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At This Hour

Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY) Is Interviewed About McCarthy Failing 11th Vote; Buffalo Bills: Damar Hamlin's Breathing Tube Removed. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 06, 2023 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. AT THIS HOUR, the mass is not in his favor. Kevin McCarthy has failed now 11 times to become House Speaker. Negotiations among Republicans resume this morning. Plus, new audio captures the critical moments when medics on the scene on the field were fighting to save Damar Hamlin's life.

We'll bring that to you. And it's also a stunning increase. That's how it's being described. That is how the White House is describing the rise in a new COVID sub variant. The White House joins us to talk about it. This is what we're watching At This Hour.

Thank you so much for being here, everybody. I'm Kate Bolduan. The House remains deadlock, deadlock. The historic battle to elect a speaker drags on for another day in a fight not seen in more than a century. And that is not hyperbole, a century. Next hour, they will be heading back into that chamber for a fourth straight day of voting in an exercise that, let's be honest, has become Groundhog Day.

Kevin McCarthy has now failed on 11 consecutive ballots. The path ahead, very uncertain. The big difference at this hour is a conference call. This morning among the Republican conference all getting on the phone to talk about what Kevin has and what Kevin's negotiating and what Kevin is going to do. McCarthy is fighting to win over more support, making some pretty extreme concessions to get there.

Still right now though, he doesn't have the numbers to win the gavel. All of this comes on the two-year mark of the insurrection on the Capitol. We're going to get to all of it. Let's begin with Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. Manu, what are you hearing at this hour?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kevin McCarthy is on a conference call with Republican members talking about this emerging agreement, but he does not have an agreement yet with these hold ups. So people have been denying him his path to the speakership. In fact, he said that we don't have an agreement yet. But he said, quote, we are in a good position and are having meetings.

Now, in this call, he and his top allies detailed this agreement which would allow some of these members on the far right to have more power, more sway. He said they'd have re-equal representation of our key committees. He also detailed some of the concessions that he has made. One of those issues is the issue of allowing one single member the power to call for a vote to oust a sitting speaker. That is a very significant issue, one that McCarthy had resisted for some time, but he gave into, but also could create some instability in the speakership.

McCarthy on this call downplayed that so that this rules package that they have negotiated overall is pretty much the same other than this issue. He said he's not afraid of it. That is the same message that he reiterated to me last night when I asked him if he is concerned that this issue could make him a weaker speaker if he gets the votes.


RAJU: Are you concerned? I mean, you're giving one member the power to oust you if you're speaker. Aren't going to --

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (D-CA): That's the way it's always been, except for the last year. I think I'm very fine.

RAJU: You're fine?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has it undercut your potential power as speaker?

MCCARTHY: Has it undercut the power of all the other speakers.

RAJU: But it was used over John Boehner.

MCCARTHY: We have been in this position since 1959, I mean it doesn't that inherently mean that you would be a weaker speaker? No. I would only be a weaker speaker if I was afraid. And I'm not a weak.


RAJU: Now, it is still an open question about what exactly will happen in one hour's time when the House does come back into session and whether they would actually have yet another ballot vote. He even if that vote happens, he will not have the 218 votes he needs to be elected the next speaker of the House because some members, Kate, have flown home for various family issues.

Also, the holdouts simply are not there. And this agreement, as he acknowledged on this call, has not yet been reached. So he still wants to adjourn this chamber, allow for some more time for negotiations, but he needs the votes to adjourn, and it's unclear if he has that. So we'll see what happens here in a matter of minutes here, Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Manu, stick close. Thank you so much. Let's get some more perspective on that conference call, where things are headed now. Joining me right now, incoming Republican Congressman from New York, Mike Lawler. He has supported Kevin McCarthy on all of these ballots. Congressman-elect, thanks for coming in. What happened on that conference call just now?

REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): Look, I'm not going to get into too much of the details of the call except to say that I do believe progress is being made. I do believe the conversations over the last 24 to 48 hours have been very productive, and I do believe that people are going to be moving towards Kevin and ultimately that Kevin McCarthy will be the speaker of the House. As I have said from the very beginning.

Look, you have over 200 members of the conference who have supported Kevin throughout this entire process. That is not changing. And we are going to continue to stand strong wrong in support of Kevin until he ultimately is elected as the speaker of the House. And so, ultimately, here you've had, like I said, productive conversations over the last 24 to 48 hours.


And many of these changes that have been requested by members of the Freedom Caucus are changes embraced by the conference. This is not a question of weakening Kevin McCarthy as speaker. You know, the motion to vacate going from five to one, there really is no difference, especially when you look at the fact that, you know, obviously the number of holdouts has been 20. So there's really not a difference between five and one.

BOLDUAN: There is a difference historically, or it wouldn't even be an issue. No, no, no, but Congressman --

LAWLER: Nancy Pelosi is the one who eliminated the motion to vacate. So what, we are going back to --

BOLDUAN: I understand, but I will say, OK, but I will say, some of your Republican colleagues, they don't like the concessions that have been made. I mean, some of McCarthy's supporters, some of your Republican colleagues say that he is now going too far in what he is offering. That's not an outside analysis. That's from inside your party. Max Miller just this morning said, quote on Fox Business, he said, I believe we have given too many concessions to the 20.

LAWLER: Again, this is part of negotiation. And at the end of the day, we're either going to sink or swim as a conference. There are only 222 of us, 18 of which, myself included, are from Biden districts. And so you need someone like Kevin McCarthy who's going to be able to deal with members from across the political spectrum within the conference. You have to negotiate and come to a resolution here. And that is what has happened over the last 24 to 48 hours. And I do believe significant progress is made. Listen, it's politics and government.

BOLDUAN: Do you think he's any closer to 218?

LAWLER: In politics and government, you're not going to love everything that comes out of a deal. But at the end of the day, you have to get to an agreement. And I do believe we are making significant progress towards getting there. We will see what happens in the next hour. But I do believe ultimately, Kevin McCarthy will have the votes to become speaker of the House, whether that is today or tomorrow or early next week, whatever the situation will be. But we have made progress, and that, to me, is most important. As we move forward here.

BOLDUAN: Some people are starting to talk about this in terms of the negotiation that can drag on for weeks, not days. Are you thinking in that realm?

LAWLER: No, I don't think we're looking at weeks here. I think the bottom line for all of us is that we want to get about the work of the American people. I ran for my district, a district that has 70,000 more Democrats than Republicans, to focus in on key issues, affordability, securing our southern border, increasing domestic production of energy. We cannot get about the work unless we elect a speaker.

And I think the conference is coming together. I do believe there has been significant progress made over the last 24 to 48 hours, and I do believe we will get there within the next day or two.

BOLDUAN: In terms of the negotiations, as you say, there is being progress made. Is there a line for you for what would be a step too far in a concession being offered to the 20 to get them to come over or any of them to come over?

LAWLER: Based on the conversations that I'm aware of and the information that has been presented, I am fine with the concessions that have been made. And again, many of these are, frankly, rules and budgetary processes that have been long advocated for by conservatives. You know, as somebody who has served in the state legislature in New York, where they have recklessly spent and I have voted against multiple budgets, I'm happy to see that we will be pushing to vote on individual budget bills as opposed to an omnibus package. That's the way it should be.

So I don't have a problem with many of the rules, requests and budgetary changes that have been requested. The bottom line here is that we need a speaker, and if it brings the conference together so that we can get about the business of the American people, that is most important to me. That is why I ran for office. I didn't run for office to fight about rules. I didn't run for office to worry about process. I ran to get something done. And that, to me, is fundamental. And that's why I am supporting Kevin McCarthy from beginning to end.

BOLDUAN: That process that you're speaking about is definitely holding you up from getting to the agenda right now. As you said, let's see what happens when you guys head back into the chamber in the next hour. Congressman-elect, thanks for coming in.

LAWLER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

So, as the House is stuck at a standstill, members are marking this day for a different reason. Two years since the attack on the Capitol toward today, they are going to be -- they have been and will be also continuing to honor the victims and the heroes of that day. Lawmakers, they just wrapped up an event on the House steps which included a moment, a silence, a prayer, and a reading of the names of the fallen officers.

This ceremony is in stark contrast, of course, to the scenes at that same place two years ago. A violent mob storming the complex in a failed attempt to overturn the 2020 election result in the name of Donald Trump, five people ended up dying. More than 100 others were injured in that attack.


This afternoon, President Biden will also be marking this day that Capitol attack. At the White House, the President will be honoring 12 people, including law enforcement officers and election officials who all played a major role in protecting the Capitol that day on January 6th, and also protecting the entire electoral process from Election Day 2020 onward. M.J. Lee live at the White House for us. She's joining us right now. M.J., what are we going to see today?

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, as you said this afternoon, the President will be honoring 12 individuals that he sees as heroes who have emerged from January 6th and the 2020 election by presenting them with the Presidential Citizens Medal. It is one of the highest civilian honors that a person can be given.

And to give you a sense of what kinds of people are included in this list, there's Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, who of course, famously lured rioters away from lawmakers. Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman, they were election workers in Bolton County, Georgia, who gave poignant testimony about having been targeted and publicly disparaged by President Trump and his allies as they were just trying to do their work.

You know, all week we have been talking about the stark contrast we have seen between what has been happening on the House floor. And here at the White House, but I think it's also important to point out that there is also this important through line running through those two scenes. You know, Kevin McCarthy is in the very building that was overrun with rioters exactly two years ago trying to get the speaker's gavel. And some of the people who are opposing that effort are election deniers who were elected into office in November, some very loyal Trump supporters, who, by the way, are not changing their minds even as the former President is telling them to do so.

And then, on the other hand, we got such a great window into President Biden's thinking on all of this when he said earlier this week, look, I think we are just starting to move on and settle down after January 6th. And now here we are, confronted with this absolute mess of a situation in the House. So I think it's just important to note that two years after the insurrection, we are very much this week seeing Washington still grappling with these very core themes of threats to American democracy. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Great point, M.J., thank you so much.

So the Buffalo Bills, they just made a big announcement, an important update on Damar Hamlin's condition, that's next.



BOLDUAN: Some very encouraging news is coming in. The Buffalo Bills announcing Damar Hamlin has had his breathing tube removed. And he's talking with his teammates, the Bills noting that he continues to make remarkable progress since what happened to him on Monday. We're also hearing for the first time this morning the real time conversations on the field as the medics were fighting to save his life. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead and go over to the cot, I don't like how he went down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to need everybody, all call, all call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come bring everybody, we need airway doctor, everybody. Bring the cot with medics, all of you and get wheeled out here.


BOLDUAN: Adrienne Broaddus is in Cincinnati for us. Adrienne, what more are you hearing about Hamlin's improvement?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the Bills is also telling us Damar Hamlin was able to join the team meeting today. He used FaceTime to talk to the players and the coaches, telling them, love you boys. This, as you mentioned, after his breathing tube was removed overnight. Now, members of his care team here at the university of Cincinnati medical center say when Damar woke up, his mind was still on the game, asking, did we win?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he asked, did we win? The answer is, yes, you know, Damar, you won. You won the game of life. And that's probably the most important thing out of this. We really need to keep him at the center of everything else that's going on.


BROADDUS: And his care team also saying, Damar still has a long road ahead when it comes to recovery, but these updates they've been sharing have been a necessary turn or corner for Damar to turn in terms of his recovery. And this, Kate, it's so nice to smile on a Friday because so many of these stories we share with our viewers don't lead to endings with a smile. Back to you.

BOLDUAN: A long road ahead. But, man, this is some good news. Thank you so much, Adrienne. I really appreciate it. And joining me now for more on this is the mayor of Buffalo, New York, Byron Brown. Mayor, thanks for coming in. What's your reaction to this very good news about the continued progress that Damar is making?

MAYOR BYRON BROWN, BUFFALO, NEW YORK: Absolutely great news, uplifting news. Community has been through a lot. What happened to Damar Hamlin, his injury was another gut punch to the city of Buffalo. And to see him recovering so remarkably is certainly lifting spirits throughout our community and across the country.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. You know, Mayor, we just heard Adrienne played some sound from his care team, his doctors that are treating him, and we heard that the doctors said that his first question when he woke up was, did we win? What do you think when you heard that?

BROWN: You know, it's amazing. You hear so many stories of Damar Hamlin having a giving spirit, being a very loving person, sharing his love for his teammates. And it's not surprising that the first thing that he would say when he woke up is, did we win? Certainly someone that has worked hard to become a professional football player and it just shows the type of character he has and the way he cares for his teammates.


BOLDUAN: Yes. And as you were kind of alluding to, I mean what happened to Damar Hamlin comes really on top of an already rough time for your city. You called it another gut punch, you know, in May, that racist, deadly shooting at the top supermarket then that blizzard that led to at least 40 people dying. And then just last week, we were talking about a house fire in Buffalo that killed five children. What have the last I think it's been eight months than that time period, what are the last eight months meant for Buffalo?

BROWN: Lot of challenges, lot of pain, anger, heartbreak, anguish. But also through all of that, seeing the best of people, people helping each other in typical city of good neighbors, fashion, people trying to lift each other up and show their love for each other. Buffalo is a great city. It's a resilient city with strong people. And through all of these challenging situations, there are literally hundreds of examples of people trying to help each other and trying to keep the community strong.

BOLDUAN: Back to the good news that's coming for Buffalo in terms of Damar and the Bills. The Bills are going to be playing again on Sunday. Let me play for you, I'm sure you heard it, but let me play what quarterback Josh Allen said about it.


JOSH ALLEN, BUFFALO BILLS QUARTERBACK: I think putting that helmet back on today was a really good thing for our team and just to kind of go through that process. I'd be lying to you if I didn't say, you know, some people are going to be changed forever, you know, after being on the field and witnessing that and feeling those emotions.


BOLDUAN: What's Sunday's game going to mean for everyone in Buffalo? BROWN: It is going to be uplifting. It's going to be an opportunity to exhale, so many of us that were watching the game when Damar Hamlin stood up and fell backwards, we're absolutely horrified in that moment. Watching the anguish on the faces of his teammates and the members of the Cincinnati Bengals was again horrific. Your heart went out to all of the players, the members of the Buffalo Bills that love Damar so much, and the opposing team, the Cincinnati Bengals. So this is going to be a real uplifting experience. The game on Sunday, it's going to be a home game. You're going to see a lot of number three jerseys.

I'm sure every number three jersey in Buffalo and Western New York will be completely sold out. It'll be probably impossible to get one if you don't get one soon. And it will be a boost to the collective spirit of our community.

BOLDUAN: A community that can definitely use a boost and you can see it in that beautiful community of yours is also boosting the spirits of everybody around the country. Thank you so much, Mayor, for coming, and I appreciate your time.

BROWN: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.


So an eyewitness account, the evidence left behind, and the odd behavior, there are new details coming out on how investigators track down the man that is now charged in the Idaho college murders. That is next.


BOLDUAN: A new jobs report out today. And the markets are responding very favorably right now. The Dow is up I think nearly 600 points is what we've been looking at. The report shows that the U.S. just wrapped a banner year for the labor market, adding 223,000 jobs in December. But how does this all fit into the very complicated picture that we have been tracking in the economy so far? Matt Egan is looking into it. He's here with me. Matt, what does the report tell you?

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Kate, this looks very much like the goldilocks jobs report that Wall Street, the Fed, and even the White House was looking for, because too hot would have meant that the Fed probably has to do more of this tough medicine. Too cold would have been bad, too, because that would have signaled a potential recession. This was kind of in the middle. Payroll growth did slowdown, 223,000 jobs added last month. That's pretty solid, but it is a step down from previous months.

What has the attention of investors and economists, though, is wages. They were red hot. They are cooling off. Wage growth is still above average, but it actually slowed to a 16-month low. Now, if you're sitting at home and you're dealing with, you know, the high cost of groceries, the high price of eggs, for example, you're not happy about this. But this is actually exactly what the Federal Reserve wants to see, because they want confidence that inflation is under control, that there won't be a wage price spiral, right, where the high cost of living causes workers to demand higher and higher wages, which forces companies to pass on the cost to consumers, it can become a negative feedback loop.


So the slowdown in wages is encouraging. I think if there's one point part of this that doesn't look like goldilocks, it's the unemployment rate. It actually ticked down to 3.5 percent.