A Failed Attempt To Codify Roe with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand | Crooked Media
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May 12, 2022
What A Day
A Failed Attempt To Codify Roe with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

In This Episode

  • The Senate failed to pass a bill on Wednesday that would effectively codify the right to an abortion. The bill, called, “The Women’s Health Protection Act,” was expected to fail because Democrats didn’t have enough votes to pass it and beat a filibuster. Democratic New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joins us to discuss what comes next.
  • And in headlines: Palestinian-American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed in the West Bank, over 107,000 people died from a drug overdose last year in the U.S., and someone leaked footage of actor Jesse Williams naked in a Broadway show.


Show Notes:



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Gideon Resnick: It is Thursday, May 12th. I’m Gideon Resnick.


Priyanka Aribindi: And I am Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What A Day, where we’re repairing some of our worst posts of all time for when Elon Musk inevitably welcomes Donald Trump back to Twitter.


Gideon Resnick: Yes, I have brought the Krassenstein brothers back for some replies against the President.


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh, my God.


Gideon Resnick: That’s my surprise for you, Donny.


Priyanka Aribindi: Wow, I’ve missed them. What are they up to?


Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, drug overdose deaths hit a new record in the US last year. Plus, a passenger on a Florida flight had to help land a plane after the pilot fell ill.


Priyanka Aribindi: A truly wild story. Yes. But first today, we wanted to turn to the latest on reproductive rights in the US. Yesterday, the Senate failed to pass a bill that would have effectively codified the right to an abortion. Here is Vice President Kamala Harris announcing the final tally:


[clip of VP Kamala Harris] On this vote, the ayes are 49, the nays are 51. 3/5 of the senators duly chosen and sworn not having voted in the affirmative, the motion is not agreed to.


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s important to note that this bill, which is called the Women’s Health Protection Act, was doomed from the start and expected to fail. The Democrats knew they didn’t have enough votes to pass it and beat a filibuster, which would have required 60 votes. Every single Democratic senator voted for it except one—you know, the perpetual thorn in our side, closet Republican Joe Manchin, he voted against it. Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the vote, and just minutes after it happened, President Biden released a statement saying, quote, “This failure to act comes at a time when women’s constitutional rights are under unprecedented attack. So, Gideon, what is next here?


Gideon Resnick: I think that’s what everyone’s asking, besides talking again about why the filibuster should be eliminated. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, along with some of his Democratic colleagues, continue to voice their frustration over not being able to pass legislation in Congress, even when they hold the majority being held back due at least in some part to the 60-vote threshold or a Republican filibuster. But because that is the perpetual conversation that is had and there is no movement on that argument, many Democrats are resorting to now saying that this attack on Roe should mobilize people to the polls in November. Here is Vice President Harris right after the vote:


[clip of VP Kamala Harris] The priority should be to elect pro-choice leaders at the local, the state, and the federal level.


Gideon Resnick: The point tracks.


Priyanka Aribindi: She’s not wrong.


Gideon Resnick: But there was the great headline I saw from Reductress that said quote, “you need to vote to fix this” says lawmaker you voted for in the past four elections. That certainly is the vibe of the last couple of days.


Priyanka Aribindi: Very much the message we’ve been hearing from everybody. And just here to say that if you are feeling a little bummed the fuck out by that, you’re not alone. You’re not the only ones.


[clip of VP Kamala Harris] Yes. So right before the vote took place yesterday, we did have the chance to speak with Democratic New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. We started by asking her this sort of elephant in the room question, what happens now?


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: Our job is to lift up the voices of people who are not being listened to right now. Millions of Americans will be devastated if this draft decision becomes law of the land. We have seen that this is something that is a seismic shift to what we expect in America. For 50 years—I’m 55, so my entire life, Roe v Wade and other similar precedents have been built upon it like Casey have guaranteed that I have bodily autonomy, that I have my reproductive freedom, that I have this right to privacy that allows me to decide when I’m having children, under what circumstances, with whom—and for me, I’ve had two children. I mean, being pregnant were joyous times for me, but those were decisions I made with my husband, consistent with my faith about what I want to do as a mom. You need to be able to give women and transgender people that fundamental right to decide. And to take away that right, it undermines our basic constitutional democracy, because these rights have been born out of several of the constitutional amendments and is something we have grown to expect.


Priyanka Aribindi: During the 2020 presidential campaign, you mentioned that you were open to the idea of potentially adding more Supreme Court seats. How has the news of the last couple of weeks impacted your thinking on that issue or has it at all?


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: Well, it certainly has impacted my thinking. I think these justices, particularly the last three who were just confirmed, intentionally misled senators to vote for them. And I can tell you, if you look at the words they chose, they said, Roe is settled precedent, that settled precedent deserves due deference, that it’s important. And if it’s been reaffirmed and there’s related decisions, that it gives it even more weight. Kavanaugh said the precedent was the foundation of our legal system. So they really led the Senate to believe that they believed Roe was settled law. They did not, did not in any way say “unless it was decided wrong” or whatever Alito’s analysis was. It’s unconscionable. And Alito and the five who voted for that who are at least on this draft opinion, I think they intentionally lied and misled senators, and I think there should be investigation. And so I think this is a very defining moment. And I would like to see ideas how to de-politicize the court. We should have debates about what these ideas might be, whether it’s term limits or whether it’s adding justices, or any other idea that people can come up with. I think it’s important because I certainly don’t trust the Supreme Court anymore, and I don’t trust what they said in hearings.


Gideon Resnick: I want to ask about the midterms for a second as well, because recently House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn was campaigning for Representative Henry Cuellar, the only House Democrat to vote against codifying Roe. He said in part that there shouldn’t be this sort of litmus test to be a Democrat. But when it comes to this specific issue, do you agree with that?


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: I’m certainly not going to support any candidate who’s not pro-choice and pro LGBT equality and pro women’s rights. I would never support a candidate who doesn’t share my values because these are again, they go to basic constitutional rights, basic civil liberties and human rights. I don’t think it makes sense, any candidate who’s a Democrat wouldn’t believe in these things. I think it’s core to our party in the same way that clean air and clean water is, in the same way that economic justice is, the same way health care for all is. I mean, we might have different policy ways about how to get there, but those are the core values of being a Democrat.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. And just to follow up on that, seeing as there are some candidates like this, what kind of message is that sending voters as they head towards the upcoming midterms?


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: I mean, these things matter. I think it’s important that we elect more Democrats. It’s important that we get a larger majority in the Senate and hold the House. And you’re going to have a very stark difference between extreme MAGA candidates who want to deny right to privacy, deny women’s reproductive freedom, deny equality to all, and Democrats who share these values of equality and opportunity. So November is an opportunity to change those dynamics. If we had a greater majority, we’d have far more flexibility to govern and far more ability to do the big things that aren’t getting done today. Our majority is just not large enough. And so we can fix this through activism, advocacy, and getting out the vote in November, in.


Gideon Resnick: This potential future where we’re looking at states effectively deciding here, what more should states like New York, other blue states be doing in this particular moment to ensure that there is access, to even potentially expand access as well?


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: Well, they’re doing it. And so what Kathy Hochul in New York is doing is saying we are a safe haven for women seeking reproductive care. If you need access to doctors, to health care specialists, to advisors, to resources, we are a state you can come to. And I think a lot of the not-for-profits are also going to be working on how to create travel expenses, raise money for women who need to travel from states like Mississippi or any of the states that have created such backwards laws that harm women. I also hope that corporate America wakes up, and I hope that they look at these states and these backward decision-making from the lens of Why would I want to invest in a state where 50% of the population is being denied basic human rights?


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s been an incredibly scary time for a lot of people. I kind of count myself in that group, just kind of looking around, being like, This is completely not the place that I have known, the rights that I’ve grown up with. This is really scary. What do you say to the people who are feeling terrified about what the future holds for them?


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: I would take that terror, take that fear, take that anger and mobilize, and just organize. Understand what your rights are. Understand how to advocate for yourself. You can not only protest the elected leaders, you can protest the companies that are turning a blind eye. You can protest any part of civil society that is not listening and not hearing your words and your fears and your views and not counting you.


Gideon Resnick: Well, Senator Gillibrand, thank you so much for joining What A Day. We really appreciate all of your time.


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: Thank you.


Gideon Resnick: That was our conversation with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. As a reminder, there will be demonstrations across the nation this coming Saturday in support of abortion access. We’re going to have details about it in our show notes, but that is the latest for now. We’re going to be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Gideon Resnick: Veteran Palestinian-American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed in the West Bank early Wednesday morning with multiple eyewitnesses reporting that the fatal bullet was fired by an Israeli sniper. Abu Akleh was a long-time correspondent for Al Jazeera, covering the conflict between Israel and Palestine, and was one of their best known reporters. Definitely a household name for Arab viewers who have been accustomed to seeing her on their TV screens for years. She was also a U.S. citizen. She was shot in the head while covering Israeli raids in the Jenin refugee camp. And in a statement, her network, Al Jazeera, accused Israeli forces of, quote, “deliberately targeting and killing our colleague.” At the time, she was wearing a press jacket identifying her as a journalist, and according to the two reporters she was with, there was no fighting in the area before she was shot. That goes against the suggestion from official Israeli sources that she may have been the victim of stray gunfire from Palestinians. There has been an outpouring of grief in the West Bank and across social media over her death, and Arab governments have condemned the killing. Israel’s defense minister has promised a transparent investigation into what happened. As a reminder to our listeners, killing journalists is a war crime.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, just awful, awful.


Gideon Resnick: Horrible, horrible, horrible.


Priyanka Aribindi: The toll of the drug overdose epidemic continues to climb in the United States every year, and unfortunately, last year set a new record. The CDC published new preliminary data yesterday showing that over 107,000 people died from a drug overdose last year. That number translates to roughly one overdose death every 5 minutes in the U.S. The data shows that deaths involving fentanyl spiked in 2021, largely because of how easy it is to lace with other drugs without someone knowing. And deaths involving stimulant drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine also jumped by a significant amount. Experts say that the epidemic has been exacerbated in recent years by COVID lockdowns that often isolate people with addiction and make it harder for them to get treatment. And these new findings come one month after the Biden administration unveiled its new plan to address drug addiction and trafficking in U.S.


Gideon Resnick: The sacred covenant between audience member and actor with the body of a Greek god was broken this week when someone leaked illicitly recorded footage of ex Gray’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams naked in the Broadway show Take Me Out. The play follows the story of a gay baseball player who is played by Williams and who faces prejudice after coming out about his sexuality. In the show, there is a shower scene with real American water and Williams and his costar dressed in a hyper-realistic, showering way. An audience member broke the theater’s no phones rule and recorded the scene from the front row and posted it online shortly afterwards.


Priyanka Aribindi: That’s so wild.


Gideon Resnick: You could tell the person, Can you put your phone away? That’s what I would do.


Priyanka Aribindi: Like, you’re right there. Everyone could see. Like that’s no, you’re not trying to hide it.


Gideon Resnick: Flagrant behavior. That led to strong condemnations by the company that produced the play, plus the Actors Equity Association, who called the leak a, quote, “appalling breach of consent.” The video made its rounds on social media just hours after Williams was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in the play on Monday night. Here’s Williams on CNN’s Watch What Happens Live After Show on Tuesday talking about the buzz around his nude scene:


[clip of Jesse Williams] Everybody suddenly makes such a big deal. It’s a body. It [unclear] you see it, you realize it’s not, whatever.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, whatever, man.


Priyanka Aribindi: That’s a lot more chill than I would be if someone did this to me.


Gideon Resnick: You know, take it in stride. Williams did not comment directly on the leak, but the theater hosting the play has since installed a new infrared camera to crack down on audience members who break their no-phone rule. And once again, somebody is ruining an experience for everyone.


Priyanka Aribindi: Also, out of respect for Jesse Williams, I will not be Googling this image at this time. You may or may not choose to join me in that. A man in Florida experienced the advanced version of the nightmare where you’re the passenger in a car and you realize no one is driving, that same thing but in an airplane, which is fucking terrifying.


Gideon Resnick: Oh my god. Yeah. No, no, no.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. He managed to safely land the plane despite having zero flying experience. The man whose identity is unknown—which is crazy to me—was flying from the Bahamas to Florida on Tuesday in a 14-seater Cessna. There was only one other passenger on board. And when he was about 20 miles off the coast, his pilot became, quote, “incoherent.”


Gideon Resnick: Yikes.


Priyanka Aribindi: No further details, which there’s a lot I want to know about this. Here he is communicating his situation to air traffic control. Buckle up, because this audio is a little rough, as you might expect.


[voice clip] I’ve got a serious situation here, my pilot’s gone incoherent. I have no idea how fly the airplane.


[voice] Roger. What’s your position?


[voice clip] I have no idea. I can see the coast of Florida in front of me and I have no idea.


Priyanka Aribindi: Okay.


Gideon Resnick: Honestly, this is how I would sound in this exact situation. A lot of “I have no idea”s.


Priyanka Aribindi: I think he sound surprisingly I mean, he’s saying he has no idea, but he’s not freaking out like I would like, excuse me?


Gideon Resnick: No, no, no, no. I would be shrieking it. Yes.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Full freak out. If you sound like him. Congratulations. Cool as a cucumber. But in case you couldn’t hear that air traffic control asked for his position. The guy said, I have no idea. At this point, many of our brains would just shut down. It would be destiny’s job to guide our plane into a soft tree or a big lily pad or a giant ocean.


Gideon Resnick: Bouncy house. Whatever you got.


Priyanka Aribindi: Who knows? But somehow the passenger managed to follow instructions relayed by the air traffic controller, who also happened to be a flight instructor. And in the air traffic controller’s words, quote, “Before I knew it, he was like, ‘I’m on the ground. How do I turn this thing off?'”


Gideon Resnick: Oh, my God.


Priyanka Aribindi: Extremely chill. The plane touched down at the Palm Beach International Airport. Becoming a private pilot of a plane like the Cessna requires at least 40 hours of flight time. This guy became a pilot in about 10 minutes, though he probably aged by millions of hours in that period of time.


Gideon Resnick: No question about it. This is our new Sully. It’s the best that we got in comparison to the prior actual Sully event, and we’ll take it if.


Priyanka Aribindi: They can ever track him down. He seems like he did not care to be in the spotlight. He was just like, Peace out, I’m out of here. I landed the plane, going to get my bag and leave. If they ever find him, sure this would make a great movie of some kind.


Gideon Resnick: Definitely.


Priyanka Aribindi: I wouldn’t see it, but Gideon probably would.


Gideon Resnick: I would definitely watch it. I also have a million questions about this and I hope we do follow-ups in the days to come because there’s a lot here.


Priyanka Aribindi: WAD investigates. WAD investigates.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. I need to know more. And those are the headlines. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, play at least 40-hours of flight simulator before you step onto a plane, and tell your friends to listen.


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, and not just rules for attending a play which you’ll follow to the letter like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Gideon Resnick: I am Gideon Resnick.


[together] And prepare your eyes for bad posts, Donald Trump.


Gideon Resnick: It is just as bad as the place you left it and it’s not going to get any better.


Priyanka Aribindi: I feel like it’s worse, honestly.


Gideon Resnick: It’s probably worse.


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s fucking worse.


Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz, Jazzy Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.