'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Guest: Sen. Kent Conrad, Rep. Anthony Weiner, Sue Mason
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories
will you be talking about tomorrow?
The Bunning block: After days of obstruction, a deal is reached. The
breaking news from Washington, the Republican senator is said to be ending
his quest to block the extension of unemployment benefits - this after an
intense day of criticism from Democrats and Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: If there were ever an
emergency, this is it.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I hope that we can act together for
the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
O'DONNELL: Tonight the details of the deal to end this impasse and
the real impact Bunning's stunt is having on unemployed Americans.
The big move for health care reform, President Obama includes even
more Republican ideas in his plan. And Speaker Pelosi says the White House
still has bipartisan hopes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: The president is still
hopeful he can get 61 votes. That there could be some hope for some
bipartisanship as we go forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: But the GOP isn't buying it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: Rather than speculate on it, we wait
until tomorrow and see what it is, and see if it's some of the same
problems that we saw before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Rush Limbaugh demonizes Pelosi for suggesting health care
reform is more important than Congress worrying about re-election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: She's no different than these
mullahs and these imams who convince all these people to put bombs on their
kids and send them out there to blow up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Our guest tonight on all things health care: Senator Kent
Conrad and Congressman Anthony Weiner.
And the devastation in Chile: Secretary of State Clinton arrives to
offer help - but for the people, anger is starting to rise because basics
like food and water aren't getting where they're needed most.
All that and more - now on Countdown.
O'DONNELL: Good evening from Los Angeles. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in
for Keith Olbermann.
Because Senator Jim Bunning has been blocking the unemployment
extension bill since last Wednesday, 200,000 jobless Americans will have
lost their benefits this week. And 2,000 federal workers have their jobs
and paychecks put on hold. But this afternoon, the Kentucky Republican
said his only concern - only concern - is for the people.
So, what did Senator Bunning do for them? Well, first, this morning,
he blocked the legislation again. But, breaking news this hour, Jim
Bunning and the Democrats have reached a deal that will allow the bill to
finally come to a vote. Under increasing pressure from members of his own
party, Senator Bunning accepted a deal that will allow the Senate to vote
on the unemployment extension bill and will allow Senator Bunning an
amendment that spells out where the money will come from to pay for the
The vote is expected to happen tonight according to Majority Whip Dick
This morning, Republican Susan Collins of Maine had attempted to
reintroduce the bill for unanimous consent, but it didn't matter. Senator
Bunning continued to object and block the bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: I hope that we can act together for the American people.
And again, I want to emphasize that this issue is so important to senators
on both sides of the aisle.
So, Madam President, I do propose the unanimous consent request.
REID: I appreciate the efforts of my friend, the senator from Maine.
I would hope that my friend, the senator from Kentucky, would reconsider.
You need to vote.
I would - I'd say to my friend from Kentucky, you've made your point,
you've made it well. I understand how you feel, that this should be paid
for. The majority of the Senate disagrees with you. Let us vote on that
or withdraw your objection.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there an objection?
SEN. JIM BUNNING (R), KENTUCKY: There is. I object and let me -
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Objection is heard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: At a news conference, Minority Leader McConnell refused to
denounce Bunning, instead just taking no position at all. Republican Jon
Kyl of Arizona offered Bunning support by saying that unemployment benefits
only encourage people to stay jobless. Senator Cornyn of Texas actually
said that health care reform was to blame for the Bunning hold. And
Senator DeMint of South Carolina said, quote, "Jim Bunning is my hero," end
Majority Leader Reid told reporters that this time, Republican
obstructionism had gone too far.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REID: If there were ever an emergency, this is it. They have
followed now for a year and a half, a strategy of blocking everything.
They've gone too far. They've gone too far in blocking these unemployment
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: This afternoon on the Senate floor, Senator Debbie
Stabenow challenged Senator Bunning's objection. In the sign behind her,
the Democrat from Michigan prevailed upon Republicans: don't block
democracy and just vote.
And in yet another interview at the senators-only elevator, Senator
Bunning told ABC's Jonathan Karl that he was working on a deal, and that
his only concern was for the people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: How long will this last? When do these
people expect to see their -
BUNNING: Excuse me.
KARL: Excuse me. When will these people expect to see their
benefits? How long are you willing to keep this going on?
BUNNING: Until we get it settled.
KARL: And when do you think that will happen?
BUNNING: We're working on it.
KARL: Do you think it will be settled today?
KARL: And are you concerned about how this has played out?
BUNNING: No, no. I'm not concerned, except for the people.
KARL: And when will those people begin to see help?
BUNNING: As soon as possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Within the hour, Senator Bunning, who voted against last
month's pay-as-you-go bill, was on the floor of the Senate explaining why
he was all for paying as you go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUNNING: If we cannot pay for a bill that all 100 senators support,
how can we tell the American people with a straight face that we will ever
pay for anything? That is what senators say they want. And that is what
the American people want. They want us to get our budgets in order just
like they have to get their budgets in order every day. But that is not
what the majority is doing.
So, tonight, tomorrow, and on every spending bill in the future, we
will see whether they mean business about controlling our debt or if it is
just words. Well, we will see if PAYGO has any teeth or not. Tonight, I
am offering a substitute amendment that pays for these important programs
with Democratic ideas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Majority Whip Durbin responded that in addition to blaming
Democrats, everything Senator Bunning did tonight, he was given the chance
to do last week. If Bunning's amendment passes, Durbin says, the bill
could still be delayed for weeks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), MAJORITY WHIP: He knows and I know that if
we don't pass this bill as it passed the House of Representatives - if we
make a change in it, we're destined to send it over to the House, to, at a
minimum, wait several days or even longer for a conference committee to
resolve his amendment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Time now to call in MSNBC political analyst Howard
Fineman, senior Washington correspondent for "Newsweek" magazine.
Howard, I understand you actually talked to Senator Bunning earlier
today. First of all, what do you know about talking to crazy senators that
Jonathan Karl doesn't know?
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, unlike Jonathan, I got
to Jim Bunning as he was getting on the Senate subway. And as you know,
Lawrence, there are no senators-only cars on the Senate subway. He tried
to keep every other reporter off of there, they all begged off, but maybe
because I used to work in Kentucky for the "Courier-Journal," I said, I'll
go for it." I went in there. We had a solitary ride just the two of us
over to the Hart Building.
And my sense of him was that he was perfectly happy to be the center
of this controversy, utterly serene about the whole thing. Although right
at the very moment, I was talking to him, which was mid-afternoon, he'd
already basically decided to cut the deal.
The pressure on him was enormous, even from his own party. As you
know, Lawrence, Susan Collins doesn't really matter in this calculation,
because she's a liberal Republican, sort of. But behind the scenes, even
Mitch McConnell, his fellow Kentuckian, who by the way has no love loss for
Bunning, they can't stand each other - McConnell was working on the deal.
John Cornyn was privately or quietly expressing his concern about this.
The Republicans realized, even the conservative Republicans, that the
one man tea party that is Jim Bunning should not be allowed to rain on the
topic of unemployment benefits. It's just too difficult even for tea party
Republicans in the Senate.
O'DONNELL: And his consistency on being religious about paying for -
O'DONNELL: - is not that all is pure as he might have hoped it was.
He has voted for things -
O'DONNELL: - of this sort without paying for them in the past. So,
what was it that finally brought him to the breaking point? Because it
seems to me, all the pressure points were identical a couple of days ago.
Was it simply an accumulation of time - and you - and by the way, there's
also a Kentucky basketball game on TV tonight that he wants to watch? Was
that - was that part of the calculation? He's already missed one of
FINEMAN: For People from Kentucky that can - that can certainly have
influence. I just think he was getting a lot of pressure behind the
scenes. It's very interesting, down in Kentucky, first of all, you should
know that Jim Bunning was basically forced to retire by Mitch McConnell,
who's the Republican king of Kentucky politics.
But things are getting away from McConnell, because down in Kentucky,
there's a primary race to be the Republican candidate to replace Jim
Bunning. And both candidates, Rand Paul, the son of Ron Paul, and Trey
Grayson, who's the handpicked guy for McConnell, are both eager to get
So, it's a very interesting thing, where Bunning really has become the
tea party in the Senate. I don't think we've heard - and he can't stand
He's retiring. He's 79. He's got 40 grandkids. He said to me, "You
know, I'm just going to be happy watching my grandkids play ball. I don't
I don't think this is the last we've heard of Bunning. As he himself
said in his floor statement a little while ago, "We're going to see how
Yes, I think he's being hypocritical for having not voted for the
PAYGO thing. His excuse was, well, it has no teeth in it anyway. But the
first opportunity, you know, that he had to try to help it out, he didn't
do that. He could have offered amendments to the PAYGO thing if he was
really serious about it.
I think he's on the loose. I think he's the tea party incarnate in
the Senate. And people, like McConnell and the other Republicans, are
going to have to be dealing with him from now until the time that the
Senate quits its business at the end of the year.
O'DONNELL: Howard, the MSNBC sports desk just screamed into my ear
that the Kentucky basketball game is tomorrow night. So, let's keep that
FINEMAN: All right.
O'DONNELL: And before you go, let's talk about some trouble brewing
in the House for House Ways and Means chairman, Charlie Rangel.
O'DONNELL: There were reports tonight indicating that he maybe
resigning his chairmanship as early as tonight. He's also been quoted,
moving through the hallway tonight, saying that he's going to be chairman
of ways and means tomorrow, and you can bet your life on it.
What's developing there? And what kind of peril is involved here for
the Democrats in health care - since health care has to go through his
FINEMAN: Yes. What I've heard and I just was making some calls about
this, Lawrence, is that an increasing number of Democrats have said out
loud that he's got to leave as chairman. The Republicans are bringing up
resolution after resolution to condemn him. That has no legal force. It's
only the caucus - the Democratic Caucus - that could remove him from the
But my understanding is - and it's very delicate right now - but
Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, has made it clear to Congressman Rangel that she
would prefer him to leave the chairmanship. But it's not at this minute a
completely done deal.
So, you're not going to see Nancy Pelosi out there. They're being
cautious about it. He's this far away from leaving.
But as of this second, I'm not sure it's an entirely done deal. It's
very close run thing. But I think Pelosi has made it clear that she's not
going to put the caucus through this. She's not going to spend the next
several days trying to swat away, you know, aggressive Republican
resolutions condemning him that enough is enough. And she's made that
clear to Rangel.
O'DONNELL: Howard Fineman of MSNBC and "Newsweek" - thank you very
much for your time tonight.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: For more - thanks, Howard - for more, let's turn to
MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, author of "Renegade: The Making of
Richard, the Republicans seem to be running scared of what Jim Bunning
was doing on the Senate floor for this past week. And this afternoon,
Senator Debbie Stabenow called out the Republicans with the sign that said:
don't stop democracy and just vote.
Did the Democrats do everything they could in this week to capitalize
the - on what Jim Bunning had served up to them in the Senate?
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, can you look at this
week and sure, the Democrats have put up a lot of pressure, they've kept
the debate going. And, of course, the media has, too, and we should all be
thankful to Jonathan Karl for chasing him into that elevator. Excuse me!
But really, this is a narrative the Democrats can develop, if they
want to, for the next several months, for two reasons. First of all, on
the short term, when it comes down to health care - remember that the
Republican attack on the health care proposed idea for a solution is to go
after the question of Senate rules. Well, if reconciliation is supposed to
be undemocratic with a small d, what you're seeing here is a mockery of
Senate rules. A guy, a single senator can defy his party, defy the will of
the majority, and frankly, hurt people who are at the rough end of this
recession by engaging in all sorts of Senate shenanigans. That's the short
The longer term and the danger for the Republicans is they look like
they don't care. They look like, as they'd say in other countries, as the
party of mean. This is sort of the harsh end of the Reagan fasco-
conservativism that just doesn't care about people who are out of work, or
looking for work, or could be out of work because of this kind of politics.
So, there are narratives that Democrats could develop. It's not just
about this week. The question is: Do they have the guts to pursue this?
Because these people, the fiscal conservatives, the tea party folks, are
not going away.
O'DONNELL: You know, when I was working in the Senate, we would see
some right-wing Republicans make moves like this. Jesse Helms might get
out there on a one-man crusade. But Bob Dole and Republican leadership had
a way of controlling those people and getting them under control in far
less than a week.
Was this - I mean, Howard just seemed to suggest there was something
of a Kentucky feud in here, that this more local than we might think, where
Mitch McConnell, who also from Kentucky, could not control his fellow
Republican from Kentucky because of all the bad blood between those two.
Is that as much as anything else what we were watching?
WOLFFE: Well, it's a factor, and it's an important one. All politics
are local, and all Senate politics are personal. But when it comes down to
it, this is a part of something much bigger. And what's interesting is
seeing how this has been playing out among other favorites of the tea party
folks. So, Marco Rubio in Florida was unable to comment to the "Atlanta
Sentinel" about this particular issue. People just didn't know where to
And then have you this broader ideological question, a question of
values. And when you have Senator Kyl go out there and suggest that
somehow unemployment benefits, as limited as they are, make people lazy,
then I think you've opened up a whole different can of worms.
O'DONNELL: Many thanks, Richard Wolffe of MSNBC.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Lawrence.
O'DONNELL: President Obama is set to announce the end game in the
health care battle. The new plan has even more Republican ideas in it, but
no one is expecting any bipartisan support.
And later, Nancy Pelosi tells her colleagues to pass reform for the
American people and forget about their job security. That has Rush
Limbaugh comparing the speaker to recruiters of suicide bombers.
O'DONNELL: Coming up: President Obama adds more Republican ideas to
his health care reform plan - four more ideas to be exact. Will that lead
to even one Republican vote?
Senator Kent Conrad, chairman of the budget committee, joins us next.
And later, Representative Anthony Weiner on the way forward in the
House. And we'll show you how he called out FOX News live on "FOX and
Friends" this morning.
O'DONNELL: Weeks after the death of health care reform was proclaimed
throughout the land, Democrats reportedly now have a plan to resurrect it
by Easter. Step one of the time line was today, and it played out right on
The Web site Inside Health Policy reports that a Democratic memo calls
for the House to send the Senate's health care bill to the president for
his signature by March 19th. First, however, the House and Senate must
agree to a batch of changes to that bill which would then be passed in a
reconciliation bill by Easter. Changes we should understand a lot more
about tomorrow when the president reveals his updated health care plan,
reflecting Republican input from last week's summit.
In a letter today, Mr. Obama voiced openness to four Republican ideas
getting medical professionals to help weed out fraud by health care
providers, expanding tax breaks for health care costs by letting more
Americans use health savings accounts, increasing Medicaid reimbursements
to doctors, and funding experiments to find alternatives to medical
malpractice suits. The subtext: the ideas maybe small, but this is now a
health care bill with more Republican ideas.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell today wrote, quote, "We were
surprised and disappointed with your latest proposal to simply paper a few
common sense proposals over an unsalvageable bill."
Still, House Speaker Pelosi today reinforced the president's message
portraying health care reform as a package in which Republicans and
Democrats now agree on most of it. Republicans, o course, continue to
oppose all the taxes and Medicare cuts in the bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: He spelled out our areas of agreement that had emerged from
last Thursday's meeting - not that they were new, but he emphasized our
common ground in keeping costs down and fighting waste, fraud and abuse.
Where we disagree was I think was clear from last Thursday's meeting and
the president points out in a letter, is that we disagree on holding the
insurance companies accountable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Mr. Obama, today, rejected the Republican demand to start
over, or to reform health care one small step at a time, suggesting he is
open to using reconciliation as part of the final legislative strategy.
This, meaning, Speaker Pelosi may have to turn previous "no" votes into
yeses to make up for possible defections by House members opposed to the
Senate's abortion language.
And "The Associated Press" today counts at least 10 previous noes who
say they are at least open to making that change. Also not expected in
tomorrow's revised Obama plan: the public option, the broadly popular plan
to offer insurance through out - through the government itself, competing
with profit-driven companies. This despite the fact that four more
senators today, Bob Casey, Ron Wyden, Mark Udall and retiring Senator Ted
Kaufmann, for a total of 34 so far, have committed to vote for the public
option if it's in the package of fixes, getting an up or down vote in a
And joining us tonight from the Senate is North Dakota senator, Kent
Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.
Senator Conrad, I want to start by asking you about the public option.
It's now up to 34 senators supporting it. Is that something you could
support if it was included in the reconciliation bill?
SEN. KENT CONRAD (D-ND), SENATE BUDGET CMTE. CHAIRMAN: It would
depend entirely how it's constructed. And, you know, I wouldn't sign a
blank check for any provision. I'd want to know the details.
O'DONNELL: Now, for the House to pass the Senate bill, the House has
to trust the Senate. I mean, in effect you're saying to the House: just
pass exactly what we passed, that will become law, and then we will do a
reconciliation bill which will correct the things that we all kind of agree
need fixing in that bill.
You'd be asking, I guess, in effect, Senator, for the House to trust
the Senate for, I guess, what might be the first time in history. Do you
have anyway of getting them to do that?
CONRAD: Well, Lawrence, nobody knows better than you, the old saw
around here for Democrats in the House, the Republicans are the opposition.
The Senate is the enemy. So, you know, there are these deep divisions
between these institutions. It's unfortunate, but it's real.
And the hard reality here is, the Senate has already passed a
comprehensive bill without using reconciliation. It got 60 votes, a super
majority. That happened on Christmas Eve as we all remember. That vote
has sent the bill to the House. If the House passes it, it will go to the
president for signature, and we'll have comprehensive health care reform.
As you indicate, then the question is: can additional changes be made,
improvements be made from the perspective of some, through the process of
reconciliation? It simply means instead of requiring a supermajority,
there's only a majority vote required in the United States Senate. That's
what reconciliation really means.
O'DONNELL: You've been on the floor with reconciliation bills in the
past, and as you know, there are several procedural possibilities that
would require 60-vote hurdles to get over. Could you give us some examples
of the kind of 60-vote hurdles that every reconciliation bill faces on the
floor of the Senate?
CONRAD: I certainly can. There are at least six that relate to the
Byrd rule. As you know, the Byrd rule says, if the provisions don't score
for budget purposes, if they don't increase revenues or reduce expenditure,
that's subject to a 60-vote waiver. If a measure is outside the
jurisdiction of the committee that's reported the reconciliation
instruction, that's subject to 60 votes.
If the change in budget scoring is only incidental to the policy
change, that's subject to 60 votes. If a matter is reported and it's not
germane - an amendment is not germane to the underlying proposal, that is
subject to a 60-vote waiver. As I indicated, there are at least 10 areas
that are subject to 60-vote waivers.
So, the notion that this is just some slam-dunk deal, if you get 51
votes and it's over - that's just not right.
O'DONNELL: Senator, I just want - before we go, I just want to talk
to you about the politics of life in the Senate now, where you can be
challenged as you always could be, but challenged in primaries, stimulated
by liberals and progressives who are dissatisfied with the way Democratic
senators are voting.
Blanche Lincoln, for example, who has voted on the finance committee,
on the Senate floor exactly the way Obama has wanted her to, and has
supported so far exactly the Obama legislation as supported by the
president. There are liberals out there we know who have found that
unsatisfactory and helping a challenge, you know, being presented against
her in Arkansas.
What does that do to life in the Senate when you're following your
president's, you know, directions in effect and that's not good enough for
people in your own party?
CONRAD: You know, we see this happening on the right and the left.
Republicans are afraid they're going to get challenged on the right.
That's their only meaningful competition. Democrats, in certain states,
afraid they're going to be challenged on the left. And now, you've got
moderates facing internal party challenges as well.
What it means is the ability to get things done is being reduced,
because what's happening is you got a push to the extremes, the left and
the right. The result is: it's much more difficult to have people who are
centrists still survive and play a role in actually getting results.
O'DONNELL: Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota, thank you
very much for your time tonight.
CONRAD: Always good to be with you.
O'DONNELL: Last week, Congressman Anthony Weiner railed against the
GOP's connections with big insurance and told them to deal with it. Today,
he goes on "FOX and Friends" and calls out the entire network for lying
about health care reform. He joins me next.
And later, containing the rage in Chile. As more aid arrives for the
quake-ravaged region, the people are asking, where is their government.
Why are they not getting food and water?
O'DONNELL: Last week, New York Representative Anthony Weiner grew
weary of the traditional protocols of Congressional debate, and savaged his
Republican colleagues over their attempts to scuttle a bill that would
strip health insurance companies of their antitrust exemption. Before the
vote on HR-4626, Mr. Weiner took to the podium and repeatedly called his
GOP colleagues "a wholly-owned subsidiary of the insurance industry."
This morning, Congressman Weiner's truth-telling continued with Brian
Kilmeade and Steve Doocy of "Fox and Friends." After discussing the
difficult decision House democrats face on health care reform, the
congressman held up a mirror to the Fox hosts, throwing their own slanted
coverage in their faces.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: We should be honest about
something here. Programs like this, there's been an enormous amount of
disinformation about what's in the bill.
STEVE DOOCEY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: That's according to you. That's what
WEINER: I think that there has been an orchestrated effort in a lot
of quarters to lie about the bill.
BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: What have we lied about?
WEINER: Don't get it all personal. I said programs like this - I
said programs like yours.
KILMEADE: Don't be defensive. Like yours. I can get this guy in a
WEINER: Let me ask you: did anyone talk about death panels on this
show throughout the last six months? Of course. That was a lie. That was
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: But the death panel fear-mongering was six months ago.
How about fresh Fox lies like, say, 30 minutes before Congressman Weiner's
appearance, during a segment ironically branded "Prescription for Truth."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER JOHNSON, FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST: The house is going to adopt
the senate bill after all of this wrangling. And everything that a lot of
people find objectionable in that Senate bill is going to be adopted by the
House, federal funding of abortion, not the Stupak approach.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Of course, that claim is provably false. There is no
federal funding for abortion in the Senate bill. The Hyde Amendment
prohibiting federal funding of abortion still applies.
In a moment, Congressman Weiner, who somehow escaped that studio, will
First, a little more right wing nuttiness. On Sunday, Speaker Pelosi
told ABC News that House Democrats would need to find the courage to pass
an imperfect health care reform bill. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you say to your members when it does
come to the House to vote on this, who are in real fear of losing their
seats in November if they support you now?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Well, first of all, our
members, every one of them, wants health care. I think everybody wants
affordable health care for all Americans.
They know that this will take courage. It took courage to pass Social
Security. It took courage to pass Medicare. And many of the same forces
that were at work decades ago are at work again against this bill.
But the American people need it. Why are we here? We're not here
just to self-perpetuate our service in Congress. We're here to do the job
for the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: The one and only Rush Limbaugh took that notion, that a
member of Congress should do the right thing, and turned it into Jihad.
Listen to him compare the Speaker of the House to a terrorist mastermind.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Yeah, there she is again.
There's Pelosi. You know what? She's - I'm going to tell you what -
here's a way we have to start looking at Nancy Pelosi: Mullah Nancy bin
Pelosi. She's no different than these mullahs and these imams who convince
all these people to put bombs on their kids and send them out there to blow
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Joining me now is the five-term representative from New
York's Ninth Congressional District, Brooklyn's own Congressman Anthony
Weiner. Congressman Weiner, I have exactly two words for you: thank you.
What did you -
WEINER: Well, usually when you get two - when someone says they have
two words for you in Brooklyn, it doesn't come out to be thank you. But I
O'DONNELL: What did you think you were getting into when you went
over to "Fox & Friends" this morning?
WEINER: Well, you know, Fox and I are like two star crossed lovers.
They keep asking me out on dates, and they never seem to work out that
well. But the fact of the matter is that if you look at this debate, when
you have these polls that say people are against health care, it's largely
because there has been an effort - and it's been single-minded. You have
to give Fox credit. They are disciplined. A single-minded effort to
They repeatedly refer to this as the government takeover of health
care. You know, many people like myself, who support a single-payer
system, we lament the idea that we're taking - we're investing hundreds of
billions of dollars in private insurance companies. It's actually the
opposite of a government takeover.
But Fox does that kind of thing every day. I've taken a different
strategy than some of my colleagues. I don't mind going over there and
kind of mixing it up with them a little bit, because I think that, frankly,
their viewers have a right to hear the truth about health care also.
O'DONNELL: Now, Congressman Weiner, did the Democrats not see this
propaganda machine coming a year ago when you were cranking up for the
health care reform crusade? There's been so much criticism of President
Obama now among Democrats, saying he didn't make it clear to the American
people what this bill was. But how was he supposed to do that in the face
of lies about death panels and this giant fog machine of lies that was
coming all over the debate and drowning out the truth of what was in this
WEINER: Well, from the moment - I'm on one of the committees that
helped draw this bill together. From the moment go, we knew we were going
to have some issues that traditionally come up: how to deal with the
undocumented, how you deal with issues of choice. Those issues, to some
degree, we knew were coming and, frankly, we knew that the battle was going
to go on within our party over things like an increasing government role,
expanding Medicare, like I wanted to do.
Some of this, though, was remarkable, in that it was drawn from broad
cloth. The death panel, which turned out was a provision to provide people
with reimbursement to have conversation with their doctor about end of life
care, that was the hospitals and the insurance industry that asked for that
provision to be put in. It was originally drafted by a Republican.
So some of things came out of nowhere. But the one thing that I think
we should have learned and internalized much earlier is that when you're
trying to stop something, it's much easier. You know, it's the old
expression, it takes a great woman to build a barn, but any jackass can
kick it down. We learned in health care that that's certainly the case.
O'DONNELL: As you watch the Senate develop daily more and more
support for the public option, is that giving any hope in the House of
Representatives that you could get a public option in the bill that
presumably would be designed in a reconciliation vehicle, after you vote
for the Senate bill? Even Senator Conrad tonight, on this air, saying he's
open to the idea of a public option depending on the details, by which I
would think he would means exactly what the reimbursement rates are and
things like that.
WEINER: I don't see any reason why not. I can't find anyone in this
town who says it's dead, but everyone seems to agree that it is. The
president of the United States says he supports it. Tom Harkin was on your
program saying that there are 55 senators that support it. The House has
already passed it. As many as 70 percent of Americans, when you describe
it like what it is, which is a government-run system like Medicare - 70
percent support it. It's hard to figure out why it's not included, now
that we're back on a 51 vote path, rather than the absurd 60 vote dynamic.
O'DONNELL: Congressman Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York, thank
you, thank you, thank you.
WEINER: Thank you.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, the real impact of Senator Bunning's
obstruction. While the senator spent days playing politics, we'll
introduce you to one woman who faced the threat of losing her house because
of Bunning's move.
And the mounting frustration in Chile; the survivors of Saturday's
massive quake are railing against government inaction in getting food and
water to them.
O'DONNELL: Desperation is sinking in just over 40 hours after a
massive 8.8 earthquake struck Chile. Countless aftershocks adding to
survivors' anxiety. But just days before a new president is sworn in, with
entire communities in ruins, and a death toll approaching 800, is the
Chilean government doing enough? Our correspondent is Mark Potter.
MARK POTTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Throughout the
disaster zone, desperate victims with no food, water or basic supplies have
been complaining loudly about the lack of relief effort, wondering where is
This man in the town of Dichato says "we need the authorities. We
have nothing to eat. We're pulling stuff from the garbage."
This woman in Buca Lemu (ph) says "we've lost everything, everything."
Today outgoing Chilean President Michelle Bachelet met with police and
military officials, and announced hundreds of tons of food, water and other
supplies are being distributed now. She also welcomed Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton, who delivered satellite phones and promised more US
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: And I'm going to give this one
to you, madam president.
POTTER: More aid is starting to come in from other countries and the
(on camera): But critics say the Chilean government's relief efforts
now are what it should have begun over the weekend, after the earthquake
struck early Saturday morning.
(voice-over): Even the government itself criticizes the Chilean Navy
for failing to warn the public about the tsunami danger after the
earthquake. And Jorge Schaulsohn, the former speaker of the Chilean House,
says the military should have mobilized immediately to coordinate the
JORGE SCHAULSOHN, FMR. CHILEAN HOUSE SPEAKER: The army has the
resources, has the equipment, and has the training to deal with these kinds
of situations. I think we waited a little too long.
POTTER: The interior minister says such a large relief effort takes a
long time to coordinate properly, leaving the new government, which is to
be sworn in next week, with the challenge of reassuring the public that
help is on the way.
Mark Potter, NBC News, Santiago, Chile.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, the price of obstruction in the Senate. As
Senator Bunning held up unemployment benefits, we'll introduce you to one
woman struggling to survive because of the political game-playing out in
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest
Senator Michael Bennett, the man who helped to spark the renewed interest
in the public option in the Senate.
O'DONNELL: While Senator Jim Bunning asserted, again and again, his
right as a senator to hold up basic emergency funding legislation, while
Senator Jim Bunning whined about he even had to be inconvenienced himself
by missing the Kentucky/South Carolina basketball game, while Senator
Bunning became perturbed with reporters who wanted answers, telling them to
stay out of the senators-only elevator, 100,000 Americans have suffered the
cessation of their unemployment benefits, and a million more were at risk;
2,000 workers were actually laid off. And even though Senator Bunning has
now agreed to a deal, his actions had real consequences.
Americans who work hard and play by the rules watched one man
manipulate Senate rules to defy democracy. Three different demonstrations
were held today in Kentucky. At a rally in Louisville, the protesters
included unemployed constituents of the Kentucky senator. But that state
was obviously not the only one affected by Senator Bunning's obstinance.
As we mentioned yesterday, transportation projects across the country
were halted, putting more people out of work. And many of those already
out of work were running up against a wall with Senator Bunning's name on
it. Senator Bunning should certainly meet a guest who will join us soon.
What you're seeing now on our screen is the Bunning Amendment just was
defeated in the United States Senate, as it now moves forward toward voting
on this final passage of the emergency extension of unemployment benefits.
The Bunning Amendment just defeated. Now the Senate will move forward.
Joining us now is Sue Mason, a mechanical engineering designer in
Pensville, New Jersey, who has been unemployed since January of 2009. Now,
Sue Mason, I know this is your first time on TV, and I'm sure you wanted
your first time on TV to be on "Dancing With the Stars." But I'm sorry,
this is where it is. You've been unemployed for a while. We talk about
this legislation as emergency legislation to extend unemployment benefits.
Was this an emergency for you?
SUE MASON, UNEMPLOYED ENGINEER: It's absolutely an emergency for me.
My benefits will be finished next week, which means, as of next week, I'll
have zero income. And if I get to the point where I have zero income, I
can't pay my mortgage. I can't pay my car insurance. I can't buy food.
For me, ironically, that will mean also that I can't pay my Cobra
insurance. That has become critical for me, because last week I was
diagnosed with breast cancer. So I cannot lose my insurance.
O'DONNELL: We heard some pretty wild talk coming out of the
Republican side of the Senate this week, including the idea that people
like you are happily sitting at home cashing in on unemployment, and now
you'd be cashing in on more unemployment, not looking for work. What has
it been like for you on unemployment? And are you out there looking for
MASON: Well, it's obvious they've never collected unemployment or
they wouldn't make such a statement. I've worked - I have my resumes out
on CareerBuilder.com and on Monster.com. I've networked with all the
engineering community people that I can. I've sent resumes. I've only had
in the past year two different even close calls to get a job. One was in
Connecticut, which is - the commute to Connecticut is pretty big. And the
other was a commute about an hour and a half from my house just last week.
I didn't get hired for that job because there was a software program that I
wasn't familiar with, that's come out since I did that job.
So, in over a year, I've had only two really firm offers of a job,
neither of which turned out. I've even applied way below what my
experience level is. Nobody wants to hire someone that's overqualified,
because they're afraid you'll leave as soon as the job market does
increase. I couldn't even get hired to work in a - I couldn't even get
hired to work in a gift store.
O'DONNELL: Well, help is on the way as of tonight in the United
States Senate, at least at the extension of your unemployment benefits.
And I hope help is on the way for finding you a mechanical engineering job.
Tell us one more time, Sue Mason, where your resume is?
MASON: It's on Monster.com and CareerBuilder.Com.
MASON: Yes, both search engines.
O'DONNELL: We have just seen the defeat of the Jim Bunning Amendment
in the United States Senate. That means the bill is now going to be able
to move forward probably to final passage tonight on the emergency
extension of unemployment benefits. I want to thank Sue Mason for joining
us and sharing your story with us.
That will have to do it for Tuesday's edition of Countdown. I'm
Lawrence O'Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED. END