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CNN Live Event/Special

Right Now: Vote For House Speaker; GOP Rep. Mike Johnson Appears To Have Votes For Speaker; Biden Speaks As House Elects New Speaker. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired October 25, 2023 - 13:30   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Manu, as we see on the screen, Mike Johnson now has 128 votes and counting. Nobody has voted against him yet. We believe 216 is the magic number.

What are you seeing and hearing when it comes to the activity happening not just on the floor but off the floor?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The writing is on the wall quite literally. I mean, Kevin McCarthy is ready to move out of the speaker suite.

Already, we've seen the sign taken down. There has been furniture and other items removed from the speaker's suite. That has been happening all through the course of the day as Kevin McCarthy plans to move into a different office.

In fact, moving into a suite nearby the House floor where Nancy Pelosi used to occupy, something that McCarthy has since uprooted her from that location.

Dana, there is a big question about Kevin McCarthy's future. He has indicated he will serve out his term. He will play such a huge role fundraising for this party, trying to keep Republicans in the House majority.

What will he do now? Will he step aside? Will he continue to serve? Will he play that key role that Republicans needed him to play to keep the House?

Those are huge questions for the former speaker who is moving out of the suite that he has still occupied for more than three weeks, even though he was ousted 22 days ago -- Dana?

BASH: Thanks, Manu.

And I believe it is actually 215 that Mike Johnson needs, given the attendance at this vote. But that's almost irrelevant at this point because nobody is voting against him.

Ken Buck, is it still possible for you or anybody else to vacate the chair? Meaning kick Mike Johnson out the way that you did Kevin McCarthy? Does that rule still exist? I should say, this is McCarthy who just voted for Mike Johnson.

REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): Yes, absolutely. The rules haven't changed in the House. I anticipate, at some point, a Republican member will move to change the rules. It goes to conference first. Then the rule would go to the floor.

And I think it is clear there is a mood in the Congress now to raise that threshold from one vote to five to 10 or to a higher number.

BASH: Forgive us. We're outside and it is busy behind us.

So to raise the threshold so that you couldn't do it again with only eight as you did before.

BUCK: You couldn't do it with one as you could have before.

BASH: Yes.

BUCK: But we did have eight.

BASH: Fair, yes. That's fair.

Charlie Dent, the other thing I'm thinking about are your colleagues had a -- are like you are from battle ground districts. So far, all of them have voted yes for Mike Johnson.

And the Democrats, who are writing the press releases -- actually, the press releases are already written.

Despite the fact that Mike Johnson doesn't have a long record. He hasn't been here very long. It's long enough from their perspective that they are chomping at the bit to use these frontliners, these battleground districts, Republicans, to use Mike Johnson's record against them.

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm sure they will do that. Obviously, Mike Johnson doesn't have a very high profile nationally.

I suspect the Democratic Campaign Committee will be working around the clock to define him. They'll be going on the air and saying all sorts of things about Mike Johnson, election denial, all those things.

And I'm sure they'll be morphing the faces of the Republican in the 18 districts that Biden won and working them into Mike Johnson and Donald Trump.

I suspect that's what they are going to do. I would suspect that. Just like what happened with Newt Gingrich where they used Newt Gingrich as a pinata. Just as Republicans used Nancy Pelosi as a pinata.


BASH: And on that note, actually, we should say that Mariannette Miller-Meeks, somebody from one of those battleground districts in Iowa, Mark Molinaro, one of the famous Republicans who won in New York and helped bring the Republicans the majority, they both just voted for Mike Johnson.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look. Republicans, and we're still counting votes. They had to get a speaker in place because, without one, Democrats also are able to say they cannot govern.

So it's important that they got in line. And we need to be able to have a functioning House.

I do think, in these 18 districts, Democrats should have that conversation with their voters and talk about, is Mike Johnson going to say the election results are real? And the consequences if he doesn't say that, what that means for 2024.

Also, if Donald Trump is the nominee, there is a great opportunity to link his belief of his denial of the election results of 2020 to the Republican Party, which is Donald Trump.


So, I mean, this is politics, unfortunately, at the end of the day. I would love to have conversations about Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security and abortion that everyday Americans do really care about.

And Johnson is pretty conservative on those. And I think Democrats can run on those issues as well, so.

DENT: And Republicans will have to actually spend some time and money to introduce Mike Johnson to the American people. Democrats will do it for them, if they don't do it first.

BASH: How well do you know him?

BUCK: Mike was in the Freedom caucus with me for, I think, two terms. So I know him very well. I had dinner with him every night that we were or every one night a week that we were in town. I also served on the Judiciary Committee with Mike Johnson. So I know him very well from that.

BASH: What is he like to work with?

BUCK: He's a very pleasant guy. We disagreed on the certification of the election and we disagreed on other issues but we've never had a harsh word towards each other.

BASH: Scott Jennings was saying, he calls himself a conservative who is just not angry about it. Is that the way you would describe him?

BUCK: Yes, I would. I think that George W. Bush was talking about compassionate conservatism. I think that's one of the things that Mike portrays.

BASH: One of the areas that -- one of the issues that helped sink Emmer, who you voted for several times on the House floor, was that he supported same-sex marriage. That's an issue that Mike Johnson, who is on his way to becoming the next speaker of the House, does not support.


BASH: Could we just -- we'll just tell you that the reason why they're clapping is because Nancy Pelosi, the former speaker, the other former speaker, who is on the House floor, just voted for Hakeem Jeffries.

How does that square with the way the Republican Party is in 2023?

DENT: Well, I think the issue of marriage has been settled by the Supreme Court. I don't think it is one of the top-10 issues that people will be campaigning on.

I don't know that it is something going to be out there either for or against either of these candidates.

BUCK: I didn't hear you.

BASH: We were talking about same-sex marriage.


BUCK: This is -- I thought it was really unfortunate that one of the members made a comment about Tom Emmer that he had to get right with Jesus over same-sex marriage.

I think the party needs to become much more socially tolerant on issues like this. I think the American people hear Republicans fighting over this issue, I think the country has moved on.

This is a challenge for the party that, if it wants to be a governing majority, it will have to get into a better place on some of these very sensitive cultural issues where we're just out of step, particularly with younger people.

ALLISON: I think it matters who is at the top of the ticket for the Republican Party. Right now, it looks like Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee and he leans into culture wars.

But if you have a Ron DeSantis, the king of culture wars and going after transgender children, LGBTQ folks, and African-American history in his state. This is a conversation that's important.

If the Republican Party is not willing to support someone as speaker because he supports same-sex marriage, I think that is out of touch with the overwhelming majority of the American people.

It has been set up by the Supreme Court but I think that backlash will be very similar to what you saw in 2022 when the Supreme Court overreached on abortion.

BASH: Congressman Buck, I know you have to get back to the floor. We're looking at the votes, 176 for Mike Johnson. No Republican has voted against him yet. Assuming that trend continues, he'll be the speaker in a matter of minutes. Can you take us inside the meeting last night that led you to settle

on a guy who a lot of people, including your colleagues in the Senate, had to Google because they didn't know who he is?

BUCK: Sure. It was an all-day meeting. And first, Tom Emmer was selected as the speaker nominee. He was -- it was obviously when he started having a conversation with the members who were against him that wasn't going to move them.

He withdrew. We went through another candidate forum. Mike was selected.

And I think, really, the people who nominated Mike, McMorris, Rogers, the people who support him from the Freedom Caucus and the others in the Republican conference were confident that Mike could get this job done, could get to 217, which is the first and most important job of the speaker.

BASH: And going back to what you said initially, which is that he is the person who has -- that was Steve Scalise who just voted for Mike Johnson. Another one of the Republicans who your conference nominated early on but didn't make it to the floor for a vote because he didn't have them.


Starting out again, because we'll be learning a lot about this man who is heading toward not only getting the gavel but being second in line for the president of the United States.

This is obviously a constitutional position. The fact that he didn't have baggage in this climate was the plus.

BUCK: I think it was really --

BASH: Personal baggage.

BUCK: -- but it was certainly a very important factor in people's minds.

BASH: Thank you so much for coming over here and joining us.

Wolf, I'll pass it back to you.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, Dana, thank you.

It looks like Mike Johnson is getting closer and closer to becoming the next speaker of the House of Representatives.

John King, I want to get your thoughts.

He's 51 years old, Mike Johnson. The Republican representative from Louisiana. He was elected in 2016, sworn in in 2017. We did some checking. He would be the first speaker in 140 years with that limited amount of experience in the House. JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So at a time when people

in both parties are asking for generational change, here's an opportunity.

You're right. He'll be tested. The critics will say, you've never chaired a committee, you've only been here seven years, you're not up to the job, you don't know enough.

You don't know enough about how the institution works, you don't know enough about the policy challenges. And that will be the criticism. And he knows that coming into day one.

The question is, can he somehow do what no other Republican has been able to do, Republicans who have worked it for a decade or more?

Like a Steve Scalise, like a Tom Emmer. They helped win money, helped recruit candidates. That's the traditional path to the speakership. Mike Johnson has done none of that.

That doesn't mean it can't work. But we don't have to look far back to see Steve Scalise was toppled. Congressman Scalise, number two in the membership, couldn't even get to the floor for a vote.

The number four, Mr. Emmer, who just led them to the majority, helped lead them to the majority. Mid-terms were a little mixed message. They didn't do as well as they thought they were going to do. He couldn't even get to the floor.

Because of -- yes, their personal differences with some of the other members. But also the fact that they were viewed by the most rebels, most rebellious members as part of the establishment. Mike Johnson is none of those things.

But can he satisfy the six or eight or 10 who are always looking to upset the apple cart and, at the same time, satisfy the 18 who have to go back to districts Joe Biden won, whose election next year is in question.

It's a job somebody -- whether you like him or not, McCarthy studied how to do that job for years and could not pull it off.

Can this untested man do it? It's a giant opportunity. But there is a trap door under him every step of the way.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, when you look at the big picture here, what's happened, a bunch of things were at work.

One is that -- and I think it is important. Everybody was exhausted and embarrassed by what had gone on.

The second thing is that Johnson has no huge national profile. And I think, in a way, that worked to his advantage.

The third thing was that people had no personal enmity toward him. They didn't dislike him in the same way that they disliked Jim Jordan. Mitt Romney today said, apparently, experience is not necessary for

the speaker's job.


BORGER: And I don't think he meant that as a compliment.


BORGER: He said, "We're down to folks who haven't had leadership or chairmanship roles, which mean their administration of the House will be a new experience for them."

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: But here's something that does make a difference. Look at this. This is unanimous, thus far. Everybody on the Republicans for him.

What makes the difference -- to respond to Mitt Romney -


GANGEL: -- two words. Donald Trump. Election denier. And also the fact that his colleagues like him.

Congressman Ken Buck sat here last week and said he would not vote for an election denier. He just told our colleague, Dana Bash, that he had not gotten that promise from Mike Johnson but he voted for him. Not all election deniers are created equal.

BLITZER: I just want to point out, as we're waiting for the final results, Mike Johnson is getting closer and closer to being elected speaker of the House of Representatives.

We are getting live pictures coming in from the White House as well. The president of the United States, President Biden, will be holding a joint news conference with the prime minister of Australia, and they'll take reporters' questions.

We're going to monitor that and bring that to our viewers live as well.

It looks, David Chalian, like Mike Johnson is going to be -- it certainly appears that he will have the magic number and be elected speaker of the House.

All the Republicans who voted against the earlier Republican nominees are now standing in line behind Mike Johnson so far.


DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: And that will be a credit to Johnson, to the House Republican members. Not only did they get it together but, if they do it unanimously, it will continue this good mood we're seeing on this side of the floor today from the majority.

This notion of, he doesn't have enemies. The question I have now, how will that help him? He will eventually get some enemies.


CHALIAN: He can't be speaker of the House without some. And how will that help him in the short run?

Do the rules change? As Ken Buck suggested, maybe they will and you get rid of the rule that just one can vacate the chair.

Does he have enough goodwill beyond just the speaker's vote to actually alter the rules of the game a bit, to give him a little bit of breathing room here as he tries to put their best --


BORGER: You give him the benefit of the doubt.


NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, there were suggestions that maybe Republicans were in a mood for compromise going forward. That's certainly not something that we have seen previously.

McCarthy certainly was ousted because he did compromise with the Democrats. We'll see what happens with Mike Johnson.

It's interesting to sort of notice, you know, now Republicans are acting like Democrats have acted over the last weeks. The Democrats were very, very united, very much --


HENDERSON: But sort of the contrast that we saw over these last weeks with Republicans very much in disarray as the world was on fire and Democrats being unanimously behind their person. We see that now from Republicans.



BORGER: Can I just say that yesterday morning, Mike Johnson had 34 votes for speaker.

BLITZER: Well, they're getting closer and closer to the number that Mike Johnson needs to be elected speaker of the House. He needs 215, given the absentees among the members.

Once he gets to that number, Kasie, he will become the next speaker of the House.

KASIE HUNT, CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: We expect that. Make sure no one changes their vote at the end.

(LAUGHTER) HUNT: Be terrible.

But one thing, as you talk about what the experience will mean, enemies he might make.

One thing that is important to think about is that being speaker of the House and leader of your party for one of these major chambers of Congress is a much more complicated and enormous job beyond what happens on the floor.

BLITZER: We're looking for that 215.

And a good point that Kasie made. The members of the House could always change their votes in the end. So let's see if it gets to 215 first.



REP. SUSAN WILD (D-PA): Jeffries.


Williams of Georgia.

REP. NIKEMA WILLIAMS (D-GA): Hakeem Jeffries


Williams of New York.



Williams of Texas.



Wilson of Florida. Wilson of Florida.

REP. WILSON (D-FL): Jeffries.


BLITZER: It looks like Mike Johnson has the votes, 215. Given the vacancies, the absentees, it looks like Mike Johnson now is about to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives.

It looks like Republicans got their act together this time and Mike Johnson of Louisiana, will become -- assuming there are no vote changes in the end, will become speaker.

Let's listen in.








REP. RUDY YAKYM (R-IN): Johnson.



REP. RYAN ZINKE (R-MO): Next speaker of the people's House, Johnson.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The clerk will now call the names of the members who did not answer the first call of the roll.





Boyle of Pennsylvania. Boyle of Pennsylvania

Correia. Correia




Vicente Gonzalez. Vincente Gonzalez.

BLITZER: Clearly, this is a very, very huge moment in the history of the House of Representatives. A new speaker of the House appears, appears to have been elected unless some members decide to change their minds. John, the Republicans, clearly, in this particular case, got their act


KING: And out of three weeks of chaos comes very important history. A man even many Republican Senators knew nothing about this morning, and I would believe most Americans knew nothing about this morning, is about to be third in line for the presidency once he is sworn in as speaker of the House.

Mike Johnson will be third in line for the presidency after the president and vice president.

He will be the leader of a very fractious Republican conference.

And we were talking earlier, the Democrats believe they can use him and Trump to run the 2024 campaign. That will be a challenge. A huge difference between him and the Democrats.

But we're going to see the president in the Rose Garden in a few minutes. He's never negotiated with Joe Biden. He'll now have to negotiate with the president of the United States.

He's also never negotiated with Mitch McConnell. This will also exacerbate because of the wing of the party he comes from, the differences we've seen play out the last couple of years between House Republicans and Senate Republicans.

So it's a new face, a new leader. He's a blank slate. That's an enormous opportunity.

The challenges are so many for a person who has zero experience at this level. That doesn't mean he can't do it but he has zero experience in what he inherits in just a matter of minutes.

They'll tally the votes. He will be sworn in as speaker. He will get the gavel. And then, wow, we move into the next very big chapter.


HUNT: He'll be standing on a stage at a level he's never stood on before. And I think they oftentimes politicians underestimate that. Typically, there is more time.

BLITZER: We see the president of the United States and the visiting prime minister of Australia walking to the microphones. They'll be making opening statements and then answering reporters' questions. We'll be anxious to hear what they have to say.

I think this is the president's first formal news conference since the Hamas attack on Israel.

Let's listen in to the president.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- by my side here at the White House. And it'll make our alliance even more than it's already been. It's strong now. It's getting stronger. Before I get to the progress Australia and the United States have made

today, I want to say just a very few words about the situation in the Middle East.

The anger, the hurt, the sense of outrage that the Israeli people are feeling after the brutally inflicted devastation by Hamas is completely understandable. Israel has a right and I would add a responsibility to respond to the slaughter of their people.

And we will ensure Israel has what it needs to defend itself against these terrorists. That's a guarantee.

We also have to remember Hamas does not represent, let me say it again. Hamas does not represent the vast majority of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip or anywhere else.

Hamas is hiding behind Palestinian civilians and it is despicable and not surprisingly cowardly as well.

This also puts an added burden on Israel while they go after Hamas. But that does not lessen the need to operate in line with the laws of war. For Israel has to do everything in its power, as difficult as it is, to protect innocent civilians. It's difficult.

I want to thank the Israelis and the Palestinians -- excuse me, the President Sisi of Egypt, for working with the United States to make sure that food, water and medical supplies are getting through to innocent people in Gaza.

The flow needs to increase and we're working very hard with our partners to make that happen.

We're also working around the clock with our partners in the region to secure the release of hostages. And including American citizens behind -- left behind and held by Hamas.

And the safe passage of foreign nationals out of Gaza. Not just Americans but Australians and the whole range of people who are trapped in Gaza.


I also want to take a moment to look ahead to the future that we seek. Israelis and Palestinians equally deserve to live side by side in safety, dignity and peace.

There is no going back to the status quo as it stood on October 6th. That means ensuring Hamas can no longer terrorize Israel and use Palestinian civilians as human shields.

It also means, when this crisis is over, there has to be a vision of what comes next. In our view, it has to be a two-state solution. It means a concentrated effort for all the parties, Israelis, Palestinians, regional partners, global leaders, to put us on a path toward peace. In the past few weeks, I've spoken to leaders throughout the region,

from Jordan, President Sisi of Egypt, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority, and just yesterday with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia about making sure there is real hope in the region for a better future.

About the need -- and I mean this sincerely -- to work toward greater integration with Israel while insisting the aspirations of the Palestinian people will be part of that as well.

I'm convinced part of why Hamas attacked when they did -- I have no proof of this. It is my instinct. It was because of the progress we've made toward integration with Israel. We can't leave that work behind.

One more word on this. I continue to be alarmed about extremist settlers attacking Palestinians in the West Bank, pouring gasoline on fires.

This was a deal. The deal was made and they're attacking Palestinians in places they're entitled to be. It has to stop. They have to be held accountable. It has to stop now.

Mr. Prime minister, I want to thank you for your partnership and your friendship, quite frankly, during this difficult hour. Over the past few weeks and for many months, we've seen our alliance grow more critical than ever.

We need to continue to make this important progress. In our discussions today, we've done just that.

First, we're pioneering new advancements and innovations, deepening our cooperation. It feels like biotechnology, advance batteries, quantum computing, cyber security and a lot more.

We're also signing a new technology safeguards agreement to create more opportunities for American space companies to launch vehicles from Australia.

And we've launched a new artificial intelligence initiative between our national laboratories. For responsible research on humanity's biggest challenges, fighting hunger, curbing pandemics, predicting natural disasters and ending cancer as we know it.

As a matter of fact, most of our wives are over at the Cancer Institute right now. And so much more.

Second, we're accelerating action on climate change. I thought we had a very good meeting this morning and with Secretary Kerry and your team. And we're all together on that.

In May, we established the Climate, Critical Minerals and Clean Energy Compact to elevate our climate cooperation, alongside our defense and economic cooperation. And we're beginning to see the impacts.

We've created a Critical Minerals Task Force to build secure critical supply chains. We're also investing in sustainable infrastructure in the Pacific

islands, including $65 million for a subsea communication cable that boosts connectivity in the region.

And we're modernizing funding for small and medium-size businesses across the Pacific to help transition to clean energy.

And finally, the alliance between Australia and the United States is an anchor to peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and, quite frankly, around the world.

We see this through our work and the quad partners, India and Japan, to ensure the Indo-Pacific remains free, open, prosperous and secure.

I also see where, together with the United Kingdom, we're making generational investments in our shared security.

Last week, I sent Congress a budget request with commitments to boost our submarine production and maintenance capacity here in the United States.

I want to thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for the historic investments Australia has made to strengthen the submarine industry base as well.

Democrats and Republican alike understand the strategic value AUKUS brings to our nations. And I urge Congress, I urge Congress to pass our AUKUS legislation this year.

We also see the strength of our alliance in our unwavering support for Ukraine, both countries, against a sovereign.