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CNN Live Event/Special

Biden Honoring Law Enforcement, Election Workers On Jan 6; McCarthy Loses 13th Speaker Ballot. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 06, 2023 - 15:00   ET


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ruby and Shaye, you don't deserve what happened to you, but you do deserve the nation's eternal thanks for showing the dignity and grace of "We the People." Presumptuous of me, but I'm so proud of you both. So proud of you both.

Albert Schmidt, a former Republican city commissioner in Philadelphia, who spent a decade overseeing nonpartisan counting of votes. But like so many other local election workers, in 2020, he was harassed and threatened as he did his job faithfully.

He did not bend, he did not bow, he did not yield to the political threats and pressure.

And he's so trusted by both political parties that the new Democratic Governor of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro, appointed him as Pennsylvania's Secretary of State - a Republican - to ensure that - the integrity of the elections. That's a high compliment. His character and his commitment speak volumes of "We the People."

That's what we also see in Jocelyn Benson, twice elected Michigan's Secretary of State to protect the sacred right to vote and have that vote counted fairly. That's what she did in 2020 when she oversaw a record number of Michiganders turn out to vote in that election, only to find an armed mob outside of her home on Christmas Eve when she and her son were decorating their Christmas tree inside.

But she refused to back down. She had done her duty. She had kept her oath. Full of integrity, she is a true leader in our nation. And thank you, thank you, thank you for what you've done. I mean it.

And finally, Rusty Bowers, a former Republican Speaker of the House in the State of Arizona.

When I met him today, I said, "I hope I'm not hurting your reputation." Where are you, Rusty? See, he's hiding behind you. He's able to do that.

Rusty, we may not agree on all things, but we agree on what this country is about though. We agree that public service is not without - is not about what you're willing to do to win, it's about what you're willing to lose over. What you're willing to lose over.

Rusty put his obligation to the Constitution of this country ahead of everything when he refused intense political pressure to decertify the 2020 election results. His courage is probably the reason why he lost his primary last year.

Rusty, you're an example - is a demonstration to every young man and woman thinking about entering politics about what integrity - what integrity is all about. And I'm not exaggerating.

Thank you, thank you for your integrity and your honor.

So, folks, my fellow Americans, I want you to give one round of applause again for today's recipients of the Presidential Citizens Medal. Patriots who have performed exemplary deeds in the service to this great nation.

And let me close with this. Eighty-two years ago, on this very day in 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt delivered his State of the Union Address that became known as his famous "Four Freedoms" speech, as he defined America's place in the world.

He reminded the American people of, quote, the "strength from the things which have been done to make its people conscious of their individual stake in the preservation of democratic life in America. Things that have toughened the fiber of our people, renewed their faith, and strengthened their devotion to the institutions we make ready to protect."

Eighty years ago, after that speech, on this day two years ago, we were reminded about the most fundamental of things: democracy itself.

As I've said before, we face an inflection point in our nation's history. On January 6th, it's a reminder that there's nothing guaranteed about our democracy.

Remember learning in undergraduate school, high school that every generation is required to earn it, defend it, protect it?

I was a senator for a long time. I was Vice President, then President.


I'd have to tell you: I began to think, looking back on it, that it was just permanent, the United States. It just was eternal. Nothing would happen.

That's why I was so pleased to see Democrats and Republicans work together to pass the Electoral Count Reform Act that I just signed into law to protect the will of the people and the peaceful transfer of power.

And defending and protecting our democracy also means that despite our differences of opinion, we must say clearly, with a united voice, that there is no place - none - zero, zero place in America for voter intimidation - zero, never - and political violence. They are completely contrary to the notion of democracy.

America is a land of laws and not chaos. A nation of peace and not violence. We're not a land of kings and dictators, autocrats and extremists. As we see in today's honorees, we're nation of "We the People" that toughen our fiber, renew our faith, and strengthen our cause.

Just remember who in God's name we are. We're the United States of America. Not a joke. We're the United States of America. And there's nothing - there is nothing - there has never been a single thing we've set our mind to that we've failed to accomplish. There's nothing beyond our capacity if we act together and remember who in God's name we are.

So, God bless you all. And may God protect our troops. And may God protect those who stand watch over our democracy.

I now have the opportunity and the great honor to award the medals to these incredible individuals and their representatives.

Lieutenant Commander Shields, would you come and please read the citations?

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER SHIELDS: The Presidential Citizens Medal recipients.

Jocelyn Benson.

Jocelyn Benson was elected twice by the people of Michigan as their Secretary of State, where she continues her steadfast commitment to protect the right to vote and the integrity of our elections in the State of Michigan. In 2020, she administered an election with record turnout and certified the results in the face of unprecedented pressure and threats, including armed protestors outside her home. We the People honor the undaunted and unflinching Michigan Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson, who continues her exemplary public service to advance free and fair elections in our nation.

Russell Bowers.

An artist, rancher and fourth-generation Arizonan, Rusty Bowers represented the people of Arizona for almost two decades, rising to become Speaker of the House. In a dire hour of our democracy, he put country before party by refusing attempts to decertify the 2020 election and overturn the will of the people. He endured menacing protests, including at his home, and eventually lost an election because of his courageous actions. We the People honor Rusty Bowers, a public servant guided by a deep faith and unbreakable oath to God, family, and country.

Harry Dunn.

A champion college football lineman, Harry Dunn has put his protective instincts to a higher purpose as a U.S. Capitol Police Officer.


On January 6th, 2021, he rushed to protect injured fellow officers fighting back insurrectionists. His powerful testimony describing violence and stinging racism laid bare the day's facts for history, and his advocacy on behalf of officers battling lasting trauma is helping to ease the stigma around mental health in our nation. For defending the citadel of our democracy and for seeking truth and healing, We the People honor U.S. Capitol Police Private First Class Harry A. Dunn.

Caroline Edwards.

The granddaughter of proud military veterans, Caroline Edwards left a corporate career to follow in their footsteps serving our nation. On January 6th, 2021, she helped stop advancing insurrectionists, even after being knocked unconscious in the mob's first brutal surge. She has also fought for colleagues as a police union board member and peer counselor, and her congressional testimony will help ensure their valor is never forgotten. For her courageous defense of our democracy and service to fellow officers, We the People honor U.S. Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards.

Michael Fanone.

The grandson of a police officer, Michael Fanone was born to protect and serve. A decorated narcotics investigator, he took an off-duty call to the Capitol on January 6th 2021, helping to drive insurrectionists away from a key tunnel and facing vicious attack. He immediately became one of the day's most outspoken truth-seekers. For his absolute courage in protecting the Capitol and our democracy and his tenacious search for accountability, We the People honor former Metropolitan Police Department Officer Michael Fanone.

Ruby Freeman.

Inspired by the voting rights legacy of her beloved Atlanta, Lady Ruby Freeman viewed her civic duty as a Fulton County election worker as a sacred mission to ensure the people of Georgia could exercise their fundamental right to vote freely and fairly. In the 2020 election, she upheld that sacred mission despite an orchestrated campaign to overturn the election and that targeted and threatened her and her family. To the nation, she bore witness of the trauma and tragedy of that experience, and, today, We the People honor Lady Ruby Freeman as part of our nation's voting rights history.

Aquilino Gonell.

As a child, Aquilino Gonell immigrated to America from the Dominican Republic. He became the first in his family to graduate college, serving in the U.S. Army and then in the U.S. Capitol Police. On January 6th, 2021, he courageously stood firm at the doors of the Capitol as insurrectionists stormed the entrance, sustaining serious injuries as he protected members of Congress and defended our democracy. He later testified publicly to ensure our nation and history never forget. For patriotism that puts love of country before self, We the People honor U.S. Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino A. Gonell.


Eugene Goodman. An Army combat veteran and a U.S. Capitol Police Officer, Eugene Goodman embodies fearless public service. In the breach on January 6th 2021, he made himself a target to divert insurrectionists away from the Senate chamber, enabling the former Vice President, lawmakers and staff to escape safely. In the face of a clear and present danger, he did his duty and he did not flinch. For his valor and for ensuring the constitutional order, We the People honor U.S. Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman.

Daniel Hodges.

A Virginia National Guardsman and Metropolitan Police Department Officer, Daniel Hodges has dedicated his life to serving his community and our nation. On January 6th 2021, he fought to push surging insurrectionists away from a key tunnel into the Capitol, returning to the line even after being brutally crushed and beaten. His courageous testimony will help ensure that we never forget or let such an attack happen again. For his heroism and unwavering commitment to the truth, We the People honor Metropolitan Police Department Officer Daniel Hodges.

Dr. Serena Liebengood, accepting on behalf of Howard Liebengood.

The proud son of a U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms, Howard Liebengood left a career as a champion racecar driver to follow in his late father's footsteps protecting the democratic institutions they both revered. He died after battling insurrectionists at the Capitol and staying on to restore security in the crucial days after January 6th. His painful loss helped change the law to better honor the unimaginable sacrifice that too many officers and their families face. For his deep dedication and selfless service, We the People honor U.S. Capitol Police Officer Howard C. Liebengood.

(The Presidential Citizens Medal is presented.)

Wandrea' ArShaye Moss.

Inspired by the stories her mother told her about the movement for voting rights in America, Shaye Moss pursued a career as an election worker in Fulton County, Georgia. Because of her dedicated service, she faced death threats, harassment, and intimidation by those seeking to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election. She would later testify to the nation about her pain and resolve. Today, We the People honor Shaye Moss for helping to ensure the American people have a voice in the destiny of our nation.

Albert Schmidt.

A former federal civil servant and the City Commissioner of Philadelphia, Albert Schmidt has spent his career on the unsung yet necessary task of making democracy work for the people. In the 2020 election, despite intense political pressure, he did what he had always done: ensured the integrity of the election, and faithfully oversaw the nonpartisan counting of the ballots. We the People honor Albert Schmidt for his clarity of purpose to protect every American's sacred right to vote and to have that vote counted. [15:20:06]

Charles and Gladys Sicknick, accepting on behalf of Brian D. Sicknick.

A New Jersey Air National Guardsman who served two tours overseas, Brian Sicknick was a U.S. Capitol Police Officer devoted to serving our nation. For over a decade, he guarded the Capitol, including on January 6th, 2021. He lost his life protecting our elected representatives, upholding the will of the American people, and defending our Constitution. His heroism, courage, and character set an example for generations of Americans to come and will never be forgotten. For his service and his ultimate sacrifice, We the People honor U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick.

Erin Smith, accepting on behalf of Jeffrey L. Smith.

A 12-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police Department, Officer Jeffrey Smith dedicated his life to public service. On January 6th, 2021, as he fought the violent mob, Officer Smith sustained devastating head injuries from multiple assaults inside and outside the Capitol. He died after protecting Congress, guarding the Capitol, and preserving our democracy. His passing sparked changes in the law that honor the silent injuries of our fallen officers. For his extraordinary heroism, pure courage, and unwavering devotion to the nation, We the People honor Metropolitan Police Department Officer Jeffrey L. Smith.

BIDEN: Well, as I said at the outset, this is warranted - in some sense, it's overdue - but also incredibly difficult for the families and particularly the families of those who lost a hero defending our democracy. And - but I tell you, people who will go through, unfortunately, similar losses are going to look at you all and say, "That's the grace and dignity that I want to display."

So, really, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I want to thank you again for your service and sacrifice. And may God bless your families. May God protect our troops. Thank you all very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please remain in your seats as the President, Vice President, Second Gentleman and recipients depart, thank you.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A touching moment just now at the White House, President Biden honoring the heroes of the insurrection and the long battle to undo democracy itself, including the officers who stood up to the mob during the Capitol siege as well as various election officials and other elected officials who helped preserve American democracy on January 6 and the days leading up to it.

While you were watching President Biden, the House wrapped up its 13th vote, ballot number 13 and they again did not elect a Speaker of the House. No one got enough votes. Right now, they are all voting on a motion to adjourn. That is - it's the motion right now being voted on.

[15:25:02] Let's get right to CNN's Manu Raju.

Manu, we've been doing the math and it seems like the task will be much easier for Kevin McCarthy to become the speaker if these two House Republicans, Buck and Hans who are absent right now, for personal reasons if they return, tell us what's going on.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is exactly why the house is voting to adjourn right now to give time for those members to return. I'm told Ken Buck in particular has a flight arriving back into Washington around 9 pm, so they plan to come back at 10 pm. That would give Kevin McCarthy two additional votes.

Now, that doesn't mean he will get there. There needs to be - there's already a furious effort underway right now to get the other remaining holdouts, a few - two most viewed as gettable: Matt Rosendale of Montana and Elijah Crane. He's an incoming Republican member as well. Both of them are under - being lobbied by the membership, by the top leaders to break ranks and their - I'm told that the concerns that they have raised our political.

Crane in particular is concerned that if he backs McCarthy, this could hurt him in a potential primary bid in the next cycle. Also, I'm told about Rosendale - Mr. McCarthy, do you have the votes to be elected speaker tonight?


RAJU: You do?


RAJU: And you'll be able to flip Rosendale and Crane?

MCCARTHY: I'll have the votes.

RAJU: What are you - what were their concerns?


MCCARTHY: Because I count (ph) ...


RAJU: So there you have it. He said, yes, he's got the votes to become elected speaker, if you're still with me here, Jake.


RAJU: He says he has the votes. Tonight he has the votes to be elected speaker. That is new. He has not been saying that so far. In fact, for some time, Kevin McCarthy has been saying that it's unclear when he would be elected speaker. There's no timeframe. That's what he said last night. That's what he said this morning, but now you have Kevin McCarthy saying that tonight, he will have the votes to be elected Speaker of the House. And that would mean that he had to flip some members somehow some way, those remaining holdouts as we're talking about, Elijah Crane as well as - he's an incoming freshmen - Matt Rosendale of Montana, both of them had expressed concerns about the politics of supporting Kevin McCarthy. Crane concerned about the potential primary impacts he could have in the next election cycle. Rosendale is eyeing a potential Senate run in Montana. He wants to stay to the right of any potential opponent there, one of the Montana potential opponent that Ryan Zinke, also an incoming member is supporting McCarthy, so there you get some of the sense of the politics there.

But McCarthy doesn't seem too concerned. I just asked him about Rosendale and Crane, as you heard. He didn't really quite say how he's going to get those members. But there's a possible - there lots of different scenarios in which you can get there, some may vote present to lower the voting threshold and then getting these two members back who support McCarthy are essential.

But right there, Kevin McCarthy believes that after all these failed ballots, one after the other, this historic speaker's race more than 100 years here that he will finally get the votes to be elected speaker after we've seen - it's been a hundred years since we have multiple ballots in an election. Kevin McCarthy feels he's there tonight.

TAPPER: That's right, Manu Raju, it is huge news and a very lucky Friday the 13th for Kevin McCarthy as of right now, not just luck, obviously a lot of wheeling and dealing and negotiating. Right now, Kevin McCarthy is within grasp of the house speakership. He has 214 votes. He only needs to flip to rebels of the remaining six, if these other two Republican members of Congress come back.

The House has just voted - they're voting right now to adjourn until 10 pm to resume the vote, go to a 14 ballot. We're going to have more CNN special coverage after this quick break stay with us.