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At This Hour

U.S. House Paralyzed as McCarthy Faces Hardline GOP Revolt; NFL's Damar Hamlin Remains in Critical Condition; Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 04, 2023 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone. AT THIS HOUR, chaos in the Capitol, nothing but questions about what is going to happen next?

Chief among them, when will Congress have a new Speaker of the House?

Plus Damar Hamlin remains in critical condition in the hospital. We'll talk to his high school football coach.

And a monster storm is hammering California right now. San Francisco's mayor joins us live, as they prepare and are handling what they're going to do about the latest deluge.

This is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR.


BOLDUAN: Thank you for being with us. I'm Kate Bolduan.

So 24 hours later, we have no Speaker of the House and no clearer view of when that would be decided. Very soon the House is supposed to convene. Kevin McCarthy insists he will not be dropping out of the race and insists he can get to 218, despite failing to secure support in three separate votes.

It is the first time in a century that the House did not elect a speaker on the first round of voting. At the heart of this mess is a small group of conservatives, about 10 percent of the Republican conference, all of whom want more power, all of whom are taking advantage of the Republicans' slim majority.

But it's messy from here on out. Lauren Fox is standing by.

Phone calls, sleepless nights, lots of back room and basement discussions.

What is happening right now?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There aren't many options right now, Kate. Kevin McCarthy doesn't have the votes to be the next speaker. He showed that three times yesterday. The options today are twofold.

They can either go to the floor and vote or potentially try to adjourn to give themselves a bit more time to wrestle this out behind the scenes. So far the discussions are not yielding any more yes votes for McCarthy.

But the question is whether Democrats will allow McCarthy to try to adjourn to give himself more time. I think it would depend on how long they want to adjourn for. We are hearing Democrats will try to whip against adjourning until tomorrow.

So it's a sense of the pressure cooker up here. Meanwhile, the President of the United States making a clear statement about what he thinking of this mess over on the other side of Pennsylvania avenue.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For the first time in 100 years, you can't move. I really mean it. I know you know international relations. It is not a good look, not a good thing. It's the United States of America. And I hope they get their act together.


FOX: We're hearing from allies of Kevin McCarthy. They also agree, this is really not a good look. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Good to see you, Lauren. Stick close to the camera, friend. Appreciate it.

Joining us to discuss this, Manu Raju and former Republican congressman from Texas, Will Hurd.

Congressman, just your take on this moment. The options are either have a vote at noon or push it off another day, if Kevin McCarthy can even get people to agree to that.

Which is the better option for you?

WILL HURD (R-TX), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: I think neither sound like good options. I have to step back and say it's shocking that the fringe minority, they must have been on vacation in November and didn't see the outcome of the elections in 2022.

The American voters said very clearly they wanted people to fight for them, solve problems on the horizon, like inflation, border security, China, not this. This notion that Democrats are going to help McCarthy now?

They were giddy on the floor yesterday. President Biden is excited to be in Kentucky today to show contrasts to this.

I don't call this fringe minority -- I call them the fringe minority, because they say they want conservative things to happen in Congress. But the only thing they're doing is helping the liberals to show the country, hey, this was potentially a bad decision, because these folks may not be able to govern.

BOLDUAN: Manu, what are you hearing behind the scenes about what the risk/reward is?


BOLDUAN: If McCarthy pushes this off another day.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the debate that's happening right now. In fact, I just talked to one of the members involved, Brian Fitzpatrick, one of the more moderate members of the conference.

He's been having some of the discussions with some of the detractors, some of the McCarthy detractors, trying to understand what the opponents need to get to yes. Trying to put together some offer, some proposal that they could then present to the rest of the conference, see if the rest of the conference agrees with the changes.

They include giving the rank-and-file members, the far-right members key committee assignments, more power to use nor leverage over the Speakership.

The question, though, is can the rest of the conference agree to it?

That's why there's been active discussions all day long about whether they can delay the vote for another day. They want more time to have those discussions play out in order to get a deal.

The real fear among the McCarthy allies is that he will lose votes on the fourth ballot. He could go from 20-21, maybe even beyond. If he does, that undercuts any ability to showcase he's regaining momentum.

That's a real risk to trying to achieve 218 votes. His allies believe he is still the only one that can ultimately get there in this razor- thin Republican majority.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, one thing we do know, is at the most basic level, what the holdouts, if you want to call them that, what they want is more power. We know that. There's lots of different motivations for what they want to do with that power, how they want to wield that power.

But in the end, do you think Kevin McCarthy can still pull this off, knowing what you know?

HURD: I don't think so. Here's two things I do know -- and I'm sure Manu is hearing this on the Hill.

Kevin McCarthy will not blink and these 20 or so fringe minority is not going to blink, either. What's going to ultimately be required to get through this standstill is some leader emerge out of the conference to say, listen, this is not good for the conference.

This is not good for the institution, this is not good for the country. We need to find who can lead us. Let's be clear, the motivations of these 20 folks, their stated

motivations, they want additional power. In reality, all they want to do is throw bombs. So this notion -- and they probably don't care who the compromise candidate is, because they got the eyeballs on their social media pages.

They got on cable news to talk about these things. We can see them, you know, come around and coalesce around someone like a Steve Scalise or someone else.

BOLDUAN: Manu, what are you hearing about who that other candidate could be?

The one thing we have learned -- Don Bacon (ph) was on with Jim Sciutto earlier. There are preliminary conversations with Dems. Everything that's uttered in public might be part of a negotiating tactic, we should say.

How real are preliminary conversations?

RAJU: It is very unlikely that that will ultimately play out here, in large part because Democrats say they're going to vote for Hakeem Jeffries on every single ballot. It's hard to see some moderate Republican being the ultimate choice of some Democrats and get some support from Republicans. So that's a far-fetched scenario.

It really just underscores the unprecedented nature of the situation we're in. Yes, it happened 100 years ago. But in the modern era, this has not happened. While people are trying to figure out the alternative, there's no clear alternative.

The congressman mentioned Steve Scalise. He's been mentioned as someone potentially that could emerge. But even he would have some problems as well. Not that there's just skeptics among moderates but the deals that McCarthy cut to get to try to get the votes, some of those more moderate members weren't aligned with McCarthy.

They say they won't support those concessions if there's another speaker candidate. You can't just come up with another candidate -- there's no consensus candidate like a Paul Ryan was, when McCarthy stepped aside and Ryan succeeded Boehner.


RAJU: There's only four votes that could settle any one speaker's bid. A lot of questions ahead whether McCarthy can get there. Still seems doubtful at the moment.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, knowing all of that, what does this mean for the next two years of this Republican majority?

HURD: Look, what this means is that we're going to consistently give victories to the Left if we don't show an ability to govern, if we can't -- if the government shuts down, if we don't do a deal with a debt ceiling increase, if we don't address -- look, technology is moving so fast. There's a need for regulation and we need to make sure we're preparing

our kids for the future. Congress has a role in that.

But one of the lessons we have to take away from this is the situation Kevin McCarthy is in right now is of his own making. If this doesn't happen for him, he's not a martyr.

The fact that he tried to negotiate with this fringe element, sometimes to the detriment of his allies, I think he would love for Peter Meijer and Liz Cheney and, you know, Jaime Herrera Butler to be back in Congress. But he didn't do the things necessary to keep them there.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, great to see you.

Manu, keep it up. Thanks, buddy.

While the Speaker's fight has somewhat paralyzed Washington for now, President Biden is headed out of town, as Lauren Fox was speaking to. He will be arrives in Kentucky soon and promoting the rare bipartisan victory of the infrastructure bill with a major new project about to break ground.

And none other than Mitch McConnell joining him. Jeremy Diamond is in Covington, Kentucky, ahead of this event.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This bridge has long been a symbol of the country's aging infrastructure and a symbol of what can be done when Democrats and Republicans work together.

This is why President Biden is here, to take a victory lap and talk about this project, a $1.64 billion federal award to the states of Kentucky and Ohio to jointly build a new bridge and repair this bridge behind me.

It was built 60 years ago to accommodate about half the traffic it now currently sees every day. Local and business leaders say that costs millions of dollars in economic losses.

So ultimately, what President Biden is here to talk about is what can be done when Democrats and Republicans work together and also, of course, this contrast. Already the president was looking to kick off 2023, as he faces this new reality of divided government in Washington by touting the bipartisanship, standing alongside Mitch McConnell to talk about this project.

But that contrast has sharpened, even more so, given what we are seeing with the House Republicans unable through infighting to actually pick a speaker. That will certainly be a split screen that the president enjoys today.

BOLDUAN: Quite a juxtaposition today specifically. Thank you, Jeremy.

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin is fighting for his life still after an on-field collapse. One of the people who has guided him along the way, his high school football coach, joins us next. (MUSIC PLAYING)




BOLDUAN: Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin remains in critical condition, fighting to recover after suffering a cardiac arrest Monday night. Adrienne Broaddus is at the hospital in Cincinnati.

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I spoke recently with family representative Jordon Rooney. He told me Damar Hamlin was only resuscitated once on the football field. This after I spoke with Dorian Glenn (ph) outside the hospital, Damar's uncle.

During that conversation, he told us that his nephew had been resuscitated twice, once on the field and then again here at the hospital. But the family spokesperson telling me moments ago, the uncle misspoke. Listen in.


JORDON ROONEY, DAMAR HAMLIN FRIEND AND SPOKESPERSON: You know, Dorian's a great uncle. I think he was excited to share positive news. Damar was only resuscitated once. There's a lot going on. it's hard for anyone to keep up with, who isn't in the medical community.


BROADDUS: We have not heard from anyone at the hospital when it comes to the medical staff treating and caring for Damar.

Meanwhile, the family and the family spokesperson saying his parents, who are both at his bedside, taking every day minute by minute.

Outside the hospital, in front of the hospital, there's what I like to call a get well soon corner. On that corner, there's a single balloon with the number 3. That is the number Damar wears on the football field. But he is number one in the hearts of his family. Kate.

BOLDUAN: So many people pulling for him and his family now.

Joining me now is Terry Totten, Damar Hamlin's high school football coach.

Thank you for taking your time to speak with me.

What was your first reaction?

TERRY TOTTEN, DAMAR HAMLIN'S HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL COACH: Just like everyone else, complete horror unfolding.

[11:20:00] TOTTEN: Anyone who watches football and knows football knows what that kind of collapse is about. It's not a turned ankle or something. And the look on those players' faces told me everything I needed to know. This was very, very serious and critical, life-and-death situation.

BOLDUAN: As we are learning more about it and everyone waiting for an update on his condition as he is still there. We have heard so much, Coach, about Damar on the field but also off the field, his generosity and kindness to others.

What was he like as a high school athlete?

TOTTEN: Yes, I think this outpouring of support and love and hope and prayer that you're seeing is related to the way Damar handled himself off the field. He was so steady. I've said that word so many times the past couple days.

He was even-keeled, low-key, always the same whether in a very, very high situation, an excited moment or an adversity situation, which he fought through a couple times with injuries here at Central Catholic and then over at Pitt.

He was very mature beyond his years. Even his charitable efforts began at a young age. I think he hosted in his heart the dream that so many kids do, of playing in the National Football League.

But he felt sure he would do it and wouldn't let anything get in the way. And coinciding with that was a desire to give back to help his community, help his high school and college and the people he met along the way.

BOLDUAN: It's hard to teach that. That seems to come naturally and that definitely comes from good parenting and good coaching guiding him along the way. Damar played on a state championship team for you. I learned this morning he is one of four of your former players who are now playing in the NFL.

Including Cal Adomitis, who was playing for the Bengals on Monday night when this happened.

What does this whole thing mean for your greater football family?

TOTTEN: It's important. They have represented us very well. Damar in particular has represented his community of McKees Rocks and Central Catholic community and the University of Pittsburgh extremely well. They all have.

Rodney Thomas, he's an Indianapolis Colt; he drove down to Cincinnati to be in the hospital where Damar is.

This place is a diverse place. It's kids from different neighborhoods and different socioeconomic backgrounds. But we consider ourselves a brotherhood and they certainly formed that.

Damar was key in reaching across lines that anybody, was always willing to help a lesser student, a lesser athlete, just someone to look to. In his older years, he took up the mantle of that. He was a real treat to be around and to coach and to -- you know, you retire from football, which I have.

But you never retire from these kids' lives. That includes some very good moments, weddings, childbirths, things of that. But sometimes it includes a tough moment like now. So again, our thoughts and prayers are with he and his family.

BOLDUAN: Coach, when you put it that way, it makes me think, have you considered what it would mean if he can't return to the game?

Given what he suffered or what it's going to require, since you have seen his work ethic and determination to overcome and to journey through this is long road he may have ahead.

TOTTEN: If there's a road, a path, a chance, Damar will find it. That's what he's done up to this point. He came here to challenge himself academically and athletically. He stayed close to home going to Pitt but there was adversity there. There was a position change and he was a sixth-round draft pick.

And he said, Coach, I'll make the roster. He did and got on to special teams and finally in the lineup in the NFL for a league-leading team. So if there's some path physically, he will get to it.

If not, he has so much to give left in this life. He will give it. He will attack what's next, as he has attacked everything in his life, with loyalty, devotion and service in his heart.


BOLDUAN: Coach, I sure wish I had someone speaking about me the way you speak about Damar through the years. It's a really beautiful thing. It's nice to meet you and nice to learn more about Central Catholic through all of this. Thank you.

TOTTEN: Thank you so much for having us on.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

The House of Representatives cannot function without a Speaker of the House. Important committee assignments, the basic yet key rules of engagement on any legislation all frozen until they figure this out. A Republican congressman in the middle of this mess, joins us next.