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House Votes To Remove Rep. Omar From Foreign Affairs Cmte; CNN Reporter Has Close Call With Missile Strike In Kramatorsk; U.S. Military Gets More Access To Bases In Philippines; McCarthy Defends Ousting Dems From Key Committees; McCarthy: Will Meet Again With Biden On Spending, Debt Ceiling. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 02, 2023 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Showing you the House of Representatives floor. Just moments ago, the House finishing its vote to remove Congressman Ilhan Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota, from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. That vote was 218 to 211. One member of the House voted present on that vote. There's a separate vote happening now. That's the screen you see there.

But 218 to 211, one vote present. Ilhan Omar will be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The resolution doing that does offer her an opportunity to appeal to the House Ethics Committee. We'll watch that as it plays out. But a major victory for the new Republican Speaker, Kevin McCarthy. Ilhan Omar will be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Moving on now to some important global news. Some new Russian missile strikes targeting civilians in eastern Ukraine, sending plumes of smoke over the city of Kramatorsk as residents scramble to take cover.

Our CNN Correspondent Fred Pleitgen was right there near one apartment building hit during that attack. Here's how he described his close call with CNN's Kate Bolduan last hour.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We had just arrived on the scene, had parked our vehicles, had gotten out of those vehicles when another missile struck in the exact building that we were parked in front of. So we heard a loud bang. There were obviously a lot of civilians there on the street, many of them then trying to take shelter.

We did the same thing. We then went towards another building to try and take shelter there. And then as I looked up, I saw another missile that then hit almost the exact location, obviously, causing a huge explosion there, leading to even more people trying to flee the scene. We then tried to run for cover or went for shelter, and then after a while tried to get out of there. But I think one of the things that's very important to point out, Kate, is that there was a big search and rescue operation going on on the ground. And the Russians targeted exactly the area where that search and rescue operation was going on, in the city of Kramatorsk. This was not some sort of military facility. We saw no military facilities in that area. We saw a lot of civilians, however, who were in that area. And this was right in the center of town.


KING: Our thanks to Fred Pleitgen there and all our CNN teams on the ground across Ukraine at a very dangerous moment in this war, about to hit the one year mark.

Let's move on to another major global story now, increasing tensions between the United States and China. The United States announcing today it will expand its military presence in the Philippines. It is a step the Pentagon says is important because of China's threatening behavior toward Taiwan and across the region. This deal coming ahead of Secretary of State Tony Blinken's upcoming visit to China.

Let's discuss now with our CNN Pentagon Correspondent Oren Liebermann, and our CNN International Correspondent, Marc Stewart. Oren, let's begin with you. The Defense Secretary going to the Philippines to announce this new expansion. I just want to show a map. The United States has a military presence in the Philippines, but this agreement will allow it to expand its presence at four bases in the Philippines.

The message is just unmistakable. The United States want more access for more sophisticated weaponry, naval and otherwise, in this region. Explain why the Pentagon thinks it is necessary and why now.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The Pentagon as well as the U.S. government have watched China, its actions, its military operations, and view it as a growing threat not only towards Taiwan, but also other countries in the region as they view China as becoming more aggressive. This clearly, and especially from China's perspective, puts more U. S. military forces closer to China. And of course, as you see on that map, closer to Taiwan.

There are already forces on the northern side there in Okinawa, where the U.S. just announced it would repurpose a Marine Corps unit giving advanced capabilities and advanced weapons recently. And now, with this new access agreement, there could be forces even closer on the south side.

Now neither the U.S. nor the Philippines have said where these four bases are, but we know from previous statements from the Philippines that the U.S. has requested access in the northern Philippines. Again, that's that spot very close to Taiwan. So this is all part of the broader access, the broader move to shift from the wars of the past in the Middle East and towards China, towards the Indo-Pacific.

It's also worth remembering that from the sort of 10,000-foot level, the previous Philippine administration had moved the country toward Beijing. And this appears to be a clear realignment from the new Philippine government moving back towards Washington, a bit back towards the U.S. Even as the government remains very careful with how it interacts and works with Beijing. John?

KING: Oren, thank you. And to Marc Stewart now in the region. Mark, there are already weeks and weeks, months and months of tensions between China and the Biden administration over military matters, over economic matters, over technology matters. I want you to listen here.

This is a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry this morning saying this is the U.S. fault, that the U.S. is the aggressor here.


MAO NING, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON (through translation): The U.S. which clings to a zero-sum mentality, continues to strengthen its military deployment in the region out of its own interests. It is aggravating regional tension and jeopardizing regional peace and stability. Countries in the region should stay alert and avoid being coerced by the U.S.


KING: What is the sense, Marc, of tensions in the region, especially you have this act expanding military presence in the Philippines? You had the memo from the Air Force general the other day saying war could be possible in the relatively near future. What to make of this?

MARC STEWART, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tension is high, John, and this is how the Chinese government typically responds, at least at this moment in time, using powerful and pointed language. That spokesperson went on to say that the U.S. has a selfish agenda suggesting that the U.S. was holding onto the Cold War.

And then, as you heard at the end of that statement, made a warning to other nations in the region to take caution that perhaps you could be used by the U.S. This is very much in line with the Chinese response and by expanding it to other nations, shows that China is trying to make a forceful powerplay in this whole broader area.

KING: Remarkable moment. Marc Stewart in Hong Kong, Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon, grateful to have you both to help us through it.

When we come back, any moment now, the House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, takes a victory lap. That after delivering the votes to boot the Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar off the House Foreign Affairs Committee. That's next.



KING: Take you live up to the United States capitol. Now, the Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy. REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: -- Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the first woman governor in Arkansas and the very first father, daughter ever to be governor of a state is going to give our State of the Union response. And we're excited about especially what she's been able to achieve so far as governor in Arkansas. So I'm very excited by that.

We'll also have Juan Ciscomani, giving a response in Spanish as well. As many of you know, Juan's story immigrating to America, age 11. His father drove the bus in Tucson, Arizona. Just a real, true American story as well.

Yesterday, I had a meeting with the President. I got to see the President again this morning. It's like that that he said it was a good meeting as well to me. No predetermined ideas, but we're going to meet again about the debt ceiling and ways that we can find ways for savings and put ourselves on a path to balance. I think that's very important.

If you look any of the latest polls, 74 percent of Americans believe there has to be some savings in what we're spending. We're at 120 percent of GDP, meaning our debt is larger than our economy. It's one of the greatest threats we have to this nation. And when I look at it, if you look at just the last twelve years in Congress, Republicans controlled eight years of that and Democrats controlled four.

In the last four years that the Democrats controlled, they increased discretionary spending by 30 percent, more than 400 billion. Now, we had controlled it for twice as long. Discretionary spending during those eight years didn't go up $1. They actually went down $10 billion. So I know we can find savings and get our economy stronger.

After -- when Republicans win the majority, we're able to pass that tax package. Revenue into the government has never been higher. It's the highest revenue we've ever seen in. So it's not a revenue problem, it's a spending problem. So we'll continue to work on that.

A couple of interesting things happen on the floor right now. We had almost -- if you combine the number of Democrats who voted no and voted present, there's a 100 Democrats that won't stand up against socialism. That's a real concern to me in America today.


It's not just -- that wasn't a college vote on a college campus, that was a vote in the U.S. Congress that 100 Democrats couldn't say socialism was wrong. That's a scary point of view. But you also understand why we're in a spending problem that they are when they were in the majority, that's why you understand the challenges that we have here.

So let me stop there and take any questions you might have. Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House said that the President's open to talking about the debt ceiling in a separate discussion about ways to control spending, do you -- what do think about when you hear that, that they kind of want to separate those two, is what you think?

MCCARTHY: So whichever way they want to talk about it, I'm very clear, we will not pass a clean debt ceiling here without some form of spending reform. So there'll never be a clean one. I don't know how they want to say it. That's fine. But at the end of the day, we're going to get spending reforms.

I believe you have to lift the debt ceiling, but you do not lift the debt ceiling without changing your behavior. So it's got to be both in front of you. Yes, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of your members who voted for this Omar resolution, like Congressman Mace and Congressman Gonzales, are concerned of what they see, sort of like tit for tat retribution that your new majority is taking as a Democratic member of the House. Is this the message you want to send to voters as you come into power here?

MCCARTHY: No. And that's the clear part, how it's not tit for tat. So let's just put it in perspective of what the Democrats did and what Republicans are doing. So the Democrats in the last Congress removed Republican members from all committees. They even judged one Republican member, not based upon what she had said as a member of Congress, but what she said prior to ever getting here.

And she -- they removed from all committees. I'm not removing people from all committees, and I'm not judging something that someone said when they're not a member of Congress. Now, the first two people we did not allow to be on intel. If you got the briefing I got from the FBI and I know you all personally believe it as well, simply as an American, you know Swalwell should not serve on the intel.

I'd love to take a show of hands here. How many believe, if you're a member of Congress and the FBI says nothing, but the moment your leadership appoints you to the Intel Committee, the FBI comes knocking on the leadership door and says, we have a problem. This person has a relationship with a Chinese spy?

How many believe that that person should stay on intel? So, yes, it's not the same, and he's no longer on intel. But there are a number of other Democrats concerned. Now, the chairman of the Intel Committee, Adam Schiff, I actually believe I helped him.

Because what he did to the Intel Committee, he used that position as chairman, knowing classified information that others didn't, and he conveyed to the American public something that was not true to try to confuse him on a number of times, from the whistleblower. Even the Washington Post acknowledged that that is true.

What he did when he went after Devin Nunes, even the Inspector General said he was lying about that. He turned the Intel Committee into an impeachment committee. So now Schiff serves on Judiciary. That is actually the Committee for Impeachment. That is where he should serve. So now the Intel Committee would go back to the responsibility that it has to protect the American public. Now, when it comes to Congresswoman Omar, based upon what she had said, the antisemitic comments, it's all about the Benjamins. The military in America is equal to Hamas and the Taliban. On 9/11, something happened that day. Even the former Democratic chair of the committee believed her comments were wrong.

When a resolution was brought up to deal with this last time, she never apologized. They changed the resolution to say antisemitism is wrong. We're not removing her from other committees. We just do not believe when it comes to foreign affairs, especially the responsibility of that position around the world with the comments that you make.

She shouldn't serve there. But this is what the clear. If it was tit for tat, we would have picked people, took them off all committees and said nothing about. We don't believe in that. I just had a conversation with the Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. What I asked him to do was to select a couple members, along with himself and mine.

And I have a couple of members and one is going to be Nancy Mace to help, and Ken Buck and some others. And I think what we should do is put into the rules. There is a code of conduct here. But I don't know the definition exactly what all that's going to mean. I think that should be clear.

So if there is a concern, it's not tit for tat, but I think in moving forward, every single member of Congress has a responsibility to how they carry themselves. And to -- let me finish the question. And it's responsible upon us to let them know what that is and then what is the due process in a bipartisan way that we can deal with it.

So I'm going to put a group of Democrats that Hakeem was selecting, a group of Republicans and we'll work to come and clarify the rules and pass something for not only this Congress but future Congress as well.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's an acrimony right now in Congress. We've seen it play out in many of these committee hearings where members are calling each other names. This vote with Congresswoman Omar is a backdrop against this. With the acrimony between Republicans and Democrats right now, how can the American people be confident that you'll be able to get things done?

MCCARTHY: Because this is nothing like the last Congress where you move somebody from all committees. This is nothing like the last Congress where you have a speaker that tells Republicans they can't even be on committees. This is nothing like the last Congress where they would deny the rights for bills to even go through committee.

This is nothing like the last Congress where you never had an open rule. So let's just judge the few weeks we've had now to the last Congress. This is the first time in seven years any bill has come to the floor in an open rule. Almost a decade since that has come to the -- bill has come to the floor, that's not an appropriation bill.

Look at what we've also done the first week in a bipartisan way. 146 Democrats joined with us where we opened a select committee on China. This is actually a fundamentally different Congress. I've had Democrats coming up to me telling me, we're running it much better, especially the time allotment. They like the openness and the working.

I'll give you another example, for inner workings, right? There's times that I was going to be given a briefing. I call up the minority leader, take the briefing with me. Because there's ways that I look at the way we were treated in the past, I don't think was right. And I'm glad you asked this question because this is a much different Congress, much more -- now the public can actually be here.

You can be here. How different is that? The public is going to be back in the people's House. We're going to have a State of the Union where the public can actually watch it. So, yes, I'm really excited how this is so different than the last Congress.


MCCARTHY: I'm really --

KING: The Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy holding a news conference in Statutory Hall at the United States Capitol. A bit of a victory lap. His Republican majority just voted to kick Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, off the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The speaker explaining that, also proposing potentially, potentially a circuit breaker, saying he has met with his Democratic colleague Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic Minority Leader. He says he wants to put a group together to try to come up with a code of conduct so that this doesn't keep happening.

Let's bring the conversation in the room. Is it? He -- even he did not dispute the question was, there's a lot of acrimony here right now. He did not dispute that. He's says he thinks he can make it better. Is that potentially an off ramp to at least turn the temperature down? You're not going to end it.

DANA BASH, CNN CO-ANCHOR, STATE OF THE UNION: I mean, that would be nice. Let's be optimistic. It would certainly be nice. That was also one of the demands from Republican Nancy Mace --

KING: Right.

BASH: -- to say, look, I will be with you on this vote with Ilhan Omar, but we can't keep doing this. So this is -- this may be an indicator of all of the pressure that we saw when Kevin McCarthy was trying to get the votes to become speaker came from the far right.

This may be sort of a teeny bit of an indicator, early indicator of the fact that the moderates, 17 or so of them in the Republican Conference also have power. Because every group that has more than five people has power because the majority is so slim. KING: And so these are his early days. Critical, critical for any leader. He's the new leader of an organization with a very narrow majority. He also said he's trying to be upbeat about his meeting with the President yesterday. They are very far apart. The White House says it will not negotiate the debt ceiling, but the President of the United States did say you'll have a separate conversation about spending cuts or spending reductions if you vote.

Kevin McCarthy says you have to have the spending cuts with the vote on a debt ceiling, that they won't have a clean debt ceiling bill. Meaning, he'd have to spend. Can they do that? Is the White House essentially saying, we'll negotiate as long as we do it in separate meetings?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, if you listen to both what the White House has said and what Speaker McCarthy is saying, I mean, there -- you can do a little bit of verbal gymnastics to make them both right and make both sides happy at the end of the day.

But right now, especially if anything appears to be tied to the debt limit, that's something that the White House is really sensitive about. They have said over and over that they are not negotiating on raising the borrowing authority. We went through this in 2011. It ended a near catastrophe, and we don't want to get into actual catastrophe this time.

KING: So you can describe a process that both sides can say, that worked, we didn't violate our principles. The problem is then you have to come to specifics. If you're going to have spending reductions, what are they?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. You know, I think that's the big question. There are a number of months to get this done, so it's not like this is hanging over their head right now. Kevin McCarthy has said he wants to get it done sooner rather than later, but he's got this caucus that really is going to want to have some cuts.

And they also have this power over him, meaning they can remove him from his position if he doesn't go along with him. So this is going to be a very tough set of negotiations and conversations between McCarthy and his caucus and McCarthy in the White House.


KING: You at the beginning of the program channeled the Juan Ciscomani.

BASH: So weird.

KING: I'm going to channel it will be Senate Democrats from Trump states up in 2024 that helped the president out of this spending issue because they have to run for reelection. Thanks for your time today in INSIDE POLITICS.

Busy day of breaking news. Kasie Hunt picks up right after a quick break


KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST: Good afternoon, I am Kasie Hunt here in Washington.