New report warns of more violence from Trump election fraud narrativesThe Rachel Maddow Show
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- 18 Mar 2021
Tonight's guests are Senator Raphael Warnock and Debbie Berkowitz, former OSHA chief of staff.
The Rachel Maddow Show weeknights at 9:00 Eastern on MSNBC. It has been a little over twenty four hours since police say a twenty one year old man entered an Atlanta area spa with a gun. He killed four people there and injured one other. He then drove about half an hour, forty five minutes down the road, entered two more spoors and shot and killed four other people at those two locations, eight people dead. All three of the stores targeted by that suspect were staff predominantly by people of Asian descent.
Seven of the eight victims were women. All but one of the women killed were of Asian descent. The suspect was apprehended and taken into custody late last night. He was charged today with eight counts of murder. Law enforcement say that he have he has admitted to the shootings. Police say he told them that he has a sex addiction and that's why he says he killed all those women working in those stores because he wanted to eliminate his temptation for his addiction or something.
Police say in talking with the suspect, he gave them no indication that the killings were racially motivated, even if they did predominantly target Asian women. A police captain in the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department, which is the Cherokee County where the first shooting took place, when he discussed the suspect's explanation for the shooting, he told reporters it was because the suspect was having a, quote, bad day yesterday. That's what he said, as if that was an explanation for why the young man apparently decided to murder eight people.
The police captain said exactly, quote, yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did. Those remarks seeming to imply that having a bad day is the explanation we need for what the murderer did. Those remarks were met with an immediate backlash, given the nature of the crime here. It was shortly thereafter discovered that that same police captain himself had promoted racist anti Asian coronavirus slogans online. This is a since deleted post from that police captain's Facebook account saying how much he loves this new t shirt that he got.
And you can see there the shirt says covid-19 imported virus from China. That's the guy who said this guy was just having a bad day and no indication of any racial animus as to whether this gets charged as a hate crime or under any other federal statutes, the FBI said today they're prepared to investigate these murders as a federal matter. If information comes to light, pointing to a potential federal civil rights violation, we shall see. But regardless of what the suspect says his motivation was or how police characterize it, regardless of what that kind of an investigation may eventually find, it's impossible to divorce these murders from the backdrop of radically increasing attacks targeting Asian-Americans recently, hate crimes against Asian-Americans increased by nearly one hundred and fifty percent in the last year alone.
One nonprofit that tracks these things says there's been nearly thirty eight hundred incidents involving hate and harassment directed at Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders just in the last year in the United States. Michelle O is a state senator in Georgia. She's the first Asian-American woman to serve as a senator in that state. She told The Washington Post today that last night's shootings, quote, took place in a landscape where Asian-Americans are increasingly terrified and fearful for their lives and their safety because of these escalating threats against our people.
We now, of course, have a woman of black and South Asian descent sitting in one of the highest positions of power in this country, Vice President Kamala Harris is the first female vice president, the first black vice president, the first South Asian vice president. She spoke a little bit today about how the speculation on the motive of the shooter right now is a little bit beside the point in terms of the impact of these killings on the Asian-American community.
Regardless of what that killer ever does or doesn't say or explain about these murders, the fact of them speaks for itself. The investigation is ongoing. We don't yet know, we're not yet clear about the motive, but I do want to say to our Asian-American community that we stand with you and understand how this has frightened and shocked and outraged all people. But knowing the the increasing level of hate crime against our Asian-American, our brothers and sisters, we also want to speak out in solidarity with them and acknowledge that none of us should ever be silent in the face of any form of hate.
Vice President Kamala Harris today on the horrific mass shooting at three different sites in the Atlanta metro area last night. As we continue to follow that developing story out of Georgia tonight, I need to tell you just a few minutes here on the show, we're going to be joined live by the new US senator from Georgia, the Reverend Raphael Warnock. Senator Warner gave what's known as a maiden speech today in the Senate when a newly elected senator makes his or her first speech on the Senate floor.
It's kind of a landmark thing for that, Senator, also for the Senate. Lots of senators tend to turn out to see these things when they happen. Senator Warner today started his maiden speech with a prayer for the families of those killed in the Atlanta attacks last night. He said this kind of attack on the Asian community should cause us to recommit ourselves to the way of peace, what he described as an active peace that prevents these kinds of tragedies from happening in the first place.
And just from that beginning, which actually he did sort of adlib ahead of his prepared remarks, you are reminded that this is not just any new senator made in speeches are always a big deal. But this particular new senator is also the senior pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the church where the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached from 1960 until he was assassinated in nineteen sixty eight. Ebenezer Baptist is the congregation of the great civil rights icon John Lewis, who left us last year and for whom the twenty one twenty twenty one redrafting of the Voting Rights Act is named this year.
Reverend Raphael Warnock. Senator Warnock was John Lewis, his pastor at Ebenezer Baptist. And so, no, this was not like any other maiden speech you've ever heard before in the Senate. It is it is something it is really something to have a pastor with that kind of experience and that kind of talent take the floor of the Senate as if it is a pulpit. My dear friend Steve Benen, who works on the show, who I've worked with now for more than a decade, Steve is somebody who watches the Congress more closely and with more intense focus on the details than any other living person I know who is not themselves a member of the Congress.
After Senator Warner gave the speech today, Steve Benen wrote to me today to say that in his lifetime, he has never seen a better maiden speech in the Senate. And I am going to play some of it for you. Now, you probably saw quotes. You may have heard that it happened. You should actually see some of it, because I think it's I think it's an amazing thing to see. But it's also the kind of moment that can potentially move things that could move the proverbial needle in this case on the vote and on the lie that the last election was stolen.
And we must therefore respond to that lie with some sort of material changes to the right to vote. Just watch this. If you are, I'll just tell you, you will thank me if you are doing the dishes or if you've got the show on in the background while you're doing some other stuff. Do yourself a favor. Pause me for a minute if you need some time to settle down. But just take a second. Just sit down for a second and and watch this.
I think you'll be glad you did. I was on and on a few occasions to stand with our hero and my parishioner. John Lewis. I was his pastor, but I'm clear he was my mentor. On more than one occasion, we boarded buses together after Sunday church services. As part of our Souls to the Polls program, encouraging the Ebenezer Church family and communities of faith to participate in the democratic process. Now, just a few months after Congressman Lewis's death, there are those in the Georgia legislature, some who even dare to praise his name.
That amount trying to get rid of sundy souls to the polls, making it a crime for people who pray together to get on a bus together in order to vote together. I think that's wrong. Matter of fact, I think that a vote is a kind of prayer. For the kind of world we desire for ourselves and for our children, to be sure, we have seen these kinds of voter suppression tactics before, they are part of a long and shameful history in Georgia and throughout our nation, but refusing to be denied.
Georgian citizens and citizens across our country braved the heat and the cold and the rain, some standing in line for five hours, six hours, 10 hours just to exercise their constitutional right to vote.
Young people, old people, sick people. Working people already underpaid, forced to lose wages. To pay a kind of poll tax. While standing in line to vote. And now to some politicians respond, well, they are trying to make it a crime. To give people water. And a snack. As they wait in lines that are obviously being made longer by their draconian actions, think about that. Think about that. They are the ones making the lines longer.
Through these draconian actions. And then they want to make it a crime to bring grandma some water while she's waiting in a line that they're making longer. Make no mistake. This is democracy in reverse. Some politicians did not approve of the choice made by the majority of voters in a hard fought election in which each side got the chance to make its case to the voters and rather than adjusting their agenda.
Rather than changing their message. They are busy trying to change the rules. We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights, unlike anything we've ever seen since the Jim Crow era, since the January election, some two hundred and fifty voter suppression bills have been introduced by state legislatures all across the country, from Georgia to Arizona, from New Hampshire to Florida. Using the big lie. A voter fraud. As a pretext for voter suppression.
The same big lie that led to a violent insurrection on this very capital. The day after my election. Within twenty four hours. We elected Georgia's first African-American Jewish senator. Hours later, the capital was assaulted. We see in just a few precious hours the tension. Very much alive in the soul of America. And the question before all of us at every moment is. What will we do? To push us in the right direction, surely. They ought to be at least 60.
In this chamber who believe, as I do, that before most powerful words uttered in a democracy. Are the people have spoken? Therefore, we must ensure that all of the people can speak. But if not. We must still pass voting rights. The right to vote is preservative of all other rights. It is not just another issue alongside other issues, it is foundational. It is a reason why any of us. Has the privilege of standing here in the first place.
It is about the covenant we have with one another as an American people, e pluribus unum out of many, one it above all else, must be protected. And so as I close and nobody believes a preacher when he says, as I close.
Let me say that I as a man of faith. I believe that democracy is the political enactment of a spiritual idea. The sacred worth of all human beings. The notion that we all have within us a spark of the divine and a right to participate in the shaping of our destiny, John Lewis understood that and was beaten on a bridge defending it. Amelia Boynton. Like so many women not mentioned, nearly enough was gassed on that same bridge. A white woman named Viola Lewisohn was killed.
Medgar Evers was murdered in his own driveway. Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, two Jews and an African-American standing up for that sacred idea of democracy, also paid the ultimate price. And we in this body. Would be stopped and stymied by partisan politics, short term political gain. Senate procedure. I say, let's get this done, no matter what, I urge my colleagues to pass these two bills, strengthen and lengthen the course of our democracy, secure our credibility as the premier voice for freedom loving people and democratic movements all over the world.
And when the future. For all of our children, Mr. President, I yield the floor. The new US senator from the great state of Georgia, the Reverend Raphael Warnock, you very rarely hear applause like that in the United States Senate. His maiden speech today ending in a thunderous round of applause from the Senate senators who gathered to hear him give his first remarks as a US senator. I mean, if that's what debate and deliberation regularly sounded like in the United States Senate, boy would be a different country than we are.
And a lot more people would want to run for public office than I already do. Senator Warner is going to join us live here in just a couple of minutes. But that idea that he is talking about that the fight for voting rights is, yes, the latest battle in a long war for democracy, one that stretches back to the civil rights movement and well before that, but also one that is now being fought in this new crucible of the violent right wing attack on the Capitol 10 weeks ago today, which at its core was an objection, a rejection of democracy, a refusal to accept the results of an election in which the voters chose to oust the last president and install a new one.
That is the new crucible in which we are having these voting rights fights right now. The director of national intelligence today put out an unclassified report on the threat of domestic violent extremism. Here's the top finding. It says, quote, The intelligence community assesses that domestic violent extremists pose an elevated threat in twenty twenty one. Enduring extremist motivations pertaining to biases against minority populations and perceived government overreach will almost certainly continue to drive domestic violent extremist radicalization and mobilization to violence.
And it says this newer sociopolitical developments, such as narratives of fraud in the recent general election, the emboldening impact of the violent breach of the US Capitol, conditions related to the covid-19 pandemic, and conspiracy theories promoting violence will almost certainly spur some domestic violent extremists to try to engage in violence in the United States this year. The violent breach of the US Capitol, the narratives of fraud in the recent general election, which was the ostensible justification for the Capitol attack, I mean, this is the intelligence community reporting that those things will, quote, almost certainly drive domestic violent extremists to commit more violent acts in our country this year, almost certainly from the intelligence community.
Former President Trump is nevertheless still thumping away at this theme. Fox brought him on the air last night to continue to say that he actually won the twenty twenty election, that there were millions of votes that were frauds. He said our Supreme Court didn't have the courage to overturn elections that should have been overturned. He is still preaching this stuff, still stoking it. It already led to the capital attack. The director of national intelligence says today it will almost certainly lead to more violence.
He's still pushing it. Fox is still pushing it on their air, inviting him on the air to wax eloquent about it. And Republicans in the states really are just running with the whole idea that there was some sort of indefinable, unprovable, but definitely bad fraud in the last election. They can't prove it. They haven't been able to prosecute anyone for it. There's no public evidence of it whatsoever. But they just feel so concerned about it that they are rolling back voting rights more aggressively than they have in more than a generation.
I mean, no matter that every time their theories and feelings and vague allegations on this stuff, any time those things get tested, it's just a disaster for them. Here's the latest one, which I find actually quite amazing. This is out of Arizona this week. After the election, the Republican Party in Arizona filed a lawsuit saying that elections officials in Arizona's largest county hadn't counted their votes properly, that if they would just recount the votes in a different way, they would find all the fraud that allowed Joe Biden to falsely appear to win the election in Arizona when really Donald Trump must have won.
And no matter how many audits the county did to prove that their vote totals were correct and Joe Biden won that county and won the state, the Arizona Republican Party just kept pushing on with this lawsuit. Well, here's how that lawsuit finally came to an end this week. This is from the judge's ruling in Arizona this week. Quote, The plaintiffs lawsuit was groundless. There was no evidence at all of phantom voters or manipulated vote totals or any other wrongdoing.
These were flimsy excuses for a lawsuit. The plaintiff, the Arizona Republican Party, the judge said, is gaslighting. It evinces a lack of good faith. The First Amendment does not give a litigant the right to file and maintain a groundless lawsuit. Arizona law gives political parties a privileged position in the electoral process on which our self-government depends. The public has a right to expect the Arizona Republican Party to conduct itself respectfully when it participates in that process. It has failed to do so in this case.
And so for filing a groundless lawsuit in bad faith, the judge ordered the Arizona Republican Party to pay the state thousands of dollars in attorney's fees to pay the attorney's fees for the other side to compensate them for having to defend themselves against the Republican Party's junk lawsuit. Judge concludes the ruling, quote, This is a final order. No matters remain pending in this case. And thus has been the fate. Basically, every single lawsuit that Republicans have filed challenging the results of the 20 20 election, asserting vague feelings without evidence about there must have been some fraud.
I mean, not all of these court cases have gotten a scorching judge's ruling and forced the Republicans to pay the defendants legal fees. But that is how it goes sometimes having failed with dozens of efforts like that to try to throw out or reverse the results of the last election, Republicans in Arizona are now turning to the next best thing. They're taking up all sorts of bills, trying to stop people from voting in the next one, try to make it as hard as possible for people to vote in the next election.
Arizona is, of course, in good company on this score. It's the biggest story in American politics right now in Arizona and Iowa, Georgia and Texas and every state basically where Republicans are in charge. Republican lawmakers are drafting literally hundreds of bills to restrict voting rights. Voter suppression bills that taken together, as Senator Warner said, would represent the biggest rollback of voting rights since Jim Crow. You'll recall that last week on the show we spoke with Latasha Brown from the group Black Voters Matter.
We talked to her about her organization and other groups taking out a big ad in the Atlanta Journal Constitution and some other papers calling on the business community in the state of Georgia to take a stand with voting rights advocates against the new voter suppression legislation that's being passed by Republicans in the state legislature there. The ad urged Georgia voters to contact the CEOs of a bunch of big Georgia based companies to let them know that we expect them to stand up and support Georgia voters as we support them.
Since then, there have been protests and pickets to try to bolster these demands, to try to get the business community to side with voting rights and to use their power and their muscle in the state legislatures to turn back these Republican bills to make voting harder. And the Georgia Chamber of Commerce has put out a couple of statements in recent days, first to sort of generic statements supporting free and fair elections in a general sense. Then the chamber told CNBC that the chamber does oppose certain provisions of the anti voting bills that are being passed by the Republicans in the Georgia legislature, although the chamber wouldn't say specifically what they opposed.
Big companies based in Georgia, like Coca-Cola and Home Depot, then told The Washington Post that they were aligned with the Chamber of Commerce on this issue. Then they went wobbly, though Home Depot later called The Washington Post back to clarify that what they said doesn't mean that the company is actually opposed to the new voting rights rollbacks that the Republicans are currently moving through the state. Voting rights advocates are not having this. The new Georgia Project, which is a group founded by Stacey Abrams, saying now that these platitudes from Georgia based companies should make every Georgia voter furious.
They don't want platitudes. They want legitimate and muscular support to turn back these bills that are otherwise going to pass and dramatically roll back voting rights in Georgia and other states. This is a live issue right now. The Georgia big business community is clearly feeling the pressure over whether or not they're going to take a stance on voter suppression bills. Voting rights advocates absolutely keeping the pressure on Republicans in the Georgia state legislature, nevertheless steamrolling ahead with this stuff. And we're seeing versions of that happen in every state where people are starting to fight back about what Republicans are doing, the voting rights in every Republican controlled state in the country.
But there is something that could be done nationally to bolster voting rights in Georgia, to stop voting rights rollbacks in Georgia and in Arizona and in Iowa and in Texas and everywhere. Republicans are trying to rip up voting rights. It's the bill that passed the House as H.R. one the for the People Act, the same bill introduced formally in the United States Senate today as one Senate bill, one the Brennan Center studies voting rights and legislation like this at NYU.
They've just put out a new report on what H.R. one and one would do. Check this out. Quote, As of February 19th, more than two hundred and fifty three bills restricting voting access has been carried over pre filed or introduced in forty three states. And the number is rising, quote. The Brennan Center has analyzed each of the restrictive voting bills pending in the states and concludes that the For the People Act H.R. one is one would thwart virtually every single one of those bills in the States.
This bill would put a national floor on voting rights that Republicans in the states could not bring their states below voting rights advanced and guaranteed. Full stop nationwide. H.R. one passed the House already. Now it's S1 and it's in the Senate bill formally introduced today in the Senate. The lead sponsor of the bill is Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia. There's 50 Democrats in the Senate. Forty nine of the 50 Democrats in the Senate are actually signed on as co-sponsors of this bill.
The only one who isn't is West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, even if he nevertheless would vote for it, which would assure 50 votes for the bill. Republicans, of course, will use the filibuster rule to block the thing from passing. And Senator Manchin has been sort of confused and confusing on that issue, is saying sometimes that he's open to reforming the filibuster in some ways, other times that he's not at all open to that. President Biden used to oppose changing the filibuster rule in the Senate, but he said in an interview with ABC News last night that now he thinks actually it should be changed.
Senator Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, today said, as he said here on this show Monday night, that this bill to protect voting rights must pass whatever happens with the filibuster, however they need to reform it or change it or move around it in this bill, he said for this bill, for voting rights, quote, failure is not an option. That has been his mantra on this bill. Senator Warner today in this maiden speech for the ages, said essentially the same thing, but in language that in his way sounded a little bit more like prayer.
He said, surely there ought to be at least 60 people in this chamber who believe, as I do, that the four most powerful words uttered in a democracy are the people have spoken. Therefore, we must ensure that all of the people can speak. But if not, if there aren't those 60 votes, we must still pass voting rights. The right to vote is preservative of all other rights. It is not just another issue alongside other issues. It is foundational.
It is the reason why any of us has the privilege of standing here in the first place. It is about the covenant we have with one another. As an American people. It above all else must be protected. Yes, but out. What's the path? Senator Raphael Warnock joins us next.
At the time of my birth. Georgia's two senators. We're Richard B. Russell and Herman E. Talmage. Both arch segregationist and unabashed adversaries of the civil rights movement, Senator Tallmadge's father, Eugene Talmage, former governor of our state, had famously declared the South loves the Negro in his place. But his place is at the back door. When once asked how he and his supporters might keep black people away from the polls, he picked up a scrap of paper and wrote a single word on it.
Pistols led by a preacher and a patriot named King. Americans of all races stood up. History vindicated the movement that sought to bring us closer to our ideals to lengthen and strengthen the cords of our democracy. And I now hold the seat. The Senate seat where Herman E. Talmadge set. Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock today in his maiden speech on the Senate floor, the senator made a forceful argument for why the Senate should pass the for the People Act Senate bill one to try to beat back an avalanche of Republican led voter suppression bills in his home state in Georgia and in forty two other states that are pursuing these voter restrictions.
Now, the question, of course, is how they can do it. Joining us now is Senator Raphael Warnock from the great state of Georgia. Senator, thank you so much for being here tonight. It's an honor to have this time with you.
Thank you. It's great to be here with you, Rachel. You, I believe, have an unfair advantage in your job as a senator, at least when it comes to maiden speeches, because you are accustomed to holding the attention, the rapt attention of your congregants at the avenues of Baptist Church. I do have to ask you, though, if you were surprised by the thunderous applause that you got today at the end of that speech, which some people are saying is the best maiden speech they've ever seen in the United States Senate.
Well, I'm deeply honored by the response of my colleagues, and, you know, it's always a dangerous thing to put a pastor behind a lectern. And for those of us who have been worshiping and holding our services now for a year in a virtual space, know, I had actually had something of a congregation. But when I what I'm really looking forward to is the legislative response of those who were in the chamber today and and our Republican colleagues as well, we have to pass voting rights.
It it is urgent and it is the very foundation upon which we can seek to do all of the other important things that need to be done. Tell me how you see that happening in practical terms. Obviously, you reckoned with that a little bit today in your speech talking about the Senate filibuster rule and how this Senate procedure can't be used on the we can't we can't restrict Senate. We can't restrict minority rules, minority rights in society with a rule designed to protect minority rights in the Senate.
How do how do you see it practically going? How do you imagine a victory here? Well, well, listen, Rachel, I know that there's a big debate, obviously, going on about the filibuster and we will have to confront that issue head on. But my argument today was this voting rights is bigger than the filibuster issue. And whether we get rid of the filibuster or not, we have to pass voting rights. We have to give the people their own voice in their own democracy.
And so we will see what path that takes. And it's interesting, you know, folks ask, you know, people like me will or should you get rid of the filibuster or not. It seems to me that the onus really is on those in the chamber who have not yet decided to support voting rights because they could vote it up, they could vote for it. And that's the case that I was trying to make, because I think really that what's at stake is the viability and the health and the credibility of our democracy, that sacred idea of one person, one vote that was under assault in Georgia and some forty three other states.
And as we stood up as Americans in the nineteen sixties and passed federal legislation to say that we're one country and that this is the foundation upon which this country is built, we are we are a democratic republic. We have to do that right now. And there is a path to do it. And, and to do otherwise would be a terrible dereliction of our duty if we don't protect our democracy. And the United States Senate for what is the body of the Senate for whom?
I don't know very much right now about what the working life of a US senator is like. I think it changes with every Senate a little bit. I think it has changed a lot with with covid. And I think things had to have changed a little bit after the trauma of what happened on January 6th. But are you in a position where you can talk one on one with your colleagues who may not be in the same place as you on this issue, where you can talk with Senator Manchin, for example, who's the only Democrat who's not signed on as a co-sponsor to the for the people that are you in a position to talk to any of your fellow fellow Southern senators who are Republicans who may be willing to have a conversation with you as a fellow Southerner about this?
Sure. We're having conversations all the time. Let me be really clear. This is a moral moment. This is a defining moment in America, and this is a fight for the soul of our democracy. And all of us have a dog in that fight. If if we find ourselves in a situation where politicians don't even have to have the majority. To do whatever it is they want to do. Then the future of all of our children is imperiled, and so we have to stand up in this moment, I believe that history will judge us based on what we do.
The reason I'm able to sit here right now, in addition to the fights of the martyrs that I listed today, John Lewis, who stood up and risked his life, Medgar Evers, who lost his life and so many others over the last 10 years in Georgia, we've been fighting for voting rights and with a kind of laser like focus, my own church has been a plaintiff suing the state of Georgia for its voter suppression tactics. And then the people of Georgia rose up in a historic way in November and January.
And they sent the first African-American senator, the first Jewish senator to the United States Senate. And a couple of weeks ago, we passed Colvert. Relief for Americans, checks in people's pockets, shots in their arm. Why were we able to do it? Because the will of the people could be successfully made manifest in the outcome of the vote. Well, what happens if increasingly there's a disconnect between who and what the people want and what happens in Washington?
And that's what's been going on. The American people are being crowded out and squeezed out of their own democracy. And I'm going to do everything in my power as a United States Senate to get the people their voice back. Senator Raphael Warnock of the great state of Georgia, sir, thank you for making time to be here tonight. I know this is a big day at the start of your Senate career, and it's an honor to have you here.
Thank you. All right, we've got much more ahead tonight. Stay with us. Yesterday, the great state of Wyoming became the sixth state to drop its massive mandate as a mitigation factor against covid-19 ad, the six that have just dropped their mask rules to the 11 other states that never required masks to begin with. And that means that we're now up to 17 states in this country where there's no rule saying you have to wear a mask. Despite all the clear scientific evidence that masks and mask mandates do keep covid transmission down.
But there may be something coming that's going to upend all of that. And I'm sort of surprised this isn't getting more national attention. But you should know this is about to happen, at least I think this is about to happen. On President Biden's first full day in office, he issued an executive order to OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which oversees workplace safety, that Biden day one executive order told OSHA they needed to look at whether we need new rules to keep people safe from covid while they're at work.
Specifically, President Biden asked OSHA to study whether there should be a new rule that requires all Americans to wear masks while in the workplace. Any rule on that would be a rule that would apply everywhere to workplaces in every state, regardless of any state rules or lack thereof that might say otherwise. OSHA rules are enforceable. I mean, to be clear here, if OSHA says there's a need for a new safety rule about covid, which requires masks in the workplace, OSHA has the power to enforce that rule at workplaces nationwide, even in places like Wyoming and Texas.
Well, that executive order to study this issue and come up with a response had an explicit deadline. Biden gave OSHA until March 15th to make a decision. March 15th was Monday of this week. So where is it? A new report from Bloomberg Law says that OSHA has decided to issue a temporary emergency rule requiring masks and that they have told the US Chamber of Commerce that that new rule is coming. We reached out to the Department of Labor, which is a part of to get their comment.
They told us something, but not much. They told us OSHA has been working diligently as appropriate to consider what standards may be necessary and is taking the time to get this right, which is something I'm going to start saying when I miss the deadline. I'm taking the time to get it right. But that deadline has passed and it doesn't necessarily mean that nothing is going to happen. But at the same time, the clock is ticking here. States are one by one removing their mask mandates people are having to work in unmasked, unprotected environments.
That's all happening now in the present tense. And a big fight between the federal government saying actually masks are required and all workplaces and red state governors saying, oh, no, they're not. That is potentially an epic and dramatic American political fight. But a move like that may also save a ton of American lives if the federal government actually decides to join that fight. So we were supposed to know if that was going to happen by Monday. Where are they?
Watch this space. The federal agency that's charged with keeping Americans safe in the workplace, OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, they missed a deadline this week. That could be a really big deal. They had a deadline of Monday given to them in an executive order from President Biden, telling them they needed to decide whether or not there should be a new rule, a new workplace safety rule in this country, requiring people to wear masks to protect themselves from covid while they're at work.
If OSHA does issue a rule like that, that would be a BFD. As someone once said, it could put the federal government in conflict with 17 states across the country that have dropped their mask mandates statewide. It could also save a lot of lives, but that's all if OSHA actually decides to step in here and do this. Joining us now is Debbie Berkowitz. She's a former senior policy adviser for OSHA under President Obama. She's now director of the Worker Health and Safety Program at the National Employment Law Project.
And she's been sort of our OSHA whisperer over the last year or so of the covid pandemic, MS.. Berkowitz, thank you for being here tonight. Thanks for taking the time.
Thank you for having me. First of all, have I misconstrued any of this? Am I looking at any of this the wrong way around? And am I right to be a little weirded out that this deadline has come and gone and we haven't heard anything about it?
You're right. But also, I just have to say, having been a senior official at Asia, it's a relatively small agency. This was a Herculean task to get around this rule in like eight weeks. So if it's a couple of weeks late, you want to make sure they get it right. Right. Because this is not only the single largest public health crisis in our nation, covid, but it's the single largest occupational health crisis. We know that workplace exposures have been a significant driver of this pandemic.
And in order to mitigate the spread of out into the communities, we need to mitigate the spread at work. And that way our economy will reopen. So they need to get it right. So hopefully we will see that rule. If it's a couple of weeks late, that's OK any longer. And then we need to worry a little bit. And this is different than the CDC recommending masks use to all Americans and CDC officials and people like Dr. Fauci saying that this is what the government's best scientific advice is.
I mean, OSHA can enforce these things, right? And they did actually just get a pot of new money in the covid relief bill to to sort of bolster their ability to to enforce something like this. This would this would be a big change in terms of workplaces actually being required to follow this rule if they do it right. Right, and you've covered this really well, Rachel, and I want a very deep gratitude to you to cover workplace safety issues, but there's been no requirements in most states.
I mean, Virginia passed and requirements, California, Oregon, Washington. But most states have no requirements to protect workers uncovered and there are no current standards that require anything. And, you know, there are many, many schools in the workplace right now. There are a lot of chemicals there, a lot of dust that workers have to wear mask, whether it be construction and manufacturing or agriculture. And so this isn't sort of new, but there's been no requirements.
This would be the first time that there would be actual requirements otherwise. There's just guidance that employers could have ignored. And I want to also make it clear that there's no OSHA police out there. It would take one hundred and sixty five years to get into every workplace just once. So what this rule would really do is just give workers a sense of what they need to protect themselves and employers.
A roadmap. Debbie Perkowitz, the director of the National Employment Law Project, a worker health and safety program, a senior policy adviser for OSHA under President Obama. Thank you. Thank you very much for helping us understand this tonight. When we finally hear from OSHA on this, I'm going to come back to you to help us understand what it means.
Thank you so much. All right, we'll be right back. Stay with us. Heads up about the news tomorrow morning, a congressional hearing tomorrow on threats and violence against Asian Americans. This is a hearing that was scheduled well before a white man in Georgia allegedly went on a killing spree that killed eight people last night, six of them women of Asian descent. So the hearings, timeliness on violence against the Asian-American community is coincidental. But this should be a big deal tomorrow, given what's just happened.
That will happen tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Then at noon tomorrow, finally, a vote to confirm a new health secretary. President Biden picked Harvey Basara to be the nation's new health secretary back during the transition. You might think because of the pandemic, this would be considered a rush order. But Republicans have been holding up his nomination all of this time. Having a confirmation vote will finally happen at noon tomorrow on day. Fifty seven of the Biden administration.
So lots to watch for early in the day tomorrow. We'll see you again here tomorrow night.
The Rachel Maddow Show weeknights at 9:00 Eastern on MSNBC.