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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 7/29/21

Guests: Yasmeen Abutaleb, Zeke Emanuel, Jared Bernstein, Pramila Jayapal, Alex Padilla

Summary

The "Washington Post" has obtained an internal CDC document that says the delta variant of COVID-19 not only spreads much more easily than other variants but may cause more severe illness as well. Interview with Washington Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Interview with Senator Alex Padilla, Democratic senator from California.

Transcript

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): They had 27 state delegations. They would have only had I think 26 votes. I don`t think that Liz Cheney would have cast (INAUDIBLE) from Wyoming for him.

But that`s where it was going. That was the coup inside the insurrection of (AUDIO GAP) inside the riot that was taking place outside.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": Congressman Jamie Raskin, we will keep having you on throughout this process. Thank you so much for joining us tonight.

That is "ALL IN" for this Thursday night.

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

Good evening, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Have yourself a good evening.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Rachel is on a much- deserved vacation.

Well, this was the announcement in the newspaper two days after Christmas in 1901. Under an all caps headline, "Vaccination in Boston."

Quote: Notwithstanding the fact that some 400,000 people have been vaccinated in Boston since January the 1st, the board of health ordered that all the inhabitants of this city be vaccinated or revaccinated forthwith.

The board explains that although there has been a most remarkable cooperation throughout the city, the medical profession and the people in general, having acquiesced to a most remarkable extent in its request for vaccination, it is necessary in order to stamp out the smallpox epidemic that all persons not protected by vaccination or revaccination shall be vaccinated, end quote.

Now, this was about the deadly Boston smallpox epidemic of 1901. It killed hundreds of people. It would also turn out to be Boston`s very last smallpox outbreak because if cases kept climbing despite pretty high vaccination rates, the Health Department mandated that everyone in Boston get a vaccine.

Doctors went door to door with vaccines. Look at this amazing illustration from the "Boston Globe." This is January 28th, 1902. So, about a month after the health department announced the mandate.

Quote, about 10,000 vaccinated in south Boston. Board of health had 115 physicians at work. And below that, it illustrates what each of these doctors carried with them. Cotton, alcohol, and, quote, several boxes of vaccine points.

The boxes probably looked something like this. Smallpox vaccine was administered at the time using a point made of ivory or bone with a little bit of the virus on the end. Doctors went house to house vaccinating people, as illustrated by the "Boston Globe."

Here`s one woman getting the vaccine, surrounded by her small children. The caption reads, "Protecting Mama." Anyone who refused a vaccine would be fined $5. That`s equivalent to about $150 today.

And you see part of the headline on that illustration. The Board of Health, quote, intends to bring those who refuse into court.

That`s exactly what ended up happening. A local pastor named Henning Jacobson refused to be vaccinated. He refused to pay the $5 fine. He took his case all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. And he lost.

In its opinion the Supreme Court wrote, quote: There is of course a sphere within which the individual may assert the supremacy of his own will and rightfully dispute the authority of any human government, especially of any free government existing under a written constitution. But it is equally true that in every well-ordered society charged with the duty of conserving the safety of its members, the rights of the individual in respect to his liberty may at times under the pressure of great dangers be subjected to such restraint to be enforced by reasonable regulations as the safety of the general public may demand.

Well, the Boston smallpox epidemic produced a vital legal precedent about what the government is allowed to do in the name of public health. And also the vaccine mandate in Boston worked. You can see from this chart, that smallpox cases in Boston peaked in December of 1901. At the end of that month, the health department announced the vaccine mandate, and from there cases came steadily down from their peak until the very last few cases were documented in the spring of 1903.

Now, it bears mentioning that Boston`s response to the smallpox epidemic and the Supreme Court ruling upholding it were far from perfect. Public health authorities in Boston, for instance, vaccinated people forcibly in some cases, especially in immigrant and disadvantaged communities.

And there had to be further judicial intervention to clarify that that was not acceptable. The Supreme Court decision upholding public health mandates was later used to defend things like forced sterilization. Medical ethics and American law are always evolving and hopefully we get better at this stuff over time.

I mean, just to be clear, no matter what your uncle who watches Fox News is telling you, no one from the federal government is coming to your house to force a COVID vaccine onto you or into you.

[21:05:05]

But the fundamental lesson of that Boston smallpox epidemic still stands, both in American law and in our general sense of what we owe to each other as members of a shared society. The government can take reasonable steps to require people to get vaccinated against a virus that threatens the health and safety of our fellow citizens.

Well, today, President Biden announced that all federal workers and contractors will be required to get a COVID vaccine or they will have to undergo regular testing, wear masks at all times, socially distance and be prohibited from traveling for work.

Biden also said that the Defense Department, the world`s largest employer, will look into how and when the COVID vaccine should be required for all service members. And the president announced new paid time off for employees and their family to get vaccinated. He also encouraged states to start offering a $100 incentive for unvaccinated people to get the vaccine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nearly all of the cases, hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 today are from unvaccinated people. Last month, a study showed that over 99 percent of COVID-19 deaths have been among the unvaccinated, 99 percent. This is an American tragedy. People are dying and will die who don`t have to die.

If you`re out there unvaccinated, you don`t have to die. Read the news. You`ll see stories about unvaccinated patients at hospitals.

As they`re lying in bed dying from COVID-19 they`re asking, doc, can I get the vaccine? And the doctors have to say sorry, it`s too late.

Right now, too many people are dying or watching someone they love dying and saying. if I just got vaccinated. If I just. It`s heartbreaking. And it`s complicated even more because it`s preventable.

(END VIDEO CLIP

VELSHI: (AUDIO GAP) step today announcing a vaccine mandate for federal employees and contractors and the federal government employs a lot of people. So this order will have an impact just in terms of raw numbers.

But it`s worth hearing something that the president said after his prepared remarks, answering a question from the press.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Why not push for vaccine mandates in states, private companies, schools? Do you want to see those entities pass vaccine mandates?

BIDEN: Well, I`d like to see them continue to move in that direction. And that`s why I pointed out, I asked the Justice Department to determine whether they`re able to do that legally. And they can. Local communities can do that. Local businesses can do that. It`s still a question whether the federal government can mandate the whole country. I don`t know that yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELSHI: So, first of all, the president there appearing to leave the door open for a national vaccine mandate at some point, which seems like a big deal. But also he says he`s hoping that private entities will follow his lead, that more places will start requiring vaccines. And some of the country`s most high-profile companies have already started to follow suit. Google, Facebook and Twitter, Delta Airlines, Netflix, Morgan Stanley, Saks Fifth Avenue, "The Washington Post," Uber and Lyft, they`re all instituting vaccine requirements when their employees return to the office.

The state of California, New York state, New York City, they`ve all rolled out vaccination requirements for government workers.

Meanwhile, there is new evidence that the spread of delta, the delta variant and the rise in cases and hospitalizations and deaths may itself be spurring more people to get vaccinated.

Yesterday, half a million Americans got their first vaccine shot. That`s the highest daily number in all of July. And the states with the highest case rates have seen an uptick in their vaccination rates in the past week.

But vaccines are still not getting into arms fast enough. Today for the first time the European Union pulled ahead of the United States in its vaccination numbers. Europe has now gotten doses to a higher percentage of its population than America has, which is remarkable when you consider that the United States has had way more vaccine doses for way longer than the European Union.

But here we are. With the World Health Organization reporting that the United States had the highest number of new COVID cases in the world last week, and now, new worrying news breaking just tonight. "The Washington Post" has obtained an internal CDC document that says the delta variant of COVID-19 not only spreads much more easily than other variants but may cause more severe illness as well.

"The Post" writes tonight, quote: The document is an internal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention slide presentation shared within the CDC. The document strikes an urgent note, revealing that the agency knows it must revamp its public messaging to emphasize vaccination as the best defense against a variant so contagious that it acts almost like a different novel virus, leaping from target to target more swiftly than Ebola or the common cold.

It cites a combination of recently obtained still unpublished data from outbreak investigations and outside studies showing that vaccinated individuals infected with delta may be able to transmit the virus as easily as those who are not unvaccinated, end quote.

"The Post" reports that this still unpublished data was behind the CDC`s decision to change mask guidance this week, calling for masking indoors in certain public settings, even for vaccinated people.

But the CDC still has not made this data public. Here`s one slide from the CDC presentation published by "The Post" tonight. It summarizes the findings on the delta variant this way. Quote: Delta is different from previous strains. Highly contagious, likely more severe, breakthrough infections may be as transmissible as unvaccinated cases.

Another slide says, quote, universal masking is essential to reduce transmission of the delta variant. And on a slide titled: Next steps for CDC, it says, quote, acknowledge the war has changed.

Joining us now is one of the reporters who broke this story tonight. "Washington Post" health policy reporter Yasmeen Abutaleb.

Yasmeen, thank you for joining us tonight and for your reporting.

I want to be clear. You have reported this out. You got image of the slides. The CDC has still not said this -- they`ve not made this public.

YASMEEN ABUTALEB, HEALTH POLICY REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: They have not. What we have from our reporting is they`re expected to release the data that prompted this decision tomorrow. Even in these slides, they mentioned data. They cite studies. They cite their own investigations.

But the actual methodology, the data, the sample size is not in there yet. The expectation is that they will publish that tomorrow.

VELSHI: We have -- obviously, we spoke to the head of the CDC here on Tuesday night where they had talked about this new mask guidance which has confused some people because they feel like it`s a backtrack or reversal. The CDC says it`s an update.

But that`s the masking part of things, that vaccinated people should wear masks in some circumstances, indoors if they`re in a high transmission area.

What are they doing about the vaccine problem? Because that`s still stuck where it is.

ABUTALEB: That`s a lot of what`s addressed in this document. Look, one of the first slides in there says that there is public skepticism, not a lot of public trust in the vaccines. They recognize that they have a messaging challenge, the fact that there are rising breakthrough infections in vaccinated people because delta is so transmissible and it behaves differently than earlier strains.

But they also still need to emphasize to people that vaccines are the most effective tool they have. They are still highly protective. You are at far, far greater risk of death or severe illness without the vaccines but they have to simultaneously acknowledge the individual risk to vaccinated people varies depending on a number of factors including age and whether they have compromised immune systems.

VELSHI: There`s a lot of data in the CDC report and in the report that you and your colleagues published tonight. One of the standouts is that delta variant breakthrough cases, people that have these breakthrough cases may be as transmissible -- the virus may be as transmissible as unvaccinated cases. That seems to be new information.

ABUTALEB: It is. And that was the key piece of information that supported their decision to recommend that vaccinated people wear masks indoors and in certain settings, in areas with substantial transmission. This is not how the previous variants behaved. But what they found is that vaccinated people and unvaccinated people who get infected with delta have the same viral loads. They also found that that means that they can spread the virus just as efficiently as an unvaccinated person.

They`re still far less likely to get seriously sick or to die or end up in the hospital. But the transmission piece of it is what`s really concerning and prompted that change in the mask guidance.

VELSHI: Now, in fairness, Yasmeen, you know more about this than I do. So when I saw that it could be as transmissible as Ebola or the common cold, what`s that supposed to mean? Does that mean it`s a great factor of transmissibility greater than they or we thought the delta variant had?

ABUTALEB: It is. It`s highly transmissible. They say it`s just as infectious as chicken pox. It`s more than twice as transmissible as previous strains of the virus. So that`s one of the really concerning things.

And I think this document really shows that the CDC sees that we`re at a pivot point in the response.

[21:15:01]

Things were getting better for a couple of months. We`ve seen cases surge over the last few weeks. I think fortunately hospitalizations and deaths are still lower than they were with the summer surge last year because so many people are vaccinated. But given the way delta behaves, the fact that vaccinated people can still contract it and spread it, this is a new worrying phase of the pandemic and I think we`ll see.

They stress in there, they actually call for universal masking which their guidance stopped short of, they say just in certain circumstances, but they also say we need to look at other non-pharmaceutical interventions. They don`t call for restricting gatherings or anything like that. But you know, say that it maybe should be evaluated depending on how things progress.

VELSHI: We know last year at this time, there was a lot of fighting and disarray at the CDC. What`s the level of agreement on these policies and the way to move forward on them right now within the CDC?

ABUTALEB: It`s hard to tell just from this document the level of agreement. There is a note in there saying that it`s the view of the authors and not the agency`s official position. But I think you can see the agency`s taking this very seriously. It did support their decision earlier this week to reinstate some of those mask recommendations.

And it seems like across the administration there is a pretty joint recognition that this is a new point of the pandemic, we need to buckle up again. There was some celebration over the summer. But this is a new point, and I think you saw the president also address that when he was answering reporters today.

VELSHI: Yasmeen, thank you for your reporting tonight. "Washington Post" health policy reporter Yasmeen Abutaleb, we appreciate it.

Joining us now is Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, former health care adviser to President Obama. He was a member of President Biden`s COVID-19 advisory board.

Zeke, good to have you with us tonight.

And I really lean on you for your evaluation of this. You heard this reporting. This could represent a sea change in where we thought we were with this virus. What do you make of it?

DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, MEMBER, BIDEN COVID-19 ADVISORY BOARD: Yeah. Well, let`s be clear. I haven`t seen the slides that Yasmeen referred to. But I have seen her report.

And the concerning factor is first that we are pretty sure it`s more transmissible and that people who are vaccinated can transmit it. That means that they generate a lot of virus and can put that out into the environment as an aerosol.

And that is very concerning. Wearing a mask then would do two things, protect you if you`re uninfected but also protect others if you happen to be infected but also be asymptomatic. And that seems to be quite common with the delta variant that people get infected but are asymptomatic and therefore can spread it. And that I think is rightly worrisome and the CDC is appropriately worried.

But it also -- there`s been some evidence out there from Britain and others that it can be more deadly, it can be more not only contagious but also more virulent, causing more people to go to the hospital, end up in the ICU and have death. And again, as Yasmeen emphasized, that not exclusively but pretty likely to be people who aren`t vaccinated and people who might be immuno-compromised.

VELSHI: Yeah. And on slide 23 of the presentation that is published in the "Washington Post", it talked about next steps for the CDC. The top portion of that is communications, acknowledging the war has changed. The bottom part of that slide is prevention. And there are three bullet points there, Zeke.

Consider vaccine mandates to protect vulnerable populations. Universal masking for source control and prevention. Reconsider other community mitigation strategies.

Zeke, you and I have literally been discussing this for a year and a half. And the level of confusion and resistance to some of these things in the last year and a half has been remarkable.

The CDC understands wisely it`s going to have to message carefully on this. What do you say they do?

EMANUEL: Yeah. Well, I think they have to emphasize the importance of people taking care of themselves, that they can get the infection. They also need to emphasize I think responsibility for family and community. And I think that`s going to be important.

But you know, I have belief in mandates, in the importance of mandates, that they`re going to be critical to getting much higher rates of vaccination. That`s why earlier this week, I organized a whole group of more than 50 health care organizations to sign on to a joint statement that should mandate health care workers and call on other employers to mandate it.

And I think you can see the federal government, private industry are moving in that direction. It`s become a tidal wave. And I think this is going to expand with the CDC`s guidance. And that will be I think a very important step to trying to curtail the spread of the delta virus.

I would also say one other thing --

[11:20:00]

VELSHI: Yeah, go ahead.

EMANUEL: -- Ali, that`s really important. Which is this delta virus is very unpredictable. No matter what anyone says, you know, it came in India and then really quickly it sort of disappeared.

Britain, we`re actually seeing a decline of cases in Britain for reasons no one fully understands. I think the public has to realize this is a very new infection. We`ve got 18 months of experience not with -- I mean, a variety of variants. So, it`s very unpredictable what`s going to happen.

And so we need to be flexible too and we need to understand that the scientists and the CDC are responding to the data they see, they`re being responsible, but no one has a crystal ball about these variants and this virus. It has been very, very amazing how it has befuddled us and changed in ways that were very hard to predict based upon past behavior.

VELSHI: Zeke, these vaccines do not have full approval from the FDA yet. They`re still on emergency use approval. We might by the end of August see Pfizer and possibly Moderna getting that full approval. Does that change the game at all in terms of companies that say can`t work here if you`re not vaccinated, in terms of mandates and things like that to compel people to be vaccinated?

EMANUEL: Well, let me say two things. First of all, from a legal standpoint it doesn`t make a difference. Both the courts and the EEOC have made clear that with an emergency use authorization vaccine, employers can still mandate it for their workers. So, from a legal standpoint, no.

But a lot of companies and a lot of institutions are being hesitant and using the excuse of it`s not fully approved by the FDA, not to have a mandate. And that will take the last excuse away. So in that sense it might make a difference.

I think competing with that is this new news about delta which will I think put many more organizations and businesses to actually mandate it. I was impressed to see that Danny Meyer, owner of many restaurants including Shake Shack, has said that you`re now going to have to be vaccinated to be served.

And I think that kind of mentality is going to sweep throughout the employer market. You`re going to see a lot of employers require vaccines.

VELSHI: Always good to see you, my friend.

Zeke Emanuel is a former health policy adviser to President Obama. We appreciate your time as always.

Well, despite this challenging news from the CDC tonight, we also got some very positive news about the direction that the country`s headed in, positive news for some people who could use it. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:26:40]

VELSHI: There is front page news and then there is news that takes up the entire front page. You might remember this front page from the "New York Times" last May, where to show just how gigantic the job losses for April 2020 were, "The Times" made a chart using the whole front page.

The chart showed the monthly change in jobs numbers since the end of World War II. All of it fitted neatly in the two little inches up top except for April 2020, which showed the economy hemorrhaging jobs all the way down to the bottom of the page, 20.5 million jobs lost in a single month.

We saw "The Times" use the same technique again in July of last year, this time to show the GDP, the largest -- sort of the biggest measure of the American economy. It fell so far in the second financial quarter of 2020 that it also was literally off the chart.

Now, there are lots of ways to slice and dice the economy, to say where we are and where we`re headed. But there was no mistaking that last year, we were in a unique crisis. So last March, the U.S. Congress and the White House in a rare moment of bipartisanship passed a $2 trillion relief package that sent direct cash payments to Americans, boosted unemployment payments, and had a whole host of other benefits. Since then we`ve added to the relief effort twice more, first with a $900 billion package in December and then again with Biden`s $1.9 trillion American rescue plan in March.

We did all that to prevent a full-on economic collapse in the midst of a once in a century pandemic. This week, we learned just how well those stimulus efforts worked. A new report out of the non-profit research group the Urban Institute shows that the increase in government aid from the pandemic will, quote, cut poverty nearly in half this year from pre- pandemic levels and push the share of Americans in poverty to the lowest level on record.

Today, we learned that the American economy grew 6.5 percent between April and June, bringing us back finally to pre-pandemic levels. To put it plainly, it looks like giving money to people who needed money worked. So now the question is when the pandemic ends should we keep doing that?

Joining us now is Jared Bernstein. He`s a member of the president`s White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Jared, good to see you. Thanks for being with us tonight.

These few trillion dollars, roughly 5 depending on how you measure it, lifted 20 million people out of poverty, a little over half of all the people that were living in poverty in the United States. How do you think about this sustainably? How do you think about the idea that giving this money directly to people who needed it the most created such a monumental change?

JARED BERNSTEIN, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISORS MEMBER: Great question and thank you so much for highlighting these important accomplishments at the hands of the American rescue plan by not just getting checks in pockets, which is partly what you`re talking about, partly, but also shots in arms, so important to getting folks back, re-engaged with commerce. And I say that having listened to the last segment. So you know, obviously we are not out of those woods yet.

But the combination -- the president always viewed this as a dual health- economic crisis. Look, I think the thing that we learned is essentially twofold. One is that the government has a tremendously important and deeply curative role to play when the economy hits a shock, a market failure, a recession or a pandemic-induced downturn of the magnitude that you were showing from those headlines.

[21:31:19]

That role and the American rescue plan of course is the most recent and I think the most important vintage intervention, not only reduced poverty but it helped get GDP back to pre-pandemic levels about a year before people thought it would. It helped pull forward a robust economy where heading back to a full employment economy much sooner than people thought. That`s one role.

But the second role is to lay the groundwork to build back better, to make sure we have the policies in place, everything from the infrastructure plan in the bipartisan agreement to the child and elder and educational interventions to make sure that we don`t just get back to where we were but we have a chance to do better than that.

VELSHI: But, Jared, over the last year and a half we`ve talked on many occasions about the degree to which we twisted ourselves into pretzels to discuss this $5 trillion. Congress didn`t have nearly the problem in cutting taxes for people a few years ago, particularly people at the higher end of the income scale and corporations. We really are very, very resistant to the idea of giving poor people or people who are living in some degree of poverty money. It is still in the ether as an irresponsible thing to do with which they will do irresponsible things.

BERNSTEIN: This is a very serious public policy misunderstanding. Somehow we`ve created a mythology that if you give rich people money good things happen but if you give poor people money bad things happen. Neither of those are true.

And, in fact, the poverty reduction impacts that you just showed are so important not just for 2021 but there is really high-quality research that says if you take a kid who`s poor and you provide her with the resources so that she can go to school in a more healthy manner, by the way, if you take the lead out of the pipes, which is a critical part of the bipartisan plan, if you provide people with the income they need to eat nutritionally, not only will that kid eat today, that`s not just a consumption investment, it is a long-term investment in that child`s life.

And she will get a higher education. She will have higher earnings. She will cost society less in the long run.

So we shouldn`t just think of these as helping someone today. We should think of them as long-run investments. And yes, you`re making a really important point. There is a tremendous amount of economics and public policy and just kind of ethical, social, political practices that we should be learning from what`s been happening here.

And you know, what would tie (ph) us if we don`t, but I can tell you that President Biden is very invested in learning those lessons.

VELSHI: So here`s the thing. We spent all this money and we`re now seeing the results of it. But it lifted about half of Americans who were in poverty out of poverty. That means there`s still a little more than 20 million people who are still in poverty despite those relief packages.

Why doesn`t that work -- why didn`t this work for them? And what do we do about that? Are we going to do another $5 trillion to target the least among us?

BERNSTEIN: I do think it`s very important to keep these measures going where they`re appropriate. And obviously, you don`t need unemployment insurance if you`re at full employment. We`re not there yet, to be clear. But unemployment insurance is just that. It`s insurance against high unemployment.

But a child tax credit, I mean, the reconciliation plan, of course, aims to extend that measure for numerous years in order to keep tapping those kinds of poverty-reducing benefits. But at the end of the day -- this is again where the conservative mythology is completely backwards. Low-income people don`t just need to work, by the way.

Food stamps and Medicaid, they don`t keep your family alive and housed. But they don`t just need to work, they want to work. They want to be productive. And we have tons of research that shows that the so-called labor supply discouragement effects barely show up at all in the data.

So, we have to not just keep some of these work supports going, we also have to get the macro economy working on our behalf. And that`s where some of these rescue plan and the GDP report from today are so important. We are pulling forward a recovery that forecasters told us was two, three years out there.

Because of the measures in the rescue plan we`re pulling that recovery forward. Because of the building back better plan, we`re going to make sure we don`t just pull the recovery forward but that it is the most inclusive recovery and that if you play a role in helping this economy grow, you`re going to get a fair share of that growth.

VELSHI: Jared, good to see you. Thank you for joining us tonight.

Jared Bernstein is a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

All right. The administration and much of Congress is working on something else big that could help the economy. I`ll tell you about that on the other side.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:39:10]

VELSHI: It was a rare kumbaya moment in the Senate last night as senators from both parties announced an agreement had finally been reached on a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure deal. Well, today it was back to reality and the hard task of legislating. Despite advancing with votes of 17 Senate Republicans the package, which would include $550 million in new spending, is still far from done. The actual legislative language has yet to be written. It has yet to be scored or priced out by Congressional Budget Office.

Some Senate Republicans are already vowing to bombard it with a host of amendments. Meanwhile, many Democrats in both the House and the Senate have made clear they will only support it if it is followed by a sizable reconciliation bill that will fund family programs, education, health care and climate change, all things that Republicans did not want in the smaller bipartisan package.

[21:40:01]

Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who was credited by the bipartisan group for bringing the deal together, angered some in her party when she said that the $3.5 trillion price tag being floated for that larger reconciliation deal is too high. She doesn`t support it, which ignited a strong response from House progressives.

Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: Good luck tanking your own party`s investment in child care, climate action, and infrastructure while presuming you`re survive a 3-vote House margin especially after choosing to exclude members of color from negotiations and calling that a bipartisan accomplishment.

Representative Pramila Jayapal, chair of the 96-member congressional progressive caucus also let it be known she and her colleagues are not guaranteed to vote for the bipartisan deal unless their priorities are sufficiently funded in the reconciliation deal.

Joining us is Washington Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus which will have a big role in deciding what kind of deal can pass the House.

Congresswoman, good to see you. Thank you for seeing you this evening.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Great to see you, Ali.

VELSHI: Let`s talk about your -- your hesitation about this bill. Has it got anything to do with what`s in this bill? Because we really don`t know enough about what`s in the bipartisan bill. Or is it all about not trimming stuff off the other bill that you are more focused on?

JAYAPAL: Well, as I said in my statement, we don`t know what`s in the bipartisan bill. So we have to see it. We have to make sure we agree with the provisions that are in the bipartisan bill. And we have to make sure that the reconciliation bill is passed before we will vote on a bipartisan deal.

This is something we`ve said for three months. And it`s not just progressives. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the same thing. Chuck Schumer has said the same thing.

The reality is these two bills have to move together. Because the core of what Jared Bernstein was just talking about with you is that we need to make significant investments in the health and well-being of the American people. Coming out of the COVID times but even before that, Ali, we have a situation where the wealthiest and the rich do just great in America but everybody else does not see the opportunity for them to advance in their generation. Not just their generation, not just two generations, but in three generations people donate see economic growth.

So that`s why the reconciliation plan is so important, with investments in housing and free community college, in child care, in paid leave, in Medicare expansion and of course in saving the planet and protecting immigrants who have been at the forefront of protecting us during COVID.

VELSHI: So let`s talk about -- we don`t know what`s in the bipartisan bill. Obviously the much larger reconciliation bill we have fewer details. I heard you say you want to see that reconciliation bill done before. Do you mean literally before or do you mean in conjunction with or approximately at the same time?

JAYAPAL: No, we really need to see the reconciliation bill passed in the Senate before we can advance the bipartisan deal. And the reason is because it is very important that all 50 Democrats including those who negotiated the bipartisan deal understand that this is a twofer. You kill one, and I remember Joe Manchin saying this a week or two ago about the bipartisan deal. He was saying if you kill the bipartisan deal, then the whole thing is off.

Well, we`ve got a message too, which is you kill or undermine the $3.5 trillion infrastructure -- reconciliation package, the whole thing is going to collapse. So it is really important that we do these two things together.

I believe we can do it, Ali. I just want to be clear. I really believe that we can get there.

There is a tremendous amount of agreement. Most importantly from the American people, Republicans, Democrats, and independents, support this kind of investment because you know why? So many people are suffering across the country. And they want us to desperately and urgently address the needs that they are facing.

VELSHI: Congresswoman, thanks for joining me tonight. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal is the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Still ahead, yet another member of Congress is arrested for getting in good trouble while Georgia Republicans take new steps to undo the results of the 2020 election. The fight for voting rights is next.

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VELSHI: Two weeks ago, it was the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Joyce Beatty, arrested for protesting voting rights in the Senate Hart Building. A week ago, it was Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson.

And today, it was Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee arrested in the same place for the same reason. You can see her here being handcuffed in white zip ties. She was later placed inside a police van.

She later tweeted this photo of herself in handcuffs. Her caption, quote: I will never stop fighting for voting rights. The time is now to move the voting rights bill in the U.S. Senate forward. Enough is enough. #goodtrouble.

The protests and resulting arrests are part of a summer of action on voting rights. And the list of reasons to fight just keeps on growing.

Today, this was the headline in the "Atlanta Journal Constitution": Georgia Republicans take first step to Fulton elections takeover.

Fulton County is the largest county in the state, 1/10 of all Georgians live there. It`s where Atlanta is. It voted overwhelmingly for Joe Biden. It also contains a sizable proportion of the state`s black voters.

The paper obtained a letter showing that two dozen Republican state senators support a performance review of the Fulton County elections chief. They have the power to request this thanks to the restrictive voting bill that Georgia passed earlier this year. Now, according to that bill, state Senate bill 202, the state can replace any local election official with enough Republican support.

[21:50:01]

The chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, a Democrat, is sounding the alarm saying this is blatant Republican attempt to take control of the U.S. Senate from Democrats and retain the governorship in 2022.

Quote: it`s been rhetoric until this point. This letter is the first official step in the process. We`ve got allies in the legislature. We`ve got the courts and the court of public opinion. The law, as it currently stands, is on their side.

At the federal level, Democrats continue to do what they can to address exactly this sort of thing with efforts to pass the For the People Act currently stalled, Senate Democrats are preparing to unveil a new voting rights bill as soon as this week. Several senators including Raphael Warnock, Amy Klobuchar and Joe Manchin huddled in Chuck Schumer`s office yesterday to discuss the legislation and the momentum is building.

"The New York Times" and NBC News both report that President Biden will meet with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and leader Schumer tomorrow to discuss voting rights legislation.

The need for action could not be more pressing. Today, Texas state Democrats who fled their state to block a restrictive voting bill testified before Congress about the desperate need for federal action to block voter suppression efforts at home.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a practical implication that`s going to disenfranchise hundreds and thousands of votes of Texans. That`s why we`re here. We tried to work with our counterparts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where was that, in committee?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, sir, in committee, on 23 hours, there were amendments being presented. Even during the regular session when we presented amendments, they were not always admitted. So, we`ve used every tool in our toolbox to collaborate with our colleagues. The only thing left is to come to Congress and ask for federal intervention.

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VELSHI: Which is literally what they`re doing.

Joining us now, Senator Alex Padilla, Democratic senator from California, former secretary of state of California who knows a lot about state voting rights.

Senator, good to see you. Thank you for being with us.

Now, what the Texas representative is saying there is what they`re doing. They literally left their state and went to make their case at the federal government. They said, we can do what we can do and we are willing to do it under pain of arrest. They are all threatened with arrests when they go back. But they said we need the feds to get involved.

You and I have had this discussion before. It can happen, but there are still some holdouts at the federal level.

SEN. ALEX PADILLA (D-CA): Yeah, good to be back with you, Ali. You`re absolutely right. So we thank the Texas legislators for their heroism in elevating not just the importance of these voter protections that we are trying to get passed, but the urgency because the 2020 election is around the corner, and it should not take another Selma to get the conscience of the United States Senate, of course, the House of Representatives has already passed the for the people act. For us to get a bill on the president`s desk which we know he will sign.

So just want everybody to know, we are not giving up the fight. There`s been a lot of focus on infrastructure lately, but voting rights continues to be a top priority. We hope to unveil a new proposal in maybe the next week.

VELSHI: Talk to me about that. What do you do? I mean, interesting that there`d be a new proposal. But we do have two proposals there already.

What do you do to break the logjam here, A, with Republicans, but, B, with some people in the Democratic Party to have them say, hey, look, we may need to bust the filibuster once and for all for things as important as voting rights?

PADILLA: Right. Well, you know, we sort of pick up where we left off. We had a measure on the floor that only received 50 votes on a motion to proceed, to begin discussion, to begin the debates. But frankly that was a measure that up until shortly before the vote, did not have all 50 Democrats.

Guess what? We start with a united Democratic caucus. When you have not just myself and Leader Schumer but Senator Manchin and Senator Warnock all in the room, coalescing around a proposal that`s starting from an even stronger position.

And so with the For the People Act as a model, with the experience of not just California but especially California showing how all these measures actually work, they strengthen the integrity of our election and make it easier for people to participate. That`s what our democracy is supposed to be about. I think we gain momentum in either appealing to ten of our Republican colleagues, or short of that, potentially reforming or eliminating the filibuster to finally get this done.

VELSHI: Senator, I really wanted to talk to you on this topic because of your experience as the secretary of state. There are all sorts of things going on in this country making it hard for people to vote -- ballot boxes, voting hours, things like that.

But President Biden made the point one could organize around that. It`s not what we should be doing in this country, but you can figure that out.

What they`re doing in Georgia, you can`t figure that out. This idea of removing an elections official so as to control the outcome of elections, there`s no way to out-organize that.

[21:55:03]

That -- that is anti-democratic.

PADILLA: Right, and that`s why time is of the essence. One could argue, well, if it`s that much of a violation of the spirit if not the actual language of the Federal Voting Rights Act, by the time you litigate it and it`s appealed and it goes all the way to the Supreme Court, you know, I`m not comfortable with those chances.

So, again, the importance and the urgency with which we need to act. And knowing that it has worked in places like California, Colorado. All these reforms are proven reforms that, by the way, uphold the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. It`s the act I referred to in that hearing we had in Atlanta a week and a half ago, where it is in federal statutes that government has not just an opportunity, a responsibility to facilitate voter participation.

That means making it easier for eligible people to register, to stay registered, not be purged from the rolls, and options for how to cast their ballots.

VELSHI: Senator, good to see you. California Senator Alex Padilla, we appreciate your time tonight. We`ll be right back.

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VELSHI: And that does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow.

It`s time now for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."

Good evening, Lawrence.