Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

Now: 11th Vote Underway, McCarthy Appears To Suffer Defeat; Sources: Boebert In Mix As Potential "Present" Vote; McCarthy Could Win Tonight If 3 Holdouts Vote Present; Father Of Idaho Murder Victim: "He Was Stalking Them"; Just In: McCarthy Team Believes They Have Votes To Win Tonight; Buffalo Bills: Hamlin's Breathing Tube Is Out. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 06, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, the breaking news. A pivotal vote for House speaker coming up. McCarthy's focused on two holdouts right now. Can he change their minds? One congressman who did change his mind is OUTFRONT.

Plus, who are the final holdouts? One of them just arrived in Washington for the first time, has never held elected office and was a contestant on "Shark Tank," a successful one.

And another top story we're following, chilling new details emerging tonight that allegedly tie the suspect in the Idaho student murders to the killings in a really sick way. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news. We are counting down right now until a crucial 14th vote for speaker. And this vote is extremely important. It is a vote that congressman Kevin McCarthy and many of his supporters believes will finally give him the gavel after this excruciating week.

As of right now, the House will reconvene at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time, which is when the next vote for speaker of the House is likely to begin. They'll nominate, and we will be off to the races on that. You now know the drill. And McCarthy right now is quickly putting the pieces into place to ensure victory, he hopes.

Just today, he was able to flip the 15 holdouts that I'm showing you on your screen right now, right? And that's huge. You had days go by, yet nothing moved on those 20 against him, 15 flip. And now, McCarthy's supporter Congressman Ken Buck is on a flight heading back to Washington, that flight is expected to arrive at 9:00, and he's going to be whisked there for his vote.

The other absent McCarthy supporter is incoming freshman Wesley Hunt, also right now believed to be returning to Washington.

Now, with these two supporters back at the capitol, McCarthy needs to flip. He still needs to flip the holdouts. Let's look at the six that we're looking at. He's got to flip a couple of these, three of these, depends on the math here. This is the complication right now. Four out of this group are in the never-Kevin camp, right? They have been firmly so.

That leaves Matt Rosendale and Eli Crane as the two holdouts that McCarthy is zeroing in on trying to flip.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you think you'll have the votes to be elected speaker tonight?


RAJU: You do?


RAJU: And you'll be able to flip Rosendale and Crane?

MCCARTHY: I'll have the votes.


BURNETT: Well, that's an answer -- not an answer to Manu's question but an answer to the bigger question, he has the votes but now?

And now I will say Congressman Matt Gaetz, one of McCarthy's staunchest critics, a leader in the crusade against him, along with Lauren Boebert, tells CNN that McCarthy is likely to pull it off even though he is obviously not going to support him in any way. That's what he says.

A lot of fast-moving developments tonight so let's begin with Manu Raju OUTFRONT live on Capitol Hill.

And, Manu, here we are, it has been like this excruciating, you know, hours and hours and days, and now all of a sudden, moving incredibly quickly, so much happening behind the scenes, House going to gavel back in. They're waiting on flights, going to whisk people in.

What are you hearing about where we are right now?

RAJU: Yeah, after 13 ballots, failed ballots and Kevin McCarthy in the longest speaker's race since the mid-1800s, Kevin McCarthy believes he is finally there. He believes tonight will be the night that he clinches the deal and gets the votes to become speaker. But behind the scenes, they are still moving to try to lock down their support.

And among the six members who voted against him, they're looking at a strategy to try to get him the votes.

One of the things they are looking at is trying to convince some of those members to vote present. That is important because that would reduce the threshold. Right now, it would require 218 votes, that would be the majority of the House, to be elected speaker. But if someone votes present, that lowers what would constitute the winning number. It could go down to 217. It could go down to 216, depending on the number of members that are looking to vote present. So there are discussions.

We're getting up to three members a vote present. That seems to be on the table. That is a serious discussion at the moment. But these discussions have been happening behind the scenes as they have tried to cut a deal about a number of concessions they've tried to give to the far right of the conference. And it has so far denied him the speakership. Giving some of those members more power, more sway over the legislative process, more leverage over the speakership.

Also some promises on key policy issues. This year there will be a big fight over raising the national debt ceiling to avoid the first-ever debt default. Kevin McCarthy has agreed with those members to tie any debt ceiling increase with spending cuts. That is a red line for Senate Democrats who control that chamber as well as the White House, setting up a major economic fight later this year.


But all these deals had to be cut in order for McCarthy to get this critical support to flip those 15 members and ultimately to get to the brink of the speakership tonight. So, Erin, behind the scenes, the talks are still intensifying. But the confidence is very high right now in the McCarthy camp that they can get this done tonight after two more members fly back home for personal issues, the House will vote at 10:00 p.m. tonight where McCarthy hopes to finally clinch the deal.

BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you very much. We'll be checking in with Manu throughout the hour, as it continues to move behind the scenes.

I want to go OUTFRONT now to one of the key Republican holdouts who switched his vote to McCarthy today, Congressman Dan Bishop. So he voted for McCarthy on the 12th and 13th ballot, but obviously up until that point had not done so.

So, Congressman, I really appreciate your time. And you know a lot about what's happening right now. So I do want to get to why you switched your vote in just a moment.

But first the bottom line here, Congressman. Will McCarthy have the votes to become speaker tonight?

REP. DAN BISHOP (R-NC): I anticipate that he will, Erin. I have been among 20 who have -- it was described on your air and other places as chaos and dysfunction. But in the course of four days, we've completed work that has gone on for six months or better to come to an agreement with Kevin McCarthy that will -- it is historic. That will, as one person told me today, is transformational.

And so I believe that with our votes and the ones they're continuing to work on, Kevin will become speaker. And will immediately proceed to adopt a rules package that will begin the process of implementing this agreement by restoring the motion to vacate the care as Thomas Jefferson conceived it before Nancy Pelosi got it rid of it. We're undoing Nancy Pelosi's changes to the House and we're starting right away.

BURNETT: So, Congressman, when you say on the ones that they're still working on, what is the strategy right now? Are there going to be three of the six remaining that vote present? Are you trying to get anybody to vote for McCarthy? What is the actual math that gets you to a Speaker Kevin McCarthy tonight?

BISHOP: Well, you know, those are the tasks of Kevin's people and the whip team and so forth. What we are doing, those of us who -- a few days ago, it was never conceived that 20 members by having the courage to step forward and insist that we attended some very important issues could lay the foundation for what we are going to do. But what we are doing right now tonight as all that is happening that you describe about trying to get in the coral, we are holding down and making sure that the agreement we've reached is fully documented and begins to be implemented on time.

So, there is a lot happening. But this isn't chaos and dysfunction. It is an historic exercise in American democracy that all Americans should be proud of.

BURNETT: So days went by. You changed your vote on the 12th ballot today. So on Tuesday -- so it's Friday night now obviously. On Tuesday you said, and I quote you, congressman, Kevin McCarthy is not the right candidate to be speaker. So in these negotiations, can you tell me explicitly what it was that got added, what he conceded that got you to change your mind?

BISHOP: Well, it would be misleading to say that it's a single thing. We've got important fiscal constraints so that we will get about the task of controlling the ever-exploding federal budget and deficit. We have, to me, as someone who's on the judiciary committee and concerned about such things, we have a select committee, select subcommittee and judiciary to look into the weaponization of federal government against American citizens and their fundamental rights.

There are a number of orient rules changes. We call it germaneness and single purpose among them, which will help us to avoid having these massive omnibus bills like we just saw ran through right before Christmas with little opportunity to read, decided by a handful of people in a back room. And then we're going to have conservatives distributed on important committees throughout Congress.

So, it's a really remarkable accomplishment. And I'm appreciative to Leader McCarthy, soon to be Speaker McCarthy, for working with us in this process.

BURNETT: And can I ask you, did he work -- did you talk to him directly? Were these sort of direct negotiations that you had, you and him?

BISHOP: So, understand they began with rules changes back in July or August. We couldn't get any conversations for a long time. But, yes, Kevin and I have personally had many conversations. And he's had many, many conversations with others as well.

I would particularly give credit to Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, and to Chip Roy of Texas. I've never seen members work more effectively, more diligently, and with great discipline to achieve this for the American people.


BURNETT: Congressman Bishop, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

BISHOP: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. And OUTFRONT now, Margaret, John, Karen and Scott.

OK. He did -- I know you, Scott, were very eager for him to lay out the math. He didn't exactly do that. But he's sitting kind of with a knowledge of that 20 that few have, and he seems sure.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. A lot of optimism coming out of all wings of the party. I've had some conversations back and forth with some people who aren't really House Freedom caucus types, but other sort of middle-of-the-road types. They also seem to think it's going to happen tonight.

So optimism from all parts of the GOP. And then, you know, we'll see what the rules package looks like tonight and what that portends for governing in the future. I think, you know, for the Republicans who were nervous all week that this conference was not going to be able to pull itself together, this is a good day.

You know, McCarthy did what he had to do to get there. What did he have to give away to get it? We'll find out later. But the fact that, I mean, earlier today, we all thought we were going to be talking about this next week. The fact that he got it done tonight, I think he deserves -- he and his team deserve credit for putting this deal together as quickly as they did, given where we were 24 hours ago.

BURNETT: And, Karen, we don't know the details about what was given up, although you could hear there from Congressman Bishop, you know, certain kind of keywords coming up, those committee assignments, those subcommittees, those things really matter. And it's clear that mattered to him.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The devil is going to be in the details, as they say. And ironically, it sounds like they're going to try to -- although one of those details we know may be a 72-hour waiting period before voting on bills. They're not going to do that tonight before approving those rules.

BURNETT: Oh, no, be it's going to go straight through, 72 seconds.

FINNEY: But I will say something that I think -- right, exactly, I think we will all agree part of what likely helped out, I don't disagree, I will give your guy some credit here. However, let's not forget there's always -- Congress is always acting a lot more swiftly with the pressure of a deadline. So, the fact that we have also been hearing -- members are tired, they want to go home, it's the weekend, it's Friday, that helped, I think, put the pressure along with the reality of the math.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: The deadline was January 6th. When Kevin McCarthy got the nomination, he knew he was going to need to get to 218. You just heard Congressman Bishop say they tried to have conversations over the summer on some of these issues but didn't get anywhere. So, I mean, you know, this tortuous process is dysfunctional. McCarthy, to his credit, if he gets the ball down the field, and I think it may very well be.

But, you know, let's just reality-check that for a moment. Why is it always a desire for a long weekend that motivates Congress to do fast what they should've done faster.

And the second thing is, look, some of these things that we believe to be in the deal -- term limits, border security, you know, reading -- having more time to read bills, that's stuff that many independent voters will say, you know what, that sounds --

BURNETT: A lot of people read that and say, wait, that's all held up for that? That's common sense.

AVLON: Why then was this such a big help? And what else is out there that's going to lead to real dysfunction going forward?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There are -- oh, thank you. Thank you so much for letting me get a word in.


HOOVER: There were 20 holdouts. And there was a lot made of who are these 20 holdouts and why they are being intransigent.

And it actually turns out maybe there are six who are intransigent. And there are, like 14 who actually have substantive policy priorities that it looks like -- I mean, we have a good sense of what they are. It's about rules committee. It's about substantive bills being brought to the floor. It's about chairmanship. It's about budgetary concerns, balanced budget.

So, what I would just suggest is that Chip Roy who, you know, you can think of him maybe as the Ted Cruz of the House, right? He was Ted Cruz's chief of staff. He is a principled fiscal conservative freedom caucus guy. But he was able to deliver 14 votes that actually caused this break. And it took this to get Kevin McCarthy to pay attention to these substantive policy concerns.

Now, could they have had these conversations a month ago?


HOOVER: But they didn't.

FINNEY: Well, they may have. They may have.

JENNINGS: One of the details that I'm looking for tonight because there is a lot of chatter about this is what agreements were made as it relates to defense spending? They just did an omnibus. There was a massive increase in defense spending. There have been some rumors about whether there is going to be mandated cuts in defense spending or a freeze. I'm not sure what the truth of it is here.

But there are a lot of defense hawks in this Republican conference who like to see more defense --

BURNETT: Well, I think -- again, common wisdom is that the Republican Party was pro-defense. So you're going to say you're going to have this group.

JENNINGS: Yeah, but there's also a group that doesn't like the money that's being spent on Ukraine. And so that push and pull is one of the sort of substantive policy debates -- I'm looking for the details.

BURNETT: Can we also just emphasize though the math here? The math is not obvious. We're not clear what it's going to look like. Are you going to -- if you need to get three people voting present of that six, I don't know where you get three. Or do they have a Democrat out? There are various ways.

AVLON: They're trying to finesse this at the final moment.

BURNETT: But this isn't like, okay, here, we can all see exactly how it goes, here you go.

AVLON: Yeah.

BURNETT: We can't sit there and say that.

FINNEY: Although we are hearing, I will say, just from a comms perspective, a lot of confidence. So, clearly, they think they've got it, and they think that by getting out there and getting on the airwaves and saying we've got it, that may perhaps help keep it in place, we got to get to 10:00 p.m.

BURNETT: And that makes it harder for somebody to just --

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Planes have to land, cars have to roll.

FINNEY: Lots of things have to happen.

AVLON: It's better than sounding doubtful at this juncture. Can we just also -- he said, there are going to be conservatives on every committee. Every Republican in the conference and the House are conservative, right? The issue is radicals that have been holding this out?

But I see now, the newfound enthusiasm about reducing the deficit and the debt, where was that focus when Donald Trump increased by $7 trillion? BURNETT: This is a nice thing to say --

AVLON: It sure is, but it'd be nice if they met it when someone other than a Democrat was present.

JENNINGS: Some of this Trump spending was COVID related.

AVLON: Some of it was, that's fair. But some of it, but let's not -- he was a big -- he was a big government king of debt guy. Let's not forget that.

BURNETT: So, Scott, back to this looking at Biggs, Good, Boebert, Gaetz, Rosendale and Crane. The focus, as Manu is saying, on Rosendale and Crane, to get them to vote, whether they're present or not. But that alone doesn't do it.

JENNINGS: No. I mean, it sounds like you need one more. I don't know who that is. Rosendale's interesting because he's got political considerations back home. He's from Montana. So is Ryan Zinke who's been supporting McCarthy. They're both circling each other for the possibility of running in a primary for U.S. Senate. And Rosendale has been thinking, I'm sure, I can hold out against McCarthy and please the more extreme elements of the Republican grassroots. So it's not all just House conference politics. There is forward-looking Senate primary politics for at least one of those guys.

FINNEY: Can we also just briefly mention the optics of all of this happening on the anniversary of January 6th? History repeating. You had a group of extremists, again, holding the American government hostage for the last three days.

AVLON: It's not the same thing, obviously. But it is notable that a lot of these holdouts are people who were involved in election denialism voting to overturn the election, the stop the steal efforts. Scott Perry, not least among them.

FINNEY: And couldn't be bothered this morning to show up to honor those who lost their lives.

BURNETT: Thank you all very much. We will be here all night.

And next, just in, we're learning the name of the third holdout that McCarthy and his allies are trying to get to vote present. Hey, stay around. Who is it?

So, we're going to show you the one who's we do know. Once a successful contestant on "Shark Tank," that is one of them.


REP.-ELECT ELI CRANE (R-AZ): Most guys like drinking beer. Most guys think that large caliber bullets are very cool.


BURNETT: That's one of them. Plus, what's going on behind the scenes to make sure McCarthy has the

votes for the next round? I'm going to talk to a congressman who's inside those crucial talks.

And a major development tonight in that other story we have been following. Buffalo Bills' star Damar Hamlin, his breathing tube has been removed and he is now actually, now already talking with his teammates.


BURNETT: Breaking news. Fierce Kevin McCarthy critic, considered a never-never Kevin. Lauren Boebert is now considered in the mix to vote present in the next round of voting for speaker. And this is crucial because we said who is that possible other vote that was one more needed? If it's going to get there by voting present. If McCarthy gets three holdouts to vote present, he would appear to have the votes to become the next speaker of the House.

Okay, because by voting present, you lower the threshold. And if you get those three, you lower the threshold to 216 needed to win the speakership. Boebert is one of the six remaining holdouts.

This is a major development possibly coming just hours before the House reconvenes for its 14th round of voting. That is going to happen tonight.

Melanie Zanona is OUTFRONT on Capitol Hill.

So, Melanie, everyone's been looking at these, looking at the math saying there needs to be one more. It couldn't be any of these four. They're all just so never-never Kevins.

What more do you know about the efforts to get Boebert or any of the others to vote present?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yeah. So this is a big development, Erin. Because as we've previously reported Eli Crane and Matt Rosendale were in the mix as part of the strategy to try to get them to vote present. But Lauren Boebert, we thought, was part of the never-ever-ever camp. She's been getting up there and nominating other people.

She even pushed back on Donald Trump and said he needs to stop calling us and asking him to support Kevin. In fact it should be the other way around, Trump calling McCarthy and telling him to drop out. But we are now hearing that as this pressure campaign has been building and McCarthy has been working that she is potentially open to voting present. At least McCarthy and his allies are looking at her as that potential key third present vote.

Just with the math here, as you were explaining, he has three paths. Either he gets three people to vote present. He gets two people -- of the holdouts, two people to vote for him, or he gets one to vote present and one to vote for him. So, in this case, the thinking is if they can get three people, so

Crane, Rosendale, and Boebert, to vote present, they would theoretically still be committed to not voting for Kevin McCarthy and not violate that pledge, but it would be a way to get Kevin McCarthy to 218. He has already made a number of concessions. So it's unclear what his pitch is at this moment.

Could just be a pressure campaign. We know Donald Trump was trying to get involved today. It could be additional committee assignments. There's a number of things that Kevin McCarthy could be saying. But it does seem the pressure is growing and things are moving in the right direction for Kevin McCarthy, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Melanie, thank you very much. Melanie with that really crucial piece of information here as these minutes tick away to this next round of voting.

So, what do we know about these holdouts that team McCarthy is doing everything it can to win over.

Let's start with Harry Enten.

And as Melanie said, Lauren Boebert was not a never-Kevin. She was a never-ever-never-till-hell- freezes-over. The fact that she is now in the mix to vote present is hugely significant.

Tell us about her.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: I mean, she is one of the most conservative members and anti-establishment members on the Republican side there is. I mean, you know, it's always, oh, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, right?

But the other thing you should keep in mind is she's from a district in Colorado that's been trending more Democratic. She barely won re- election. Maybe there is something going on there that we don't know about. But I think the fact of the matter is, is that in this week that has tested all of us and the week of the impossible, this might be the final impossible thing actually coming true.

BURNETT: I mean, it's stunning. So we understand she's in the mix. Now, the others that Melanie was talking about that we've been mentioning, obviously, Crane and Rosendale. So what do we know about them?

ENTEN: Yeah. So, let's start with Matt Rosendale. So, we know he's from Montana. He, like Boebert, has one of the most conservative records, one of the most antiestablishment records. If you look at the roll call records, he's in the top 5 percent for both of those in the Republican conference. It's something that was hinted on the last segment by Scott Jennings is that he has aspirations besides just being in the house.

He wants to run for Senate, we believe in, 2024 against Ryan Zinke who represents the other district in Montana. And I do think one of the reasons why we're looking towards him is he's made his point that he's anti-establishment. But at this point I think there is this question, hey, I need friends, I don't want to upset so many people, upset Republicans so much.

BURNETT: Coming in here -- he's new.

ENTEN: Right, right. He doesn't want to upset them so much. So I think the idea is essentially, you know what? I've made my point, maybe I'll vote present this time around.

BURNETT: OK, and what about Mr. Crane?

ENTEN: Yeah. So, you know, if we think -- when I have to go back and I have to look, okay, how do you actually pronounce someone's first name, it's Eli Crane, that gives you an idea that this person is new on the radar.

This is a guy who has no political record whatsoever. This is the first time that he ran for elected office, the first time that he won a general election back in November. And he is someone, I wouldn't be surprised maybe Donald Trump picks up the phone and decides to call him because the fact is he won a very competitive primary in 2022, in part, because Donald Trump endorsed him.

But he's someone who certain served in the Navy previously and as the trailer before had I segment hinted at, he was on "Shark Tank". That's what he really --

BURNETT: He was on "Shark Tank" and very successful. His business became very successful after his investment that he got there.


BURNETT: Okay. So when we were talking about the different ways and Melanie was laying out the three different ways that Kevin McCarthy can get there, Scott Jennings has been talking about this.

So lay it out because I think anybody watching this would be interested in that. The scenarios that McCarthy can win without 218 votes.

ENTEN: Right. So, you know, essentially the idea is you need a majority of the people who vote yes or no. You don't need a majority of all House members. So if a certain number vote present or don't decide to vote at all, it can essentially shrink the denominator. I'm taking us back to math class, right?


ENTEN: And if you shrink the denominator, then you could get like, say, 216 or 217. If you look through history, there are a number of examples of people who are elected speaker without actually getting 218 votes in the House. Nancy Pelosi didn't, John Boehner didn't.

The example I like to use is Frederick Gillette back in 1923, the reason I like that example is because he was the last speaker elected who had to go through multiple ballots. If that happens with Kevin McCarthy, he'll be like Frederick Gillett and say it took a long time but we made it.

BURNETT: Right. I mean, you know, if he gets it, he gets it.

ENTEN: He gets it.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Harry, laying all of that out.

So, now, I want to go to Republican Congressman Bruce Westerman because he's been involved in the negotiations.

And I appreciate your time, Congressman. Thanks so much.

So, the information that our Melanie Zanona is just breaking is that we're learning that Lauren Boebert is among the GOP holdouts considered to be in the mix to vote present. Very surprising to many who had considered her to be never-ever Kevin McCarthy. Is it your understanding as well that she is now in that mix to possibly vote present?

REP. BRUCE WESTERMAN (R-AR): Good evening, Erin. It's good to be with you.

And I can't confirm that. But I know that there is confidence that we will get the vote tonight that Kevin McCarthy will be elected speaker. And I'm excited that we're getting to this point. You know, at the end of the day, people aren't going to remember how quickly we did the job. They're going to remember how well we did the job. And I think that the process that we've gone through where we've had agreements on rules and on processes, it's only going to make Congress work better, and it's actually better to go through that process right now than to do it when we start putting legislation on the floor.

So, I know I'm in line to chair the natural resources committee.


WESTERMAN: Three of the last six holdouts are either on that committee or want to be on the committee. I know that they have issues in their districts that they want on work on. And I think it's time for us to get the speaker elected, organized Congress, and get to work on policy.

BURNETT: So, in my sort of reading between the lines of what you're saying that giving specific committee assignments is part of what this might entail. You're talking about the natural resources committee?

WESTERMAN: No, I'm saying two of these members are already on the natural resources committee. And we have a steering committee that assigns committee positions.


So, everybody has to go through the steering committee, but we want to see a diversity among our committees with representatives from all walks of Congress with their viewpoints represented on those committees.

So, I think we've got to get organized, go through the steering committee process, get our diocese filled and start working on policies. That's what's been in the back of our mind all week. We've been focused on how do we just get the speaker elected.

BURNETT: So, let me ask you, Congressman, we've been talking about the math and obviously there are a few different ways even now. You've got all of your equation lined up. And there's still a few different ways to get over the finish line if you are able to do that.

Are you still pursuing multiple ways? Are you still trying to get people to vote for with a combination of present? Are you going for three people voting present? Are you betting on a Democrat not being there? Are you still right now pursuing multiple paths?

WESTERMAN: Look, we've had 13 tries at this. One thing we know is that Democrats are going to -- and they should vote for their choice, Hakeem Jeffries from New York. That's going to be 212 votes. We know we had 214 votes on the last vote. We've got two members coming back into town. That gets us to 216. However you get to the math, we just have to have a majority of the votes that are cast.

My preference would be to see 222 Republicans vote for Kevin McCarthy so that we can give a message to Americans who I'm sure are gathered around their TVs tonight anxious to see what's going to happen, that Congress is ready to go to work and that we can give a message to the rest of the world that Republicans are united, Kevin McCarthy is going to be the speaker and things are going to be different in Washington, D.C.

So, however we get to the number, that's the main objective. My preference would be to see that unanimous vote come from the Republicans only (ph) vote.

BURNETT: That would -- that would, of course, be a true miracle for your party if that were to happen with what we've seen. But, you know what? We shall see.

Congressman, thank you so much for your time.

WESTERMAN: Thank you, Erin. Have a good evening.

BURNETT: You, too.

And next, we're going to take you live to the White House where President Biden has been watching the fight over speaker of the House unfold. What his reaction from inside the Oval Office where they've been watching so closely.

And shocking details emerging about that suspect in the Idaho University killings. New reporting that the suspect was seen meticulously cleaning his car before his arrest and a lot more new details tonight.


BURNETT: Tonight, the White House returning soon -- the House, sorry. The House returning soon, the White House is watching. They expected 14 to vote to choose the next speaker. We anticipate this is going to happen in these next few hours. Congressman Kevin McCarthy and his allies are now very confident that McCarthy will be the next speaker and that that will happen tonight.

One of those allies, Congressman Don Bacon saying that by working through their dysfunction now, Republicans will be better positioned to govern effectively.

Phil Mattingly is OUTFRONT from the White House tonight.

So, Phil, look, McCarthy thinks he has the votes to be speaker, one of the holdouts who had flipped today. Congressman Bishop moments ago projecting a lot of confidence here talking to me. He seems sure they've got it.

What is the White House saying?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, very little and intentionally. I want to be very clear here. White House officials have been watching this closely throughout the course of the week, both with a level of amusement but also with the very keen understanding that they're trying to figure out who one of the four critical players on Capitol Hill they'll be working with over the course of the next two years will actually be. And today, as details started to trickle out, officials were trying to get their heads around that too knowing very well that the dynamics of what that deal represents could make things very difficult for them in the months ahead.

But the silence, at least public silence, that we've gotten from the White House, which has been particularly clear over the course of this day, has been very intentional. In part, that's to make clear a contrast that has been apparent throughout the course of the week that this White House, despite the chaos you've seen on the House floor, despite the difficulty House Republicans have had getting out of the gates, the starting gates for the new majority, this White House is going on with business as usual, going to keep working on issues that the president has laid out are critical for him in his second two years in office.

One thing to keep in mind here going forward is when you talk to White House officials, they are very cognizant of the importance of the position of what this means going forward. Going into this week, there is the expectation that when a speaker was finalized, when the votes were actually cast that got Kevin McCarthy or anybody else over the finish line, the president would be making a call to the new speaker of the House. They've obviously spoken throughout the course of the last couple of weeks before this week.

They have a relationship. Whether that happens tonight is still to be determined. But certainly, White House officials know this is extremely important and they've been paying very close attention, even, Erin, that they haven't been talking about it publicly.

BURNETT: All right. All right, Phil. Thank you so much,

OUTFRONT now, David Urban, our political commentator, former senior adviser to the Trump 2020 campaign and political operative, and David Axelrod, our senior political commentator, former senior adviser to President Obama as well.

OK. So, we were just talking about -- and we'll see how this all shakes out. But, Lauren Boebert being in the mix as a possible vote present, which could indicate that that -- as I said, you could have three present, you could have one Kevin, one present. There are still in these final few people, several ways to get to three.

But does that surprise you at all, David?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That surprised me. I mean, you know, we saw that video of her -- well, on another network kind of fighting with an anchor, another network, an anchor and her kind of in the well of the Senate saying, it's time for Kevin McCarthy to go away, and we're not going away, he needs to go away.

So, yeah, it is -- and there's been a lot of discussion about her last race. She barely won. She squeaked it out by the hair on her chinny chin-chin. So, she's in the swing distsrict. You wouldn't expect her to kind of go down with kind of the Matt Gaetzes of the world who are in very safe R plus 20 districts.

So, I was surprised where she was in the first place and I'm surprised she ends up --

BURNETT: Yeah. I mean, this is one that we weren't able to call for quite some time.

URBAN: She was down by 10,000 votes.

BURNETT: You would even think that she'd be in the never ever as much as she was.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: One of the reasons that there is some fidelity, some loyalty to Kevin McCarthy among many Republicans is he's raised a lot of money for them. He spent a lot of money for them.

She clearly is going to have a serious race next time. She is going to want support. She saw which way this thing is going.


I don't think it's that shocking. And the fact that voting present is a way out. We saw members vote for Nancy Pelosi -- vote present in Nancy Pelosi speaker race who had pledged not to vote for her so that they could keep their pledge but not be an obstacle to her being elected speaker. So this is a well-worn path.

BURNETT: It is -- it is. It's one of those paths that I feel like when you're just a regular person watching you're thinking, really, you're going to get credit for not voting for when you enabled it to happen? And that's -- but, yet, of course, I understand it. But that's the --

URBAN: Either be for him or against him. Either you're for the guy or you're against him. You can't be Switzerland (ph).

AXELROD: He's never been elected to anything, but yeah.


BURNETT: OK. So, I'm looking through all of the CNN reporting on what Kevin McCarthy has given away. One thing in the past hour that has come up multiple times talking to the congressman that we've had. The word committee keeps coming up.

And I know you know that we know we've got it down to one person can vote to get rid of the speaker and various other promises that are being made, rules, et cetera. But committee assignments matter.

AXELROD: Look, I think 72 hours ago when they realized what trouble they were in, a bazaar was set up, and the trading began, and very serious discussions went on about what people's aspirations were for their own particular power. I mean, the rules are what they want to discuss, making the House more transparent and so on. But a lot of what was discussed was more representation for this House Freedom Caucus group on key committees. And I think that was core to this argument.

And what else was discussed with individuals? I think we'll find out in the coming weeks.

BURNETT: It is interesting, though, David. You heard both the congressmen that have come on in the past hour and others during the day. They are trying to present that this is a great example of leadership and how one learns how to govern, and this has been great.

URBAN: Axe and I were talking before we came out here. I think that it is good to a certain extent to get the fighting over with and get it done, right? Because as soon as they begin, I think they're going to forget about Kevin McCarthy, today the Biden administration better just take a deep breath because today's the last easy day for the next two years. It's going to be a lots of aggressive oversight.

And so I think once that begins, the infighting amongst the family, amongst the Republican family is going to be long forgotten.

BURNETT: Even though it only takes one person on any given day to raise their hand.

AXELROD: Hope springs eternal.

URBAN: I'm an optimist.

BURNETT: Thanks to you both. And, of course, we'll all be here throughout the night tonight. OUTFRONT next, disturbing details emerging about the Idaho student

killings. Authorities are now saying that the suspect appeared to return to the crime scene area and may have stalked the home numerous times.

Plus, a major milestone for Buffalo Bills' star Damar Hamlin. He's now breathing on his own. New details in his recovery, after this.



BURNETT: Tonight, he was stalking them. Those are the words of Steve Goncalves, whose daughter Kaylee was one of the students stabbed to death at the University of Idaho. Goncalves telling CNN what it was like to be in the courtroom with the 28-year-old suspect, as chilling new details emerged, allegedly tying him clearly to the killings.


STEVE GONCALVES, FATHER OF IDAHO MURDER VICTIM KAYLEE GONCALVES: Somebody shocked and scared almost like a sense of this is nothing like I thought it was going to be.


BURNETT: Veronica Miracle is OUTFRONT.


GONCALVES: He was stalking them. He was hunting them.

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The father of Kaylee Goncalves, one of the four University of Idaho students killed, believes his daughter and her friends were hunted after authorities laid out the case against Bryan Kohberger.

GONCALVES: He was just a person looking for an opportunity and just happened to be in that house. And it's hard to take.

MIRACLE: Kohberger, charged with the murders, may have cased the scene of the crime four months before the murders, according to new court documents. An affidavit released Thursday reveals police started looking for a white Hyundai Elantra like this one almost two weeks before asking the public for information about the car.

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: On December 23rd, they get the cell phone records showing the owner of that car has been what appears to be from the records staked out in the area of that murder house a dozen times since August.

MIRACLE: Still, no details about why the 28-year-old suspect chose this house and whether he knew any of the four victims, Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Kelly Goncalves.

The affidavit also revealing around 4:00 in the morning, one of the surviving roommates heard crying coming from Xana Kernodle's room and a voice saying it's okay, I'm going to help you. That roommate then open the door and saw a dark figure in blank clothing and a mask walked past her, raising the question, why did no one call 911 until noon on Sunday?

GONCALVES: I do know that she was petrified. And I think people respond a little bit different. I think she was just scared, very scared. It's not like Hollywood where everyone behaves like people think they would.

MIRACLE: According to the affidavit, DNA evidence also led police to the suspect. A knife sheath was left on one of the victims' beds that contained DNA similar to Kohberger's father's DNA found in the family's garbage, according to those documents.

A law enforcement source tells CNN, as authorities were surveilling the Kohberger family home, they witnessed putting trash in the neighbor's bin and were able to extract it for DNA comparison.

MILLER: The surveillance team who is watching from a pretty great distance sees him come out and clean the car from top to bottom inside and out using surgical gloves.

MIRACLE: In court on Thursday, Kaylee Goncalves' father was in the front row. He was pointedly staring at Kohberger.


MIRACLE (on camera): And Kohberger did not look at anybody in the courtroom except his public defender. Now, regarding the fact that no one called 911 until hours later, the affidavit certainly raises a lot more questions.

But right after these murders happened, I spoke with the county coroner and I asked her if somebody had called sooner, could lives have been saved? She said no -- Erin.

BURNETT: Veronica, thank you very much for that report.

Let's go to Mark O'Mara now, criminal defense attorney.

So, Mark, you heard in Veronica's reporting there that FBI agents say the suspect was cleaning his car inside and out days before the arrest, seen wearing surgical gloves, doing all of this in Pennsylvania, right, taking garbage from his parents' house.

So, this is -- this is obviously well after the horrific murders occurred, after he drove that car with his father across the country. He's still cleaning it then inside and out. What do you make of that?

MARK O'MARA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I would tell you from a prosecutor's perspective, it is complete consciousness of guilt. You know, you know you've done something wrong, get rid of the evidence. And that type of tampering with evidence is going to come into an eventual trial against him. It also sort of -- it begs the question as to why everyone wants to

know. It looks as though quite connected to the crime, but now we have to go back and figure out what type of obsession was this. It seems he knows people in the house, at least one of them, and all of that is going to come out over the next several months, I'm certain.

BURNETT: So, in term of the time line on the night of the killings and Veronica mentioned this, I think what people are coming back to why was there no 911 call until so late in the day? At 3:29 a.m., the suspect's vehicle is seen passing by the victims' house four times, they know that. 4:17 a.m. a nearby security camera picks up audio of voices or a whimper followed by a loud thud.

And around that same time one of the surviving roommates said she saw a man in black matching Kohberger's description inside the room, masked all in black, bushy eyebrows, freezes in fear, goes back to the room. The suspect's vehicle seen leaving the area at a high rate of speed; 9:12 a.m., his phone pings near the victims' house, as if he went back.

So, you know, you see all this, and yet, this issue of the 911 call, so if it's 4:17 a.m. or 4:20 a.m., you're terrified, freezes in fear. She hears him, somebody crying and saying I'm going to help you. And she sees him, she freezes in fear.

How do you explain not calling 911 for five, six hours?

O'MARA: Sometimes the almost easier answer might be the correct one. I'm wondering without blaming her that, you know, was she intoxicated, whether drugs or alcohol was involved? Was there some other reason that we don't yet know about as to why she waited six or seven or eight hours because it makes no sense? It makes mow sense any of this would happen with that many hours in between of even a phone call to 911, checking on a roommate, finding out who it was I'm here to help, anything like that it makes no sense, but we'll find that out I think.

BURNETT: Right, to check on them, walk anywhere near those rooms you can only imagine what you would see, what you would smell with so much blood. It's horrific.

Mark, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

O'MARA: Thanks, Erin. Be well.

BURNETT: All right. You, too.

And we do have some breaking news here as I'm talking to Mark. We have new and significant reporting on Kevin McCarthy and his thinking ahead of tonight's vote for speaker.

Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill.

And, Manu, what are you learning?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right. Kevin McCarthy and his team believe they have the votes to win the speakership tonight, and they're already informing members about the next steps they'll be taking after his now expected victory tonight. That includes organizing the House.

They are telling their members to expect a vote potentially late in the night to adopt a rules package that will govern how the House will operate. That's actually been part of the negotiations between McCarthy and a number of his holdouts over the past several days, a number of concessions to allow some of these members to have more leverage, essentially weaken the speakership in many ways that will be part of this rules package. That's expected to be adopted later tonight.

But the signs are very clear. There's growing expectation that finally after 13 failed ballots and after this very intense days of negotiation, that they are finally on the brink of winning the speakership.

Now, it's still a bit unclear, Erin, exactly who will be the final remaining holdouts. There are 200 -- McCarthy got 214 votes on his 13th failed ballot. That is four votes of the necessary 218 to get there, but there are still a lot of discussions about who they're still looking to flip, who may get to vote present to lower that threshold to 218 but they believe they'll get there in just a matter of hours, Erin.

BURNETT: And we will be here. Thank you so much, Manu.

And next incredible news about the recovery of the Buffalo Bills star Damar Hamlin, today breathing on his own, face timed with his teammates. We'll tell you what he said.



BURNETT: Tonight, a major milestone in Damar Hamlin's remarkable recovery. He is now breathing on his own. The Buffalo Bills say Hamlin is off the ventilator that had been breathing for him and he was even able to face time his teammates today telling them, quote, I love you boys.

Hamlin remains in a Cincinnati hospital, though, following the cardiac arrest he suffered during Monday night's game against the Bengals.

Ryan Young is OUTFRONT.


DION DAWKINS, BUFFALO BILLS: We got our boy. The excitement was beautiful. It was amazing.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A team overjoyed with good news.

DAWKINS: To see that boy's face, to see him smile, see him go like this in the camera, it was -- it was everything. So -- and then to hear him talk to us, it was literally everything, and that's what we needed.

YOUNG: The Buffalo Bills announcing more progress after Damar Hamlin's breathing tube was removed overnight.


YOUNG: The 24-year-old now able to breathe on his own, briefly joining Friday morning's team meeting with players and coaches via FaceTime.

MCDERMOTT: To see the players' reaction they stood up right away and clapped for him and, you know, yelled some things to him.

YOUNG: Hamlin injecting his sense of humor into the call.

MCDERMOTT: The thing that makes me laugh is he did this to the guys, you know, right away. He made the heart symbol probably more than anything.

YOUNG: The signs of progress welcome relief for players and staff.

MEDICAL PERSONNEL: I don't like how he went down.

YOUNG: New audio of the intense moments on the field after Hamlin's collapse as medics fought to save his life.

MEDICAL PERSONNEL: Bring the cot with the medics, all of you and get wheeled out here.

YOUNG: A reminder of how far Hamlin's condition has improved.

DR. WILLIAM KNIGHT IV, UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI: I don't think that we can emphasize enough the immediate medical response.

YOUNG: The Bill's general manager praising Hamlin's parents as well who were at his bed side the entire time.

BRANDON BEANE, GENERAL MANAGER, BUFFALO BILLS: I was in awe just watching their strength through such difficult up and down moments. And man, it was a pleasure to be a part and see how they handled it. I don't believe I would have handled it in the same strength if that was my son.

YOUNG: The news of Hamlin's recovery comes as the Bills prepare to face-off against the Patriots on Sunday.

MCDERMOTT: All the improvements of Damar make life so much easier to focus on as you mention the task at hand and that being the New England Patriots.

YOUNG: Buffalo teasing a special number 3 patch players will wear in a number of tributes this weekend including highlighting the number 3 on the field. The NFL encouraging teams to show league wide support for Damar, the first responders, and medical caregivers.

DAWKINS: It'll be emotional. It really will be. YOUNG: As the players now shift their focus from that traumatic

moment to future games --

DAWKINS: We're going to use all the positives to help us win.


YOUNG (on camera): Erin, it was great to hear from those doctors, from the hospital just yesterday. You can hear it's still busy behind us.

But if you think about this and looking at the Buffalo Bill's Twitter page they've been giving out a lot of information. Going to share this picture of the assistant athletic trainer, and he's the man credited with going out there and helping do that CPR immediately when the situation took a turn.

It's great to be able to share this picture because obviously there are so many people giving him credit to where we are right now. So, just a positive turn to the story at this point -- Erin.

BURNETT: Saving a life. Thank you so much.

And we're two hours away from the House reconvening to continue voting for speaker. It is going to be a crucial vote and I'll be back here at 10:00 with Jake Tapper for our special coverage.

"AC360" meantime starts now.