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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL) Is Interviewed About Speaker Vote; Now: House Taking 10th Speaker Vote As McCarthy's Path Uncertain; Kevin McCarthy Loses Speakership Bid On Third Day As Votes Tally Climbs To 11. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 05, 2023 - 17:00   ET



REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA), DEMOCCRATIC CAUCUS CHAIRMAN: And at the end of the day, when it's just you and he, he's going to make sure we all do the business of this body and we all get home for our families. There is nothing more important than the work that we do you in this chamber for the American public, safeguarding priorities like Social Security and Medicare, making sure that our families are taken care of, making sure that the families in our communities are taken care of.

And what we've seen in this chamber is tough. It's tough to watch. It's tough to imagine what would happen in this chamber today if were debating Social Security and Medicare. What would happen? What would the votes be? Where would people stand? That's why it's important that Hakeem Jeffries leads this body.

On behalf of the Democratic Caucus, I am nominating the leader of the governing party in this chamber Hakeem Jefferies from New York.

CHERYL JOHNSON, HOUSE CLERK: For what purpose does the gentlewoman from Florida rise?

REP. ANNA PAULINA LUNA (R-FL): Madam Speaker, I would like to rise to nominate Byron Donalds for speaker of the House.

JOHNSON: The gentlewoman is recognized.

LUNA: I've known Byron for roughly about four years now. And being that he's from the state of Florida, I can tell you that I've come to known him on both the campaign trail and personally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not an order.

LUNA: But I want to clarify something real quick to my colleagues across the aisle. What you're seeing with this discussion does not mean that we are dysfunctional and in no way, shape or form will a Democrat ever hold the gavel to a Republican controlled House. These discussions and dialogues have actually been good for the American people.

And although the media tries to pit us against each other, I can tell you that it's been something that we need as a country. There are people that are frustrated with this process. Byron, through this entire time, has done something that I think most leaders should do more of, and that is listen. Respect people when they're talking. Understand the needs of the American people. Be willing to take negotiations, but also to realize when is a proper time to stand your ground on certain things.

I ask my colleagues today to support him. I think he's an incredible representation of what this country is. And that is exactly why he has my vote for speaker of the House. Thank you.

JOHNSON: For what purpose does the gentlewoman from Colorado rise?

REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): Madam Clerk, I rise to nominate Kevin Hern of Oklahoma for speaker of the House.

JOHNSON: The gentlewoman is recognized.

BOEBERT: It's as simple as that, folks. Let's start getting somewhere with this. Realize the facts, Kevin McCarthy does not have the votes. Let's elect a Republican who can unify our conference, who is a true leader. I'm casting my vote for Kevin Hern, and I hope you will as well. I yield.

JOHNSON: The reading clerk will call the roll.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. So, there we have it. The 10th vote for speaker of the House of Representatives has begun. And there you're hear, Adams that's the telltale sign that the roll call has begun. And we, I have to say, expect 10th verse, same as the first that we expect. It's going to be 212 votes for the Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries and 201 votes for the Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who is about to lose his 10th speaker ballot in a row, as well as several votes for Congressman Donald and Congressman Hern.

Welcome to a special edition of THE LEAD. I am Jake Tapper. And as I just said, the House is beginning its 10th vote.

Let's go to Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. Because Manu, here's the big question. Are Republicans going to do this all night now? Are they just going to keep holding vote after vote, after vote, after vote? And is this what Democrats want?


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, this is really the big question is at what point can they adjourn? This is not the position that Kevin McCarthy wants to be in right now. He actually does not want to have these votes. He wants to adjourn the chamber, but he does not have the 218 votes to adjourn because the Democrats don't want to give him those votes. They are perfectly content watching Kevin McCarthy fail vote after vote. And there are a handful of hardline conservative members who don't want to give him the votes either, meaning they don't have 218 votes to adjourn. So that's why this is continuing to go on and on and on. Now, behind the scenes, there are negotiations that are happening. And that is really what could be key here. Because if they make progress on those negotiations, significant progress, actually shake hands, come to some sort of tentative agreement, that could change the dynamic tonight. And I am told from a source that is directly involved in these talks that their hope is to get that deal tonight. That is the push to get that aspect of the deal done.

That includes a number of rules changes, many of the things that we have been reporting, including giving them more leverage over the speakership, giving them more power over the House Rules Committee and the like. As long as they get those hammered out, they believe at that point they can get the vote agreement to adjourn the chamber because some of the Republicans may come along the lines and adjourn the chamber. This is the other complicating factor, I'm told.

There are several members who need to leave town tomorrow. There are four Republicans, I am told, that need to leave town for various family issues. There are some Democrats who apparently need to leave town as well. So, for the issue on the Republican side, that means if there are four Republicans who are leaving, assuming they're in the pro McCarthy camp, that's not helpful for his quest to get to 218.

So they're hoping that they can reach some agreement with the Republicans and get some sort of -- get a vote to adjourn the chamber, potentially adjourning until Monday if they can get an agreement or make some progress within the next 24 hours, because the Democrats, I'm told, are not willing to kick this into next week, they're fine to go through the weekend, but the Republicans want to show progress, get a deal, get an adjournment. But the question is, can they get there, Jake, still the question. Things are very fluid.

TAPPER: Yes, and now we're just talking about when they're going to adjourn. We're still -- we haven't even come to the point about when are they going to settle on a speaker of the House of Representatives. I guess two out of three branches of government isn't bad.

CNN's Lauren Fox joins me now at Capitol Hill, who's been getting reaction from Democrats.

Lauren, what are the Democrats want? Obviously, they're popping popcorn. They're enjoying this. There's joy. But they also don't want to stay up all night. They also don't want to be here all weekend.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, their leadership, Jake, is preparing them to settle in for a long evening because they want to stand firm. They want to make sure that this is getting as uncomfortable as possible for the Republicans. So they are actually telling their members, settle in, get ready, get some dinner, and prepare yourself for the fact that this might go a couple more rounds tonight.

Now, that could always change if Republicans can coalesce, like Manu was saying, around some kind of compromise where they could adjourn, some kind of place where conservatives and hardliners feel like leadership is giving them enough that they would give them the votes to keep these negotiations going. Right now, though, that's just not happening. And lot of Republicans I'm talking to off the floor, a lot of Republicans our colleagues are talking to off the floor, they're telling everyone that this could go on for a while.

And I think that is really the conundrum here, is you are running up against the reality that for many years now, proxy voting has existed in the House of Representatives where you did not need to be in the chamber to cast your vote on important issues. That's no longer the case. You have to be physically present. There's obviously no rules in place right now because there's no speaker. But Kevin McCarthy also vowed to just get rid of proxy voting.

So, lawmakers have to be in the chamber to make these votes. And I think that's one of the challenges that Kevin McCarthy is going to be hitting up against right now. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Lauren Fox, thanks so much.

Joining us now, Republican from Florida, Mike Waltz, who has voted for Kevin McCarthy on all nine ballots.

Congressman Waltz, I assume you're going to vote for him for a 10th time eminently while you're in the W.C. you got some time. Are you getting frustrated?

REP. MICHAEL WALTZ (R-FL): Oh, yes, I'm frustrated, Jake. I'll be honest with you. I mean, just today I was supposed to get a classified briefing on China's space program. We were supposed to go over how the Pentagon was going to lift its maccine (ph) -- I mean, its vaccine mandate. So, there are all kinds of things we should be doing. We should have had a China Select Committee by yesterday.

Two days ago, we had a bill to defund the 87,000 IRS agents that are going to go after the middle class. So, there is so much work to be done that were elected to do. A lot of negotiations have happened, and -- but we can't get a clear pathway to 218 and get to work. I'm ready to get to work.

TAPPER: How many ballots do you think this is going go to? I'm sure you've been reading up on the history as the rest of us have.


WALTZ: Sure.

TAPPER: 1856 just went to 133 ballots. It took two months. I guess my question is, is it possible that there will be some consensus candidate that with mainstream Republicans -- main street, rather, Republicans working with Democrats to come up with a consensus candidate? Or what Congressman Mike McCall referred to as the nuclear option, which is changing the rules to only make it a plurality required, not a 218 vote majority. I mean, do you think it's actually going to come to that?

WALTZ: Yes. Look, that's not something I would support, Jake. That's not what were elected to do. We were elected to put a conservative agenda in place, and we are elected to stop Biden's agenda that we campaigned on is bad for the country from the out of control border to out of control inflation to the rise of crime. We've gone from the Abraham Accords to the worst withdrawal in Afghanistan or the worst debacle since Saigon.

So -- and I personally, as you know, want accountability for those 13 Gold Star families. So, look, there has been some outreach, I understand, from Democrats to try to cut some kind of deal. But there are those of us conservatives who want to govern as conservatives.

And if, you know -- look, we've got to change some rules. I think a lot of the rule changes that we've made, particularly since Speaker Pelosi has been in place, where we can't have $1.7 trillion go into the speaker's office and pop out without any ability to amend it or debate it or have input, we've made those changes. So at this point, I'm optimistic we're going to get to a framework that we're going to get to a deal. We're going to get in 218 for -- or something lower than that of some vote present for McCarthy, and we're going to move forward.

TAPPER: Have you been talking to any of the 20 holdouts? It seems to me that there are different schools. You know, you have the Chip Roys who want those rules changes that you've been talking about, although I don't know what more there is for Kevin McCarthy to give up. It seems like he's giving quite a bit. But then there's also your fellow Florida Republican Matt Gaetz who -- his issue is he seems to just loathe Kevin McCarthy, and he'll never vote for him, and he'll lead as many people to oppose him as possible.

WALTZ: Yes, look, I think there are those that still want some additional changes. You're right, we've made a lot. This process didn't start this week, it started months ago. A lot of those changes, again, have been very positive, and I support them.

There are those who want some additional changes, but there are definitely those that this is personal about him. And I don't feel that we bring personal agendas or animosities into this. We figure out a way to govern as we are elected to do in a Republican majority.

TAPPER: And let me just note for our viewers who are watching the board next to you, Congressman, that Kevin McCarthy is now on his way to lose his 10th vote with six House Republicans voting against him for either Congressman Kevin Hern or Congressman Byron Donalds. He can only afford to lose four, as we've been saying, for the last three days.


TAPPER: So, he looks like he's headed for a defeat.

You talked about a conservative agenda. You talked about the fact that some of these individuals seem very personally opposed to Kevin McCarthy. We heard earlier today Congressman Ken Buck who has been voting alongside you for Kevin McCarthy nine times in a row, saying that if McCarthy is not able to do this, it may soon be time to introduce Steve Scalise as the nominee for speaker of the House. I know that's not what you want. I know that's not your first choice, but could Steve Scalise theoretically get 218 votes?

WALTZ: You know, I mean, we also heard that with -- we've seen Andy Biggs introduced, Jim Jordan introduced, you know, Byron Donalds, now Kevin Hern, you know, my view -- we have moderates too. We have moderates that won over Biden districts, they have a say as well. And you need someone who can span all of that. I think the world of all of those individuals, actually. But at the end of the day, you have to win over the entire conference, as you know with only four to spare. And I think you could start seeing some moderates backing away from this process. I think Kevin McCarthy spans the spectrum, and we'll get him there.

TAPPER: What do you mean moderates might walk back away from the process? What do you mean by that?

WALTZ: Well, they're incredibly frustrated, and if you go to an alternative that is so conservative they don't believe it reflects their district and the reasons that they were voted to come in, then you have a problem on the other end of the spectrum. So, you know, at the end of the day, you need someone who can capture the entire conference, and I think McCarthy has shown that he can do that. We've gained seats since he's been in charge both last cycle and this cycle. And you know, at the end of the day, we need to move forward and govern.

[17:15: 13]

TAPPER: What is it like when you see Congressman Matt Gaetz? I'm just wondering, like do you say, hey, Matt? Or are you mad at him? I mean, this is obviously very frustrating. You've known him for several years.


TAPPER: You're a Florida Republican.

WALTZ: Sure.

TAPPER: You probably vote the same 99 percent of the time. I mean, is there real anger in the caucus right now, in the conference?

WALTZ: You know, Matt and I work together on the Armed Services Committee. We're working to expose the politicization of the military. We actually work on things for our districts and for Florida. Our delegation comes together quite well when it comes to Florida issues.

But can we have disagreements? Can we share our frustrations? Can, you know, mask them to articulate a path forward and have those tough conversations? Sure. I mean, that's -- you know, you ask what it's like, those are the conversations we're having.

TAPPER: Yes, I'd love to hear what those quotes are. Maybe you can tell me on text.

All right, Congressman Mike Waltz from Florida, thank you so much. Good to see you as always.

The House of Representatives is now voting for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy appears headed for his 10th defeat, breaking a record not made since the 1800. Stay with CNN for coverage of this historic stalemate. We'll be right back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Finstad. McCarthy. Fishbach.



TAPPER: The breaking news this hour, the House of Representatives is holding an historic 10th ballot vote for House Speaker. That hasn't happened since the 1800. When this happened, this same crisis happened 100 years ago. They solved it on the 8th ballot. Now we're off to 9th and 10th and who knows how many more.

Let's discuss with our panel. Audie, I really -- I mean, we're talking about this earlier. You and John King were talking about how long could they do this. Remind people what you --

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We were putting it in context the past times that the Freedom Caucus or others have been obstructionists around the debt ceiling or the fiscal cliff, so to speak, and in what way --

TAPPER: Defunding Obamacare.



CORNISH: It went up to 35 days, I think. And I do think it's worth remembering some of these lawmakers remember that. And they're like, we've seen this movie before, we've been here before and we don't want to cede control to this kind of tactic in this approach.

The other thing I want to say is that we don't have to live this way. Like right now, the Pennsylvania state legislature just came together, some Democrats and Republicans had made a unity speaker, someone who's going to caucus independently. That happened right now in this dimension of time and space. It is possible, right, politically to make these kinds of decisions. So please keep that in mind as you're watching these numbers, that this is a choice what we're experiencing right now, regardless of who's making that choice.

TAPPER: And similarly in Ohio, if I have this correct, Republicans, which control the legislature were going to elect a very conservative Republican and instead Democrats joined with some more moderate Republicans and now they have a more moderate, I think, speaker of the House. That might be wrong.

CORNISH: It's -- yes.

TAPPER: But Denver, why does that not -- we see that in the legislatures. Why does that not happen here in Congress? Why is the partisanship so much stronger?

DENVER RIGGLEMAN, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: While were talking, I just listened to Bob Good vote for Donalds, right, as we're going through this. And I think when it comes down to, again, with 435 districts, with gerrymandering, with the way that hyperbole and outrage is such a massive fundraising tool, the way that disinformation gets out of their way that it bakes itself in with folks, I just think we're in a very difficult time. And no, I said one time, you know, and gosh, I've had these discussions with a lot of people here, I don't know if the two party system survives social media.

You know, when you look at Byron Donalds, you know, the first thing you would say, OK, he's going to be speaker. Should we vet this guy? I mean, we have Roger Stone out there saying he's my good friend. And I want to tell you guys, I would humbly submit that anybody who says Roger Stone is my good friend, I'm probably not going to support, and there probably should be other people do that too, right?

And you see the Conservative Action Project and Ginni Thomas signing on to, you know, getting rid of McCarthy. She has no shame, right? There's just no shame, right, with the Council for National Policy either.

So, I think what you have is you have these very, very effective weaponized far right groups that are just better at it. They're just better at splitting people apart, they're better at outrage, they're better at hyperbole. And also you have a different thing, this is a battle of good against evil. And I just don't think -- I just wish people would understand. Some of these people are not voting for what's best for their constituents and what's best for them.

CORNISH: But sometimes Congress is a lagging indicator, right?


CORNISH: You're pointing out Ohio. That's not some, you know, state where, like, we don't know where the wind is blowing. It's a very conservative state.


CORNISH: Pennsylvania just had such a raucous like Senate vote and gubernatorial vote. These are places that, you know, you do have to win eventually in national elections, and it means that the voters are being heard there in a way that I'm not sure has quite reached this level.

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. But you know, the thing here is the difference is the way the national media spotlight shines on the House of Representatives. And, I mean, it's most acute in the House, frankly. It happens across all of Washington, but it was felt first and it is felt most harshly in the House. The reality is, I mean, local media has been decimated. There's not as much attention being paid in those places. The consequences for going against your party are higher than they have ever been. And that is true on the Republican and the Democratic side as well. And it's part of why you are seeing these leaders be able to hold Democrats together, because a lot of them know that they would face incredible backlash for doing anything that smelled remotely like helping the party of Trump. I mean, they just can't do it even from their own base, and it's way worse on the Republican side.

So, you know, one of the more interesting things, I think, Jake, about that interview you did with Don Bacon and some of what's going on in the ecosystem outside this is what do people like Sean Hannity do? It a very tense interview with Lauren Boebert on his show last night. Don Bacon seemed to suggest that if they can figure out a way to let this kind of simmer for a while, there may be pressure from that ecosystem on some of these never Kevin members to stop making the party look so bad.


Now, who knows if it will work? I think it sounds like a gamble based on what those people have done in the past. But at this point, what do they have to lose?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: But the reality is we know, and Denver would tell you how much money is being raised --

RIGGLEMAN: Right now.

GANGEL: -- right now.

RIGGLEMAN: Millions.

GANGEL: They are all raising money. They are not scared of Donald Trump.

I do want to point out one number change, Hern is now getting more votes than Donalds. So we're seeing some shift within the 20.

TAPPER: Right. Some -- exactly. Some of the people who had been voting for Donalds are now switching to Hern.

GANGEL: But I just want to say, we have heard that there is a deal under way and maybe tomorrow we heard there was a deal this morning. I mean, just color me skeptical about this. We're now on our 10th ballot. The votes are not changing. Not one person has moved to Kevin McCarthy.

And let's assume for a moment there is something going on behind the scenes and they put these rules into writing. Is the math there? We are still talking about Kevin McCarthy needs to hold, you know, everyone but four votes is the math there.


GANGEL: Right.

COLLINS: And I think what you're -- you know, we are curious what's happening behind closed doors. It really depends on who you're talking to because Marjorie Taylor Greene is coming out. She's saying that there is movement happening behind closed doors. She believes there's some shifting going on.

Lauren Boebert is coming out. It doesn't matter that she had a contentious interview with Sean Hannity. She still says Kevin McCarthy is never going to become speaker of the House. And as long as those few members stay in that position, it's not going to happen. And so, the question is, do the pressure on Kevin McCarthy here when that becomes a breaking point.

Also, as Manu was noting, some of these members are supposed to leave town tomorrow.


COLLINS: Some of them have family obligations or medical issues and they're going to leave town. How does that change the count?

TAPPER: Yes, they weren't planning on a once in a century deadlock.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's true. The question becomes what kind of gamble, what kind of risk does Kevin McCarthy want to take when you look at the math and how to get to a majority of the votes.


BASH: Do you do what? Jake, you have been going through the microfiche, or whatever it is.

TAPPER: A bit more advance --

RIGGLEMAN: I was there.

BASH: I've been lough out (ph) about what happened the last time 100 years ago, it's because -- was it 100 years ago?

TAPPER: Yes, 1923. Yes.

BASH: That they changed the rules to allow for a plurality and that was the only way they --

TAPPER: No, that was back in the 1800. A 100 years --

BASH: That was --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was before micro.

BASH: It was a micro.

TAPPER: So a 100 years ago they changed the rules.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was in the card catalog.

RIGGLEMAN: They changed the rules, the table.

TAPPER: But back in the 1800, they either went to the plurality vote.

BASH: Yes.

TAPPER: Or there was an incident in 1859 where they got a consensus candidate. So all the stuff that --

BASH: So, yes. And by the way --

TAPPER: -- everybody is talking about has actually happen.

BASH: The consensus candidate happened in 1990, whatever, eight, nine after '97.

TAPPER: But then have (ph) to referencing. But then have (ph) to referencing.

BASH: But the thing about a plurality, it is definitely being discussed. I had a Republican lawmaker call me saying that this is part -- it's sort of in the zeitgeist up there, but it is very risky because --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a nuclear option.

BASH: It's a nuclear option --


BASH: -- because Hakeem Jeffries right now --

TAPPER: He could win.

BASH: -- has the most votes and could get there.

TAPPER: Yes. The question is do you trust the bomb throwers --

BASH: Yes.

TAPPER: -- to make the right decision? Quote unquote, "right decision" when it's a binary choice?

The vote for House Speaker is now in its 10th round. Next, we're going to get reaction for a key member of the Republican conference. What does he expect to happen tonight? Stay with us.




BURNETT: The drama on the House floor now. Its third day members deadlocked over the Speaker's election. The House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy now appearing to lose for the 10th time this week.

I want to bring in Republican Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas. He supports Kevin McCarthy for speaker. Congressman, I appreciate your time. I know last night you had thought this wouldn't go out more than another three or four rounds, and, well, we're about to go into the fifth after you said that. So, you know, where do you think we are right now? And are you surprised?

REP. PETE SESSIONS (R-TX): Well, I am a little bit. I'll go over two and tell you that the newest word is that there is some breakthrough not towards victory, but towards ending the numbers, reducing them. And evidently that's going to take place tonight.

BURNETT: So, let's talk about what you're saying. You understand there is a breakthrough deal towards reducing the numbers, so not to fully getting over the finish line, but to peeling off a few votes.

SESSIONS: It's my understanding that several votes will come by agreement with the deal that evidently has been arranged this afternoon, started last night, just took a while to materialize. Teams of people have gotten back together and there is some progress in headway and that's essentially what it's going to take. Groups of people that will then come to some agreement. So it's my understanding that we're headed that direction right now.

BURNETT: OK, if you're headed in that direction, if that's what happens and you do get a few votes tonight, obviously you need more than a few, right?

SESSIONS: That's right.

BURNETT: You need to get some of those individuals who have said they will absolutely never vote for Kevin McCarthy, to either vote for him or to be pushed somehow to vote present, sort of to allow it to happen.


Do you have any confidence at this point that will happen?

SESSIONS: You know, I'm after progress. Part of this has been trying to get people to define what they're for, not what they're against. And once we get people more in line to what they're for, then you can line up your agreements to get some understanding.

So, it's just been a longer process than what we would have wanted, and it's been a public debate, and that makes it even harder. And so we're going to keep moving. Republicans are still trying to stick together and get together, and I think getting three or four or five more people will be progress.

BURNETT: Three or four or five. Well, it would be the first movement we've seen in days. But there are a few complicating factors, and let me ask you about one of them, Congressman, and that is that some in your party are going to be gone tomorrow. They have other things they need to tend to families, doctor's appointments. Among them are people who have been staunch McCarthy supporters. So, how long do you think this goes?

SESSIONS: Well, that's another question about whether there would be an agreement to adjourn for pending Tuesday, and that's also in the air on the floor. And so as we get to that reality, the decision has been made there also.

BURNETT: And so where are you in your bottom line right now? Do you still believe that the outcome of this is going to be Speaker Kevin McCarthy or not?

SESSIONS: If you listen to the hardest core seven or eight, they have told me they will never yield.

BURNETT: The hardest core seven or eight will never yield. That means no Speaker McCarthy unless you get there some other way, a rules change. You work with Democrats. Is that -- are you now entertaining that idea?

SESSIONS: No, no. No, I think that -- let's find out what this newest deal is and how the reaction will be to those seven or eight. And I think, once again, Erin, progress is progress, and that's about what Kevin needs to be. At some point, there's going to have to be reality check by all of us about what we think.

BURNETT: So, can I ask you, Congressman, those conversations that you said you've had with what you described as seven or eight, people have been saying five, six, you're saying seven or eight people who will absolutely never vote for Kevin McCarthy.

How are those conversations, when you have them, are they being rational? Are they defining in any way what they're for, as you said, as opposed to what they're against, which we all know is Kevin McCarthy?

SESSIONS: Well, I think every one of these people have said where their threshold is, and I'm simply taking them on their word about their threshold. But once again, we've got six or seven that are making progress, and maybe that will impact the others. It is time that we make a deal. It is time we get together, and it is time we get to work.

BURNETT: All right, Congressman Sessions, I very much appreciate your time. Thank you.

SESSIONS: You bet.

BURNETT: An interesting point he raises there. Let's just start with that. But if you do make progress, as he's calling it, you do get six or seven, and that would be an incredible breakthrough for them, Scott. If that were to happen big if, there is something psychological that would then play out I don't know how, but it would. So when he's saying it could influence others, it's possible, right? We're looking at it. That is conceivable.

SCOTT JENNINGS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST AND CORPORATE PR ADVISER: Yes. I mean, progress is better than no progress. But then, you know, two seconds later, he told you there's seven or eight.

BURNETT: Seven or eight, which, by the way, we've been saying five or six. He's saying seven or eight (INAUDIBLE) conversation.

JENNINGS: He was down to six or seven.

BURNETT: No, no, no. He said six or seven were willing to make -- where he thinks are in the case. So he's saying --

JENNINGS: That's less than 10. We have been thinking maybe there was a group of 10 that were coming along on a deal, so I didn't hear a lot of terrific news there. I mean, it's possible the numbers could change, but it still seems like we have a math problem.

DAVID AXELROD, FORMER OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: Yes. I wonder how much everybody actually knows about what's going on in that room. But even as you guys point out, if seven or eight are still implacable in their opposition to McCarthy, they don't have a solution to that problem.

You know, if you need people to vote present in order to reduce the number of votes he needs, but you have to get enough so that you beat Jeffries, who has 212, you know, unless you get Democrats to come over. I mean I don't know how they make all this. I mean I was no math major, so I leave it up to you guys over there with you.

BURNETT: That math doesn't work.

AXELROD: Your computers. But, I mean, do you see how this -- if that is the case, how does this end? How does--I don't --

DAVID URBAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Again, my solution. Lock the doors. Right? I mean, it is. It's a lock the door --

BURNETT: But they're essentially locked right now.


URBAN: No. Whether they're talking about you heard Sessions saying they may go out subject to the college chair kind of thing and come back on a Tuesday, right. So they're not technically locked and everybody will go home. Let bluff a little steam.

If you lock people in here, if they weren't allowed to leave till Tuesday or Wednesday, you'd have a deal. It will happen if you just -- if you get people wear down, they'll bend, they'll break. Maybe not, maybe not Gaetz, maybe not Boebert, but the outliers, right, will come aboard.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Isn't the risk for Kevin McCarthy that what they come up with is not Kevin McCarthy as the speaker? If you lock them in a room to your point and you say we've got to come up with a plan B because the plan A, if you've got the number that is just immovable, doesn't that make people, OK, then let's go (INAUDIBLE) that's totally break --

URBAN: At some point, but that's not -- listen, that's not what they're working for. You're hearing everybody, you know, Brian Fitzpatrick and I spoke with him during the break. You know, they're putting -- they're reducing these to writing, right. They're having -- they're reducing all these grand ideas to writing then they're going to socialize it with the members to see to make sure that everyone's agree with it, you know, the problem solvers caucus, the Republicans make sure they're fine with it, and then, you know, you're going to move forward from there. They're going to see what the numbers get down to.

And look, it could become a point where there's a math problem and you can't reduce, you can't just have people vote present because Hakeem Jeffries will end up being the speaker. If that's the case at some point far down the road from where we are, then I think you have a discussion about Kevin not being the speaker, but I think you're far away from there, and I think you'll get to the number --

BURNETT: And to be clear, not that you would expect them to say anything no matter what the case is, but you know, you hear from Congressman Sessions just as loudly as you hear from Democrats that there's no interest --

URBAN: Right.

BURNETT: -- in working together on any way to whether it's the rules change or anything else.

AXELROD: Yes. You know, as I reported earlier, the message that some Democrats got was this was not the way McCarthy wanted to approach this.


AXELROD: So, I think he wants to solve it within his caucus. So, you know, I don't know. I think we're --

URBAN: Listen, I think if you see Byron Donald's come off the map off the board there, right. He announces his support for Kevin McCarthy, that's hugely significant, right. You'll have -- and if you have Chip Roy and some other folks in there and Scott Perry, I think it's the dam breaks at that point.

BURNETT: Well, and that back to the question of if Sessions is correct and you have that group of six or seven, you get a few of them what --

JENNINGS: Yes. Look how many for Hern right now. I mean, I'm just saying.

BURNETT: So you've been watching that, right? And Jake was mentioning right. You've got Hern at six, Donald's at four. This is obviously as they're voting.

JENNINGS: People moving around in there.

BURNETT: But it's moving around. Now, does that mean anything?

JENNINGS: I don't know. I just listen very carefully to Sessions, who's talking about six, seven, or eight, which is more than the five that they need to take this thing, deal or no deal, and you know, get them in a room and pressure them. I hope you're right. I just -- I don't know if these people are to be pressured. I don't --


FINNEY: I mean, that's the problem, right. That has fundamentally been the problem for the last three days. Fine, get them in the room. But again, you're negotiating with people who don't want to negotiate.

URBAN: But -- so listen --

FINNEY: So there's nothing that they left that they give them.

URBAN: And I'm not sure their districts look like right, but if their constituents are calling the capital switchboard 202-224-3121, if you'd like to call and talk to your congressman, let them know what to do. If their phones are blown up and their phones in their districts are shut down, right? When I used to run an office, you'd get calls from the cross Pennsylvania saying, we can't get in. No one could call. The phones are being blown up on a specific issue. If that starts happening, if people in the district start calling Matt Gaetz's office and saying, you better vote for this, you better get off your bus.

AXELROD: Is it your feeling that they would think that was a legitimate thing or that was an organized effort?

URBAN: Well, I don't know. Right? I mean, I don't know if it's organized or not, but if -- if that's what's happening, if you're hearing from your constituents --

AXELROD: But if you don't believe that it's real, if you believe that it's orchestrated.

URBAN: Yes, yes.

FINNEY: But also if you can't hear from your constituents, having done constituent services for a U.S. senator in the Senate office in the state of California, if you can't get through to your House member, you go to your senator.

JENNINGS: You know, the one issue that had motivated grassroots Republicans for this entire cycle that's not happening right now is the oversight and the investigations. They cannot do that. They can't take the first step on subpoenaing Biden and all this on any issue until this gets resolved. I actually wonder, when you talk about Republicans calling up the offices, legislation and policy aside, that one motivating issue is we can't get started on Biden.

URBAN: We saw Mike Waltz on earlier talking about how we don't have the China Task Force. He's sitting on all those red meat Republican issues, right? We're supposed to be doing all these things that are really important and we can't get to it. So, Republicans who are hold up, let's get to it. So we get to the people's business. BURNETT: David, one final point here, just to ask, because obviously

Sessions is talking about, but it's all about numbers, right? Whether you get a vote tonight and whether you try to adjourn till Tuesday, then all the votes for that because people are leaving.


Who's running the math on this right now for Kevin McCarthy on finding out exactly who's gone and when? Does it --

URBAN: It's Emers (ph), it's, you know, Kevin, it's the whip shop. It's McHenry, right. They have a great deal of folks in there who can count heads, right? They're good vote counters and they're looking, and they've got a great staff.

BURNETT: Just a lot, you'll know who's going to go present and you've got this ever of this -- every present --


AXELROD: They think they can get it done.

FINNEY: Because hamsters multiply.

BURNETT: All right.

AXELROD: I think they want to get it done as quickly as they can.

BURNETT: Certainly felt that from him, although he admitted his surprise that we are where we are here are going to be heading into now going to be an 11th vote when this is done.

The 10th time obviously not it for Kevin McCarthy. It appears at this point the House Republican appearing to suffer yet another defeat. But you just heard Sessions talk about a breakthrough that he says that the deal was reached this afternoon. We're going to find out the latest on whether that's the case, where that stands right now. What's going on inside that building is quite ugly. But that outside view, that's next.




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: As members of Congress vote for House Speaker for a 10th time this week. This hasn't happened since the 1800. Negotiators behind the scenes pushing for a deal tonight, not one that would seal the deal, but hello, a deal that would hope they can show some progress after 10 failed ballots. We're just learning the Congressman Ralph Norman, a key holdout, says that there is an offer on paper. Let's discuss with our panel. But Kaitlan, let me start with you, because you have I wouldn't call it breaking news.


TAPPER: I wouldn't call it reporting either --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Something media reading.

TAPPER: The role of Donald Trump in all of this cannot be ignored. A, he has ushered in this era of Republican chaos in so many ways. B, the 20 or so holdouts are big MAGA supporters. C, he has endorsed Kevin McCarthy's bid for speaker, but I think it's fair to call it a tepid endorsement. Now, I give the kid a chance.

And today we had a few of the rebels actually cast votes for Donald Trump as House Speaker. Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert did that. And for viewers who may or may not know this, you don't actually have to be a sitting member of Congress, or even have ever been a member of Congress to serve as speaker of the House. That is not a requirement. Theoretically, that could happen, although it will not.

Now, can you show us I don't know if the camera can capture this, but the image that Donald Trump just put out on his own little social media venture --

COLLINS: I mean this is going to camera work.

TAPPER: No. Can you just show it up?

COLLINS: It's a picture of Trump.

TAPPER: Can you push in there. The camera just pushes in, you'll see it. Go ahead, Kaitlan.


COLLINS: This comes after, of course, some of the members had nominated or voted for Trump in this speaker's race. Obviously, Trump lost that election.

TAPPER: It's jokey.

COLLINS: It's trolley.


COLLINS: But it does come at a time. Obviously, you see Harris there and Biden there. It comes at a time when there was a real concern earlier this week that Trump was backing off his endorsement of Kevin McCarthy, a speaker. And you can see now why the members who were voting for Trump and saying his name were doing so to get his attention, because he has been his advice and his recommendation to vote for Kevin McCarthy was ignored and did not gain McCarthy any support yesterday, as you saw. And so obviously, that is a part of this.

TAPPER: What Kevin McCarthy would like right now, what Republicans in the House, in general would like right now? I would guess former Congressman Riggleman, though, you tell me, you're the former Republican congressman, not me. Is Donald Trump really pushing these 20 rebels, these 20 insurgents, whatever you want to call them, to support Kevin McCarthy, to show that Republicans can govern, to get on with the conservative governance they've promised?

And then my guess is that you probably think but you tell me that an image of him as speaker of the House rubbing his belly and sticking out his tongue is not helpful?

Denver Riggleman (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: I would think that's probably not the way I would professionally do any type of negotiation. But I think what we have right now, though, his comms guys are trying to take advantage of this. I don't know if there's calls going on behind this, but that is just Trump trying to stay in the public, you know, spotlight right now what's going on.

I was going to say this earlier, you're not hearing any other name that's wanted to run for president out there right now. It's only been Trump surrounding this. You haven't heard DeSantis, you haven't heard anybody else's name. I think Trump is trying to capitalize on this. And by the way, he'll take credit if McCarthy loses. You know, he'll say, hey, McCarthy just wasn't strong enough. He was too weak. But if there's some negotiation, he's going to take credit that somehow he's behind the negotiation. He'll put something out like that, people are going to be happy, people will fundraise off of it. It's a win-win for Trump. And it's also completely uncertain.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: In what world, though, is this, even in Donald Trump's world, where everything is a win, there's no way that he can paint this as a win. He's lost influence. He has endorsed McCarthy. He's making calls. Whether or not he's pushing or not, he's making calls, and we've reported it. I was just talking to somebody who had talked to him recently who said he's continuing to make calls. This is proof that he is a loser again.

RIGGLEMAN: I think you know what's amazing. I think the last poll had him, what behind 44 to 40 on Biden with 42-42, DeSantis and Biden. But he wants to win the meme wars. You know, and we looked at disinformation. He wins the meme wars when you're going out to all the social media. And honestly, that's how his guys sort of react. And I think that's what they do, is they try to leverage every bit of this to make him look like a winner through memes or through social media.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Can we just talk about that picture from the point of view for 30,000ft. This has been surreal. We've been through the looking glass. The C Span cameras, capturing Debbie Wasserman Schultz in an extended conversation with Matt Gaetz.


We had Marjorie Taylor Greene saying, Lauren Boebert is not being serious. I mean, this whole process has --

BASH: Has rather down.

GANGEL: But we just go back to the Never Kevin for a minute if they hold five plus. And the only thing is Kevin McCarthy is stepping aside. Here's my question for you, Denver. At some point, who talks to Kevin? Who goes to Kevin? Is it staff? Is it members? Does Trump send them that picture?

RIGGLEMAN: It could be something where he's sending a message. I think trump talks to Kevin. I think that's going to happen at some point anyway. On the floor, who has that kind of push to talk to Kevin to get him to stand down? I don't think it's a Scalise. I don't think it's anybody like that. So, I just -- I think it has to be a Trump.

TAPPER: All right, everyone who's here, stick around. I'm going to be bit back in a few hours at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for more of CNN special coverage of this dysfunctional, historic fight for House Speaker. But the folks here are going to keep going. Our special coverage continues with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer and one Ms. Erin Burnett after this short break. We're squeezing in. I'll see you in a couple of hours.