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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 8/10/21

Guests: Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Ron Nirenberg

Summary

Democratic Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins of the New York State Senate is interviewed. The Mayor of San Antonio, Texas, Ron Nirenberg is interviewed. Today, after months and months of back and forth, Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate passed a $550 billion infrastructure bill and they did it together.

Transcript

MEHDI HASAN, MSNBC HOST: That`s ALL IN on this Tuesday night.

"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Mehdi. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated it.

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

So I`m going to show you an ad, it`s not a recent ad. It`s from a few years ago. And I`ll tell you in advance, based on this ad alone. It is a little bit hard to figure out what the dude is talking about besides the fact he is disappointed, that he is very sorry, that he`s trying very hard to look sincere.

It does come across his name is Tom Reynolds and he approves this message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER REP. TOM REYNOLDS (R-NY): I`m Tom Reynolds and I approve this message. This spring, I was told about odd but not explicit e-mails from Mark Foley. Even though I never saw the e-mails, I reported what I`d been told.

I`ve since learned newspapers and the FBI had these e-mails for months and Foley lied about them. Later, worst e-mails were revealed. So, I forced him to resign. I`m disappointed I didn`t catch his lies before. For that I`m sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: And that`s the end of the ad. It ends like that. For that I`m sorry, go to black.

He`s sorry for that. He`s very sorry about that, but what exactly is he sorry about? His name is Tom Reynolds, Republican congressman from New York first elected in the late `90s and that apology ad, one in a pantheon of apology political ads, it ran actually as a campaign ad, not just like a video he put on his website or something. It ran as an ad, in 2006, right before he was up for re-election in the midterms that year.

And although you cannot tell in the text of the ad himself, what he was apologizing for was a role played by him and his office in the one of the grossest congressional scandals in recent memory. You mentioned this guy named Foley. That`s Mark Foley, who`s another Republican congressman. He served in the House at the same time as Tom Reynolds, in 2006.

Mark Foley resigned from Congress in disgrace after it was revealed that he had sent very sexually explicit messages and horribly inappropriate e-mails to teenage boys who were serving on Capitol Hill as congressional pages, these young assistants who work at the U.S. Capitol.

That story first broke -- the Mark Foley story first broke to the public in 2006 right before the midterm elections. But the fact that Congressman Foley had been sending inappropriate e-mails to teenage boys, the public didn`t know that, but it had been known on Capitol Hill for a long while at that point, including by his colleague, Congressman Tom Reynolds of New York.

Congressman Tom Reynolds was not just a New York congressman. He was in leadership. He was the fourth most powerful Republican in the House.

It turns out one of the pages, the teenage boys who was getting these wrong e-mails from Congressman Foley, he went them to a member of Congress who sponsored him to become a page, and that member of Congress went to Tom Reynolds in leadership, to tell him about it, so something could be done.

Reynolds and his office, therefore, were told about Mark Foley and these e- mails he was sending to these kids working as pages. They were told more than a year before the story broke and Foley had to resign. Reynolds knew a full year before that something was wrong. He says he did forward the information.

He says he told the House speaker who then was Denny Hastert, who then would later have his own problems with these matters. He said he told the House speaker but he did nothing further and meanwhile Mark Foley stayed in Congress the whole time. Ultimately, Tom Reynolds` chief of staff was interviewed by the FBI. The FBI then was investigating whether Mark Foley had been shielded from investigation by his colleagues in Congress.

Tom Reynolds` chief of staff ultimately resigned after the FBI interview, although he said he did nothing wrong.

But heading right into the midterm elections in 2006, that was why Congressman Tom Reynolds, number four Republican in the house, had to put out this weird, vague and also abrupt apology ad, trying without really explaining to dispense with the role his and his office had come to play in that very ugly, very nasty scandal before voters went to the poll in November to decide whether or not he`d be sent back to Congress. Again, that was right before the midterm elections in 2006.

And in the end, the voters in Tom Reynolds` district, they did re-elect him. He squeaked by which, which was notable because that was a really, really Republican district, and he was an incumbent and a leadership, and very well-known. It was a narrow, narrow victory for him given the size and the shape of that district.

[21:05:00]

And that would be his last race for public office. After he did get re- elected in 2006, he announced he would retire and he wouldn`t run again. He said it was time for him to take on new challenges.

And so, instead of running for reelection the next time around in 2008, he endorsed a new Republican to take his seat, a guy named Chris Lee. And Chris Lee seems like a real up and comer in the Republican Party. He ended up wining the Tom Reynolds seat by a huge margin. Again, this is a really Republican district.

Chris Lee was a vocal anti-gay, anti-abortion Republican, a married family values kind of guy who really campaigned on that as one of the reasons he should be in Congress. He voted against the repeal of don`t ask don`t tell, about gay people serving openly in the military. He voted against the Fair Pay Act for women getting equal pay.

But even though Chris Lee was this up-and-coming conservative Republican from a totally safe Republican seat in New York, his time in Congress ended up being short-lived, because just a month into his second term in Congress, Chris Lee abruptly resigned after this photo of him surfaced. Oh, what are you doing with your hand?

Turns out family man Chris lee was soliciting women for sex on Craigslist, yes, Craigslist hence the shirtless flexy photo which was apparently part of that whole process.

So that comes out. Chris Lee resigns. He resigns from the same seat that Tom Reynolds had retired from after he and his office got caught up in the Mark Foley child sex predator scandal. They go from Reynolds, they get Chris Lee. Chris Lee is only a short time. Then they get a special election to fill Chris Lee`s now vacant seat.

And again, that was a same Republican district in New York. But after those couple of scandals, those couple of guys, voters in that New York district in that special election decided to change course and they decided they would choose a woman to represent that district and they would choose a Democratic woman to represent that district, the first Democrat elected to that seat in like 40 years.

And her name was Kathy Hochul. The same Kathy Hochul who two weeks from today will take the oath to become the first woman governor of the great state of New York.

And how Kathy Hochul got to this point in her career turns out to be a path paved with just an astonishing number of men behaving astonishingly badly in power, getting caught and thereby being forced out of offices they would have otherwise preferred to hold onto.

I mean, first just stick with that one congressional seat for a second, right? There`s Mark Foley, the guy sending sexually explicit message to minors. The incumbent in that seat in New York tied into the Mark Foley scandal, his career sort of ends in disgrace then there`s the shirtless tiny fist flexor guy, Chris Lee whose career ends in disgrace.

Then Kathy Hochul gets that seat. It`s a seat no Democrat had any business winning. But she wins it in large part thanks from those scandals from her Republican predecessors. She holds that seat for that term without any scandals of her own, which is a notable thing in that case.

But then that district cots up in a bit of redistricting in the 2012 elections. Again, it`s still very much a Republican seat and she loses that seat after one term to another Republican man, a man named Chris Collins. Remember him? Chris Collins would go to pick up the baton from badly behaving Republican men from this one single congressional district.

Chris Collins ended up getting arrested while he was serving in Congress, indicted on 11 felony chargers for an alleged insider trading scheme. He pled guilty. He was sentenced to multiple years in federal prison before he was ultimately pardoned by President Trump because he`s a Republican who supported President Trump.

But that`s just origin story number one for the woman who`s about to become the new governor of New York, this congressional seat with skid marks all over it from the felonies and sex scandals and child sex abuse scandals of all the men who held it other than her.

Meanwhile in 2014, having survived her brief tumble in that totally toxic congressional district, Kathy Hochul ran to become the lieutenant governor of New York state. Her running mate was a man who`s running for governor along side her was Andrew Cuomo. Helps to remember how Cuomo himself ended up running for governor in the first place.

Who was the previous Democratic governor of New York? Eliot Spitzer, forced out as a governor of New York in a lurid prostitution scandal. After Spitzer was forced out for that, his lieutenant governor, his number two David Paterson took over the job as New York governor.

But David Paterson was basically forced out too after a corruption scandal involving serious domestic violence allegations against his top aide. Paterson was ultimately found not to have committed witness allegations against his top aide. Paterson was ultimately found not to have committed witness tampering but the aide against, which the allegations were made, did plead guilty to harassing his former girlfriend.

In the midst of that scandal and the investigation thereof, Governor Paterson ends up not running for another term. Andrew Cuomo steps up, he wins the Democratic nomination to run for governor of New York in 2010 after that mess from the two previous Democratic governors.

In order to actually ascend to the top job, though, Cuomo had to go through the general election, right? And he had to defeat the guy the Republicans had nominated for governor that year. That candidate was named Carl Paladino. Carl Paladin during his campaign he was found to have had a frequent habit of circulating wildly racist and profoundly -- profoundly -- I mean profoundly pornographic e-mails to a surprisingly large number of political pals.

I`ll tell you just from a personal perspective or pulling back the curtain here a little bit, the Carl Paladino pornography e-mail scandal led us in this show to setup a whole set of rules internally we still use how to handle the reporting and broadcasting of stuff that is newsworthy and so wildly, wildly offensive it cannot be described at a staff news meeting without all of us getting referred to HR. And it can`t be accessed on work computers without them getting seized by the company, right?

So that`s how -- that`s who Andrew Cuomo beat to become governor of New York after the Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson scandals. She`s elected thanks to an assist from Congressman Mark Foley sending sexually explicit solicitations. And the other family values conservative Congress who posts the sad cheesecake chest hair photos of himself, thanks to him she gets to Congress. That frees her up to go to Albany as the running mate for the guy who succeeds the prostitution scandal governor and the domestic violence was it witness interference scandal governor which leads to a special elections contest against the fantastically pornographic scandal Republican candidate in that race.

The results of which is that Kathy Hochul covered in other peoples slime but none of her own eventually becomes lieutenant governor of the great state of New York. Ta-da.

But how does Kathy Hochul become governor of the great state of New York? Glad you asked, sort of, not really.

This is Eric Schneiderman. He used to be the attorney general in the great state of New York. He was one of the attorneys who made the gig into a very national profile job. New York attorney generals in particular tend to do that. It`s -- being New York attorney general is a job that brings with it a lot of power, a lot of opportunity for news making. Typically it brings with it a lot of swagger.

Eliot Spitzer was New York attorney general before he became governor. So was Andrew Cuomo, for example. But Eric Schneiderman took over on the fast track in 2018 and presumably greater things beyond.

But then in May 2018, "The New Yorker" published a granular detailed just heinous accounting of how Eric Schneiderman had subjected four different women to what the magazine described as nonconsensual physical violence. All four women alleged Schneiderman repeatedly hit them often in a sexual or at least sexual degradation context but never with their consent. Schneiderman denied he ever assaulted anyone. But just three hours after that story dropped in "The New Yorker," he resigned in disgrace as attorney general.

And that is how the great state of New York got its first ever woman serving as attorney general, Barbara Underwood. She`d been the long time solicitor general in New York, which meant she among other things represented New York in its major court cases. Barbara Underwood stepped in to temporarily take over the job after the Schneiderman scandal and his shock resignation.

And that`s a high pressure, high profile job, right? And Underwood took it over at such a high pressure, high profile time. To be suddenly shoved into that kind of job which doesn`t have a natural successor lined up, but Barbara Underwood stood up, took the reins and nailed it.

[21:15:07]

She sued Donald Trump fake family charities straight out of existence. She sued Trump`s EPA for rolling back climate policy. She successfully challenged some of the Trump administration`s most inhumane and indefensible families in court like the citizenship question on the census, and forced family separations at the border. Underwood won seemingly universal praise for her brief tenure as New York attorney general -- I mean, aside from the defendants whose door she beat down.

Barbara Underwood took that job under the weirdest and highest pressure circumstances. But she was nails. She was great. She was super effective.

Among other things she proved, she showed, she lived that for sure New York was ready for a woman to be attorney general of the state for the first time ever.

Barbara Underwood took over. She held down the fort after the Schneiderman scandal. In the next election it was Letitia James, Tish James who ran for the job outright and ran by a mile. She won by a more than 25-point landslide.

Underwood had been appointed to the job in the immediate wake of Schneiderman`s scandal. That made her technically the first acting attorney general of the state of New York. Tish James was the first woman ever elected to the gig.

And Tish James also turned that job into a nonstop headline generating machine. As attorney general of New York, Tish James sued the NRA, leading the almost indescribably influential and powerful gun lobby to declare bankruptcy and flee the state. Right now, she`s leading a big multi-state lawsuit against the almost unimaginably influential and powerful company Facebook.

She started a civil investigation into the Trump organization, which has since morphed into an ongoing criminal inquiry into the former president`s business.

But then there was this. In December, a former staffer to Governor Andrew Cuomo accused him of sexually harassing her for years. Two months after that another former Cuomo staffer came forward saying she, too, was sexually harassed by Andrew Cuomo when she worked in his office. Cuomo denied that he ever inappropriately touched anyone who worked for him.

But Tish James went to the governor and asked him to allow her office to conduct an independent investigation of these allegations, ultimately the governor agreed. That was in February of this year.

Between now and then, more women came forward with similar allegations about Governor Cuomo. Others made allegations of a toxic, emotionally abusive workplace, fostered under the governor`s leadership. For months, Governor Cuomo continued to deny he`d done anything wrong.

But then last week, Tish James reported her finding. She dropped the report that included -- that contained the findings of her investigation into Governor Cuomo`s conduct. It was a bombshell. She found that during his time in office, Governor Cuomo had sexually harassed at least 11 women.

According to Tish James` investigation, the governor broke both federal and state laws and in fact created a workplace culture of harassment and fear. Five different prosecutors, five different district attorneys have since requested the underlying evidence from Tish James investigation to potentially conduct criminal inquiries into Governor Cuomo`s behavior. There are at least two criminal inquiries already under way.

At least one woman identified in the report has already filed a criminal complaint with one county sheriff`s office. And now today in a stilted, oddly staged difficult to watch rollout, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York resigned saying his resignation is effective two weeks from today. He`s still adamantly denies that he knowingly did anything wrong.

But regardless, either way, that makes his number two, his lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, now the next governor of New York.

Kathy Hochul has spent nearly her whole life in New York state. She was a practicing lawyer before working as a legislative aide on the Hill. She worked in the New York State Assembly. She ultimately won a county clerk seat. Later, she won that ill-fated seat in Congress.

Since she became lieutenant governor during Cuomo`s second term, she`s famously driven to every county in the state every year she`s been in office. She`s from a traditionally more conservative part of Upstate New York. In the past, she described herself as an independent Democrat. She was once opposed progressive priorities like issuing driver`s licenses to undocumented immigrants. At one point, she got an endorsement from the NRA.

But she has moved to the left or at least to the center since then. She`s renounced her old stance on the driver`s licenses. She`s adopted a more traditionally progressive slate of policies.

[21:20:03]

She`s considered to be essentially pragmatic and to have followed the same sort of path that a lot of upstate New York relatively conservative Democrats have followed when they`ve move into statewide or indeed national office. Essentially lining themselves up more with the party at large as they get into bigger settings that account to larger numbers of voters.

By all accounts, Kathy Hochul`s governing style is nothing like that of her former boss. She`s probably known as able, well-respected, pragmatic, scandal-free. She`s a totally worthy inheritor of this job.

But the inheritance of this job honestly is thanks to an almost unbelievably, relentlessly depraved pantheon of terrible men in both parties doing absolutely terrible things in office, mostly but not exclusively to women and teenagers. I mean, that is what happened with all those terrible men doing terrible things. It took her to the congressional seat she held, the governorship, took her to the scandal and investigation that led today to her getting the governorship of New York.

And on one hand, it is cause for some sort of celebration that New York finally has its first woman governor and an able and well-respected one at that. But maybe to get the next one shouldn`t take a prostitution scandal, a child sex abuse scandal, a domestic violence scandal, a bizarre online sex so solicitation scandal, a bizarre unsolicited pornography scandal, a sexual abuse scandal and a serious sexual harassment scandal to make this possible. Maybe that shouldn`t have to be the path to women having power, maybe.

That kind of a path where finally at the end of the day after all that women who aren`t depraved and aren`t doing terrible things have to come in and cleanup the mess after all those dudes. Maybe.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:26:15]

MADDOW: Today`s announcement by New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo that he will step down from office in two weeks means that Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul is poised to become the first woman governor of New York state. Once she steps into that role in two weeks time, Hochul will cease of course being lieutenant governor of the state. According to state law the person who will temporarily replace her as lieutenant governor is our next guest, the president of the state Senate in New York, the majority leader in the state senate. She`ll also now be acting as lieutenant governor of the great state of New York.

Her name is Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins. She`s led the Democratic Party in the New York state Senate since 2012. That makes her the first woman to lead a state party in New York. She`ll soon be the first black woman to serve as the state`s lieutenant governor. But that is happening under these extraordinary circumstances that have been a long time in coming.

Andrea Stewart-Cousins called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign all the way back in March. Today, he finally did.

Democratic Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins of the New York State Senate joins us now.

Madam Majority Leader, thank you so much for joining us. I know this has been a difficult and intense day.

ANDREA STEWART-COUSINS, MAJORITY LEADER OF NEW YORK STATE SENATE: It has been very, very difficult, very intense. But I so appreciate your pattern recognition because I always like to tell the history of how we get to places, and that is such incredibly important history. So thank you for that. It`s great lead in.

MADDOW: Well, thank you -- thank you for thanking me, but it makes me feel like I need to take a shower just talking about it. I mean, it is -- it is absolutely bipartisan. It spans federal office and statewide office up to the very highest levels through multiple generations of political leadership with all different kind of creeps.

I have to ask you if you have a diagnosis for what accounts for all of these levels of men behaving terribly that led ultimately to this resignation today.

STEWART-COUSINS: Well, you know, Rachel, I think we know what it is. We know that people get kind of enamored with their power. They get enamored with titles. They get enamored with the position that they hold over other people, and their ego kind of get really big. And sometimes people forget.

It is extremely, extremely hard to forget if you are really centered on public service. And somehow, I don`t understand why people feel if you do this, then maybe you`re allowed to do other things.

For women, I`ve found in this position, and certainly it`s a position that had been largely male, largely white male, that when women get an opportunity to show up, we have to -- first of all we thought 20 times before we even decide to run. And then we`ve been told by a million people that we can`t. And then you find yourself in this place.

And you have to really focus on doing your job exceptionally well in order to be able to retain it for yourself. And you also know that you don`t want to be the last, that women fight hard to get in our spaces, and we don`t want to be the last. We want to lay a path for our daughters, our granddaughters and for every other woman who might be inspired by what we do.

So I think the focus is certainly -- you know, I won`t say every man -- but I`m just saying that most women come in with a mind-set they really have to prove themselves. And frankly, I think we`re at this moment now where our leadership is going to be paramount to the success of not only our state but our nation in many ways.

[21:30:05]

MADDOW: And you are going to have a key and unique role in that new leadership. This we assume temporary role as lieutenant governor right now which you`ve assumed essentially through the power of succession. Lieutenant Governor Hochul ascending to the governorship.

What should the country expect from lieutenant governor soon to be Governor Hochul? How long do you expect to be in the lieutenant governor position? Obviously, the national spotlight is here because of the scandal for the man now leaving the position. But what should we know about soon to be Governor Hochul and yourself?

STEWART-COUSINS: Okay, so first of all I think I have to clarify because people are saying oh, you`re going to be the lieutenant governor. I don`t believe that will be the case. Why? There`s a two-week span between the time the governor actually resigns. So had he been as remember as Governor Spitzer did, had he said oh, I`m stepping down immediately, then immediately the succession happens.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul is still the lieutenant governor while the governor is still the governor. So she will have two weeks to make a decision about who will be her lieutenant governor. And I believe that`s what`s going to happen.

So I`m glad I get a chance to clarify this because I`ve gotten a lot of congratulations and the reality is -- which is fine -- but I`m perfectly sure she`ll pick a lieutenant governor in the next two weeks. And then if she doesn`t, yes, I get to ascend to that until she does.

But I`m looking forward. I spoke with her this morning. I`m looking forward to as her partner, as being one of those people. Remember there are only three men in the room until I showed up in the room frankly because it`s always the governor, the speaker and the majority leader. And up until the time I was elected majority leader in 2019, there were only three men in the room.

The room is going to look very different now. The first woman governor, the woman majority leader -- the first woman majority leader and the speaker, an African-American male. Very different room.

And I`m looking forward, frankly, to seeing how we can, again, continue to move us forward in our progressive way so that we can continue to build our economy, fight COVID and prove once again that when you let other voices at the table and you let people have a chance, amazing things can happen.

MADDOW: Do you expect that Governor Cuomo may yet be impeached? Obviously, he has said he`s leaving office and as you note that`ll happen within the next two weeks. One of the things impeachment could theoretically address is prohibiting him from holding office again.

Do you think there`ll be an effort to actually continue with the impeachment proceedings despite his resignation?

STEWART-COUSINS: I think there`s certainly people who are wanting to see that happen. There are other people who feel like, you know, the fact he`s stepping down is something really significant and we need to move forward.

For me, I trust the assembly will take a look. I know there`s another meeting of the judiciary committee on Monday. I believe they`ll take a look what they have. They were having as you noted a broader investigation, so they were looking into nursing home numbers.

They were looking into the book deal. They were looking into vaccine test preferences. They were looking into different things.

So I think that in addition to what the attorney general has looked at, they may have some things they might want to look at further or maybe not. But I do believe we`ll know a lot more next week once they`ve had an opportunity to reconvene and, you know, start talking about how to go forward.

We, I want to say in New York, have really taken steps around sexual harassment and workplace safety and really creating an environment that needs to be welcoming with zero tolerance in sexual harassment. Since 2019, we`ve had sexual harassment hearings around the state. None have been had in 25 years.

So this is a very serious thing. And the fact women came forward, this very powerful man and stood their ground, it was corroborated by our very able attorney general is really significant and I think, you know, more than enough to say that, you know, times up, we`ve got to move forward.

And that`s what we`re doing. The rest I think we`ll know more about and maybe there`ll still be impeachment. But whatever happens we need to progress.

MADDOW: Andrea Stewart-Cousins is the majority leader of the New York state senate, one of the three men in the room at this point.

[21:35:02]

And I mean that with all the irony with which I deliver it.

Thank you so much, Madam Majority Leader. I know these are going to be trying times ahead as well. Keep us apprised. We`d love to have you back as New York goes through this transition.

STEWART-COUSINS: I so enjoyed being here. Thank you, Rachel. Thanks for what you do.

MADDOW: I appreciate it. All right, we`ve got so much more to get to tonight Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Three weeks ago today, a local sheriff convened a press conference to announce there`s a big new COVID outbreak at a county jail in Raymond, Mississippi, just outside the state capital of Jackson. Sheriff Lee Vance announced at that press conference they`d randomly done tests of 188 people at the jail, both prisoners and staff. Of those 188 tests, 74 of them turned out to be COVID positive, 60 prisoners and 14 staff.

Two days after that press conference that sheriff himself, the man who made the announcement about the outbreak in the jail, he himself tested positive for COVID.

[21:40:06]

The day after that, the spokesman for that sheriff`s office announced that he too tested positive for COVID. A week after that, the second in command at that sheriff`s office, the undersheriff of Hinds County, a man named Allen White, he not only tested positive for COVID, he was hospitalized with it. Four days after that, the sheriff himself died from COVID, Sheriff Lee Vance, age 63 years old.

This is all in Hinds County, Mississippi, the most populous in the county, home to the state capital, in Jackson. The local paper there, "The Clarion Ledger", this is their front page today, the big headline across the top: Undersheriff will get vaccine. Well, that`s -- that back story is that tragedy that`s unfolded over the last couple of weeks there.

Hinds County undersheriff Allen White returned to the sheriff`s office yesterday after spending day in a hospital with double pneumonia after testing positive for COVID. White who is unvaccinated said his experience with the virus over the past few weeks has made him a believer in the vaccine. In addition to becoming extremely ill and getting hospitalized himself, Allen White lost his boss and friend, Sheriff Lee Vance, to COVID last Wednesday.

White said, I get it`s a controversial issue as a far as the vaccination goes. I understand mandates and my body my choice as an individual. I can only speak from personal experience, and what I believe in and what I recommend to everyone is get the vaccine. White said his doctors told him because he now has coronavirus antibodies he doesn`t need to be vaccinated for three months. Quote, but after my 90 days are up, he said, Undersheriff Allen White will be standing in line with his sleeve rolled up.

That was the front page of "The Clarion-Ledger" in Jackson, Mississippi, today, across the big swath of the South, the front pages today, are like a series of scary movies. I mean, down in Biloxi, Mississippi, down in the Gulf Coast, here`s the front page of "The Sun Herald" today: Coast hospital sends plea to public as ICU`s reach capacity. And up in column A1 there, the worst is yet to come. The lead there says it was a weekend of sickness and health in Mississippi.

That headline is a quote from the Mississippi state health officer, Thomas Dobb (ph). He says, quote, we are rapidly depleting our hospital resources, the worst is yet to come in Mississippi. Please get vaccinated.

Over in Arkansas, here`s the front page today of "The Democrat Gazette". After record admissions, ICUs down to the last eight beds. Only eight intensive care unit beds were available in the state of Arkansas Monday, and the hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients jumped by the largest daily increase yet to the largest daily total yet since the pandemic began.

In Louisiana, here`s the front page of "The Advocate" from Baton Rouge today: Delta variant driving surge in hospitalizations. Quote, we just don`t know how far this is going to go.

And listen to this from that front page article. Quote, at children`s hospital in New Orleans, there were 12 children hospitalize would COVID as of Monday morning half of whom were under the age of 2. Three of the child patients were on mechanical ventilators including a 1-month old infant.

Over in Alabama, "The Decatur Daily`s" front page also leads with how sick kids are getting right now. Younger residents in hospital as infections rise.

It`s the same idea right now in Florida. Here`s the front page today of "The Florida Times Union" which is out of Jacksonville: Baptist Health admitting more kids. Children admissions for COVID double in a week. Quote, the number of patients including children hospitalized because of controversy in Jacksonville continues to rise just one day before local schools reopen their doors.

Baptist health in Jacksonville saying this time last week they had ten kids hospitalized from COVID. In one week, though, that`s gone from 10 kids to 21 kids hospitalized including six kids in that ICU in that one hospital, Jacksonville.

In Pensacola, Florida, today, the "Pensacola News Journal" front page is a photo of this very brave 14-year-old getting her shot at the Brownsville community center. They put that over that stark headline, virus hospitalizations break all-time record.

Speaking of Florida, the federal government today did send 200 ventilators and 100 other high flow oxygen machines to the state of Florida to help Florida deal with its record number of COVID hospitalizations.

The Republican governor in Florida, Ron DeSantis, is now not just insisting but threatening retaliation against school district officials who require masks as kids come back to class.

Those same kind of fights are brewing in Texas as well where Texas Governor Greg Abbott had to ask state hospitals to pair back and make room for all the sick people with COVID in Texas hospitals. He also authorized the state health department to hire in extra medical staff from out-of-state to alleviate some of the burden on Texas` overrun hospitals and medical staff.

But nevertheless, the front pages in Texas today are just as stark, right, both in terms of the scale of the problem and the inability and unwillingness to fight it. In Austin, ICU beds projected to fill up in Austin soon. In Beaumont, Texas, new high, in COVID hospitalizations.

In Galveston, Texas, two Galveston County pastors die with COVID-19. In Houston, tents pop up at LBJ hospital as delta pushes Harris Health near capacity. In San Antonio, more children with COVID going to hospitals as delta spreads.

In Dallas, look at this big front page above the full headline, Abbott`s order defied, county challenges ban on mask mandates. Dallas school district requires coverings.

Dallas and San Antonio are two big Texas cities that have sued the Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott after he banned any school district from having a mask mandate. Today, San Antonio got somewhere with that. They won a ruling from a judge in Bexar County who issued a temporary order against Governor Greg Abbott and his mask ban for all Texas localities and schools.

That judge`s order will at least for now allow San Antonio and Bexar County itself to require masks in schools, which their health department wants them to do as kids head back into the classroom.

Joining us now is the mayor of San Antonio, Ron Nirenberg.

Mayor Nirenberg, thank you so much for being here. I know this is a really busy time for you and your city.

MAYOR RON NIRENBERG (I), SAN ANTONIO, TX: Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW: Let me ask you first of all, if I explained that correctly in terms of the impact of that ruling and the nature of this conflict you`ve got right now with the Texas governor.

NIRENBERG: The delta surge is so dangerous and so rapid that every day matters. And so we contended that the governor used his emergency powers unconstitutionally to bind the hands of health officials from dealing the actual emergency. It`s tragically ironic he`d use his emergency powers from dealing with the emergency.

We did win that ruling in court. So, effective immediately our public health authority has implemented a mask mandate for all public schools. It is effective immediately. It`s already going to have impact and we believe it`ll save lives.

MADDOW: Tell us about the balance of health capacity right now in and around San Antonio in terms of how bad the current surge is and how strained your health resources are and what you`re expecting as schools go back into session. Obviously, the mask mandate per Anthony Fauci on the show last night should make a difference and should help in terms of trying to limit the spread of COVID in schools.

But how worried are you about health capacity and schools getting started back up and continued transmission?

NIREMBERG: Our hospital capacity, our medical capacity in general like most major cities in Texas is already stretched beyond its limit. And you saw the governor already issue a call, which we`ve been asking him to do for weeks for outside help, for nursing con contingents. So, it`s like an arsonist calling 911 though, because our capacity is already past its limit, and the surge of this delta variant is not slowing down.

That`s our concern is that our hospital capacity has already been breached and there`s really no abating it if we don`t mitigate. And so we have work to do including getting folks back in masks now that we have that authority. We`re going to do that.

And we also have to ensure that folks who can get vaccinated are being vaccinated, and that work continues. We did exceed the Biden administration`s goal quite a while ago. But back in June, San Antonio had one of the lowest positivity rates for several weeks, months, in fact, less than 2 percent.

It has gone up almost 20-fold, Rachel, in the last 6 to 8 weeks and so the case numbers are just out of control. And let`s not forget the hospital workers, the medical workers, the nurses, the doctors are putting themselves in harms way which they have done triple time for the last 18 months. And they`re getting no relief. And they`re oftentimes taking this risk back home to their families with how dangerous and contagious this particular variant strain is.

MADDOW: Incredible series of challenges, remarkable that one of them has to be in court literally to give your own health authorities the ability to do what they think is right.

Ron Nirenberg, the mayor of the great city of San Antonio, Texas -- Mr. Mayor, thank you for being here tonight. Good luck. Keep as apprise. We`d love to have you back as you continue this fight.

NIRENBERG: We`re going to keep fighting for our constituents, Rachel. Thanks for having me.

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

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[21:53:55]

MADDOW: I was not just wrong. I was explosively wrong. Is that the right way to put it? I was wrong with a side of fries and every dipping sauce.

Whatever the opposite of I told you so is, that is what I should say right now. I was completely wrong.

Today, after months and months of back and forth, Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate passed a $550 billion infrastructure bill and they did it together. I was so sure Republicans were pulling the same trick they pulled with Obamacare in 2009 where they dragged these bipartisan talks out for like a year and they pretended to be so interested in supporting something and voting for it only for none of them to vote for it in the end. They were just wasting time.

I was so sure they were doing that again. I was totally wrong. I was so wrong that it wasn`t even just the bare minimum 10 Republicans that they needed to vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill today. It wasn`t just ten of them. It was 19 of them that voted for it, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

So take it from me, don`t take it from me.

[21:55:01]

I am very bad at predictions. That said, with that enormous caveat shaped piece of humble pie as an appetizer, here is what I think will happen next. I`m sure I`m wrong but why break the streak?

Despite sort of celebration remarks today from President Biden and Vice President Harris about this bill passing the Senate, I don`t think this bill is going to be on it way to President Biden`s desk any time soon. I think what`s going to happen is that it`s going to sit in the House for awhile now.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the Progressive Caucus in the House, they are united in the determination and their plan to not touch that thing until the Senate passes the other infrastructure bill that is in play right now, which is much more important to progressives. The other bill is a way bigger bill. That`s the one that has a focus on big ambitious priorities like health care and child care and huge amount of stuff on climate change.

Democrats plan to try to pass that through budget reconciliation which would mean they won`t need Republican votes at all but it also means the process is complex and a little bit different from a regular bill. The Senate is actually still in session right now as I speak working on something they`re going to send over to the House so the House can start technically writing that big $3.5 trillion bill. The Senate is expected to have finished this process and punted this over to the House by the end of this week.

Today, Speaker Pelosi told members of the House that they need to cut their vacation plans short and come back early from their recess. They need to come back August 23rd to get to work on their part of it.

Ultimately, it will take a lot of time. All the details of this $3.5 trillion bill will have to be ironed out and agreed on after all of that is done and the House manages to pass it will then the big one, the $3.5 trillion bill go to the Senate for the Senate to pass. If the Senate then passes that, then the Democrats and the House have to pass the bipartisan bill, which the Senate passed today.

So lot`s of celebration today the Senate did this thing which I was sure they wouldn`t do. It will be awhile yet. At least another month or maybe two months here before if the House progressives get their way, both of these bills will finally come to a position where they can become law. A month or two months, that`s what I say.

But like I said, I`ve been wrong before and I will definitely be wrong again.

Watch this space or don`t. I mean, take it easy.

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MADDOW: That is going to do it for us tonight. I`ll see you again this time tomorrow.

Now it`s time for THE LAST WORD where Ali Velshi is in for Lawrence tonight.

Good evening, Ali.