Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Tonight

House Adjourns Again Without Electing A Speaker, Will Return Tomorrow At Noon; McCarthy Team Has Made An Offer To Conservative Opponents Who Are Reviewing It Now; Kevin McCarthy Pushing For 218 Votes In The House; Damar Hamlin Improving, But Still In Critical Condition; FDA Allows Abortion Pills Dispensed In Pharmacies. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired January 04, 2023 - 22:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. I'm Laura Coates, and this is CNN Tonight. And, well, they're going to come back and do it all tomorrow. The House voting to adjourn until noon. Apparently, that's Congressional time as opposed to 9:00 A.M. And they just barely got the votes to even do that tomorrow, giving Kevin McCarthy a few more hours to try to make a last-ditch deal that would give him the speakership.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I think it's probably best that people work through some more. I think -- I don't think the vote tonight will be any different but a vote in the future will.

REPORTER: Do you have a deal with those guys right now?

MCCARTHY: Not yet but a lot of progress.


COATES: Well, he says making, well, a lot of progress. And our reporting indicates that some members may actually be moving in McCarthy's direction, which maybe a bit of a break in the clouds for him. But there is no doubt the horse trading will go on well into the night, but it's been a long and chaotic and, frankly, embarrassing display so far. I mean, there were three votes yesterday, three more votes earlier today.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No member elect having received a majority of the whole number of votes cast, a speaker has not been elected.

A speaker has not been elected.

A speaker has not been elected.


COATES: She's just recorded that and keep pushing play throughout the day today and maybe it might happen again tomorrow because they still have not managed to elect a speaker of the House, not yet, anyway. And it's been 100 years since this has actually even happened. Let alone on the first round or the second or now maybe going into a seventh or more round. It's beginning to feel like it will be 100 more before you finally get all of this done.

Kevin McCarthy is really fighting for his political life and for the job that he has been very, very clear that he's wanted all along. But it just shows you how hard, really, it's going to be for anyone to do this job, let alone Kevin McCarthy, who is fighting to actually get even these votes. Not a very attractive proposition for so many people. How hard it's going to be to get anything really done with even the slim majority over the Democrats and then a slim grasp on your own caucus.

And let's remember it actually matters to America. It is not just a matter of watching what it is like to see how the sausage is made and political muscle flexing. I mean, Congress does have real work to do, work that can't actually get done or even started until they elect a speaker and actually swear in the members.

I want to bring in CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill tonight. Manu, I mean, Kevin McCarthy still does not have the votes. It's been Groundhog Day all over again for him but hoping I guess again tomorrow is a day to fight once again. Does he have the real progress he spoke of?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is some progress, but not the progress that he wants. There is some indication that some of those members of those 20 are moving in his direction. I have talked to several of them tonight. They are encouraged by the course of the talks. People like Congressman Chip Roy of Texas, Michael Cloud also of Texas and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, all of them who have been McCarthy opponents, now signaling that they believe that there had been some progress made.

Now, I am told that there was an offer that was made by the McCarthy team tonight, to those conservative opponents and detailing some process changes, some rules changes, giving them more sway over the legislative process, things that they have demanded for some time, as well as some more leverage over the speakership. They had been pushing for having one individual member to call for a vote to oust a sitting speaker. That is something that McCarthy has resisted. It sounds like they are moving closer in that direction.

All of that means that for now he's making progress. But it does not mean, Laura, that he will get 218 votes to become elected speaker. There are other members who have different demands. They have different concerns. And the McCarthy team knows that full well.

So, they plan to negotiate with those other pockets of members to try to get onboard because the math is incredibly difficult. With a 220- seat Republican majority, he can only afford to lose four Republican votes. He has almost certainly four rock hard no votes.


That means he can't lose any additional votes beyond that. And at the moment, he does not have 218 votes, even if he gets acceptance to this kind of this offer that they made tonight.

So, work is still ahead for McCarthy to become elected speaker. This could drag out into tomorrow, maybe into the weekend or even beyond. So, there is a ways to go before McCarthy could get the speaker's gavel.

COATES: And, of course, that means that these members, all of them, are not actually sworn in. And although you have people who have committee assignments who are incumbents, who are returning, there are new members of Congress that don't have any real direction at this point in time as to whether actually they're going to do.

But I'm wondering, I'm surprised by the concessions that are being offered again, especially that threshold number for the motion to vacate. Because, Manu, originally, they had wanted -- the so-called rebels wanted one, assuming they wanted to negotiate in good faith. He had offered five. Are we saying that it is moving closer to some sort of splitting the baby or it's one or nothing?

RAJU: I mean, it's a bit a day in the moment, but it sounds like the conservatives are going to get what they want. That is the expectation at the moment because that has been a red line for a number of these members. None of the members have come out and said that they are happy at the direction this is moving. And it sounds like that's essentially what they're going to get.

Remember McCarthy where he started. He said he wanted half the Republican conference to call for that vote to oust a sitting speaker. That has now -- then it came down to five members, allowing five members to call for that vote. Now, it sounds like he's probably going to give them one member to call for that vote.

And why is that significant? Remember what happened to John Boehner when the rule was just one member would call for the vote, we didn't want to go through with the vote that could have toppled a sitting speaker, so he resigned. He stepped aside from the speakership. And that threat to oust a speaker has been sitting -- has been wielded over the last several years so much so that it was Nancy Pelosi who raised the threshold to half their members to call for such a vote.

But this hard line group of conservatives want to lower that threshold to empower themselves over the speaker ship, but that has caused with just a lot of concern within the ranks that perhaps this will just lead to such an unwieldy situation where at any moment the sitting speaker could be ousted.

COATES: Manu Raju, thank you so much.

Here with me in the studio tonight, CNN Political Commentator David Urban, also CNN Anchor and Correspondent Audie Cornish and Margaret Talve, Senior Contributor at Axios.

Look, the more you lower the threshold, the closer you bring that sort of Damocles right above the head of the speaker. He's well aware of that. And if you only have four votes to lose now, and it might only take one person later to oust you, that means he will constantly be living in a state of fear even if he were there, right? I mean, this is a no brainer as to why he doesn't want this, right?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And yet he does want the job. And so I think what we're seeing today is sort of a little bit of a preview of what is to come if he ends up pulling it off. So much of the last five, six years the political debate in the U.S. has been about whether political minorities yield too much power, right? Whether the way the Senate is apportioned, the Electoral College, the filibuster, gerrymandering, whether all of that is fair, the idea that you could lose the popular vote and still be the president.

But what is happening here, what is playing out here is the opposite. It is the core minority of the Republican Party saying, we want more power. We want the ability to yield more power and to take five people and give them the equivalency of like 100 people. And that's really what's playing out here.

COATES: Well, take a step back, though, Audie, on this point, though, because it really is the Republican party, right, then you have got the so-called rebels within and the idea of thinking about the minority rule playing out. You are really seeing this in real-time, the idea that we even had former Congressman Adam Kinzinger on the air earlier today talking about how he was glad the American people were seeing how his party have been hijacked by a select few. Is that the real optics here?

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: I mean, the American people have T.V.s and have been voting for a couple years. I think they have whatever their own opinion is on the Republican Party and the state of it solidified already. What's significant here is if you put yourself in a position where you can have at any given time the leadership undercut, remember, this person who is like the third in line for the presidency, like after the vice president, you can have a carousel, right, of people coming in and out.

But what's significant about that is you have got national security briefings that have to be happening, right, which aren't happening right now. You have people who need to be chairs of committees, who need to get legislation going, who need to pay the people on the Hill, like all of these really basic things. COATES: And, in fact, Audie, I want to play it for a second here a

clip because Congressman Gallagher, I believe, was talking about that very point, about how he didn't even have security clearance at this point. Listen to this.



REP. MIKE GALLAGHER (R-WI): Right now, Don Bacon and I were supposed to be meeting with the chairman of the joint chiefs in the SCIF here to talk about matters in the Indo-Pacific. But I'm informed by House security that, technically, I don't have clearance. I'm a member of the Intel Committee, I'm on the Armed Services Committee and I can't meet in the SCIF to conduct essential business. My point is we have work to do that we can't do right now.


COATES: Ridiculous.

CORNISH: Yes. He's not even a Congressman technically right now, right? I mean, this is a big problem. And these are people who are guiding legislatively what is going on for the country. I don't think it is an accident that so many people are leaning more into state legislators, which are basically saying, look, we can get things done at the state level.

I don't think it is an accident that Ron DeSantis was essentially crowing at his second term speech which sounded a lot like a stump speech and nodding to the dysfunction in Washington, someone who used to be in the freedom caucus when he was a lawmaker because there is this sense that like this is just a clown car.

And these images of them milling around, arguing publically, the pizza boxes, it is not giving the vibe that they want, which is democracy is messy, it's just they look messy.

COATES: I mean, David, a clown car might have more votes ultimately than when it mattered. I'm just saying it was a good one. I would write into it. I'll lean into it. It's 10:00 at night. We're doing metaphors. In fact, I could do all to add some. We're doing clown cars tonight. So, tell me about the clown car that was this moment.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. It's not -- it's definitely a bad look for the Republican Party and say put us in charge and we are going to do great things in Washington, right? That's the -- the message was, we are going to do much better, we have got all these great important things to care of. And, look, hopefully they will start doing them once we get to the speaker.

But back to your point about whether it is one or five for the call of the chair, I think that's almost like -- it's irrelevant if it is one or five, right? Because if you get five, you can get one, if you got one, you can get five, right?

COATES: How about the number four? Does he even have enough --

URBAN: I think it doesn't matter.

CORNISH: It's probably why Nancy Pelosi made it 50.

URBAN: Exactly. Because subject to the call, it doesn't mean you get recalled. It means there is a vote to recall you, right? So, does it mean -- you could have it every day. Someone can come up and do it every day. It is a waste of time at some point. COATES: But to be clear, what I mean, when I mentioned the four, I'm talking about -- forget even the threshold. For you to actually become the speaker of the House to even worry about that sort of Damocles, if we go until tomorrow, does Kevin McCarthy have it?

URBAN: Yes. My prediction is Kevin McCarthy will be the speaker.

COATES: Really?

URBAN: I don't think there is a plan B. I don't think anybody -- listen, you have asked people. You have seen it on the Hill. There is no plan B. Don't forget, once Kevin McCarthy becomes the speaker, a few weeks from now, there will be a painful vote in the House to raise the debt ceiling, right? Which lots of people aren't going to like, right? Lots of these folks that are squawking right now aren't going to want that to happen.

I promise you as soon as that vote takes place, there will be a motion to recall -- get Kevin knocked out. So, you don't see anybody else say, well, put me in, coach, because they will get knocked out right then. It's a tough job, right? It is a very tough job. My prediction is they're doing work. They're doing real work right now, like Manu said. Chip Roy, Scott Perry, others are negotiating in good faith.

COATES: And why this other guy from Florida? You know this --

URBAN: So, Byron Donalds, he's a smart guy, he's taking advantage of an opportunity. I don't think Byron now will ever be speaker. Well, not this crowd. Byron Donalds may be speaker at some point in the future. I just don't think in this Congress he is going to be speaker.

CORNISH: And to quote him today, he never really came here to be speaker of the House. Well, they nominated me. Of course, I voted for myself. That is pretty cool. It is not a serious -- right?

URBAN: So, Kevin will get there. I think we will get there. This is -- look, people have said this, sausage-making is ugly. People in America aren't used to seeing real legislative struggles. And that's -- to this point of a lot of these folks in this group of 20, they're not able to offer amendments on the floor of the House, right? They're not able to read bills. There is not really legislation taking place. And they want to see it taking place, right?

COATES: To be fair, the American public has been angry about not seeing legislating more broadly. Forget about the sausage being made and the other thing.

We're coming back, don't worry. And the clock is ticking, everyone. The House is actually due back in a matter of hours. And when we have got an optimist here on the panel about Kevin McCarthy being able to get those numbers, but he is running out of time to get the deal that would actually give him that speaker's gavel.

But even if he does get that job, the question is will he have any real power or really any respect after getting it?



COATES: Now, as you saw tonight, the House adjourned again without any clear answer on who will be the new House speaker. Now, tonight, there were actually four GOP House members. Ou see them on the screen right there. The one to the far-right, I believe, is a Congressman- elect, a new one, and members who are voting with Democrats to keep the House in session, to vote against adjourning and going home and coming back tomorrow at noon.

So, now the question on everyone's mind is the standoff in the House GOP will drag now into a third day is who is going to blink first.

Back with me, David Urban, Audie Cornish and Margaret Talev.

On that point, I mean, the idea of not adjourning tonight, for these four members in particular, right, you see some of them, you have Biggs, Boebert, Gaetz and then Crane, at least we know Biggs, Boebert and Gaetz were already sort of never Kevins. And the thought of some were, look, he doesn't want to adjourn because there might be a reason to have an alternative be able to be voted on and he would lose again in an now seven humiliating defeat, perhaps. How do you see the fact that this was not an adjournment tonight, it wasn't adjourning tonight?

TALEV: I think the ones who didn't want to adjourn want to just have a succession of humiliating votes that weaken him and end this or at least weaken him. But I think there is enough of a desire in the rest of the Republican caucus to turn the cameras off for a minute and take it behind closed doors and try to do the horse trading, the concessions and try to figure out whether it's going to be McCarthy or whether it can't be. And in that case, what is the plan B?


Is the plan B Scalise or whatever? You can't do that on the floor of the House with the succession of votes.

COATES: Are you getting a sense there is a plan B or is it just Kevin McCarthy?

URBAN: My prediction is going to be Kevin McCarthy. They are going to get some concessions and it is going to be Kevin. I mean, I don't think -- you have not heard from anybody other than Chip Roy that I have seen on any network, anywhere that has laid out, here are the things we would like to see happen or here's an alternative course, right?

TALEV: Well, the part of that has been -- let's say that it couldn't be McCarthy, let's say that no deal could coalesce and it had to go to kind of the next plan. Scalise is the person who has always made sense. Scalise is never going to go out and campaign for himself. He's a McCarthy ally. He has already said he's standing by him.

COATES: And you don't think power is enticing? I mean, the power being enticing to McCarthy is already prevalent.

TALEV: He can't get those five holdouts if he puts himself out as a candidate. The only way it could be him is if everyone came to him instead of --

URBAN: Kevin McCarthy might say, no, you're not Steve Scalise. Kevin has still some sway, right?

CORNISH: I mean, I think there is some important context I want to throw out here, which is that McCarthy has born witness to Gingrich going down, Boehner going down, Paul Ryan going down. He was there for the years when the tea party caucus basically brought things to a standstill, right, over the debt ceiling, et cetera. He has seen every one of these movies before.

And I think one of the things he's learned evidently, I'm just sort of seeing this over the last couple of days, is that you have got to wait it out, that they will go all the way to the mat. And he's really first of the establishment types to go, well, what if I wait, too, right? The one who says maybe embarrassment shouldn't be the thing that takes me out of this. Maybe cable news chatter isn't the thing that should take me out of this. If you can withstand the storm, can you actually outwait these people?

URBAN: He could be stronger.

CORNISH: But it is totally about learning these lessons of the last few years. Now, can you govern the whole way like that? That seems hard if you have to horse trade all of the power of the office away to get it.

COATES: And, by the way, that was the point that Congressman Gallagher made when he nominated McCarthy earlier today. He was talking about cable news. He was talking about the Twitter fest, talking about -- he called it the (INAUDIBLE). And the idea of everyone sort of rejoicing and how humiliating this looks, but in reality, that's not what's really going on. And maybe that was a shifting of the narrative. I don't know if it is a successful one or not. But are we thinking about it?

CORNISH: I mean, I'm not saying that that is not something. I'm saying that is not something that is enough to deter Kevin McCarthy from pushing forward.

TALEV: Right. Boehner got out before he would get humiliated.

CORNISH: Exactly. Because I don't want to be humiliated and I got to get out of here.

TALEV: McCarthy has already been humiliated.

CORNISH: McCarthy is like, oh no, how far can we go? And so he's going to just stick it out because he knows that waiting it out actually could work because there is not as many people as you think holding out. COATES: So why did -- why did the former president and now candidate yet again, Donald Trump, why did he voice his support again today in the way that he did? Why did he do that?

CORNISH: You mean on Truth Social?

COATES: On Truth Social. I mean, he already endorsed him right before this. We knew this. There was talk about whether he would double down and make it very vocal again, then there was the Truth Social. But it hasn't seemed to move the numbers.

And you seem to be very convinced that it is McCarthy or bust, but Trump didn't seem to change the minds or sway the minds, at least of these four House members.

CORNISH: According to Lauren Boebert, he made it worse.

COATES: Right.

CORNISH: She got up on the floor, said he's been calling everyone. And, by the way, maybe you should call Kevin McCarthy. I mean, it really does signify --

URBAN: Very snarky, by the way.

COATES: That surprised you, though?

CORNISH: Very much so, her of all people.

URBAN: She bit the hand that fed her.

CORNISH: She said it was my favorite president but it was very clear saying to the cameras, right, his favorite sort of medium, that's not going to work with us. And I think that also is a reflection of the performance of the midterms, right? The Trump name didn't help people the way they wanted or could or they wouldn't even be in this position. Just ask Lauren Boebert, who totally struggled in her own race.

TALEV: She's got a two-year YOLO glad to have (ph).

CORNISH: Yes. Trump can't save Kevin McCarthy.

COATES: You say a two-year YOLO (INAUDIBLE)?

CORNISH: That's a tattoo. That's amazing.

COATES: Okay. Well, I mean, on that -- but take a step back for a second because what does that really mean? Because Trump, of course, is running to be the president of the United States again, did not have the sway to have the red wave materialize. Kevin McCarthy, who has famously known as the one who went to kiss the ring following January 6th to secure the support has been derided continuously for having done so. And now even his endorsement doesn't seem to pull any sway, even for like a Matt Gaetz or a Boebert. UBRAN: Well, I mean, to a certain extent, it does appear that the Republican Party is rudderless, right, leaderless at this point. There isn't a single --

CORNISH: Well, Mitch McConnell had a good day.

URBAN: Well, yes, that's true.

COATES: Don't you want to know what Mitch McConnell is thinking? I'm telling you, is he's thinking himself, really, Kevin?


CORNISH: He was thinking smile for the cameras, because he was being excited about the infrastructure package.

URBAN: Yes. Well, McConnell is worried about -- I mean, to Mitch McConnell's credit, he is singularly focused on the Senate. Always has been, always will be, and that's the beauty or the ugliness of Mitch McConnell. I mean, he's a very effective legislator. He runs the Senate well.

CORNISH: And now the longest --

URBAN: Now the longest serving -- right, so, kudos to Leader McConnell. But there isn't a singular person in the party, whether it's Donald Trump, whether it's the RNC, there is nobody that can exercise enough power over any one of these districts to make a difference. And I think it's because, you know, look, it is the legislature. Every decade, we draw these districts safer and safer. So, the only way Byron Donalds loses is from the right, right? The only way Matt Gaetz loses is from the right.

CORNISH: And this is why one of their demands is extremely specific. They don't want the House leadership to jump in races where there are open seats, safe, open Republican seats. They say, don't jump in there because they know they may have the advantage in a scenario that is primary voter-focused. And they just saw a bunch of races and a bunch of losses, and they have seen their whole party say, I don't know about this, I don't know about these MAGA people. Maybe we should be doing something else.

And so there are actual greater sort of concerns that are going on here that are playing out that we can't tell because we're kind of busy being like McCarthy stepped on a rake. But like, you know, it is about the future of the party. Who will run in the next batch of races?

URBAN: And you saw like this evening, right, the Congressional Leadership Fund, Cub for Growth, had an announcement we're not going to attack each other. We are going to play nice in primaries, to Audie's point about that was a big deal. McCarthy said, I won't do that in the future. The club -- and that may be a fig leaf to give people an option to say, that was the reason I was holding out. So, now it will be for Kevin.

TALEV: Or it may not be a fig leaf. It may fuel an entire generation of tea party candidates in a lot of these races.

URBAN: But it does provide a reason for people to say, okay, now I can be for Kevin.

TALEV: Or I can be not present or whatever it is.

URBAN: Yes, exactly.

TALEV: But to your question, I mean, I think Donald Trump, yes, is weakened. But also this is a weird one because House leadership races are not normally the terrain of sitting presidents or ex-presidents. They are the terrain of the members of the House. And so it is a weird place for him to insert himself. Also, like, he -- yes, he supported Kevin McCarthy but not in the way. If he was really like -- if he were still president and he were running for this, he would have been threatening people, cajoling them, yelling at them, calling them out.

CORNISH: Right. Support for McCarthy would actually look like attacking the people who are challenging the party.

URBAN: He did put his name out there at Truth -- I mean, he is on the record.

CORNISH: He did not come up with cute nicknames to the people who were rebelling. He didn't do the things that he knows are most effective.

TALEV: The ground is shifting for him. But I think this has been a weird thing.

COATES: That is the way we end it. It has been a weird thing, America. That we can all agree. It has been a weird thing. It's also been -- okay, well, this is why I guess Kevin McCarthy is continuing to go. This panel gives him some optimism.

Everyone, it has been a chaotic couple of days on Capitol Hill. But, really, the question is, more broadly, what does this even mean -- forget about the health of the GOP or the Democrats, how about the health of the democracy? We are going to talk about that with someone who knows Kevin McCarthy very well. Frank Luntz is up next.



COATES: I want to go right now to Manu Raju with news on Capitol Hill about some key concessions from Kevin McCarthy in his push to get the 218 votes. Manu, what's new?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. A lot of these conservative members have been asking for a number of changes to the House rules and other matters in order to give them more power, more sway. These are members of the mostly the far-right House Freedom Caucus that believe they have been shut down by the speakership for some time and their own leadership. And now they are getting some concessions that they have demanded.

There are three major issues that we have learned. Our sources are telling, both me and my colleague, Melanie Zanona, that McCarthy has agreed to propose -- to change what's known as the motion to vacate. That is the how a vote is called on the floor of the House to essentially oust a sitting speaker.

McCarthy had come down from the current conference rules which allow for half of the Republican conference, a hundred -- more than a hundred members, to call for such a vote. He agreed to come down to five members. That wasn't good enough for a lot of the members. They wanted to come down to a one-member threshold, meaning anyone member can call for such a vote to oust a sitting speaker.

McCarthy, we are told, has agreed to that concession. He will come down to the one-member concession. Also, they wanted members who would be -- take part on the House Rules Committee. That is a very powerful committee here in the House. That would essentially dictate the terms of the bill and the amendments on the House floor. It is usually controlled by the leadership.

McCarthy has agreed to give some members of the House Freedom Caucus seats on that very powerful committee which would have huge implications for the bills that come to the floor and the amendments that are being offered to it. Now, in the final concession that we have learned about, he's promising to give them votes on some key policy matters that they had proposed.

Among those issues is imposing term limits on members of Congress (inaudible) than push by a lot of members. It had been resisted by people who have been serving in Congress for some time, which is a lot of the more veteran members, the more senior members of Congress. There will be a vote on the house floor on that issue. That doesn't mean it's going to become law, but at least McCarthy, if he becomes speaker, has said that he would promise to give them a vote.

And then also on a border security plan that they had been pushing. So those are among the issues that are on the table that were provided in an offer today to conservative members, several of whom I have spoken to have said that they are heartened by this and they could potentially embrace this and maybe even could support Kevin McCarthy.

Now, Laura, that doesn't mean that if this is all agreed to, he would get 218 votes tomorrow and become the speaker. He still almost certainly will not because there are other members who have different demands and different concerns that they still have to resolve.


But at least, it appears that he's moving in that direction to give these members what they want. Even though some other members, a lot of other members, particularly the more modern members are concerned about giving too many concessions, particularly over the speakership to -- as a leverage of the speakership could essentially cause chaos in the ranks and instability in the House. Nevertheless, McCarthy is moving in that direction because he needs the votes. COATES: Manu Raju, wow, sounds like the keys to the castle. I'm not

sure what's left at that point. Joining me now, pollster Frank Luntz, a friend of McCarthy. Frank, I'm glad that you are here. First of all, you've known him for, what, 29 years. And just thinking about the concession that now have been agreed to or at least tentatively agreed to in part to get that 218 votes, what does the willingness to make these deals still tell you about how badly McCarthy wants this position? I mean, it could be just a fleeting post if you have that one-person threshold and everything else.

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER AND COMMUNICATION STRATEGIST: Well, I have empathy for the members who feel like their voice hasn't been heard. I've been involved in this whole thing for about 30, 35 years, and I understand the frustration on the left and on the right. And they feel like they can't make the difference they want to make or they can't have the impact that they're trying to do. I get that.

But Thomas Payne wrote to eloquently in 1776, what we obtained so cheaply we esteem too lightly. I think we've taken our whole democracy for granted. I think we have assumed that because it has existed for 250 years it will just simply continue to exist. We know the threats. We know that it has failed in other countries, and I'm afraid it's going to fail here.

Second, tonight before I did this interview, I was a -- this woman comes up to me with a bright light, shining it in my face, asking me damning questions as I'm trying to hold a conversation about a memorial service I'm going to host in my house in California. And I said to her, please, someone just died. And she doesn't care. She's yelling at me about politics. We've lost our sense of decency, our sense of civility, our sense of respect to human beings.

And, third, and this is my message to not just the Republicans in the House but to all members of Congress. We used to celebrate team work, whether it's in sports, were amused to working together side by side to get the job done. Now, they seem to celebrate individuality where it's my right to do what I want and I don't give a damn what you want.

I look at these three threats to democracy and to our way of life as Americans. And they all concern me and they're all happening right now in the speakership battle.

COATES: But Frank, first, I'm very sorry to hear about the loss of life and the memorial service that you will be hosting. I'm sorry that experience happened and obviously for the loss of the person that obviously meant something to you.

I am thinking about how long you have known McCarthy and just thinking about -- you led with the word "empathy." And for many people the term and the word, you know, "humiliation" is rolling off the tongue as easily as any other. The idea of how mortifying this must be, the sustained humiliation of all this, the ego bruise.

I'm wondering, you've known him for a long time. How do you think all of this is impacting him, especially given there has been some pretty targeted statements against him. There's been more than snark. There has been really deriding him and denigration. I wonder how you think he is receiving all of this.

LUNTZ: I refer to him as a happy warrior in that he listens. He learns. He engages. He negotiates. I don't think this is as embarrassing as you might accept. I think this is where he's at his best. He has the ability to bring people together in a way that most politicians either can't or don't want to. And I think that that is so essential right now in this environment of resentment, in this environment of polarization and how toxic it is.

I see Kevin as the perfect example of someone who can get the job done because everyone has a voice. Everyone is a participant. I have never heard it, never, in 29 years complain about his situation or his lot in life. He's the child of a fireman. This is why we got connected in the first place. His father and my father died within about a year of each other.

Kevin has always done the one thing that you never hear about politicians in Washington ever. He's been humble. You always hear about pride.


I'm proud that I brought this to my constituents. I'm proud that I achieved this. You don't hear that from Kevin McCarthy. You hear humility and it's the way that he grew up and it's the kind of person that he is. So, if there is anyone who can survive this, I couldn't, but Kevin can.

COATES: Well, Frank, that does paint a very different portrait about why he's able to endure what many perceive as the sustained humiliation. Thank you for your time tonight.

LUNTZ: Thank you. It's an honor.

COATES: NFL player Damar Hamlin, he is showing signs of improvement tonight after suffering cardiac arrest during Monday night's football game. But he is still in critical condition. And now, President Biden is weighing in on the dangers within the league. I'll tell you about that next.



COATES: There is some encouraging news tonight about Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin. The team says that he is showing some signs of improvement over the past day, but he does remain in critical condition in the intensive care unit.

Remember, he suffered cardiac arrest and collapsed on Monday night during the game with the Bengals. He was resuscitated on the field before being rushed to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Now, his family is clarifying today that Hamlin was resuscitated only that one time on the field.

And President Biden is saying today that he spoke at length with Damar's parents. Joining me now is CNN contributor Bob Costas. Bob, good to see you and good to know that there is some improvement although, he does remain in critical condition. There has been some back and forth as to what that condition is, but I wonder what you make of the way this is being handled by the league and the way that the improvement has been relayed.

BOB COSTAS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think people need to be optimistic but cautiously optimistic, so I have no criticism about the way information such as it is has been relayed to the public. This is still an ongoing situation. And there was some hesitation about whether they would continue the game or not. But that was as they were gathering information.

And a lot of that decision-making was certainly influenced by the coaches and players in Cincinnati, but back in New York, Roger Goodell and Troy Vincent and the people at the players' association are being briefed. So, I have no criticism at the fact that it took a while to have a final decision that they would not play the game.

And it seems to me obvious now, since this coming weekend is the final weekend of the regular season, they might have had a chance to make up this game earlier in the season when teams have bye weeks, but they are not going to replay this game under any circumstances. The Bengals and Bills will play 16 games. The others will play 17 and they will seed the playoffs based on winning percentage rather than total victories. That's much less important, but it is still noteworthy.

COATES: You know, Bob, one of the things we talked about on Monday night as this was all unfolding was there are many who were instantly critical of football as a sport, the umbrella of danger that we often think about when talking about football in relation to concussions, CTE and beyond, paralysis in some instances.

Now, this situation that we're seeing, we haven't heard from the medical team but the opining that people have given is about the idea that's usually more seen in projectile sports. But I want you to listen in to what the president of the United States who is now weighing in on what happened after talking to the parents. Listen to what the president has had to say about that umbrella of danger you have spoken about.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The idea that you're going to have -- you got guys that are 6'8", 340 pounds running a 48, 40. I mean, you know, hit somebody with that kind of force -- now, that's not what happened here, but I just think it's -- I don't know how you avoid it. I think working like hell on the helmets and the concussion protocols, that all makes a lot of sense, but it's -- you know, it is dangerous. You got to just acknowledge it.


COATES: Now, Bob, you did not see this initially as an indictment overall of the sport.


COATES: But you have said often it's a sport that can only be made safer, not safe. Given the president's words, do you still agree?

COSTAS: Yes. Yes. And if you are talking about brain trauma, if you are talking about spinal cord injuries or if you're just talking about the large number of players who have aches and pains and hip replacements and knee replacements and difficulty of getting out of bed in the morning just because of the attrition of playing this sport, yeah, you can put all of that on football.

But when you talk about this one particular instance, it's very rare overall when you think of the millions and millions of tackles and football as it's played throughout the country over the course of the year and millions and millions of batted balls and pucks and balls in play in lacrosse and pucks in hockey, this is exceedingly rare.

But statistically, the medical information and the experts have told us that to the extent that it happens, it's more likely to happen in projectile sports, so-called projectile sports like baseball, hockey and lacrosse. But that doesn't take football off the hook for the other circumstances we have mentioned. And watching this brings those circumstances to mind.

And over the last 48 hours, the most poignant thing I've heard -- of course none of us can read and hear everything when so many people are focusing on this, but I've seen and read a lot, and the most poignant thing I heard came on Monday night, John Brennan was talking with Ephraim Salaam who played 13 years in the National Football League as an offensive lineman.


And he said this, "I played football so that my boys would not have to play football. Many players come from relatively disadvantaged backgrounds. There is a lot of money. Sometimes it comes over only a short career but there still a lot of money involved and there's the thrill of competition and the camaraderie of it and the drama of it and a shared experience. No one is sliding that. But there's often a price to pay."

And Ephraim Salaam, a very bright man, who obviously loved football in a certain sense, will not let his sons play football. That's just a fact.

COATES: The price of the attempt at inter-generational wealth, a much broader and poignant topic indeed. Bob Costas, thank you so much.

COSTAS: Thank you, Laura.

COATES: Well, there has been a major decision from the FDA allowing pharmacies to dispense abortion pills to people who have a prescription. What it means for tens of millions of women across the country and how long until, you know what's coming. This is challenged in court. We'll talk about it, next.



COATES: A major move by the FDA with abortion rights being restricted across the entire country. The agency now allowing certified pharmacies to dispense abortion pills to patients who have a prescription. And some major pharmacies are also planning to dispense the pills, but of course, not in every state. The medication, Mifepristone, excuse me, can be used along with another medication, misoprostol, to end a pregnancy.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA allowed the pills to be sent through the mail and said that it would no longer enforce a rule requiring people to get the first of the two drugs in person at a clinic or at a hospital.

Now, according to the Guttmacher Institute, medication abortion is now used in more than half of abortions in this country. That outpaces the surgical procedures for the first time since 2020. But the -- in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision, which overturned the constitutional right to an abortion of Roe v. Wade, and the implementation of abortion restrictions in many states, the question is, will this move by the FDA spark a legal backlash. We will see.

There are six votes everyone in two days and the House is still, still without a speaker. Kevin McCarthy scrambling to reach a deal even as we speak tonight as lawmakers prepare to go at it all over again tomorrow. So, will the third day be the charm? We will see.