MSNBC host Rachel Maddow praises Nebraska State Senator Machaela Cavanaugh's efforts to block anti-trans legislation

Maddow: Cavanaugh “is forcing this question — is this what Republicans want to use their government for?”

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Citation From the February 28, 2023, edition of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.

RACHEL MADDOW [HOST]: In Washington, D.C., in Maryland, all across the country now, drag events need police protection and community escorts to shield people from violent, screaming crowds of right-wing, paramilitary groups who now routinely show up to terrorize people at these events. And the stuff that is happening in the streets is sort of mirrored by or dovetailing with a huge surge in legislative attacks on drag performers and the LGBTQ community, basically in every state where Republicans now hold power. 


One Democratic state senator in Nebraska is taking radical measures to try to stop her Republican colleagues from passing this bill targeting trans young people. And so far it's working. Watch. 

REPORTER I: On the floor of the Nebraska legislature work is at a standstill largely held up by one senator. 


REPORTER II: For the second day in a row Senator Machaela Cavanaugh stonewalled. 

CAVANAUGH: I will not stand for legislating hate into our statutes. It will be very painful for this body. And if people are like, is she threatening us? Let me be clear. Yes, I am. 

REPORTER II: Cavanaugh promised to take every single bill to cloture, meaning hours of debate on every single bill that comes to the floor. 

CAVANAUGH: Take your names off of that piece of poop, LB574. Talk to the Speaker. Demand good governance. Be better. Be who the children of Nebraska deserve. 


MADDOW: She’s forcing the question: is this what Republicans are going to use their government for? Senator Cavanaugh says they can use it for that, they can use it to try to get that one thing done. Or the state can govern. She says she is going to use everything she can to slow that government to a crawl. She told her colleagues, quote, I will burn the session to the ground over this bill. Joining us now is Nebraska Senator Machaela Cavanaugh, a Democrat who represents the sixth district in Nebraska, in Omaha. Really appreciate you joining us tonight. Thank you. 

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for having me. 

MADDOW: Let me first just ask you if I got any of that wrong. I talked about you a little bit at the beginning of the show and gave you that intro here. You know this much better than I do. I want to give you a chance to get me straight here if I got any of that the wrong way around. 

CAVANAUGH: No, I think you have it right. I think that was pretty accurate. I am standing by that. I intend to talk a lot. 

MADDOW: Well, tell me how this works in practical terms. I know that it is a 90 day session, I think we are in like day 36, and with the way the filibuster rules work you can effectively spend hours, you can use up hours of the legislative clock and calendar for anything without anything coming up to a vote. Through this tactic, by using this tactic, what do you think you could logistically accomplish in terms of stopping legislation, stopping the legislature from governing? 

CAVANAUGH: Well, by my back of the envelope math we have approximately 518 maximum hours left of debate this session. And that means that we could pass potentially no more than 42 bills. And that is not very many for the entire legislative session. This is a long session and that means we have to pass a budget. So I am just going to practically make sure my colleagues have to make a choice about what it is they want to do, what our job is, and is it our job to legislate hate or is it our job to govern and work on tax cuts and work the economy. So I'm forcing their hand. 

MADDOW: You're calling the question as to what they are doing and what they do want to spend their legislative hours and capabilities on, you’re forcing them to choose this or everything else.


CAVANAUGH: This is too important. I think it is important for us to focus on what it is we're responsible to do as state legislators, as legislators across the country, what is our job. Our job is public policy. Our job is not to legislate hate. At the end of the day this is going to hurt children and I don't care how sick I get, how tired I am, I am not going to look back on this moment in time and say I didn't do everything I possibly could to fight for and protect children especially our most vulnerable children which are our trans youth. 


MADDOW: You are being very blunt about this. I have to ask if it has had either backlash you didn't expect in terms of people not wanting or expecting this from you or if it had a galvanizing effect from people who feel the same way you do about this? 

CAVANAUGH: I think it has had more of a galvanizing effect than backlash. I think that we have become so complacent in what we anticipate and expect of our governors that we feel those in positions of power are just not willing to stand up. I'm not alone. I have wonderful colleagues standing with me. And the fact that myself and my colleagues are standing up and pushing back so loudly and clearly against this, I do think has a galvanizing effect. I hope it continues to have a galvanizing effect. I hope it gives people hope. I really want to give people hope. I really want our trans youth and really our LGBTQ community across the state and country to know there are people fighting for them. And that they should not give up hope because I am not giving up until I have nothing left to give.