October 19, 2021

Former senator Al Franken was Brian Williams' guest last night to talk about the threat to Joe Biden's agenda.

"I still believe it will happen because it kind of has to. And I wish they would get on with it," Franken said.

He said the sooner it happens, the better. "People really like the elements of this thing. They don't talk enough about the elements. You keep calling it the reconciliation package, or Build Back Better, but people love the elements of it. Child care, Medicare negotiating pharmaceuticals, K through 12 being funded more equally for low income communities, pre-K, early childhood, I mean, all of this stuff is stuff people want."

He said the caucus has to meet, and they have to get it done.

"I mean, you can get it. We passed ACA on Christmas Eve in '09 and then again in January. But the sooner the better on this stuff, because the elements of this are so popular, and people will really like them and really benefit from them."

"Maybe reconciliation isn't the sexiest title, given what's in it for the people of your state, for example, and the other 49. It keeps coming -- the conversation keeps coming back to the filibuster. I know you have pushed the pieces around the board in your head. Is there any way around it?" Williams asked.

Franken talked about the Freedom to Vote Act.

"This is something I've discussed with Joe Manchin. Norm Ornstein and I have come up with -- it's essentially in a talking filibuster, instead of having to stop a filibuster with 60 votes to sustain a filibuster, you need 41. And 41 senators have to be on the floor and they have to stay on the floor. They have 50, they can cycle in and out. But at all times they have to have 41, and they have to debate this. And the debate has to be germane," Franken said.

"I think that's a good debate to have about voting reform and election law. And we win that debate. But they're not going to last. They just won't last there. And that's -- that's the filibuster form that Manchin has said in a recording, was made with No Labels. You may have seen this a few weeks ago, is open to this very modification. It's not a modification. and what this would do is restore the filibuster to what it was, which was something that was rare, and it would be rare because you have to do this. And they wouldn't do it, you know. Mitch McConnell filibustered during Obama more executive nominees that had been filibustered in the entire previous history of the nation. He broke the Senate. And this would help restore it."

Williams then played a clip of Donny Deutsch speaking to an audience yesterday.

I live in this bubble in this very kind of blue state, and I cannot tell you the unrest with the feeling of the Democrats in control, the way they're running things, the way Biden -- not feeling his hands on the wheel, and nobody on deck. That's the concern the Democrats have.

"So Al Franken, I've got 60 seconds left. The guy makes a point there. What's the solution?" Williams said.

Franken said the solution is getting this done and letting people see how the legislation improves their lives.

"I'll give you an example: child care. In Europe, European countries on average supplement child care to the tune of $14,000 per child. In our country, $500 per child. People want child care so they can go to work. People want to work, and it's so expensive now to have quality child care. People want to know they can leave their kid with somebody who is in a safe environment, where they're being nurtured, where people know how to do early childhood education," he said.

"We need to do these things. That's what the cure to this is: getting this done. And that's why my former colleagues have to get this done, and the sooner the better."

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