Skip to main content

tv   Weekends With Alex Witt  MSNBC  March 6, 2021 10:00am-11:00am PST

10:00 am
every time we walk into the door. it's just to be sure. just to be sure! tide antibacterial fabric spray. good day, everyone. welcome to "weekends with alex witt." starting this hour, here's what we got. >> the yeas are 50, nays 49.
10:01 am
the bill, as amended, is passed! [applause] >> that is the sound of the senate after joe biden's legislation comes one step closer into signing into law. just this past hour the senate passing the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package right along party lines, and there was one absence of voting there coming from a republican. but that vote coming after an all-night vote-a-rama, the senate debating and voting on amendments for over 24 hours. senate majority leader chuck schumer acknowledging the long road it took before getting that final vote. >> it's been a long day, a long night, a long year, but a new day has come, and we tell the american people, help is on the
10:02 am
way. >> zero republicans voted to advance the bill in that senate. democratic senator debbie stabenow reacting to that the last hour. >> i think it's stunning they're going to be able to go home and say what they wanted to do was give you less help, less checks in your pockets, less opportunities to get vaccines so you can be safe and your family can be safe, let's support from your schools. i don't know how that is a winning message. >> the final version of the bill includes a third round of stimulus checks, being $1,400 for those who qualify, billions of dollars in funding to state and local governments and $300 a week in jobless benefits until september with a tax relief provision. notably absent from that bill is that $15 federal minimum wage hike. all senate republicans, and in fact eight members of the democratic caucus, voted against that provision.
10:03 am
the bill heads back to the house for one final vote before reaching the president's desk. congressman jackson lee telling nbc, despite the changes, she does expect democratic support in the house. >> the democratic party is a big tent party. but it is now about america, and i don't like the compromises that seemingly is coming out of the senate but my point is to those out there suffering, i'm not going to abandon the good for the perfect. and i'm going to, however, keep fighting for the perfect. >> and in this hour, this is what we're going to show you. first off, what is in the bill? who gets how much money, we're going to talk with congresswoman barbara lee about what happens when it comes back to the house. plus the george floyd policing justice act and tax act. and a little later e. the dr. seuss controversy and whether it's part of the cancel culture.
10:04 am
first, we will break things down on capitol hill. amanda golden is there, and the details about when americans might expect their relief checks. amanda, where do things stand on the covid relief bill? can senators take off now and go home and get some rest? >> yes, actually, we started to see some senators make their way home, heading to the airports, leaving within the last few minutes. as you said, the next step here really comes down to the house, which we just heard from leader steny hoyer, who said they're expecting to bring a vote tuesday. they released a statement saying they're going to bring this up and express confidence the changes made within the senate version of this bill will not be difficult to continue on to pass to bring to biden's desk. we also heard from senate majority leader chuck schumer in the last few minutes saying he spoke with president biden, he said they would get this done and get this through and noting they were confident, they had been in close touch with members of the house to move things
10:05 am
forward and have this expedited before the march 14th deadline. no real surprises here in the final vote tally either. it came out 50/49 to pass this legislation. in part because senator dan sullivan was missing, had a family emergency and had to leave, so the vote didn't need the senate tie-breaking vote from the president of the senate, vice president harris. it passed strictly on party lines. no gop support at the end of the day. but moving forward democrats are expecting and confident they will be able to move this through within the few days in order to get it signed into law. >> thank you for that. wrapping up what we've seen over many, many hours, notably just the last hour. moving on to the white house with monica alba, have we heard anything from the white house on this? >> no official reaction, alex, but we expect president biden to make some formal remarks now that this has passed. he's been really stressing the urgency of the moment and need for this relief now. even though, of course, it does have to go back to the house, has to be passed there before it
10:06 am
gets to his desk for signature, this is something president biden is going to be able to tout, expect, as really his first legislative priority victory and the number one thing on his agenda. this is something that he campaigned on, it's something he promised the american people as president-elect. and after he was sworn in in january, he said he was really going to spend the bulk of the first 100 days of getting in accomplished and it all seems heading in that direction. it really coincides, you have to take and zoom out and think of the symbolism, the fact we are nearing the one-year anniversary of when this was declared a national emergency, the coronavirus pandemic, and how it has affected so many millions of americans. so the fact the president will be speaking to that, of course, acknowledging all of the death and devastation and grieving families and now he's going to be able to go out and say, i'm delivering some of relief and help, that's what we expect to hear from him a little later today. then he's going to be taking
10:07 am
that message on the road next week. he's going to be visiting some vaccination centers from veterans, for example. and he's also going to be going to baltimore, maryland, to meet with some of the ceos of merck and johnson & johnson to tout their new emphasis on trying to get that vaccine produced more quickly and out. you're going to see the white house now pivot to be able to say here's what's in the american rescue plan, here's how we're hoping it will be used quickly before they then start to look for other things on capitol hill like infrastructure and immigration. today you can expect to see president biden very pleased with the outcome, even though he was up late last night working the phones, talking to senator john manchin of west virginia, trying to get democrats to be unified as we saw that vote take much, much longer than expected yesterday. it seems he was able to do that. now the conversation really shifts, the white house says, to how this is going to be implemented. you didn't see any republican senators support it.
10:08 am
their response to that is there was some bipartisan support among republican mayors and governors. so you may see some of those people in the next couple of weeks alongside the president talking about how it can help their local communities. but that will be another question for the white house they have not yet really answered, which is the fact they weren't able to get any republican senators on board with this, even though they were able to pass it with this very, very narrow majority, that did not ultimately need the tie-breaking vote of vice president kamala harris, alex. >> we will see if the president makes a statement on his way. he's going to wilmington, right, is that where he's heading? >> he's not actually, alex. he doesn't have any public events on his schedule as of now. he's remaining at the white house, that's the latest we know and we expect to hear from him somewhere there within the next hour or two. >> oh, i appreciate that. you're the white house reporter, after all >> on the heels of that, let's bring in our nbc national hill
10:09 am
reporter. for edge everyone watching asking what does this mean for my unemployment benefits, and who is getting the stimulus checks and when will it hit their bank accounts? >> alex, to the second point the treasury department tells me they've been working to make preparations for passage of this law and will try to get the money out as soon as possible. as for who gets this check, individuals who make up to $75,000 will get the full $1,400. couples that make up to $150,000 a year will get $2,800 between the two of them. after that a steep cliff. individuals up to $80,000 some money and couples up to
10:10 am
$160,000, some money. >> what about the people who got checks last time, you're saying some will not get it now? has it been amended to that degree? >> that is correct, alex. in the previous round of stimulus checks, earners of $80,000 to $100,000 got some money. they won't this time around. couples who make $160,000 to $200,000 got some money last time. they will not get money this time. this was part of a compromise between president biden and moderate democrats who wanted the bill more narrowly targeted. but biden said he would not compromise on the top line number of $1,400 but did get that limitation. >> do parents get extra money for kids? >> yes, so the $1,400 is also available for every child that the family gets an extra $1,400. if you're getting less than that per person, you will probably get less for your kids but the parents also get money, by the way, for adult dependence. >> what if somebody lost their job last year and they're making
10:11 am
less money now. will they -- will that be known? how will they be able to qualify for this? >> this is very important, alex, because everyone who lost their job last year or saw their income decrease during the pandemic, the way for them to get the maximum amount of money is file their tax returns as soons possible. it is processed by the irs and times before these checks go out the door, that's the income level they will base it on. otherwise they will base it on 2019 income before the pandemic so people who lost their jobs might miss out on money if they don't file their tax returns very seen. >> that is a very, very good point. jobless benefits, the senate scaled back on those in negotiations yesterday but they did add a tax relief provision. what is that all about? what does it change for the people receiving the benefits? >> that's right. the senate reduced the house's unemployment benefits from $400 a week to $300 a week, again, part of a compromise to get moderate democrats on board. but what they did add is a
10:12 am
provision that makes the first $10,200 jobless benefits tax free for incomes under $150,000. it's a bit of a weedy concept. basic will i a lot of people who got jobless benefits will not be taxed for it, and it may be a pleasant surprise for them and avoid an unpleasant surprise on their tax bills. >> sahil, thank you very much for clarification for folks watching and wondering with when they will get the benefits of this passed bill. let's bring in congresswoman barbara lee, member of house appropriations and budget committee and chair emeritus of the congressional office. i'm awfully glad to see you. talk about the bill passed, and i'm not trying to be negative nely, because i know there are those, including congressman crow, that said let's not be negative now. but tell us what you are
10:13 am
disappointed with this bill. >> alex, thank you very much. in every respect we fought for everything and what it told me is we're holding it down for the american people. republicans certainly are not. i don't know how they're going home to say they voted, against, for example providing $1,400 direct business payment, how they're going to go home and say they did not support additional funding for vaccines, how they're going to go home and say they did not support the enhanced unemployment assistance every week. i don't know how they're going home to say they did not support the 15% expansion and continuation of expansion of s.n.a.p. benefits. their constituents are hungry also and they need a lot of help, their constituents are unemployed and not access to schools because the schools are not safe and ready for them to re-enter the physical locations.
10:14 am
how they're going to explain this, i have no idea. but i hope people understand with democrats, and the vote shows it's dems that fought for them, regardless of their party affiliation. >> let me tell you, we took a good seven, eight minutes on this broadcast live listening to that vote. people can hear for themselves. if you're tuned in to who your two senators are from your state, you wait for them to be called alphabetically and hear if they say yea or no. they can be held accountable as well. let's talk about the senators who voted to add the relief number back into the package. did this surprise you, the number of eight, that meant to get this through congress down the road? >> first of all, i'm disappointed. of course, i supported and have supported $15 to raise the minimum wage to $15 for a long
10:15 am
time, alex, quite frankly. the progressive caucus under the leadership of now attorney general keith ellison introduced this i believe in 2015. and we have been fighting -- we went around the country, we held rallies, we marched, we protested and the people in our country need this $15 minimum wage increase. for the life of me, i don't understand why that cannot be supported other than i know the parliamentarian ruled against that. we're here to fight for another day because 7.25 an hour, that's the poverty wage. people should not have to work and make poverty wages and taxpayers pay for that s.n.a.p. benefits, section eight housing and safety nets need because they're working for poverty wage and can't survive. we're here to fight for this and we're going to get it sooner than later by any means necessary. >> let me ask you about the changes made in the senate that
10:16 am
narrowed the income eligibility for the stimulus checks to lower the unemployment benefits from 400 to 300 a week. do you think ultimately it was necessary for compromise and to get the successful package? again, so narrowly right along party lines. was there any choice but to make these changes? >> you know, that's what happens when, first of all, one person, you know, we have the filibuster rule we need to get rid of, first of all, but secondly, i prefer, naturally, the house bill because we passed with the $400 a month enhanced employment benefits and, really, it was a better bill to address the lives and livelihood of american families but i understand the art of compromise. with such a narrow margin in the senate, i assume that's all they could do to get the votes to pass it.
10:17 am
but we will keep fighting for the american folks. through no fault of their own they lost their jobs and access to housing and rental assistance, they lost so much to this pandemic and it's up to us to provide that safety net and their representatives to make sure their lives are made whole. we are here and going to keep fighting and keep going. >> i know you will. >> we will be able to pass this monday and, again, fight for the $15 minimum wage. >> you think about the horrific yearlong situation so many of these people lived through. can't come soon enough, i'm sure, for them to get this relief. let me ask you quickly about the other bill passed in the house, george floyd justice in policing act. this is the second time the house passed this bill. are you more hopeful the senate will pass it this time around? >> i'm hopeful, it's hard to be
10:18 am
a member of congress and not be hopeful and it's hard to not know and recognize we fought so hardly as african-americans for generations to fight for justice in policing. the democratic caucus woman, karen bass, all of our leadership did a phenomenal job to get this bill off the floor last year and this year. let's hope the senate understands the necessity to have some justice in policing. when you look at the fact choke holds are still not banned, you look at the fact this bill included provisions to end racial profiling for a national database, and also to end the qualified immunity. no one is above the law. these are very modest provisions, alex. so i'm hoping, once again, that when it gets to the senate, reason will prevail and the
10:19 am
senators understand that while it was passed with the majority of democratic vote, that we should do this because their constituents, once again, are the victims of police misconduct also. so it's long overdue. again, congresswoman karen bass led the effort in the house and negotiated a very good bill. let's hope the senators understand that this has to be done and it should be done quickly. >> let's hope so. i thank you for this conversation. always quicker than i would like it to be because i can talk to you for hours, congressman, bar barbara lee, my fellow california girl. thank you very much for your time on this really important saturday. >> thank you very much. and it's important enough to have president biden, who will be making a statement about all that we've been witnessing this morning and specifically in this last hour, the passage of the american rescue plan. this $1.9 trillion covid relief bill. the president will take to the podium and when he does, we will take you there as well on "weekends with alex witt."
10:20 am
(vo) ideas exist inside you, electrify you. they grow from our imagination, but they can't be held back. they want to be set free. to make the world more responsible, and even more incredible. ideas start the future, just like that. [ sigh ] not gonna happen. that's it. i'm calling kohler about their walk-in bath. my name is ken. how may i help you? hi, i'm calling about kohler's walk-in bath. excellent! happy to help. huh? hold one moment please... [ finger snaps ] hmm. ♪ ♪ the kohler walk-in bath features an extra-wide opening and a low step-in at three inches, which is 25 to 60% lower than some leading competitors. the bath fills and drains quickly, while the heated seat soothes your back, neck and shoulders. kohler is an expert in bathing, so you can count on a deep soaking experience.
10:21 am
are you seeing this? the kohler walk-in bath comes with fully adjustable hydrotherapy jets and our exclusive bubblemassage. everything is installed in as little as a day by a kohler-certified installer. and it's made by kohler- america's leading plumbing brand. we need this bath. yes. yes you do. a kohler walk-in bath provides independence with peace of mind. call... to receive one-thousand dollars off your kohler walk-in bath. and right now we're offering no payments for eighteen months. see yourself. welcome back to the mirror. and know you're not alone. because this is not just a mirror, it's an unstoppable community. come on jesse, one more! it's every workout. come on you two, let's go! for everyone. so join in now. and see your best self. in the mirror.
10:22 am
21 past the hour. as we await for president biden to take the podium and address what happened the last hour in the senate, passage by a vote of 50/49 of the $1.9 trillion covid relief bill aptly named the american rescue plan, we will take you there live as well. and as we were there, a vote to strip cuomo of power, as he finds himself embroiled in two of the biggest controversies of his career. allegations of underreporting covid-19 deaths in nursing homes and allegations of sexual harassment. this vote impacts cuomo's ability be to enact laws on his own as now relates to the pandemic, that includes lockdowns or quarantines or
10:23 am
business closures and emergency powers were emergency granted to cuomo a year ago last march as new york became the ultimate epicenter of the pandemic. now those decisions will either be left to local officials or require a deal between cuomo and the state legislature. cuomo certainly has denied the accusations surrounding each issue but he now faces not one, but two investigations into his conduct and the new york attorney general just ordered his office to preserve any records that may be relevant to the sexual harassment probe. let's go to my colleague, cori coffin, from outside the new york d.a.'s manhattan office. good morning to you. big deal stripping him of emergency powers. >> yes, alex, this is the most impactful action taken so far against the governor during these two investigations he's currently finding himself embroiled in. just this week a third accuser
10:24 am
coming forward saying that cuomo had an inappropriate advance with her add a wedding. let me show you this photo depicting the moment anna ruch said cuomo put his hands on his face. and governor cuomo addressed this by saying this is how he greets hundreds of men and women and said, it doesn't matter my intent, if they were offended by it, it was wrong. prior to ruch, there was charlotte bennett, a former aide to governor cuomo, especially during the height of the pandemic during 2020, she said on multiple occasions the governor asked her about her intimate relationships and documented one occasion in particular on june 5th in which the governor asked her to turn off a recording device. listen to what she said to cbs news. >> and then he explains at that point that he is looking for a
10:25 am
girlfriend. he's lonely. he's tired. >> you've just finished dictation and the governor is telling you he's lonely and looking for a relationship? >> yes. he asked if i had trouble enjoying being with someone because of my trauma. >> this seems highly inappropriate. >> yeah. the governor asked me if i was sensitive to intimacy. >> in his office? >> yes. >> during the workday. >> and cuomo has stated that he never made any advances towards miss bennett and he never intended to act in any way that was inappropriate. he also addressed the situation during his most recent press conference. listen to what he said. >> i never touched anyone inappropriately. i never knew at the time that i
10:26 am
was making anyone feel uncomfortable, i never knew at the time i was making anyone feel uncomfortable. and i certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. >> another former aide, lindsey boylan, the first-known accuser said cuomo made multiple inappropriate advances towards her from 2016 to 2017, including asking if she wanted to play strip poker and giving her an unwanted kiss at one point. cuomo denied boylan's accusations and said they're, quote, quite simply false. but these allegations have caused new york's attorney general to open an independent investigation into the matter. cuomo says that he does welcome that investigation, but asks the people of new york reserve
10:27 am
judgment until the investigation is complete. alex, as you mentioned, this is now the second investigation launched against the cuomo investigation in 2021. the first one being led by the fbi regarding the potential undercounting of nursing home deaths amid the pandemic. >> you explained that well for us. thank you very much, cori coffin. joining me now is myra riley, a represent tipgs of the southern district of new york and now candidate for mayor here in new york city and good friend to us here at msnbc. so, maya, you have the governor who repeatedly denied these allegations. but if you were in charge of this harassment investigation, what direction would you go in? >> it's good to be with you, alex. i'm sorry it's on this deeply disturbing topic. look, i would start with the three women we already know have made allegations about his
10:28 am
behavior and conduct, and that would include miss ruch, the woman who was at a wedding who has a photograph of him touching her face and of the horror on her face in that photograph and a witness. the reason i say i would include her, even though she was not an employee of the governor, is because the behavior that she is describing goes directly to a pattern of behavior we are hearing in these complaints, and as you heard, when the governor said, i have never touched anyone inappropriately, that is legal speak. that is legal speak trying to set up a defense, that's the way i hear it, because what he is saying, he's not saying he didn't touch anyone. he's saying i'm going to argue that it wasn't inappropriate. i think we've seen from that photograph that he has behavior
10:29 am
that clearly is treated as inappropriate including touching her back and it maps the behavior that lindsey boylan alleges. but i would go farther. i would go look at the investigation that appears to have taken place internally when celeste benefit, who clearly complained, had her office moved. and all of the witnesses that these women are identifying who can corroborate versions of the story that they're telling us. but i do want to make clear, we have already heard in this public record, and we the people have heard, we have heard evidence that appears to corroborate and that's why you have folks like "the times union," a newspaper in albany that actually endorsed the governor four times, now calling for his resignation. >> how far back does an investigation like this have to
10:30 am
go? the only reason i ask about timing is because in the governor's press conference, he said, this is the way i have always behaved. so if you're leading an investigation like this looking into these allegations, how far back does one have to go? >> as far back as the evidence takes you. and the reason for that is you start with the women you've heard from, you go to the witnesses. i will tell you, they've given the pattern of behavior we are hearing, the likelihood is we will hear more. if you're investigating it, you investigate for those additional people and you don't worry that there is -- there is a statute of limitations but you don't worry about that. you worry about finding the pattern of behavior and making sure that you're finding every case. and that's what i would expect
10:31 am
the attorney general will do. >> maya, i mentioned to our viewers, most already know, you're one of the leading candidates for mayor of new york city, so are you calling for governor cuomo to resign, is there more that you need before you might do that? tell me where you stand at this point. >> alex, i have made public and clear my call for the governor to resign. and i did not make that decision lightly. fundamentally what we're talking about right now in resignation doesn't have to be an admission of guilt in his part on a case but it certainly should be a recognition that there is even in his own admission that he has offended and hurt people, he has abused his power in a state that has laws on its books. he's sworn to uphold, that he
10:32 am
himself as a person, who by the way, knows what these laws say, is now claiming i didn't realize i was being insensitive to a woman i knew to be a victim of rape. when i had her alone in my office and was asking her about her sex life, he's not denied these allegations and he's not, in fact, denied any of them except to say he didn't think they were inappropriate. but this is a pattern of behavior that fundamentally is about an abuse of power and anyone who holds public office must use that power only to protect and serve. and 80% of women surveyed in a recent study said that they have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. 80%. at what point do women not
10:33 am
deserve people in public office who are conscience of their power and always make sure that they do not use it for their own personal gain, which is what we're hearing in these allegations and with a pattern of behavior in which we are hearing, frankly, enough. and i say enough. >> i think there are many women, i being one, who would agree with you, there's no place for this kind of behavior in the workplace if it makes a woman uncomfortable or under any circumstances. that being said, we want to reiterate that the governor very aptly says so, said he was unaware of making anybody uncomfortable at the time. he also said this is the way he's always behaved. he's a very demonstrative person this way, but, again, the appropriate nature of it remains in question, though for some of us, that question has been answered. maya wiley, thank you very much for your time as always. next week, everyone, marks one year since the coronavirus
10:34 am
outbreak was officially declared a pandemic. overnight the number of covid cases in this country surpassed $29 million. the death toll now more than 125,000. and while there's hope, there's grave concerns about states lifting mask mandates, which is texas, the largest state to do so thus far. let's go to nbc's morgan chesky, who is in dallas with more on this whole debate. morgan, i have to tell you, it's stunning there's a debate over this at this point, right? >> it depends who you ask, alex, and if it's the texas governor he has made it abundantly clear the state will soon be back in business with a lot of local leaders calling the decision premature, it left a lot of businesses, especially here in dallas' deep ellum business, trying to figure out their own solution. t-minus four days until texas restaurants are back at 100%
10:35 am
capacity. restaurant owner eric heilburg isn't exactly celebrating. >> i feel like it's a slap in the face for the medical professionals. >> reporter: his concern coming from the government's plan to fully reopen every texas business and roll back the statewide mask mandate. heidelberg said he has a different plan. at his invasions restaurant, it will be masks up for both employees and diners, capacity capped 75%. >> at the end of the day, money is not worth lives. i want to protect my employees. >> reporter: this week governor greg abbott stood by his order. >> we're just in a situation government mandates are not needed because texans know the best practices. >> reporter: at positive pop-up art gallery in austin said he knows the best practices but he feels caught between the governor and mayor, who openly disagrees. >> to have these mixed messages, confusing, frustrating? do you just pick one? >> we're all trying to be careful but when our government tells us otherwise, and we want
10:36 am
to be a business that continues to be careful, it's going to be tricky for us navigating that with -- with our different customers. >> back off! >> reporter: others are worried the reversal could lead to situations like these. confrontations in the pandemic's early stages when customers felt they had the right to know mask up. here at the all good cafe, owner mike snyder said he's ready. >> our employees will wear it and our customers will wear it or they're going somewhere else. >> reporter: a new frontier as everyone tries to navigate back to normal, or at least something like it. now, there is some new research from the cdc that can be seen as a bit concerning. they looked at counties that had reopenings, specifically restaurants, with where there was indoor or outdoor dining and they found about six weeks after that took place, covid rates did start to go up and the covid death toll also rose slightly two months after that decision
10:37 am
took place, trying to tay this is the enough to cause it blatant effect, alex, but this say it proves the point when used properly, masks cut down on the covid rate. >> and, morgan, the question i asked you going in and you answered it perfectly, but my point, why not wear a mask? by the way, it's winter time. they say a mask is a coat for your face. i think they're comfortable. they're keeping my face warmer here in new york. i don't understand the problem with just wearing a mask, do it for your safety, safety of those around you, for now until we are past this thing. okay, i stood on my soapbox long enough. thank you very much, morgan chesky, for that report from texas. joining me now is former secretary treasure of housing and development julio castro. thank you for joining me. let's get to what happened in the senate an hour and 15 minutes or so the passing of the covid relief bill on partisan
10:38 am
lines. are you surprised no republicans got on board with this one? >> i wish we were in a time i could be surprised by that, but i'm not. the upside of that, i think alex, is what i believe is going to happen is our economy will pick up because of this, a lot more families will have what they need because of this. president biden and his administration has done a tremendous job of getting people vaccinated much more quickly. we're going to get out of this pandemic and the economy is going to pick back up, and i hope in addition to all of those great things happening in people's leaves that when november of 2022 comes along and these republicans try to take credit for who knows what, that the american people will remember that it was president biden and democrats that made sure that they had the resources so they weren't evicted, their small businesses could stay afloat, their kids could actually get back in school safely, and the health of the american people and our economy
10:39 am
was better. so i think they did the right thing today. and also politically, this is going to come back to bite the republicans. >> regarding your state there of texas and coronavirus and chesky, who was reporting from dallas, what about your reaction to governor abbott's decision, why do you think he chose now to lift all restrictions across the state? >> he's trying to distract from the widespread condemnation he's received for his total incompetence during the winter storm. we had more than 50 people who died because of that. we had a lot of folks who sustained property damage and people are going to have to pay outrageous overcharges on their energy bills because the governor and his administration did not prepare for that kind of event. that's very clear. so what does he do? he does one of the dumbest things that he could do right before we're about to get on top of this pandemic, he says we're opening up everything 100%, and
10:40 am
we don't have to wear a mask anymore. we've been here before. last may the governor admitted that he made a mistake when he opened up bars too soon in the state. at that time, alex, texas was averaging about 5,000 new cases of the coronavirus every day. today we're averaging about 7,500 new cases every day. if it were a mistake back then and he admitted it, it's even a bigger mistake right now. >> they're going in the wrong direction. are texans agreeing with you or with governor abbott by and large? >> i think they're agreeing with me. in fact, i have been to several businesses just in the last couple of days and they have this piece of paper on the door. one of them said very clearly, despite the change in law, we're still requiring a mask. be safe.
10:41 am
be with common sense, whether they're republicans or democrats or independents, they get this. they know, look, in the beginning there were a lot of people who said i don't want to wear a mask, but folks have gotten used to that. they understand it's for your own health, health of your family and others and they also understand we have a vaccine distribution now that means we're going to be able to get on top of this pandemic. just be a little bit patient. fortunately, the vast majority of texans have more expense and are thinking of this more soberly than the governor, who's only thinking about it in terms of his political career, trying to distract from his total incompetence with the winter storm. >> i'm sure you heard earlier this week when you had president biden calling the governor's actions neander tral thinking, what happens in response? abbott blamed the president for my migrants entering the united states.
10:42 am
>> the biden administration was releasing illegal immigrants into our communities who had covid. the biden administration was spreading covid in south texas yesterday because of their lack of restraint of testing and quarantining people who had come across the border illegally, the biden administration was exposing texans to covid. that is neanderthal type of approach to dealing with the covid situation. >> want to react to that? and he's speaking out of both sides of his mouth. the fact is the administration is testing migrant protection protocol asylum seekers before they enter the united states, and for people that are apprehended or have already been in custody, the vast majority of those are getting tested by local communities. he's speaking out of both sides of his mouth because fema asked for the state consent to send money over to the state to help with testing and instead of
10:43 am
doing that, the governor said no, we're not going to allow for that. again, governor abbott is more interested in scoring political points because he's afraid of a challenge from the right wing, he's afraid of losing a primary, then he is about doing the right thing for public health. not only that, alex, the facts are of all of those migrants being tested, on average 3.6 per day have actually tested positive and the ones that are testing positive are, by and large, being quarantined. so this idea even if there's a positive covid test that they're somehow spreading the coronavirus through texas is totally false. the person that's creating a problem is governor abbott by lifting that mask mandate because public health professionals tell us, that is guaranteed to cause a bigger spread in the days ahead. >> yes, there are some that are claiming the recent surge of migrants is creating, a, quote,
10:44 am
crisis at the southern border. however, you listen to the new homeland security, ail han der mayorkas, he's refuting that saying there's no new crisis but the influx is creating new challenges. you want to share your perspective on what's happening at the border. >> yes, look, the numbers of people presenting themselves at the southern border has increased. this is not unprecedented. we have dealt with situations like this before. i agree with secretary mayorkas this is something we need to plan for, it's something we can manage though very well, and the biden administration is managing that. they've not only undone a lot of the cruel policies of the trump administration, they're actually putting into places protocols and resources so we can handle people who are trying to come across and presenting themselves at the border in a humane, compassionate way and effective way, where people are still part of the immigration court process
10:45 am
that is handled in the way it should be. so i they're doing the right thing. it is not a crisis. it is something that we have dealt with before and in the hands of competent government and this administration is competent, that's a big difference between the biden administration and trump administration, this administration is competent and they can manage this. >> julian castro, thank you very much for coming to see me and we will see you soon. thank you very much. buckingham palace is furious about the fully hyped interview with harry and meghan. eghan.
10:46 am
10:47 am
new fallout today over the dr. seuss cancel culture controversy democrats are denouncing house minority leader kevage mccarthy after he posted a video of himself reading dr. seuss' "green eggs and ham," and that, by the way, not one of the six books the publisher decided to stop printing because of
10:48 am
racist imagery. joining me now, nbc news eric deggans, who is also an npr tv critic. welcome back. let's get into this before we get into harry and meghan. >> sure. >> reading "green eggs and ham" kind of misses the point since that was not one of those six flagged books. what do you make from this outrage from the right? should we consider this to be part of canceled culture? give me a sense why this is so controversial. >> wow, there's so much to unpack there. this was obviously a political stunt and obviously a political stunt rooted in misinformation. the estate of dr. seuss, the company that controls the licensing and publishing of his books, announced at the beginning of march that last year they consulted a group of experts and they had determined that six books that are relatively obscure contained racist imagery and they were going to stop publishing them and they were going to stop licensing them. one of them books, and "i think
10:49 am
i saw it on mulberry street" might be one people know but the rest are books people don't really know. so the books like "cat in the hat" and "green eggs and ham" were not part of the books pulled back. and theodor geisel, the author known as dr. seuss, himself tried to address some of the imagery in some of those books, trying to change the wording a little bit and change how they -- how the character was colored, an asian character was colored, but it didn't really address it. it makes sense they would look back at books. "mulberry street" was published in 1937. so it makes sense they would go back and look at some of really old books and relatively obscure books and decide maybe they didn't have the right messaging to be in general interest bookstores at this time. >> yeah, and let's remind everybody, it was the publishers that decided they would look back and look at the tenor where
10:50 am
of things are now, they made the decision to discontinue printing these books. meantime, some networks -- fox news -- latched onto this story. our coverage eclipsed thewell, conservatives have decided that this idea of cancel culture is something they want to beat a drum about and use as an issue to galvanize their audiences and supporters. it's unfortunate because to do that, they have to obscure the facts of the situation, and look, in addressing systemic racism in society, we often have to take a hard look, a dispassionate look at things that we loved when we were a kid. we have to take a look at moves like "gone with the wind." we have to take a look at some of the works of dr. seuss and others and make sure that they're not echoing or somehow transmitting ideas about prejudice and stereotypes that
10:51 am
we wouldn't tolerate in the modern age. that's an uncomfortable conversation so it makes sense that some politicians would try to capitalize on that discomfort, distort the facts and try to present it as a process of unfairness, when really, it's not. it's an effort to try and get a handle on systemic racism and modern issues. >> so, you said there was a lot to unpack in that particular topic. as the next one as well because we're talking about oprah's upcoming interview with harry and meghan. it has stirred up so much controversy surrounding the royal family. let's look at a quick clip preview of that sitdown. here it is, everyone. >> how do you feel about the palace hearing you speak your truth today? >> i don't know how they could expect that after all of this time we would still just be silent if there is an active role that the firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us. and if that comes with risk of losing things, i mean, i've -- there's a lot that's been lost already.
10:52 am
>> how are people interpreting this interview and meghan's comments? how candid do you think they're going to be? there's two hours, by the way, of this. >> yeah, there's two hours of this, and certainly, i think there's the expectation that we're going to hear new revelations and we're going to hear a side of meghan and harry's point of view that maybe we haven't heard before. we haven't seen before in their public statements. they've tried to push back against these allegations that she was somehow abusive or bullying to the staff at the palace when they were more deeply involved with the royal family, and so there's a sense that here's their chance to set things straight at least from their point of view, so i think people are going to look forward to hearing a lot of their side and maybe hearing them talk a little more plainly. you know, they're more clearly distanced from the royal family, so maybe there's a sense that they can speak their mind a little more than they have in the past. i think that's the expectation going into this.
10:53 am
>> yeah, 100%. i agree with you, eric. all right, well, thank you so much. it's very good to see you. come see me again. and for all of you, i want you to know that tonight, actor and reading rainbow host lavar burton will be joining joshua johnson to discuss the dr. seuss controversy. it starts tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern here on msnbc. pope francis is nearing the end of the second day of his three-day trip to iraq. he celebrated mass in baghdad, met with ayatollah sistani, the 90-year-old head of the shia muslim establishment and also called on christians and muslims to put aside animosities and work together for peace. richard engel is joining me from baghdad. i'm curious the kind of reception the pope is getting. what's it been like? >> reporter: well, the pope has been getting a very, very warm reception among iraqis. this is the exact kind of message that they want to hear. this country, for too long, has been associated and associated
10:54 am
for very good reason with religious intolerance, with religious killings, just over my shoulder here, i'm looking at the tigris river. there were times i remember going out with fishermen and we would find bodies in the tigris river and those times weren't that long ago, so this country went through a horrible sectarian religious war, and they want to move on, and they're hoping that the pope is going to help do that. they're going to -- they will help heal some of the wounds, at least by talking about religious unity, about talking these -- healing these religious divides, and today, he's actually making some action. he went to visit -- taking some action. he went to go and visit the grand ayatollah, and there's a real possibility that that meeting is not just symbolic. it could actually improve relations between muslims and christians here. that's how extraordinary this visit was. but that is only part of this trip which has captivated iraqis.
10:55 am
>> i'm curious about -- >> despite the security risks, pope francis was personally determined to make this trip, carrying a message of religious tolerance to a region where it's often in short supply. and he's making history. this morning, the pope met iraq's shia muslim leader, the grand ayatollah ali al-sistani. for a iraq's shia majority, the clerk is as esteemed as the pope is for many catholics so meeting him was a sign of mutual respect. to follow the pope's next stop, we had to board an iraqi military plane and fly to the far south of the country, landing at what kused to be an american military base. we drove through the desert to the ruins of an ancient mess to tameian city with its great temple, the 4,000-year-old
10:56 am
zigarat. >> reporter: it is humbling to be in this place, so full of history and symbolism. this is where judaism, christianity, and islam meet, believed to be the birthplace of the patriarch, abraham, the founder of these three great faiths. and it is here that the pope wanted to come to express his message of unity. >> reporter: near the ruins, pope francis met interfaith leaders. here, where abraham, our father lived, we seem to have returned to the beginning, he said, hostility, extremism and violence are not borne of a religious heart. they are betrayals of religion, bringing attention to what binds god's children together, their common ancestry. and on his way to meet ayatollah sistani, pope francis was walking with a visible limp. the pope has said in the past that he has long suffered from painful sciatica and that was also not unnoticed here.
10:57 am
people saw that he still went ahead with this trip, still went ahead with the visit today, even though he does seem to be in a degree of discomfort. >> yeah, i'm glad you explained that because i noticed that limp so it's good to know what that's all about. this man is a very determined man. thank you so much, richard engel. appreciate that. so, everyone, what is in the bill? how big will the checks be? who's going to get one? answers to these questions and more now that the senate has passed the covid relief bill. that's next. ed the covid reliefl that's next. wanna build a gaming business that breaks the internet? that means working night and day... ...and delegating to an experienced live bookkeeper for peace of mind. your books are all set. so you can finally give john some attention. trusted experts. guaranteed accurate books. intuit quickbooks live.
10:58 am
♪ and a little bit of chicken fried ♪ ♪ cold beer on a friday night ♪ ♪ a pair of jeans that fit just right ♪ ♪ and the radio up ♪ get 5 boneless wings for $1 with any handcrafted burger. only at applebee's. voiceover: riders. wanderers on the road of life. the journey is why they ride. when the road is all you need, there is no destination. uh, i-i'm actually just going to get an iced coffee. well, she may have a destination this one time, but usually -- no, i-i usually have a destination. yeah, but most of the time, her destination is freedom. nope, just the coffee shop. announcer: no matter why you ride, progressive has you covered with protection starting at $79 a year. voiceover: 'cause she's a biker... please don't follow me in. voiceover: 'cause she's a biker... t-mobile is the leader in 5g. we also believe in putting people first by treating them right.
10:59 am
so we're upping the benefits without upping the price. introducing magenta max. based on how much smartphone data you use. plus get netflix on us, and taxes and fees included! you won't find this with the other guys. in fact, you'll pay more and get less. right now, pay zero costs to switch! and bring your phone -- we'll pay it off! only at t-mobile.
11:00 am
a very good day to all of you from msnbc world headquarters here in new york. welcome, everybody, to weekends with alex witt. we have this breaking news. president biden expected to speak any moment now on his $1.9 trillion covid relief bill. of course, one major step closer to becoming reality at this hour after a marathon 25-hour