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tv   The Rachel Maddow Show  MSNBC  January 26, 2022 9:00pm-10:00pm PST

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goodnight. >> although greg was governor of california for two full terms. eight years. over those course of two terms as governor, he nominated zero women to any position in the cabinet in any of his terms as governor he also, over those two terms, nominated hundreds of judges to the california state courts, roughly 98% of his nominees were men. wow. that is even hard to do. he made three state supreme court nominations while he was governor, all three were dudes. these dudes. and this was 1967 and 1975 when he was governor, so maybe that
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is just par for the course. but when reagan ran for president in 1980, that record came back around and bit him a little bit. all through the 1960s and 70s, believe it or not, the republican party platform, nationally, had explicitly and implicitly supported the equal rights amendment, the era, the constitutional amendment that would guarantee equal legal rights for all citizens regardless of sex. the equal rights amendment had been kicking around for decades by that point, even for generations by that point. and the republican party, nationally, had said for years on its platform that it was explicitly in favor of it. until they picked ronald reagan as their presidential nominee in 1980. reagan was really right wing. and he was a culture war kind of conservative. and sticking it to the feminists was exactly the kind of thing that he built his campaign around. and so in 1980, the republican
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party dropped its decades-long support for the era, which bothered some women in the republican party. and also, reagan had this terrible record on women's issues and hiring and appointing women from the time that he was governor of california. and so some republican women who were elected officials, members of congress, longtime party activists, women who had power in the republican party, they were not happy about ronald reagan being the nominee. they were disgruntled with their party's choice in 1980. by the time the 1980 presidential election rolled around, the reagan campaign had a clear lead. they were pretty sure their candidate was going to beat jimmy carter and win the presidency in november. but they did have this persistent worry about reagan's support among women. and for good reason. he did have a problem in his record when it came to women. and a lot of women were mad about the era thing, which was a big change and a dramatic one at that time. it only highlighted the other
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things that were wrong in reagan's record on that subject. and in fact, his polling consistently showed that reagan was polling way better with men that he was with women. his support among women was actually quite soft, given how well he was doing overall. and that was all apparently wearing enough to the ronald reagan campaign in 1980 that in october of that year, less than a month before the election, ronald reagan called a press conference and pulled this rabbit out of a hat. >> ronald reagan today promised to appoint a woman to the supreme court, if he is elected president. he made the promise to set the record straight on his attitude towards equal opportunities for women. more from chris wallace with the reagan campaign. >> as his own polls -- runs better among men than women, reagan took a dramatic step to reach out for female support. >> i am announcing today that one of the first supreme court vacancies in my administration
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will be filled by the most qualified woman i can possibly find. one who meets the high standards i would require for all appointments. it is time for a woman to sit among our highest courts. >> he -- has hurt him with some women. today's announcement shows his commitment to equal opportunity. today's supreme court announcement was a bold step for a campaign that has often been criticized for sitting on its lead. -- democrats would come home to mr. carter. they hope that today they made a new reason to go with reagan. chris wallace, nbc news, with a regan campaign in idaho falls, idaho. >> ronald reagan in october 1980, less than a month before the election against jimmy carter, pledge that if you were elected, he would appoint a woman to the supreme court. when the conservative media and republicans today have been pounding their chests and screaming about how wrong, just how wrong it is that joe biden made a pledge during his
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campaign that if he were elected, he would put an african american woman on the supreme court, the conservative media figures who are making a big deal about that, they really ought to be asked if they were that mad about ronald reagan making that same promise in 1980. and i have to tell you, this is not an obscure thing. when reagan made that promise, ahead of the 1980 election, it did not come from nowhere. nbc -- i mean, it was big news. but you could see that it was coming. nbc had reported, during the republican national convention earlier that year, that reagan was already floating the idea to republican women to try to appease them because they were so mad about his dismal record when it came to women and women's rights. it was very clear that he was doing this for political reasons, to try to win back women's votes. the record is clear. >> most of the day, reagan was in his suite on the 16th floor of the headquarters hotel.
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every once in a while, one television camera without sound and some still photographers were allowed into take pictures. no questions allowed. he met with 13 of his economic advisers for what was described as a routine briefing. reagan met with longtime congressional supporters to talk about the vice presidency. no pictures were allowed. but the camera was there when reagan sat down to meet with republican women leaders. some of these women had been furious over the refusal of the platform committee to support the equal rights amendment. after a short, smiling meeting, they said reagan had suggested that a woman might be just right for a supreme court appointment and that he had shown insensitivity to their problems. >> i believe that the governor and his statement on equal rights can send a positive message. >> that was months before he ultimately made that public promise. reagan had floated this idea and all the cameras see him floating this idea to female republican leaders.
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maybe i will promise to put a woman on the supreme court, would that work? that was at the rnc in the summer of 1980. then, in october of that year, a month before the election, he made it official and he made that public pledge that he would choose a woman supreme court justice if he was elected. there had never been one before. and he went on to nominate the first female justice, sandra day o'connor. in this past presidential election, candidate joe biden made a pledge of his own. just as there had never been a woman on the supreme court before ronald reagan promised it and then made it happen, there has also, to this day, never been a black woman supreme court justice. joe biden promised in the campaign this past year that he would make that happen. today, upon the retirement of longtime justice stephen breyer, that pledge from joe biden's operative. the white house is reminded of
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it today, since president biden plans to stick to that pledge. and yes, conservatives are going crazy about it. pretending there's absolutely no precedent for this, this is an outrageous thing that joe biden promised to do like ronald reagan did not exist. ronald who? it is also worth knowing, though, that when joe biden made this pledge during the campaign, a pledge that he is now going to live by and that will shape history from here on out -- until we got a new nominee on the court. when joe biden made this pledge, which we are now going to live by, it was a really consequential thing when he did it. it had a huge political impact when he did it. and it was also no sure thing that he was going to do it. at least by one account, his most influential staff members on the campaign told him, as late as the day as he made the pledge, that he should not do it. this is from a book about the
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biden campaign by reporters jonathan allen and amy parnas. the book is called "lucky: how joe biden barely won the presidency." this is such a great -- quote, jim clyburn had heard enough, or really not enough. the house democratic whip pushed him out of its seat at charleston gillard center concert hall. he dashed for the exit with the urgency that france recognized as a 79 year old man's hurry to find a restroom. but clyburn didn't need to use the bathroom. he needed to find joe biden, and fast, before the end of the commercial break during that nights presidential debate. it was february 25th, four days before the south carolina primary and biden was blowing it again. almost an hour and 45 minutes had passed in the debate already and biden had not mentioned the one promise clyburn had said would nail down black votes in south carolina throughout the rest of the primary and in the general election. clyburn was shocked, but not stunned. he made a beeline for the backstage area.
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pete buttigieg approached to greet the most powerful democrat in south carolina politics. clyburn brushed mayor pete aside, his eyes darted around, and he finally found biden. they huddled together out of earshot of the other candidates. there was not much time before biden had to be back on stage for the final segment of the debate. quote, you have had a couple of opportunities to mention naming a black woman to the supreme court, clyburn lectured his friend of nearly half a century, like a school teacher scolding a child. i'm telling you, don't you leave the stage tonight without making it known that you will do that. biden had seem to get it the night before, when clyburn talked to him at a congressional black conk us reception aboard the uss yorktown, a decommissioned aircraft carrier that sat in charleston harbor -- biden was desperate to get clyburn's endorsement. very few endorsements carry weight in modern politics. in south carolina, though, a perception had built out that clyburns imprimatur meant
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everything. voters believed it. the media believed it. and even most political insiders -- there was no black political figure in the history of the state of south carolina that had more influence with black voters, either inside carolina or across the deep south. james clyburn wanted to endorse biden, in fact, he had no intention of endorsing any other candidate, but he could also see how badly the wheels had come off biden's campaign earlier and he was a savvy enough politician to know that there was not much point in endorsing someone who would lose. on the uss yorktown the night before the debate, clyburn and a few of his cbc colleagues offered biden counsel and made one amounted to a political ask. quote, find a way to say that you are a part of picking the first latino woman member of the united states supreme court, sotomayor, and that you are looking forward to making the first african american woman a member of the supreme court. clyburn believed, and there is good evidence to support his view, that a supreme court justice was worth a lot more to the black community that a vice president.
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vp's come and go, clyburn thought, i'll doris vice president. where is he now? but a supreme court seat, well, that is for life. the meeting on the yorktown was fresh in front of man for biden the next day as he prepared for that night's debate. he understood the difference between a narrow victory and a blowout. his margins with black voters. if he committed to naming a black woman to the united states supreme court, that might give him a lift. i think i should do, it he told his advisers. don't do it, simone sanders replied. speaking in concert with a group. if you wanted to do it at some point, his advisers agreed with one another, he should make a carefully consider dirty plan around announcing that. it was not the kind of thing he should just throw out there on a debate stage. besides, it might look like he was pandering and might backfire. biden was torn. but clyburn and his congressional black caucus colleagues believed their message had landed. so, the next night, -- he grew more and more frustrated. one opening, two, then three,
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why won't he say, it clyburn ask himself. finally, clyburn took matters into his own hands at that commercial break. backstage, biden looked his friend in the eye and not at his assurance. clyburn returned to his feet to watch the end of the debate. and then, of course, this is what happened at the end of the debate. >> we talked about the supreme court. i'm looking forward to making sure there is a black woman on the supreme court to make sure, in fact, that every -- not a joke. i worked very hard for that. -- she said, you are defined by their courage and redeemed by your loyalty. i am loyal. i do what i say. >> i am loyal. i do what i say, after being drowned out, briefly, by applause in the room. i do what i say. but he said he would do is put an african american woman on the united states supreme court if he was elected president and
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had a nomination to make. that was four days before the south carolina primary. it was the first time he had ever made that pledge and the crowd went wild. south carolina congressman cyburn endorsed president biden the next day. in an incredibly emotional and effective endorsement. clyburn's endorsement is credited to this day by many people with joe biden winning south carolina, winning super tuesday. and ultimately, thereby, winning the democratic nomination and the presidency of the united states. but congressman clyburn himself told nbc news today that what he credits biden's win in south carolina to it's not actually his own endorsement of joe biden. but he credits biden's win in south carolina to is that pledge that biden made on the debate stage the night before his endorsement. that pledge clyburn pushed him backstage to make. that an african american woman would finally be nominated to the nation's highest court for the first time in our country's history if joe biden were elected president.
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and now, here we are today, january 2022, officially waiting to hear who president biden's nominee will be. knowing he will keep that pledge. and, having the opportunity now to ask his former advisers from the campaign if it really went down like that. and if they really truly did tell him not to do it that night, to not take that leap, not their, not then. joining us now, i am delighted to say, is the simone sanders, former chief spokesperson -- simon also just signed on to host a new show here on msnbc, which is everything at msnbc over the moon. miss sanders, it is such a pleasure to have you here and it is such a pleasure that you are joining msnbc. i am so grateful for you. >> thank you, rachel, i'm happy to be here. you put the tee as some people call it, right out there at the top of the show. i like the lead up today. >> let me ask you if the
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account in that book is, broadly, correct. did you and other advisers to president biden think that that was not the right move when he made that pledge at that debate in south carolina? >> i will note, a number of the things in that book are not true, but that is true. there was a lot of debate in the lead up to that debate in south carolina, in february, about when then candidate should do. there is never question about if the commitment was real. so much of the commitment that the print -- about making sure that his running mate would be a woman. that is a commitment that joe biden himself made, something that he felt very strongly about and, similarly, is the commitment that he made on the debate stage. the book is also true not some folks did not want to be seen as pandering to just throw it out there on a debate stage and for folks to say that the then candidate biden was just doing it to get votes of black voters.
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many of us, people who know the president very well, i count myself among those folks, know where he stands on those issues. i would like to know that joe biden went out there on that debate stage in february and he went with his got and his shot was right, rachel. and today, folks all across america were excited. i tweeted, it was a great day to be a black woman in america -- and this energy that folks are feeling about the democratic side of the aisle, i think voters and democrats and strategists would be good to remember that. and if i were at the white house right now, i would have asked to get in the meeting and say, how are we thinking about galvanizing people around this and keeping the energy up through the rest of this year into the midterm elections? >> having so recently departed the administration, i want to ask for your candid take on how well setup they are, how
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organized they are to handle the big political lift that is a supreme court nomination. there are always things that happen in supreme court nominations that are a surprise. they are always difficult, even when you think you have the votes in advance. it is a big political undertaking. it is a huge responsibility to the country after history. do you feel like they are strung out from a difficult first year? do you feel like they have got this? do you feel like this is a well organized part of the way the white house works? >> i think this particular piece is a well organized part of the way this particular white house works. the president is a former chairperson of the senate judiciary committee. he has presided over a number of confirmations battles when it comes to supreme court justices. the vice president, a former member of the senate judiciary committee, has also been a member on the committee,
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questioning potentially supreme court nominees under the trump administration. and then, there are, and it has been reported out there and i will tell you is absolutely true, that the judges piece in the judicial piece is something that then biden harris campaign was that extremely focused on. if in fact joe biden were to win the nomination, what would be the plan for judges? much has been made -- talking about the fact that the obama administration left a lot of judges on the table. and the trump administration confirmed a lot of judges two very important seats at the federal level. well, the biden harris administration has done a very good job of confirming judges with diverse backgrounds, folks who are not just prosecutors, but public defenders, people who had civil rights backgrounds. this particular white house has really set -- and i think anybody, objectively, looking at it would say the same.
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>> i think that's -- a, it is invaluable to have that perspective from you because you have seen it up close, but i think it is also objectively observable from the outside, in terms of how they have handled nominations thus far. simone sanders, former chief spokesperson for vice president harris. -- simone, i will just say, it was an electric moment at msnbc when we learned that you are coming on board. i am so looking forward to your new show. i am so looking forward to see everything that you will do with us. thank you for joining us and thank you for being here with us tonight. >> thank you, rachel. the pressure is on. i'm going to go and practice tomorrow. >> i'm here. i'm a phone call away. i'll be right there to help if i can. >> thank you. >> all right. today, of course, it was nbc's inestimable pete williams who first broke the news that justin stephen breyer was retiring.
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i was glued to that coverage. as pete broke that news on our air, here on msnbc. and then, after pete had concluded his reporting, i cheated on my msnbc family because i immediately wanted to jump over to npr to find what's nina totenberg reporting would be on the announcement, knowing that with her experience as a supreme court reporter and with her deep connections to so many of the justices and those around them on the court, she would have detail and insight that no one else had. as to where this decision came from and what it will mean for the court. and indeed, all day long, her reporting for npr has been priceless. just a piece of it today -- quote, if he had not been a justice, hollywood might have made him up. deeply intellectual, fluent in not just law but also philosophy, art, and culture, he is also absent minded, geeky, self deprecatingly funny, physically fit, but so preoccupied that he three times suffered serious injuries when akram's bicycle.
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in 1983, mr. breyer was a final to fill a supreme court vacancy. he was about to come to washington for an interview with then president bill clinton, when he was knocked off his bike by a car. with broken ribs and a punctured lung, he took the train to the meeting. he was in considerable pain and the word was the meeting did not go particularly well. clinton chose ruth bader ginsburg instead. but a year later when it was stephen breyer who got the nomination. -- also said, quote, in many respects, breyer's monuments are not so much of the decisions that he authored as the decisions that he influenced behind the scenes, he pushed and prodded his fellow justices for consensus on the obamacare -- joining us now is, nina totenberg, national treasure.
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miss totenberg, thank you for coming with us tonight. >> it is lovely to be here, rachel, after a long day. i did want to say one thing to you about ronald reagan and joe biden. these are two men who -- they don't, generally, make promises that they do not believe and. and reagan actually believed in the idea -- and when he, just before he made -- a bunch of his young aides tried to talk him out of it and they said, you should name scalia, somebody like that. not use your first, and possibly only, nomination to this woman that we don't know that much about. and he said, i like her. she is a westerner. i like her ethics. i like the way she is. and i will name her. i made a pledge, and i will live by it. >> in terms of this decision
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today, from president biden, as you can tell from the start of the show, there is so much emphasis on who the president will pick for what will soon be the open seat. i wondered if you could talk a little bit about how the court will change with the loss of justice breyer. i thought your reporting today at npr about, not only is pragmatism, but is behind the scenes effect on other rulings, on his fellow justices, that seems like something that is pretty hard to shop for in another nominee because you don't know how these justices will work together. it also just seems like a rare quality. >> it is a very rare quality. it stands apart from his very strong belief that the trust that the american people have in the supreme court is based on some idea of consensus. and not having rapid changes,
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suddenly, to make it look like it is just a political decision dressed up in a black robe. last year, he had a good term. he managed to get some of that consensus about some things. this year, it is something else. we literally could see him folding his head in his hands like this. he sees the court is going very dramatically to the right. potentially, overturning roe v. wade. now, possibly heading in the direction of overruling the idea that colleges and universities can use race as a factor in college admissions. you see it in the desire to move very quickly in the motion of gun rights. he is not a fool. he is 83 years old. he has a lot of experience. and i think he ultimately
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looked around and said, i can only do this for so much longer. the democrats will lose control of the senate. in the next election. and if that happens, the next opening will not be for two years. so, i have to do it now. >> often, the supreme court -- our announced at the close of the court's term, so that would be, usually, in june. justice breyer actually did do a political favor to the white house by announcing that he would retire in june, but making the announcement now so they could start to work on his successor. i wonder if that means that the white house was sort of right in terms of how they tried to temper so many calls from the left and from commentators and dad flies and progressive roots, really trying to push justice breyer to retire. thinking that that might hardened his resolve to stay. i wonder what your view is of his decision on the timing and
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the sort of courtesy to the white house, the political courtesy of giving them a few months than they might have otherwise had. >> well, i think the white house chief of staff posted some pictures on twitter today with an envelope which was byron white's retirement letter claimed that -- he called him over -- in the clinton white house -- he called him over and he said, here, i want you to take this -- and i think that was in february, because i had the misfortune to be away. and it is a favor that justices have done, not always, but in the last 20 years or so, from time to time, not always.
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but when they make this decision, when they actually have made a decision, when they are not on the fence, justin kennedy, i think -- i think justice breyer had finally made up his mind and i expected that if he would do this, he would do it in january and february at the latest, early march and give the white house time to completely that a candidate, get them confirmed, understanding that there are not that many rules left, if any, that republicans can use to block the democratic nomination right now. as long as it's a 50/50 senate and kamala harris is the vice president i think that the democrats will stick together, barring some unforeseen revelations that make it more difficult. >> nina toting bird, legal affairs correspondent for npr, thank you so much for your time tonight.
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i will insist anytime there is supreme court news this big, that you keep that guard and background just so we can see -- >> it's perfect and it will be a visual cue to the world about something big has happened. even if -- >> it's so-called truth cal -- i am a technical idiot, so -- >> you can't. you are not allowed. >> i'm not allowed. okay. >> thank you, nina. much more ahead tonight. stay with us. [ sneeze ] are you ok? oh, it's just a cold. if you have high blood pressure, a cold is not just a cold. unlike other cold medicines,
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13th, when news broke that supreme court justice antonin scalia had died. that same day, senate republican leader mitch mcconnell announced he would not allow a vote on scalia's successor because it was too close to the next presidential election. scalia died in
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february and the election was nine months away at that point. it didn't matter. that nine months is plenty of time to move a nomination, even a controversial one. it didn't matter that plenty of justices through our nation's history had been confirmed in election years. senator mcconnell said he would not allow president obama to fill that supreme court seat. and he wouldn't even allow hearings for that seat. he was going to hold the seat open for more than a year and pretend that president obama had not even made a nomination. in so doing, republicans were able to throw their proverbial jackets and purses over that seat just long enough to save it for a republican president to nominate neil gorsuch. four years later, four years later, in 2020, another supreme court justice tragically passed away. this time ruth bader ginsburg. her death also came during an election year. but this time, the election was not nine months away. it was literally
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45 days away. and senator mitch mcconnell decided, yeah, all that stuff i decided about not confirming a justice in an election year, you can forget that. he proceeded to rush through the nomination of amy coney barrett at record speed. it took 27 days from tip to tail. and that, of course, is a glaring example of senator mcconnell's hypocrisy and duplicity, i'm sorry to have to say that way. but it's also a precedent. and democrats said today, upon the announced retirement of justice stephen breyer that they want to confirm justice breyer's confirmation just as quickly as amy coney barrett's. meaning that they think the whole thing can be done in the month. and democrats control the senate by the thinnest of margins. but to the extent that senator mitch mcconnell and the republicans have control over anything related to this confirmation, i think we should reasonably expect, based on recent history, that we could expect anything from them, anything that they
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can control, they will control, to try to put a spanner in the works here. also there just isn't any room -- there is no wiggle room, or room for error. or room for unforeseen circumstances. there is a dead even split between republicans and democrats in the senate right now. as far as i know, our nation has never confirmed a supreme court justice with an evenly divided, 50/50 senate. how do democrats plan to get this done and what dirty tricks are they on alert for? joining us now is member of the senate judiciary committee senator amy klobuchar. thank you for joining us, i know it's a busy time. >> thanks rachel, it's been a wonderful show. it's wonderful to be on and watch simone and nina. i don't have the cool background of nina totenberg. but i'm ready for your questions. >> i'm committed to your idea that we
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need a national bat signal. nina totenberg has put up her garden backdrop, something big has happened. but i'm also practically aware that she doesn't know how to take it down. so i'm worried she will be constantly giving -- [laughs] >> rachel, it's nighttime, she still headed up. but let's get to the matter at hand. >> let's talk about how this process is going to go. we know how these things go by the book. but i also know how perverted the process has been in recent years by stuff that mitch mcconnell has been willing to do. both with open seats and to fill seats. are you worried about there being shenanigans or dirty tricks that you haven't previously had to deal with in terms of filling seats? >> well, we are used to it. they throw everything at these nominees and we must be ready to defend them and make the case for them. because they themselves can't go on tv. i remember
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playing this role when elaina kagan was nominated, and when sonia sotomayor was. getting the true facts out about their story. but we have here a very different situation. it is a 50/50 senate. but dick durbin controls the gavel. and i will say, under his leadership and senator schumer's leadership on the floor, it has been noted that we have confirmed more judges last year than any president has put forth since ronald reagan, since you started your show that way. so we have a lot of experience getting this done. we have a white house that has vetted a number of nominees, well aware that this could be coming down the pike. we have so much respect for justice breyer and his record. but we knew there was a chance he could step down. so i feel like we are in as good a situation as we can be. so after the nomination is made, you look at the numbers. sotomayor was 66 days, elaina kagan was -- days. gorsuch was 65 days, kavanaugh was 88 days
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and amy coney barrett was 27 days. who is counting, though? i think everyone will be. a lot of this will be us than meeting with the nominee, they tried to meet with everyone on the committee and other senators. we have a judicial questionnaire that some of them have filled out in the last few years. so that is helpful. that gives us a head start. and then senator durbin schedules the hearing. it is usually, as you know, a day of openings, and then from the senators and the opening statements. it's two days of questions. and then usually a panel of experts at the end. because we are 50/50, you don't have that immediate vote out of committee, unless we do pick up a republican vote. and republicans have, in the last few decades, voted for nominees from democratic presidents. so we recall that. if it is split, we will use something called rule 14. that
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will allow senator durbin to get it to senator schumer and that gives us a floor vote. but when you are 50 50, yeah, it makes for more shenanigans. >> and senator, in terms of the timing from the white house, how important is that timing in terms of when you first get the name of the nominee? obviously, the process has to take as long as it is going to take, once it is formally before the committee committee and the senate. but what should the white house be doing? >> they want to interview people, they know that this will be coming. president biden, with his vast experience, knows the importance of talking to the nominees. so i assume he will get it down to a few people and then give us a name. but of course, the sooner the petr. and i think that that is what was so good about the timing of justice breyer's announcement. he knows what is going on and he knows this is not an easy situation. anyone who watches
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c-span realizes that. and so not waiting until the very end or the beginning of the term makes this a lot more doable. >> senator amy klobuchar, member of the senate judiciary committee, rules master of the senate, also very handy on nights like this, senator. it's great to have you here. >> all right, thank you. >> much more ahead here, stay with us. med. or even well-spoken. (man) ooooooo. (vo) but there's just something about being well-adventured. (vo) adventure has a new look. discover more in the all-new subaru forester wilderness. love. it's what makes subaru, subaru.
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for you on the story that we have been covering this evening, the retirement of the supreme court justice stephen breyer. the presidents official schedule for tomorrow has already gone on tonight, and it's interesting. the president official schedule asked distributed by the white house does not include this. but the chief white house correspondent for nbc news, peter alexander, has just reported, has just confirmed,
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that even those on the schedule, president biden and justice stephen breyer are due to appear tomorrow together at the white house. this will be presumably the formal announcement of justin breyer's retirement. again, breyer and the president appearing together, so, not just meeting together, but doing some kind of event at the white house tomorrow. we just learned that from nbc news. joining us now, is our friend dahlia lithwick -- at slate. com. her article today about stephen breyer's were tire meant is titled, the deep irony of stephen breyer's bare knuckled exit from the supreme court. i think about stephen breyer in a lot of different way. i never, ever think about his knuckles, bear or otherwise. dahlia, it's great to see you. thank you for being here. >> it's good to be here on a day, rachel, when everyone is a little bit giddy. it's so rare, i feel, to have good news. >> it's also history. i get like this about state of the union and stuff.
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there are just some things, at least from the news business side of it, we are about to get a supreme court nominee. if you are lucky, that happens one time in your career when you have the honor and the responsibility of getting to cover the news. it is always a huge deal, whether you love the nominee or not. this is a big deal. this is varsity level news. and it is thrilling. and also, i have to say, it is a pleasure to be able to cover this, knowing that stephen breyer, justice breyer, has chosen to leave on his own terms. we are not covering him because he passed away, we are not covering him because he was forced out in difficult circumstances. it does seem like he left on his own terms. >> he did. i will say, i am a little sad for him, rachel. and i know we talked about it a bunch. even on this show. there is no point in asking justice breyer if judges are partisan and political because it is like asking the easter bunny if there is such a thing
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as an easter bunny. he believed so deeply in this notion that the justices are not partisan, that the court is something bigger, something better than that. and, in a weird way, there is a quality of this that is so aspirational and telegenic at the same time that -- and i guess that is my white knuckle never in my piece. in a weird way, because he is pulling the ripcord he is doing it early. this is a very political move to get the biden white house an opportunity to fill this seat before any shenanigans, as you and senator klobuchar talked about, could happen. the signaling almost feels like he is giving up on that aspiration that he has pushed in the face of relentless pressure, just admit it, justice breyer, it is all just a game of politics. you are a football. step down.
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and he -- when he was pushing on that -- the more he dug in. so, there is a part of me that feels as though the ideas he stood for, and nina talked about this so eloquently, about bipartisanship. about cooperating, about not guam-ing on to the credit. letting someone else look good, getting results. the deep friendships he had with justice scalia, justice o'connor. it feels like all of that detonated around him. he is standing there -- it is not partisan. at the same time he is making a really partisan retirement. >> those values that you just talked about, do you think that the justice in retiring in his meeting at the white house tomorrow with president biden, that he will try to shape the choice of his successor toward somebody with those same values? >> i don't think he would ever say anything of the sort, rachel. i think you would think it was unseemly.
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and he often would talk about, he doesn't have any opinions on judicial nominations. i think you would describe it as asking a chicken for its recipe for chicken -- which, don't even, i don't know what it means. he would not think it was appropriate to talk deeply about those kinds of political things. but at the same time, i do think he really, really values the idea that the person who follows him we'll look at the court in this kind of mystical oracular way, even if that is a disappearing value. >> dahlia lithwick, senior editor and correspondent at slate. com, thank you for being here. it is a big night and at nights like this, i am always grateful for you to be here. thanks. >> thanks rachel. >> we'll be right back. stay with us. i love it. with guacamole. all over. helps the skin, helps the body.
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it for us tonight. we will see you again tomorrow. now, it's time for the last word with lawrence o'donnell. good evening, lawrence. >> good evening, rachel. and the brilliant executive producer of this program, the boss of me, melissa reyerson, in her first text to me this morning, said, it is a slow news day. in explaining the early outline of this hour, slow news day said melissa reyerson. and here we are with a supreme court vacancy coming up. and we have jim clyburn and joining us and so, thank you rachel very much for that dramatic reading of backstage events at that south carolina debate when jim clyburn convinced joe biden, as a candidate, to pledge that