Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

McCarthy's Concession Remain Tension Point Among House GOP; McCarthy Ally Blasts Santos: Must Be Held "Accountable"; Millions Under Flood Alerts As Storm Batters California. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 10, 2023 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: This morning, House Republicans are celebrating a bit and saying they are proving they can govern, that after the chaotic fight over who would be the House Speaker. But Speaker McCarthy's concessions to earn the gavel do remain a tension point in the Republican conference. After Republicans huddling this morning, the majority Leader Steve Scalise, asked by CNN's Manu Raju about the need for transparency when it comes to those concessions. Leader Scalise said this.


REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA), MAJORITY LEADER: The Speaker talked about that today, and some of the things involved making sure that our committees are represented by a full swath of our membership. It wasn't any person was committed a committee.


KING: Vague, right? Vague, that's a fair word there. Listen here, Republican Nancy Mace says, not good enough.


REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): There's still some questions that I think many of us have about what side deals may or may not have been made, what promises were made, what handshakes were made.


KING: That's the members asking for more transparency. Where is this headed in the sense that to the Speaker's credit and to the Republican leadership's credit, they passed the rules last night with only one defection, then they passed a bill, it's largely a messaging bill, the IRS bill, saying we're going to repeal the money for the new agents. It's dead. It won't pass in the Senate, and President Biden would veto it anyway. But they say, look, we proved after a tough week, we proved we can do some stuff, what now?

HEATHER CAYGLE, MANAGING EDITOR, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: Well, now there were a lot of promises that were made behind the scenes that weren't included in the rules package because it's not legislative language that we're going to see start coming to the forefront, and we're probably going to see more angry members. I mean, there were some promises made about some of these Freedom Caucus folks getting on committees, maybe even getting subcommittee gavels. Of course, none of that would be in the rules. And they're just now populating their committees. They're just now announcing membership. And so I think this is just going to continue to play out. There are a lot of hard feelings from these moderates.

We did not see it on that vote last night because only one Republican voted against it. But we got to remember, there are 18 moderate Republicans sitting in Biden districts, and there just not -- this is not going to end here, this is going to keep going. This will be the story of this Congress.

KING: So we know the concessions we do know about. Any one member can stand up for a motion to vacate. I don't like the speaker. Let's have a vote whether he stays. The debt ceiling hike will be paired with spending cuts. That's a promise Speaker McCarthy has made, at least in what the House Republicans initially passed. Again, there's the Senate and a Democrats that hold votes on key conservative bills, more freedom Caucus members on committees, a cap on discretionary spending at fiscal 2022 levels.

Again, they can do that in the House. If they have the votes, it doesn't mean that's the end product because of the Democratic Senate and the White House. But what else did he promise, right? Did you do you get a committee? Do you get this? Chip Roy, one of the holdouts who then negotiated a deal and brought 10 votes with him, says, I know what they are. You don't need to.


REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): There's no official list. There's like do you ever write down notes? You look somebody in the eye and you shake their hands and you move forward? And that's precisely what happened.


KING: Yes, that's precisely what happened. There's no official list. He has a list. He knows what he was promised, do the other members, never mind us or the American people. It's their money, actually, it's American people's money in the end, but nobody deserves to know. We're just going to have to watch as this plays out.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Which is so ironic because a big part of the demand is more transparency, and yet we don't know what they agreed to as part of a new package that brings more transparency. Look, I mean, this is so much of what happens on Capitol Hill and has since the beginning of this country is course trading, is wheeling and dealing, and that's not new. What is new is that because of the demands of this group, it spilled that into the open in a very ugly way that took a week.

So because of that, of course people are going to be asking what's in it? It was incredibly public. And you do have the Nancy Maces and many other I wouldn't even call them moderate, just kind of regular conservative Republicans who are not part of the hell no caucus saying I need to know what is going on here because they held us hostage on the Senate -- on the House floor for a week and we don't know if we're all on the same playing field going forward in terms of how we operate.


KING: And so what's fascinating is that you hear Nancy Mace says, I want to know, I want to know. Chip Roy says, I know you don't need to know. What's interesting, and again, give the speaker credit. They got the rules passed last night. They got IRS go pass. Among those saying everything is great right now is Matt Gaetz, one of the guys who held us hostage for a week.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I'm glad that, to Speaker McCarthy's great credit in the final moments, he made the requisite concessions to bring our team together and put us in a great position to do what we did tonight, vote to get rid of 87,000 IRS agents.


KING: They did vote to get rid of 87,000 IRS agents, but and Democrats did this, too, when the Democrats controlled the House, they knew of things would not pass in the Senate, there were important to them politically. But the Republicans say they're going to vote to rescind the IRS funds. They've done that. Create a subcommittee to investigate the Department of Justice and the FBI. They will get to that. They say they'll have some abortion messaging bills and to create a subcommittee on China.

We know a lot of policy that they will pass. The Biden White House says no, thank you. The Democratic Senate says, we won't even look at it. But that is their goal because we're in a two-year election cycle.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: But that was the easy part. Those were the things that they campaigned on and that the conference agreed on and they said that they were going to do on day one. So now comes the hard part, which, to your point is, what is it that they're going to pass and get through the United States Senate?

We've been writing about how Joe Biden's agenda is essentially dead in this Congress. Well, anything Republicans want to do is essentially dead in this Congress also because it won't get through, and it won't get through Biden's veto.


KING: Investigations --

CHAMBERS: Well, legislative, legislative agenda, not the investigation of course.

KING: Yes, progress, depends, as we discussed previously on enough people deciding to be bipartisan. Don't bet on it.

Up next, a continuation of this drama, the new congressman, George Santos sounds off after two Democrats called for a House Ethics Committee investigation. And he does offer some insights on when he will address his too many to count lies about his resume.



KING: This today from the Republican Congressman George Santos. He says, quote, I've done nothing unethical. That as Democrats try to hold him accountable for lies and what they say is questionable accounting. New Yorker's Rich -- New Yorker's Ritchie Torres and Dan Goldman say Santos defrauded the Congress and the public. They filed that, you see their tweet right there, they also filed an ethics complaint. An independent watchdog group also did the same, alleging that the campaign financing is sketchy here. Kevin McCarthy, the speaker, says this is a, quote, internal Republican matter. Correct me. The cynic in me says Kevin McCarthy knows he has four votes to spare. He cannot lose George Santos right now.

CAYGLE: One hundred percent. I mean, this was a Democratic seat. It's a Biden district. It is very gettable for Democrats if Santos were to somehow resign, they would pour millions of dollars in it. Then McCarthy would be at a three seat majority, which is much harder than a four seat majority, which is already pretty hard, right?

So I think it's just very interesting. He and Scalise and some of the other Republican leaders are trying to stay quiet as long as they can, but more revelations just keep coming out. I mean, yesterday we saw reporting that his campaign manager actually impersonated Kevin McCarthy's chief of staff to get, you know, money from donors. So it just keeps coming out. I think the pressure will be on them to do some -- take some kind of action in some way.

KING: And it's not just pressure from Democrats or outside watchdog groups. This is Dusty Johnson. This is the McCarthy ally on CNN this morning saying we need answers here.


REP. DUSTY JOHNSON (R-SD): Listen, if I was the speaker, I wouldn't put George Santos on committees until we had a deeper and more full understanding of exactly what went on during his campaign. He should be referred to the Ethics Committee. The fact that he's a Republican doesn't keep me from saying he needs to be held accountable for whatever he's done wrong.


KING: There are people watching at home, you're a Democrat or Republican, you're an Independent. Maybe you like the new majority. You don't. But there are in both parties decent people who don't like the fact that gives all of them a bad name.

BASH: Exactly. I feel, unfortunately, like we have become numb to the fact that there's just turning a blind eye much more in recent years on the Republican side because the of the way that the Trump way of doing things has infected the GOP. But we do see that and those, that's the kind of Congress that I started covering in the 90s with the guy to my right, the gentleman to my right.

KING: Distinguished gentleman.

BASH: And, the distinguished gentleman, right? And, you know, I'm not saying everybody is like that, but everybody is also not kind of only a political animal.

KING: Right, the Dusty Johnson part is interesting, Congressman Johnson, because there's, you know, a mainstream conservative saying, look, sorry, unacceptable. He should be held accountable in some way. Kevin McCarthy wants that done internally so the Ethics Committee could sanction him. They could deny him committees. We get those decisions next week. Decide to make clear you're here, but maybe pariah is too strong of a word. But the Democrats are having a field day with this. This is Ted Lieu of California tweeting out a picture of the document every member has to sign if they want classified briefings. Members of Congress must sign the below document in order to review classified information. Republican member George Santos should not sign this. So the Democrats say, this guy's a fraud. Republicans deal with it. The question is, what will they do?


CHAMBERS: And it's absolutely to your point. It's not going to go away. So if they continue to ignore it, I mean, that's not going to work here. But the difficulty is that you do have other Republicans like Tony Gonzalez who are saying things like, well, our country has bigger problems to deal with this than this problem. So you're just, again, not seeing that push from Republicans that you would need for this, for further action to be taken at this moment.

KING: Well, again, the Republicans, when they're in the minority, were harshly critical of the Democrats for not taking care of things that are much less significant than this. George Santos so we will see if they take care of a problem in their own house now a little turning of the page. Humor can be an icebreaker. House Republicans giving it a try this morning as part of an effort to move past the stormy, to say the least, speaker election.

You may be familiar with past viral clips from an outlet called Bad Lip Reading. Well, House Republicans kicked off their meeting today with this take on a very tense floor moment featuring Kevin McCarthy, Matt Gaetz, and Lauren Boebert.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: One of your friends promised me I could flick you in your face.

GAETZ (R-FL): Absolutely, you may not do that.

REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): Hit him in his cringy smirk for real.

MCCARTHY: Say any cereal name.

GAETZ: Cinnamon toast crunch.


KING: There will be people out there saying we're making light of what was a very tense, consequential moment in the House of Representatives. But humor does matter. They have a lot of dysfunction in the family, smart, playful, inane, stupid, help me.

BASH: I think it's important. Yes, it was dysfunctional and ugly and all those things. But you know what, like, to me, in my experience, the people who ultimately make the best legislators and the best leaders are those who can be in on the joke. And I feel like that's important, don't you?

KNOX: I do. I think in this case, there's nothing really mean spirited about it. I think that's kind of important because we have seen politicians make really terrible jokes over the years. And I do think it's an acknowledgment of how dysfunctional things really are. It's in an effort to push past the last couple of weeks, an effort to push to say, like, yes, we've set the table for a whole bunch of other crises, but right now, well, let's gloss over the staff and be at peace.

CHAMBERS: Republicans really see what happened as a blip on the radar, as one GOP aide told me, and they're hopeful to move past it.

KING: Honey, not cheerios with it not cereal, just saying.

Live look here, national palace in Mexico City. The President of the United States expected to arrive any moment there as he prepares to meet with the leaders of Canada and Mexico. We'll be right back.



KING: Any moment now, the President of the United States due to arrive at the national palace in Mexico City. There he will meet with the leaders of Canada and Mexico.

Meanwhile, some very powerful images coming in as deadly flooding ravages parts of California. Take a look at this rescue in Santa Clarita. A driver pulled from an SUV that became stranded in fast moving floodwater. Every rainfall has claimed the lives of at least 14 people. Millions are still under flood alerts. Further north, this is the view outside the front door of a home in Santa Cruz County. Here's another look where you can see the neighborhood completely flooded as rescuers ride through the streets on jet skis, of all things looking for anyone who may need some help. CNN's Mike Valerio joins us now from Montecito, California. Mike, tell us what you're seeing. MIKE VALERIO, CNN NEWSOURCE NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we do have some good news. The second impulse of moisture is leaving the area here in Montecito, in Santa Barbara County, and moving farther east towards Los Angeles. But, John, we wanted to give you a realistic view of our backdrop right here. This is the Romero Creek, and the floodwaters are certainly diminishing, lowering from these levels that we saw around midnight yesterday. The video that Ellen DeGeneres shot showing those rushing floodwaters are coming down. And we don't have widespread catastrophic conditions like we did five years ago.

But why this matters, John, is because we do have all of these beautiful homes that are just a few yards or a few feet away from these creeks. So, John, if you walk with me and we have Rudy behind the camera, we're going to show you a typical neighborhood in the heart of Montecito. And as we keep looking at the Romero Creek, John, why another reason this matters is because all of this drains out to PCH, the Pacific Coast Highway, Route 101.

Parts of it are still flooded because of this water shut down, taking people hours to get here. Here's a typical street. We had a whole cadre of emergency workers that just left. I think control room has video of this giant eucalyptus tree that fell down just a couple of minutes before were on the air with Kate. So you can see that these workers are going very quickly to try to get Montecito back to normal as we have a reprieve from this rain, at least until Saturday, John.

KING: Mike Valerio, thanks to you and your crew. Let's hope that keeps up and things do improve or at least not get worse. Mike, thank you.


Up next for us, a big announcement for a big Senate campaign and the legendary hip hop artist Dr. Dre says rap in politics, at least in this case, shouldn't mix.


KING: Live pictures here. This is outside the National Palace in Mexico City. It is a beautiful location. You see the President of Mexico. He is the host in the center with his wife, the President of the United States, and the First Lady of the United States, the Prime Minister of Canada, and his wife as well. The leaders meeting, it's a North American summit with some very tense issues on the table.

Yes, some regional economic cooperation, yes, some efforts to advance climate change. But the toughest issues, migration, migration, trying to find new ways to stop migration from Latin America and Central America through Mexico into the United States. Also efforts to stop fentanyl trafficking across the U.S.-Mexican border. You see the three leaders in the center there, the First Lady is stepping aside now as we watch this play out. A happy picture there, a cooperative picture there, but these are tense conversations. More on this as the day continues here on CNN.


Appreciate your time in INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you tomorrow. Abby Phillip picks up our coverage right now.