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Rep. Kevin McCarthy Meeting with President Biden; Rep. McCarthy Breaks His Silence on Donald Trump Dinner with Kanye West and Nick Fuentes; The Effort to Stop Rail Strike. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired November 29, 2022 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We're going to have an economy that workers can work. We're going to have an economy that has energy prices that are lower. That you have money to fill-up your tank and still go to dinner. We're going to secure our borders so your kids know that they are safe, and then we're going to have a government that's accountable. No longer is an administration going to look you in the eye and lie to you and tell you tell you a border's secure when it's not.
QUESTION: Leader McCarthy.
MCCARTHY: Yes sir.
QUESTION: -- keeping an eye on Twitter under Elon Musk's ownership (inaudible).
MCCARTHY: That is offensive to me. Government's going to go after someone that wants to have free speech? What do they have to look at Twitter about? Do they want to go more after American public about whether they can have an opinion on something? I think the American public have spoken on this. I think our First Amendment stands up and I -- I think they should stop picking on Elon Musk. You know, Elon Musk, has succeeded in many places. I'd -- I'd bet on him more than government going after you and one thing I would say when we talk about accountability, we'll no longer let government go after people simply because of their political views.
QUESTION: Where do you stand on funding for Ukraine? And if you could just clarify your position on the -- the meeting between Trump and Kanye West, was that appropriate?
MCCARTHY: Look, the president had meetings with who he wants. I don't think anybody though should have a meeting with Nick Fuentes and his views should -- are no where within the Republican party or within this country itself. I think Kanye West should, and I -- I don't -- I don't think those are right comments. I don't think he should have associated with him as well. That -- I'm very clear in my position but let me walk through on Ukraine because I think that is a legitimate question. I remember coming here in 2015 after coming back from Ukraine. I remember sitting in the situation room meeting with then Vice-President Joe Biden, advocating that we would sell Javelins. A defensive weapon to stop tanks from Russia from coming in, unfortunately I wasn't successful that day. I brought a bipartisan group in. I think what Putin-Russia done is wrong, it's an atrocity. I think actions that we could have taken ahead of time probably would have made sure that they never entered, but I'm not for a blank check for anything.
This is hardworking taxpayer money and I want to make sure whatever funding we spend goes to the right places. Unfortunately under the current majority of Democrats with full body control, what they put on the floor last time they never gave members an opportunity to even have input. You voted on a fly-in day, $40 billon and now they want to come back and ask for more? I want to make sure we're successful at this, but I want to make sure that no matter what we spend on come January 3rd, be it any funding, that there is no blank check. That there's accountability and there's audits.
QUESTION: How would you describe your relationship with President Biden leading up to now and then going forward?
MCCARTHY: You know what, I have worked with then Vice-President Biden. I'd visited him at his house. We'd meet for breakfast at times. Since becoming president, we haven't met often. Look, I can work with anybody. We want to make sure our country's successful, but for the same responsibility I think one of the reason's why Republicans are winning the majority in the House is the failed policies of this administration. I think America likes a check and balance. American wants to make sure that government is actually working for the people, not for their own political views and that's what we'll get come January.
QUESTION: Sir, Respect for Marriage Act, Catholic bishops say religious protections in the Respect for Marriage Act are insufficient and far from comprehensive and treat religious liberty as a second class right. As you know, it's currently in the Senate. Do you agree with that assessment by the Catholic bishops?
MCCARTHY: I agree with them. Yes.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) do you support the (inaudible)?
MCCARTHY: Look, it's unfortunate the Democrats control the House, the Senate and the presidency and we're sitting here talking about this. Maybe this is the reason why Republicans took the majority in the House. They didn't do their job. They controlled all government and now we're sitting at the last moment in time, debating whether to do a CR or not, that we know causes pain to the American public is because Congress was not working. Congress was not doing their job, but from saying all of that, I'm not going to sit back and let some bill pass in the middle of the night.
I'm not going to let them continue to do this runaway spending. I'm not going to let them continue to ignore the challenges that we have in America when it comes to our energy policy, our border policy, or let known what we're doing in our military, kicking men and women out. I remember the president calling that Coast Guard, a hero, and a week later he loses his job, simply because of his own belief of not taking a vaccine for COVID. That has got to stop. We need common sense to brought -- brought back and if we can't get common sense in appropriation bills, then yes. We'll support a CR and fix this come January. Appreciate it.
QUESTION: I'm sorry.
QUESTION: What about (inaudible) GOP Conference (inaudible)?
MCCARTHY: She denounced it. Yes.
QUESTION: I have a question about -- sorry, a question about the border.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask a little bit about Border Patrol officers. You were saying that they're not (inaudible). Do you support, I don't know, additional funding for more officers or better pay for them or something to get more Border Patrol officers in the (inaudible)?
MCCARTHY: The answer is yes, but that's not the problem. The problem is happening right now. If you talk to Border Patrol agents and I -- all of you are welcome to come down and travel with me there. I welcomed the president to come with me, the vice-president, any others, they're working six days a week, 10 hours a day. But -- but as you sit there, you're watching a border of people just running across, because what they're doing with the Border agents now, they're taking on going -- going inside to the processing centers, well it's not their job. But they're seeing inside and they're not being able to do their job, we've watched with the new administration where they'll leave gates open, where the mechanism -- the -- the mechanics have broken but they won't fix it because somehow they think that's working on a wall, the infrastructure.
We've got to get the infrastructure working. You should actually bring people in that are just processors. They're not Border agents and let them do their job. The other thing that they're doing is, they're doing these polygraph tests on people who are trying for a job. These are men and women who are heroes, who are coming out of our military aren't passing that to get in, the challenge is that's wrong. They need another -- they need a -- hundreds and thousands of more agents to be hired but we watch the administration and a Democrat control by thinking you need IR -- IRS agents. I think our priorities are wrong and come January our priorities will change. And we'll bring common sense, not just to secure our border but actually make an economy that is stronger, a government that's accountable and a future that's built on freedom. Thank you all very much. Appreciate the time.
JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS ANCHOR: I'm John King in Washington. Welcome to Inside Politics. You have been watching if you've been with us a few minutes, remarkable moments outside of the Biden White House. First an emergency meeting called by the president of the United States to bring the four bipartisan leaders of Congress down. He needs their help. There's a year in Congressional session that begins today. The president is asking them first and foremost to pass legislation that would block a holiday season rail strike, but after that meeting the Democratic leaders came out first. The Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, they were optimistic that rail -- that rail deal, the deal to prevent the rail strike can pass.
Then you just heard there for several minutes the Republican, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Leader went back to Capitol Hill. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Leader, who wants to be the speaker of the House holding court for several minutes in a very combative, tough tone, challenging the Biden Administration on several fronts. A very lot to talk about, let's start with the urgent news of the day, which is the effort to stop this rail strike. MJ Lee is standing by at the White House for us. Manu Raju, up on Capitol Hill. MJ, the president called these leaders down. He has a long list for this so-called lame duck end of year session, but he wants them first and foremost to stop this rail strike from happening, and it sounds like he had progress on that front.
MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. You know, the Congressional leaders all just came out and talked to reporters. So we got a pretty good sense of how this meeting went, two big headlines to walk you through. One on this bill to try to avert a rail strike. Nancy Pelosi saying that a bill is going to be brought to the House floor tomorrow morning, just goes to show you how fast moving and what a big priority this is for Congressional leaders and notably Kevin McCarthy just said, I think it will pass though he did make sure to complain about the fact that, you know, the White House had celebrated earlier this year. An agreement being reached and now Congress is in a position where they have to act, but nevertheless, very optimistic from both sides of the aisle that this is going to get done.
And then on the important issue of funding the government, Chuck Schumer telling reporters that there was an agreement in the room that one, it must get done this year and two that an omnibus is better than a CR, that's a Continuing Resolution and -- and he did say that there was good will in the room. So there were signs of optimism, bipartisanship, really signs that the two sides know they have to get -- get together and work together to get some of these things done. There are obviously, John, other things on the list that Democrats in particular, would like to get done. The Same Sex Marriage Bill that the president wants to sign as soon as possible. There's also the Electoral Count Act, which has Republican support and all of these actions obviously are ahead of January when things are going to drastically change in Washington.
KING: Drastically change is an understatement MJ Lee live for us at the White House. MJ, thank you. Let's get up to Capitol Hill and our Chief Correspondent Manu Raju. Manu, first I want you to listen to the speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader as they left talking about the rail strike. We'll begin the conversation there. I want you to walk through after you hear this. The process, of how quickly this can happen, but here's their optimism. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don't like going against the ability of a -- of a union's to strike.
CHUCK SCHUMER, SENATOR OF NEW YORK: And Leader McConnell and I agreed, we'd try to get it done ASAP. And while the actual deadline of the railroads being shutdown is the 8th, our real deadline is sooner than that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: So Manu, the speaker said that the House will start this process 9am in the east tomorrow morning. Walk us through how it will play out and if there are any trap doors, pit falls.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there are trap doors and pit falls in the United States Senate. This will pass the House tomorrow morning. We do expect some Republicans to vote with most Democrats in backing it, but there is some opposition on both wings of both conferences. Some Republicans believe that their Congress should not get involved, that this should be an issue left solely to the administration. Some liberals are also critical, saying that the deal which leaves out paid sick leave should not be approved by Congress, but it is expected still to pass the House. The big issue is the United States Senate. You need all 100 Senators to agree to schedule a quick vote. One Senator can object and drag out the process, potentially delaying it after that deadline of next week, in which, to avert a shut -- a -- a potential strike.
Now there is some concern and some question about what some of the folks on the left who are critical of this deal might do. Someone like Senator Bernie Sanders, who was sharply critical of this deal, calling it outrageous. That it leaves out the notion of paid sick leave for rail workers. I asked him earlier today whether or not he would object to an agreement to have a quick vote before the deadline to avert a strike. He would not commit to that, saying we're going to talk about that at a later date. So there are still some questions, even though there is optimism and now widespread expectation that this bill ultimately will pass, can they get it done in time because as Chuck Schumer noted there John, it needs to be done before that deadline of December 9th or so. Because of concerns that this could effect the supply chain down the line, can they do it quickly? That will require an agreement in the Senate, they're not there quite yet.
KING: Not there quite yet and it's a critical issue in and of itself. It's also going to be a tone setter for the next week or so -- next two weeks or so as Congress goes through a list of important issues. Manu Raju, appreciate the live reporting up on Capitol Hill. Let's bring the conversation in the room with me to share their reporting, and their insights. CNN's Kasie Hunt, Carl Hulse of the New York Times and Yasmeen Abutaleb of the Washington Post, grateful you're all here. That was fascinating. That was a glimpse at today and how much things are going to change in just a few weeks when the Republicans take charge. Let's start with the issue of the rail strike. That seemed, pretty quickly, right, we can deal -- that was a done deal. All right, McCarthy was complaining, Biden Administration should have dealt with this earlier, but you have the four leaders essentially saying this will happen. Right? Probably by the end of the week?
CARL HULSE, NEW YORK TIMES CORRESPONDENT: Right. I think that, you know, there's a long history of Congress intervening in rail strikes. It's really a tricky issue for the Democrats because they just got elected with the support of labor and now all of sudden their interfering with this labor agreement. That's why you hear Speaker Pelosi say, well I don't like to interfere with their right to strike, but she's also talking about, in her statements, that the railroads are making obscene profits. So it's a -- it's a balancing act but I think it gets done.
KING: And so the next piece of this was the fascinating combative tone of, hopefully to him, Speaker McCarthy outside of the White House. And that tone tells you something, it tells you he doesn't have the votes at the moment and it tells you he knows he doesn't have the votes and he has to appeal to the more combative members of his House Republican Conference to get those votes. By saying, I came to the Biden White House to tell -- invite the president to the border, invite the vice-president to the border, but the interesting part is that Mitch McConnell's not in this picture you're watching here.
The Senate leader wanted no part of this. He went back to Capitol Hill. He went to his weekly lunch with Republican Senators. He said when he got there, that he would like to pass an omnibus, now I'm translating for America, that's a budget for the next year, and Kevin McCarthy says perhaps we're going to end up with a Continuing Resolution. That's a temporary spending plan where they pick a date, maybe it's a month, maybe it's two months. They fund the government for that long. Kevin McCarthy saying, if necessary that's what I want because I want to have a Republican majority deal with this if I don't get what I want.
That's the fascinating part to me, is that McConnell says there's widespread agreement to reach a deal on a big (ph), an omnibus, again, sorry America, that's what Washington calls a budget these days. He said quote, "some significant hurdles to get over to do that". I'm going to translate for Leader McConnell, he means the House Republicans because they want to cut spending in some areas. They want some restriction -- some new border funding. They want other issues as well to be dealt with, the question is can they do that in a couple weeks?
YASMEEN ABUTALEB, WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: I don't think they can and I think Senator McConnell also knows that he doesn't want some knock down, drag out fight among House Republicans, because ultimately the margin in the House for Republicans is so narrow. That they probably can't pass anything with only Republican votes, as much as Kevin McCarthy wants to, sort of, rail against the administration, and leaving everything to the last minute, and that their priorities aren't included.
ABUTALEB: He probably doesn't have the votes to do a budget with only Republican votes and then of course the Senate is still controlled by Democrats. So I think Senator McConnell knows this is probably a fight they want to avoid, that's not going to work out for them in the end, and I think one of the really thorny issues in a Continuing Resolution or an omnibus is that -- is the issue of Ukraine, which of course, wasn't talked about a lot today. But Senate Republicans, sort of, overwhelmingly still support a lot of funding for Ukraine and generally back the administration's position. Kevin McCarthy's talking about not writing blank checks. You have some of these more extreme House members, Republican House members saying they don't want to send money at all or to -- to significantly curb it. That's just an untenable situation to deal with and I think most of
the people at the table, don't want this issue to come up in a couple of months.
KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I mean this was a fascinating snapshot. Look at what a McCarthy, McConnell, Republican Washington is going to look like into the future. Right? Because McConnell, while he certainly has specific ideas about governing and how you're supposed to get things done, he is not somebody who, for example, thinks a government shutdown is a productive way to do business. And knows, that if they put this off, if that -- if they end up having to do something continuing, you heard Nancy Pelosi say, well if we do that it's going to be a year long. Right? McCarthy's talking about a matter of months, that puts a lot of power potentially in the House -- the hands of House Republicans in terms of threatening a government shutdown that would be removed from him if they can, in fact, get this budget done. And I think, you know, McConnell knows the power that comes with the appropriations process and getting a chance to actually pick all these things, and also avoiding what could potentially be a massive electoral disaster for Republicans if in fact, you saw McCarthy. You mentioned this right at the top, playing to that, I think we've got to them the MAGA base of the party now, because I don't think Freedom Caucus covers it. I don't know what you think Carl.
HULSE: Super MAGA -- MAGA as -- as President Biden said.
HUNT: Right. But to that wing of -- of the conference and, you know, I think for McConnell he sees that as a completely losing strategy going forward.
KING: You're right. Leader McCarthy, I almost called him Speaker McCarthy. He's not speaker yet. He doesn't have the votes yet. Leader McCarthy playing combat with the Biden White House, but one of the most fascinating things to watch will be the -- the relationship between House Republicans and Senate Republicans when the calendar turns right there. We'll continue the conversation in just a moment. Right? You saw there at the White House, also was Kevin McCarthy for the first time speaking out and condemning Donald Trump's recent dinner with anti-Semites and the white supremacists.
KING: Just moments ago standing outside the White House, the House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy breaking his silence on Donald Trump's recent dinner with two men who peddle in hate and conspiracy. The anti-Semite, Kanye West and white supremacist Nick Fuentes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCARTHY: Look, the president will have meetings with who he wants. I don't think anybody though should have a meeting with Nick Fuentes and his views shouldn't -- are no where within the Republican party or within this country itself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Our great reporters back around the table, with us interesting that he finally broke his silence on this. Other Republicans, who we'll get to in a minute, had condemned the former president. He did so, an hour or two, after Liz Cheney, who's leaving the House but pleaded hey at GOP leader, where's your condemnation of Donald Trump for meeting with neo-Nazi Nick Fuentes. The pro-Putin leader of the America First Pool of Action Conference, I know you want to be speaker, but are you willing to be completely amoral. So a shot there from Liz Cheney to speak out on this very important issue of principle. The former president of the United States met with two reprehensible people, had dinner with two reprehensible people who espouse hate and conspiracy. The fascinating part there was, Kevin McCarthy did not -- he criticized Nick Fuentes. He did not criticize Donald Trump.
HUNT: Yes. Exactly, that -- I was going to say, that -- that Cheney tweet really still stands because yes. I -- I'm -- I'm sorry, if there's anyone out there defending Nick Fuentes, I -- I mean, my goodness, it doesn't seem hard to do that. The -- the challenging piece for him is to say that, no, actually you former president of the United States should have been able to take responsibility for knowing who was at your dinner table, or at the very least somebody should have told you and you should have been -- had -- had the presence of mind to say no. He was willing to buy Donald Trump's excuse that he had no idea what was going on.
KING: Right. If -- if his views have -- are not welcome within the Republican party or the country itself, why can't you add a sentence and so I wish President Trump would say it was a mistake and apologize.
ABUTALEB: And it's a really familiar pattern with -- with former President Trump where he meets with someone, or does something and says he didn't know who he was and people blame the staff. And you've seen a number of Republicans condemn the fact that he met with Nick Fuentes and even some of them Kanye West, but not so much, to try to blame the staff, and -- and not very many going after the former president directly. And I think Leader McCarthy's comment was a bit of a copout, but you know, he didn't say -- he said the president can meet with whoever he wants and wouldn't go after him directly. He just condemned Nick Fuentes, which as Kasie said, is not a hard thing to do.
KING: So, Carl -- Carl, tell me -- tell me if I'm being too cynical here. I -- I take it as Kevin McCarthy knows, to be speaker, A, he cannot lose Donald Trump's support, which he has at the moment. He cannot lose Marjorie Taylor-Green, which he has at the moment. He cannot lose even Paul Gosar of Arizona who hangs out with the likes of the Nick Fuentes of the world.
HULSE: This was not the moment politically that Kevin McCarthy was going to finally take on Donald Trump. His whole future as speaker relies on these Trump supporters within the House Republican Conference, being willing to accept Kevin McCarthy. I think with the whole show there was a fascinating preview of what's ahead of Mr. McCarthy can become speaker, but this is his box. He can't, kind of, get out of it because he has to hold on to the Trump forces.
KING: And -- you hit -- because of your tone, your tense is conditional. That's the key question. McCarthy still doesn't have the votes, so until we get through that, January 3rd, we will see. Speaking much more forcefully to this question, is Trump's once very loyal Vice-President Mike Pence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Trump was wrong to give a white nationalist, an anti-Semite an a Holocaust denier a seat at the table.
PENCE: And I think he should apologize for it and he should denounce those individuals and their hateful rhetoric without qualification.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I'll give you a little bit more of a sample. These are Senate Republicans two here, Mitt Romney and Kevin Cramer, among more than a half dozen Senate Republicans who in different ways said yesterday what the former president did was wrong, and the people he was having dinner with are reprehensible.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, U.S. SENATOR: It's been clear that there's no bottom to the degree to which President Trump will degrade himself and the nation. He never sees anything wrong in anything he does. So this is characteristic of his approach.
KEVIN CRAMER, U.S. SENATOR: Clearly it's not our view, it's not my view. I would -- I don't think it's his view but as you know, President Trump doesn't -- doesn't condemn a lot of people who support him.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Senator Cramer's point is important because it's true. Trump does not criticize people who are members of the Trump (inaudible) Society, and so he would -- he won't do that. The Romney point about how low can Trump go, you hear it on the Senate side, which again back to what we were talking about earlier about the budget or border debates or almost any policy debates, the House Republicans, Senate Republican relationships are going to be fascinating. Same -- same when it comes to Trump.
HUNT: Yes. Same when it comes to Trump, and the reality and, you know, Romney is such an interesting voice on this because he's the only one that can say, like he did say it also yesterday. I voted to remove this guy from office twice, not once, but two times, and we should not be putting up with this and, you know, we haven't even talked about the fact that Donald Trump is going to be running for president for all of this time. And we are about, what six, eight months away from the first round of Republican presidential primary debates? I mean this was -- was how it -- Washington works from 2017 when Trump took office until 2020 when he was thrown out of it, and it looks like we're going to be in it again and Republicans still haven't come up -- come up for the most part with a good way to talk about it.
HULSE: Yes, Senate Republicans, there's a lot more distance with Trump obviously in the House. I mean, look at Mitch McConnell, he is a target number one of -- of Mr. Trump, but, you know, I think you're right. This is going to be hanging out there for the next few years, but I do think you're hearing more Senate Republicans talk tougher.
HUNT: You are.
KING: Trying to find a way to block his lane to the Republican nomination again, which is the dynamic that's going to play out as we watch House Republicans take power in that chamber as well. Up next for us, it's a continuation in some ways, election denial and conspiracy up close. One Arizona county refuses to certify its election results and in another, listen here, vivid proof of what happens when politicians peddle lies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: We do not have accuracy. We do not have integrity in these election results. Counted ballots with uncounted ballots in the same bid. You don't -- you cannot reconcile that. You can't take the salt out of the soup.
(END VIDEO CLIP)