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Now, McCarthy Appears To Suffer Defeat On First Speaker Ballot. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired January 03, 2023 - 13:30   ET



MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's going in the wrong direction, to put it bluntly. This was not what they expected several days ago.

Remember, yesterday, it looked like there were about 14 votes, five hard no votes, nine Republicans who were skeptical, who suggested perhaps they could ultimately vote for him if maybe some changes were made.

But they've had meetings that did not go well. One last night in which they presented a number of changes that they wanted.

Key committee assignments that Kevin McCarthy said they could not agree to at this point because that is not the way the process works. That did not go over well for those members.

Then you saw the tense meeting with McCarthy where he tried to shame those members into getting behind him. Also did not work.

Then the threats that you could use committee assignments. That also did not work.

And now there are 16 members and counting, meaning Kevin McCarthy needs to somehow figure out at least a dozen members, how to convince them to go back to his camp. And there's no certainty about how that will happen.

Andy Biggs, as he left the meeting this morning, I asked, are you going to drop out after that first ballot? Because it was pretty clear he and McCarthy were not going to get 218 votes. Biggs laughed at that question. He plans to stay in it. We'll see how long he does.

But unless there's some reason that Biggs and others decide they simply -- it's time for them to hang it up, they plan to press ahead here.

Which is why that this long vote -- we could see a number of these long votes with no certainty to who gets 218 votes and the House essentially paralyzed until they figure out the solution.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. And while you were talking there, Congressman Rosendale, who we knew was a no vote, Republican from Montana, voted for Andy Biggs, who now in double digits. Ten votes for Congressman Biggs, seven for other Republican

candidates, including Jim Jordan, Lee Zeldin and Jim Banks.

Anderson Cooper, the only thing that seems certain is the uncertainty about what's going to happen.

Kevin McCarthy, if this gavel comes down as it is currently going, without people switching their votes -- and it just went to another vote against Kevin McCarthy, 18 now -- he will not win the speakership on this first vote, this first ballot, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Yes, very clear what the next step will be.

Charlie Dent, former Republican congressman, you've been watching this. You keeping your own score here? What do you make of the votes so far?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Kevin McCarthy lost it in the Cs. Literally, he was down -- he lost five already.

So, look, they can keep having these votes, but once you vote this way, it's very hard to change your vote. So I don't see how he gets there.

Maybe somehow they're going to magically recess this proceeding.


COOPER: In between, I mean, is there more deal making to be had?

DENT: Either deal making or a beatdown session. I mean, I don't know -- what can he give these folks that he hasn't already tried to give them? I don't think there's anything he can give them.

It will never be enough. It seems so personal. They don't -- they don't want him. So I don't think there's anything he can do. There's no concession he can make. There's no more appeasement that he can do to win some of these folks over.

Maybe he gets a few of these folks back on the next ballot. By my count, he's up to 15 and he needs -- 18. 18.


DENT: We're almost --

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But, again, why the House is at a stalemate is for two reasons, the right flank don't have a consensus candidate to put up. They just want to stonewall and block Kevin McCarthy but Kevin McCarthy won't pull his name out.

It's not out of the realm of possibility that someone like Steve Scalise could get enough votes.

So this whole exercise is one, regardless of what you think of Kevin McCarthy, where it kind of, you know, defies leadership in the sense that this is a win for Democrats.

The first day of a Republican Congress, Hakeem Jeffries is going to get the plurality of votes on the House floor.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Let me ask this, at what point do McCarthy's friends go to him and say, dude, they're just not into you, OK, it's time to go, we can't do this anyone and again, we got to move on?

DENT: The fourth ballot maybe?

You're right. At some point somebody will have to say, hey, these guys aren't going to change their votes.

Look, these folks are pretty stubborn. At least the ones I served with. They can be very stubborn. You know that, too.


DENT: You know what I'm talking about. They are immovable objects.

And so, again, it's not about -- they don't want a committee assignment. Some of them are just --


MONDAIRE JONES (D), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Even with a five-vote threshold for a motion to vacate the chair, so a motion to replace the speaker, I mean --

COOPER: Explain for our viewers what -- that's a big give Kevin McCarthy did to --

JONES: It's huge. It means that any group of five people can move on the floor of the House to replace the speaker. And so long as that group of five is able to get a 345 majority of the people present in the room that day, they can replace a speaker McCarthy or --


COOPER: That seems to be a recipe for chaos down the road even if McCarthy --


JONES: It's already --

AXELROD: That's what drove John Boehner out of the House.

JONES: Significant leverage they've given away to these far-right individuals and yet they're still not coming over to vote for him, which suggests that the next speaker of the House will be Steve Scalise.

[13:35:09] NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I mean, their goal seems to be wanting to humiliate Kevin McCarthy and run him out of town.

AXELROD: Mission accomplished.

HENDERSON: Mission accomplished.


COOPER: It seems like McCarthy's willingness to be humiliated knows no bounds.

HENDERSON: No, you're right. Going hat in hand to Donald Trump, going hat in hand to some of these folks with some of the deals he's already cut.

They wanted more. They wanted, for instance, a pledge not to play in primaries. He apparently didn't want to give them that.

But so far, I mean, they are winning this round. We'll see how many rounds he's willing to go. He says he's willing to go round after round after round.

At some point, moderates will say to him, this is not about you, it's about the party.

JONES: About the institution.

GRIFFIN: It is a disaster of Kevin McCarthy's own making. He spent the last five years empowering the right most flank of the House, you know, cozying up although Marjorie Taylor Greene --


AXELROD: After he lost.

GRIFFIN: With Lauren Boebert and Matt Gaetz and staying as close as possible to the former president.

And what he should have known from -- Charlie and I were there in 2015 when the same flank denied him the speakership.

DENT: Yes.

GRIFFIN: He wanted it. He should have known they'll never come around to him.

And I'm just not sure what else you could give up. The threshold to vacate at five, that signals the first time there's a bill that requires bipartisan votes. He is going to, you know, get a vote --


COOPER: After the attempted insurrection, there was that moment where McCarthy spoke against the former president, McConnell, Lindsey Graham, for goodness sakes was saying he would have enough.

That seemed to have been the moment when a difference could have been made. I mean if he had chosen to stick with that opposition to try to rid the Republican Party of the former president, would he be in this position today?

DENT: He would be in a better position. Mitch McConnell has stiff- armed Trump. McCarthy chose the other route which was to embrace Trump.

You know, look, McCarthy probably would still have had problems had he stiff-armed Trump with some of his members. But I'd rather be on the right side of history than the wrong side in this case.

So I think he made the wrong choice with that.

AXELROD: It's a morality tale about ambition. I mean, he has yearned for this for years and years and years. He was denied this by the Freedom Caucus back in 2015. And his answer was to be as solicitous as possible.

They've now gotten every concession you could think. Imagine, basically handing them a legislative gun and saying you can take me out any time you want, just let me be the speaker. They say, you know what, not enough.

COOPER: I want to check in with Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill.

Lauren, how is this going in terms of the speaker's -- or Kevin McCarthy's supporters, is this going worse than they anticipated.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is going a lot worse than they anticipated, Anderson.

I was on the phone all last week into the weekend early yesterday into the evening last night, everyone sort of thought that McCarthy would lose a handful of votes, that they would probably have to do this a couple of times.

But we are at nearly 20 votes now that he is not getting. That is even more than what Bob Good, a Republican from Virginia, who opposed McCarthy, predicted in recent days.

That just tells you how much ground McCarthy would have to make up.

And also tells you how much trouble is coming down the pipe in the future for the Republican conference.

Even if they can get past the speaker's vote, how are they going to legislate on common-sense legislation when it comes to having to have Republican unity?

It's a real problem, Anderson. And, yes, this is certainly a lot worse than a lot of allies were predicting.

COOPER: Yes. Lauren, we'll check back in with you. Congressman Dent, just logistically, once they get through the alphabet, do they take a break? Is there time for kibitzing?


DENT: We haven't done this for 100 years.

COOPER: Time for crying in the cloakroom?

DENT: Ordinarily, the chief clerk is the presiding officer. If it were a Republican speaker, they'd say we'll recess to the call of the chair and they got down to the conference room and they would have a beatdown session to break some arms.

They can't do that. They would have to have a vote to recess. And the Democrats aren't going to recess.

So I suspect they'll have to continue voting. Unless the chief clerk decides that she wants to call a recess, I don't see how they stop.

AXELROD: It was reported that McCarthy wanted to keep them on the floor out of fear that if they got off the floor, that other arrangements might be made.

So it's not at all clear. What's very clear is nobody really knows what to do right now.

HENDERSON: Donald Trump could make a difference here? He has come out for Kevin McCarthy but not in such a flint-throated way.

COOPER: But some of these people --

Let's listen back in.





REP. JUAN VARGAS (D-CA): Hakeem Jeffries.



REP. GABRIEL VASQUEZ (D-NM): New Mexico for Hakeem Jeffries.







REP. NYDIA VELAZQUEZ (D-): Hakeem Jeffries.



REP. ANN WAGNER (R-MO): Kevin McCarthy.



REP. TIM WAHLBERG (R-MI): Kevin McCarthy.









REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): Hakeem Jeffries.



REP. BONNIE WATSON COLEMAN (D-NJ): With my heart on the preservation and the protection of integrity I cast my vote for Hakeem Jeffries.


Weber of Texas?



Webster of Florida.










REP. JENNIFER WEXTON (D-VA): Hakeem Jeffries.



REP. SUSAN WILD (D-PA): With all my might and from the first, I vote for Hakeem Jeffries.


Williams of Georgia?

REP. NIKEMA WILLIAMS (D-GA): I vote for Hakeem Jeffries.


Williams of New York?



Williams of Texas?



Wilson of Florida?

REP. FEDERICA WILSON (D-FL): Hakeem Jeffries.


Wilson of South Carolina?

REP. JOE WILSON (R-SC): Kevin McCarthy.






REP. STEVE WOMACK (R-AR): Kevin McCarthy.






REP. RYAN ZINKE (R-MT): Kevin McCarthy.


TAPPER: All right, all 434 current members of the U.S. House of Representatives have voted. And, as of right now, the Democratic leader, Hakeem Jeffries, has the most votes, 212. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader, has 203.

That's way short, 15 votes short of what he needed to get.

We should note this vote tally -- and it could still change if anybody changes their vote before the gavel comes down.

But this vote tally is actually worse than Kevin McCarthy did two years ago when he lost the speakership because he was head of the minority party to Nancy Pelosi. In that race, Pelosi had 216 votes, McCarthy had 209.

He actually has fewer votes for him to be speaker today even though he has a majority -- Dana Bash, this is an ignominious defeat.

It doesn't mean it's over. Who knows what will happen on the second ballot. But it is difficult to see how this process ends with a speaker McCarthy.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's so incongruous the images we're seeing of him laughing. And the reality is that he just made history, not in a good way, as being the first in 100 years, the first man to lose the speakership in the first round.

And you see on the screen that Hakeem Jeffries has 212 as you noted. Well now he's conferencing with Jim Jordan, who is a very powerful force, who was actually has been in the last few weeks trying to rally the troops in favor of Kevin McCarthy.

Whereas, historically, he's kind of been a thorn in the side of past leaders. So they're obviously trying to figure out what the next move is.

But the point is that there's no speaker of the House right now because you need 218 and not even Hakeem Jeffries got that.

But it is such -- we were talking as we were watching. This is -- be careful what you wish for.


TAPPER: Yes. Certainly --

BASH: Because he placated this small group because he felt that that was what he needed to do to get him to the speakership and it did not work. In fact, it blew up in his face.

TAPPER: Just to bring people up to speed as to why we were interested in the fact that Jim Jordan, who is set to be the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, why that was an interesting moment.

John King, is because if you look at the vote tally, 212 for the Democratic leader, Congressman Jeffries, 2034 for McCarthy.

Ten for Congressman Andy Biggs, who no one thinks will ever be the speaker of the House.

But then of the nine, for others -- and it might be time for our graphics people to add a banner for Congressman Jordan -- because six Republicans voted for him.

He is certainly part of the MAGA wing. But a more palatable member to a lot of the Republican caucus. Six voted for him. One for Lee Zeldin, former congressman. One for Byron Donalds, a current Florida Congressman, and one for Jim Banks.

Let's go to Rodney Davis, if we can, right now to get his reaction to this.

Because, Congressman, tell me how this ends with your friend Kevin McCarthy being speaker, because I'm having a difficult time seeing it.

RODNEY DAVIS, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, we all are. This is historic. First time it's happened in 100 years, as has been mentioned numerous times. This is new territory for him.

From my sources on the floor right now, Kevin is going to go immediately to another round of votes. You saw him talking to Jim Jordan. Jim has been adamantly supportive of Kevin McCarthy.

I think Jim is going to be asked to go talk to those members who voted for him against his wishes and to talk them into maybe changing their vote for Kevin.

Jim really wants to be the judiciary chair. He wants to get to work.

But right now, the only discussion for any other candidate for speaker of the House on the Republican side besides Kevin McCarthy is happening between the people who already voted against him.

No one else is discussing another dark-horse candidate right now.

TAPPER: Right. And he needs -- just to be clear to anybody watching right now, Kevin McCarthy with 203 votes.

John King, he needs to win 15 more House Republican votes, That's not a small number when it comes down to it. Fifteen, that means, you know, every man a king. I mean, everybody will have their own list of demands,

And frankly, as you've noted, John, their biggest demand, they don't want Kevin McCarthy to be speaker.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sometimes math is upside down. You look at numbers, a black liberal Democrat from the Bronx -- Brooklyn, excuse me -- just won the first vote of the Republican Congress. Just came out on top.

Not enough to be speaker. Not enough to be speaker. But the Democratic leader just came out on top in the first vote of the new Republican Congress.

Kevin McCarthy was just humiliated in public then you saw him open the cloakroom door trying to save his hide in private.

The question is, what more can he give or give enough? Because as I said, sometimes math is upside down.

You mentioned Jordan, as Congressman Davis notes, he has good relations with all 19 of those people who voted against Kevin McCarthy.

But what can Jim Jordan give them? Because Jim Jordan has been working them and Jordan's friends have been working them for weeks and unable to get anything.

They can go to that room and say, we've embarrassed ourselves, a Democrat came out on the first vote, but many members don't care about that.

That's not the world they live in. They don't live in a normal Washington. They are not party members. They are -- they view themselves as MAGA warriors,

So, yes, you noted six votes for Jim Jordan. Not enough. The question, Jake, is how long are these people, the 19, willing to hold out? If 12 of them went into that cloakroom and said, we will vote present next time --


TAPPER: That brings the margin.

KING: Then Hakeem Jeffries can actually be speaker for an hour or a day. Hakeem Jeffries will not be speaker for the next two years. Let's set that out.

But in terms of, where does the chaos take us, it is possible that when Kevin McCarthy says, cut a deal, if they don't like the deal or they just say, Kevin McCarthy, the only deal we'll take is you stepping aside they can threatening, 19, 12, they only need 12 to throw it into further chaos.

So here we are in a black hole.

TAPPER: When we have no idea what's going to happen, Jamie Gangel?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, I was just hearing from a Republican member of Congress who again has been trying to negotiate behind the scenes.

The member says to me, I just don't know how he gets there, they, meaning the Freedom Caucus, the opponents, quote, "smell blood." He gave in to demand after demand. None of it was enough.

I said, what happens next? The person said, who knows?

And then on a slightly lighter note, a Republican activist who is responsible for getting a lot of these members elected just texted me, "Welcome to day one of the GOP majority."

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: That's the thing, right? This is again they haven't even tried to start to do the hard stuff yet. And they --

TAPPER: Raising the debt ceiling.

HUNT: Raising the debt ceiling, governing the country, funding the government, et cetera, et cetera.


And the other thing, too -- this is where I get hung up is -- again, you can't beat somebody with nobody. And there hasn't been so far. This is why we've been focusing on how Steve Scalise has been posturing in public and how Jim Jordan has been posturing in public. Neither one has been willing to say they'll take on Kevin McCarthy.

So it does seem like he's going to have to blink if, in fact, we're going to get out of this. And I mean, at this point, who knows, could go for days.

TAPPER: Manu Raju, what's the plan?


RAJU: I just talked to a source familiar with the matter that is involved in these discussions. They plan to keep voting. Go on to the second ballot.

Kevin McCarthy is not bowing out. You did see him walk into the cloakroom. That's the only way to have discussions off the floor. Otherwise they'll be voting on the floor so some of these talks still happening.

Jim Jordan, you mentioned earlier, had told me he has no interest in becoming speaker of the House. He said he wants to be the House judiciary chairman. He is a key ally of Kevin McCarthy.

And at the moment, he still has those same allies who are prepared to battle this time to grind it out and move forward on the second ballot.

One thing to watch now. Those conservatives opponents have promised there will be another candidate, another dark-horse candidate to push forward. And they have not said or revealed who it is. And it is highly doubtful if they can get to 218 votes.

And McCarthy said they will not give into that demand of the bloc of conservatives, but that is the next card to play.

And what is McCarthy's next card to play? To push ahead and wear these people opposing him down. But it is not happening at the moment here.

And so expect another lengthy vote series. And we will see what happens after ballot two, if he does not get to 218 votes, and we will see what happens now.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju.

So, Abby, let's will walk through. They do a second votes. The clerk runs through all of the names of the 434 members of Congress, because there was one death so there's an open seat in West Virginia. Instead of 435, it's 434.

Who is going to change their vote? What happens that is going to make the result any different. I guess you could have Jim Jordan convince six people who voted for him to vote for someone else?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you will have some changes on the margins. There some people whose votes are clearly - no offense, but throwaways. People voting for Byron Donalds and Lee Zeldin, who is not a member. Those folks might change their vote.

TAPPER: That is only three.

PHILLIP: Exactly.

And the no votes. But as Manu said, several allies of Kevin McCarthy, who said they will not change their votes.

Maybe it is not as many as the ones who are voting against him, but it is basically, the standoff between the two sides, because there's really only a four-vote margin here.

And so, I think that as long as it continues, it is going to be problematic.

And I think that it is part of the humiliation here for Kevin McCarthy is who is leading this charge against him. You had Paul Gosar, someone who has spoken in months past in front of

white supremist conferences, nominating for Andy Biggs. You have someone like Matt Gaetz who spends more time on FOX News than in the chamber.

You have Lauren Boebert, who barely won her seat in this cycle, only by a handful of votes. These are the people holding the Republican conference hostage today.

And for Kevin McCarthy, there's really not a path forward unless he can convince a lot of people that he was expecting to change their votes. And that is humiliation on top of humiliation for him.

And it is not going to bode well for those who will get the speakership because those people are still going to have all of the sway. And it is only going to take four or five people to totally shut the House down right now. And that is the very problematic.

TAPPER: The Freedom Caucus has been up to mischief for years and years when it comes to challenging the establishment candidate, whether it is Paul Boehner or Paul Ryan or whoever.

But this is something new or different. Because the Freedom Caucus was at one point a caucus organized around a set of principles having to do with conservative governance.

A lot of this group, and not all of them, but a lot of them are not around any coherent philosophy. They just like to burn things down. As Alfred the butler told Batman once, "some people just like to burn things down."



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You are on a movie role today. And so they have left him weakened. And Trump called McCarthy and told him to take the deal, and McCarthy said no.


But what's really notable here, what I heard yesterday, there's a plan that, if this goes to multiple ballots, as Manu said it was, they had some behind-the-scenes maneuvering that those no votes would grow against Kevin McCarthy. Basically, they want it to look like the opposition was growing.

But following that meeting, that intense behind-closed-doors meeting that they had today where Kevin McCarthy gave this fervent argument saying he was basically owed the speakership, they came out to make their no votes clear.

And he has to peel off not one or two people, but it is going to be a dozen or so Republicans to change the vote.

TAPPER: Fifteen. COLLINS: It is going to seem like impossible at this point.

BASH: But I think we have to underscore the fact that he can only lose four or five votes, and he is in this position right now with those five notes now, and 19 votes.

Because it is all connected, because you hear Rodney Davis talk about it, and Charlie Dent, and I am hearing from the sitting Republican members of Congress, that the only reason that he is in this position to beg, borrow and steal is because the majority is so small.

And the reason that the majority is so small, is because the Republicans misunderstood the electorate. And they got so many candidates who were -- won in primaries and too extreme for the district.

KING: Yes. And those who are still there are at war for themselves. This is the Republican civil war playing out before yourselves.


COLLINS: These are MAGA people. And this is within the MAGA wing of the party that is playing out.

BASH: I am hearing from the Republicans who are not in the MAGA wing or at least in the wing of let's get back to what they call the normal conservativism, and lower taxes and smaller government, that this is a breaking point.

Which is why McCarthy might have gotten into the big fight and started to yell at a lot of the guys in the closed-door meeting this morning. But he had a lot of people cheering him on, saying it is about time, and it is about time to have this fight, and let's do it.

TAPPER: The interesting thing about this -- go ahead --

PHILLIP: What is striking to me is that he is not taking them on. If you are listening to Elise Stefanic's nominating speech for Kevin McCarthy, she was touting that they've grown their majority.

Yes, but they grew their majority probably, mostly because of redistricting. They were supposed to have done so much better.

So they are kind of like lying to themselves about what happened back in November and it's contributing to the problem.

This is idea that just kind of feeding and nurturing the MAGA wing of producing and expanding majority of the wing is not happening.

BASH: That is my point. I think what the people cheering him on are saying that not backing down, and not pulling out of the race, even though he does not have the votes, is more than he has done before. And I am not saying it is a moment of valor.

TAPPER: I think the big question, Anderson, is, why does Kevin McCarthy want to be the speaker? What is he offering or selling to the Republican caucus or the Republican conference about his leadership that cannot be replicated?

I agree with Abby, in terms of him standing up to the MAGA wing, he has not been standing up to them.

PHILLIPS: Not at all.

TAPPER: He has been giving them everything that they want.

If you go to Kevin McCarthy's Twitter page, his pinned tweet that he wants everybody to see -- hold on. Let's watch this.

The pinned tweet is about Hunter Biden. That's the point I want to make. He is all in on this MAGA business.

But now Jim Jordan is going to say something, and he has six votes. Maybe he can ask for those six individuals to vote for Kevin McCarthy.

That is still only going to get McCarthy up to 209, which is going to tie his losing score when Nancy Pelosi became speaker.

In any case, let me throw it to Anderson.

Kevin McCarthy's pinned tweet, we are learning in real time how he is going to just days before the 2020 presidential election, relitigating the 2020 election. That's his pinned tweet -- Anderson?

COOPPER: Trying to reach out to as many of the far-right wing of the Republican Party as possible.

Charlie Dent, we see Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan ready to say something. What is the next step?

DENT: Well, the next step appears to have another roll call vote. I am not sure how quickly it is going to happen, but another roll call vote.

And I am curious if he is going to lose more votes or if Jim Jordan can get his people to vote for McCarthy.


But I kind of I doubt it. I think that we will keep going through this until Kevin McCarthy says enough.

COOPER: Manu raja is standing by at Capitol Hill.

Manu, what is the plan here?

RAJU: Yes, that is the anticipation.