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U.S. House Paralyzed as Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Faces Far- Right Revolt; Bills Player's Injure Intensifies Conversation About Football's Fate; Biden, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to Tout Infrastructure Law in Kentucky. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired January 05, 2023 - 07:00   ET





JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: It's embarrassing for the country. I mean, literally, I'm not making it partisan. That's the reality that to be kind of a Congress that can't function is just embarrassing. We're the greatest nation in the world. How can that be?


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, embarrassing and crippling because not a lot can get done without a functioning Congress.

Good morning, everyone. Kaitlan live on Capitol again for day three, and it could go on and on. We don't know. Day three of the speaker election, President Biden there, you saw him weighing in on the historic stalemate over Republican leadership in the House. He says, what worries him the most is how this undermines the institution.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: He's not alone. Congressman-elect Zinke just said the same thing ahead of day three of the Republican speaker drama. Kevin McCarthy is now agreeing to major concessions overnight as he tries to appease that group of GOP hardliners who are standing between Kevin McCarthy and the speaker's gavel.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: We also have an update this morning on NFL Bills Safety Damar Hamlin still in critical condition, yes, but showing signs of improvement. That is a very welcome development. We'll talk to his very close friend, Indianapolis Colts Rookie Safety Rodney Thomas, who just visited him when in the hospital.

COLLINS: First this morning to the speaker drama here on Capitol hill set to continue for day three as Republican leader Kevin McCarthy is desperately seeking the job but apparently no closer to it after two days and six votes in which he has failed to secure the 218 votes needed to become speak speaker. The stalemate has rendered the House of Representatives basically useless. No legislative business can be conducted until a speaker is elected. McCarthy insists that he is making progress, giving these major concessions to the 20 hardliners. The question is will it be enough. The House reconvenes at noon today. Right now McCarthy does not appear anywhere ready to give up the fight.

CNN's Jessica Dean joins us now. These are huge concessions he's made overnight. But what we don't know yet is if it's enough to actually get him the votes.

JEAN DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, and that's the important question, right? You can give and give and give, but if it doesn't get you to 218 or get you to where you need to go, what's the actual point?

And so here's what we know, that overnight, the early morning hours, he has given some big concessions, and you're looking at them there right now. Chief among them, limiting the number of people to call for his ouster, for a vote for his ouster, down to one. That used to be half of the whole GOP conference. So, this is a huge swing. This is something a lot of these hardliners had pressed very hard for, also allowing more of them on some of these more powerful committees on the House. So, he is giving away and essentially playing the cards that he has left to play, Kaitlan.

But the bottom line is, even with all of those that doesn't get him to 218, he's still going to have to do some more -- give more concessions, do some more negotiating.

And so what is interesting is, I did talk to him after that sixth failed vote. There was this huge scrum on his way into the speaker's office, and I'm optimistic, it's going to be fine. And I said why are you optimistic? What makes you optimistic? He said, well, I have 90 percent of the votes and I've never seen anywhere where 10 percent rule the 90 percent. It's never happened, it won't happen. So far it has, right? The 10 percent have kept him from what he wants, but he remains very optimistic. His allies believe they really are making progress but the bottom line is he's still got to bring over, even with all of these concessions, he still has more work to do.

COLLINS: Yes. Well, see if being in the speaker's office that he will manifest this to actually happening.

DEAN: Yes, just like being there, he can manifest this into a reality.

COLLINS: All right. Jessica Dean, thank you so much for joining us.

In just a few moments, I'm going to be joined by Republican Congressman Warren Davidson. He is a member of the freedom caucus but he nominated McCarthy yesterday to be speaker. We'll tell you what he's saying about the hardliners.

LEMON: And embarrassing, that is how the president -- you heard him there in the opening of the show, President Joe Biden is describing the drama that is playing out in the House.


Amid the Republican infighting, there was a rare moment of bipartisanship playing out in Kentucky. The president stood alongside Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to promote the trillion dollar infrastructure bill he signed into law.

M.J. Lee joins us now live from the White House. M.J., good morning. Listen, we've been saying embarrassing, the president saying embarrassing, but, I mean, there are -- there's probably a word that's more apropos that we haven't used because it's unbelievable what's playing out. Good morning, by the way.

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning. Yes, that word, embarrassing, he actually used three times yesterday, by my count. He said it's not my problem what's going on on the House floor but, yes, it's embarrassing that it's taking this long for there to be a House speaker and for there to be a functioning House of Representatives.

And one theme that I noticed that he touched on multiple times throughout the day yesterday is this idea that all of this is so embarrassing for the U.S. in the eyes of the rest of the world. And this isn't surprising. If you think back to the fact that even going back to the 2020 campaign, President Biden has been pretty focused on this idea of how the United States looks in the eyes of the rest of the world.

You know, he'll often say when I travel to other countries, world leaders are coming up to me to say, what is going on in the United States, sort of referring to the events of the Trump-era and asking are all of those events, everything that happened that has been so unusual and strange, are those things sort of in the rear view mirror.

And I also think it's clearly the fact that January 6th is sort of on the president's mind. Obviously, the two-year anniversary is tomorrow. He said, we're just sort of starting to get settled and moving on from the events of January 6th and now we have an entire government arm that is just paralyzed.

HARLOW: It was such a split screen, M.J., yesterday afternoon on CNN with half of it was like Biden and McConnell come coming together to celebrate something -- together on the bridge, very symbolic.

LEMON: I did a town hall with President Biden. He said, that bridge, it's going to get done in the town hall.

HARLOW: Well, there you go, that, M.J., with the dysfunction on the House side. So, the president will have this cabinet meeting today, no speaker, that really throws off the line of succession, right?

LEE: That's right. So much of what we have been talking about is the political drama. But I think we shouldn't forget just the real ramifications for just the functioning of the U.S. government. I know we've talked about the fact that when there's not a House speaker, you can't swear in members, some committee folks will not even get paid. And then there is the presidential line of succession. The first person in line, as everybody knows is the vice president, and then the second person is the house speaker. But because there is no House speaker right now, the second person in line to the presidency is Senator Patty Murray, who is the Senate president pro tempore. So, this is just all stunning particularly if you think about the fact that we have a president who is 80 years old, the oldest person to serve as president.

LEMON: Let's hope we don't get to that.

HARLOW: No. But our kids are going to be reading about this, M.J., keep thinking like in their history books. M.J., thanks very much.

LEMON: It's crazy. We'll be all right, though.

HARLOW: Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Remarkable moments playing out. The White House is watching all of this.

Let's bring in Ohio Republican Congressman Warren Davidson. He is a member of the House Freedom Caucus. He was -- you saw him on the floor yesterday nominating McCarthy on the fifth ballot.


REP. WARREN DAVIDSON (R-OH): The root issue is this, they do not trust Kevin McCarthy. What can heal that divide? Right now, there are a lot of colleagues that don't trust 20 or more of my fellow Republicans.

I plead with all, all of my Republican colleagues, let cooler, more rational heads prevail.


COLLINS: So, do you think cooler and more rational heads will prevail today?

DAVIDSON: Yes, I think so. I think for some people. I mean, the reality is there are some people who, in their estimation, there's no way they're going to be able to support Kevin McCarthy and some of the people who, you know, may have been willing to get behind Kevin McCarthy at some point, maybe the week before or the day before, and for a few people, maybe even the morning of that first vote on January 3rd, kind of hardened up to say, no, there's no way they're going to support Kevin McCarthy. The tough part is I think the number that will never vote for Kevin McCarthy is more than four.

COLLINS: Then that means he's never going to make it to 218?

DAVIDSON: He may never make it to 218. He may make it to a majority of the House. There are a couple procedural paths where he could pull that off.

COLLINS: Would you mean going to the plurality, which (INAUDIBLE) the nuclear option here?


DAVIDSON: Well, plurality so far would elect Hakeem Jeffries. So, that's a polite way of saying, well, let's just go with Hakeem Jeffries, if you make that motion. So, I don't think that would be a good idea for anyone to do that.

But whether people change their votes or don't vote, don't participate, there's a way to change the number. I mean, Nancy Pelosi won with 216. So, during some of our vote series yesterday, a lower number than 218 would have won a majority of the vote, so, for example, when we move to adjourn, that was 216 to 214.

COLLINS: Right. But would that include some people voting present, some Democrats not voting, what would that look like?

DAVIDSON: Yes. I think that's where it comes down to how can you put that stack together so that, ultimately, the whole number becomes a majority. And I don't think present covers it. I think you either have to not vote or vote for Kevin.

COLLINS: Kevin McCarthy overnight is still trying to get to 218. He made some major concessions to the 20 hard liners who are voting against him. Do you think the concessions he made overnight has softened some of some of those hard liners and will they now support him?

DAVIDSON: Yes. I talked to people who came out of those notions. And for some people, it definitely did make a difference. And they're meeting this morning I think at 8:00. They're going to have a discussion amongst themselves to say, okay, how many of this does it move, is there anything left to resolve, and then the real question is, are we going to hang together as 20 solid in a bloc to get the remaining things or is it really at the point where it's like some of us are never going to get there, some of us are there, lest everyone go vote their own path.

And I think after that, they'll go talk to Leader McCarthy and hopefully close up a deal. We'll see at noon and I think either we'll have the votes at noon, which is a tough challenge, or there will be another adjournment and say, we have got signs for more progress.

COLLINS: So, even if he peels off 15 of those hardliners, he still -- as you said there, you believe it's still not going to get to 218 with that. At what point do you think it becomes necessary for Kevin McCarthy to withdraw his name?

DAVIDSON: Well, I think that's really for the conference to decide. And at some point for Kevin, I mean, you know, it's been a long week but Kevin has got a lot of support and, you know, people are growing frustrated with the process, but they are encouraged by the dialogue. I think it's a sign of hope that people are back at the negotiating table hoping to resolve it.

And, broadly, the rules that people are pushing forward, I mean, some of the speeches given on the floor yesterday, Chip Roy, for example, people could have stood and applauded across the conference and said, yes, we agree with some of the points you're making, people back home agree with some of the points you're making. But, nevertheless, why can't we get to resolution? It seems like there's always a way to not quite get there.

COLLINS: Would it be easier if McCarthy withdrew his name and someone like Steve Scalise ran?

DAVIDSON: The 20 people are saying, look, there are a whole range of other people that we could get to yes on, we just can't get to yes on Kevin.

COLLINS: So, that sounds like you're saying, yes, it would be easier if Kevin McCarthy withdrew his name?

DAVIDSON: But then on the other side, you have some people who say, I'm only going to support Kevin McCarthy. And in a lot of ways, there are a lot of people in our conference who look at the race that we had behind closed doors as essentially a primary election. And for the most part, it was uncontested at the last minute Andy Biggs threw his name in there, and it wasn't close. It was 86 percent for Kevin, the number now is like 92 percent on the floor for Kevin of the conference. And at some point, it's like why won't you abide by the results of the previous elections?

Now, look, I will say, Kevin's done a lot of work. And as I listed off some of the compromises that have already been made, shrunk that number, he was at 188 in November, he's at 201, 202 on the floor right now, and after today, he might be at 212, somewhere in that range.

COLLINS: But if he's never going to get to 218, is the window closing for him, do you think?

DAVIDSON: I do think at some point in some of the dialogue across the conferences, well, if we're never going to get to Kevin, we can go through the coping phases and everything else and be mad about it. But at some point we have to have a speaker.

COLLINS: All right. Warren Davidson, thank you very much. You have got a big day ahead of you. We'll see what happens and we appreciate your time this morning.

DAVIDSON: Thank you.

COLLINS: Really notable there for him to say, Don and Poppy, that the window could be closing for Kevin McCarthy. I think there's a sense of frustration given how long this has gone on. And if it seems like Kevin McCarthy is not going to be able to sway those real hardliners, what the outcome is going to be here.

LEMON: Yes. At some point, he said we have to have a speaker but who knows when that point will be. Kaitlan will be standing by. Thank you very much, I appreciate that.

We're going to talk about what happened over the weekend now. This morning, the Buffalo Bills are happy to report that Damar Hamlin is showing signs of improvement. The team does say, however, that he remains in the ICU, in critical condition, after suffering a cardiac arrest and collapsing on the field on Monday night.

CNN's Adrienne Broaddus has more now from Cincinnati.


ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. People around the country hoping to wake to good news. Outside of the hospital, this tribute continues to grow. I like to call it the Get Well Soon corner. There's a balloon that says, feel better. There's also signs that say, pray for number three Hamlin. He was number three on the football field and that's where he fought to lead his team to victory. But this morning, he is still fighting for his life, in intensive care, listed in criminal condition. Back to you.

HARLOW: Also Damar Hamlin's collapse is not the first time, by a long shot, that the NFL has seen horrifying injuries on the field. Earlier this season, Miami Dolphins Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa lied motionless for several minutes suffering a concussion, his second in two weeks. He suffered a third concussion on Christmas.

In 2017, Pittsburgh Steelers Linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered a career-ending spinal cord injury after he fell during a tackle. He too was on the ground for several minutes before being carried off the field. That injury left him partially paralyzed.

Ten years earlier, Kevin Everett's spinal cord was nearly severed after a tackle. Medics worked on him for 15 minutes. He would eventually walk again after leaving him paralyzed for months. But Darryl Stingley never walked again after the wide receiver was laid out during a pre-season game against the Raiders in 1978. Stingley suffering a broken vertebrae and a spinal cord injury. He was wheelchair-bound until he died in 2007.

The NFL now penalizes hits to the neck or the head of a defenseless receiver. And in the final game of the '97 season, Reggie Brown suffered a serious spinal cord injury after a tackle. The New York Times wrote at the time, Brown lay motionless on the field, on the turf for 17 minutes. He had stopped breathing. He had turned blue and purple. Brown survived but that injury ended his playing career.

Also wide Lions Wide Receiver Chuck Hughes remains the only NFL player to die on the field during a game. He was 28 years old at the time when he collapsed on the field. This was in 1971. Team doctors and trainers tried to resuscitate him but he was declared dead at the hospital. A short while later the cause of death, according to the Detroit Free Press, was a heart attack caused by a blood clot in a hardened artery in his heart.

So, Don, a violent game and many, many people have suffered many serious injuries.

LEMON: And even now, it's still not clear if the NFL will postpone or cancel the Bills-Patriots game this weekend, but other teams will continue on with this season. There's no Thursday night football tonight so players will return to the field on Saturday for the first time since Hamlin's hit.

So, here's how the Dallas Cowboy's head coach, Mike McCarthy, he say the team is handling things right now.


MIKE MCCARTHY, HEAD COACH, DALLAS COWBOYS: It's definitely a heavy sensitive day here.

Let's be honest, nobody is fine. I think we all have the tendency to say we're good. So, that's where our mind is and that's where our focus is. I have great confidence that we'll get done what we needed. But most importantly stating the obvious, if we need to adjust, we'll adjust.


LEMON: So, joining us now, Indianapolis Colts Safety Rodney Thomas II. He is a close friend and former high school teammate of Damar. He drove from Indianapolis to Cincinnati to visit him in the hospital. We're so happy that you're here. Sorry that you're dealing with this, obviously that Damar and the family are dealing with this.

You saw Damar in the hospital following his on-field collapse. Is there anything that you can you tell us about your visit with him?

RODNEY THOMAS II, SAFETY, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Just basically that family, the family is in good spirits and he's getting better. He's progressing every day. And that's all you can ask for. Every day, he's just getting better.

LEMON: How is his mom?

THOMAS: She's strong. She's fighting. And she knows her baby is in there fighting. And she's going to be beside him the whole time until he walks out of there.

LEMON: Also, if you're comfortable, what did you tell him when you two were alone when you got to spend some time with him?

THOMAS: Just basically that I love him and I got his back and see him in a little bit.

HARLOW: How are you doing?

THOMAS: I'm doing good.

HARLOW: Because I don't think -- you know, we -- I know we don't know the toll it is on you guys who risk your life every day when you go out there.

THOMAS: Yes. It's just -- it's a dangerous sport. You kind of -- you don't just go around like every play just thinking about like things like this, like thinking about injury, just the same way like you don't go just around regular life just like thinking that way. It's just -- it's a freak play, a freak accident, and it just sucks that things like that exist in the game.


It just sucks that you have to see stuff like that.

HARLOW: Rodney, Don was talking about you -- when you talked to him in the hospital, when you sat next to Damar's bedside and you talked to him, I had read that you said you know he could hear you.

THOMAS: Yes, I know he can hear me. Like I said, even -- I don't need no response, I don't need nothing. I just know what I said got across. Like I said, I'm going to see him in a little bit.

LEMON: Can you -- you know, the players had to witness all of this. They were there, you know, with him on the field and we've been hearing from players and they said finally they felt -- obviously it was awful what happened but they felt treated like human beings. Can you talk to us about what the players are going through at this moment, if you don't mind sharing?

THOMAS: Just like player-wise, post-players, players now, football is a -- the world in general, we're all one heartbeat right now, just all -- all just waiting for Damar just to get healthy, just waiting for him to come out of there. And then just -- like I said, we're all just together right now. Just waiting for him just to get better from this, so we can just see what we have to do and what sense we have after that that we have to follow. Right now, it's just -- everybody is on the same page. We're just trying to see him get better.

LEMON: Listen, it's not just this team, right, but it's the entire NFL. Do you think -- are players ready to go back on the field?

THOMAS: I can't speak for everybody. I can't speak on behalf of everybody. But I know that each team, like organization, like different things like that, like they need to trust that everybody will just make the best decision moving forward, whether that's playing, whether that's not playing, I don't know. I'm not in control of that. I just do what I'm told to do, so I can't really focus on things like that. But I just know just as like me, like I would just want to see everybody out there just flying around, making plays, doing what he loves and doing what we love, everybody just having fun out there, being safe.

HARLOW: Did I hear you right? Did you say Damar would want you guys to play?



THOMAS: He was just -- he was just one -- I don't want to say he would want us to play, but he would just -- I don't know. He would just -- he would just want us to be out really. HARLOW: Can you talk to us about him, like beyond the field? Because we have heard the most amazing things about this guy, like beyond the charity that he set up. Just like what is in his heart, who he is, how he was since he was a child, what is he like as a man?

THOMAS: Yes. I had mentioned this before, but it's just like the same. Like if you just go -- if you go back home, you just say Damar's name, you just ask about Damar, everybody will say the same thing. Everybody will just talk about like him, how genuine he is, his heart, passion, this family man, like he always just -- he puts everyone else above him. He wants to see everybody else succeed and he wants to see everybody else do good and he wants to keep just being the role model for his little brother, for other young people and then just for other people just in general in the world, someone to look to. He just -- he's the type of guy that you can look to. Humble, just does what he has to do and he just take care of his. That's all you can ask for.

LEMON: Rodney, if I could just -- I just want to follow-up on the team questions that I asked. Because we had Tim Graham on earlier, he's a Buffalo Bills beat writer for The Athletic. And he said it is at top of mind for players that any hit on the field could result in something like that. Do you think players will be thinking about that once they do get back on the field?

THOMAS: Like I said, you can't -- you can't go -- especially in this game, you can't be on the field like expecting like to get hurt, like worrying about getting hurt every single play. It's crazy. And as dangerous as the game is, it's just something that we've kind of like second handedly like trained ourselves to not really think in those ways and not even to just like understand, like the situations and the danger that we actually are put into just by playing -- just simply by playing the game. But I don't know. Sorry, it's just -- this whole situation like is crazy.


LEMON: Say again. You said this whole situation is crazy?

THOMAS: Yes. Everything is crazy. I just want to see him get out of there.

LEMON: Is there anything you want people to know, because we can't ask every question, and I'm sure you've been watching and there are things that you want to say about the situation about Damar and his family? And so what would you like to say before we let you go, Rodney?

THOMAS: I just want to say that everything that everybody is doing, you see the support that the world has for Damar, for his family, just everything just keep putting prayer, thought, whatever you do, just keep putting all the energy towards him, towards his mom, towards his dad, his family. Just -- they're the ones that need it right now.

And then like everybody -- like everybody -- finally they're just understanding and getting like a glimpse just based off like the situation of who, like you said, like everybody is finally understanding like who he is, and like the type of player he is and the type of person he is. But that's just -- I mean, we've always -- that's who he's always been to us and we've always known that and he's just now starting to get onto like that world, like that nationwide scale. So, when he -- when he walks out of there and sees the support that he's had and the impact that he's had, it's going to be a real special day for him. He's going to be able to continue and just even further just be able to influence and just impact -- impact his place.

LEMON: Rodney Thomas II, thank you. You be well, okay? We're thinking about you and your friend.

THOMAS: I appreciate it.

LEMON: We're back in a moment.