to rage, rage, rage, until justice is done to us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That last speaker at the end, that is the one Democrat who remains on the Galveston County Commission. He`s the one whose district they`ve just gotten rid of so that a white Republican can be elected for that seat instead.
After he finished, he was the one dissenting vote as his white Republican colleagues voted unanimously to approve the new map, and that will break up his district, make it more white and Republican like theirs, and get rid of Democratic and minority representation in that part of Texas.
Joining us now is Ari Berman. He`s senior reporter at "Mother Jones Magazine" who has been covering this more aggressively and with more clarity than any other report in the country.
Ari, thank you so much for being here. Appreciate you making the time.
ARI BERMAN, MOTHER JONES MAGAZINE: Hi, Rachel. Thank you so much for having.
MADDOW: When you wrote about this Galveston situation today, it both felt worse than a lot of things I`ve read and also essentially like a microcosm of what`s happening across the country everywhere that Republicans are in control.
Is it fair to see that as a microcosm?
BERMAN: That`s absolutely right, Rachel.
What`s happening in Galveston is probably the most extreme example of racial gerrymandering we`ve seen this year, but it isn`t an aberration. What Republicans are doing across the country is they are literally turning back the clock decades when it comes to voting rights. We are seeing the most intense efforts to undermine the right to vote and the most intense efforts to reduce fair representation since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.
And without these crucial voting rights protections, without a strong voting rights act, without federal legislation protecting voting rights, Republicans are basically getting a free pass to do the kind of extreme gerrymandering and voter suppression that would have been otherwise blocked under the Voting Rights Act before it was gutted by the Supreme Court.
MADDOW: The head of the Justice Department Civil Rights Division gave speech tonight in which she talked about the provisions that are still enforced in the voting rights act, provisions against racial vote dilution. And it would seem that might apply in Galveston and in other place.
Is there a -- is there a remedy in the courts? As minimal as it maybe compared to when the Voting Rights Acts was in full force, is there still potential help down the road from the courts?
BERMAN: Yeah. There is a remedy, Rachel, but it`s a harder remedy, because previously, Galveston would have had to approve this kind of racially discriminatory change with the federal government and it would have been blocked. It`s why they never proposed doing this kind of thing in the first place. Now they can do it and you can only challenge it after the fact, so there`s going to be litigation filed, not just in Galveston, but in places in Texas and Georgia where they`re enacting discriminatory statewide maps.
It`s going to take a long time to litigate these cases. In the meantime, elections will be held under discriminatory and likely illegal maps.
MADDOW: Ari, I think a lot of Democrats and a lot of fair-minded Americans -- I`m glad we played that clip of a white woman speaking at that Galveston meeting saying I`m not a Democrat or a Republican, but this seems really racist to me and she went on to remark I find shame over what you`re doing. It`s greedy, shameful and disrespectful to the people who live in this community.
And her exasperation as somebody who`s a nonpartisan observer in that community resonated in an interesting way and I think a lot of Democrats feel very dispirited by this process. I think a lot of fair-minded observers who want small "D" well-run democracies, whether or not they like Democrats or Republicans feel dispirited by this, feel sort of hopeless about this.
I mean, you`ve been reporting on this so aggressively.
Do you -- do you see the arc bending on this? Any way to look at this that is hopeful and constructive and isn`t just deflating for people?
BERMAN: We need to see action from the federal government. We`re in a moment where there`s no substitute for federal action on voting rights. We are in a 1965 moment for democracy.
There was no institute for the Voting Rights Act in 1965. We weren`t going to out-organize voter suppression, we weren`t going to out-litigate voter suppression. Congress had to step in and act. We`re in a similar situation today.
We`re not going to out-organize or out-litigate extreme gerrymandering and voter suppression. Congress has to protect voting rights. There simply is no substitute right now.
Hopefully all of the voter suppression, all of the extreme gerrymandering we`re seeing right now is a wake-up call for Congress to act. That yes, this economic legislation is critically important, but nothing, nothing is more important than protecting American democracy.
MADDOW: Ari Berman, senior reporter at "Mother Jones Magazine" who has just been a juggernaut on democracy and voting rights and on this gerrymandering problem in particular -- Ari, thank you so much for making time tonight.
BERMAN: Thanks so much, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. I`ll tell you, Paul Waldman was writing about this at "The Washington Post." I thought his headline on it was almost perfect.
He said: The redistricting apocalypse is here. Republican campaign more than a decade in the making comes to fruition. Its goal is not merely to give Republicans an advantage in close elections, its goal is to make elections irrelevant so that no matter what voters want, Republicans always stay in power.
That is the game here. That is why the stupid word gerrymandering, which is such an impediment to people thinking critically about how to fix this thing, if it`s not written out of our system in a nonpartisan way, this redistricting thing, this apocalypse is indeed where it is heading.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Today, White House adviser Steve Bannon appeared in federal court face criminal contempt chares for defying a subpoena from the January 6 investigation. He pled not guilty today, judge accepted his plea. Trial date is yet to be set.
The January 6th investigation continues to be the focus of so much of what`s going on in terms of Congress and its oversight responsibilities, but the other big select committee investigating a massive thing in American public policy is the committee that`s looking at the Trump administration`s disastrous response to COVID which potentially cost hundreds of thousands of American lives.
The committee today subpoenaed top Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro, the subpoena came after the committee had requested documents and information from him in September. They accompanied that request by releasing e-mails showing how integral Navarro was in the early Trump White House response to the pandemic, including taking advice from a fringe outside adviser. They also released e-mails showing Navarro inexplicably pushing the use of hydroxychloroquine even though it is not know to have any effect on COVID-19.
He also apparently told Trump to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci twice. He publicly denounced Anthony Fauci as evil. He wrote an op-ed in July last year about how terrible and wrong Anthony Fauci was. The op-ed contains so many false statements that "USA Today" had to publish a special note saying the content did not meet its fact checking standards. Then why did you publish it?
It`s against that backdrop that Peter Navarro refused to even respond to the investigation`s request back in September. According to committee staff, he repeatedly hung up when they called him on the phone to follow up on the request.
Well, now, it`s a subpoena. They`re demanding documents by December 8th. They want him to sit for a deposition a week later on December 15th. The committee is also suggesting in its communications today that Navarro may have withheld additional evidence in part by using encrypted and private communications during his time at the White House which you are not supposed to do, and which could potentially be much more troublesome for Navarro than his refusal to supply the committee with documents. We`ll see.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: There is no filibuster in the House of Representatives, but the Republican leader in the House, Congressman Kevin McCarthy is right now doing his best impression of one. He has been talking nonstop for more than an hour on the House floor to try to delay the passage of the Build Back Better legislation, which as far as we can tell is going to pass the House tonight no matter how long he keeps everyone up past their bedtimes.
I should tell you there was one particularly funny moment at one point in his speech tonight. He shouted in his speech, nobody elected Joe Biden to be FDR. At which point, one Democrat on the floor shouted out, I did. And then another one said, me, too.
Things like this always seem to happen to Kevin McCarthy whenever he thinks he`s got a zinger. It might yet be a long night, but it looks like it`s going to be a good one.
Our coverage continues with "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Good evening, Lawrence.