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Soon: Debt Deal Faces First Hurdle In House Rules Cmte; Rep Roy Threatens McCarthy's Speakership Over Debt Deal; Russia Accuses Ukraine Of Drone Attack On Moscow; Drone Attack On Moscow Follows New Russian Strikes On Kyiv; Zelenskyy Decides On Dates Of Ukraine's Counteroffensive; Today: DeSantis Kicks Off 4-Day Swing Through Early Voting States; Today: DeSantis Courting Evangelicals At Iowa church. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 30, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. A very busy news day. Thank you for your time. Can the House speaker keep his members in line? The debt deal meets its first test today in the House Rules Committee, where hardline conservatives deeply unhappy with the agreement have a chance to kill it.

Plus, drones deep behind enemy lines. And attack in Moscow brings the Ukraine more directly into the heart of Russia's capital, as Vladimir Putin keeps up with relentless aerial assault on Kyiv. And Ron DeSantis makes his first big road trip as an official presidential candidate. Three cities in 12 early voting states just this week, beginning tonight as DeSantis courting evangelicals in Iowa.

But up first for us, the deal to pull the United States back from a debt cliff meets its first big roadblock today. At 3 pm, House Rules Committee convenes it is TBD whether the unhappy conservatives on that panel will have enough votes to try to kill the Biden, McCarthy debt pack at its first legislative stop.

Hardliners say the deal that gave speaker McCarthy the gavel back in January, included a promise that any legislation needed all nine Republican Rules Committee votes to make it to the full House. McCarthy allies say, they don't remember it that way. This Washington wrinkle puts the must pass deal in some considerable early peril. The hardliners say that compromise doesn't cut enough spending.

But listen to Speaker McCarthy this morning. He says he got the better of the president and the Republicans should vote yes.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We're actually going to spend less money this year than we spent last year. Read the Wall Street Journal, they say it's a very good bill. This is the biggest cut in American history that we vote for. I'm not quite sure what else they want to go. I think we got to look at where the victories are. We don't spend another 4 trillion. We allow them to keep going forward to January. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let's get straight up to Capitol Hill, CNN's Melanie Zanona is live for us there. Melanie, the speaker says Republicans should vote for it, but he's got some trouble on his hands.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER.: Yes, that's right. There's a lot of outrage on the right here over this deal. They feel like, he essentially gave up too much in these negotiations. And the House Freedom Caucus is actually holding a press conference right now to rally opposition against this bill. But John, the two big questions right now are, do they have the votes to be able to block this from even coming to the floor or passing on the floor? And is Kevin McCarthy's speakership safe?

Now, on the first question, it does not appear that they do have the power to block this. The bill does have to go through the House Rules Committee later today before it can get a floor vote and there are three hardline conservatives on that panel. That was part of the deal that Kevin McCarthy made to become speaker. But two of them, Ralph Norman and Chip Roy are signaling they will vote against the rule. But one of them Thomas Massie, we are learning is expected to support the rule, which means it will be able to advance and get on to the floor.

But on that second question, John, whether Kevin McCarthy's speakership is safe, that is a lot less clear. The House Freedom Caucus did have a call last night where they talked about their strategy moving forward and how they're going to approach this. And while a lot of them are against the idea of using a tool known as the motion to vacate, which would essentially force a floor vote on housing Kevin McCarthy, it only takes one member to be able to force that vote.

And Congressman Chip Roy is especially angry. He told Glenn Beck in an interview on the radio moments ago that this deal is a betrayal of the power sharing agreement that we put in place among House Republicans. And he also said, if we can't kill this bill, then we're going to have to regroup and figure out the whole leadership arrangement again. So, a clearest part clear, clear threat there, John, and potentially his speakership at risk.

KING: Mel, standby because Chip Roy, you just mentioned speaking right now. Let's listen?

REP. CHIP ROY, (R-TX): Speaking about two things that we actually run on, actually trying to change this place, actually trying to secure the border, actually saying that if you're going to raise the debt ceiling, maybe you should actually enact fiscal reforms to do so. We did that. We worked in good faith. Everybody's sitting around, working around the table to accomplish the objectives the American people sent here to do.

Unfortunately, last week, there was a breach. There was a breach in the structure that we agreed to put in place to make sure that we are representing the American people through this here to for United Republican conference. The Republican conference right now has been torn asunder and we are working hard to try to put it back together again this weekend by making sure that this bill gets stopped.


I wouldn't be very clear. Not one Republican should vote for this deal. Not one. If you're out there watching this, every one of my colleagues be very clear, not one Republican should vote for this deal. It is a bad deal. No one sent us here to borrow an additional $4 trillion to get absolutely nothing in return. But at best, if I'm being really generous, a spending freeze for a couple of years. That's it. That's about what you get.

And, frankly, you're going to make things worse, and my Democratic colleagues know it. That's why they're supporting it. That's why they're going around gleeful, like there is a reason our democrat colleagues support this. There's a reason that Mitt Romney supports this. There's a reason that Bill Kristol supports this. It's all the same stuff.

There's a reason that our conservative allies are opposing it roundly, the Club for Growth scoring against it, the Heritage Foundation scoring against it, freedom works scoring against it. Ron DeSantis publicly opposed. President Trump said, he thought we should default rather than pursue this kind of lunacy. At the end of the day, the only person that would default in this town is Joe Biden. Unless Republicans default on the American dream by voting for this bad bill.

KING: You're listening to Congressman Chip Roy of Texas. You see members of the Freedom Caucus, the House Freedom Caucus surrounding him. Kevin McCarthy had to negotiate with them to become speaker. And now Chip Roy right there threatening that if this debt deal, the speaker cut with the Biden White House. If it is passed, he's threatening to revisit the speaker's hold on the gavel.

With me in studio to share the reporting and their insights, CNN's Dana Bash, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, and Seung Min Kim of the Associated Press. So, there you have it right there. Number one, McCarthy appears to have the votes at the moment to get it out of the rules committee.

The question is, as he sits in the speaker's office, what calculation is going through his mind? Does he also thinking and survive a challenge to his leadership? Or does he have to yet again, accommodate the right and stop his own deal?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That would be a really remarkable because this is the most delicate of balancing acts that both -- leaders in both parties have to do. The president is doing the same thing. It's just that maybe they haven't been as vocal this morning as they have been in the past with his the left flank.

And what we're talking about here is a true compromise in the sense that there are if all goes as planned from the perspective of the White House and the House speaker, there will be no votes on the left and there will be no votes on the right. And they are going to need the majorities to be gotten basically in the middle by Democrats and Republicans. The Chip Roy's of the world are furious. Obviously, you just heard him say that. I spoke to a senior Republican House member this morning, who said that the feeling among the House leadership is that there are not enough people who want to "emasculate their leaders," both the president and the speaker in order to take this down. We'll see if that holds.

KING: Right. So, a traditional Washington deal, the left and the right are met, you have enough votes in the middle, you pass it, everybody grumbles, and you move on. What makes this more interesting is just because speaker McCarthy, House Republicans adopted the rule. One person, Chip Roy sounds like he's going to be him. Yes. He can change his mind. But he comes to the -- let's say they pass this, he comes to the floor at the end of the week, says I want to vacate the chair.

Is Kevin McCarthy, like John Boehner, like Paul Ryan to fail, you know, essentially going to lose his job different circumstances, but because of flack on the right?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Listen, I mean, this was always the fear. I mean, we all covered the 15 rounds, and finally made the speakership and sort of the underlying story was, you know, how tenuous his grasp on the speakership was. And with this happening, you see, Chip Roy's very strong words. He said, you know, the Republican conference has been torn asunder, not one Republican should vote for this deal he said.

So, he does look as he's at least setting himself up to be somebody who would try to get the speaker out of there. Can he bring others along? I mean, he certainly seemed to be having a call to arms there for other Republicans to vote no on this deal and say, you know, there's a reason why Democrats are happy with this deal. And so, we'll see. I mean, this was always going to be a perilous time for Kevin McCarthy that we see it right out.

KING: To your point about call for arms, it was quite interesting. Governor DeSantis did say over the weekend, if you were in the House, he would propose this deal. He would vote against it. Donald Trump hasn't said anything. Here Chip Roy quoting what Donald Trump said in the CNN townhall, before this deal was struck that at some point, they're going to default, I'm not president. I don't care.


That was Trump's flippant. That was just a flippant attitude. I'm not president. I'm going to get blamed, go ahead and default. But Trump has said nothing. At this tenuous moment Donald Trump has a lot of sway over House Republicans. If he were to say something, he could tip the scale either way, could he not?

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: He definitely could. And which is why you hear Congressman Chip Roy bringing all of the outside opposition, whether it's conservative outside spending groups, whether it's what the former president said before this deal was finalized, whether it's a Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, trying to drum up opposition against this deal. And you do see how Speaker McCarthy at least has to go on a really aggressive public relations messaging offensive. You hear him saying over and over since this deal was announced that Democrats got no wins in this deal, which isn't quite accurate. But that is what he and his lieutenants have to say, to try to convince, I mean you're -- he wouldn't (Ph) probably never going to get a Chip Roy on any sort of deal. I think we're kind of missing that point.

But those people who are kind of teetering on the edge of a, yes or no, in the Republican Congress, he really does have to work overdrive to convince them that this is the best deal that you can get with a Democratic Senate and a Democratic president. So, you're going to hear with that a lot over the next month.

BASH: It's (crosstalk) as we speak.

KING: Right. It's a traditional Washington deal. And again, in a normal world, Kevin McCarthy can lose the Freedom Caucus, 40 votes there, because the new Democrats, the centrist Democrats have said therefore, so the math there works, everybody goes away, nobody is happy, but you move on. The question is about his leadership challenge.

But to that point to the deal, who won? Democrats are not gleeful that Democrats -- Chip Roy says they're gleeful, they're not gleeful, progressives are not happy either. But if you look at the projected baseline of federal spending was at $757 billion. The Republicans, the House Republican bill demanded it dropped to $689 billion, the compromise is $704 billion.

So, as a true Washington compromise, spending is going to go down less than it was going to be. Republicans say, McCarthy says, we only have the House. We have a Democratic president, Democratic senate. That's a good deal for us. The Wall Street Journal editorial board agrees. The lesson is that political unity pays, assuming the deal passes Congress, it will defy the democratic narrative that Republicans can't govern.

Mr. McCarthy's troops are proving they can, and conservatives would be foolish to abandon the victories in this deal. But this is again the upside-down world we live in. That's the Republican establishment. The 40 members you just saw there. I don't know if they all showed up. But the 40 member House Freedom Caucus, the Republican establishment says, jump. They say no.

BASH: Yes, that's exactly right. It's like the opposite of what you want. If you're a Chip Roy, you don't want to hear from a board like the Wall Street Journal editorial board. I was texting with another moderate House member this morning who said something interesting about kind of the messaging, we've all been talking about how the public messaging up until the point of the deal from Kevin McCarthy was pretty solid.

And up in some ways he had outsmarted the Biden White House, that certainly was coming from some Democrats I was talking to. But this member said perhaps his internal messaging to his members was it didn't lay the groundwork enough for the fact that he would have to make a deal that looks a lot like this. Would it have made a difference? Who knows what the competence that he has. But I thought that was an interesting note.

KING: So, we watched now. Again, those conservatives voicing their outrage. Number one, the big test 3 o'clock the Rules Committee beats Ken McCarthy, get this out of the committee, get it to the floor. He thinks he can. If he gets that done, and we follow up from there in the 24 to 48 hours.

Ahead up next for us, though the Russian capital getting a first-hand sense of war, after an apparent drone attack. The Kremlin accusing Ukraine and issuing arrest warrants.




KING: Russia today announcing arrest warrants for senior Ukrainian military commanders, it blames for drone strikes on three residential buildings in Moscow. The Russian President Vladimir Putin also just weighing in.


PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA: Kyiv chose the path of intimidation of Russian citizens and attacks on residential buildings. It is a clear sign of terrorist activity. The Moscow air defense system worked satisfactorily, however, there is still work to be done to make it better.


KING: You can see plumes right there, that smoke rising above the Russian capital. Two people were injured. Moscow says, Ukraine has denied involvement. This incident happened just hours after a new Russian attack targeted Kyiv overnight. One person was killed there, 13 were hurt.

CNN's Sam Kiley joins us now live from eastern Ukraine. Sam, a strike in a residential area in Moscow. Putin calls it terrorists. I guess he has amnesia about his own tactics, targeting residential buildings and hospitals as such in Ukraine. But what does this do to the state of play?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, on the first thing to be concerned about from the Ukrainian perspective is that the United States has been very firm about its view that there should be no use of its weapons in any kind of cross border operations into Russia by Ukraine.

There is no sign at all that these are American drones or have American components. And as you say, the Ukrainian government has denied it, although saying that they have no direct responsibility for these drone attacks, leaving a little bit of wriggle room there.

But I think we should also see this, John, in the context of the ongoing destabilization operations that the Ukrainians are carrying out, possibly using proxies or near proxies, such as the recent raids inside Russian territory, carried out by Russian dissidents backed and armed and under the orders, at least inside Ukraine of the Ukrainian armed forces.

And of course, then you've got those long-distance attacks against Russian targets behind the front lines here inside Ukrainian territory. So, we're seeing a ratcheting up of the efforts to destabilize the Kremlin, but also bring home to the civilians in Russia, what it means to be at war, John?


KING: And the timing of that destabilization as you call it, both sides feeling each other out, trying to soften each other, trying both military in public opinion wise affect that dynamic ahead of the big coming Ukrainian counter offensive. President Zelenskyy making some news there. What was it?

KILEY: Well, this should be perhaps seen in as part of the psychological operation. So, he said or suggested that a ground offensive was imminent. This is what he said.


PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: The commander in chief and the commanders of the operational directions reported to the staff, not only the supply of ammunition, not only the training of new brigade, not only our tactics, but also the timing. This is what is most important. The timing of how we will move forward. We will. The decisions have been made.


KILEY: Now, the decision being made doesn't remove the fact that the frontline remains extremely active. We were in an area quite close to the frontline. Today we could hear the sounds of incoming and outgoing bombardment relentlessly and there is an anticipation here in Ukraine that when it gets underway, and there is a conviction that there will be a significant offensive. It's going to be brutal for both sides, John?

KING: Sam Kiley live for us in eastern Ukraine. Sam, thanks to you and your crew as well as we watch things play out on the battlefield. Coming back home here, next for us, a big day in Iowa. Opening a very important week for the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. He's kicking off his presidential bid just outside Des Moines tonight. We'll go live to Iowa, next.




KING: Tonight, for the first time, the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is in Iowa as an official presidential candidate. His event courting Christian conservatives opens a 12-city, three-state swing for a candidate trying to make the case. He's the only GOP contender who can beat Donald Trump.

CNN's Jessica Dean is live for us in Des Moines, Iowa. A big test for the Florida Governor now that he's officially in.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He certainly is, John, and a lot of eyes will be on here as he does officially kick off his campaign here in Iowa state that he said himself is critically important and is going to play a large role. And as we know, in covering presidential elections and campaigns where candidates spend their time, where they choose to do big events like kickoff their campaign really matters and really tells you a lot.

And so, here he is in Iowa, which of course will be the first caucus for the GOP presidential primary. And we're going to see him going to an evangelical church to do so. And you mentioned, this is important as well. He's going to be courting evangelicals here in Iowa and across the country who potentially have cooled on former President Donald Trump.

They see that as potentially an in for them, a place where they can really create a foothold, both here and again across the country. So that's where he will do that tonight. He'll then continue on through Iowa with several stops tomorrow before going to New Hampshire and South Carolina.

But what is interesting, John, is that he ends the week on Saturday, right back here where it all began in Iowa. He'll be here with Senator Joni Ernst for an event on Saturday with more Iowans again as they seek to really build this message out and pitch to voters, why he should be the person to lead the Republican Party and go up against former -- against President Joe Biden in 2024.

Why he is the alternative to Trump? We expect to hear more about his vision tonight. He's been here in Iowa several times, leading up to all of this. But tonight, we really are expecting to see more crystallized speech about why he should be the person and what his vision is going forward. John?

KING: Jessica Dean, a busy week in Iowa. I appreciate you're kicking us off from Des Moines. Let's bring the conversation back in the room. And again, we just put up -- first just put up the travels this week. If you could put the map back up.

Most of the Republican candidates you see going to Iowa, are going to that Joni Ernst event. There is not a debate until August, but they're all going to be at the same place. We'll see how much they interact there. Trump is not committed of the ones to go to that event. But you see that play out there.

Let's have a conversation about Ron DeSantis. This in the Des Moines register today caught our attention. Eric Woolson, who is a Scott Walker 2016 advisor, remember back then. There are a lot of pitfalls to being in the position that DeSantis is in right now. People have set very high expectations for him. Well, if you were for Scott Walker, he ought to know something about high expectations and gravity.

DeSantis is, he's been there before, so don't make too much of it. But his first official trip, Trump coming in right behind him. Me, not all these other people, me. How does he do it?

KIM: Right. Well, he's doing it by appealing to the constituencies like Jessica said that he feels he can pluck off from the former president. He is appearing at a mega church in suburban Des Moines, clearly trying for that evangelical vote. He is traveling across -- he is traveling throughout the state. And I do think it's really interesting how -- we were waiting to see how DeSantis would behave like a candidate once he was actually in.

And his electability argument that he's making against the former president, we expected him to make that particularly after how successful he's been in Florida. But I do think it's interesting how he's starting to make some policy differentials with him as well.

We saw a lot of criticism from over the weekend on the First Step Act, which is that bipartisan criminal justice reform law that President Trump signed into law, one of the big bipartisan accomplishments of his presidency. Ron DeSantis called it a jailbreak bill. So that is a really interesting policy differential between the two and I think you'll see more of that as we go on.

KING: And you see clearly trying to get -- let's, DeSantis is trying to make the Republican race about policy, about ideology. You're laughing. I get it, I get it, because Trump blew up the traditional Republican policy apparatus. But DeSantis is trying to get to his right. Trump apparently has noticed though. This is Donald Trump today, raising the issue he first brought up as president.