Return to Transcripts main page
House Elects A New Speaker As Dems Take Control. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired January 3, 2019 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:34:00] DANA BASH CNN ANCHOR: Today marks a new era of divided government as the 116th Congress gets sworn in. But it also marks a new chapter in Washington, ushering in more diversity and a record number of women set to serve on Capitol Hill.
Among those making history, a former military helicopter pilot and former CIA officer. Also being sworn in to what some are calling, the badass caucus, Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania. She is one of them and she is a retired Air Force captain.
Thank you so much for joining me. First, congratulations to you.
REP. CHRISSY HOULAHAN, D-PENNSYLVANNIA: Thank you. Thank you.
BASH: You're the first woman ever to represent Pennsylvania's 6th District. You're the mother of two grown daughters and during the most diverse Congress in history. What does this mean to you today?
HOULAHAN: It's incredibly important to me and an incredible honor to be representing the people of the 6th congressional district in this way. And I'm very much looking forward to serving with an incredibly diverse community of people who not only are women but as you mentioned are veterans.
[12:35:02] I'm also an engineer. STEM professionals are joining the ranks in larger numbers than before. And I'm really looking forward to bringing all of that diversity on behalf the people of my community and the coming of the Pennsylvania to Washington.
BASH: Now, you are a former Air Force captain. I have to ask about this club that you and others formed during the campaign. Female veterans and service members. You called it the badasses. I have particular affinity for that because I have two series on CNN.com called "Badass Women of Washington."
Tell me about that club that you formed.
HOULAHAN: Well, you know, a lot of us had been running for office or had been running for office for a long time and had been sort of hearing one another in various times and places. And we eventually got to be friends on the campaign trail and realized, I think, something that's important for the Congress of today that we were stronger together than we were separately. And so we sort of unified ourselves under this common mantle and that mantra to be able to talk about the message of what we were trying to accomplish as women, as veterans, to be able to bring back some sanity, civility, some civil discourse to Washington.
BASH: Now one of the things that you were being asked to do as a new member of Congress is clean up the mess from the last Congress, namely the partial government shutdown. You are representing a swing district in Pennsylvania previously held by Republicans. You obviously have a fair number of Republican constituents. So, do you think your fellow Democrats should compromise with the president on the wall in order to reopen the government?
HOULAHAN: So, you're right. I do represent a very purple place in our country. And my community is 40 percent Republican and 40 percent Democrat and 20 percent independent. And with that being said, I was able to prevail with about 60 percent of our votes.
And so, clearly people on across both sides of the aisle really like the message that we were talking about which was frankly a message of kitchen table issues. Issues like making sure that we had access to a quality and affordable healthcare, and making sure we had great education and terrific jobs with dignity and equal pay for equal work. Were the messages that I was elected on to make sure that I bring that sort of sensibility to Congress.
My community very much cares about national security. We're very much is concerned about making sure that our borders are secure and that we were able to be safe in our communities, but they actually also don't necessarily believe that a wall is the solution to that.
BASH: So no, don't give an inch on the wall? Is that what you're saying?
HOULAHAN: Listen, I believe that we've already given some inches away in the sense that we are funding some parts of border security, but I think it's also important that we're thinking about borders as more than just that southern wall. There are also airways and there are roadways and there are waterways as well. And it's really important that we are a safe and secure nation. But again, I don't believe that a solution such as a concrete wall is the answer.
BASH: Chrissy Houlahan, new member from Pennsylvania's 6th district, thank you so much and congratulations to you.
HOULAHAN: Thank you. Pleasure being with you.
BASH: And you see there on the bottom right of your screen, Nancy Pelosi. Well, she is going to be -- there are going to be -- is going to be a vote formally very soon on her for the speaker of the House and the nominating speeches for that. And also for the top Republican will happen very shortly.
We're going to sneak in a quick break. Don't go away.
[12:42:09] BASH: Welcome back. We'll go straight to the House floor. Hakeem Jeffries is giving the nominating speech for Nancy Pelosi.
REP. JAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS CHAIR: -- during the long night but joy will come in the morning. Madam Clerk, it is with great joy that I rise today as directed by the House Democratic Caucus to place the name of Nancy Pelosi in nomination to be the next speaker of the United States House of Representatives.
Without question, Nancy Pelosi has a track record of legislative success that is unparalleled in modern American history. Nancy Pelosi captained a ship that defeated the effort to privatize Social Security, rescued our economy in the midst of the Great Recession, saved the American automobile industry, provided affordable healthcare to more than 20 million Americans.
Created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, enacted a minimum wage increase for the first time in 10 years. Struck a blow against mass incarceration with passage of the Fair Sentencing Act and provided relief to tens of millions of Americans who are credit card holders that were being defrauded. But Nancy Pelosi is just getting started.
In the 116th Congress, she will continue to fight hard for the people. Nancy Pelosi will fight to lower healthcare costs, strengthen the Affordable Care Act, protect people with pre-existing conditions, increase pay for everyday Americans, enact a real infrastructure plan, clean up corruption, defend the Dreamers, fix the Voting Rights Act, and end the era of voter suppression once and for all.
[12:45:02] Will fight for a country that provides for the poor, works for working families, makes sense for the middle class, stands up for senior citizens, innovates in the inner city, and strengthen suburban communities. Nancy Pelosi, is a woman of faith. A loving wife, a mother of five, a grandmother of nine, a sophisticated strategist, a legendary legislator, a voice for the voiceless, a defender of the disenfranchised, a powerful profound prophetic principled public servant, and that's why we stand squarely behind her today. Let me be clear, House Democrats are down with NDP.
Nancy D'Alesandro Pelosi, the one and future speaker of the United States House of Representatives, I proudly place her name in nomination. May God bless her, may God bless the United States of America.
BASH: That was Hakeem Jeffries who is the Democratic Caucus chair, so a member of the leadership team in the House Democratic Caucus and giving a very important speech, very interesting speech. Trying -- maybe trying to give her a little RBG treatment calling her NDP.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes.
BASH: We're talking -- as we talk, we're waiting for Liz Cheney's -- oh, Liz Cheney is speaking right now nominating Kevin McCarthy as Republican leader. Let's listen to that.
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R), GOP CONFERENCE CHAIR: -- no other like it in the world, the United States House of Representatives, the people's House. This is the place where the great battles and debates about human liberty and freedom have been waged since the beginning of our republic. It was on these grounds Madam Clerk, that Abraham Lincoln sought to heal this nation in this second inaugural address. It was here that we passed the 14th amendment to the constitution, guaranteeing equal protection under the law. It was here, Madam Clerk, in this chamber, 100 years ago this year that we passed the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote.
BASH: So as we monitor Liz Cheney giving the nominating speech for the soon-to-be Republican minority leader Kevin McCarthy, let's talk a little bit more about that nominating speech for Nancy Pelosi because it was -- look, he's in charge just as Liz Cheney is now for the Republicans in the House of messaging, of communication.
Wow, these cameramen in the House chamber is having some interesting situation there. Anyway, go ahead.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There's no question that I think what Hakeem Jeffries as congressman was doing was really trying to put a bow on what is going to be the second try at the speakership for Nancy Pelosi. And he was going across the board of all she's accomplished. But I'm struck by thinking back 12 years ago to January of 2007, what a different time of course in the throes of the Iraq war.
Now there is a different challenge that she is facing. That challenge is just down the street, Donald Trump. It's entirely different than when she worked with the Bush administration. President Bush is unpopular but they did work together on a variety of things like the financial crisis and collapse.
This is uncharted waters for really everyone in leadership in this town, but no two people probably more than Nancy Pelosi and President Trump. So, how she takes the reign will be interesting. I was struck by one thing she said in an interview in a profile by Sheryl Stolberg at the Times this morning. She said, asked if she considers herself Trump's equal, she said three words, the constitution does. And that is what she is using to guide her here.
So, an exceptional reign of her leadership continuing now. We don't know how it will end of course.
JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, ASSOCIATED PRESS: And that some of Pelosi's time as speaker, this time around will also be about Democrats figuring out who comes up behind her. And that's something else that struck me about Jeffries' speech there. He is one of those people who was looked upon as perhaps the next generation who would follow her. So much of the conversation during this campaign among Democrats was whether Pelosi should be speaker at all, and one of the real advantage that she had that there was no obvious other option.
But she is not going to be there forever. Democrats do need to use this space to figure out who comes next. Jeffries, I think in this new world that he's going to have in Democratic leadership positions himself really well to take up that mantle in the coming years.
SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Yes, he's 48- years-old and a Democratic leadership team with the same top three as a decade ago all of them are in their late 70s.
[12:50:06] The party is getting younger, he's African-American and a Democratic Party that is, you know, increasingly made up of a non- white voters. So, yes, in many ways that's why he's talked as a potential future speaker.
HENDERSON: And to see Nancy Pelosi, I think wear her power in such kind of a proud and bold way --
BASH: That's a good point.
HENDERSON: -- and you talk to her several times and she feels like it is important for women to see her at that table, of course we saw her in that Oval Office meeting with the president. She talks about her power early in her career. She wasn't as comfortable with power, but now -- and I don't know if publicly we've ever seen a woman so powerful and be so proud of that power. And of course it wrinkles some but she's doing it in a way we --
BASH: I'm so glad you said that because that is -- there are so many differences between the first time she took the gavel and now. But that was one of the big ones, is that she clearly is comfortable. It was obviously historic when she broke that marble ceiling. But she wasn't as open and as eager to talk about it and to be a role model --
BASH: -- she is aggressively trying to be a role model for younger women both in politics and also around the country.
All right, everybody standby. As we go to break, I just want to say that as we wait for the vote on the House floor for the House speaker, it is a constitutional position unlike the minority leader in the House. So there has to be a majority of members of the House who vote to make somebody a speaker. That's what we're going to see shortly.
That majority number today is going to be 216 not 217 because when we saw that long quorum call, they figured out that only 431 members are there. So the majority of that is 216. That's going to be the magic number we are going to be watching when that vote begins to take place. Quick break. We'll be right back.
[12:56:23] BASH: Welcome back to our coverage of the brand new 116th Congress. We saw the full Senate, at least one-third of the Senate that was just elected sworn in. Now we are monitoring the House of Representatives where we saw the nominating speeches in particular for the soon-to-be, we believed, new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. She will reclaim the gavel 12 years after getting it for the first time and making history as the first woman to do that.
As we wait for the role call to begin, for the vote to begin, we see Nancy Pelosi in the bottom of our screen there. We just want to mention -- first of all, we're also told that Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate is now on the House side to be there for the vote, to see his friend Nancy Pelosi formally officially elected.
ZELENY: And their partnership which is about to begin anew is going to really be important as Democrats deal with the president and this shutdown that's under way right now. So the tightness of Leader Pelosi, soon-to-be Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer will be very important, there no question.
I'm struck by one thing. When Nancy Pelosi came to the Congress, 23 women serving, now a 102 women serving, so she has seen and presided over a dramatic change. But again, when she was scripting this out after the midterms, the shutdown was not at the top of the list. Now she is contending with that, and we do not know how this is going to end. Probably not well for either side.
BASH: It's a good point and as we are talking about that, we should say that the roll call vote for House speaker has just begun. And so we're going to see -- monitor that, see how it goes. It's a manual vote so it's going to take a little bit longer than a lot of votes tend to be these days in modern times on the House floor.
But you make a really important point that she and everybody who took over the House, on the Democratic side, 40 seats in all ran on very specific agenda items. And they're going to have to start with a Trump agenda item, which is figuring out how to reopen the government or at least part of it when he is demanding money for his border wall.
KAPUR: All right, this is not the way that Democrats obviously wanted to start off their new House majority, you know, with a government shutdown and having to reopen the government. But they do want to convey that they're thinking about the bread and butter issues. That this is not simply a majority designed to confront Trump and to, you know, to conduct oversight on him and potentially they view it necessary impeach him.
When I asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi a couple of weeks ago if she wants to bring up legislation to protect the special counsel investigation for instance, she dodged the question and said no, we're interested in healthcare access, (INAUDIBLE) paycheck infrastructure, they want it be talking about policy and they want to convey an agenda.
Now, whether they do -- how they do that is going to be a big question. Do they do stabilization or they presume Medicare for all? Do they do, you know, modest things on immigration like DACA and security or do they go big? Do they do modest infrastructure package or do they try to do a green new deal? These are all very difficult questions that Pelosi is going to have to address.
BASH: Well, particularly since they know that what they are voting on in the House --
HENDERSON: Is DOA --
BASH: Most of the agenda items have very little chance of getting even brought up in the U.S. Senate, never mind getting to the president's desk.
We are wrapping up this hour as we do. You see what's happening on the House floor. It is the formal vote for speaker of the House for the 116th Congress. And you saw and you'll continue to see as the members are in their seats which you almost never see to show you the gravity and the importance of this moment.
Thanks for joining us on the INSIDE POLITICS. Brianna Keilar picks up right now.
BRIANNA KEILA, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks Dana.