Trans Rights or Fillibust | Crooked Media
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April 30, 2023
What A Day
Trans Rights or Fillibust

In This Episode

  • For more than two months, Nebraska State Senator Machaela Cavanaugh has filibustered nearly every single bill that has passed through the state legislature. It’s an effort to keep her Republican colleagues from following other red states to ban gender-affirming care for trans youth. Sen. Cavanaugh joins us to talk about how she’s managed to hold the floor – and keep fighting.
  • And in headlines: authorities in Texas are searching for a man accused of fatally shooting five of his neighbors, fighting continues in Sudan despite an extended cease-fire, and the federal government is reportedly scaling back drug screening rules to entice more young workers.


Show Notes:



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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Monday, May 1st. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi and this is What A Day. Where we are thrilled to be the very first to report that Jason Derulo has fallen down the stairs of the Met gala. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laugh] That man will never know peace at any–


Priyanka Aribindi: –[laugh] truly never. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –event that has stairs. 


Priyanka Aribindi: So sorry. So sorry to this man. [laughter] On today’s show, federal regulators will weigh the fate of another regional bank. Plus, the government is reportedly scaling back on its own drug screening rules to entice more young workers. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, because, you know, the young workers like to puff puff pass honey. [laughter] All right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Exactly. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But first, the legislative fuckery in Republican led state legislatures continues. The last few weeks, especially, we’ve brought y’all a number of stories about how conservatives are working overtime to not only legislate and spread hate, but to try and silence those opposing them. So late last week, Montana became the latest state to ban or restrict gender affirming health care for trans young people. This is the legislation that Representative Zooey Zephyr, the state’s first trans lawmaker, was censored for saying its supporters would have blood on their hands if they passed it and they did it anyway. And then I’m sure we all remember the racist shitshow that was Tennessee Republicans voting to expel Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, two Black Democrats, over their protests on the chamber floor against gun violence. Though Jones and Pearson were reinstated by officials in the districts they represent. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s just amazing to watch how these lawmakers continue to show up so passionate about what they believe in in the face of hatred from the same body, the same place that they show up to work every single day, it’s wild to even think about. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And, you know, as a church queen, because the indoctrination runs very deep over here honey, I’ve been saying that it’s giving David versus Goliath or Daniel in the lion’s den type energy because of the scale of foolishness that these elected officials are up against. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Truly. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But I want to introduce to some and present to others another elected official who is fighting back. 


[clip of Machaela Cavanaugh] I’m standing up against hate and you’re standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder with hate. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That is the voice of Nebraska State Senator Machaela Cavanaugh. She represents the state’s sixth district and has been standing oh so firmly in the way of her Republican colleagues who want to ban gender affirming care for trans youth in the state by filibustering every single bill that comes to the floor. She said a number of weeks ago that she would, quote, “burn this session to the ground” and baby she is doing just that. In fact, when I had the chance to chat with Senator Machaela Cavanaugh late last week, we caught her literally minutes after she and her colleagues narrowly blocked a six week abortion ban from advancing, ensuring that the medical procedure remains legal in Nebraska. I started by asking her about the response she’s received from her constituents and colleagues since she set out on this path of filibustering everything that comes to the floor. 


Machaela Cavanaugh: From my constituents it’s been a huge amount of support. I am constantly being approached by people thanking me, people in law enforcement thanking me, people in health care thanking me, parents, kids, teenagers thanking me, which is just really overwhelming. But it also helps to know that this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing and why I am here. My colleagues are not thanking me quite so much. [laughter] I am standing in the way well I, let me rephrase that. I am not standing in the way. They are standing in the way of their bills moving forward because of their vote on LB574 the anti gender affirming care bill. I am just forcing them a little bit on it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Machaela Cavanaugh: So yeah, we have passed I think now we’re up to three bills. We are trucking along to the end quickly and have not passed much legislation. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, I love that reframing that they’re standing in the way of you all getting stuff done because they could be better. I know that you’ve been, you know, reading and exploring a variety of, like, you know, things as you’ve been filibustering. Could you tell us about some of those things you’ve been reading or saying to kind of fill the hours of the debate? I understand that you’ve killed a time talking about your favorite Girl Scout cookies or the plots to animated movies that your kids might be watching. Like, how do you go about deciding what to talk about on any given day? 


Machaela Cavanaugh: You know, I wing it a lot, [laughter] so I try as much as I can to stay on the topic of the bill. But if you’re spending 8 hours on a bill and it’s one page long, that’s a challenge. And so when I’m in that kind of position, once I run out of content that is irrelevant to the bill, I just talk about whatever strikes my fancy at the moment. I have an ongoing conversation with myself about the Oxford comma [laughter] and the controversy over it, or whether you should use it or not use it. I also really like to talk about salad. I don’t know how I got onto it but I talk [laughter] about salad a lot for some reason. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I love that you mentioned already that, like some people have like criticized you for this particular strategy. They say that you’re standing in the way of like getting things done and even bills that, like, you might support, you know, the quote unquote, “good ones.” I first want to hear kind of your response just to that idea that, like you’re blocking everything, but also why it’s important to not only just filibuster the, quote unquote, “bad bills,” but also the good ones. 


Machaela Cavanaugh: Yeah, well, my strategy is to slow everything down, to create pressure points and essentially a sense of urgency over is this really the bill that is most important to the legislature. And if it is, then you shouldn’t care about not getting anything passed. If this bill, if this hate filled, anti gender affirming care bill is the priority of the legislature, then fine, let’s not pass anything else. That’s my point. And unfortunately, bills that I like, bills that I think are really worthwhile might have suffered because of this. But at the end of the day, if we allow this bill to pass, we are legislating hate. We are legislating just another human rights and civil rights violation into our statute. I think that there’s nothing more important than stopping that from happening. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, you know, I wonder if you think that this strategy is something that perhaps other Democrats in other states, they’re going through the exact same thing. Their, you know, Republican led state legislatures are passing or attempting to pass these exact same type of bills there. I wonder if you think this is a strategy that others could or perhaps should kind of consider for themselves. 


Machaela Cavanaugh: Well, I do push back on it being a strategy for Democrats. I think that this is something that everyone should be fighting against. And everyone, no matter your political affiliation, should be using every tool in your tool kit. Every state’s legislatures are different. Whatever tools you have in your tool kit, you should be using them to stand up against civil rights and human rights violations. And you don’t need to be a Democrat to do that. You need to be a decent human being and you need to be a good policymaker and you need to do what you were sent there to do, which is stand up for the most vulnerable people. And legislating this type of vitriol is not what anybody was meant to do. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. I love that you said that. As I mentioned, you know, state legislatures across the country are battling over anti-trans legislation. Over in Montana, as I’m sure you’ve heard, Republicans have censured Representative Zooey Zephyr for the rest of their legislative session because of her opposition to a similar gender affirming care ban for trans youth. I wonder kind of just what was your reaction to that news, especially knowing that she’s opposing a very similar bill to the one that you’re trying to block? 


Machaela Cavanaugh: I think it is horrible. [laugh] I don’t even know that I have the words to describe it. In the Nebraska legislature several weeks ago, one of my colleagues filed a motion to censure me for similar words spoken and a vote has still not been taken on it, which I’m very grateful for. But there has been attempts here to silence me, and so I understand what that could potentially be like. And so I feel awful for Representative Zephyr. And, you know, she’s doing an amazing job. I follow her on her social media. I saw her just sitting out in the lobby area. She’s continuing to show up for her constituents, regardless of what others do, to try to minimize her voice and minimize the voice of her constituents. But at the end of the day, this is about democracy. When we see things like this happening to Representative Zephyr, this is an assault on democracy. She is an elected official who is there to represent a population of people. You don’t have to like what she has to say, but she’s still there to represent them. And it’s not for the legislatures to squash her voice because they’re squashing her constituents voices. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. Absolutely. The gender affirming care ban that you’re trying to block is now in its you know final round of voting. During debate over the bill, your colleague, Senator Megan Hunt, opposed the measure because it would prevent her trans child from getting the care that he needs. And recently, we saw on social media that an attorney has filed a complaint against her alleging that, you know, there’s a conflict of interest because of her child’s identity. From the outside looking in this seems very absurd and foolish to me. What was your reaction to that news? 


Machaela Cavanaugh: It is absurd and it’s foolish. And to call that gentleman an attorney is probably a generous term and a disservice to [laughter] the entire profession. It was a frivolous thing to do. And any self-respecting attorney is are members of the court, really. And they have a duty to not do things like this. So I think it’s very egregious that that happened. The number of things that are actual conflicts of interest in the Nebraska legislature that should be filed are not what’s being taken up, but instead the fact that Senator Hunt has a transgender child. And that’s just harassment. It’s an attack on her. It’s an assault on her child. And no one should stand for it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You’ve been at this filibustering for a few weeks now. I am sure– 


Machaela Cavanaugh: –nine! Nine!


Tre’vell Anderson: Nine. Ooh, my Lord, today. 


Machaela Cavanaugh: Nine weeks. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That is a very long time, I imagine and I know you’ve said in other interviews that it is, you know, mentally and emotionally tiring. I’d love to know before I let you go, what has kept you going all these weeks? What is encouraging you to push past the exhaustion, to still show up and to still kind of execute this plan? 


Machaela Cavanaugh: Well, really, the thing that started it [laugh] the thing that keeps me going. The purpose of it all is that trans kids matter, that they need to see their elected officials fighting for them, not fighting against them. And I can’t fail them even if I am not able to stop this bill. I need to know that I have done everything in my power to stand up for trans kids because they matter. They are important and they are loved. There are days where I do not want to get out of bed and come here and talk for 14 hours or however many hours. But I know that if I don’t, that they’re going to get hurt. So I do. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That was my conversation with the Nebraska state Senator Machaela Cavanaugh, wishing her and her colleagues continued success in blocking hate in the Cornhusker state. And that is the latest for now. [music break] Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: The search continues in Texas for a man accused of fatally shooting five of his neighbors, including an eight year old boy, Friday night. The attack happened in the rural town of Cleveland, about 45 minutes north of Houston. It was reportedly touched off after a neighbor asked the 38 year old suspect to stop shooting an AR-15 rifle in his yard so his baby could sleep. The suspect then opened fire into the neighbor’s home before he fled the scene. As of our record time Sunday evening, authorities are still looking for the suspect himself and have offered a combined $80,000 reward for any tips leading to his arrest. Meanwhile, Texas Governor Greg Abbott is once again doing the least to care about another mass shooting in his state. In his first tweet about the attack on Sunday, Abbott said the suspect was in the country, quote unquote “illegally” and even referred to the five victims as, quote, “illegal immigrants.” Investigators say the victims were originally from Honduras but haven’t said anything about their immigration status because seriously, Priyanka, why the hell does that even matter? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah um, you know the expression beside the point? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Um. This is like on a completely different planet than the point. So–


Tre’vell Anderson: It makes no sense. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –doesn’t have a place in this conversation, I don’t think. And an update from Sudan where fighting continues between two rival military forces, despite both sides agreeing to extend a cease fire for 72 more hours. The weeks long battle between the Sudanese military and the paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces, or RSF, has led to hundreds of deaths and thousands more people injured. The death toll includes a dozen health workers, leading several aid agencies to evacuate their personnel. And according to the World Health Organization, two thirds of the hospitals in Khartoum, the nation’s capital, have closed down. The Red Cross organized an aircraft to deliver eight tons of medical aid and supplies to hospita1ls on Sunday, which is expected to treat more than 1000 people. Also on Sunday, the United States organized a second convoy in Port Sudan, bringing the total number of evacuated Americans to nearly 1000 since the violence broke out. Meanwhile, Sudanese civilians remain trapped with diminishing supplies and tens of thousands of others have escaped the violence and fled to neighboring countries. 


Tre’vell Anderson: A handful of big banks have reportedly placed bids to take over First Republic Bank, which could become the third major American bank to fail in less than two months. According to multiple outlets, the FDIC closed bidding by midday Sunday with prospective buyers, including PNC Financial Services and JPMorgan Chase. Though the winning bidder wasn’t announced by the time we went to record the show at 9:30 p.m. Eastern Sunday. But in the words of YG, basically big bank take little bank. Love that for them. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Truly. 


Tre’vell Anderson: The San Francisco based lender is the latest mid-sized regional bank to run into trouble since the demise of Silicon Valley Bank. Just last week, First Republic said that its customers have pulled out more than $100 billion dollars in deposits in the first quarter alone, sending its already battered stock price into a tailspin. To give you a sense of how bad it is, in February, shares of First Republic were trading at around $147. Right now, they’re closer to $3.50, which is– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Super different. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. [laughter]


Tre’vell Anderson: All of this comes despite the fact that First Republic received a $30 billion dollar lifeline from nearly a dozen other banks shortly after the SVB fiasco. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, that is the especially wild part to me. It’s like they stepped up and did something that is so, I think, unique and not what you typically see in this industry. And it still wasn’t enough. That’s pretty crazy. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: As the federal government looks to younger candidates to replace its aging workforce, drug screening rules are looking to get a little chiller. Currently, federal job applicants in the United States are required to disclose their drug use over the past seven years. But under new rules proposed by the Biden administration, that timeframe will be brought down to just five years, and applicants would only be required to abstain from using marijuana for 90 days before submitting their application. Some federal agencies have already rolled back their drug use restrictions. Just last year, the CIA started telling applicants that they only needed to refrain from cannabis for 90 days as opposed to their previous one year rule. And many federal officials have stated that they don’t believe recreational marijuana use should disqualify candidates looking to work for the government. Still, don’t expect to see the term 420 friendly on these job postings any time soon. Federal employees are still banned from using marijuana once hired even in states that have legalized the drug. But with polls showing that a majority of Americans have tried cannabis, scaling back drug use restrictions would make these jobs much more accessible. The Biden administration is expected to propose the rule change later this year. I’m sure uh the crazies over at Fox and like wherever else they hang out now that Tucker Carlson isn’t there um are going to take that super well. But I feel like it’s just a good move to like get normal people working in the government. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I mean, also let’s be real. We know plenty of federal workers who are doing a lot harder drugs. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Doing much worse. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Then some Marijuana. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. Than some– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –reefer, as my granny used to call it. [laughter] Um. So– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m going to need them to calm down. You know? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Madison Cawthorn blew the lid off that one, never to be heard from again. [laughter] Just pointing that one out. So, yeah, this seems uh relatively harmless in comparison. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads to recap all the well-meaning cringe of the White House Correspondents Dinner. 




Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Monday, WAD squad. And for today’s temp check, we are talking about the White House event that boldly asks, what if the press had a Golden Globes with no awards? The annual White House Correspondents Dinner came and went this past Saturday, hosted by The Daily Show’s Roy Wood Jr. As part of his duties, Wood took aim at Washington politics in a joke about France’s recent retirement age protests he quipped, “Meanwhile in America, we have an 80 year old man begging us for four more years of work.” While the night has long stood as a celebration of the free press, plenty of non-journalists were also among the 2600 or so guests in attendance. Julia Fox was there. She posed for a picture with Chuck Schumer, of all people. The Property Brothers did some light sketch comedy, and even Bravo’s own Lisa Vanderpump showed up on the red carpet. Truly a, a who’s who got over there. [laughter] The night wasn’t all fun and games, though, as Saturday’s event saw strong calls for the release of the wrongfully detained American journalists Evan Gershkovich in Russia and Austin Tice in Syria. As is tradition, President Biden stood and delivered some jokes at the top of the show. Poking fun at DeSantis and Trump, Rupert Murdoch and, of course, himself. Before handing the podium over to Roy Wood Jr. he left the crowd with this. 


[clip of President Joe Biden] I’m going to uh turn this over to Roy. Roy, a part of me is yours. I’m going to be fine with your jokes, but I’m not sure about Dark Brandon. [laughter]


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh God. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm mm.


Priyanka Aribindi: Mmm mm. So Tre’vell. I ask you this, though. I feel like we’ve already answered. Is Dark Brandon officially over now? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Oh, it’s been over. It [laughing] it has been over. Okay. I’m glad that, you know, he wants to signal that he’s hip. You know, that he–


Priyanka Aribindi: He’s with the times. 


Tre’vell Anderson: He knows what’s going on. 


Priyanka Aribindi: He knows what they’re talking about–


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –on the Internet. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laughing] And I love that for him. I will also– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Me too. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –just note that my favorite joke that Roy Wood Jr. said he was talking about erasure. And he said something to the effect of like, you know, Black people only like erasure when it involves Clarence Thomas. And I thought that was hilarious. [laugh] What about you, Priyanka? What did you think? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Um. So Dark Brandon, on that topic, yes, certainly over. Our producer told us that they’re making merch now. I didn’t know if they were doing that previously, but that is I’m so sorry. Um. [laughter] They all start out as sweet internet trends and then they are like, ugh, I hate that. It’s disgusting to me. [laughter] But no, to be honest, I really kind of did not tune in to very much of this year’s recap. Maybe I have to like, refresh and watch it and like, actually see who is on that red carpet and what outfits they wore. I kind of unsubscribed this year, but maybe it’s time to tune back in. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Maybe, maybe not. You know, I don’t think you missed anything. [laughter] You didn’t miss much. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That’s kind of what I was thinking. You know I was like mm. Do I really care? Anyways, just like that, we have checked our temps. We weren’t invited. I don’t know why. [laughter] We correspond regularly, so I’ll tune in when I’m invited. Can my temperature be salty? Because that’s how I feel. [laughter] [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Let your federal employees chill out and tell your friends to listen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading and not just the always confusing Met gala theme statement like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


[spoken together] And Happy International Workers Day. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, all support to the workers always. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I have nothing more to add. [laugh] Yes. Retweet. What’s the Blue Sky version of that? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Is it called Reskeeting?


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh God. Oh, yeah. No shit shit. Sorry, nevermind. [laughter] [music break] 


Tre’vell Anderson: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lantz. Our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla and Raven Yamamoto is our associate producer. Jocey Coffman is our head writer, and our senior producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.