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Transcript: The Rachel Maddow Show, 9/16/21

Guests: Anthony Williams, Jared Bernstein


In addition to the U.S. Capitol getting a perimeter fence against like the one it had to get just after January 6th, the United States Supreme Court is also being perimeter-fenced ahead of the Saturday gathering by Trump supporters in the Capitol who are celebrating the January 6th attack and calling for the release of the people who were arrested in that insurrection effort. Republican state senators in the great state of Pennsylvania have started their own so-called audit of the presidential election result in 2020. President Biden shares plans to help the middle class by raising taxes on wealthiest Americans.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN": Senator Bernie Sanders, we will have you back again as this goes forward.

That is "ALL IN" for tonight.

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That was a great interview, Chris. I love that.

HAYES: Thanks.

MADDOW: I could hear Senator Sanders talk about that legislation for any length of time, but you and him talking about that, that was freaking fantastic.

HAYES: Thank you. Thank you. Yes, good, thanks.

MADDOW: Appreciate it. All right. Thanks, my friend.

And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. In Idaho, the great state of Idaho today, the State Department of Health and Welfare just issued this declaration. You see it says there in all caps at the top, declaration of crisis standards of care. All public health districts in the state of Ohio. Date of declaration, September 16th, 2021. That is today.

Crisis standards of care provide guidelines that help health providers and systems decide how to deliver the best care possible under the extraordinary circumstances of an overwhelming disaster or public health emergency. The guidelines are used when there are not enough health care resources to provide the usual standard of care to people who need it. The goal of crisis standards care is to extend care to as many patients as possible and save as many lives as possible. Implementation of crisis standards of care is meant to be a measure of last resort. Activation of the crisis standards of care means that all other options for addressing resource limitations have been explored.

Overwhelming disaster or public health emergency. Again, this is for all public health districts in the state of Ohio. It's for the entire state now. And the declaration they've issued today explains why they've pulled the trigger, how they got to this dramatic and absolutely unprecedented point.

As we have been reporting in the last few days, it was just over a week ago now that crisis standards of care were implemented for specific hospitals in north Idaho, including the Coeur d'Alene area. Just the overwhelming of hospitals in that part of Idaho due to COVID was already provoking its own kind of crisis even in neighboring Washington state. Hospitals and even just individuals were deciding to try to get patients across state lines, trying to get patients into Washington state hospitals when all the north Idaho hospitals got so completely full with COVID patients that they had to officially start rationing care last week.

So north Idaho has already been in crisis. That crisis, as Washington state's governor put it, had already become Washington state's problem as it washed over into eastern Washington. But this declaration from Idaho tonight means it's not just the north Idaho panhandle anymore. It's the entire state.

And now we know that the request for the statewide declaration for Idaho apparently came in from St. Luke's Health System. St. Luke's has major hospitals in Boise and in Meridian, Idaho. St. Luke's is the biggest health care system in the whole state. And look at what the declaration spells out about what the crush of very sick COVID patients has done there.

Quote: The following conditions exist which support activating crisis standards of care. Idaho COVID-19 hospitalizations largely of unvaccinated individuals continue to climb to record levels. The massive surge of COVID patients has exhausted the supply of staff, available beds, and necessary resources to adequately address the increased demand for health care services.

On September 15th, yesterday, St. Luke's Health System, the largest health care system in the state, requested the activation of crisis standards of care in accordance with Idaho law. St. Luke's has opened 93 beds already in non-traditional overflow areas. St. Luke's reported they had run out of physical beds and would be treating patients on stretchers until the additional beds they have ordered arrive. St. Luke's further reported that all traditional ventilators were in use and that they were now using non- traditional ventilators such as pediatric ventilators for adult patients.

St. Luke's had previously canceled elective surges but on September 15th, yesterday, they reported to the state that they had canceled further surgeries, including the removal of low-risk cancers, fractures with pain, and hernia repairs. All of those surgeries canceled as well.

Quote, despite taking all necessary measures to prevent crisis standards of care, St. Luke's reported a lack of adequate resources to treat not only COVID-19 patients but also other medical conditions that may require hospitalization.

The St. Luke's COVID-19 forecast indicates that in two weeks, St. Luke's could have 425 COVID patients, meaning that almost every bed in the entire St. Luke's health system would be occupied by a COVID-19 patient at that point.


Largest hospital system in the state says it will be 100 percent COVID patients within two weeks which leaves precisely zero beds and zero resources for anybody who has anything else wrong with them other than COVID-19.

The declaration continues at the end, quote, the committee convened virtually on September 15th, yesterday, and recommended to extend activation of crisis standards of care statewide. Statewide.

So, today, that is where Idaho is. It is no longer just north Idaho, just a few hospitals in the panhandle there. It is now statewide, hospitals and health providers across Idaho being given this set of guidance from the state, this very stark, unnerving guidance on how to ethically and logistically handle not providing health care anymore to patients who need to be hospitalized, but there's no room for them, how to ethically and logistically handle providing some patients with comfort care rather than care to try to save them because there just aren't enough resources to try to save everyone anymore.

Again, the state of Idaho has now legally activated statewide crisis standards for health care. It is just a stark thing to see that. To see in the local coverage, to see in the "Idaho Statesman", the way that paper of record in Idaho has to gingerly spell out exactly what this means so people really understand it. They said today, quote, crisis care standards mean hospitals must prioritize patients differently. Typically a hospital prioritizes those who need medical attention most and treats them first.

When crisis standards are activated, however, health care is given to patients on the basis of who is more likely to survive. If you are less likely to survive, you are less likely to get anything other than comfort care. Idaho's Republican governor, Brad Little, is now encouraging Idaho residents to get vaccinated to try to save the hospitals in his state.

As we have covered here on the show, though, in recent days, Republican officials across the state seem to have had a real hard time coming to terms with what COVID really is, what it really means, what it is really doing to their state.

County commissioners in Idaho's largest health district just this summer fired their longtime nationally recognized health director and instead replaced him with a local pathologist with no public health experience, who apparently is a real hero on Infowars. He calls COVID vaccinations, quote, "needle rape". He says COVID vaccinations must be stopped. He also says, you definitely shouldn't wear a mask, Idaho. All you need is vitamin D and horse dewormer, and you're good to go. Don't listen to all these people talking to you about the vaccine and the masks.

That's who county commissioners in the central district, largest health district in Idaho, put on their health board after firing their nationally acclaimed real doctor for having had the temerity to go along with federal guidelines about how to actually prevent COVID.

If you are watching this tonight in Idaho, I have been looking at your local press all day, and I know that this is a scary day. I am sorry for what the state and specifically your health providers, your doctors and nurses, are going through right now. I hope this crisis does not last. We all do.

Idaho has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation, which is why this is happening. Perhaps this crisis will be the shock that turns those numbers around in terms of vaccination and thereby saves the hospitals. We shall see.

The situation in Idaho right now is a story of national significance. It deserves more national attention and thoughts and prayers for the people of Idaho and, again, particularly for the heal care providers there, who are in a place they have never been before, and they don't know how long it will last.

Tonight, there's a lot of anticipation but no confident predictions about what's going to happen tomorrow when the FDA decides whether or not they're going to authorize the use of third shots, booster shots, to basically up the protection afforded already by the vaccines by adding an additional dose or perhaps an additional portion of a dose as an update, as a booster, as a next shot for people who are already considered fully vaccinated.

Again, the FDA is going to be meeting on that tomorrow. Unlike previous FDA authorizations for important therapeutics and vaccines during the pandemic thus far, there's a lot of uncertainty as to what the FDA is going to decide on this. There's certainly a lot of conflicting expert opinion on what's the right thing to do. So we'll be watching that closely.

We're going to speak with Jared Bernstein from the White House tonight on how the COVID crisis in poorly vaccinated states, places like Idaho, is now affecting the White House's thinking on the economy and on what's possible in terms of policy responses and the president's legislative agenda.


One of the wild cards for the Biden White House and for the Democrats in Congress right now is that we're still waiting, still -- tomorrow will be a solid week since Democrats went to the parliamentarian of the Senate to make their case to her that they should be allowed to put major immigration reforms into this gigantic bill that they're working on right now. They're working on passing that bill under rules that would let them pass it with just Democratic votes even if no Republicans joined them.

This is the bill by which they're pursuing President Biden's infrastructure plans. It's the bill by which they're pursuing everything they want to do on climate. It's the bill that Senator Bernie Sanders last hour told Chris Hayes would be one of the most important and consequential pieces of legislation in recent memory.

The question now it whether there might be immigration reform that's part of it as well. The question is whether they can do that according to the parliamentarian's ruling. If the parliamentarian says yes, they may be able to pass immigration reform without any Republican votes.

If that answer is yes and if Democrats can hold their caucus together and pass that legislation, Katy bar the door, right? That's starting to sound like President Biden will get the bulk of his agenda passed and done potentially before the end of his first full year in office. So it's very high stakes, very high -- the Democrats are aiming very high in terms of their ambitions there.

But the prospects for whether or not they pass it depends not only on the unity of their caucus but also on this one ruling from this sort of obscure official in Washington who at any time now could tell Democrats whether they're allowed to go forward on that part of it too. We're going to have that interview live with Jared Bernstein from the White House coming up later on this hour. I'm very much looking forward to that.

The other thing going on in Washington right now tonight, though, surreal as it is, is actually something that started off in this morning's news, seeming like maybe it wasn't going to be too bad, but then over the course of the day, it kind of fell off a cliff.

You might remember us reporting last night, this time last night, when they started erecting the fence around the U.S. Capitol against. This is the fence they put up right after the January 6th attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters trying violently to block the certification of the election of President Biden. The fence was up from just after January 6th until July. It came down in July. It went back up last night in anticipation of this Saturday's rally by Trump supporters who are convening at the Capitol in support of the January 6th attack and to demand the freeing of all the people who were arrested for participating in that attack.

So we saw the fence going up this time last night. This morning, we woke up to kind of comforting headlines, reassuring headlines about the expectations for this weekend. CNN had this headline on the right there. "Republican lawmakers keep Saturday's right-wing rally at arm's length." "The New York Times" headline on the left, Republicans steer clear of rally for riot suspects. Both of those articles this morning full of assurances that Republicans were giving this thing a wide berth, that there was no measurable support for this rally on behalf of the people who attacked the Capitol.

All of this coverage noting importantly that the one singular point of influence in today's Republican Party, former President Donald Trump, he's basically pretending this thing this weekend isn't happening. As CNN put it, quote, top Republicans, including Trump himself, have not promoted the event. As "The New York Times" put it, quote, in shunning the event, Republicans are following the lead of Mr. Trump, who has been uncharacteristically silent about it. Trump, aides say, has little interest in engaging with the protest.

So that was -- that was this morning. Like I said, it was kind of reassuring, right? You're seeing the fence going up. But then there's these headlines. Don't worry, yes, it is Trump supporters coming back to the Capitol with lots of apparently violent chatter online about all the mayhem they want to cause, and yes they are coming specifically to celebrate the people who violently attacked the U.S. Capitol before, which seems worrying on its face. But don't worry because unlike January 6th, there's not like a bunch of Republican members of Congress who are speaking at the rally leading up to it, and Trump himself is ignoring this one.

So, sort of a big sigh of relief this morning. Then this was this afternoon, right off the cliff. A statement from Trump, quote: Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the January 6th protest concerning the rigged presidential election.

You might have seen the headlines after that statement from Trump this afternoon. Trump expresses solidarity with rioters arrested in January 6th attack ahead of planned rally to support the rioters arrested in the January 6th attack. It's almost like he saw the reporting from early in the day, that people were feeling better, that there might not be more apocalyptic, insurrectionist violence from his supporters this time. It's like he saw those headlines, and he was like, oh, I can fix that. I know what to do. Has this not been stirred for a while?

The Department of Homeland Security has now given a warning to state and local law enforcement authorities across the country, warning about the potential threat of violence at the event on Saturday and also for some reason they're warning about threats of violence tomorrow, the day before the rally. D.C. and Capitol police will have their forces fully activated for the Saturday event in the Capitol. "Reuters" was first to report last night that the Capitol police have also asked for the National Guard to be ready to assist if they are needed at the Capitol, even though they're not technically being deployed in advance.

NBC News is also reporting tonight that in addition to the fencing that's being put up around the U.S. Capitol, they're also putting up new perimeter fencing around the United States Supreme Court. You will recall that just a few weeks ago, some dude drove his truck up onto the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court and said he had packed it with enough explosives to blow up a couple of city blocks. He said he was there to set off a revolution and that other people should join him because once all the Democrats were in jail where they belong and once President Trump was reinstated back in office, Trump would pardon him and all the other revolutionaries. Everybody should come join him so he could set off his bombs. So, yeah, now they are fencing off the Supreme Court as well.

So we've got Democrats working on their big infrastructure bill, right? Roads, bridges, rural broadband and all this stuff. Electric grid and everything. President Biden giving his speech today on how policy, including tax policy, should be structured to help the middle class instead of the ultra wealthy, speaking in support of his -- the big budget bill and the infrastructure bill today. Democrats making their case and now waiting with bated breath to find out if they'll be able to do something meaningful on immigration reform for the first time in 25 years, depending on what the parliamentarian lets them do on this bill without any Republican support.

Democrats have also got their big voting rights bill, their new compromise voting rights bill that they're planning to vote on next week. Again, it doesn't look like there's any Republican support for that. Democrats are busy. They've got stuff to do. They have to figure out how to do all of it with no Republican support at all. Meanwhile, what's going on with Republicans? Meanwhile, where Republicans are, they are here.

In April of this year, five months ago, a CNN poll found that an astonishing 70 percent of Republicans did not believe Joe Biden was really president. Seventy percent of Republicans as of April did not believe Joe Biden was legitimately elected president. They thought secretly somehow Trump was still president and all would be revealed. That number among Republican voters was 70 percent in April, just astonishingly high.

Look what it is now. It is no longer 70 percent of Republicans who believe that. It is now 78 percent. Over the past five months, this is what the Republican Party has been busy working on with its voters. Joe Biden isn't really the president.

And, you know, on earth one, people have like moved on, you know? I mean, the COVID crisis is really bad. It's really bad in places that have low vaccination rates in particular. As we talked about last night with the staff director at the largest medical center in Alaska, Alaska's largest hospital is having people who show up at the emergency room now, they're having them just wait in their cars in the parking lot for hours. That's how you go to the emergency room at the largest hospital in Alaska now, because they're so overrun with COVID patients.

The entire state of Idaho is now in crisis standards of care as of today. They are so full of very sick COVID patients, they may now just not treat the ones who seem least likely to make it. And that's not just true for COVID patients. That's true for everybody who needs to come to any Idaho hospital for anything. The COVID situation right now is really bad.

But Joe Biden's president enough that he passed and signed the huge COVID relief bill and thereby, among other things, kept more than 15 million Americans out of poverty this year. He's president enough that he's pulling out all the stops to try to up our vaccination rate as a country, to save the hospitals, to get the numbers down so we stop losing 1,500 Americans a day.


Joe Biden is president enough that he's working on the biggest infrastructure investment since World War II and the biggest effort against climate change ever by a mile, and maybe immigration reform too for the first time in 25 years. Republicans are like, Biden's not president.

Trump's still president, we think. In fact, we are increasingly -- we are increasingly convinced of that.

You know the crazy cyber ninjas audit they've been doing in Arizona since, like, April? Remember they said it was going to take three weeks? It's now September. They're still doing it. That's the Republicans in the Arizona legislature hiring the Cyber Ninjas, that firm run by a QAnon promoting stop the steal guy to like redo the Arizona presidential election results. That's still going on in Arizona. That's been insane from the very beginning.

It seems crazy that it's still going on, though, right? Still? Really? It's mid-September. You're still doing that.

In Republican land, on earth two, in Republican land, none of this stuff is over. They're just getting going. More Republicans today believe that Biden didn't win the election than was true in April. Republicans today just started their new crazy election audit of the 2020 presidential election results in Pennsylvania. Today, they started their effort to try to, I guess, undo the Pennsylvania presidential election result from ten months ago.

This is what Pennsylvania Republicans are working on now, and you want to know how they're working on it? If you voted in the Pennsylvania presidential election this year, they are now trying to subpoena your full name as a voter, your home address, your driver's license number, and a portion of your social security number for their review, for every single person who voted in Pennsylvania. They want all of that data, all of that personally identifying information because maybe Donald Trump's still president.

And so they urgently need every voter's personal identifying information for their investigation. And meanwhile, meanwhile, right now, we're having to fence off the United States Supreme Court and the U.S. Capitol again as the former president beats his chest today and screams about the rigged election and how we need solidarity with all the brave patriots who violently tried to overthrow the U.S. government and keep him in power on January 6th.

There is plenty of political ambition and intrigue and suspense on one side of the aisle tonight. But the other side of the aisle really isn't politics anymore. It is something else, and it getting worse, not better.

Stay with us. We got a lot to get to tonight.



MADDOW: We've been covering for months now these little exercises, these audits, these reviews that Republicans are doing in the states to try to revisit and perhaps somehow undo the presidential election results from 2020. It has been an education, I will tell you, to learn all about the cast of partisan bumblers and grifters who are doing these things, trying to gin up evidence of widespread voter fraud in states across the country where there was no widespread voter fraud.

But the pattern that is emerging while we've been watching all those folks is while they are doing their bumbling and their grifting in all these states, they are also causing legitimate security concerns about elections going forward. Take for instance the three people who allegedly made copies of hard drives and election management software from the real election equipment and the real election software in Mesa County, Colorado.

That stuff is supposed to be quite secure. You're not supposed to be able to copy it. Or the guy who showed up on an election conspiracy theory video holding a vote tabulator identical to the kind used in Antrim County, Michigan.

He was not an elections of official any kind. He should not have had access to that. Then there was the real fun one where copies of election software got passed around to the public, passed around to hackers and invited guests at that Mike Lindell pillow guy conference last month, which was supposed to be the launching pad for Donald Trump's miraculous return to the presidency.

The A.P. talked to one of the hackers, who got a copy of that stolen stuff, and reported, quote, the release gives hackers a practice environment to probe for vulnerabilities they could exploit and a roadmap to avoid defenses. Even worse, copies of that stolen information also ended up posted online to be downloaded by who knows whom. Anybody who wanted to potentially use that stuff to actually cause real harm to an election by being able to hack and potentially compromise voting machines and voting systems software.

Well, with that track record over recent months, now Republican state senators in the great state of Pennsylvania have decided they want in. They have started their own so-called audit of the presidential election result in 2020, and what they are planning to hand off to contractors, who they haven't hired yet, but they're definitely going to pick good ones. What they're planning to hand off to these contractors might curl your hair.

They are subpoenaing an absolute ton of voter records from Pennsylvania, including identifying personal information. They want this from state elections officials for Pennsylvania voters, and then they say they're going to hand this information to contractors that they choose to do this so-called audit. What they want -- pay attention if you voted in Pennsylvania.

What they want, what they are subpoenaing, is names, dates of birth, addresses, driver's license numbers, partial Social Security numbers for every single absentee voter in the state of Pennsylvania, every in person voter in the state of Pennsylvania, every mail-in voter in the state who voted in the November general election, basically every voter in Pennsylvania.


Name, date of birth, driver's license number, last four digits of their social security number, address, date of last voting activity.

Again, the Republican state senator heading this all up doesn't know who they're going to give it to and doesn't know what contractor they eventually pick, what this contractor will eventually do with it. But they want all the information now anyway, and they're using their subpoena power to get it because, hey, Donald Trump might secretly still be president. How else are you going to find out?

This is happening now. This stuff is getting worse over time even though the national media has gotten tired of talking about it. As the national media has stopped focusing on this these things because it seems like the same story over and over again, the actual efforts by Republicans to pursue this stuff has gotten more aggressive, more widespread, and in this case more personal.

State Democrats in Pennsylvania are trying to make sure that this doesn't turn into a real mess for all registered voters in the state of Pennsylvania. I am curious, though, as to their powers to interfere here.

Joining us now is Pennsylvania State Senator Anthony Williams. He is the ranking Democratic member of the committee in the Pennsylvania Senate that voted along party lines to issue subpoenas to vacuum up all this personal information on all the voters in the state.

Senator Williams, it's a pleasure to have you with us tonight. Thank you for being here.

STATE SEN. ANTHONY WILLIAMS (D), PENNSLVANIA: It's a pleasure. Thank you for having me here.

MADDOW: First, let me just ask you, we've been watching this from outside and watching local media and watching some of the hearings as they've been happening, about you we're watching it from afar.

Is there anything that I described wrongly or anything that I'm sort of missing in terms of explaining to our audience what's going on here?

WILLIAMS: You did an extraordinary job of giving accurate, precise information. The only thing that I want to make sure everybody understands how serious this is. You're extraordinary in terms of your delivery, but I don't want anybody to laugh about this. This is very dangerous and hearkens back to some of the darkest periods in American history.

Errors where people were required to testify and if they didn't testify correctly, they were considered non-Americans. That's where we're going with this.

MADDOW: Why do you think that your Republican colleagues want such intrusive information about every voter in the state? I have to imagine that they know how this will go over and that voters of every ideological stripe may be uncomfortable with the idea of all of this information, all of this personal and identifying information being handed over to them when they can't identify what they're going to do with the information or even who else they're going to give it to.

WILLIAMS: Well, I don't think that all of them appreciate it that people will pay attention. You know, Pennsylvania is an extraordinarily diverse state. You have a significant progressive pocket within Philadelphia and the surrounding region, and you have a significantly right-wing conservative pocket in other parts.

But no matter who they are, I don't think any of them understood that once you talk about taking driver's licenses and social security information, you're going to unify whether you're a Democrat or Republican the fact that government is intruding upon your personal life. So, frankly, I think they were taking steps down this path given guidance from outside consideration and not thinking about the consequences of it because those numbers you shared earlier with Republicans thinking the former president should be president today and that Joe Biden, our president, is not president -- trust me, there will be 78 percent of Pennsylvanians who will think this is an extraordinarily stupid and dangerous idea.

MADDOW: We watched some of the footage yesterday in the committee hearing where these very controversial matters were debated and where you pushed back so hard on your Republican colleagues. At one point, you described what they're doing here, this overall audit and the way they are trying to pursue it. You described it as an attack on our right to vote. I wanted to ask you to expand on that and say why you characterized it in that way.

WILLIAMS: Two reasons. One, you know, if you haven't noticed, I'm a black guy. But I come from a certain period where we passed some of the greatest legislation during the civil rights period of time that allowed not only people of color but women, veterans, disabled more access to opportunity in this country than any other period of time.

This is a reversal of that. This is a denial of that. And the other part is obviously for anybody who understands, this country still remains an experiment, but it's based fundamentally on our singular right to vote. That's what makes us different than any part of the world, and access to it without corruption.

And so, you are in the name of wrapping yourself in the flag, ironically, tearing apart the most principled part of our country, and that is our right, regardless of who you are, to make us equal.


Regardless of your income, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, your right to vote makes you an American. And that removal, suppression, or denial is counter to what we're doing, and that's what these folks are trying to do.

MADDOW: Pennsylvania State Senator Anthony Williams -- Senator Williams, it is a pleasure to have you with us. I realize that this fight is joined right now in the state Senate and that you are part of that, and this is the start of a process that's going to go on for a long time. We'd love to have you back to keep us apprised as this continues to move forward.

WILLIAMS: I thank you that, you know, you're paying attention to it and letting America know what's going on in Pennsylvania. Voices like yours make all the difference in us rallying together. So, God bless you. Wonderful, wonderful commentary. I'll continue to watch.

MADDOW: Thank you, Senator. You're going to make me blush.

All right. Much more news ahead here tonight. Stay with us.



MADDOW: Right now in Washington, one person who holds the future of President Biden's agenda in her hands is the parliamentarian of the Senate. An obscure job even in the best of times, but Democrats have been trying to get some kind of immigration reform done for decades. They might finally have a chance, and we could find out whether they have that chance at any moment.

Democratic members of Congress in the White House are eagerly waiting a decision from the Senate parliamentarian as to whether or not Democrats will be allowed to include parts of the Biden immigration reform agenda in their big $3.5 trillion spending bill that they can pass without any Republican votes.

Democrats presented their case to the parliamentarian last Friday. They made their case to her for including in that bill a plan that would create 8 million new green cards for immigrants already in the United States. That group of immigrants includes the Dreamers, people who were brought to the U.S. as kids and allowed to stay in this country under a program created by the Obama administration. That program was then gutted by a Republican- appointed federal judge earlier this summer.

The fate of the Dreamers is really in the balance here. They're going to be deported to a country they've never lived in and never known?

On Monday, "The Hill" newspaper reported that the Senate parliamentarian had gone back to the Democrats and asked them for further information supporting their argument for including immigration reform in the big bill. But as of today, she's still yet to make her ruling.

The second highest ranking Democrat in the Senate after Chuck Schumer is Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. He told NBC News today that he is losing sleep awaiting her decision, saying, quote, it is the best opportunity we have had in 20 years.

And the fate of millions of immigrants in this country is definitely something to lose sleep over. But even so, it is just one piece of what would be this massive $3.5 trillion effort. Today, President Biden himself used his bully pulpit to make his case to the American people about why they should support this bill. He focused today in particular on how it could change the tax code to privilege the middle class over the ultra wealthy.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you're a typical American like I suspect most of the press people sitting in front of me here, you pay your taxes. Why? Because you get a W-2 form. It comes in the mail every year the IRS gets that information as well. Your taxes get deducted from your paycheck, and you pay what is owed beyond that.

But that's not how it works for people with tens of millions of dollars. They play by a different set of rules and they're often not employees themselves. So, the IRS can't see what they make. Where is it written that all the tax breaks in the American tax code go to corporations and the very top? I think it's enough. I'm tired of it.


MADDOW: I think it's enough. I'm tired of it.

Like I said, there is a lot at stake in this bill for President Biden, for his presidency itself, for Democrats, for the Dreamers, for anybody who pays taxes or has kids or drives on roads, right, or needs the Internet occasionally or might want to turn the lights after a storm.

But what are the meaningful prospects this bill will actually pass? Does the White House see it as being on track? The house set a deadline of 11 days from now, September 27th, to pass the smaller bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the Senate last month. Progressives in the House say they won't vote for that bill until they pass the big $3.5 trillion proposal as well. There's a lot still to get done. The clock is obviously ticking.

I feel like it's time at this point, it would be helpful at least to me to get the White House's perspective on the progress made so far, how they are thinking about the prospects for President Biden's agenda in this bill. Are things on track?

Joining us now is Jared Bernstein, a member of President Biden's Council of Economic Advisers. He played a key role in crafting and advancing every bit of Biden's economic agenda, and he is also the man not smart enough that he keeps saying yes to my requests for him to come on TV. The only thing that we know about Jared Bernstein that isn't very, very smart.

Jared, it's great to see you.

JARED BERNSTEIN, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Oh, come on. It's my pleasure. I like the way you just described the number of people who be helped by this bill, which I think is pretty much everybody.

MADDOW: Well, I mean $3.5 trillion at a very ambitious level, I mean starting with infrastructure, looking at climate, looking potentially at immigration, looking at the kinds of fiscal changes this is going to mean, it is going to affect everybody in the country. It's potentially transformative.

My question is not what you are trying to do but whether you think you are going to get there. Are things on track? Is this according to schedule?

BERNSTEIN: I think we're very much on track, and I think not only are we going to get there, I think more importantly, the president thinks we have to get there.


The key word you just used is "transformative." This economy, this political system is really at an inflection point. Do we want an economy that consistently, year in and year out, rewards wealth over work, or do we want to rebuild the policy architecture that connects the middle class and lower-income people to a growing economy, people for whom decades in and out, economic growth has been but a spectator sport.

And you and I have talked about this for a long time. There needs to be a set of policy changes that are cleanly and clearly embedded in this legislation that not only cuts costs for the working class, cuts taxes for the middle class, provides benefits for people who want to go to school, who want to send their kids to child care, who want to pursue affordable elder care, but also does so without raising one penny of taxes below $400,000, and raises taxes on those for whom the tax system has benefitted for so many years.

You talked a little bit about the tax evasion problem a second ago. We can get into that. I think that's precisely the architecture that's required by this moment, and that's why I believe we're on track.

MADDOW: Watching the political dynamics at work here, obviously there's been so much attention to Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Senator Joe Manchin and publicly what they have said about their reluctance or their questions about moving forward is the price tag. They've talked about just not wanting to spend $3.5 trillion.

I wondered if part of the reason the president gave this speech today is to talk about how it is all paid for, how the money isn't coming out of nowhere, that the approach to taxation, to especially making sure that the very richest people in the country start paying the taxes that they are required to pay and that they're not paying, that that is how you get to this being an affordable amount of money to spend.

BERNSTEIN: That is precisely the president's message today, certainly one of the key ones. $3.5 trillion is the gross number that leaves out the impact of a full set of pay-fors, that is measures that raise the revenue necessary to offset that cost. So when you really want to talk about the impact on the federal budget, of course you have to look at both sides of the ledger.

And it's not just that the revenues are raised only on people above $400,000. It's that as you've said, one part of this is tax compliance. I was looking at some numbers before I came on, 28 percent of evaded taxes in a typical year, that's over $160 billion accrue to the top 1 percent.

We know that we have a tax system that has rewarded wealth over work decade in and decade out. And this president has long campaigned on rolling back the high-end, most egregious parts of the Trump tax cuts, cutting taxes for the middle class, cutting costs for the working class, and making sure that no one under $400,000 sees a tax increase -- doing so in the interest of boosting middle class opportunities and once again reconnecting the middle class to the growing economy that we just haven't seen enough of in recent decades.

MADDOW: Jared, one thing that I talked about earlier in the show that I wanted to ask you about from an economic perspective is the ongoing crisis with COVID, particularly in states with low vaccination rates. We've been covering closely the situation, for example, in Idaho, where the entire state has gone to crisis standards of care. Just harrowing news from the state's hospital system in terms of what they think they can do.

Is the COVID crisis, especially the way it is in poorly vaccinated states right now, affecting the way the White House is thinking about the economic recovery, about what is possible for the president's agenda? Does it inject an amount of uncertainty or form of constraint that is hard to forecast?

BERNSTEIN: Yeah. A great question. I think it's really just ramping up the urgency of getting people vaccinated, of doing whatever it takes -- and you heard the president earlier this week with a set of mandates -- whatever it takes to get that vaccination.

I worked with this president for a long time. The very first conversation we had when I was drafted onto the team this team was about the connection, him talking about the connection between controlling the virus and growing the economy. And we have seen that connection in very clear display month after month, quarter after quarter.

The good news is that there is a solid, robust recovery ongoing, even with some of the markdowns or forecasts that have to do with delta, even with some of the numbers we've seen in sectors, in-person services that have been affected.


We still have a much more robust recovery going on and that's because many people are back at work, many kids are back at school. Lots of people are vaccinated. People have some checks in their wallets and some shots in their arms. But we need to do better.

The key to what we're talking about right no is getting to the other side of the crisis and building back better. Simply getting back to where we are is insufficient. It always has been insufficient for this president. We have to create the policy architecture to make sure that when this recovery starts to truly expand under this president's leadership, under the policies that he's putting forth today, that the middle class finally has the opportunities that have been their due for so long and that have so long eluded them. That is the measure of building back better.

MADDOW: Jared Bernstein, member of President Biden's council of economic advisers. Jared, it is always nice of you to spend some time with us. Thanks for making time tonight.

BERNSTEIN: My pleasure, Rachel.

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



MADDOW: We have some breaking news tonight. This has just happened in the last few minutes. Congressman Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, Republican Congressman Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, has announced that he is bowing out. He will not run for re-election next year.

Now, Congressman Gonzalez was one of the ten Republicans in the House who voted to impeach president Trump for his role in inciting the January 6th attack on the Capitol. Congressman Gonzalez has served two terms in Congress. Because he voted for impeachment after the January 6th attack, he, of course, was getting primaried this year by a Trump-endorsed challenger, by a guy who used to work for Trump in the White House.

In an interview tonight with "The New York Times" about his decision not to run again, Congressman Gonzalez called former President Trump, quote, a cancer for the country. He said he would rather step down than run against a candidate handpicked by Trump. He also shared that one of the, quote, eye-opening moments that led to this decision tonight was him having to get a personal security detail after the impeachment vote.

But, again, that breaking news. Republican Congressman Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, one of the ten Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, has just announced he will not run for re-election.

We'll be right back.


MADDOW: We reported right at the fop of the show that NBC News was reporting that in addition to the U.S. Capitol getting a perimeter fence against like the one it had to get just after January 6th, the United States Supreme Court is also being perimeter-fenced ahead of the Saturday gathering by Trump supporters in the Capitol who are celebrating the January 6th attack and calling for the release of the people who were arrested in that insurrection effort.

We just got in this footage. This is moments ago of the fencing indeed going up around the United States Supreme Court. We had reported earlier that was going to happen. It's happening now as we speak. Sign of the times.

That does it for us tonight. We will see you again here tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.