Interview with Washington Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Interview with Senator Jon Tester of the great state of Montana.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks at home for joining us this hour.
The speaker of the House of Representatives is, of course, Nancy Pelosi. She has been speaker this time around since January of 2019.
but this is not her first rodeo. This is her second turn in the speaker`s job. The first time Nancy Pelosi became speaker of the House was in 2007. You might remember, George W. Bush was still president. Democrats did great in the midterms in 2006, Pelosi got elevated to speaker.
I mean, first, it was just this huge historic moment, right? The first female speaker of the House in American history, next in line to the presidency after the vice president. Just a huge history making deal.
So she`s always been a big deal simply because of her breaking that glass ceiling. But the other thing that very quickly became clear about Nancy Pelosi as speaker, Nancy Pelosi as the leader of the that branch of government was that she`s just technically quite good at it, she is specifically unquestionably good at the math part. She can count votes like nobody`s business. If a piece of legislation needed to get passed, Nancy Pelosi knows whether and how she can get the votes for it and she never brings a bill to the floor unless she knows she can pass it.
And I mean, I`ve said it before. I`ll say it again. Whether you are aligned with her politically, whether you love Nancy Pelosi or you hate Nancy Pelosi, it doesn`t matter. What you must appreciate is that she knows what she`s doing. She`s very technically skilled at the job she holds and if you need proof of that, if you need evidence, you can do a little controlled experiment in recent history.
Look at what happened in the house in between her two stints as speaker. Because it was the first midterm elections of the Barack Obama presidency, the 2010 midterms, when the Democrats took what President Obama called a shellacking, Republicans won big everywhere in 2010, so in January of 2011, she had to hand over the comically ginormous speakers gavel to the Republicans. And in so, doing, the country was soon treated to a live high stakes, somewhat scientific demonstration of what it`s like to try to run the House of Representatives in this day and age if you don`t have Nancy Pelosi`s knack for it.
Here`s a sample lead from Beltway reporting around that time. Just minutes from a roll call vote pushed by House Speaker John Boehner, Republicans stunned the House by interrupting their own debate. While Speaker Boehner and his lieutenants tried to pressure reluctant conservatives into backing their plan the house then went into a recess, and shortly before 11:00 p.m., the leadership announced that no vote would be held.
Oops, sorry. Never mind. I thought we had the votes, I guess we didn`t. We called for this thing to be happening. We`re now calling for it not to be happening. We`re going to deal with other stuff. Let`s go into recess let`s pretend this didn`t happen.
And that sort of thing didn`t just happen once. It kept happening over and over again in the new not-led-by-Nancy-Pelosi house. This was a different vote. Speaker Boehner had on the floor for several hours and retreated to a meeting in the basement of the Capital. During that session, John Boehner admitted defeat and sent lawmakers home for the Christmas holiday. The House Republican leaders had unequivocally and wrongly as it turned out predicted that the bill would pass.
They were absolutely certain the bill would pass. This is definitely going to pass before we go home for Christmas, let`s pass this bill we can`t pass this bill. Just forget it, let`s go home for Christmas and pretend this didn`t happen.
In 2013, even the farm bill went down to a shocking surprise defeat in the Republican House, in the sense that it was a shocking surprise to them that was trying to do it. They were trying to pass it. They were able to pass it with their own votes had they been organized enough to figure that out. They shocked themselves by not being able to get it done.
And, yes, the farm bill is not the sort of thing that often makes much of a political ripple. It is consequential, it matters a lot, but it was one of those giant, really boring, hard to understand bills that gets passed routinely without much fanfare.
Before 2013, the farm bill hadn`t been voted down in at least four decades, but then, whoops, we dropped it. And yet again, the problem with the leadership was that nobody knew it was going to fail until it actually failed on the floor. They got it all the way to a floor vote before they realized, oh, geez, we didn`t actually do it right.
The chaos in the House was so bad that the first Republican speaker after Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, he just gave up he quit. The next Republican speaker, however, was no Nancy Pelosi either.
Under the next speaker, Paul Ryan, that farm bill that hadn`t failed a House vote in 40 years until 2013, it failed again. And it was a surprise again.
Remember also just two months into Donald Trump`s presidency, Republicans had to pull their own bill to kill Obamacare. This is a bill they had been talking about and promising for years. Speaker Paul Ryan had to go to the White House personally with his proverbial tail between his legs to tell President Trump that they hadn`t actually been able to put together the votes. The votes just weren`t there when they thought they were going to be there. They got it all the way to the floor, and whoops, oh geez, we dropped it, we don`t know what happened but we got to pull it.
This kind of stuff does not happen under House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Since Pelosi retook the gavel in 2019, whatever else is going on in congress, whatever else is going on in the house, it is not chaotic. When Speaker Pelosi brings a bill to the floor and calls members of Congress to call to the House floor to vote on it, that`s because she has the votes to pass that bill, and she intends to pass it, and then she passes it.
And that is what explains the drama that began unfolding on Capitol Hill today. It also explains something that I told you on Friday night`s show about what was going to happen today that proved to be wrong. Friday night show, I said that on Monday, today, there was going to be a vote in the House on this -- on the small bipartisan roads and bridges bill.
This is a bill that has already passed the Senate with a bipartisan vote. The thing to remember about this bill is the only reason it exists is because of a couple conservative Democrats in the senate, they really wanted to vote with Republicans on something, so, like as a science experiment, they carved off this very small part of President Biden`s economic plan, the narrowly defined roads and bridges part of it. They put that in a separate bill because roads and bridges were the only part of Biden`s agenda that Republicans might vote for.
That said, Republicans in the House say they are going to vote against it, even though they said they would support it a few weeks ago, whatever.
But anyway, on Friday, I said the house was going to vote on that bill today but now that vote is not happening today, and that is because Nancy Pelosi can count and right now today that bill does not have the votes to pass the House for a really interesting reason.
But Nancy Pelosi can count and she does not bring bills to the floor that do not have the votes to pass. It`s worth understanding the dynamic at play here, because they`re going to determine how the rest of this interesting week is going to play out but also because they`re going to potentially determine how the Biden presidency turns out whether or not he`s going to get done what he wants to do as president.
It`s really worth watching because the dynamics at play on Capitol Hill are new and different than they have been before.
If you are a -- if you are someone who has been a long time watcher of Democratic Party politics in Washington, then you are accustomed to things working themselves out or not working themselves out things falling apart in certain predictable ways, this is not that. This is a departure from that well trod path. This is a new and different situation.
As I said, this small bipartisan roads and bridges bill is a bit of a political science experiment, it came from a weird place. Republicans who initially supported it won`t support it now because they never wanted it in the first place. But it`s just a sliver of President Biden`s economic agenda. The bulk of President Biden`s economic agenda is contained in a different much larger bill, the Build Back Better bill that includes things like making the child tax credit a permanent thing, which will have a huge impact on child poverty and working class families in this country, almost hard to over state.
It will make pre-K and community college universal and free. It will create a family and medical leave benefit for all Americans. It`s a whole host of climate initiatives to transition the country to renewable fuels, and electric vehicles, more on that later, and not only do the vast majority of elected Democrats in the House and Senate support that entire agenda.
Importantly, the vast majority of the American people support it too. Every single poll shows broad support for pretty much every element of President Biden`s plan. This doesn`t happen in nature, but it is happening with this bill. Many of the proposals are popular, even among Republican voters.
So when those handful of conservative Democrats in the Senate, tiny handful more like a pinch, when they insisted on carving off this small piece of roads and bridges into a separate bipartisan bill, the White House and the rest of the Democratic caucus on Capitol Hill said, you know, okay, we`ll make you a deal, we will back this small bipartisan bill that you want as your little science experiment. We`ll back that as long as we also get to pass the rest of the president`s economic agenda too.
That said, that`s how we would like to do it. If any of this is going to pass because the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate are so small, getting any of this done is going to require all of us, every single Democrat agreeing to do this together, that`s the deal. Until in the last few weeks, tiny handful of Democrats in the Senate and the House started saying, actually, why don`t we pass the little one? Why don`t we pass the small bipartisan roads and bridges bill, and then we`ll get to the president`s agenda, the bulk of it, later maybe if we feel like it, sometime down the road?
Well, that was the vote that was supposed to happen today, for the House to pass the small roads and bridges bill without the larger bill that contains the rest of President Biden`s agenda. And what we are seeing right now with that vote being called off is Nancy Pelosi counting, and Nancy Pelosi realizing that that was not going to pass because House progressives have essentially gotten up on their hind legs and flexing their muscles and saying, you know what, actually we mean it. We are going to get President Biden`s full agenda passed we are going to make it happen. And even though there`s this handful of conservative Democrats who are expressing grave concern about the larger bill being larger because large is scary, even though the bill is totally paid for in part by taxes on corporations and the wealthy, the most wildly popular part of the bill according to the polls.
And if you`re the opposition, the Republicans, who aren`t even part of this conversation because they`re simply a unified wall of no, or if you`re the sort of mealy mouthed, afraid of their own shadow middle who doesn`t have strong policy perspectives but is afraid to do anything big on any front, if you`re contrary by impulse, right, the best thing you could do is to try to delay action on the biggest part of the president`s agenda, right.
Delay is the closest you can get to death for this wildly popular legislation. If you don`t get it done, if there isn`t momentum to get it done, it will be put off indefinitely and never get done, whatever your inscrutable reasons for wanting that to happen, delaying it means killing it. And progressives are saying no, we recognize time is the enemy, it`s time to act midterm elections are next year, we are going to get this done.
The president was elected and a Democratic House and Senate were elected in order to pass the agenda that President Biden ran on. The polls show that that agenda is wildly popular in the country. We have a way to do it that pays for itself we`re going to do it why would we not do it, how would we keep our heads up and face our voters, again for the midterm elections next year if with control of the White House, of the Senate and the House and an agenda that`s wildly popular that the president ran on that is stuff that the country needs, we just couldn`t figure it out.
Progressives have decided, no, we`re going to get it done, and so, that is why plans changed today. That`s why there was no vote today because the progressives are insistent that the president`s whole agenda is going to pass. Don`t break off the little piece of that you did as your experiment, and let the rest of it languish, we`re going to do it all.
The chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, told "The Washington Post" last night that the number of Democrats in the House willing to vote against the small roads and bridges bill if it was on its own and not coupled with the rest of the agenda, she reported that number was large but still growing. She said that as of last night, she estimated she had 60 no votes in her pocket. In a Democratic caucus where the margin of error is three total votes in the House, if you`ve got 60 votes you speak for, that`s the ball game.
And I think there`s one misconception that I think is worth addressing directly and dispensing with. It`s not like the House Progressive Caucus is insisting on some plan that is more progressive than what President Biden wants. It`s not like they`re insisting on some plan that`s more left wing than what the president wants. They`re not.
This is not what has been kind of lazily described in the Beltway press as a fight between the progressives and moderates on how lefty this economic legislation should be. The progressives are saying actually we just want to pass the president`s agenda. Our insistence as progressives is that we pass something rather than not pass it.
The president`s agenda has been clear from the beginning. It is a concrete set of measures. It has a price tag that is paid for. It is wildly popular with the American people. Our insistence is that it gets done.
And there are a handful of Democrats for their own mysterious ever shifting set of reasons, they insist that the president`s agenda just should wait. Instead pass the small roads and bridges bill right now. We`ll get to the rest of what we want to do later, maybe never.
We`re scared of big things. But the progressives are saying, no, let`s do it. And that`s what`s driving things right now and we have always had progressive members of Congress. We have never had them use their powers like this, not just to insist on their policies being more liberal, but to insist on the agenda being effective.
They are not changing the agenda, and taking over from the ostensible moderates, they are pushing the timetable, pushing the calendar, insisting on action. And the calendar is where things get really interesting this week, and why Washington is going to be a fascinating place as the center of the news universe this week, because Speaker Pelosi may not have held the vote on the roads and bridges bill today, because it wasn`t going to pass, but she has committed to holding that vote sometime this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Let me just say we`re going to pass the bill this week, but you know, I`ll never bring a bill to the floor that doesn`t have the votes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Oh, we know oh, we know. So how is this going to work, especially because that`s just one part of what Congress has to get done this week. I mean, just in the next 72 hours or so, Speaker Pelosi says the House is going to vote on that small bipartisan roads and bridges plan on Thursday. According to the House Progressive Caucus, that bill is not going to pass without the rest of President Biden`s agenda, which would mean that much larger bill that contains that child care, and education and climate stuff.
That would have to be hammered out with the Senate, and then voted on and passed by all 50 Democrats in the Senate chamber, and if you`re thinking, that sounds impossible, just this evening, the whole Democratic and the House held a big meeting to try to hash out a way forward. We`re going to talk to the progressive caucus leader, Pramila Jayapal, about what went down in that meeting.
But at the very moment the House meeting was happening, over at the Senate side, Republicans were busy killing a bill that would have simply kept the government open and running past the next 72 hours and raised the debt ceiling, avoiding a deliberate fault on the national debt, and economic calamity that would ensue. Democrats in the Senate brought up the bill that would do nothing instead to keep the government open and avoid a self- inflicted financial calamity and the Republicans filibustered it, which means the Democrats in the Senate and the House are now going to have to figure out how to pass legislation by Thursday night keeping the government running at some point very soon they`re going to have to figure out how to avoid the country deliberately defaulting on its debt.
Republicans have not just checked out on even the most basic tasks of governing, they`re trying to stop Democrats from doing it themselves. And in a letter to her House colleagues as this intense week dawned, Speaker Pelosi wrote a letter to her colleagues that said, spelled it out in blunt terms. She said, quote, the next two days will be a time of intensity. She is not kidding, and she knows of what she speaks.
And not for nothing, the president`s entire economic agenda, the entire economic agenda of the Democratic Party and what they got elected to do, and how they`re going to run for reelection next year, all of that is riding on what happens the next few days.
President Biden likes to say his allies in Congress have to prove that democracy works, it can deliver practical policy that improves people`s lives. This week is the stress test for that proposition.
Joining us now is Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. She`s chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Congresswoman Jayapal, you are at the center of the storm. Thank you for being here.
REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): It is great to see you as always, Rachel.
MADDOW: What happened tonight in the Democratic Caucus meeting? I know you won`t tell us all of it, but what should we understand is the news out of that closed door session?
JAYAPAL: Well, I think it`s important at those caucus meetings, people want to be heard. There`s a lot of people saying how they feel, and I think that what I got out of it is we need to pass both bills just like you described, and it was really important when you said delay means death. I think this is something that people need to understand. We`re already at the end of September.
And if there is any piece of this reconciliation bill that isn`t agreed to by the Senate and the House, and if that delay goes on and on as it does here when you don`t have urgency, when you don`t have a deadline, when you don`t have a reason for momentum, this thing is dead. And, you know, and I think that is when we look at why we`re doing what we`re doing, and I just want to emphasize again, there are nine Democrats or maybe ten in the House and two in the Senate that have problems with this, but there were people in the most vulnerable districts who stood up and said we need to get both bills done. We need the reconciliation bill.
And so this is a situation where the vast, vast, vast majority of Democrats want to get the president`s agenda done. I mean, it`s a shocker we`re Democrats, we want to get the Democratic agenda done, and yet, we are being held from doing that by a few people.
So we are in a place where I don`t think there was anything necessarily new in the caucus tonight but it`s an important part of being a family. People get to stand up and say what they think. I had a long conversation with the speaker. And I think that we are still very clear, we need to get the reconciliation bill done. It can`t be just a framework because we need to make sure that this delay that leads to death of these things does not happen.
And, Rachel, if I just can say, you know, the infrastructure bill is important. We`re going to vote for that bill. Every single one of our members is going to vote for it, even though some of them don`t like it.
Ninety percent of the jobs we create in the infrastructure bill are going to go to men. If we want to get women back into the work force, we need child care we need to actually invest in the care economy with paid leave, with pre-K, with home and community-based care these are jobs held by women and primarily women of color, and we need to make sure we`re taking on climate change.
The bipartisan bill does not do that. The only bill that takes care of climate change, that takes care of housing, that takes care of paid leave, that takes care of all of these different pieces is the Build Back Better Act. So, we are not leaving behind women, people who want to take on climate change. We are not leaving those things behind. We are going to pass both of the bills.
MADDOW: When you said that you were able to speak with Speaker Pelosi directly today, obviously, she is -- she calls the place here, and she decides what happens on the House floor, and I do respect greatly her technical skill in helming the Senate and deciding what should go to the floor.
Do you have clarity right now in terms of how this is going to play out over the course of the week do you feel like you still have a sort of commonality of mindset with her the way that you described to us late last week?
JAYAPAL: I really do. You know, and she has been incredible shepherding this whole process through, and she`s really experienced. And as you said, she is a vote counter, and I have just consistently said to her, you know, this isn`t a threat. This is just a reality.
Our caucus is not going to allow just a tiny sliver to pass and then everything else die. We`re not going to leave these people behind, these issues behind. And she really agrees with that.
So that`s why she`s working so hard to try to get the Senate to come to the table and negotiate on what this Build Back Better Act is going to be, because I think I said this on your show last week, this isn`t a situation, Rachel, that we`re often in where the House passes a bill, and then we send it to the Senate and the Senate says no we don`t like it, and they do something, and they send it back to us and we conference them.
That takes a very long time, and puts people in a difficult position because house members don`t want to vote for something that the Senate isn`t going to vote for. We actually have said we`re okay with that. Let`s pre-conference that, which means every part, the White House, Senate and the House all have to agree, and that is the conversation that is finally happening because there is a deadline, because we have said we`re not going to vote for one without the other.
People are finally coming to the table and I am, you know, fingers crossed, very hopeful that we can get there.
MADDOW: And right now, if the plan is still to do infrastructure, the infrastructure vote on Thursday, it sounds like the plan from you and the progressive caucus is still to vote that down unless there has been significant progress toward the Build Back Better bill, the reconciliation bill. It sounds like Thursday might still be more on the bubble than the headlines would make you believe?
JAYAPAL: I think that`s right. Look, I think these are arbitrary dates. I think Monday was an arbitrary -- today was an arbitrary date that was set by a small group of people. I think what`s important is do we want to deliver on the Democratic agenda and the president`s agenda.
Negotiations are happening. I think -- I don`t think the speaker will bring the vote to the floor if she doesn`t -- the bill to the floor if she doesn`t have the votes, and I think she is very clear that without the reconciliation bill voted on, you know, we are going to have -- it can`t be a pinky promise, right, Rachel? It`s got to be an actual bill that is written, the legislative text is written, the numbers are agreed to, everything is agreed to in order for us to vote for the bipartisan bill, and I think she`s very clear on that.
So we`re going to do everything we can I have been having conversations over the weekend. Every single minute of every single day is taken up with this, and those conversations are really good, very productive. And I believe that we will continue to work.
And let`s see if we can get it done by Thursday, great. I`ve always been surprised at what happens here in the last 24, 48, 72 hours, when there`s a deadline. But if we can`t, then we`ll keep working and we`ll get it done as soon as we can.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, chair of the newly muscular progressive caucus playing a key and undersung role here.
Thank you for your time tonight. I know that time is precious, as you say, thank you for being here.
JAYAPAL: Thank you, Rachel
MADDOW: This is going to be fascinating to watch. I have to say, like, I am not -- although we cover tons of pure politics, tons of -- not just electoral politics but policy making in Washington, it`s not -- I feel like that`s very rarely like the animating force of what I`m watching in the news.
But this is one of those times when so much is riding on what happens between today and the end of the week. I mean, it really is going to be determinative in terms of whether or not the United States takes a big great society sized leap toward a future that is a different future, that is more oriented toward middle class families and working class families, and making us have a resilient economy for the future or we`re just going to get stuck.
And between now and the end of the week, we are going to know that, and it`s going to have a generational impact. And whether or not you`re closely watching Washington, this is one of those weeks that`s really, really, really going to matter and the details are going to matter it`s going to be fascinating to watch.
All right. Much more news ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: At the same time that House Democrats were huddling as a caucus to sort out these incredibly sticky wickets they have to get through by the end of the week, trying to coalesce around the strategy to pass President Biden`s economic agenda, at the same, the actual same hour that the House Democrats were trying to do that tonight, over in the Senate, at the exact same time, Republican senators were busy filibustering a Democratic bill to keep the government from shutting down and to keep the government from hitting the debt ceiling.
This evening, all 50 Republicans in the United States Senate voted against a Democratic bill to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling, and as long as they`re allowed to use the filibuster in this way, they`re basically steering the country fast into a wall while preventing the Democrats from hitting the brakes. Funding for the government runs out Thursday at midnight, if there isn`t any congressional action to avert it, the U.S. will start to default on its debts sometime in the next few weeks, which will be a massive self-inflicted financial calamity. But that`s now what we are on course for with Republicans filibustering a bill that would stop those things from happening.
There`s nothing else in the bill, right? The bill isn`t trying to accomplish grander schemes. It`s just like, let`s not let the government shut down and let`s not slam into the debt ceiling filibuster. And we sort of knew the Republicans were going to do this, but it`s sort of unfathomable at a basic level. I mean, why do you need to raise the debt ceiling well, that`s to account for spending that accrued under President Trump which you all voted for, as well as spending under President Biden.
During the first year of the Trump administration, when Republicans held the majority in the House and the Senate, Democrats were happy to vote with Republicans to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling, even though Republicans were in charge in congress, and in charge in the White House. Not a single Democrat in the Senate or the house voted against it in Trump`s first year as president.
But now that Biden`s president and Democrats are in charge, reciprocity is a curse word for the Republicans. They won`t do it. And they won`t let Democrat doss it on their own.
When it started to become clear Republicans were going to pursue this course, a frustrated Democratic senator named Jon Tester from Montana had this to say. He said, quote: We always do this effing dance. I don`t know if people are going to put their sane minds on and do what needs to be done or shut it down.
Quote, this is just a ridiculous exercise. I can`t even compare it to anything I do on the farm that`s this stupid.
But tonight, that`s where we are.
Joining us now is Senator Jon Tester of the great state of Montana.
Senator Tester, I`m tempted to start off by asking you what dumb thing on the farm you had in mind when you made that comparison
SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): Well, you know, I`ve seeded when it`s been too wet or harvested when it`s been too wet, oftentimes, that happens every year. But the truth is there`s nothing that compares to a self-inflicted wound like increasing the interest on your debt for every family in America, which is what would happen if we don`t pay our debts. You know, look, if I sell a guy a load of wheat, okay, which happens when I have wheat to sell, and he doesn`t pay me, do you think I`m going to trust that guy ever?
I mean, on the worldwide stage, this is a total loss of credibility for the United States. It removes us as being the economic leader in the world and gives the keys to China. It just doesn`t make any sense whatsoever to me, Rachel.
MADDOW: Do you think that what`s happening now is essentially a game of chicken, trying to get attention, trying to perhaps leverage some kind of ransom, although we don`t know what the ransom would be? Or do you think that this is not a bluff, that is real threat and they intend to go through with it?
TESTER: I would say that, you know, as I`ve said in my quote, we do this dance just about every time we have a Democratic president, and we have to increase the debt ceiling. Republican presidents, it doesn`t matter, they go forward, and it moves up. And by the way, both parties are guilty when it comes to our national debt.
This one feels a little different than the other ones, and I don`t know what the end game is, Rachel, other than total disaster, and keep this in mind, 50 Democrats voted today, about 48, 50 would if they were all here.
We need 60 votes. We can`t do this without 10 Republicans voting with us and like I said, if we default on the debt, not only does it impact the nearly $29 trillion we have in debt. Federal debt in this country, it impacts every state`s debt. It impacts every credit card that a family may have, every housing loan every auto loan, everything.
And quite honestly, I don`t think that`s why the American people sent us to Washington, D.C., to intentionally screw things up, and I would just ask the Republicans to do what`s right, and what`s right here is to keep the government up by passing a continuing resolution, and extend the debt ceiling so we don`t default on our debt.
I will say what you have already said many times, this money. This debt has already been accrued. This isn`t about stopping the debt this is about stopping paying for the debt and if this happened in business, it would be the kiss of death for that business
MADDOW: Because this is, I mean, in your words, this is so stupid, because this is such a self-inflicted wound that has no upside at all that serves as no sort of, you know, deterrence or constraint on any kind of fiscal responsibility, it`s just hurting the country, in the world, and hurting American families at home. Because it is so dumb, should it be within Republicans` power to stop the country from addressing this problem, from hitting this wall, with just a minority of the Senate? Is this the sort of thing for which there ought to be a carve out from the filibuster rule, so if the other side can put together 50 votes and be responsible, they can take care of this and save the country from this danger.
TESTER: Well, keep in mind, it`s Mitch McConnell saying we`re not going to give any votes so that indicates to me maybe Mitch McConnell wants to do away with the filibuster.
Look, the thought had crossed my mind, Rachel, that, you know, the CARES Act, for example, which was a large expenditure of money, trillions of dollars, I read the press releases that were sent out by everybody in the United States Senate because the economy was in a tough shape when the pandemic hit. And they said, look, we saved the economy. Well, that`s part of it.
The other part is you pay your bill, and if you don`t pay your bill after bragging about saving the economy, you have done nothing. So you know, maybe we ought to have the increase in the debt limit when we vote to increase spending for something, you know, or whether it`s infrastructure or otherwise. I don`t -- I don`t know, but the bottom line is this is very irresponsible for the Republicans to do what they`re doing right now and quite frankly, it`s occupying time. It`s putting the country on edge. It`s putting working families and small businesses on edge, big businesses too, as far as that goes and hopefully somebody will, like I said, regain some sanity here, and do what`s right for the country.
MADDOW: Senator, while you`re here, and before I let you go, I do feel like I want to ask you about just another matter. There was that tragic derailment of an Amtrak train, fatal derailment that happened this weekend in Montana. As far as we can tell, the NTSB did a briefing today, they haven`t determined what caused the crash. It`s an incredibly rare but very serious thing that happened,
I know in asking you to come here today, we were able to learn your staffers have been on the ground assisting investigators as they look into this. Do you have any updates to share on that investigation or what happened there
TESTER: So this Amtrak wreck happened about 40 miles from my farm in north central Montana, which is a stone`s throw by Montana standards. I`m very familiar with the area, and I will tell you that there are too many unanswered questions for me to even speculate. But the NTSB is there. They`re doing their research it will be very complete, and we will find out I think soon what the potential causes for this are.
And I will tell you that, you know, whatever they might be, if there`s things that we have to do to enable Amtrak to make those cars safer or the railroad company to make the rails safer, we`re going to try to do it, and that`s where we`re at.
Let me tell you a good news story of this tragedy, though. When this happened at about 4:00 in the afternoon, Montana time on Saturday, first responders from all over the region came and helped. These are for the most part all volunteer fire departments and they came and helped in mass, 150 volunteers on the ground helping get people out of cars and making sure they were okay and getting them to schools and ultimately hospitals if they needed to go.
And it really, really says something about the people of Montana, that when a crisis happens, they come and they come in mass and they get the job done.
And I just say thank you to those first responders in a very difficult situation. They stepped up, and we owe them a lot.
MADDOW: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Thank you, Senator. Montana Senator Jon Tester, really appreciate you making time tonight on all of these matters. Thanks for being here.
TESTER: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We got more ahead tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: You know what a dirt bike is, right? It`s a motorcycle but the kind that`s not made for being on the streets, it`s made for offroading. Right. Dirt bike.
Now make that off road machine a four wheeled vehicle instead of a two- wheeled vehicle and that is an ATV.
Now, make that four-wheel off roading vehicle a vehicle in which you would like to put another person beside you or maybe even more than one other person.
That is called a side by side. Sometimes they call them UTVs, but at least around here they call them side by sides.
They`re wicked fun, and they are useful for all sorts of work and recreation. I will tell you, though, they are also deafeningly loud, even if you just have one that you used as a bumped up lawn cart, they`re really, really loud.
Susan and I bought one for her sister a few years ago, and you need ear plugs inside your helmet which also covers your ears. They`re really rattly and they kind of stink and they`re high maintenance, nothing against them, I love stuff like this. I love stuff like this.
But if you are a dork for this kind of thing or even if you`re not, just knowing that much about what ATVs and side by sides are like, is enough to know that this is a sign that a very interesting change is coming
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whether you`re a hunter trying to get closer to your stand, a farmer working in close proximity to livestock or just holding a conversation while trail riding, less noise and conversation is a good thing. I`m talking to you with this vehicle running at 30 miles per hour, as you can hear, the engine noise is minimal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So that`s a promotional vehicle from a company called Polaris. Polaris is a company that makes ATVs and side by sides. They have just announced that they are making an electric one that comes out this winter. They partnered with a high end company that makes electric motorcycles, they`re using their technology to make a high-end electric side by side.
And it`s quiet, and it doesn`t have oil so that means it doesn`t have oil filters, and you don`t have to do oil changes. It doesn`t have air filters which can be a real pain in but on these things. It doesn`t take gas. You just plug it in, and yes, you still need a helmet but you will not destroy your hearing.
But also, importantly, in some ways, it`s cooler than a traditional one because it can do more stuff. The way they are promoting it is to, yes, brag about how it`s an easier thing to maintain and use in some ways, but also they are promoting it by showing how much more capable it is than other vehicles like it that aren`t electric. And if that sounds familiar, it`s because both the Ford F-150 lightning electric pickup which was announced a few months ago, and the forthcoming Polaris electric side by side, which is a much smaller marketing and rollout budget, they`re both marketing themselves to the people who already love and use vehicles like this not by telling them, hey, it`s good for the earth, be a hippy, but instead pointing out if you buy the electric version of this vehicle, you will have so much torque and towing capacity, you won`t know what to do with it, and did you mention you might have to do an oil change.
You may or may not consider yourself an ATV or pickup truck person for that matter, I know. But millions and millions of Americans do. The Fort F-150, that pickup truck is the bestselling vehicle in America of any kind, and it has been for four decades.
Seeing these sectors of vehicles go electric, and having the electric versions of these vehicles look just like the gas powered ones that we know and love, but with way more capability, that is the kind of thing that is pushing our country, that is pushing our country specifically with the tastes that we have. It`s pushing us fast now toward a tipping point on electric transportation, which has huge implications for the climate and lots of other stuff.
But now, look at this, just as we have been talking about tonight, just as the Congress is tying itself up in knots over whether or not to pass President Biden`s big build back better bill with all of the infrastructure for electric charging stations and the credits for electric vehicles, and all of the rest, look at what was just announced tonight.
Tonight, Ford just announced that they are hiring 11,000 new employees 11,000 new jobs. They are building a huge new electric vehicle manufacturing plant in Tennessee, plus three new electric vehicle battery factories in Tennessee and Kentucky, $11 billion in new facilities for electric vehicle manufacturing in the United States. Did I mention this is 11,000 new jobs?
Where is this coming from? Well, the electric F-150 pickup truck I was mentioning, that has the amazing towing capacity and all the rest of it, the demand for that is turning out to be so strong, they`re scrambling to be able to meet the demand. 150,000 people ordered one of those electric F- 150 trucks months before a single one was available for sale. You still can`t go out and buy one, they`re not ready yet, 150,000 people have preordered them.
Now, it probably does not hurt that over these months since they announced it, our electric grid keeps disintegrating everywhere, like it`s made of sugar and it`s raining anywhere there is weather, the electric grid goes down in our country now.
And if you`ve got an electric F-150, it really can power your house when the power goes down in your town. So that`s probably not hurting things.
But that demand reportedly really surprised Ford, and it has already caused Ford to announce another quarter billion investment in their existing facility in Dearborn, Michigan. They also already added another 450 jobs on the assembly line there to try to meet the demand.
And now, tonight, a $11 billion expansion of the Ford Motor Company, $11.4 billion in electric vehicle manufacturing and electric vehicle battery manufacturing, 11,000 new jobs. It`s the biggest expansion of that company in the history of that company.
So here`s my question. Are we ready? All those millions of American-made high-tech batteries are going to go into millions of electric American-made cars and trucks. It is happening. Those electric American-made cars and trucks with electric American-made batteries are going to require charging stations all over America, and in red states and in blue states, in urban areas and out in the country.
And you may or may not care about cars as a thing. That whole electric Polaris thing I talked about Maddow, why would I need a golf cart thingy that can pull a log through the mud. I get it not everybody is into this.
But this is a big deal for the country, for the economy, for the climate. The country is making a change here, and it turns out it`s fast it turns out the demand is there.
It turns out the technology is there. If the policy that makes this sort of change possible can keep up, we`re ready to go. We should know that this week. The country is moving. The business is moving technology is moving people are changing their minds about this stuff and are ready to go in surprising numbers.
The question is, can our government meet the moment and give us what we need as a country to make this leap forward? That is part of the urgency in President Biden`s build back better bill. Part of that urgency is meeting this moment. The moment is here we going to get there? We will know this week, tick-tock.
MADDOW: An eyebrow raising story breaking tonight in "The New York Times." This is the overlap in the Venn diagram between oh, that explains everything and wow, tone deaf much. This is what "The Times" is reporting tonight.
It`s about Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema. She, of course, is one of the key Democratic votes needed to pass President Biden`s budget bill. She is one of the reasons it`s not passing. She is apparently scheduled to hold a fundraiser tomorrow with five different business lobbying groups which fiercely oppose the bill and want her to vote no on it.
"The Times" apparently obtained a copy of the invitation for the fundraiser. The lobbying groups are listed there alongside the senator`s campaign logo. According to "The Times", the attendees will have 45 minutes with the senator, during which time they are expected to write her checks for thousands of dollars during the event and then she`ll, you know, resume negotiations on the bill they`re there to pay her to oppose.
Forty-five minutes, get it done. It`s like a fire sale.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: All right. That is going to do it for us tonight. Thanks for being here with us on a Monday evening I`ll see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with great Lawrence O`Donnell.
Good evening, Lawrence.