Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Live Event/Special
Now: House Back After McCarthy Rejected 6 Times As Speaker; 7th Speaker Vote Expected As McCarthy's Path Remains Uncertain; Now: McCarthy Nominated For 7th Speaker Ballot; Now: Jeffries Nominated For 7th Speaker Ballot; Now: Donalds Nominated For 7th Speaker Ballot. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired January 05, 2023 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: All right. We're going to jump in. President Biden just beginning to lay out his strategy to deal with the border crisis as Congress has not active. We're going to continue to listen to this and bring you the news. But thanks for watching. I'm Kate Bolduan.
CNN special coverage of the vote for House Speaker starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Any minute, the House gavels in without a speaker for a third straight day. Congress at this moment caught in the grips of chaos, no deal to end a first century clash over who becomes the next speaker of the United States House of Representatives. I'm Erin Burnett in New York. And you are watching CNN special live coverage today.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Hi Erin. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington. Sources telling CNN the talks between Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and his allies, and the 20 conservative rebels have been the most productive conversations yet in a week characterized by breakdowns, backroom bitterness, backstabbing, and six very public rebukes of McCarthy.
McCarthy has offered the 20 hardline holdouts, a cornucopia of concessions, including ones dealing with the rules, such as lowering the threshold to essentially recall a speaker. You only need a single vote according to what McCarthy has offered. But the outlines of a deal, running the risk of alienating the two hundreds of members who have voted for McCarthy again and again and again and again and again and again.
Let me tell you what I've been hearing this morning. House Republicans, allies of Republican leaders of Kevin McCarthy told me that today they view as pivotal because they say after McCarthy and his team have engaged in these intense negotiations with the rebels, who want changes to House rules, essentially, a weakened speakership.
After all this, it will become clear, they say, there's really not any more for McCarthy to give. So, they say there will be another speaker vote a seventh ballot, we'll see how many more votes that gets McCarthy if any. And then, if that's still not enough, some tough choices are going to have to be made, whether to risk a plurality vote changing the rule. So, it would only be a plurality necessary not the 218-vote majority, basically calling the bluff of the rebels, saying here you have a choice.
It's either going to be McCarthy or a Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, or to move on to another speaker candidate. McCarthy ally say today will determine whether House Republicans are on a path to resolution or if they're going to slip into a grinding battle of wits that can only be ended truly by McCarthy himself, or I suppose, if the remaining holdouts break now.
CNN's Capitol Hill team is tracking every development on this pivotal day. Let's get straight to Capitol Hill and CNN's Manu Raju. Manu, are we expecting more votes?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That is the expectation at the moment. In fact, there have been discussion all day about whether or not to push for another adjournment, as they have - as Kevin McCarthy will not have the votes here. It's not expected them to get the 218 votes to become elected speaker.
So, they've been talking about pushing this vote out. But there's a problem. They don't have the votes to adjourn, because some of those conservative holdouts are not willing to vote to adjourn and Democrats aren't either.
They need a majority of the House to do that. So, we expect to move forward with this vote, which will be a huge moment for Kevin McCarthy. He needs to show progress. He needs to show that there are more, fewer than 20 Republicans who will oppose them here.
Remember, he can only lose to lose four to get the speakership. But if his - if he's not able to show progress, I'm told from not multiple members, including Ken Buck of Colorado, that they plan to potentially defect, meaning they'll be more opponents to Kevin McCarthy because of concerns that he simply cannot get there. And it's time for him to step aside.
Now, he has offered a range of concessions to these are great members, essentially giving them more power, allowing for a single member to essentially call for the ouster of a speaker. That was initially a red line for him. He gave in. Also, he indicated that he would allow for at least some of the members of the hard right Freedom Caucus to serve on the powerful House Rules Committee.
That is a huge move because it would essentially give them sway over the terms of any legislation coming to the floor and other, but Jake, even if some of those members agree to this, that is a not enough to get enough Republican support to get him elected speaker. And we do expect some Republicans at least to vote for Byron Donalds, who has been put up as an alternative candidate who got the 20 votes yesterday.
One Congressman Ralph Norman just told me that he do - he also plans to vote for Donalds on this seventh the ballot here. So, Jake, a key moment for McCarthy. Can he win back any support? And if he doesn't, what does he do next?
TAPPER: All right. Let's go to Lauren Fox now. And Lauren, you're hearing that there's a very real risk that McCarthy is going to anger the 200 or so already in his camp, the more mainstream Republicans by ceding too much power to these 20 rebels.
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, that's exactly right, Jake. One of the things you are hearing from moderates is this fear that the House is just going to be ungovernable, that there's not going to be legislating that can happen here because all the time Kevin McCarthy is going to be looking over his shoulder, trying to understand if those hardliners are just about to try and oust him.
Once again, I will say, I was standing outside and meeting for about three hours of many of those hardliners. When they came out of that meeting, none of them told me that they were now going to be voting for Kevin McCarthy. In fact, one of them Representative Bob Good, told me I never had to ask him again. He's never going to be for Kevin McCarthy.
Like Manu noted, it's very important today to watch whether or not Kevin McCarthy loses additional votes, whether he's able to even peel off one of those hardliners in his direction. If he can't, there's a real risk that he begins to start to lose even the support of allies. Jake?
TAPPER: Yes. You're seeing some of the hell no caucus on the floor of the Congress right there. Lauren Boebert and Matt Gaetz, people who have said they will never vote for Kevin McCarthy. I love these freewheel and seaspan cameras, who've been told legislative business begins. They control the cameras, the government does not.
Now let's go over to Melanie Zanona. And Melanie, as the House remains paralyzed by this drama. The dysfunction has some very real ramifications on U.S. national security. How so?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Jake, top Republicans are now raising concerns that there is a national security risk until the House elects the speaker. Remember the House cannot conduct any other legislative business, any business at all until they elect a speaker. And so, they can't legislate, they can't investigate. And members can't even get sensitive security briefings. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEN BUCK, (R) Colorado: Technically, I don't have a clearance. I'm a member of the Intel Committee. I'm on the Armed Services Committee. And I can't meet in the skiff to conduct essential business. My point is we have work to do that we can't do right now.
REP. BRIAN FITZPATRICK, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: We have a third - one of our three branches of government offline right now. That is a very dangerous thing for our country, and it cannot continue much longer. I sit on the House Intelligence Committee. We oversee all 19 intelligence agencies. We are currently offline.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZANONA: To get the holdouts to fall in line, but there's a lot of truth to what they're saying. The House is completely paralyzed right now. Luckily, they have some time until they need to do things like fund the government or raise the debt ceiling.
But Jake, just imagine if there was a crisis right now that Congress needed to immediately address, they wouldn't be able to do that. And there are also some practical implications as well, committee staffers are going to stop getting paid if this isn't resolved until January 13. So, practical implications, policy implications as well.
TAPPER: All right, thanks so much. I believe we are going to be able to be joined now by Congressman Ken Buck, Republican of Colorado. Is that right? Congressman, thanks for joining us. So, we have the seventh vote coming up. How are you planning to vote?
REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): I will vote once again for Kevin McCarthy.
TAPPER: You said McCarthy may have to step aside if you can't show some progress. I think you said yesterday, but now presumably today. Do you know whether he has won over any of the 20 or so pulled out so far in all these negotiations?
BUCK: So, they had a good negotiation. They have reached a compromise. There are still some holdouts and I think the 20, sort of have a blood oath that they will - all move together or none of them will move. So, I doubt we'll see on the seventh vote any movement in terms of the 20 coming over to McCarthy.
TAPPER: You don't think any of them are going to come? So, because that's contrary to what we've heard. We've heard that some of the rebels, the individuals like Congressman Chip Roy, might move and might bring about 10 with him, if there were substantive and significant changes when it came to democratizing the amendment process, the legislative process, the rules committee, etc. You're saying that that's not what you understand?
BUCK: My understanding is that they are going to hang together until all of them are ready to move.
TAPPER: Hang together or hang separately as has been said. There are seven people who have said they'll never vote for Kevin McCarthy no matter what, at least five, including Boebert, Gaetz and others, that would suggest that this is just never going to happen.
BUCK: Well, I think what has to happen in that situation is if the five or six are convinced that the - that it is a good deal and they have pledged not to vote for Kevin McCarthy, they vote present. They take a walk whatever is necessary. They don't have to vote for Kevin McCarthy for us to get a speaker. TAPPER: What about the talk that there was going to be a member of people who support McCarthy. Bring it, but not putting forward the name of Steve Scalise if enough progress is not made.
BUCK: I think that's a possibility. And I think if we continue to vote this afternoon, I think you may very well see some alternative proposed.
TAPPER: Would you be somebody who might propose Steve Scalise?
BUCK: I certainly would consider it. I would not - the only person I would not consider nominating for the worst job in America is Ken Buck, other than that I am wide open.
TAPPER: By the end of the day, will we have either a new speaker or Kevin McCarthy will have stepped down and his name will have been taken out of consideration?
BUCK: I think that the latter may happen. I don't think we will have a new speaker. If Kevin McCarthy steps down, there is going to be a period of time that's necessary for people to coalesce around someone.
TAPPER: All right. We're being told by your staffers, you got to go vote and do your job. We appreciate that. Thank you so much, Congressman Buck.
Let's talk about this. I mean, that's a big admission. Dana Bash, Ken Buck, saying he's going to vote for McCarthy in the next ballot. But if McCarthy doesn't get it by today, that he might put forward another name and Steve Scalise seems to be the big suggestion.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, that would be absolutely huge. The other thing that he said about the 20 vowing to vote in a block. I actually just think we need to ask some of the 20 because you spoke with Chip Roy, we our - whole team has spoken with him. He seems a lot more open to voting for Kevin McCarthy. Now that he's made these changes, then say a Congressman Good.
TAPPER: There's Kevin McCarthy walking in right now.
BASH: Here we go. He said, he's a hell no, don't ask me ever again. I think that's what Lauren Fox said. So, I'm not so sure that they are really going to vote in a block. What really matters, though, is that he can only - he, Kevin McCarthy can still only afford to lose four of his Republican brethren and that's it.
And then the other thing that I---
TAPPER: Is the new congressman from Michigan, John James. Let's listen to him?
CHERYL JOHNSON, HOUSE CLERK: The gentleman is recognized.
REP. JOHN JAMES, (R) MICHIGAN: Thank you, Madam Clerk. There's been a lot of talk about history over the last few days. 1856 was the last time it took longer than the votes we're having right now, to find a speaker of the House. 133 over two months, without question. The issues divide us today are much less severe than they were in 1856.
In fact, there's far more that unites us than divides us. Regardless of our political party or ideology, the issues today are over a few rules and personalities. Well, the issues at that time were about slavery. And whether the value of a man who looks like me was 60 percent or 100 percent of a human being.
It was a long-drawn-out painful process, but it needed to happen. And in the end, Nathaniel Banks won by the slimmest of margins. But you know, margins don't matter when your policy is on the right side of history.
On that day, long ago, the good guys won. On that day, long ago, the abolitionist one. On that day, the people who believe in freedom and self-determination won. Leading, the leading Republican nominee won then, and the leading Republican nominee will win again today.
Since then, our nation has made a lot of progress. That includes families like mine. My family's gone from slave to the floor of United States House of Representatives, being the first member of his freshman class to speak. In a series of five generations.
My family has gone from slaved to right here since 1856. My father and mother born in the 1940s and 1950s in the Jim Crow South, and my dad lived directly across the street from a school he couldn't go to because he was black.
He started a business. He started a business, one truck, one trailer, no excuses with the help of his wife. And now his son stands here on the precipice of taking back the majority for the American people and taking this nation in the right direction.
I've heard, I'm a freshman. I've only been here for a couple of days, but I've heard a lot of D.C. politicians. Tell me about how broken D.C. is. I don't need D.C. politicians to tell me how broken D.C. is. The American people have already told us how broken D.C. is by giving Republicans the majority, so we can fix this mess.
We will counter the socialist movement of envy and confiscation with a conservative movement of access and opportunity. We will stand on the right side of history again. We will end the growth of government. And we will stop 87,000 new IRS agents from picking through your pocketbooks.
We will secure our energy independence. We will ban the sale of petroleum from our strategic reserves to China. We will establish a bipartisan select committees specifically to keep our eye on the ball and China will address the crisis at the border, that's killing Americans by the day and improve both our safety and our nation and our dignity for those who come here in search of a better life. But not yet, we're still stuck at the starting block. The American people have told us by putting the Republican majority here that they want Republicans to lead, and they want a government that works and doesn't embarrass them, and we are failing on both missions that must change today. It will change.
Benjamin Franklin said, we must hang together almost assuredly hang separate. We're stuck in a malaise at an impasse. And we will stay here. We will not be able to fight the real conservative fights, until we find a way to come together and fight that mission together. Yesterday we experienced very briefly. Our first win, it's a small victory, a small victory.
It was a small victory. But didn't it feel good. We've been working hard for that victory, and they're much more to come. As a cadet at West Point, I learned the phrase and it's always been my motto throughout life, mission first, people always.
And right now, the people are left out. Right now, they don't have a Congress to speak for them. At the highest level of government. Right now, every individual in this room can concede that the rounds that we've taken is not what we told our constituents to do. We told them that we would fight the opioid crisis.
For perspective, there's a hallowed monument that my father took me to my father's a Vietnam veteran. This monument is a total length of 500 feet. Nearly two football fields. It's 10 feet high. And the letters are only half inch. 58,000 names, 58,000 names are war that lasted years.
According to the CDC, in 2021 we lost almost twice as many people as we lost in Vietnam to overdose. We've lost 600 Americans to overdoses since Tuesday. We're talking about the debt rise. You can't count how many dollars we spent of our great grandchildren's money since Tuesday.
The work we promised the American people we would do or Wallstreet on that promise. But I have hope. I have hope that we'll be able to come together unify and put the right person in leadership from many one equilibrium.
I'm standing here today, because I'm a seventh to stand up and supportive Kevin McCarthy for speaker. He's earned my trust. The first time we met was in his office under the watchful gaze of a Frederick Douglass painting.
And he told me in that office on the eve of the 2019 State of the Union address. And there's nothing that could be said or done during that address that embarrassed him more. And the fact that when the Democrat side stood up, they will look more like the United States of America than we did.
And he set out not to compromise our values, not to compromise our ideology. But to work harder to make sure that more people with diverse perspectives and different lived experiences could be here. And the very next election, he won 14 seats up from 199. And all the seats he wants were with minorities, women and veterans.
The very next cycle, this next cycle, he wanted me, and my good buddy and classmate West Hunt helped double the number of black Republicans in the Republican Party. Let it go. We have a long way to go, but we've come so far. We've come so far, we can't quit. We can't quit. You don't fire a guy who's winning.
And when you look at the governor's mansions and legislatures, we've lost across the country just this past cycle. And when you look at the gains that Kevin McCarthy has made up Hill, getting the gavel as a minority leader, and half the time, you know, the mainstream media likes Axelrod, the leadership of Nancy Pelosi.
Kevin McCarthy won the gavel back as minority leader and half the time up the Hill. We want to talk about people who can win. I'm a Lions fan and I'm - he's right, look. I'm well acquainted with snatching, defeat from the jaws of victory. We need to learn how to win. We need to learn how to take a victory.
And like Kevin McCarthy's leadership, he's given us victories on rules. He's given us victories on keeping costs down. He's given us victories with winning a majority back. I'm so proud to be a part of the majority making class. And he's earned my trust. And hopefully he'll earn your trust. And he's got 90 percent of us in the conference.
When is the last time and it was at 90 percent approval ratings. Kevin McCarthy you're going to see up there is over 90 percent approval ratings. If you really want to start making history, let's do it the right way. We need a conservative fighter to help this country get back on the right track.
But the first thing we need to do is elect Leader McCarthy, a speaker of the House. I'm ready to make history. And I know you are. I'm excited to work with each and every single one of you because we have a job to do. So, at the direction of the Republican conference, I advanced the name of Kevin McCarthy, a speaker of the House with 118 Congress.
JOHNSON: For what purpose does the gentleman from California rise?
REP. PETE AGUILAR, (D) CALIFORNIA: Madam Clerk, I rise to nominate Hakeem Jeffries of New York for speaker this House.
JOHNSON: The gentleman is recognized.
AGUILAR: Madam Clerk, I speak on behalf of the Democratic caucus. When I say that there is no victory in a journeying without doing the business of the people. Madam Clerk, Madam Clerk, House Democrats are united behind a champion of expanding and protecting the right to vote. Since the beginning of 2021, 21 state legislatures have passed 42 restrictive voting laws. Hakeem has stood up against voter suppression and The New Jim Crow era every step of the way. As we begin, as we begin a new Congress, we need a leader who believes in strengthening democracy, who understands that to cast a vote is a sacred responsibility that should be afforded to the many, not the privileged for the select few. Hakeem understands that, in order for us to become a more perfect union, we can't deny the voices of individuals in a democratic process.
Madam Clerk, today we affirm our support of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and nominate. Madam Clerk, Madam Clerk, and that's why I am directed by the Democratic caucus to advance the name of Hakeem Jeffries from New York as speaker.
JOHNSON: For what purpose does the gentleman from North Carolina rise?
REP. DAN BISHOP (R-NC): Madam Clerk, I rise to place in nomination the name of Byron Donalds of Florida.
JOHNSON: The gentleman is recognized.
BISHOP: I want to begin by saying how much I have anticipated. The gentleman from Michigan's arrival in this House, not in the Senate, not in the old stayed, unchanging Senate, but in the House where we make change. Yesterday, we could have elected the first black speaker of the United States House of Representatives.
Hear me clearly, hear me clearly, had the cascade of votes begun. It would have extended to every member of this body. It could begin today. Last night, I sat within feet of Mr. Donalds, as the tweet of another member elect appeared on the screen. That memory leg wrote and sent out to America that Byron Donalds is a prop.
I've spent a good bit of time with Mr. Donalds, especially lately. Hey, no prop. And if he were a prop, he wouldn't be sitting where he's sitting. This is the tired, old, grotesquely racist rhetoric that we've seen far too long. Today, today a member elect quote tweeted, a Fox News story that incorrectly reported that I said, that if I don't prevail on the question before the House, I will resign.
That member, that member elect, quote tweeted, that incorrect story for his own political purposes after the story had been corrected, and the actual statement contradicting that report had been provided. This is the old trafficking in lies from Washington that the American people know far too well. By the way, I'm not leaving.
Kevin McCarthy released to the public on New Year's Eve, a document entitled, restoring the people's house and ending business as usual. To his great credit, Mr. McCarthy made a statement of huge significance to the country. The nominal leader of a major party acknowledged publicly that this institution is broke, and he committed to make change to fix it.
So, let me help my colleagues in the minority understand, we are doing the people's business. That's what these three days had been about, three days. We are committed to make change to this institution that has lost its way. It is epitomized in the $1.7 trillion omnibus rammed through this institution just two weeks ago.
You see, ladies and gentlemen, I came to fix this broken system. America has seen that problem for a very long time too.