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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 6/17/21

Guests: Barbara Lee, Tim Kaine, Dahlia Lithwick


Democratic California Congressman Barbara Lee is interviewed. Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine is interviewed. The Supreme Court upheld once again the constitutionality of Obamacare.


ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC HOST: It`s a good point about all the potential abuses of power, and certainly, the co-equal branch of government, Congress, may want to look into that.

Congressman Jim Himes, thank you so much for being here tonight. Please stay safe.

That is ALL IN for this Thursday night.


Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Zerlina. It is great to see you and I want to say before you go, that we had to ask you and your staff to move a whole bunch of stuff around today in order to accommodate things for our show, and I am very, very grateful to you guys for being able to do that. I made your workday harder. I`m sorry, I owe you, and I am thankful.

MAXWELL: I will do anything for you. No worries.

MADDOW: Never say that. Thank you, Zerlina. I really appreciate it.

And thanks at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you here.

I will tell you in advance that we are having slight technical difficulties in terms of the technical aspects of getting stuff on the show, so in case anything looks a little bit hinky or unlike it usually does, don`t worry. Nothing is wrong. At least nothing wrong you need to worry about. Plenty is wrong, trust me.

All right. We start tonight in Marshall, Texas in east Texas. Really, really east Texas. It is close to the Louisiana state line, not far from Shreveport, Louisiana.

And she was born there in 1926 in Marshall, Texas, far east Texas. But after being born in Marshall, Texas, in the 20s, when she was 12 in June 1939, she and her family moved 200 miles west all the way to Fort Worth.

It was her and her two siblings and her mom and dad. They moved all the way from near Shreveport, Louisiana, all the way to Fort Worth. They paid $165 for their house on East Annie Street and New York Avenue in Fort Worth, in the Fifth Ward in Fort Worth.

It`s a neighborhood today that is hemmed in on three sides by a zillion lanes of interstate and major highways, a sort of have the effect of cutting it off from the rest of Fort Worth. Back in the late 1930s, that was before all the interstates and all of that.

And the most important thing to know about that neighborhood when it comes to young 12 year old Opal and her family was that they were a black family, that was moving in from way out east by Louisiana Lake. That neighborhood the removing into was a mostly white neighborhood, at East Annie Street in Fort Worth.

And they move there in June of 1939, they had been told by a local real estate agent that it would be fine even though they were a black family moving into a mostly white neighborhood. It was not fine, they did not last the week. It made the local news and the headlines that are still hard to look at today.

Fort Worth crowds attacks Negroes. Violence climaxed observance of Negro emancipation last night when a crowd estimated of 500 persons stormed the resident of Otis Flake, negro, at 940 East Annie Street. The man hurled rocks at the house and then entered the dwelling and began carrying furniture into the street after Mr. Flake, his wife and three children fled from the house.

Flake moved into the house last Friday. For four nights, since they`ve been there, police have watched the area attempting to disperse crowds that have assembled on a nearby corner to protest the moving of Negroes into a white residential district.

Here`s another one. Negroes driven out, furniture burned. Mob evicts black from white neighborhood.

Police today were investigating him near why it that developed when a group of 500 persons drove Otis Flake, Negro, from his recently purchased home.

Here`s another one: Negroes tenants are protested. This one described, quote, aroused residents, who have been fighting against encroachment of Negroes in the area. That one was actually published in "The Fort Worth Start Telegram" before the attack that drove the family from their home. This article: Negroes tenants are protested, described a crowd of about 150 people that had to be dispersed from outside their home on that Saturday night. It is quite possible that that article from "The Fort Worth Star Telegram" about the aroused residents fighting encroachment of Negroes was part of how the crowd, the next night, Sunday night, ended up at 500 instead of 150. That 500 strong crowd is the one that actually burned them out.

About ten years ago, Bud Kennedy at "The Fort Worth Star Telegram" dug up the old headlines about that attack on the Flake family for a column he wrote. From the local headlines he was able to piece from the time, he was able to fit together the way it involves. Police might have said they were investigating the, quote, mobbing, police told the local press at the time that the mob destroyed the family`s furniture, broke windows and damaged the building, hit a man at the scene with a baseball bat.

The next day, quote, youths came into the house and turned on the gas jets and fled so the building would burn too. Even though that`s what happened and the police were supposedly on it, and they`ve been on it for four straight nights by the time the family was family burned out, nobody was ever arrested apparently.

According to Bud Kennedy, quote, nothing further was ever published about the incident or any investigation.

And like I said, she was 12 years old when it happened. One of the three children of Otis and Mattie Flake who were burned out of that home in June 1939. She`s interviewed about it later and she told Jackson this, she said, quote, people gathered, the police couldn`t control them. My dad came home with a gun, and the police told him if he busted a cap, they`d lead that mob have him.

She says, quote, if they had given us an opportunity to stay there and be their neighbors, they would`ve found out, we didn`t want any more than what they had. A decent place to stay, jobs that paid, to be able to go to school in the neighborhood even if it was a segregated school. We would`ve made good neighbors, she said, but they didn`t give us an opportunity. And I felt like everybody needs an opportunity.

Again, that attack that burned the Flake family out of their home, and what was literally the fourth night they were trying to sleep in that home, that happened in 1939, the summer of 1939 in Forth Worth, Texas.

I want to put back up on the screen there one piece from that coverage from the time that quote about when exactly it happened. Remember this lead from the first story from "The AP" that I mentioned: Violence climaxed observance of Negro emancipation late tonight, when a crowd estimated of 500 persons stones of residents. Violence climax observance of Negro emancipation. What that awkward language from the newspaper in 1939 tells you is that this attack happened specifically on June 19th, 1939. It happened during the observance of the emancipation of African Americans in the United States.

It was June 19th, 1865, when General Gordon Granger and his Union troops wrote into Galveston, Texas, that was after the end of the Civil War, and they issued, he issued General Order Number Three. For the first time bringing news to the 250,000 enslaved black people in Texas at the time that by law they were now free. It was actually a huge mural there in Galveston on the side where General Granger issued that proclamation. It says, absolute quality, you see that?

And June 19th has been celebrated in Texas, in the state of Texas for very long time. It`s been a paid state holiday in Texas since 1979. As in that local news article from 1939, the day was sometimes delicately called the Negroes emancipation. But what we call it now is Juneteenth.

Vice President Kamala Harris said today at the White House, throughout history, Juneteenth has been known by many names, Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Liberation Day, Emancipation Day. Today she said, it is a national holiday.

Despite the attack on her family home in 1939 when she was 12 years old, both young enough and old enough to be deeply scarred and scared for life by something like that, young Miss Opal, again 12 years old when it happened, she survived that attack along with her two siblings. She would go on to play an important role in local celebration of that holiday in Texas, specifically in Forth Worth where she live the rest of her life.

She was a teacher, she went on to work for a local food charities, and she ultimately became part of the Tarrant County Black Historical Genialogical Society, which led the local Juneteenth celebrations every year.

But in 2016, when it was President Obama`s final year in office as president, as America`s first black president, Ms. Opal, her name is now Opal Lee, she basically decided that she was going to go for broke. She had been doing this work her whole life, she had a special reason for this to mean something very important to her, to turn it into something positive in her life. But she decided she would go big.

She had written a letter to President Obama, essentially sort of warning him in the nicest way possible that she was going to come to Washington at some point, and the point of her trip would be that this Texas holiday, Juneteenth should be celebrated all over the country. It should be a national holiday marking the end of slavery, not just a Texas holiday.

She thought we should actually celebrate as a country from June the 19th all the way to July the 4th, for Independence Day. Same way we celebrate Mardi gras for a big chunk of February, she was saying let`s celebrate liberation and independence as a whole country together, for the whole end of June through the first weekend of July, Juneteenth in June to July 4th in July, let`s make that our national reflection and celebration of independence, liberation, freedom.

So she had sent President Obama her letter, but that in 2016 when it was his last year in office, she decided she would go see him. She would walk to Washington, D.C., from Fort Worth Texas. She was 89 years old, but she did that.

Again that was 2016, she has been leading a national effort, a national effort to have the holiday recognize all these years. She said that she wanted to bring 100,000 signatures on a petition with Congress, when she went to Capitol Hill in 2020. By the time she got to Capitol Hill with her petition in September of last year, September 2020, she didn`t have 100,000 signatures on her petition, she had 1.5 million signatures on her petition.

Now, she didn`t succeed in her goal on that trip to Washington September last year. But you know, try and try again. In February of this year, the legislation actually to create the holiday was introduced yet again, and this time, we`ll, like she said, everybody needs an opportunity. When the House passed it yesterday, Ms. Opal, Ms. Opal Lee, 94 years old, said she was overwhelmed with emotion.


OPAL LEE, JUNETEENTH ACTIVIST: I`ve got so many different feelings, burgling up here. I don`t know what to call them all. I`m so delighted to know that finally we`ve got a Juneteenth bill passed.


MADDOW: So many feelings burgling up, I don`t know what to call them all.

The House today held a signing ceremony to formally convey their passage of the bill and send it to the president for his signature, they don`t have to do that, but for something like this, you would do that right?

One Republican Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson for gradually dropped his opposition this week in the Senate passed it, Vice President Harris the Senate proclamation in her capacity as president of the Senate, she doesn`t have to do that but again for something like this you do it, right?

President Biden was in Geneva for his summit with the Russian president only yesterday afternoon, it was not at all clear when he would be back in planning to sign the bill, but you know, June 19th is Saturday, so little hurry up was going to be worth it to be able to celebrated as a country for the first time this year. Not just this year, but this week, right now. And by right now, I mean this afternoon in the East Room at the White House.

Ms. Opal Lee was on hand for the signing ceremony. She was given pride of place with a front row seat alongside roughly 80 members of Congress, and local officials, and activists, and community leaders who advocated for this. Her outsize role in the events that led to the passage of the bill also warranted a place for her in the president`s remarks tonight.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Throughout history, Juneteenth has been known by many names, Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, Liberation Day, Emancipation Day and today, a national holiday.


And looking out across this room, I see the advocates, the activist, the leaders, who had been calling for this day for so long, including the one and only, Miss Opal Lee.


HARRIS: Who just received a special recognition from the president of the United States.


MADDOW: Opal Lee today receiving a special thanks and congratulations from a kneeling president of the United States, you don`t see that very often.

After that acknowledgment, it was President Biden`s turn to mark the occasion. The president noted that Juneteenth celebrates a day, of what he called, profound weight, but also profound power. A day on which Americans much remember, quote, the moral stain and the terrible toll that slavery took on the country, but also it`s extraordinary capacity to heal and to hope and to make a better version of ourselves.

President Biden said today was not enough to just commemorate Juneteenth, to honor the true meaning of Juneteenth we have to continue towards that promise because we have not gotten there yet. He said his administration is committed to getting there.

He also referenced the continued attacks on voting rights, led by Republican-led legislatures, saying the journey would not be easy so long as the sacred right to vote remains under attack, and then he to singled out Ms. Lee for helping us getting to where we finally find ourselves today as a country.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are blessed to mark the day in the presence of Ms. Opal Lee. As my mother say, God love her.


I had the honor of meeting her in Nevada more than a year ago. She told me she loved me, and I believed it. I wanted to believe it.

Ms. Opal, you`re incredible. A daughter of Texas, grandmother of a movement to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. You are an incredible movement, Ms. Opal, you really are.

She`s made it a mission that this day came. It was almost a singular mission. She has walked for miles and miles, literally and figuratively, to bring attention to Juneteenth, to make this day possible. I ask, once again, we all stand and give her a warm welcome.



MADDOW: Ninety-forty years old, and a remarkable acknowledgment of the work of Ms. Opal Lee today at the White House.

You think about the two sides of this in her life, right? Twelve years old, Juneteenth, 1939, her family is burned out of their home in Texas by a white mob. There`s never anybody held accountable for it, never anybody arrested.

She lived her life celebrating the Juneteenth holiday in Texas, helping Texans recognize it, and they do in that state. She decides the country needs to celebrate the holiday not because of what was decided to be done wrong to her that she wants the country to know about it. It`s the last thing she ever wants to talk about. Anytime anybody interviews her about the crusade, it`s about celebrating the end of slavery.

Turning that day, which for her family was the darkest day imaginable, into something that is bright and positive and a moment of reflection for the country.

After that recognition today from the president, of course time to sign the bill, the president called it an enormous honor to do so. He said today signing would go down as one of the greatest honors of his presidency. He made sure that Ms. Lee got a special souvenir to mark the historic day. The first pen he used.

She seemed bawled over by the pen to the point where she dropped it, but Vice President Harris picked it up for her. She said thank you.

You know, this is not to say things aren`t going to get weird about the observance and recognition of this holiday. Things are particularly weird on the right, right now, in American politics. And so, how is the holiday going to roll out across the country? We`ll see.

Congress and the president cannot actually proclaim a national holiday. Being shorthanded it is a national holiday, but it`s not. Congress and the president can`t force the wide observance of something in the same way in all 50 states. They can only declare a federal holiday not a national holiday. That means is to be observed by federal workers wherever they work in the country. It`s also to be observed in Washington, D.C.

But in every state, it`s every states call as to whether or not they acknowledge and recognize the holiday and how they do so. It`s an interesting political dynamic that in Texas, Juneteenth has been observed as a paid state holiday since the end of the seventies. Maybe that will take some of the fear out of it for Republican controlled states around the country that Texas doesn`t and has long done it and it`s okay. We`ll see.

The photos from the president`s signing ceremony today will reflect for history that Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas was there at the desk when the president signed it, among all those Democrats and Ms. Opal Lee. Yes, Ms. Opal Lee was there and all those Democrats supported, and so is John Cornyn of Texas, and maybe that will help.

You know, there is at least one Republican state legislator candidate in Virginia who is already proclaimed that this weekend, he will hold a Juneteenth community shooting day, a gun rally, a community shooting for Juneteenth. The good folks at Fox News prepared last night for the signing of this new law commemorating the end of slavery today, by running and interview by one of their primetime hosts that was all about how black people just have lower IQs than white people, and that explains why black people do get paid less for their work and why they should get paid less because the biological inferiority of the black race.

That wasn`t 1939 at the mob attack on East Annie Street in Fort Worth. Well, actually, it was. But that interview on the Fox streaming channel conducted by one of the primetime hosts was last night.

We have a new national holiday commemorating the end of slavery, as of today. Federal workers will have tomorrow off in honor of the Juneteenth holiday, Juneteenth this year is Saturday, it will be observed tomorrow. We`ve got a new holiday for that at us today. Thanks in large part to Opal Lee.

We`ve also got a long, long way to go on this, and it`s not going to be a straight line.


MADDOW: It was just three days after the horrific world changing terrorist attacks of 9/11 when Congress voted on the resolution to authorize the use of U.S. military force in response. That legally and formally started would ultimately become known as the War on Terror.

But in the immediate wake of that attack on the country, again, just a couple days after the attack, not a single member of Congress voted against authorizing that use of military force. Except for one.


REP. BARBARA LEE (D-CA): This unspeakable act on the United States is really forcing me to rely on my moral compass, my conscience, and my god for direction. September 11th changed the world. Our deepest fears now haunt us. Yet I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States.


MADDOW: Can you imagine how scary it must have been to stand up and say that? I mean, we were so terrorized and terrified as a country, but to have that courage of conviction, to have that sense of purpose and moral compass, to have the bravery to stand up and say this horrific act has made me come to a different conclusion than all the rest of you, then every other member of congress. Imagine what that took in the moment?

California Congresswoman Barbara Lee was the sole member of Congress who decided that day that the tragedy of 9/11, days earlier, horrible as it was, was not a good justification for an open-ended legal authorization to get the U.S. involved anywhere in the world in what would become decades of war.

A year later, the House was set to vote on yet another blanket authorization for these military forces this one pegs to an invasion of Iraq. That time when the vote came for the AUMF, Barbara Lee was not alone. A hundred thirty-two of her fellow House maunders voted with her against authorizing the use of force for the Iraq war. That wasn`t enough to stop the bill. And so, instead of one forever war, America then had two.

This year will mark 20 years since Congressman Barbara Lee took that first vote against Americas an ending wars. It`s the legal authorization that allowed America to use military force in the name of 9/11 in a way that was an ended and global.

During the time those authorizations for the use of force have remained in place, they`ve been used as justification for all kinds of military interventions all around the world, even ones that had precisely zero to do with Iraq or Afghanistan or 9/11. It became a blanket authorization for the use of military force at the presidents say so that Congress ever having to weigh in again.

Now, all of a sudden, things appear to be changing. Today, the House of Representatives voted on a resolution to repeal the authorization for use of military force, the second one, the one that started the Iraq war. The lead sponsor of the bill to end one of America`s longest war, and to repeal that authorization for the use of military force was none other than the same congresswoman, Barbara Lee. And this time, she not only had company, but the majority was on her side.

The resolution to repeal the authorization for the use of military force passed 268 to 161. Persist. Persist, persist, persist. Takes forever, and then all of a sudden, it happens.

Joining us now is Democratic California Congressman Barbara Lee.

Congresswoman Lee, it`s a real pleasure to have you here. Thank you so much. It`s been a huge day today.

LEE: Thank you. Nice being with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Before I actually ask you about -- I have to ask you about the Juneteenth vote, and the signing ceremony. Am I correct you were at the signing ceremony today when President Biden made it a law?

LEE: Oh yes, I was there!

MADDOW: How was it?

LEE: Thank you for covering, this Rachel, because this is quite a historical moment for our country. We need to make sure these stories are told about everyone in our country, including African-Americans and the horrific, barbaric middle passage, and slavery, and what happened.

I just have to say, it`s personal for me also, because my grandfather who helped raise me in Texas, was born in Galveston, Texas, in 1875 and my great grandmother, Fanny Wilson (ph), was enslaved in around Galveston and one of the small towns. So this is really a major deal.

We`ve celebrated it all our lives. I moved to California in 1960, but I continue to celebrate Juneteenth and my family did. This is really remarkable, but it is a moment for us to recommit ourselves to finish the unfinished business of justice and racial equity, and true freedom for African Americans.

MADDOW: For you, given the personal connection that you just described to the national commemoration of Juneteenth, and your personal role, your honestly legendary bravery on authorizing military force after the terrorist attack of 9/11, to have those two things coming together at the same time, in the House, literally within 24 hours -- this must be a momentous time in your life? This must feel like you`ve risen to the peak?

LEE: Rachel, I tell you, it`s overwhelming in some respects, but it just reminds me that this is a long haul we`re in. It`s not a sprint, it`s a marathon. And I hope that our young people understand that the fight for justice, the fight for democracy and to protect our Constitution, sometimes it just doesn`t happen right away, but we have to be persistent. We have to know what we`re doing. We have to believe.

My dad was in the military 25 years, I`m a military brat, and there was no way that I could authorize the use of force forever, and that was a 60-word resolution right after 9/11, authorizations that I just could not support.

MADDOW: It was interesting to see, I think it was 49 Republican members of the house joined more than 200 Democrats in making this vote happen. I wanted to ask if you were surprised by how bipartisan this vote was? I feel like I`ve seen some interesting contours where this issue of authorizing military force -- and indeed the use of American military force around the world doesn`t always fall neatly on partisan lines.

I wanted to ask of those vote total surprise you at all, and if that gives you any confidence in predicting what might happen in the Senate? Which of course would need to do the same thing in order for this to get to President Biden`s desk.

LEE: Well, Rachel, we built the support over the years, and I just want to say I have to thank the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Gregory Meeks, and Speaker Pelosi and Mr. Hoyer for helping us navigate this to help us getting it to the floor. But the American Legion supported it. The Americans for Prosperity (INAUDIBLE) friends committee, so this didn`t just happen overnight. We had built bipartisan support over the years.

And I was very pleased that we got 49 Republican votes. I`ve been working with so many and I have to remember Walter Jones, who passed away a few years ago. He helped me start making this be a bipartisan effort. So, here we are moving into the Senate. I`ve spoken with Senator Kaine. We`re cautiously optimistic that we will be able to move this forward.

The president has indicated that he is ready to sign it. He issued what we call a statement of support, a SAP. And we have to keep working. I am hopeful and confident that sooner or later, hopefully this year, we will get this to President Biden`s desk for a signature.

MADDOW: Well, it is -- it is your work that is bearing fruit tonight and in so many ways. I don`t know about your personal situation in your life right now, Congresswoman Lee, but you better have somebody who has bought two flowers or at least a cocktail tonight, because this is the culmination of a lot of very hard work. And it`s a testament to your leadership, ma`am. Thank you so much.

LEE: Thank you, Rachel. Really enjoyed being here with you.

MADDOW: All right. As I said that bill that passed the House today in an overwhelming vote, and a very bipartisan vote, it now heads to the Senate.

And as Congressman Lee just said, the chief advocates for repealing this, this authorization for the use of military force, chief advocate for repealing that in the Senate has been Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine. Senator Kaine also happens to sit on the Foreign Relations Committee. That`s going to be the first place it gets a vote in the Senate.

Senator Kaine joins us live now.

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

SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): Rachel, it`s great to be with you and especially to follow Barbara because she`s been just so fantastic on this issue. Juneteenth and AUMF repeal, she needs to buy a lottery ticket before midnight tonight, I think today is a very lucky day for her.

MADDOW: Senator, she said that she has talked to you about what happens here next. As I -- as I mention, I feel like the partisan lines don`t map neatly unto this issue, either in terms of using military force in specific instances, or the idea of these open-ended authorizations when it never has to come back to Congress and we essentially cede that power to the president in a way that the Constitution didn`t mean for us to do.

Because it doesn`t have neat partisan lines, and neat partisan mapping, I do feel like these things are hard to predict in the Senate. Do you share Congressman Lee`s cautious optimism that this repeal is going to pass the Senate, too?

KAINE: Rachel, I do. I`m not so cautious. I think we`re going to get a great vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday. I have a co-sponsor in this effort to repeal, both the Iraq War resolutions, 1991 in 2002. Congress passes these war resolutions and never repeals them, and they float out there in space like zombies that can be used by mischief making executives to do damage.

So, it was a historical vote in the House because Congress doesn`t have a track record of repealing these. But together with Todd Young, Todd Young, constitutional conservation Indiana, marine veteran, he is my chief cosponsor on this bill. If you think about Barbara Lee, who`s one of the most progressive members of Congress, Todd Young, constitutional conservative, I`m 63 years old and I still haven`t figured out the label for myself, but I think that we have a great path to a strong bipartisan vote on Tuesday, and then we have both the House bill that Barbara has championed, our Senate bill and then we are writing the defense authorizing right now and that might also be in place to put the repeal of the Iraq resolution.

So, we have a couple of vehicles. We`re going to have to talk about the fastest way to get this to Joe Biden`s desk. But this will be a big historic step, and you wrote a book about it in 2012, your book "Drift" about the way we have switched from Congress declares war, the legislative branch, no other country doesn`t like that, but that`s what our framers decided would be best. We drifted to unilateral executive wars and that`s been to our nation`s detriment. This is about Article One branch trying to pull some of this power back to the way it was intended to be.

MADDOW: Because of that -- first of all, thank you for plugging my book, I`m not sure this might be a first in a cable news history where the guest plugs the host`s book. This is man bites a dog. But I will say, because of that dynamic that we were describing, that basic constitutional dynamic which I think is at play here, it seems to me like a dispositive thing, like a really important positive thing that President Biden supports doing this.

I mean, the beneficiary of these open-ended authorizations where military force can be used anywhere in the world indefinitely without ever having to come back to Congress for their say so, the beneficiary of that is the commander-in-chief you can order military action without having to consult with Congress. For a president to say, you know at, I should not have that power in an open-ended way, we should return it to the way that the Constitution intended these authorizations should be ended, and if we need a new one for a specific reason we will pass it then and it won`t be open- ended. That she seems like a counterintuitive thing for a president to agree to.

Was that essentially the spark to finally get this done after all the debate that you and congresswoman lee have led on this after all these years?

KAINE: I would say, you know, Barbara has been a spark and I praised Todd Young, my Republican colleague. But I think the ingredient that really has been key is Joe Biden. And what I would say is Joe Biden`s confidence and his competence.

No one who has been president of the United States since LBJ has understood more the powers of the Article One branch, Congress, than Joe Biden. I mean, 36 years in the Senate, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and it takes an extremely self confident president to say, I want to inhabit any square centimeter of the Article Two powers, but I`m not threatened by a Congress inhabiting every square centimeter of the Article One powers.

Most presidents feel threatened when Congress starts to exert some interest in war power issues. Joe Biden doesn`t feel threatened, he understands Congress has to be as vigorous in protective of Article One powers as the president is of Article Two powers.

So I think we will successfully repeal the zombie Iraq authorizations 1991 and 2002. My hope is by September, the 20th anniversary of the 2001 authorization to which war on non-state terrorist groups who attacked us, I think we will hopefully reach a handshake deal with the White House about the way to more narrowly described and to describe to the American public and provide limits on our actions against non state terrorist groups.

And we`re working very closely with the White House. It`s just night and data have a White House that wants to work on this versus once that sees it as a threat to their own prerogatives.

MADDOW: Right. Exactly, one who not only understands the constitutional prerogatives but isn`t insecure about them. It is amazing how much progress you can make once you drop that.

Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine who has led and educated I think on this issue for so long, sir, this is a big step forward and I`m sure the next few days are going to be very interesting as it heads to the Senate. Keep us apprised. Thanks for helping us out tonight.

KAINE: Thanks, Rachel. Good to talk to you.

MADDOW: All right. Much more ahead here tonight. Stay with us.


MADDOW: It`s basically one every ten people in the country. The total number of Americans who have health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act because of Obamacare clocks in at about 31 million people. Today, all 31 million people can breathe a sigh of relief because the Supreme Court this morning rejected a case brought by Republican led states that had asked the court to kill the Affordable Care Act altogether.

The courts said, no, they wouldn`t do that they left it in place. And in so doing they blocked what was conservatives` third effort at the Supreme Court to kill the bill. The Supreme Court first upheld the constitutionality of Obamacare nine years ago, that was a 5 to 4 ruling. Then six years ago, they upheld its constitutionality again, with a 6-3 ruling. Now today, even though the court has three justices appointed by President Trump, the ruling was even more lopsided, it was 7-2. It`s gone to 5-4, to 6-3, to 7-2.

Now, the justices didn`t rule on the so-called merits of the case. They just ruled that the Republican officials in Texas and the other Republican states are suing did not have standing to bring the suit. But it does seem at least for now, that this fight is over. Republicans, of course, could keep trying. But I might recommend that they get a new hobby.

The majority opinion in the case today was written by the sort of center left Justice Stephen Breyer. Stephen Breyer`s name has been on a lot of headlines recently because he has been facing impassioned calls to step down from people who worry about a repeat of what happened in 2016 when Republicans blocked President Obama for failing to fill a seat. If the Senate is retaken by the Republicans, even with Joe Biden and the White House nominating somebody to fill Justice Breyer seat, nobody is confident that Joe Biden will be allowed to put his own nominee on the court.

We expect more than a dozen outstanding cases to be decided by the Supreme Court in three different days, they`re going to give rulings next week. But the biggest ruling of the term is now decided, this Affordable Care Act ruling today, an opinion written by the longest serving justice appointed by Democratic president.

Should we expect news of significant terms of the ruling, or in terms of their makeup as a court?

There is nobody I`d rather talk to about all the above than Dahlia Lithwick. She writes about the courts and the law for "Slate". She hosts the excellent Slate podcast which is called "Amicus".

Dahlia, it`s great to see it. Thanks for joining us tonight.

DAHLIA LITHWICK, SLATE: That time of year, Rachel. Good to see you.

MADDOW: I know we`ve got three more days in which we are going to get more rulings next week. I think it`s Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. But the most consequential ruling we were waiting for was this one on the Affordable Care Act, right?

LITHWICK: I think this one and probably Fulton when it came down today on the collision between religious liberties and civil rights and foster care in Philadelphia. That also was quite a narrow decision. So, I think you are right, it`s the one a lot of folks are holding their breath around.

MADDOW: In terms of the closed court session as we look towards the end of next week, and the court issuing its rulings. A lot of people around the country are looking at the court and wondering if Justice Breyer is going to retire so he can leave on his own terms, and it gives not only the Democratic president but the Democratic-controlled -- narrowly Democratically controlled Senate a chance to replace him.

What do you think of all the strum und drang around that?

LITHWICK: It`s such a funny situation, Rachel, because the only person in the end who is the determinant of what he`s going to do is Stephen Breyer and he`s made clear time and again, including in an interview he gave me at Christmastime that he just doesn`t think that court justices are political, and that this is a political question, and it will retire when he wants to retire. But all of these swirling questions about we have a 50/50 Senate. We have Mitch McConnell announcing this week that he`s not going to ever confirm a Biden nominee if he gets control of the Senate. None of that seems to be part of Justice Breyer`s calculus.

And I would say paradoxically, the more he`s pushed, there is a bunch of ads coming out in the next couple of days. A whole bunch of liberal scholars, 18 scholars signed a letter saying please get off the court. The more he is pushed, the more, in some sense, he is persuaded that this all looks really political, so he better stick around.

MADDOW: In terms of how the court is operating right now. We`ve had some unusual splits in terms of the number of votes. I think people were surprised to see Justice Thomas on the side he came down today with the Affordable Care Act rolling even though it was decided on these narrow standing grounds.

I wonder, I think people also read into the fact Justice Breyer wrote the opinion in the affordable care act that maybe that was a sign we should return to something in terms of what`s going on among the justices. Do you think those are tea leaves worth reading in terms of how the vote splits happen? How the sort of consensus effort is going led by the chief justice? Who is writing which opinions?

I mean, we treat it like criminality but the thing that that stuff is worth watching, or not?

LITHWICK: I mean, it`s worth watching, but I would be precise to say at the same moment this morning, a lot of court watchers were saying, John Roberts assigned the ACA case to Breyer. That means he`s telling Breyer you are done here, move on.

There were people saying John Roberts assigned the case to Breyer, that signals he is telling Breyer, stick around, the best is yet to come.

So, it`s not just criminology, it`s kind of a little bit reading into it what we want to see. I`m not sure what to make of the fact that chief justice assigned this to Breyer, but I think it`s probably the case that it`s just of a piece of this larger effort to say, why is it everybody except Steve Breyer wants him to retire? I think the more we push him, the more he digs in.

MADDOW: I`m not pushing, I`m not pushing. I would never push. I`ve never pushed anything in my life. Why would I start pushing now?

Dahlia Lithwick who covers the courts for "Slate", she hosts the excellent "Amicus" podcast on "Slate". Dahlia, thank you as always. It`s always great to have you here.

LITHWICK: Always a treat, thank you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Senator Joe Manchin is the only Democrat in the U.S. Senate who saying he won`t support the big voting rights bill that Democrats and the Biden administration are pushing for. Senator Manchin says he won`t sign on to any bill expanding voting rights, or protecting voting rights, unless some Republicans agreed to vote for it as well.

Mitch McConnell, the leader in the senate, pledged zero Republican senators will vote for a voting rights bill no matter what. But Senator Manchin and effectively blamed Democrats for, that implying they are to blame for Republicans all saying no to it. They are to blame for crafting their voting rights bill in such a way that no Republicans felt like they could get behind it.

Interesting development on this. Yesterday, rather than just continuing to say that, blaming his colleagues, Senator Manchin decided he would try to prove it. He decided to show his work on his theory. And he rode up a list of what he thought should go in a voting rights bill that he thought should get both Democratic and Republican support. It`s a very different set of proposals and what Democrats have put in their bill. As a bunch of stuff on it that things Republicans wanted Democrats really don`t.

But he is doing this to show that there is a way that he understands to write a voting bill that Republicans will vote for.

Earlier this week, Senator Manchin tried to prove the point. He met with eight senators from the Republican side of the aisle, to pitch them on his so-called compromise voting rights plan.

Even with all that, even with his everything I want and nothing I don`t offering, even with a personal working Republican senators on the other side of the aisle to get them to vote for his plan which he crafted specifically to appeal to them, look at what the Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said today about Joe Manchin`s new pitch. He said, quote, same rotten core. You see the headline there? McConnell rejects mentions voting rights compromise.

Senator Manchin, you aren`t going to get the ten Republican senators you would need to vote for your voting rights compromise. Mitch McConnell just said it. He said zero Republicans will vote to defend voting rights in any way -- in any way, shape, or a watered down form.

If the country is going to have any action, and you depends on voting rights, it is going to have to be without any Republicans. That`s not just what critics of Senator Manchin have been saying. That`s what Senator Manchin has just proven with his bipartisan experiment, it`s maximalist bipartisan experiment on voting rights.

Senator Manchin says defending the right to vote is a priority for him, but he`s now himself proven that there is only one path to get it, which is to change the Senate rules so that voting rights can be passed by Democrats alone. What next, Senator?


MADDOW: All right. That is going to do it for us here tonight. Thank you for bearing with us through some of our technical difficulties. I know the show sometimes looked a little caddie tonight. We will try to have it back on dry land by tomorrow.

We`ll see you again tomorrow night.


Good evening, Lawrence.