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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 5/3/21

Guests: Amy Gardner, Apoorva Mandavilli


President Biden has announced that he is dropping the Trump administration`s draconian restrictions on allowing refugee admissions into the country and even considering applications for refugee status in this country. Republicans in the great state of Florida have passed the new bill radically restricting voting rights in Florida. "The New York Times" is reporting that reaching herd immunity is unlikely in the U.S.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: That is ALL IN on this Monday night.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciate it.

Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour as well. Happy to have you here.

Lots of really interesting news. "The New York Times" first to report that the FDA is expected to approve the first COVID vaccine for teenagers, for kids 12 to 16. Now, this is not out of the blue. Pfizer had recently reported clinical trial results that showed really good results among young people, ages 12 to 16. That trial showed that the Pfizer vaccine was as effective if not more effective in that age group when it comes to preventing serious illness compared to what adults experience with the vaccine.

That clinical trial also showed the temporary side effects people sometimes get from taking the vaccine, those were basically the same in that age group. That 12 to 16 age group, as they are in adults. And that is very good news. And that very promising results now in hand, means the FDA`s vaccine advisory group is apparently soon going to make its recommendations, and the FDA will be expected to move quickly on approving the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 16-year-olds, 12 to 15-year-olds, since the current vaccines are approved for kids 16 and up.

This could happen by next week. It could potentially happen by the end of this week. But this, of course, will be a huge relief to families around the country who have 12, 13, 14, 15-year-old kids who have been thinking about how to mitigate COVID risk for kids doing summer activities and kids going back to school in the fall.

The other two-shot vaccine similar to Pfizer`s, the Moderna vaccine, that is also in the midst of its own clinical trial in young people. If that trial produces similar results, there`s a good reason to expect that Moderna could follow Pfizer pretty quickly in becoming a second vaccine approved for kids age 12 and up. There are also promising trials underway right now for kids younger than age 12.

So that part of the vaccination effort is all happening now. It feels like it`s happening all at once but we have been able to see this critical trial data in development and it sort of laid the predicate for what is about to happen now. But in terms of FDA acting on it, it looks like is going to happen in the next few days.

And that`s really important. It comes amid these twin concerns that we have right now, right? If we are ever going to get ahead of the pandemic, if the rest of the world can`t get vaccinated, global access to vaccines is the only way to beat a global pandemic. So far, it`s only a very small handful of well off countries who are approaching saturation coverage in terms of vaccinating their own populations.

We are one of the small handful of countries among the best in the world when it comes to how much of a population is already vaccinated, and how much vaccine supply we have. But lots of experts are now concluding that, even our vaccines are too slow to beat this thing, systematically. We have been talking about this for a while, but we are starting to get a sense of sort of how the race is going, right? One side of the race is the number of unvaccinated people, that you`ve still got.

The amount of vaccine, excuse, me the amount of virus that is circulating in the population, the amount of people getting newly infected, which means the ongoing replication and spread of the virus into new hosts, into new people, which gives the virus more and more opportunity to mutate into more and more contagious, more and more dangerous variants. That is one side of the race. What the virus is doing, how much of a toehold can get in our population.

On the other side of the race is the vaccination effort, how fast can we vaccinate the most people? So, the virus can`t find another host, another person to infect. Another opportunity replicate and get more dangerous. That is the race.

And more and more public health experts are saying that our vaccination effort, as good as it is, it`s so far not able to outpace the virus.

So, we`re going to be talking tonight with Apoorva Mandavilli from "The New York Times", about her new reporting today on what she calls the emerging, quote, wide spread consensus among experts that we`re not going to win that race by vaccination. That the idea of herd immunity is not something we are going to attain.

Now, interestingly, there is reason to believe that it`s not terrible news. The future in that COVID world is potentially a pretty livable and understandable future. But it is worth understanding if that`s where we`re heading.

So, that`s big news there in terms of kids potentially being vaccinated, it raises real big questions in terms of how much of our population we are vaccinating, and how quickly, particularly while the rest of the world is way far behind us, in terms of vaccination saturation into the population. Really looking forward to that interview with Apoorva Mandavilli from "The New York Times".

Also big political news today, in terms of what`s coming next from President Biden and the Democrats in Congress. Now, these last few days have really been bang up news for the administration, and for the country in economic terms. We have the economic numbers in for the first quarter of this year. The U.S. economy in the first quarter of 2021 grew at an annualized rate of 6.4 percent, 6.4 percent GDP growth? That`s nuts. That is an insanely high number.

But look at this, in terms of individual American households. Look at this. Household income in March in the United States, we just got these numbers, it jumped by a record 21.1 percent in the month of March. The government has been tracking monthly household income numbers since 1959. Since they started tracking that number 1959, it has never had a higher jump than it did in March of this year.

And of course, both of those numbers, the huge 6.4 overall economic growth rate for the country, and the record drop, more than 20 percent jump in average income for American households, both of those figures are fueled by the same thing, right? Both of those figures are fueled by the Biden administration, and the Democrats in Congress doing stuff, passing legislation that has made a huge economic difference, both from the macro sense, and individual household level, right?

You could see the impact that it`s having on the economy already, it`s huge. And, that COVID relief package they passed, the stimulus checks, the relief for small business, owners financial help to restaurants and funding for vaccines, and funding to safely reopen schools and all the rest of it - - lesser noticed economic feature of the COVID relief bill is that it has tons of tax cuts in it for people making under $100,000 a year.

As "Politico" has reported, quote, look at their headlined. Not rich? Good news, you are probably getting a tax cut.

Quote: Everybody knows that Democrats want to raise taxes on the rich, but one hasn`t gotten nearly as much notice is how much Democrats have cut taxes for mostly everyone else. They`ve cut taxes for everyone else substantially more than Republicans did in the first year of the 2017 tax overhaul.

Quote: New estimates by Congress whose official forecasters showed the Democrats tax cuts including in their COVID relief package will drive down tax rates on low and middle income people so much this year, that Americans earning less than $75,000 a year, on average, will owe nothing this year in federal income taxes. Quote: it`s the flip side to Democrats campaign to raise taxes on wealthy, but is the flip side that is often overlooked.

One senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center said, quote, it plays against type, but this was a big honking tax cut for low and moderate income people.

Yeah. It is a sometimes overlooked fact, try completely overlooked, at least in most of the Beltway press. Thanks to the tax changes in the Biden and Democrats COVID relief benefit, people making 75 grand this year on average will owe zero in federal income taxes.

A person making between 75 grand and 100 grand this year, on average, this year, they`ll pay in federal income taxes, 1.8 percent. That will be on average if you make between 75,000 and $100,000 a year.

Big, big tax cuts from the Democrats for everyone making less than 100 grand per year. And they have passed. They`re already in effect.

And we`ve got these macro numbers that show the economy is off to the races, and household income making the biggest jump since we started keeping records of it.

Yes, under covered in the beltway press, yes. I would say. I mean, so far, zero Republicans have voted for the legislation that has made this possible. What are Republicans doing to try to turn people against would Biden in the Democrats are doing?

Well, this weekend, the Republican later of the House, Kevin McCarthy, posted this on Facebook, toting the benefits of the COVID relief bill, to folks at home in this California district. As if this was something he had anything to do with.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was agog, saying this in response, quote: Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the American Rescue Plan, COVID relief plan, quote, socialist. He claimed it would turn the United States into Venezuela, and he convinced every member of his caucus to vote against it. He even warned the American people, help is not on the way.

Now he`s toting the benefits of the American Rescue Plan to brag about bringing home the bacon. Help is not on the way, except for this help that I want people in my district to know about and credit before.

And we covered this phenomenon a few days ago, all these Republican members of Congress touting the benefits of the COVID relief bill back home to their districts, as if they had something to do with, it when they all, every single one of them voted against. It now, it`s the top guy, the Republican leader in the House, Kevin McCarthy, the guy who put himself in charge of trying to stop the COVID relief bill. Now he too is bragging about it at home. Help us here.

Talking about all the good it will do back home in his district because he didn`t succeed in his efforts to stop it. So, now, he wants credit for it, right? That`s one way to do it. Pretend you were for it, try to take credit for it even though you not only voted against, you did everything you could to try and stop it.

But as the Biden administration and the Democrats tried to reap the political benefits from the popularity and the positive effects of the stuff they have done already, they`re also making plans to move on to the next big stuff they are going to do for Congress. Namely the big infrastructure bill, and the American Families Plan that Biden talked about in his State of the Union last week. Well, on that front, there were two big important developments over the last few days on that, that I think will sort of set the courts for how this is going to go.

And that should, I think, harden, and speed up Democrats approach to both those pieces of legislation. Again, both those pieces of legislation are as big as the COVID relief bill. That could be expected to have as big an effect on COVID and on American standard of living and on household income, they would both be a huge, huge deal.

But a couple of things have happened that I think I`ve said the course for how this is going to go. First of all, you know how we had this amazing like too party split screen recently? On the one hand, on the left, we have had Democrats passing a $2 trillion COVID relief bill that got widespread support from the American people, and that we now know strapped a rocket engine to the U.S. economy.

On the other side of the screen, on the right, the Republicans seem to have no idea what to say about that or what to do about it. As proven by the fact that they all voted no against it, and now they are all taking credit for what was in it. What they did spend their time on this last few months, was just careening through this bizarre series of made up cartoon outrages, I mean, cartoon literally in some senses.

Mr. Potato Heads, the Muffets, Dr. Seuss, a ban on meat, right? All these made up scandals, these things that were either had nothing to do with the Biden administration and Democrats important were completely made up and had nothing to do with anything in reality.

Well, that dynamic is underway already for the next legislation the Democrats and the Biden administration are pursuing including the infrastructure bill and the American families bill, right? The bill that will make childcare way more affordable and preschool and community college. Those things are very, very popular with the American public.

And so, we`ve now had our first glimpse of what Republicans are going to do about that this time around. It turns out they`re going to try this.


SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): Two years of college, whether you like it or not. These are the things that take away choices from the American people.


MADDOW: Two years of college whether you like it or not. Wait a minute. Huh?

This is the Republican argument. Joe Biden, that jerk, is going to force, force everybody to go to college whether they want to or not. It`s going to be mandatory. What?

No, President Biden isn`t going to make you go to college. Isn`t going to make anyone to go college, let alone make everyone go to college. Could you even imagine how that would work?

Like you would be drafted or something? You! You in the corner! You`ve been designated to get a masters degree. The president picked you. You have no choice.

What is -- how would that even work, Senator?

President Biden is not banning meat and he is not going to force everyone to go two years of college. Senator Blackburn`s office later said she misspoke on that. But come on.

This is the character of the opposition thus far to the next -- the infrastructure bill that they`re going to roll out, which the Republicans say is socialism and turn us into Venezuela and the American families plan which will be force college for everyone, even if you don`t want it.

I mean, that`s the character of the opposition. Okay. That`s instructive. We`re going to stick with that king of thing. Okay. Dr. Seuss, got it.

But also, instructive, I think was this from Senator Mitch McConnell who is once again, flat out promising in advance that zero Republican senators will vote for Biden and the Democrats` next legislation, on infrastructure, on the American families plan. There will be zero Republicans voting for it.

Talk about something under-covered by the Beltway press. Think about the implications of this. This ought to be the cause for wall to wall coverage from for days on end.

Instead, it is covered like thing McConnell said and everybody moves on and meanwhile we`re stuck with this weird common wisdom in the Beltway that all the commentary, all still saying that Biden needs to find Republican votes. He needs a big bipartisan show of hands and support of what he`s doing. He needs to keep meeting with Republicans and talking to Republicans to find something they like so he can get Republican votes.

News flash: there`s not going to be any Republican votes. He doesn`t have to do any of those things. Just put up that headline again. The Republicans are promising, they are saying out loud and ahead of time that no matter what is in the bill, no matter what talks happen or don`t, no matter how nicely anyone talks to them or about them, there will be zero Republican votes for what Joe Biden wants to do.

Zero Republican votes promised in advance for infrastructure, for the American families plan, zero, none, no matter what talks happen.

If that is being guaranteed in advance by the Republican leader, there really is no reason for Democrats to waste time talking on Republicans about their feelings on something, right? They are pledged as a group to unanimously vote no, no matter what the legislation is, which is a convenient piece of advance warning that it is not worth talking to them about it.

They`ve already pledged zero votes. Good to know. Now we can stop wasting time wondering what you`ll do, because you`ve told us in advance. It also means we don`t need to spend time trying to persuade you.

This is a blessing for the Democrats. You will recall this also happened with the COVID relief plan, right? Back before that passed, Senator Mitch McConnell promised publicly no matter what was in that bill, no matter what talks happened or didn`t, no Republicans would vote for the COVID relief act.

Democrats got that message. They didn`t bother letting Republicans waste time. Water it down. Democrats with that promise in hand from Mitch McConnell, took him at his word, and they decided they would pass the bill basically intact and quickly without letting Republicans bog them down since they were all going to be no votes no matter what.

Well, now that McConnell has made the same promise on infrastructure and the American Families Act, Democrats are free to do the same. If there are no Republican votes by guarantee in advance from fumble leader, then okay. Negotiations by definition will be among Democrats themselves only. Which can frankly be hairy enough but it does mean they can ignore Republicans entirely and move quickly.

So we`ll see how this translates in days ahead in the administration and in Congress. But the lack of any reality-based critique from the Republicans on this forthcoming legislation as well, okay, the promise that they won`t vote for anything no matter what is in it. Those are procedural blessings for the Democrats.

Those are freeing for the Democrats in terms of how they proceed here, and their ability in good conscience to preclude any involvement from Republican that`s will slow down and weaken either of those legislative proposals. They can move ahead, the Democrats, on their own terms with just their own votes, with clarity.

Meanwhile tonight, President Biden has announced that he is dropping the Trump administration`s draconian restrictions on allowing refugee admissions into the country and even considering applications for refugee status in this country.

The administration also announced that for the first time since taking office, just over 100 days ago, today, the administration is facilitating the reuniting of families that were forced apart at the border by the Trump administration as we and everybody else has covered everyone else over the last several years. There are thousands of families that this was done to.

Kids taken away from their moms and dads forcibly by the U.S. government, by the Trump administration at the southern border. Now, soon after he took office, President Biden set up a task force, a high level force task force on reuniting these families. The task force says there are over 1,000 families that remain separated even now. More than a thousand families where the kids have been taken away from the parents by force by the U.S. government. That`s a huge task ahead to get them reunited.

NBC`s Jacob Soboroff has been on this story from the very beginning. Tonight, he has just conducted an interview with one of the kids from the four families who are now in the process of being reunited this week.

The young man who Jacob spoke with, his name is Bryan. He is now 18 years old. He`s from Mexico. When he was 15 years old, three years ago, he was separated from his mother.

According to Jacob`s reporting, Bryan and his mother will be reunited for the first time this week. Three years later.

Joining us now from Riverside, California, is MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff. He, of course, is the author of "Separated: Inside An American Tragedy", as I said, he has been on the story from the beginning. Jacob, thank you so much for being with us tonight.

I know this has been hurly burly in terms of your schedule getting this interview done and trying to stay ahead of the policy change.

JACOB SOBOROFF, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Rachel, thanks for having me and thanks for highlighting the stories tonight. I would say it is a bittersweet day. It is undeniably an extraordinary announcement that the first families of over 1,000 still separated are going to be reunited, and that the Biden administration has facilitated this.

Of course, there are so many children who have yet to go through what Bryan will go through this week and he was gracious enough honestly to meet up with me and share a little bit about how he`s feeling, what he`s been going through in the lead-up to this moment. A moment that has been literally three years in the making, in October, it will be four years.

I want to share what he told me a few minutes ago. Take a look.


SOBOROFF: So many people have learned about what now people call the Trump separation policy through the news. But so few people have got to hear firsthand what it was like from a now 18-year-old young man who experienced it for himself. What do you want people to know?

BRYAN, SOON TO BE REUNITED WITH MOTHER: Well, it`s just really cruel experience that I just hope no one has to go through. There`s a lot of kids going through this now but it is something that you don`t wish on a kid or a minor to go through.

SOBOROFF: There are 1,000 people still in the same position as you. When you think about that, what goes through your head?

BRYAN: Just unbelievable that they let this happen to multiple kids and families, to be separated from each other. It`s something that you, it should not happen and something unbelievable that like, it sounds cruel.


SOBOROFF: Rachel, I have to tell but what I learned about Bryan from Bryan this evening, once he was separated, he went into high school here in United States, in Southern California. He graduated early, and he graduated early because he wanted to get into the work force, he wanted to become an RN, he told me. But instead, with his life and with his career, he`s decided to go work to a pro bono legal service provider that works with migrant children and immigration proceedings.

And this was his first week on the job doing that. He`s a remarkable, remarkable young man. I`m very grateful to him for sharing his story with us especially ahead of such a momentous occasion for him.

MADDOW: You are kidding me. He was 15 years old, taken away from his mom, separated from his mom. As a 15-year-old kid went into this country on his own away from his mom, he hasn`t seen her in three years. In the interim three years, he`s graduated early from high school and now he`s going to be working in a legal services organization? This is insane.

SOBOROFF: That`s right. And he`s just started. His new colleagues love him very much. Some of the same people he worked with in his own immigration proceedings, and you know, like I said, this is bittersweet. There is a smile on my face just getting to meet him. Knowing what he`s about to go through.

But just knowing through all of this, you know, the way we talk about it, the politics of it, the public reception of it. This is so real to him and this is what he wanted to do with his life after going through an experience I don`t think anybody could comprehend outside the people going through it themselves.

MADDOW: Jacob, you`ve been able to report, including around these four reunifications this week, that the administration was able to facilitate this essentially by granting humanitarian parole to members of these families so they could get back together. So they could come into the country and be with each other.

But essentially, these things were facilitated. These reunifications were facilitated by nonprofit groups, by advocacy groups, including, Al Otro Lado, AOL, that have made this happen essentially with their own resources. They needed help from the administration to get it done in the end but they`ve been the ones doing the arrangements so far.

SOBOROFF: Oh, they have done such extraordinary work. Not just them but all the members of the steering committee, so to speak, that have been looking for separated families, parents of children who are not yet located. Still over 300 where they don`t know the location of parents.

Bryan`s family is not in that category but they worked day in and day out. The ACLU, Justice in Motion, a private law firm, Al Otro Lado, in order to literally track down and he are unite him. And Bryan`s case is one of about 30 that the lawyers have been trying in front of the federal government since the beginning of the Biden administration. They`re now taking action on it. Bryan`s case is one of the first four cases.

But as I said, these legal service providers have identified literally hundreds more. Over 1,000 who are in a similar position as he is, and that is why it is so important to stress, there is so much work yet to be done here to right the wrong of the separation policy and it includes not just the reunifications themselves. But this is one of the things Bryan said to me, wrap-around services, mental health or restitution in some way, or even accountability for members of the Trump administration that carried this policy out.

And there are a lot of unanswered questions from the Biden administration which I know they`re working very hard on. I spoke with Secretary Mayorkas yesterday, along with other reporters, and Michelle Brane, who`s running the task force. But Bryan is fortunate enough to be one of the first four during this administration to get back his mother and his family just this week.

MADDOW: MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff -- Jacob, what a remarkable turn in the story all these years later. Thank you so much for joining us. I`m looking forward to seeing the rest of that interview with Bryan. Thanks.

SOBOROFF: Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: Again, our lead story here with that feature with Jacob Soboroff, the Biden administration saying the first handful where the child was separated from his parent, the first families who went through this separation policy under the Trump administration, excuse me, under the Trump administration, the first four families being reunited this week, that`s expected to be the first four out of a thousand families need to go through this process. It is a slow start but finally, finally, finally a start.

Much more to get to here tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: The latest Republican anti-voting rights bill is on its way to the governor`s desk in Florida. The Republican Governor Ron DeSantis says of course he will sign the bill. It is a bill even more draconian than the hugely controversial anti-voting rights law enacted by Georgia Republicans a few weeks ago. The Florida bill cuts early voting. It cuts voting drop boxes, it makes it harder to vote by mail.

But as this bill is about to be signed into law, Republicans in Florida are realizing, they might be in a little bit of an oops situation here, because these restrictions that they`re imposing on voting aren`t only going to hit Democratic leaning voters, they`re also accidentally going to hit their own.

As I mentioned, one of the things are making harder to do and Florida is voting by mail. Mail-in voting is incredibly popular among Republican voters in Florida. The Republican Party in Florida for decades has promoted and invested in getting Republican voters to cast their votes by mail. Republican legislatures have again and again passed legislation in the past to make it easier to vote by mail because that is kind of the Republican way of voting in Florida. That`s how they`ve been pushing Republican voters to vote.

You may have noticed that Republicans have done really well in Florida elections recently including the one last November that was supposedly so awash in mail ballot voter fraud. We need all these new restrictive voting laws. Lots of people mailed in ballots. Lots of Republicans have mailed in ballots. Republicans have done really well with mail-in voting.

But apparently, as they were pushing through this new voter suppression bill through the legislature, Florida lawmakers overlooked the fact that they might be suppressing the wrong votes. They might be suppressing the votes of their own supporters.

Amy Gardner has a remarkable report today in "The Washington Post" that as the bill was being debated in the Florida legislature, this is incredible, quote: Some Republicans privately expressed worry that it could further undercut the party`s ability to encourage mail voting, particularly among military voters and the elderly who overwhelmingly use that method to cast their ballots. One former state party official said some Republicans briefly discussed whether lawmakers could exempt those two groups, military voters and the elderly from the new mail voting rules.

According to this former Republican official, quote, key lawmaker said you can`t do that. Would it raise equal protection problems. He added, quote, now damage is done. Now you`ll have military personnel who might not think they have to request a ballot so they won`t get it. We`ve got senior voters who have health concerns who just want to go out. They might not know the law has changed. They might not get a ballot because they`re not engaged.

Republicans have accidentally passed a whole bunch of new restrictions on voting that are on the way to the governor`s desk that includes the ways that Republican voters most like to vote in Florida, and that the Republican Party itself has invested millions of dollars and decades in trying to encourage among their own voters.

On the way toward passing this thing, they reportedly tried to exclude from the new law just the slivers of voters who are most likely to vote Republican in Florida using these methods that they are now restricting. The technical term for this is oops.

We`ve got more on what this might mean ahead.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: Republicans in the great state of Florida have passed the new bill radically restricting voting rights in Florida. The governor is about to sign it and he says he will sign it. But in their haste to get this done, Republicans in Florida apparently did not notice that some of the means of voting they`re now putting all these restrictions on are the exact means voting that their most loyal Republican voters use most frequently and that the means of voting that the Republican Party has been actively promoting to their own voters for decades.

In a report remarkable new report from "The Washington Post", Amy Gardner reports that along the way, Republicans considered trying to exclude the most Republican-leaning groups, the elderly and military voters, from these new voting restrictions that they nevertheless want to apply it to everyone else.

Joining us now is "Washington Post" national political reporter, Amy Gardner.

Ms. Gardner, it`s really nice to have you here. Thank you for taking the time tonight.


MADDOW: What is the extent of the regrets among Florida Republicans as they realize that these voting restrictions might cut into something they worked for decades to build support for among their most loyal voters?

GARDNER: It`s pretty extensive. I mean, it`s been 40 years in the making. Republicans had their first huge ballot victory back in 1988 in a U.S. Senate race where the Democrat was ahead when everyone went to sleep on election night and the Republican won two days later. And that`s happened over and over again in Florida and that`s because of the incredible program that the Republican Party has built over those decades to teach elderly voters in particular, also military voters, how easy it is to vote by mail and to keep coming back at them again and again and reminding them to do so.

There`s an amazing, I think, illustrative story that I wrote about this morning where a Democratic consultant who was the guy who ran Obama`s campaign in 2008 in Florida, where every time President Trump tweeted last year about how crooked absentee or mail balloting is, he would get a text from a Republican operative buddy, you know, sending him an eye roll emoji or special characters meaning swear words because he was so upset at the damage that President Trump was doing to this method of voting that was so important to the Republican Party.

I don`t think we know how it will affect things going forward because we have this extraordinary year where President Trump was on the ballot and he is extraordinary as a candidate and where we had a pandemic which was of course extraordinary. But if things snap back to the mean we`re more Republicans vote by mail, then these new provisions in this law could curtail that party more.

MADDOW: Do they have options? I mean, short of convincing the governor to not sign the bill, trying to start over again to amend the bill to try to protect these forms of voting that they`ve promoted and that their voters like so much, do they have any options or is this essentially baked and now they have to just figure out how they`re going to live with the consequences?

GARDNER: It`s definitely baked. Ron DeSantis went on Fox News last week after the bill passed and said, quote/unquote, of course, I`m going to sign the bill into law. I think that the passage of this bill reflects the mindset that lots of Republicans are in right now which is there under tremendous pressure to show their loyalty to President Trump and to his belief that the election was stolen even though many of them privately believe that Joe Biden won the election fairly.

And so there is this huge pressure to pass these laws that in a lot of cases, both Republicans and Democrats described as a solution without a problem. You know, states like Florida where even dissenters widely hailed the 2020 election as the gold standard for election administration in America. So I don`t think there`s regret about doing what they felt they had to do them by passing the bill. They felt they had to place constituents, to place the audience, meaning President Trump but I do think that going forward they are going to be strategies on how to make sure that they continue or increase the education for their voters on how to vote by mail and how to navigate these new rules.

I think you`re going to see a lot of political consultants who do mail make a lot of money and the next couple of cycles because you`re going to be sending a lot of mail to Republican voters how to use these new laws.

MADDOW: Even in the case of a sort of political own goal like this, there will be ways that this will be turned into at least a moneymaking opportunity for the consultant class.

Amy Gardner, "Washington Post" political reporter -- thank you so much for great reporting on this great and colorful reporting on this and thanks for helping us understand it tonight.

GARDNER: Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ve got more ahead tonight stay with us.



REPORTER: When do you believe the U.S. will reach herd immunity?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think by the end of the summer, we will be in a different position than we are. There`s a debate on what constitutes herd immunity. Is it 70 percent of the population? Is it 68 percent? Is it 81 percent?

The point is that, by the end of the summer, right now, every single person, 16 years or older does not have to wait in line. They can show up and get a vaccination now.

I plead to everyone, get vaccinated now, please.


MADDOW: President Biden in Portsmouth, Virginia, today, fielding the reporter`s question about herd immunity against COVID-19. Herd immunity is one enough numbers of the community are immunized against the virus, but the virus basically can`t make inroads, it can spread in that community any longer.

Resistance in the community is high, the virus basically has nowhere to go. So, it stops spreading and that`s how it goes away. The way you get to herd immunity safely is through vaccines. And so, our country`s vaccination campaign launched in December, health officials have been asking how fast we need to vaccinate Americans in order to reach herd immunity here. How many people need to get vaccinated in order reach herd immunity?

Will it reach herd immunity? Right now, more than 145 million Americans had at least one dose of the vaccine. That`s 56 percent of the adult population in America. Vaccines for kids aged 12 and it may be approved as soon as next week.

But the rate of vaccinating adults is slowing, as this graph shows. We had a daily average of more than 3 million doses a day as of last month, now the daily average is just over 2 million doses a day.

And then "The New York Times" put up this little nightmare of a headline today. Quote: Reaching herd immunity is unlikely in the U.S., experts now believe.

The headline is fairly crushing I will admit. But the point of the article and the text of it, the ideas behind are more interesting. Quote, daily vaccination rates are slipping. There is widespread consensus among scientists and public health experts the herd immunity threshold is not obtainable in the foreseeable future and perhaps not ever. Instead, though, they are coming to the conclusion rather than making a long promised exit, the virus will most likely become a manageable threat that will continue to circulate the United States for years to come still causing hospitalizations and deaths but in much smaller numbers.

How much smaller is uncertain and depends in part on how much of the nation and the world becomes vaccinated and how the coronavirus evolves.

Joining us now is the reporter who wrote that article, Apoorva Mandavilli, "New York Times" science and global health reporter.

Apoorva, thank you so much for being here tonight. I really appreciate you taking the time.

APOORVA MANDAVILLI, NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks very much for having me.

MADDOW: I know that reporters don`t always write the headlines that appear on their stories. When you saw your story appear in print on "The New York Times" website with a headline on it, did you know you would ruin a lot of people`s days and it was going to feel like nightmare news for a lot of people?

MANDAVILLI: Well, I was really hoping people would read beyond the headline to be honest. I had a conversation with my editor about that headline and what we decided is that it`s true there is a lot more subtlety and I`m glad you think the rest of the article was interesting, but what my editor felt is what is new here is we`re hearing for the first time we may not reach herd immunity and that is a big deal.

MADDOW: What is the difference between herd immunity and a manageable level of infection in the country?

MANDAVILLI: I mean, in some ways, that`s just degrees of difference, right? Herd immunity is really a continuation. So, right now, we may be at 60 percent of the population is immune one way or another. Either because they were infected with COVID or because they are vaccinated, and we may need to get to 80, 85 percent to get that herd immunity threshold.

But that doesn`t mean that that`s just zero or 100. All along the way, the more people we vaccinate, the fewer hospitalizations and deaths we will see and that`s really what we`re trying to get to here.

MADDOW: I was struck by one of the experts who you spoke to who expressed that in pretty blunt terms saying even when we were hoping for herd immunity, it was never going to be you got there and raised the flag and it`s over and you never thought of it again. It was always something we and publish health officials and public health officials had to keep an eye on, in terms of a circulating virus that`s proven its ability to kill populations wholesale and our ability to fight it off will always depend on some sort of race against the virus` efforts to mutate away from our mitigation efforts.

It was sort of always going to be a push me, pull you contest.

MANDAVILLI: It was always going to be that and that`s because we were never going to have 100 percent protection, at least not in the foreseeable future. If you think about something like measles, the U.S. actually has a huge number of people protected from that. We actually do have herd immunity for that as a nation, but as you know, in New York, we`ve had outbreaks in the orthodox Jewish community and have outbreaks now and then. So, this is basically like that except there are a lot more people that can get sick. And so, those outbreaks will be bigger and lead to hospitalizations and deaths along the way.

MADDOW: Tell me about how the other news, I know you were part of the reporting team at the "New York Times" today that reported Pfizer is likely -- the FDA is likely to approve the Pfizer vaccine for kids age 12 to 15. It`s approved for 16 and up now.

That prospect of being able to vaccinate younger teenagers and kids and presumably with the clinical trials underway now, kids younger than that, does that affect the math at all, the projections in terms of how much of the country will be immune and how many communities will be susceptible to the outbreaks you described?

MANDAVILLI: Well, I think we definite he need as many kids as we can to get vaccinated because kids under 18 are about 23 percent of the population. So if we don`t vaccinate kids, there is just no chance in ever getting herd immunity but with all of them getting vaccinated, we still probably won`t get there is what the experts are saying.

So, we`re expecting the FDA to authorize this vaccine for 12 to 15-year- olds sometime early next week or maybe this week. And once those start getting vaccinated, we`ll hear results from younger kids. But we need all of the children to really get vaccinated to get closer to herd immunity.

MADDOW: Apoorva Mandavilli, "New York Times" science and global health reporter -- thank you for your time and your clarity tonight. As I said, the headline is a scary thing, the ideas behind it are more nuanced and the task at hand is the same. The more Americans get vaccinated, the quicker and better we`ll be. Thank you so much for being here tonight.

MANDAVILLI: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: One thing to watch for in tomorrow`s news. There is this news that we live with tonight that we`re likely to have an FDA approval as soon as the end of this week for kids aged 12 and up to get the Pfizer vaccine in this country. That is big news.

Also tomorrow, the travel ban goes into effect between the U.S. and India. This is in the midst of India`s just terrible overwhelming COVID crisis right now. There is a travel ban between U.S. and India that will go into effect tomorrow.

There`s a lot of important news going on. We`ve just learned that president Biden is due to speak on COVID specifically tomorrow at 2:30 Eastern. So I think it`s worth having your antenna out for that tomorrow, given all of the quickly developing news on that front.

But we will see you again tomorrow night.


Good evening, Lawrence.