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CNN Live Event/Special

Now: McCarthy Appears To Suffer Defeat On 8th Speaker Ballot. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 05, 2023 - 15:00   ET


REP. CHRIS STEWART (R-UT): Look, that's not about our country, that's not about our party and almost all of us, in fact, I think all of us at that point say, look, I'm no longer interested in your view on this if you are doing this for your own personal gain.

But many of them are not and many of them are having genuine conversations about what's it going to take, what - how long is it going to take and how can we resolve this. Those conversations are taking place and they are having some slow, obviously, frustratingly slow, but they are having some positive outcomes.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: So Matt Gaetz said, this ends one of two ways, either Kevin McCarthy withdraws from the race or we construct a straitjacket that he's unable to evade. Do you share the frustration of some who support McCarthy, who are saying that he is conceding too much?


BURNETT: Like that in essence he's conceding to arsonists by some of the concessions that he's made?

STEWART: Yes. Well, so there's actually two issues there and one is are we conceding to arsonist or - and that's very frustrating for some of us. Look, I'll remind your viewers and I know most of them, and you know this, we had an election.

In November, all the Republicans, all the Democrats got together in their individual caucus or conference and they elected their leadership and anyone could run, you could stand up and campaign and lobby, everyone had a chance to vote and Kevin was elected our speaker, and it wasn't even close: 190 to 30 or something like that.

So there is that frustration, but I think your first point is this, is Kevin giving too much. I don't think he has to this point, but he's very, very close. And I think he knows that he's very close. Well, in fact, some of these individuals said there's really nothing more he can give. There's nothing more for us to ask for.

And I do believe we're at the point now where we would so weaken the leadership, if we were to concede anymore, that it would be in a very difficult leadership position anyway, it would make it nearly impossible for them to lead, which is why I think people on both sides recognize we're probably at that point. And there's very little negotiation that take place over those issues, which is why I think we're near an impasse where we can break through and have some, some positive movement.

BURNETT: And so what is your bottom line? You say that you're at a point where he cannot give any more and does that mean, this ends with Speaker McCarthy still in your view?

STEWART: I'm sorry. The question?

BURNETT: Does this mean that we end with a speaker McCarthy? Do you still believe that that's the end here?

STEWART: Oh, the - no. No, I really do. And I'm not just saying that for the public consumption. I'm saying that because I genuinely believe that. Nothing in the last few days has made me not doubt or made me doubt that Kevin will be our speaker. I'm confident that he will be.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Congressman Stewart, I appreciate your time.

STEWART: Yes, thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: Thank you very much for joining us in this ongoing voting.

So Scott, what do you hear there? There was quite a bit - I do think it was interesting there at the end of that conversation he said of McCarthy conceding to arsonists. I don't think he has given up too much to this point, but he's very close.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But he's very close. And of this 201, that has stuck with McCarthy, there is a core group in there or some group inside that, that they didn't come to give away the store to people who have a fundamentally different worldview or they aren't really there to legislate or to solve problems or to fix healthcare or the border or whatever. They didn't come to be held hostage by these people and so there is a balance.

Now, if the if the alternative is to get it a little closer to that line and go ahead and get McCarthy to speakership. I guess most of them will fall in line, but this is something we've been discussing. At what point is it too much and McCarthy starts to bleed support on the other side of the algebra and that raise - that caused me to raise my eyebrows because it sounds like we're getting close.


BURNETT: And Stewart is a very loyal McCarthy supporter.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, absolutely. But his point is the one, as Scott said, we've been making which is what is it worth to have the speakership if you've basically ceded so much power and authority to this smaller group of people within your caucus, who have a fundamentally different approach to governing into policy that you're being held hostage to it.

I don't know. He says he hasn't - he's come - he's close to the line, but he hasn't crossed the line. We don't really know, because we don't actually know. We know it's been reported. We don't know it's been offered, but I don't know how much more you have to say. If you say anyone member can call for a vote to vacate the speaker's job if they don't like what you've done, I don't know exactly where the line is.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN: Well, that does make you wonder, so as these conversations are happening that you all are hearing about, again, that 201, how many of them are watching this and looking at exactly that question, how much of you - at what cost, Kevin McCarthy, are you going to be the speaker. And at some point for those who say I came here to legislate, I actually we do have shame, I actually do feel accountable to the people who elected me back home.


Again, those tensions as this continues to play out over the course of days, hopefully not 180 plus ...


FINNEY: ... that gets a lot harder to hold that coalition together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But, again, there's no plan B, right? IF you said, here's the alternative. There is no alternative. The alternative may be and Jake alluded to this earlier, a rule change, right?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At what point ...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... that's a question that I think people will start talking about a little bit more if we keep going vote after vote after vote, I think it'll require the Democrats to vote for it as well and so would Democrats support a rule change to lower it to a simple majority to elect the speaker, right?

And I think you might get some Democrats to vote for something like that, not for McCarthy directly, but maybe for rule change, they can move the ball forward and get going and, again, being careful because he's still going to have more votes than Hakeem Jeffries, right? But ...

AXELROD: Yes, it is like a ...

JENNINGS: You think it'll lower the threshold, but you - the other thing I heard kicked around was it'd go to a runoff, runoffs haven't been great for the Republicans like this, but if you had the top two advance ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like rank order.

JENNINGS: ... well, I'm just saying because then you put those 20 on the spot and so anyway I don't - it doesn't sound like they're close to a rules change. By the way, a friend of mine from Indiana passes along an email he just got. You want to know what this is all about for some of these guys, "Just received a fundraising email from Representative Andy Biggs: 'Fellow American. We blocked Kevin McCarthy from becoming speaker of the House. I need your - can I count on your support?'"


BURNETT: (Inaudible) don't want to govern at all.



AXELROD: And look, there are - this is something that's fundamentally wrong with our political system right now. The incentives are misaligned. You want to raise a lot of money, be outrageous. Marjorie Taylor Greene is one of the great fundraisers in the Republican Party.

Now. She's on McCarthy's side here because he made certain commitments to her. But she got there by being outrageous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Outrageous sells - I mean, craziness sells on both sides. Let's not ...

AXELROD: No, I understand. I'm not saying otherwise, but the point is there are incentives beyond governing that these people are responding to. I just want to make one point, there's been a lot of discussion about how Democrats are chortling and Democrats are - they're schadenfreude and all of that.

I would caution Democrats that at some point, there's going to be a general sense of disgust about this whole thing. And if the perception is, and I think, look, there's nothing Democrats particularly can do right now about this situation. But if the perception is that they're sort of enjoying the spectacle, popcorn and all of that stuff, I think that there'll be people out there who say, this is exactly what we don't like about Washington, each side trying to get - find the advantage over the other.

Now, most of the Democrats I talked to are - they're sort of appalled by what's going on, and they want to get on with the work of governing. But I would just caution Democrats not to enjoy this too much, because the whole system of governing that they care about is being jeopardized here.

BURNETT: (Inaudible) on both the House (inaudible) ...

JENNINGS: Do you know what is a larger political matter? We've been analyzing the machinations inside the House. But for the Republicans and as we look towards 2024, do you know who - in some weird way this all benefits Ron DeSantis.

Because part of the appeal of him, not part of Washington, not part of this chaos, not part of the drama, competence. And so if you're him, and you're sitting out there, and you're plotting your presidential campaign and Washington just looks broken, Trump gets involved. He looks impotent, I mean, this whole thing. Republicans are going to possibly look at this and say, we just - we have got to find somebody who's outside.

BURNETT: Well, he's giving his inaugural address (inaudible) ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in Tallahassee. I was there.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Tuesday, I watched it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was very - it looked presidential, clean. Look at me, I can run a speech ...

JENNINGS: He's got things under control, these guys don't.


BURNETT: He did a Jackie O (ph) appearance.

AXELROD: Yes. Yes.

BURNETT: But one other thing I want to ask about what - that's right, what Chris Stewart had to say there. Obviously, he wants to be optimistic and he wants to put a narrative out there. But he did say a couple of specific things. He said there's movement from some people and that we're going to have a speaker in fairly short order, implying that it was going to be not today. Not today.

AXELROD: (Inaudible) ...

BURNETT: But what sort of timing are we looking at for something? I mean, if it's McCarthy, it's going to be what in the next few days or not at all.

AXELROD: I don't think next few days, I think it's just - again, like my whole thing, again, lock the doors, lock the doors. People are going to - at some point, right, this breaks, is the fever breaks. And whether it takes a day, two days, a hundred votes, they're not going to keep going.

Kevin McCarthy is not going away. He is not going away. Now, maybe Matt Gaetz isn't going away but I bet that gap continues to narrow until you have four or five or three, you get it down to a (inaudible) ...

BURNETT: You think it could go much longer.

JENNINGS: Well, if you get it down to five, the prevailing ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You get the small number.

JENNINGS: ... the theory is you could probably possibly pressure the five holdouts and get one or two to peel off.

[15:10:07] But on the other - there's some perverse incentive, if they have five and McCarthy can lose four, that every single one of the five is the one just like in this fundraising. I'm the one person ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, that's - yes.

BURNETT: That's right.


JENNINGS: ... standing between you and the establishment. And so I agree that lock the door and try to pressure him but the perverse part of this is they may actually feel emboldened by being able to say I am the only one stopping this (inaudible) ...

AXELROD: At what point do people there say in the 200 or whatever, you know what, we love you, Kevin, but we got to get going.

JENNINGS: (Inaudible) ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Axe - but no, but Axe my point is, there is no other option. There's no other (inaudible) ...

AXELROD: (Inaudible) other option because they're pledged to him now, if he were not to run ...

BURNETT: That's right.

AXELROD: ... then there would be another option.

BURNETT: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This may necessitate another option.

BURNETT: And we will see because our special coverage is continuing and I don't know for how long but certainly it is going to continue over the next break and Jake and I will be back right after that.



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, that's how many times the House Republican Caucus has rejected Kevin McCarthy tasting the sourness of defeat on the House floor, again, for the third day in a row. Hard-line Republican holdouts steadfast in their conviction to choose apparently anyone except for Kevin McCarthy. Let's listen in as they announced the final votes on this eighth ballot.

CHERYL JOHNSON, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CLERK: The Honorable Kevin Hern of the state of Oklahoma has received two, the Honorable Donald J. Trump of the State of Florida has received one, with one recorded as present.

No member elect having received a majority of the votes cast, a speaker has not been elected. The Reading Clerk will again - for what purpose does the gentleman from Texas rise?

REP. TROY NEHLS (R-TX): Madam Clerk, I rise to nominate Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House.

TAPPER: It sounds like we're going through ...

JOHNSON: The gentleman is recognized.

TAPPER: ... it sounds like we're going for a ninth ballot now, a ninth ballot, so let's listen into these nominating speeches for Kevin McCarthy, Hakeem Jeffries and others.

NEHLS: Kevin McCarthy has been our leader for the past four years and has overwhelming support within this conference. My intent today is to address the American people who have been watching these proceedings ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House is not order.

NEHLS: ... my intent today is to address the American people who have been watching these proceedings and are concerned about what they've seen in this chamber over the past two days. I am a member of the House Freedom Caucus and I am proud to say so.

I believe the 20 members that have nominated an alternate candidate have expressed their concerns with leadership. And many of those concerns have been addressed and accepted by Leader McCarthy and this conference. I believe this battle we are raging must end.

Kevin McCarthy fully understands that being Speaker of the House will not be easy. Kevin is aware that any legislation he would like to pass out of this House will require support and endorsement from the Freedom Caucus. This is where I believe we can hold the speaker accountable.

Kevin has made changes to the House rules at the request of all members. One of those rules changes was the motion to vacate the chair, which Nancy Pelosi removed four years ago to avoid the scrutiny and the accountability. The motion to vacate the chair that has not been offered for a floor vote in over 100 years calls for the removal of the Speaker of the House.

Kevin has reinstated the motion to vacate the chair, which I believe was the right thing to do. This motion allows us, the Republican conference, to hold the speaker accountable. The American people gave us, my friends us, the Republicans the majority and their vote of confidence to change the direction of our country. The American people are begging for leadership, because the Biden administration certainly has not placed the American people first.

Kevin McCarthy understands he understands he must protect that speaker's gavel and abide the will of the American people. The decisions we make in the 118th Congress are critical to the future of our country. The decisions we make, the legislation we pass as a Republican majority must have the support of the American people.

We have a crisis on every corner in America and the American people are expecting Republicans to bring this much needed change.


We must come together today and implement that change. To those of you outside of Washington that are watching, Kevin McCarthy and this Republican majority understand your pain. We understand your pain. We feel it. We understand we must secure our southern border. We must unleash our energy sector and become energy independent. We must curb inflation by reducing re-spending, by reducing spending and we must support our law enforcement officers, folks. We got to get crime under control. We must place America and its people first.

And all this, my friend, on the Republican side, all this we can do this, all while holding the Biden administration accountable. And the Washington bureaucrats who have infringed and abused the rights of the American people and their families long enough.

Under speaker McCarthy, they will be held accountable. They will be held accountable. So today, let's do what's in the best interest of the American people. Let's get to work. Let's elect Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House and at the direction of the Republican conference I advance the name of Kevin McCarthy as the next speaker of the House for the 118th Congress.

JOHNSON: To what purpose does the gentleman from California rise?

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): Madam Clerk, I rise today to nominate Hakeem Jeffries for Speaker of the House.

JOHNSON: The gentleman is recognized.

LIEU: Vote after vote. Democrats stand united and ready to get to work on behalf of the American people under the leadership of Hakeem Jeffries. Vote after vote, nomination after nomination, Democrats are united just like we were united when we pass the American Rescue Plan to get our economy back on track. United when we pass the infrastructure law to rebuild America, United when we cap insulin at $35, pass historic gun safety legislation and pass the PACT Act to help our nation's veterans.

United when Democrats passed the CHIPS and Science Act to bring manufacturing back to America, United when Democrats pass the Inflation Reduction Act to reduce our deficit and protect our environment. Democrats are unified to tackle the climate crisis while Republicans are mired in their own leadership crisis.

Madam Clerk, House Democrats are ready, willing and able to get to work for the American people, we will do so under the leadership of Hakeem Jeffries who has a plan for the American people. Therefore, as Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, I'm directed by the vote of our caucus to present for election to the Office of Speaker of the House of Representatives for the 118th Congress, Representative-elect from the state of New York, Hakeem Jeffries.

JOHNSON: For what purpose does the gentleman from Montana rise? REP. MATT ROSENDALE (R-MT): Thank you very much, Madam Clerk, I would like to nominate the name of Byron Donalds to Speaker of the House of Representatives.

JOHNSON: The gentleman is recognized.

ROSENDALE: Let me begin by stating that it is an absolute privilege to be here standing and serving with each and every one of you. I know we have differences of opinions and I know we have differences of agendas that we would like to pursue, but I will tell you that we all are representing the United States of America in the best fashion that I know that we truly believe in, so thank you and it is a privilege.

When I walk out every evening from the Longworth office building, I will tell you that as I look back on the Capitol with the lights gleaming upon it, that I recognize the honor, the privilege and the responsibility that each one of us has taken on to be in this place that we are right now.


And the obligations that we have to the districts that we represent back home, it is an incredible privilege, but it is also an incredible responsibility and I do not take it lightly, and I know that no one in this room does.

We are participating in a system that has endured 247 years through drought and through flood, through world wars and through a civil war. And some way, we return to this place, year after year, to serve the people of the United States of America.

But unfortunately, over the past 15 years, the process that we use has been dramatically broken. The voices that were sent here to equally represent each of the 435 districts across this nation have become diminished. This through the consolidation of power into the hands of the speaker, and a fortunate few who happen to serve on the Rules Committee which control every aspect of legislation that travels through this body.

The debate and the discussion has been all but eliminated and the balance of us are left to vote yes or no. Those are our options and that is what has led to the disintegration of the relationships that we see across this floor. That is not equal representation, which is guaranteed by our Constitution, and expected by our constituents.

We have had more discussion and debate over the last three days than I have participated in on this floor for the last two years. And it's healthy. It absolutely promotes the collegiality that everyone is striving to obtain. We're having discussions not just within our own party, but amongst each other, as we walk around and start planning for the legislation that we will need to address over the next two years in the 118th Congress that sooner or later, yes, sooner or later, we will begin to function as.

Those are the good days and guess, what our constituents think, as they watch us on C-SPAN today, that this is how every day functions. They think that this is how every bill gets addressed in this body. And they will be shocked to learn the ones that you have not disclosed the little nasty secret to, that unfortunately that's not how it works around this place.

That under the current rules and under the current leadership construction that on flying days, typically Monday at the beginning of the week, the leadership on both sides of the aisle, negotiate a number of bills 15 to 20 pieces of legislation that one Democrat and one Republican stand on this floor. They discuss momentarily and then they say the magic words, without objection, we will pass this by unanimous consent. And there are two people standing on the floor passing pieces of legislation that oftentimes are the naming of buildings that don't really bother anybody or affect one's life.