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Erin Burnett Outfront

House About To Reconvene With GOP In Disarray After McCarthy Suffers 6 Humiliating Losses, Still No Speaker; House About To Return To Floor, Could Vote For Speaker For 7th Time; Bills: Hamlin Still In Critical Condition, But "Signs Of Improvement"; McCarthy Does Not Want A Vote Tonight, No Deal Yet. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 04, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, breaking news. The House about to reconvene as McCarthy's bid for speaker looks shakier than ever. Six humiliating rounds of votes and we could be looking at a seventh shortly. We have the very latest from Capitol Hill.

Plus, who are those 20 Republicans waging this war against Kevin McCarthy? We're going to give you a closer look.

And new details tonight on Buffalo Bills' star Damar Hamlin's condition. For one former NFL player, Hamlin's injury brought memories. He was hit in the chest with a puck, collapsed on the ice, carried out on a stretcher. And the former NHL star is it my guest tonight.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

And OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news. The House is about to gavel back in as open warfare breaks out in the GOP.

Congressman Matt Gaetz who has voted against Kevin McCarthy every time here tells CNN he's a, quote, desperate guys whose share is dropping with every subsequent vote. Kevin McCarthy is not giving up though. His allies are scrambling, working furiously behind the scenes trying to search for any options as obviously the situation is deadlocked. It has become an epic and historic meltdown over electing a new speaker.

Now, here's where we are tonight. The House is going to be coming back in session right here at night, they're coming back in. And there could then be a seventh vote tonight. So we're now two days into this. Six rounds of votes.

You've passed every historical marker you possibly could. It has been humiliating. There appears to be no end in sight. We'll see though what's happening in these intervening couple of hours while the house has been out of session. The three rounds of voting that were today came hours after former President Trump came outputting out a message loud and clear telling Republicans to rally behind McCarthy. That call, though, to these holdouts, all of whom are seen as Trumpers

had no effect on them, at least not yet, the complete disarray that has engulfed Washington means there is nothing happening legislatively on Capitol Hill. It can't because there is no speaker. So, there's no business being done at all. Members can't even be sworn in. There are no committees, there are no rules, there are no votes on bills.

And tonight the huge question, does McCarthy get to a point where he realizes it's over and he steps down? Will he do that tonight, or does he keep fighting? And if he does step down, who is then becomes the next speaker?

There are a lot of fast-moving developments tonight as we count you down to that gaveling in, in the House this hour.

I want to begin with Manu Raju, OUTFRONT on Capitol Hill.

So, Manu, what is the latest there right now in this final minutes before they come back in?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESONDENT: Well, there's a group of members, both McCarthy allies and opponents alike have been behind closed doors for more than two hours to try to figure out if there is any way to resolve the impasse. And, at the moment, those talks are continuing. I am told that they have been productive with some members. There is hope that they could eventually get to a deal.

But it's unlikely that they're going to get to some sort of an agreement that could get Kevin McCarthy the 218 votes when the House reconvenes in about an hour. Kevin McCarthy has virtually no margin for error anymore. And that's because even though there have been 20 Republicans who have voted against him, there are four Republicans who are essentially ungettable.

McCarthy allies essentially are conceding that they're not going to be able to win over Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, Andy Biggs and Bob Good, all of whom have been very clear that they will not vote for Kevin McCarthy. Both Boebert and Gaetz were in this closed-door meeting. They walked out of the meeting and said nothing has changed. Boebert said there is time for a new speaker candidate. Gaetz said he will never vote for Kevin McCarthy.

And that essentially means he has to somehow peel off support from remaining members. One person to watch here is Congressman Chip Roy. He told me earlier today, things have been going in a positive direction. He is one of the 20 who voted no. He just told reporters going into this meeting that these discussions to give individual members more power to call for a vote to oust the sitting speaker, that is a big issue of contention. He believes that that still could get resolve.

Also, they want more power, more say about bills that come to the floor. How those bills come to the floor, get them more sway on key committee assignments. Some of those issues are still at play, which gives the McCarthy team some hope that perhaps they could eventually get there just probably not tonight, Erin, as after six votes, Kevin McCarthy could be staring at his seventh defeat as the House remains paralyzed with no speaker and no way forward.

BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you very much.

Manu, of course, is going to be back with us this hour as they are behind closed doors right now, and then, of course, the House is going to gavel back in, in less than an hour.


OUTFRONT now, I want to go to the Republican Congressman French Hill who has been designated by McCarthy as one of his emissaries to find a deal with the Republican holdouts.

And I appreciate your time, Congressman.

So, obviously the House is coming back in, in less than an hour, back into session. McCarthy has lost six ballots and we're coming back in tonight. Are you aware of anything that has changed, and do you expect another vote here in the next hour or so?

REP. FRENCH HILL (R-AR): Well, Erin, happy New Year, and it's great to be with you.

Look, Kevin McCarthy has been, as he has been for weeks now, listening to all the members of the Congress, particularly those 20 that are holding out on this issue, listening to their ideas for rules improvements. How do we have a conservative view on budget reform and budget process, and who wants to be playing what role in the new Congress on committees, and what responsibilities are they interested in.

This is the role of a speaker, and it's something that Kevin's been doing mightily on a regular basis and is doing it as we speak tonight. Listening to those members, finding a path forward, looking for those final votes that will give him the majority and let him have the majority of Republicans elect him as the next speaker of the House.

BURNETT: And, OK, you're talking about specific issues. I know, obviously, budget has been one that they have --many of them spoken about exclusively, obviously, the vote to call for a new speakership, right? They want to just have anybody be able to call that, any individual.

Are you, then, talking about specifics that there is a specific list of negotiations and that you're moving forward on that? Or is that way too far ahead of where you are?

HILL: I think -- I think the Speaker designate Kevin McCarthy is having those constructive conversations as we speak with members of the 20 that had not supported him thus far in the previous ballots, and they're looking for a path forward to a yes vote and it's composed around those areas that you noted -- rules, the budget, and budget process issues, and then who's on what committee and having what responsibility in the new Congress.

BURNETT: So, what do you think the other hard nos really want at this point? I guess when I say the hard nos, I would imagine there is a certain group of those people that you're not even going to bother trying to get, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, they're off your list?

HILL: I'm sure there will be some that are going to be no permanently. But Mr. McCarthy's not treating them that way. Everyone is engaged in these meetings and discussions and he's open to hearing from all of them. So, he's not the one who's taking that attitude. He's taking a constructive attitude to listen to everybody's viewpoints, trying to clear the air where there's any misunderstanding of what's happened over the past few days over any particular issue.

And, for example, you mentioned the motion to vacate the chair. He's made a constructive position there to follow Thomas Jefferson's precedent and have five members make that motion.

So, everything is on the table. And, as I say, the best way for me to describe it on what today has brought is a constructive dialogue between those 20 and Mr. McCarthy.

BURNETT: And just to be clear on that one point, though, the five, he's not moving on that. Kevin McCarthy's not moving on that. Is that what you're saying, five is his best offer on that?

HILL: Well, that's his preference because that was the original what was called the Jefferson rule. And so that's what his preference has been.

BURNETT: So one final question to you. Sources have told CNN that rank and file Republicans have begun to talk to Democrats about what it would take to get some of them to say vote present or not be there, right? So you could lower the threshold and Kevin McCarthy could get over the finish line that way.

Have you spoken to any Democrats about that?

HILL: I haven't because my emphasis has been getting uniting our party, uniting house Republicans to support Kevin McCarthy as their new speaker. And, so, all my conversations have been constructive and have been with the members of our party trying to find a path forward towards unity so we can show that contrast between the legislation that we would propose that's being offered by the Biden administration.

BURNETT: Congressman Hill, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

HILL: You bet, Erin. Great to be with you.

BURNETT: All right. You, too.

And, obviously, he's going to be heading back into that session in just a few moments.

I want to go to Nia-Malika Henderson now, former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent, and then, of course, Margaret Hoover and John Avlon with me as well. Congressman, you hear what he's saying, clear, only talking to his own

party. What do you hear there? Do you hear that there is something more constructive and specific going on than has been?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there's probably a little movement with Chip Roy. I'm not so sure about the hard liners.

It's also pretty clear -- and French Hill is a good friend. I think that they're trying -- it appears McCarthy allies are trying to divide, split up these 20 members. You don't want to get into a negotiation with all of them. You want to pick them off one at a time.

BURNETT: Pick one off, yeah.

DENT: Absolutely, and that's what they're trying to do.

Now, look, if I were a betting man, I don't see how you get from -- they need to flip 17 votes. And I suspect there are probably at least five hard nos.


He said four -- I think four were mentioned. I could probably sense at least five, maybe six who are hard nos.

So, I mean, the first few are the easy ones to get. It's those last few votes they need to flip that will be hard. Is there a path? Yeah. But it's a very narrow one.

BURNETT: Well, I guess you could combine calling the herd, right, pulling off a few votes with some Democratic not presents and then you get there?

HENDERSON: It doesn't sound like Democrats are going to help bail McCarthy out. He doesn't have many relationships with folks on that side. There's no relationship with Hakeem Jeffries. So, I think that's just sort of a fantasy at this point.

Is there a path? You know, I guess there's always a chance. It just seems so narrow at this point, and even if he gets it, he's going to be a speaker that is in the headlock with his, you know, he is blindfolded and his arms tied behind his back because he's going to be so beholden to the 20 folks.

He's essentially going to give away all of his power. They could get five people together and oust him as speaker. So it's going to be sort of a speakership for --

BURNETT: Or if they gives up and they only need one person.


MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And that's right. The question is like, what is left in his goody bag to give away? And there's not a lot. It's basically, you know, committee chairmanships and Manu talks about this. It's influential positions on committees. It's the motion to vacate could go from five to one.

I mean, it's not much else. And all of it undermines his ability to control the house.

BURNETT: Then you have, like, Matt Gaetz or Lauren Boebert any day of the week who can just raise their hand, and here we are again.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, right, so do the math here for a second, right? I mean, if he cuts his gap in half, he still has to peel off six more votes.

What we just heard was, there are four, Andy Biggs, Bob Good, Lauren Boebert and Matt Gaetz were immovable. That means that two of the people you need to peel away are Scott Perry and Paul Gosar, right? So, the reality check that one.

The problem is you're trying to negotiate with arsonists who actually don't want anything. Some people would rather watch it burn. They would rather ruin if they cannot rule. And notice that this core cadre of folks are the heart of the Stop the Steal movement. This is the election denial caucus. It shows the futility of trying to appease them for the past two years because you never can.

BURNETT: Right. And is that really where it is? If you have people who the whole goal is to destroy, then there is no negotiating with that.

HENDERSON: And the goal is to humiliate McCarthy.

DEAN: It's personal.

But these are always the folks who had a really hard time getting to yes. I don't see how they get to yes. They're really good at saying no. They're good at telling you all the things they can never do. And they can never vote for Kevin McCarthy is what they're saying right now.

I dealt with this. And what we're witnessing here in the House now is simply a continuation of what's been going on since 2011, except it's gotten worse. The majority is more narrow, and there are more of these hardliners. That is what's changed.

HENDERSON: Yeah, this is the same group, essentially, that ran off Paul Ryan and ran off John Boehner and prevented McCarthy's initial dream of trying to ascend to the speakership.

So, it just looks impossible. We'll see what happens at 8:00 p.m. He's been at this trying to court these people for two years, and hard core trying to court them for two months, two weeks, a couple of days ago in these meetings and nothing has worked so far.

HOOVER: The only thing that's going to stop him is himself. And he is not interested in quitting. I mean, this is the one job he has wanted his entire life and one of the things that John Avlon often said is the thing that went away in the Trump era was shame. Kevin McCarthy has no shame about this. He is going to keep fighting

because he feels he deserves this. He has worked hard to get to this position. Even if it's only plus six R's, he believes he deserves it. I don't think he's going to quit. I think he'll go six, seven, eight, nine rounds.

HENDERSON: He's already at six.

HOOVER: Yeah, he's at six. I meant seven, eight, nine, ten.

BURNETT: Psychologically, you can understand that though. It's sort of I've done this, I've got almost everyone behind me except for these five people that I think are crazy, and I'm not going to let that derail my life's dream. And, yet, what is the plan B?

AVLON: Look, I think the plan b for a lot of folks is Steve Scalise and maybe he's the person who could unite the caucus. There's a plan C, though. And I'm going to be the uncynical person to point out because yesterday in Pennsylvania, Charlie Dent -- you had a narrowly divide state legislature, narrow Republican edge. They nominated a centrist Democrat who then became an independent.

And in Alaska and Ohio, also, you have seen moderate Republicans unite with Democrats to have bipartisan governing majorities to isolate the far right. That would be good for the country. I'm not saying it's likely. I don't want to play --

BURNETT: Plan C is some sort of the Democrats are --

AVLON: It is possible and it would be the right thing to do for the nation. It would actually reflect the electorate.

DENT: John, what you're saying -- look, in a functional Congress. What would happen is when you have 20 hard-liners like this who are immovable, you would say, OK, we're going to marginalize you. I'm going to talk to the Democrats.

AVLON: Correct.

DENT: That's what would normally happen.

Now, the question is, do the Democrats want to play ball with Kevin McCarthy? My sense is right now, they do not. Pennsylvania was different.

AVLON: Fred Upton, no?

DENT: Well, Fred Upton, by the way, his father passed away, his funeral is tomorrow. His father was a wonderful man who served in the Battle of the Bulge, liberate the concentration camps. Fred would be a selection here. Now, I think a lot of Democrats would want him.

The question is how many Republicans would warm up to Fred Upton?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: So, Democrats are going to vote for a Republican speaker or not vote at all and not vote for Hakeem Jeffries. Is that what you're saying they would do?

DENT: In the case of Upton?


DENT: Well, he could get some Republican votes. But some of these hard-liners, if they don't like Kevin McCarthy --


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: So what is the game tonight? They're coming back in at 8:00, not gaveling out till tomorrow. So somebody thinks that something is going to happen, and there is some reason for that. What is that?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, my sense of this. I'm talking to people on the Hill, I'm talking to people who are talking to people on the Hill. Everybody thinks Kevin McCarthy is a bull in a China shop. And he just --


HOOVER: I don't know if he can do it.

HENDERSON: But maybe we'll see Chip Roy flip, maybe something like that, but that's one, right? And Chip Roy --


HOOVER: I don't think there's a strategy here. I think they think they have one, but it is not clear to anyone who's watching what it is.

HENDERSON: I mean, to the extent that you have a strategy when you're playing a game of chicken, I mean, that's essentially their strategy to hold out and threaten to, you know, be here six, seven months from now. But we see --

AVLON: Yeah. But this is the optimism over experience on the part of Kevin McCarthy. But he's got nothing else. He's going to keep going.


AVLON: The problem is at some point you're at that scene from "Dumb and Dumber" you're saying there's a chance, and that's kind of where they are behind closed doors.

DENT: McCarthy's allies at some point may be the ones who have to talk to Kevin and say we've had enough. Some members are going to start getting wobbly. Their constituents are saying, what is going on here? They're watching the spectacle and this is not good --

BURNETT: You're going to gavel back in at night in prime time. It is going to be everywhere. It's not during the day where people might miss sort of what's going on in that dysfunctional place called Washington. This is in your face tonight. DENT: Look, I just sense that members are going to get somewhat

wobbly. Everybody acknowledges that the 20 are the problem and they're terrible. But you have to actually function. You have to get to a resolution.

HENDERSON: You saw some of that sort of weaken the knees of moderates when Ken Buck said he didn't know if he was going to be --

HOOVER: When Ken Buck is the moderate --


AVLON: But, look, what's it going to take for Republicans to wake up to realize that the problem is the far right, that they've done what they did to Boehner and Paul Ryan out of the gate. And who could actually corral that caucus?

HOOVER: But nobody's at 30,000 feet looking at it like this. What people are looking at now is literally what's going to happen at 8:00 and how are you going to get to the next step.

And I think, Charlie, you're on to something. This is simply going to be a matter of how long Kevin McCarthy is willing to continue fighting, and then what happens to his base of support. Because at some point if the nos -- who blinks first? This is a game of chicken.

HENDERSON: How long is he willing to continue to lose really?


DENT: These hard-liners have been empowered. It didn't just start with Kevin McCarthy. It started before. They have been empowered with the Marjorie Taylor Greene being welcomed into the tent when she should've been excluded. It's gradual, and now of course it's very sudden that we have this crisis.

BURNETT: The famous point about bankruptcy, how did it happen?

DENT: Gradually then suddenly.

BURNETT: Gradually then suddenly. And here we are.

DENT: Here we are.

BURNETT: Bankrupt -- ready to go. We got it.

All right. Thanks to all.

And next, our breaking news continues as the House prepares to gavel back into session, another concession by Kevin McCarthy to the Republican holdouts. We're going to tell you about that.

Plus, just who are these 20 that we keep talking about who continue to vote no, and just how far to the right are they? So, Harry Enten, all the data, all the facts standing by to show you. And Buffalo Bills' safety Damar Hamlin sedated on a ventilator tonight

still in critical condition, we understand, after that collapse on the field Monday night. The latest on his condition, ahead.



BURNETT: Breaking news, another concession by Kevin McCarthy to the Republican holdouts as we are now just over a half an hour away from the House gaveling back in to session tonight. A very influential McCarthy aligned PAC has agreed it won't play in any seat primaries that.

Now, that may sound specific to you, but it is specific details that matter. And this one in particular is something that could move at least one previously considered immovable vote. So, that development, as I said, we are now just about a half an hour away from the House reconvening after six failed votes to elect Kevin McCarthy speaker.

Republican disarray and division is a stark contrast to what was happening this afternoon in Kentucky. This was sort of an incredible thing. This split screen here. President Biden and the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were together touting the bipartisan infrastructure bill as proof of, well, the fact that Democrats and Republicans can work together when they want to.

And Biden did not hold back in how he views the chaos on Capitol Hill.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's embarrassing for the country. And I mean, literally, I'm not making it partisan. That's the reality here that, you know, to be a kind of a -- to be a Congress that can't function, it's just embarrassing for the greatest nation in the world. How can that be?


BURNETT: Phil Mattingly is OUTFRONT at the White House tonight.

Phil, what else is the White House saying about what is happening in the house as they're about to reconvene here and be back on the floor in just moments?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: White House officials have gone a great length not to insert themselves into this intra-party warfare they've been watching play out. But they have been watching very closely. As one official told me earlier, it's like a slow-motion car crash. You can't really turn away even if you tried.

But when you talk to White House officials, they made clear when it comes to the president, and he was very clear about this today in several public remarks, he is not among the Democrats that find this some level of amusing or entertaining at this point in time. In fact, his repeated assessment of this as an embarrassing event or an embarrassing kind of evolution over the course of the last 48 hours is something he's repeated behind closed doors as well.

And, in part, there's very real concern for what this mean for must- pass legislation later they year. Whether it's funding the government or raising the debt ceiling -- obviously critical issues that Republicans are going to need to get on board and try and help get over the finish line.

But I think more broadly, and you heard the president allude to this in the sound that you just played, it's the idea of the president has worked so hard and been so kind of keenly focused on the idea of demonstrating that the U.S. government can work, the perception particularly from countries abroad, both allies and foes, that the U.S. kind of has it together once again after a very unsettled last several years is critically important to him and critically important to the years ahead.

This cuts directly against that. And I think that's problematic. It's very clear that the president views that as problematic. As one official told me earlier today who spoke to the president, the president is an institutionalist at his core. You can't be an institutionalist and watch what's happening, what's the chaos that's happening right now and feel good about it. That's certainly where the president is at this moment, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Phil, thank you very much.

And OUTFRONT now, former Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. I'm pleased to welcome him to CNN. He is appearing tonight for the first time in his new role which is senior political commentator.

And, Congressman, we really are thrilled to have you on board. So welcome. Welcome.

People have seen you over the past, of course, couple years on the January 6th committee. And we're so glad to have you on board.

So --

ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMEANTOR: It's great to be on the team, by the way. Thank you. I'm excited.

BURNETT: So here you are tonight not about to go to the House floor for the first time in ten years. You wouldn't be obligated to do that. And I'm sure you're glad about that.

But, I mean, ten years you've spent the past ten years in the House. You have seen good. You have seen plenty of bad and a lot of ugly.

Did you ever expect to see this?

KINZINGER: No, not really. Actually up until the first vote, I thought, because it's always happened in the last hundred years, that Kevin McCarthy would pull this off. I think, though, it's interesting as I look at what's going on, there's a couple things.

First, I do think it's embarrassing to an extent. It also shows how closely this country is divided.

You know, keep in mind, and particularly in parliamentary systems, they can go months sometimes without being able to form a government. So, you know, I think having it out on display to one extent, it may be good to show democracy -- because right now, the house being in session, it exists for only one reason. The only thing the house can do right now is elect a speaker. And that's what you're seeing. You're seeing that institution hold.

But, you know, beyond that, I'm kind of glad personally that the American people are getting to see -- I heard Charlie Dent talking about this earlier. What the Republicans have had to deal with over the last, frankly, 12 years since I've been in, which is a small group of people and a small majority being able to hijack the agenda.

You think back to things like the repeal and replacement of Obamacare. You look back to things like immigration. We could have gotten immigration done without these kinds of holdouts. So, for me, I'm optimistic that it's in front of the American people now.

BURNETT: So, what do you hope happens? I mean, because if Kevin McCarthy, I guess, as a Republican you have to look at this and consider, if he doesn't get this, no matter who does, it means that that group that you're talking about won. They achieved what they wanted.

So, do you think it's better for him to step aside and move on and have it be someone else? Or should he just sit here and force this issue vote after vote after vote as long as it takes?

KINZINGER: Well, I think Kevin should step aside. I mean, I've been critical of him ever since frankly after January 6th, his return to Mar-a-Lago, his continuing to try to assuage this caucus.

So I think it would be good for the country if he stepped aside. I actually think the best thing for the country, it's this dark horse idea of Democrats agreeing to vote for an acceptable Republican with five Republican votes.

What that would do is put an institutionalist in the role of speaker because speaker tradition -- I guess if you look in the way past, speaker's job was really to maintain the institution. And I think the institution, and frankly the country, could use somebody sitting in that position simply saying here's how the House is going to work, go debate.

But I think we're going to see a lot more rounds. And, frankly, what we need to be watching for is, as Kevin makes concessions, and he's going to make concessions because he really wants this, are there going to be people on his team that start to get upset with those concessions? That will be an interesting thing to watch.

BURNETT: Right, he could have leaked on the other side.

But to your idea about a dark horse idea and an institutionalist, right, so you would only need five more votes if the Democrats can get on board with this. Who are you thinking of?

A moment ago, we were sitting here and Fred Upton's name came up. Actually, Charlie Dent mentioned him as well. Is that someone who you're thinking about or sort of -- who fits in that profile that you actually think Democrats or any Democrats could get on board with?

KINZINGER: So, I think Fred Upton, I think anybody with his kind of profile, if it's important that it be a sitting member of congress, because he's out now, and most people don't remember -- speaker of the House does not have to be a member of the House.



KINZINGER: So if there is somebody like that within the GOP caucus, the question for the Democrats is can you get people like Steny Hoyer and AOC on board and get a united Democratic front to say, look, yes, we have to vote for a Republican, but there are concessions, institutionalists and better than the alternatives.

I think as this drags on as we go to the next ballot, the next ballot, that becomes more likely, although still pretty unlikely.

BURNETT: All right. Well, you're going to stay with us here this hour. So, I say good-bye only for a few minutes. But thank you and we'll see you again in just a few moments because we do have more on the breaking news here, moment as way from the house reconvening.

And as it appears right now as we're just sitting here talking to Congressman Kinzinger, the 20 Republicans who oppose McCarthy are still united. So who exactly are they? When you talk about each person having individual interests, Harry Enten's going to show you. We're going to break this down.

Plus, Buffalo Bills' safety Damar Hamlin on a ventilator in critical condition. In a moment, I'm going to speak to former NHL player Chris Pronger who had an incredibly similar injury collapsing on the ice while playing.



BURNETT: Tonight, the breaking news. The House of Representatives about to gavel back into session and may fire up a seventh vote to elect a speaker. What happens next is truly unknown. Will they keep voting throughout the night? Does McCarthy drop out? Does a new speaker emerge?

And we are living this in real time and watching these developments in Washington. They are behind closed doors right now, and in just a few minutes going to be gaveling back in session. So we're going to be much more on that in just a moment.

I do want to update you though first on another story that all of us and you have been following. New details tonight about the condition of the Buffalo Bills' safety Damar Hamlin.

So, what we understand right now is that he has been showing signs of improvement but still remains in critical condition. All of this after his heart stopped on the field after that hit during Monday night's game against the Bengals.

President Biden says he spoke at length with the family, offered few details though about those conversations.

Ryan Young is OUTFRONT with the latest tonight from Cincinnati.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Outside a hospital in Cincinnati, balloons, candles and flowers, prayers for number 3, Damar Hamlin from his friends and family.


YOUNG: And so is his team tweeting an update that Hamlin showed signs of improvement but is still in critical condition, breathing, his uncle says, with the help of a ventilator and expected to stay in the ICU.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is Damar Hamlin.

YOUNG: The 24-year-old fighting to recover nearly two days after suffering cardiac arrest following a tackle. The NFL now crediting the league's emergency action plan for the rapid response that resuscitated Damar Hamlin once on the field quickly getting him to an ambulance and rushing him to the ICU.

DR. ALLEN SILLS, NFL CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: We never want to see events like this occur. But if there were to be a medical emergency, there was absolutely the right team with the right equipment and the right training on site able to provide care.

YOUNG: And with reporters Wednesday, a rare and raw display of emotion from a top NFL official.

TROY VINCENT, NFL EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT: It gave our brother Damar another day to live. That emergency action plan was executed to perfection by individuals who rehearsed and practice and train for in stadium health emergencies.

YOUNG: Hamlin's parents and family members by his side ever since.

ROONEY: They are incredibly thankful of everything that has been out there, all of the support that they have gotten. It's made this just a little bit easier for them.

YOUNG: And they made a point to defend Tee Higgins, the Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver from backlash for what happened after the tackle.

ROONEY: It was a freak accident. It was nothing that Tee can control. No, supporting -- you can't support Damar and critique Tee in this situation because Damar's family is not looking at it that way at all.

YOUNG: The NFL now left to find a way forward with only days left in the regular season with the Buffalo Bills scheduled to play the New England Patriots on Sunday, the league not ruling out postponing that game.

JEFF MILLER, NFL EXECUTIVE VP OF COMMUNICATIONS: Obviously, we're going to have to make a decision in the coming days, which we will. But there are a lot of people that we want to consult with, including the clubs involved before that decision is final.


YOUNG (on camera): Yeah, Erin, you really can see how the NFL has had such wide-reaching impact when we got that news from the Buffalo Bills about the improved condition. Fans are just happy sort of cheering about that improvement that they finally got some notice about. Something else, though, there are players across the NFL who obviously feel so close to this situation. In fact, take a listen to this player who is a friend of Damar Hamlin's just talking about emotion and everything that's going on right now.


RODNEY THOMAS II, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS PLAYER: I don't know if you can hear me, different things like that, but talking to him. I know he can hear me. Even if he can't hear me, it don't matter. I say what I just said.


YOUNG: Erin, a lot times we talk to families in pain. And something that stood out to me is last night when the family came out from that hospital and they went over to the memorial that's right across the street. They were taken aback by it. And they said the prayers that they have been getting from across the country have really given them some spirit in all of this. You can understand how tight this family is and how this community is still praying for this young man, hoping that he pulls through -- Erin.

BURNETT: Thank you very much, Ryan.

And what happened on the field during Monday's game is reminiscent of what happened to the NHL's Chris Pronger back in 1998. He passed out on the ice after a slap shot hit him in the chest during a playoff game for the Stanley Cup.

Let me play this for you now. I do want to warn you, it is disturbing to watch. But if you can, watch.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another penalty coming up. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Detroit's going to have a two-man advantage for

ten seconds. Pronger could be hurting here. He took a slap shot into the chest. This isn't funny.

He took a slap shot into the chest. And you can see with that slap shot into his ribs and chest, he's having some problems. This looks very serious.


BURNETT: Pronger was taken off the ice on a stretcher, rushed to the hospital. He suffered from a rare injury called commotio cordis.

Now that is also what the NFL's chief medical officer tells Wolf Blitzer the league is investigating as a possible cause in Hamlin's collapse on Monday night.

And he is OUTFRONT with me now.

Chris, look, watching that, I know you have had to have seen this so many times, but it is hard to watch that. A lot of people, though, when they see it, they see similarities. You sort of get up and then you went all the way back down, just suddenly collapsed between what happened to you and what happened to Damar Hamlin. You know, because he was able to get up for a moment just like you. He gets up, everything's fine and then, boom.

Now we do not yet know the details about his injury, what caused his heart to stop. We don't know if it's commotio cordis. But when you saw the hit on Monday night, did you think it could be the same thing that happened to you?

CHRIS PRONGER, NHL HALL OF FAMER: It looked like a routine tackle to me. And the way that he popped up so quickly and then to see him fall in the distressful way that he did was very concerning. And I think I heard earlier someone talking about how quickly the medical staff and the training staff got out to him. Clearly the way you see him fall much like you saw me go down, something was definitely wrong.

BURNETT: So, I can't even imagine what the moment was like for you when that happened to you and you got back up and then went back down. Can you describe at all, Chris, for me, what you experienced, what you remember about that moment?

PRONGER: Yeah. When I got hit with the puck hit me directly in the heart. I had a nice little welt on top of my skin right there. It was a sharp pain. I was trying to catch my breath. I covered the puck up to get the whistle. I was telling myself to get to the bench. At that moment, I think I blacked out, and on the video, as you can see, I kind of got up and stumbled and then went to the ground.

Woke up like 20 or 30 seconds later and kind of staring up at the rafters and looking at all the numbers that are retired and the banners, and got doctors over top of me, my shirt's cut open. And then I glance over and I look at the bench and I see a bunch of teammates crying and teary-eyed. I'm kind of wondering what just happened. You're kind of in shock and

you don't really know what's happened. The last thing I remember was I covered the puck and got the whistle. So there wasn't much for me to kind of talk about. It was pretty surreal.

BURNETT: So, this commotio cordis, which is what happened to you, they have talked about this as possibly what happened to Damar Hamlin. We just don't know, of course. You returned to the ice after the commotio cordis for 13 more years.

And Hamlin is in the early days of what we hope will be a recovery. We don't know, a little bit of improvement today. Although his situation is still in critical care. No matter what happens, this is going to take a long time for him.

Do you think it's possible for a football player like Hamlin to return, as you did?

PRONGER: It's possible. I think the biggest difference between the two of us is we both lost consciousness, but I was still breathing. And I think that's the concern here is that he wasn't breathing for eight, ten minutes. It was a long time.

So, that's where the similarities end. It's hard to watch some of the stuff. A lot of the players were kind of hovering around blocking the cameras from seeing what they were doing. They paddled him a couple of times and restarted his heart, and then they were giving him CPR for an extended period of time. So, that's tough to see.

BURNETT: Yeah, absolutely is. Well, Chris, I appreciate you coming on and sharing your story with us. Thank you so much.

PRONGER: Thank you.

BURNETT: Chris Pronger there.

And next, we are just moments away from the House formally reconvening. We're going to be going to Capitol Hill. These meetings are wrapping up as we speak. We'll be back with him after this.



BURNETT: Breaking news. Some major developments just coming in from Capitol Hill.

Manu Raju is OUTFRONT.

And, Manu, what are the latest you're hearing?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, the House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy just emerged from a closed-door meeting with some of his opponents as well as some of his allies. When he emerged, he says he does not want to have another vote tonight on the speakership. That would happen at 8:00 p.m. He also told me that there is no deal yet. But he did indicate that

progress is being made.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I think it's probably best that people work through some more. I don't think we'll vote tonight.

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

MCCARTHY: I don't know yet but a lot of progress.

REPORTER: Does that mean no vote tonight?

MCCARTHY: I don't think voting tonight is productive. I think we'll let people work a little more.


RAJU: So, when he said I don't think voting tonight will be productive, that essentially means that he believes that if they had a vote at 8:00 p.m., that he would get the 218 votes to be elected speaker of the House.

But the challenge for McCarthy right now is that they may still have to go through with the vote because in order to adjourn the House, you need to have an agreement for the majority of the House. I mean, 218 members need to vote to adjourn.

And Democrats are unlikely to vote to adjourn. They are very glad to watch McCarthy twist in the wind here. There are also some conservative members who are unlikely to vote to adjourn. We'll see whether or not that actually occurs.

But nevertheless, McCarthy allies believe that they have made progress including Congressman Chip Roy who has voted against Kevin McCarthy several times. He has suggested a number of issues that McCarthy has come their way on.


They made a deal about how the super PAC will engage in primaries. That was a big development that also could win support for some conservatives.

But his path is so incredibly narrow here. There are still four members who are almost certainly going to vote against him and that means he has to peel away those other members into his side, every single one of them.

At the moment, he doesn't have them, but they believe -- they are more confident since the last couple of days here, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you very much.

And members are starting to come back in now to the House floor. You can see them there. These are live pictures here that we're going to be showing you of the reconvening happening.

Congressman Dent, what does this -- what does this mean? You heard McCarthy speak to Manu. He doesn't want to vote tonight. He is indicating there's progress but making it clear -- he clearly doesn't have the votes. What do you hear from his demeanor, his -- the way he is speaking there? Just, you know --

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He sounds like he maybe moved a couple people. At the same time by saying he doesn't want to vote, the Democrats will say, let's have a vote. They will not vote to adjourn. They want him to twist, as we just stated by Manu.

So, I think this is still a very fluid situation. If I'm Kevin McCarthy, I'm not happy about having a vote tonight. They're going to have that vote. They have a lot of votes to move. We will see.

This deal they made on the super PAC, well, Kevin McCarthy was right to use his super PAC. By the way, this has nothing to do with the House rules. He's right to use the super PAC, you know, to defeat unelectable candidates in the primary. I mean, they should --

BURNETT: Right, so when we think about what happened in November, I think everyone can understand how significant that is, that that was able to be active.

DENT: But the hard right doesn't want him to intervene in primaries. Let's get more hard right guys into the conference. You have a hard time with general elections.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's why they fell like he was not trustworthy in playing both sides against each other on the one hand saying, oh, we want the House Freedom caucus --

BURNETT: So, what happens tonight? He doesn't want a vote? Are they going to sit there and pick their nose?

HENDERSON: It hasn't gone Kevin McCarthy's way. He hasn't gotten anything he wanted so far. I imagine he is not going to get what he wants tonight, probably more votes, more defeats. We will see if there's any sign that he has been able to move anybody.

This Chip Roy, all of a sudden, flip over? Scott Perry may be somebody who could flip. He was interested in this primary fight thing. We will see what happens.

BURNETT: So, interesting, Harry, that McCarthy is indicating there's been progress. Maybe that meant he flipped a couple. It's not enough. Who are these 20 people?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Overwhelmingly, if you look at those in the last congress, they voted against certifying the election, right? Pretty much all of them except for Chip Roy, who's the one lone exception on that front.

But here is the amazing thing about this, Kevin McCarthy also voted against certifying the 2020 election. There's this idea, maybe we can bring in Steve Scalise, who's the majority leader, maybe he could step for McCarthy if he can't get to 218. He also voted against certifying the election.

So, it's one of these things where you wonder, what exactly is it that these people who don't want McCarthy -- what is it that they want?

BURNETT: When you go through some of the names and you look at Biggs and Gaetz and Boebert, you don't see Marjorie Taylor Greene on there.


BURNETT: Right? So, I mean, it's not exactly what you would expect.

ENTEN: No, it's not exactly what you would expect. I mean, you know, Marjorie Taylor Greene is somebody who voted to not certify -- voted against certifying the 2020 election. She has an overwhelmingly conservative record, right?

When you look at the people who are voting against Kevin McCarthy, they are people who are overwhelmingly conservative. But Kevin McCarthy himself is very conservative. We are talking about the far right of the right at this particular point.

But there are exceptions to that. It's not just about ideology. I try to calculate the scores and look at this. Sometimes you have to wonder, maybe it's just that they don't like Kevin McCarthy.

BURNETT: And is that what it is? When you look at Marjorie Taylor Greene, she's not on that list and others. Is it just about personal enmity of some level?

DENT: I thought much was personal. I think part is geographic. Kevin McCarthy is from California. They would rather have somebody from the core of the conference in the south and Texas and also Florida. So, I often felt that.

But it's clearly to me personal. I don't think -- you're hearing about rules changes. I can't believe they will hold up a speaker vote over some of the changes.

BURNETT: No, no.

DENT: These are not issues --

BURNETT: That's a fig leaf for the reality.


DENT: -- wish we had more transparency.

BURNETT: Super PAC is not the core of the problem.

HENDERSON: They don't like Kevin McCarthy. They don't trust him. They don't believe he is a true believer in the Trumpist cause. They think he is just playing that way so that he can become speaker. So far, that's not working out well for him. ENTEN: It's a replay of 2015 when he wanted to be speaker and he

couldn't become speaker. What's changed? He is the same guy. Now he has a smaller caucus that could vote for him.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks to all.

I want to go back to Congressman Adam Kinzinger, our senior political commentator.

Welcome again, Congressman.


So, you hear this reporting. I don't know if you could see Kevin McCarthy there as he was walking and speaking. You certainly could hear his tone and his comment of a vote wouldn't be helpful, but he thinks there's progress being made. What did you hear there?

ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I heard that. I think he is maybe a little optimistic that there's some movement. He doesn't want to be embarrassed again. Every vote that happens that he loses, that Mr. Jeffries gets more votes than him, is embarrassing.

Look, Kevin McCarthy will do anything and make any concession ultimately to become speaker. The people that are voting against him know that. The question is, can they actually be moved?

That's something we don't know the answer to. I think about half of them can. I don't know about the other five or ten.

BURNETT: So, what do you think happens tonight? Now, you got the situation where he doesn't want a vote. But they have to gavel back in, right? They set the time. You can't just not come back in session.

The Democrats probably have no interest in letting it adjourn for the night. So, how does this play out?

KINZINGER: So, it's in the Democrats' interests again to keep having these votes. Each time it wounds McCarthy, it makes him look weaker. This is part of the show of how the politics is working.

And so, I think it's in their interest to vote against adjournment. The question is, how many Republicans vote against adjournment? And if it doesn't adjourn, they're going to sit there. The house has one purpose. The only purpose the House has is to elect a speaker. It's the only business it can do. The Democrats hold and prevent adjournment and some of the 20 or whoever else vote against it, we will be at this for a while.

I mean, keep in mind, the last time it was 100 ballots -- 100 years ago.


KINZINGER: We're only on -- not even at 10 yet.

BURNETT: What's the bottom line message to your former colleagues, to all those people you know who are about to go back in the room?

KINZINGER: My bottom line message is, the country or Kevin McCarthy? Which should have more weight? If you can continue to try to put Kevin McCarthy in and not try to find an alternative, be it a Republican or a consensus candidate, eventually, you will have to make that decision.

BURNETT: All right. Congressman Adam Kinzinger, thank you very much. Appreciate it. Our new senior political commentator. Thanks.


BURNETT: And thanks so much to all of you for joining us. Our special coverage of the House speaker vote continues now with "AC360."

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Jake Tapper joining me.

We don't know whether the House is about to reconvene after Republicans tried and failed three more times to make Kevin McCarthy speaker. A short time later, they adjourned for closed-door talks between the would-be speaker and his supporters and opponents.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: But so far, nothing he has been able to say or do, nothing has managed to sway any of the 20 GOP holdouts, four hard core opponents among them.

COOPER: We could be able to learn whether there will be another vote tonight.

I want to go straight to CNN's Manu with new reporting at the Capitol.

Manu, what are you hearing?

RAJU: Well, I've seen, in about minutes, the House will try to vote to adjourn for the night. That's the preferred course of Republican leader Kevin McCarthy after talks behind closed doors with opponents as well as some of his allies. He believes they are making progress. He wants the talks to continue because if the vote were to happen tonight, he would almost certainly fail again to get the 218 votes to be elected speaker.

So, they need to actually have a majority vote of the House, 218 votes are needed to adjourn. Democrats are expected to vote against it. They want another vote to let McCarthy twist in the wind.

Some conservatives will look to see whether or not they decide to oppose it. I'm told that the expectation among top Republicans that that adjournment will pass tonight. They will return tomorrow.

Now, I just caught up with Kevin McCarthy moments ago. He indicated a deal is not within reach, but progress is being made.


MCCARTHY: You know, I think it's probably best to let people work through some more. I think -- I don't think a vote tonight does any different. I think a vote in the future will.

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

MCCARTHY: Not yet but a lot of progress.

REPORTER: That means no vote tonight?

MCCARTHY: I don't think voting tonight is productive. I think -- let people work more.


RAJU: So, in a positive sign from McCarthy, some of those opponents came out sounding positive, including Scott Perry of Pennsylvania sounded that -- he said talks had been productive as well as Congressman Chip Roy. They had been asking for more sway over the speakership.

Some of them had asking to encourage McCarthy's super PAC to stay out of certain primaries. They did agree to do that. That may have won some.

But still, his path, very narrow.