Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

Now: House Taking Fifth Speaker Vote As McCarthy's Path Is Uncertain. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired January 04, 2023 - 14:00   ET






COLE: Jeffries. Brownley.

REP. JULIA BROWNLEY, (D-CA): Hakeem Jeffries.

COLE: Jeffries. Buchanan.


COLE: McCarthy. Buck.


COLE: Buck.


COLE: Bucshon.

REP. LARRY BUCSHON, (R-IN): Kevin McCarthy.

COLE: McCarthy. Budzinski.


COLE: Jefferies. Burchett.


COLE: McCarthy. Burgess.


COLE: McCarthy. Burlison.


COLE: McCarthy. Bush. REP. CORI BUSH, (D-MO): Hakeem Jeffries.

COLE: Jeffries. Calvert.


COLE: McCarthy. Cammack.


COLE: McCarthy. Caraveo.


COLE: Jeffries. Carbajal.


COLE: Jeffries. Cardenas.

REP. TONY CARDENAS, (D-CA): Hakeem Jeffries.

COLE: Jeffries. Carey.

REP. MIKE CAREY, (R-OH): Kevin McCarthy.

COLE: McCarthy. Carl.

REP. JERRY CARL, (R-AL): Kevin McCarthy.

COLE: McCarthy. Carson.

REP. ANDRE CARSON, (D-IN): Hakeem Sekou Jeffries.

COLE: Jeffries. Carter of Georgia.

REP. BUDDY CARTER, (R-GA): Kevin McCarthy.

COLE: McCarthy. Carter of Louisiana.

REP. TROY CARTER, (D-LA): Hakeem Jeffries.

COLE: Jeffries. Carter of Texas.


COLE: McCarthy. Cartwright.


COLE: Jeffries. Casar.

REP. GREG CASAR, (D-TX): Hakeem Jeffries.

COLE: Jeffries. Case.

REP. ED CASE, (D-HI): Jeffries.

COLE: Jeffries. Casten.

REP. SEAN CASTEN, (D-IL): Jeffries.

COLE: Jeffries. Castor of Florida.

REP. KATHY CASTOR, (D-FL): Jeffries.

COLE: Jeffries. Castro of Texas.


COLE: Jeffries. Chavez-DeRemer.


COLE: McCarthy. Cherfilus-McCormick.


COLE: Jeffries. Chu.

REP. JUDY CHY, (D-CA): Jeffries.

COLE: Jeffries. Cicilline.


COLE: Jeffries. Ciscomani.

REP. JUAN CISCOMANI, (R-AZ): Kevin McCarthy.

COLE: McCarthy. Clark of Massachusetts.

REP. KATHERINE CLARK, (D-MA): Hakeem Jeffries.

COLE: Jeffries. Clarke of New York.

REP. YVETTE CLARKE, (D-NY): Hakeem Jeffries.

COLE: Jeffries. Cleaver.


COLE: Jeffries. Cline?

REP. BEN CLINE, (R-VA): McCarthy.

COLE: McCarthy. Cloud?


COLE: Cloud? Clyburn.

REP. JIM CLYBURN, (D-SC): I vote for Hakeem Jeffries. COLE: Jeffries. Clyde?



COLE: Clyde.


COLE: Donalds.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: That was the fifth vote against McCarthy. He appears to now have been suffering in defeat on this latest around yet again. So, it continues, Charlie.

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It does. Groundhog Day, here we are. Yes, it's clear, there's no concession he can make to bring these guys over it seems. He's got 20 who just don't want him. It's -- that's huge. In fact, they've actually lost ground because Victoria Spartz went the present. That's the equivalent of a no-vote.

COOPER: What -- why would she have been that, just to send a message?

DENT: Well, I think so. But if you're Kevin McCarthy, you know, he needs people who are against him to vote present, not people who were voting for him. And so that, in effect, this lowers his number further. So, I suspect she's unhappy or looking for someone else. But you know, again, we're in a -- we're in a situation now -- again, we're going to totally unprecedented situation and at some point, somebody's got to blink. Will it be the -- will it be the 20 or 21?



DENT: They doesn't appear. They seem to be immovable, or the others. But you have to -- don't underestimate though how angry the rank-and- file Republicans who are voting for McCarthy -- how angry they are at the 20. But as I said earlier, you know, ordinarily you just marginalize the 20, you go negotiate with the Democrats, but can McCarthy get that vote?


COOPER: The problem he faces is that the 20 enjoy the spotlight. I mean, this is what the 20 -- this is -- they are creatures of the spotlight.

MONDAIRE JONES, FORMER DEMOCRATIC REPRESENTATIVE, NEW YORK: We are learning the names of people whose names we would never know. In fact, there are some Republican colleagues of mine whose names I'm learning this week. And that -- and many of them are nominating Kevin McCarthy. And so, they too I think are enjoying this being in the spotlight.

But you know, what's fascinating about Victoria Spartz being the person to change her vote is that she is one of the more bipartisan members within the Republican conference. I mean, I've served on the Judiciary Committee with her. We have introduced legislation together. She is one of the people on the Judiciary Committee who I think sincerely wants to work on bills with Democrats. And so, for her to be the person to change her vote from McCarthy to present, I think is a really bad sign for Kevin McCarthy.

And also, you know, she is someone who is from a district that at least in 2020, Democrats were competing in. I mean, I remember being on a zoom with Ron Klein and others during orientation where Ron Klein said directly to her that he had been supporting her opponent in 2020. And so, I don't know how our district may have changed in this last cycle, but we would think that she would be one of the people who would be supporting Kevin McCarthy pretty staunchly.

GRIFFIN: Well, you also can't ignore it in this moment. Lauren Boebert gave a very interesting speech where she noted that the former president, Donald Trump, was calling some of these no-votes and trying to urge them to come around to Kevin McCarthy. He did, you know, kind of a tepid endorsement again of Kevin McCarthy yesterday. And it didn't change a single vote. I think it just goes to show that his standing in the House is not what it used to be.

And I was on Capitol Hill and in the White House for fights where a call from Donald Trump could move mountains within the House Republican Conference. And that's not the case anymore. And it's fascinating because Kevin McCarthy did everything to stay in Trump's good graces to keep this endorsement until this day, but the problem is, is he so diminished the endorsement does not matter on January 3, 2023?

COOPER: By the way, Byron Donalds just voted for himself again.


NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know -- and the other thing Donald Trump isn't really putting the full force that he could on these folks, right, he could call them and say, you got to vote for Kevin McCarthy, or I'm going to oppose you for reelection. I'm going to put up a primary candidate against you who's clearly not doing this. This is very tepid. Listen, I think Lauren Boebert --

COOPER: Does that -- does even but -- I mean, does that threat even to hold the Senate?

HENDERSON: I mean, I think it might hold a little bit.

GRIFFIN: Yes, that would hold more.

HENDERSON: Yes. Then what we've seen happen so far, is that Lauren Boebert did what she needed to do. She basically laid out their case, which is that they don't want to coordinate the biggest fundraiser, she said, a rubber stamp of the status quo. You had in Warren Davidson, who put Kevin McCarthy's name in nomination, really giving the litany of what they have given the 20. And clearly, it's not enough.

What was so interesting was after he gave his speech, he goes over, he shakes Kevin McCarthy's hands, and he kind of shrugged, right? He's like, maybe this will be effective or maybe -- or maybe not. So that's kind of where they are right now.

COOPER: Manu Raju is standing by. Manu, what is the -- what have you been hearing?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the real risk for Kevin McCarthy is the longer this drags out, the more support you could lose as Republicans had to look for an alternative. One conservative Congressman Ken Buck told me that at some point, Kevin McCarthy needs to step aside and let Steve Scalise, the number two Republican get a chance to run here. Others have said similar things.

One comes from also Alex Mooney, also a supporter of Kevin McCarthy's told me that he's not necessarily going to stick with McCarthy ballot after ballot after ballot. He said he will make a decision after each individual ballot to decide whether or not to move in McCarthy's direction.

The one woman you mentioned, Victoria Spartz, who change her support from voting yes to voting present, she just told me moments ago she voted present because she wants to give the Republican Conference more time to negotiate, more time to have a closed-door meeting with these members who were voting no, try to figure out some sort of resolution. But there's a problem. They have tried to do that and they have not been able to come to a resolution.

McCarthy has spent weeks trying to negotiate all of their demands. They have not yet -- he's made some concessions, but not all the concessions they want. Some would say they simply don't want McCarthy at all.

And this is another bigger problem. The Republican leadership wants to adjourn to get into that, to have those private discussions but Democrats are not giving them the vote to adjourn, and neither of those conservative members because they do need 218 votes to adjourn. So, until there's a deal on something, whether it's a vote to adjourn, whether there's been some sort of agreement on the floor about what's next, this is going to go on and on and on. And McCarthy is still signaling he's going to stick in -- stick with it because he has more votes than any other Republican. But for him, not 218, it was, of course, what he needs to becoming like a speaker, Anderson.


COOPER: Yes. Manu, thanks. Just ahead, more live CNN's special coverage, the dysfunction on the House floor, Kevin McCarthy apparently denied again. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You are watching a live CNN special coverage underway right now, a fifth valid vote to choose a speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Five tries. Five likely identical bottom line results. Certainly, that's the case for the first four. Kevin McCarthy has suffered five defeats. A more vocal question by the minute when does Kevin McCarthy cut the deal that will get him the speakership or cut bait and get out?

The Republican battle -- the Republican battle for the speakership showing positively zero sign of wrapping up anytime soon. McCarthy's allies warned the longest it drags on the more votes McCarthy will lose which certainly has been the case so far. He went from 203 votes in the first two ballots to 202. And now, in the last valid, at the fourth ballot, it was down to 201.

Joining us now is Republican Congressman Ken Buck from Colorado who has voted for McCarthy so far. Congressman Buck, thanks for joining us. You said something to Kevin McCarthy about what needs to happen going forward. Tell us what you said.


REP. KEN BUCK, (R-CO): Well, I've had a number of conversations with Kevin, and I just basically told him that at some point, this needs to break loose. He either needs to make a deal to bring the 19 or 20 over, or he needs to step aside and give somebody else a chance to do that. I don't know what that timeframe is but it makes sense that at some point today, we are able to move forward in a way that we elect the speaker.

Unfortunately, the Democrats won't agree to a motion to adjourn so that Republicans can meet the rebels, the 20 group that is opposing McCarthy won't agree to a motion to adjourn, so we're going to keep going through this exercise on the floor. The smart thing to do is to get together, have a conversation, choose somebody and let's move forward.

TAPPER: Right. I mean one would have thought that that would have happened already. It's not like it was a mystery that this vote was coming up and somehow Kevin McCarthy was caught unaware. It's -- I mean, we knew this vote was happening. And it seemed very clear that whether it was five votes or 20 votes, Kevin McCarthy was not going to have the votes. Do you think he's going to lose on this fifth ballot?

BUCK: Of course -- of course. The 20 has not budged and the Democrats aren't going to vote for him so we're pretty much going to get the same vote this time as we've got the last four times.

TAPPER: So, your message to -- McCarthy's basically, we need to fish or cut bait, we need to -- if you can't get to 218 or 217, whatever the threshold is, we need to find someone else. Who might that be?

BUCK: Well, I think the next in line is Steve Scalise. And I don't know if Steve gets more or less. I think that at some point, we've got to start looking at the rules and the committee assignments and other things and just get back to the basics of what people -- what their self-interest is in this case and meet some of those interests and hopefully get the vote.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Congressman, it's Dana Bash. Are you confident that if Steve Scalise were nominated that he would be palatable to enough of the 20 who won't vote for Kevin McCarthy?

BUCK: So, I think he needs to break the 20 down. There are a few of those 20 that just aren't going to vote for Kevin McCarthy but would vote for somebody else. There are some of the others in that 20 who want changes in the rules and there are some others that care about policy. And so, I think if Steve meets those three needs, he will be able to move forward and take the speakership.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: And, Congressman Buck, this is Abby Phillip, thanks for being here. My question is about what you just said about the timing of this. You said that by today, you need to see some indication of where this is going to go. Do you think that by today, Kevin McCarthy needs to make that deal or make a decision to move out of the speaker's race?

BUCK: I think at some point today, the conference as a whole, needs to make a decision. I think what's happening right now is people are getting worn down. You're starting to get some conflict -- open conflict on the floor as well as behind closed doors. I think that conflict isn't healthy.

And I think the -- you know, the moderates are talking about threats that they may work with the Democrats on somebody. The 20 are saying that they're not moving no matter what. At some point, people have to realize that we've got to choose a speaker and move forward. The American people sent us here to get the work done.

TAPPER: Do you think Kevin McCarthy is hearing your message? Is he willing to step aside if he loses on a fifth vote and on the sixth vote and the seventh vote? He's been preparing and hoping for this his whole life. His argument might be look, I still have more votes than any other Republican although certainly not more votes than anyone else running because Hakeem Jeffries keeps beating him. Do you sense any willingness to, in your view, face the music?

BUCK: Well, look, Hakeem Jeffries is losing ourselves. Let's be honest. There isn't a winner until somebody gets 218.

TAPPER: I just think he has more votes. That's all.

BUCK: Yes, he has more votes but he doesn't have the ability to become a speaker in this Congress. So, Kevin McCarthy, I think will make the decision at some point. And what's going to happen in what should happen sooner rather than later is some of the senior members, some of the cardinals on Appropriations, the Committee Chairman, some of the other folks that have been here a long time have supported Kevin are going to have to have that private conversation with him that that doesn't make sense and we need to move forward.

BASH: Do you have any sense, Sir, that that's actually going to happen?

BUCK: I have a sense. It's common sense.

BASH: Wow.

BUCK: But I don't have a sense that it is -- no one has whispered in my ear that it's about to happen.

BASH: What -- you've seen what's been happening on the floor. I think common sense left the room a while ago. But just real quick, I want to follow up on the comment that you made about Steve Scalise. You told Manu Raju and you're saying now that he is probably the consensus candidate.


What would he need to do to get -- I realized the 20 should be splitting into various camps, but at the end, he would need 218. How would he have to -- what would he have to do to get that?

BUCK: So, I think that what Steve needs to do is we have to have a break, whether it's this evening or at some point. And I think Steve just needs to sit down with each individual, talk to them about what they want. Now the problem is once you make a commitment to a conservative in the caucus, then there's going to be a moderate who says wait for a second, I've been waiting for that committee chairmanship, and I've been waiting for that subcommittee chairmanship, and so it is -- it's almost a zero-sum game. You start getting to one side, you're taking away from the other.

TAPPER: Congressman Buck, before you got one last question, which is how many votes do you think is enough for this process to go on assuming that Kevin McCarthy continues to lose votes, which he has been in the last few votes? I mean, this is the fifth right now, what's the maximum you'd think would be acceptable before there's a step to like try to find somebody else that will get 217 or 218?

BUCK: So, if I knew that, I wouldn't be on a flight to Vegas and I'd be putting my money down on the table. I have no idea. I think it's going to be in the next two or three votes that the nerves are frayed enough that people come together and make a decision.

TAPPER: And are you going to continue voting for McCarthy, or is your vote possibly going to shift to a different candidate if it's Steve Scalise or a present vote?

BUCK: Yes. So, if I am voting on this vote for Kevin McCarthy, stay tuned and I'll let you know what I'm going to be doing in the future.

TAPPER: All right. So, this is the last time he can count on your vote, this ballot right now, the fifth one. Congressman Ken Buck of Colorado, thank you so much. I really appreciate your time. Good luck to you and your caucus in figuring this all out.

We're joined by an ally of Kevin McCarthy, former Republican Congressman Rodney Davis of Illinois. Congressman Davis, you heard Ken Buck there say this is the last time McCarthy can count on his vote. After this fifth ballot, it's up for grabs whether it goes to Steve Scalise or present or some other options.

RODNEY DAVIS, FORMER REPUBLICAN REPRESENTATIVE, ILLINOIS: Yes. This is a big deal, Jake. Ken is the first one of the 201 that are left that is standing up and saying this has got to end today. Ken is known to be more on the far-right of our conference. He's right though when concessions are made to get votes out of those 20. It could upset the apple cart. It could upset some folks who are already supported with Kevin McCarthy.

Look, I talked to Brian Fitzpatrick, who was one of those, and that animated conversation on the center aisle not too long ago. Ken reiterated what Brian told me when he said there are some of those 20, they want rules changes. Those are things that Kevin McCarthy can do to get those votes back. But there are still going to be a number of Republicans that are not going to ever support Kevin McCarthy.

But when Ken Buck stands up -- and he does not represent a good chunk of the 201 others that are holding up for McCarthy, but when Ken Buck gets up and starts talking about alternatives, and ending this tonight, you got to wonder if there's some more that he's already talked to that would make this more of an issue for Kevin McCarthy.

TAPPER: Yes, I'm -- that's my question is how much he actually speaks for the body of the 201 remaining Kevin McCarthy votes? Because he originally on a lot of our charts was down as a McCarthy skeptic. He and Congressman, I think, it was Troy Nehls were two that we thought might vote against McCarthy on the first ballot, but he hasn't. He's gone with McCarthy for five. So, how much do you think he represents the consensus view even though as you point out, he is, essentially in his heart, a Freedom Caucus of Tea Party type candidate?

DAVIS: Yes. Ken was on my card too. I mean I wrote some names down. I talked to you earlier yesterday about watching the front of the alphabet, I had Ken Buck as a possible flip on that first vote. He's now stuck with Kevin. But he's given the ultimatum right now that he's only sticking with one more vote.

That's a big deal. I don't think -- I don't think Ken will do it alone. Ken's a friend of mine. Look, Ken and I -- Ken and I have some history together. We were in the same car together when Ken experienced a heart issue after one of our congressional baseball practices. So, he's been a longtime friend.

And I will tell you the -- what I know about Ken Buck. He's speaking for more people than him. And I think you'll start to see some -- start to see some more votes go away from Kevin if this keeps up. Kevin's team and his allies have got to do what Brian Fitzpatrick and Dusty Johnson and Mike Gallagher were doing, figuring out what rules changes will move people like Byron Donalds, people like Anna Paulina Luna, folks like Ralph Norman, to get it down to a manageable number where you're going to win based upon the fact that you have the vote. He has to do it quick based on what Ken just said.


TAPPER: I just wonder if that will be enough quite honest because you know what I've heard from my sources who are on McCarthy's team, they say that this group, including you know -- not included -- not just about the rules changes, there are a lot of things that they want and including membership on the Rules Committee, and also a commitment that the National Republican Congressional Committee will not get involved in primaries, meaning that they won't support their incumbent Republicans.

That's because, of course, I would -- my guess is that these far-right MAGA Republicans want more of them inside the conference and they want to have primaries where those candidates defeat more traditional conservative Republicans such as yourself. Don't you think?

DAVIS: Yes. I mean, the NRCC traditionally doesn't get involved in primaries. But super PACs have on both sides. Look, you're looking at somebody who ran against another member in a -- in a very heated primary. We had more resources than would ever have been spent. I mean we had one week -- the last week of the election. There were 8000 gross rating points in one medium market. So, the money was there.

The outside groups were coming from all over. And these are things that you can nuance. If somebody really wants to get to yes you can figure out a way to give them a seat at the table so that they can make decisions. But the key is how many are willing to get to yes, and how many are just hell no on Kevin.

TAPPER: All right, Congressman Davis, thank you so much. A message from a conservative to Kevin McCarthy cut a deal or get out of the way. More CNN's special live coverage, chaos in the House, just ahead.