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McCarthy Loses 13th Speaker Ballot; McCarthy Confident He'll Have Votes To Be Elected Speaker Tonight; Interview With Rep. French Hill (R-AK): His Meetings With McCarthy Holdouts. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired January 06, 2023 - 15:30   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I'm Anderson Cooper in New York. You're watching CNN's special live coverage. Kevin McCarthy saying, he has the votes to become the next speaker of the United States House of Representatives. Voting right now on the House floor. McCarthy allies trying to buy more time and adjourn the House until tonight at 10:00 p.m.

The battle for Speaker now a battle of attrition. Kevin McCarthy flipping 15 Republican rebels, all of them today. Just how much closer McCarthy is to the Speaker's gavel at this moment than he was this morning. This was ballot number 11. Last night the number of holdouts was 20 strong, plus one present vote. Then there was ballot 13, and one more rebel, Andy Harris defected to the McCarthy camp. The number of eventually Kevin numbers now at 15 -- but six "Never Kevin" voters, Bob Good, Andy Biggs, Lauren Boebert, Matt Rosendale, Eli Crane and Matt Gaetz.

I want to go to CNN's Manu Raju. You just caught up with McCarthy on the way out and he said -- he told you directly he has the votes.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He had the votes and that is a much different tone that he has struck over the past several days. He has always been confident that he'll get there, but he has refused to put a time frame on it, suggesting this could drag on for days, could go on for long. He would stick to it for as long as possible. But right there for the first time, Kevin McCarthy is saying he has the votes to be elected Speaker and he'll be elected tonight.


RAJU: Do you think you'll 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 were their concerns?

MCCARTHY: That they count.


RAJU (on camera): So, those two members that I referred to, Matt Rosendale and Eli Crane. Crane is an incoming freshman. Rosendale is a Republican member from Montana. Both of them voted for Jim Jordan in this -- these past ballots. They are the ones who are the subject of a pretty intense campaign, a lobbying campaign to win over at this moment.

I'm told they have been concerned about the politics of supporting McCarthy, particularly Crane believing that may not be good -- beneficial politically to support him, especially if he faces a primary in the next cycle.


Rosendale, somebody who is eyeing a Senate bid in Montana in 2024. One potential opponent is another incoming Republican, Congressman from Montana Ryan Zinke, who supports McCarthy. So, perhaps there's some political issues there but that they need to sort out. But they believe they can sort them out, and McCarthy suggests he's do as can as well.

There are different iterations of how they can get there. Maybe they can convince one or two of them to vote present. That could change the calculus and lower the voting threshold. Right now, at 218, if all 434 members are voting present or in attendance, that is what the magic number is, 218. And they do expect two absent members who are gone today to come back and vote. Ken Buck of Colorado as well as Wesley Hunt who is an incoming freshman, and we have the leader again here.

Leader McCarthy -- leader McCarthy.

OK, he didn't stop this time, but we tried. The reporters are chasing him down. As you can see, he's coming back and forth here, Anderson as he is very confident, he has the votes.

But a very big moment after a really messy beginning to the beginning of the 118th Congress. They have not been able to do anything. It's been paralyzed. They could only elect a Speaker or vote to adjourn. That's all they could do at this moment until they elect a Speaker.

They are voting to adjourn the House right now to give them time to allow those absent members to return, and then when we come back at 10:00 p.m., we'll see if they're able to elect Kevin McCarthy who is confident, he has the votes now -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Manu Raju, I appreciate it and all your work throughout this whole week. Thank you very much. Back to the panel here. You know, David Urban, you talked about this is the process of grinding people down. DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Here we go. Here we go. We're

watching. We're watching them get ground down here, right. So, now we're down to, you know, Crane and Rosendale that they're reporting. And you know, we watched some video of Crane saying, look, I've got no personal animus against McCarthy. He's like, he's a soft member of Congress, right. He's like, did I vow to my constituents that I wouldn't support Kevin. And I talked to Representative Zinke, a former Navy SEAL that runs a SEAL PAC, and he said, McCarthys betrayal and that his fellow SEALs, we supported him and we're talking to him. And so, I think, you know, Crane is actually gettable. I'm not sure about Rosendale. I think Scott's, you know, they have been working there. Maybe in Montana, who knows?

COOPER: David Urban, but David Axelrod?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, one of my questions is, what if those guys vote present? What if those guys vote present? Do they -- would that be adequate? I mean, he could fulfill -- I remember back in 2021 when Nancy Pelosi was re-elected with 216 votes. There are a couple of members who voted present who had pledged not to vote for Pelosi, but their vote -- they're present vote reduced the number of votes that she needed. Maybe that's what's going on here. You know, I just -- I'm -- the other thing that's rattling around in my head is something my old pal Rahm Emanuel used to tell me when he was White House chief --

URBAN: Clean it up. Clean it up.

AXELROD: No, it's completely clean. Is completely clean. But he used to say, nothing gets things going in the House more than the smell of the jet fuel. It's Friday afternoon. People want to go home, and it seems clear that he's close. So, you know, I think there's a lot of pressure to get this done.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, and that's a big part of this, right. As you say, people are now -- now we are at the moment where the numbers are creating the pressure. Who is the one or two people who are going to keep us here over the weekend?

COOPER: Let's listen to Kevin McCarthy.

MCCARTHY: We'll come back. I believe at that time we'll have the votes to finish this once and for all. It just reminds me of what my father always told me. It's not how you start. It's how you finish. And now we have the finish for the American public.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was the turn off? What was the breaking point in the negotiations?

MCCARTHY: I think getting together, and just finding the ability to how are we all going to work together? It's new for us, one being in the majority but being in a tight majority. I think at the end of the day, we're going to be more effective, more efficient, and definitely the government is going to be more accountable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you expect to govern this way? It has been taking this long to get the conference united.

MCCARTHY: See, this is a great part. Because it took this long, now we learned how to govern. So now we'll be able to get the job done. Thank you all very much. See you later.

COOPER: That's Kevin McCarthy speaking. They have adjourned now until 10:00 p.m. tonight. That will allow them time not only to -- use allow David Urban's terms, grind down the more holdouts, Rosendale and Crane in particular, but also allow some Republicans to get back who have not been here today. Scott Jennings?


SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, first of all, we just have to acknowledge how far Kevin McCarthy has come in a short period of time. I mean, I know he was joking about it earlier, he really is the comeback kid. I mean, we were sitting out here 24 hours ago, it was not clear if he was going to be able to get anywhere near the votes. We got here this morning and it seemed early on maybe the negotiations hadn't quite produced a deal.

He defied expectations when the group of the Roy people started coming over. It's obviously that these negotiations were in good faith, and they did work, and that his personal engagement really mattered. So, I have to say even though a lot of people have taken a lot of shots at McCarthy from across the spectrum this week and have called into question his political acumen or his, you know, his ability to fill these shoes. He's come a long way in a short period of time, and he and his deputies deserve a lot of credit for figuring it out in a group of people who are not easily sold.

FINNEY: I'll grant you that, but I would say there's two key questions. At what cost have we gotten to this point, and what is left to give to get these last two votes and that's what we're going to being be looking for tonight.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I actually think today is a sad day. Today is the second anniversary of January 6th. Kevin McCarthy has gotten much closer to cobbling together a very precarious leadership position, ruling over a House of Representatives of which there are six holdouts who frankly are totally unapologetic about the actions from two years ago. And over a House of Representatives that have a lot of Republicans who defiantly did not vote to certify the election two years ago in the wake of the destruction of the Capitol in which they were in.

The side by side of these moments in or horse race counting, of Kevin McCarthy's, you know, modicum success versus President Biden giving 12 medals -- presidential medals to the heroes on that day are frankly a really stark contrast and reminder of what the stakes are in this country, and how precarious that leadership will be in the House of Representatives, and the caliber of individuals that's in there right now. And I think this is not a successful day for Republicans. This is not a great day for the country, but it's a good day that we at least took the moment to be -- to commemorate and remember those who gave their lives on that day, and the sacrifice to get to this moment. COOPER: Just now the House adjourning as Kevin McCarthy is inching

closer to claiming the Speaker's gavel. Team McCarthy's strategy now, get Donald Trump to lean on the remaining holdouts. More on that next.



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Kevin McCarthy creeping closer and closer and closer. Almost solving that Rubik's cube that has become the Republican conference. The House right now stands adjourned giving Republican leader McCarthy until 10:00 p.m. to flip a few more "Never Kevin" holdouts. The top target sources tell CNN are Congressman Matt Rosendale of Montana, and incoming freshman Congressman Eli Crane of Arizona, they're also waiting for two Congressmen who are McCarthy supporters who are out of town for personal reasons to return so as to allow him the margin he needs to become Speaker.

Let's go live to Melanie Zanona. Mel, Kevin McCarthy sounding more confident and more assured and even definitive that he has the votes and will be Speaker and it will happen tonight.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, Jake. I would say the most definitive and the most confident we have heard Kevin McCarthy throughout this entire saga. Like he says he will the votes, he will have them tonight. And he said, it's not about how you start, it's about how you finish.

But there are a few things that need to happen, those couple of pieces are starting to fall into place. But first, we need to get two members back. That would be Ken Buck and Wesley Hunt, two Republicans who were supporting Kevin McCarthy, but they were absent. So, that was hurting his threshold that he needs. So, they are expected to come back later tonight. That is why they adjourned. They will come back later tonight at 10:00 p.m.

But they still have a little more work to do because they still need to flip at least two of the six remaining holdouts and I am told there that there's going to be a big focus on freshman Eli Crane from Arizona as well as Matt Rosendale from Montana. And some of the concern from these members is that voting for Kevin McCarthy is going to play poorly for them back in their very conservative districts. So, part of the pitch to them is going to be convince them otherwise.

And a part of that strategy could rely on Donald Trump. Up until this point, he has not moved the needle although he has been making calls trying to get people to support Kevin McCarthy, but now he expected to make one last effort here to try to get them to vote for Kevin McCarthy. We're told the Trump camp and McCarthy camp have been in contact, and that they're that Trump could help put pressure on these folks and tell them that it's not going to hurt them back in their districts.

You know, Matt Rosendale is someone to especially watch because he wants to run potentially for Senate in Montana. He would have to go through a red primary there. So whatever Trump says to him, maybe he offers to help him out or endorse him. We don't know, but that will come into play potentially and could be a key into unlocking some of these votes.

But one other thing I just wanted to go back to about the absences. Jake, I think we need to point out the personal toll this is taking on some of these members. They have gone to great lengths to help McCarthy lock down the speakership. Wesley Hunt, he's a Texas member. He just had a baby a few days ago. He flew back to Texas. Now he's coming back just to be here for this vote tonight.


So, just a glimpse into just the personal sacrifices that a lot of these members are taking as they hope to lock things down, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Mel. Thanks so much. Let's bring in Congressman French Hill of Arkansas. He's a Republican. He's been voting for McCarthy, what now, 13 times -- 13 times you voted for him.

REP. FRENCH HILL (R-AK): I think so, at least.

TAPPER: OK, well, every time -- every time we should say. So, you have been meeting with these McCarthy holdouts. There are six left. Who is most likely to flip? Is it Rosendale and Crane as Melanie just reported? And is one of the possibilities getting some of these individuals to at least vote present, which would bring down the standard of the threshold that McCarthy needs to reach from 218 to perhaps 217 or 216?

HILL: Yes. Jake, it's good to be with you. It's a good day for Kevin McCarthy and our efforts to elect Kevin as the next Speaker of the House. We picked up 15 votes this afternoon in the vote series. That gives the momentum back to him. And you're right in terms of what we have to do between now and 10:00 tonight. We're going to work hard at it.

I think all six deserve the opportunity to hear from McCarthy's supporters, that we would urge them to change their vote and support Kevin, but we need two of them plus the two that we get back, our members who are out of town.

TAPPER: Just a tip, as an observer, I don't think Gaetz is gettable, but that's for you to decide. One of the things that I'm hearing from some individuals like yourself, McCarthy supporters, people who support governing, is they're worried about what has been conceded. Some of the negotiations, obviously, seem reasonable, having 72 hours at the least between introducing a bill before voting on it. But there's some talk of freezing spending at fiscal year 2022 levels, which would actually bring down the defense budget significantly. A lot of members of the House Armed Services Committee are worried about that. Do you know all the concessions that have been made?

HILL: Well look, there are three areas where leader McCarthy worked with the non-McCarthy group to get to an agreement. One was on rules. You referenced that. And the rules that we've agreed to are exactly the House rules, as approved and passed by the House conference, with one exception, that was to add the motion to vacate the chair to one member. But let me remind you, that's been the rule in the House since 1910. Every Speaker has had that rule and the House rules except for Nancy Pelosi. So, that's the first group.

Secondly is spending. Trying to get control of spending after this avalanche of fiscal stimulus coming from the pandemic and to the Biden administration. And yes, we want to try to curtail and reform spending and there are spending agreements in this package that would encourage more members to offer amendments on the floor to reduce spending. To have a budget resolution that has an aspirational goal for some departments of trying to go back to FY '22 which was considered sort of a baseline for conversation.

And then finally, Jake, our participation in the committees, and leader McCarthy wants all of the standing committees of Congress to fully reflect all of the mixed view and viewpoints of the House Republican conference. So those were the three areas where we've reached agreement last night and you saw the movement with 15 members switching their votes in support of Kevin this afternoon.

TAPPER: So, McCarthy recently said that this was all a great experience -- I know he's that kind of guy, he's putting a positive spin on things, I wouldn't expect anything else. And I don't mean that in a derisive way. But he's saying this is a positive experience, we've learned how to govern. But a cynic might say you've learned how to govern, what does that mean, ten people take you hostage and you give them everything they want?

HILL: Well, I understand that cynical view and I just don't see it that way. I don't believe that the speakership, you know, has been permanently weakened in some way -- I read those reports. These are rules that a vast majority of the House Republicans prefer. This is a spending direction, spending control program that vast majority of House Republicans support. And so, this personnel issue of making sure all wings of the Republican Party are adequately represented on the committees, I think is where a lot of the emphasis was and I think that's what leader McCarthy has guided as a solution.

But I believe that just as Speaker Pelosi had a very narrow margin in the last Congress, Kevin McCarthy will face the exact same thing this Congress, and it starts this week working together to build that consensus.

TAPPER: Well, you got one more ballot to win, Congressman.

HILL: Right.

TAPPER: This evening. You're going to win it though, yes?

HILL: I'm convinced we're going to win it. We're going to work hard between now and 10:00 to make that happen, Jake.

TAPPER: Is it going to be those two members flipping and voting for McCarthy or is it going to be three or four members of these holdouts voting present?


HILL: You never know what the mix will be. That's what makes it exciting. It's a simultaneous equation. It's perfect for a high school project.

TAPPER: OK, well, I graduated from high school in 1987, but I appreciate it. Thank you so much, Congressman.

HILL: Hey, Jake, good to be with you, thanks.

TAPPER: A historic week in Congress, might actually end tonight. Kevin McCarthy says he has the votes to win the Speaker's gavel. We're going to have more special coverage on "THE LEAD" after this quick break.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: And welcome to "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper.