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GOP Rep. Mike Johnson Elected House Speaker; Interview With Rep. Bob Good (R-VA): Newly Elected House Speaker; Humanitarian Crisis Worsens In Gaza As Fuel, Food, Water Run Out. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired October 25, 2023 - 15:30   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're following a lot of breaking news today, including the new Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican Mike Johnson of Louisiana, just elected and sworn in here in Washington, ending three weeks of Division, Deep Division within the GOP, and paralysis in the Chamber. Lots of -- lots at stake right now we're watching this. Dana, this is a huge historic moment we're watching right now.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: It absolutely was unanimous after 3 1/2 weeks. Unanimous among Republicans, I should say -- that Mike Johnson became the new House Speaker. I want to bring in Bob Good. I believe he is there, a Republican of Virginia. OK, we're not sure if he's there yet -- Wolf.

BLITZER: If he's not there, you know what MJ Lee is over at the White House for us right now. I understand we're getting more reaction, including from administration officials from the President of the United States. I'm down, MJ, what's the president saying?

MJ LEE, CNN: That's right, Wolf. We've just gotten a statement from President Biden congratulating Speaker Johnson. Just really remarkable, even seeing those words from a statement from the White House. Given that this is a turn of events that even folks here at the White House, of course, could not have predicted even a day ago. If I could just read a part of that statement. The president saying:

While House Republicans spent the last 22 days determining who would lead their conference, I have worked on those pressing issues proposing historic supplemental funding package that advances our bipartisan national security interests in Israel and Ukraine, secures our border and invests in the American people. These priorities, he said, have been endorsed by leaders in both parties. We need to move swiftly to address our national security needs to avoid a shutdown in 22 days.

In other words, Wolf, the President is trying to say after 22 days were wasted by House Republicans, the White House is sort of eager to get to work on getting that supplemental package through to send additional aid to Ukraine and Israel, to make sure that there is no government shutdown come November 17th.

But it is worth noting, this is not a well-known member here at the White House. There is going to be a bit of a scramble to figure out what kind of working relationship there is going to be between this administration and the new speaker. We're not talking about a Kevin McCarthy or even a Patrick McHenry. And I think it is worth noting that as that process unfolds, what the White House can look back on is the speakers voting record. They know that of course he is somebody who did vote to avert a debt default and that is an agreement that had the broad strokes of a budget agreement.

So it's certainly something that they are going to want to see him adhere to. And I also think that it's worth noting that the president at the press conference earlier was asked about the speaker's efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. And you saw how carefully he tried to sort of talk around that. Basically saying, look, I'm not worried about any efforts that he might make in the future to try to overturn the 2024 election results.

But it is just an interesting dynamic because when you have observed the President, you do know that the -- where a member is on this issue, where a person is on this issue, sort of serves as an important litmus test for this President.

So I think this is going to be sort of a fascinating new working relationship for us to observe. As again, White House officials, administration officials try to figure out how exactly they can work with the new speaker to get some things done on their top priorities, including, again, to get some funding through for Israel, for Ukraine and to avert a government shutdown.

BLITZER: And we'll see what happens on that front. I take it there's no indication yet from any officials at the White House, MJ, when the President might actually meet face to face with the new speaker.

LEE: Yes, and in fact, you know, we are actually trying to get clarity here at the White House on whether the two men have ever met. That was a question that we were trying to get from folks here. But yes, we expect that there's going to be a conversation that there is going to be a meeting soon because these two men have to now work together to get done all of those priorities that we just talked about.

BLITZER: Very important indeed. They got to get to know each other for the good of the country. MJ, thank you very, very much.


Dana, back to you.

BASH: Thank you. You know, Scott Jennings was telling us that Mitch McConnell has never even met the new speaker. So that's going to be interesting as well.

I want to bring in a member of the Republican Conference, Congressman Bob Good of Virginia. Thank you so much for joining us. You were one of the eight Republicans who voted to force Kevin McCarthy out. It's been 22 days without a speaker. Is Speaker Johnson really that different in his policies, in his politics, then Kevin McCarthy was? REP. BOB GOOD (R-VA): I'll point out, by the way -- Dana, great to be

with you again. That the Senate did absolutely nothing during the three weeks that we were working on giving America hope by electing a new speaker. Congress has held in very low regard, as you know, about 20 percent approval because of the failures of the past from both parties, with congressional leadership. We've had the for the first time, in modern times anyway, a true national contest for speaker, where constituents could weigh in and let their elected representatives know who they wanted elected.

Overwhelmingly, Republicans want change in the Congress, wanted change in the Republican leadership. It was worth taking a few weeks to get it right. As you know, we've also passed four spending bills out of the House. The Senate has passed zero, even though we gave him three weeks while we were working on getting the right speaker.

BASH: Congressman, just a couple of things there. It wasn't overwhelming. There were only eight members of the Republican Conference you included, who voted to oust McCarthy. So just the raw math, the vast majority of the House Conference --

GOOD: Well, I'm referring to Republicans across the country who vote for us, and they're to they want us to do what our constituents tell us to do, and they want change in the Republican leadership.

BASH: OK. And what evidence do you have? What evidence do you have that what we saw over the past 22 days gave Americans hope because most of your Republican colleagues have been quite angry because what they're hearing from constituents is that they are embarrassed and upset about the dysfunction that we saw over 22 days.

GOOD: Well, they might have been saying that a couple of weeks ago. Surgery is painful when you're going through it. It's invasive, it's disruptive, it's uncomfortable. And the things that are most valuable to us that we go through in life, we wouldn't want to repeat those. Our conference is more united now than it's been in many years.

I had two members on the Republican Conference tell me today, one is a chairman who's been here for almost 30 years. One is another member who's been here 15 years. They represent more of the center of the conference, where I'm certainly more on the conservative side. Both of them told me they have never seen the conference more excited, more united than we are today.

BASH: Is it excited or just --?

GOOD: Hope has been given to the American people. Hope has been given to the American people. If you were there -- CNN certainly was represented last night when they saw how the conference was so united unanimous behind Mike Johnson last night. There was there was an organic reaction that you couldn't manufacture. We will have a -- now we will have a person of integrity as a leader. Someone who is a humble servant leader, who has the trust of the conference and who is a conservative partner in the agenda that we have instead of an obstacle to that effect. BASH: Given that, Sir, do you feel confident that the conference will

vote to do away with the rule that allowed you to fire Kevin McCarthy, the so-called motion to vacate? You do away with that?

GOOD: That rule has been in place for 200 years and ought to stay in place. But it's a conference rule that means that 218 -- excuse me, it's a house rule. That means 218 --

BASH: Well, it's a House rule because you made it a house rule.

GOOD: members of Congress. That means two -- would you like me to answer the question?

BASH: Sure.

GOOD: That that means that 218 members of Congress can vote to change any House rule. And so if 218 Members wanted to change, it will change. However, I think Americans will affirm, Republican voters will affirm and members of Congress are increasingly realizing, this was a necessary change. And we will be validated. The change that's been made with Mike Johnson. Even just yesterday, speaker -- former Speaker McCarthy, former Speaker McCarthy was trying to orchestrate an uprising to prohibit the voting of Mike Johnson to become speaker today. I think members of the Republican Conference realized even more so yesterday how necessary this change was.

BASH: So it should stay in place as far as you're concerned, the motion to vacate?

GOOD: Yes, absolutely. It it's an accountability measure for any speaker. Power can corrupt anyone and any speaker should serve at the pleasure of 218 members of Congress. Ideally, a stronger majority than that.

BASH: Before I let you go, just one other question. Speaker Johnson was a key player in trying to push a court case, which the Supreme Court ultimately did not accept to overturn the 2020 election. He just took an oath as Speaker of the House. He is now second in line to the presidency. Do you believe that he should publicly say that Joe Biden is the legitimate president?

GOOD: I think that's a ridiculous question. As you know, Democrats have spent the better part of two decades contesting elections, objecting to elect electoral votes for more than 20 years. You've got a former gubernatorial candidate in Georgia who's never acknowledged that she was the right -- that she truly lost the election.

BASH: It's not ridiculous because what we see --

GOOD: -- Hillary Clinton said the election was stolen from her. It's a ridiculous question. Half the country didn't have confidence in the 2020 election.

BASH: That's not the question. The question is whether or not Joe Biden is the legitimate president. That's the question.


GOOD: Well, Joe Biden is the president and the American people didn't have confidence in the 2020 election.

BASH: That's not the question. The question is whether or not Joe Biden is the legitimate president. That's the question.

GOOD: Well, Joe Biden is the president and the American people, I think, are going to vote him out of office because he's been a massive failure and they're suffering under the policies that he's perpetrated upon the American people. You can't point to one policy that's working for Americans since he got elected. You want to keep litigating the election from 2020 --

BASH: I definitely do not.

GOOD: -- but the American people will vote him out in next November.

BASH: I -- the last thing that any of us wants to do is relitigate 2020. Unfortunately, it is the man who I know you did not endorse, the former president of the United States, who is running again. Thank you so much for coming on.

GOOD: I did -- I did endorse him in 2020 --

BASH: Well, no.

GOOD: -- and I will enthusiastically support him if he is a nominee.

BASH: But you now support DeSantis, right?

GOOD: Well, I'm. I'm supporting Ron DeSantis cause we need eight years to overturn the harm that Joe Biden is doing to the country.

BASH: OK. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.

GOOD: Thank you, Dana, great to be with you.

BASH: There is a lot more to get to, including an important update on the Israel Hamas war and the fuel shortage in Gaza threatening to shut down critical relief operations.



BLITZER: We're back with our special coverage, including another critical moment on the ground in Gaza, as Israel's war against Hamas plays out. The main United Nations Relief Agency working there has been promising to stop its operations in Gaza because of a lack of fuel. CNN's chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward is in Cairo joining us live right now. Clarissa, what is the status of this fuel shortage and its impact on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there's a sense that really the situation is heading to a precipice in Gaza. CNN has spoken to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency that operates inside of Gaza. They had said they would be forced to stop their operations from tonight if they didn't get more fuel. They seem to be recalibrating that message slightly saying if they don't get more fuel tonight or tomorrow, they will have to significantly reduce their operations.

But more broadly speaking, across Gaza, we do already see the impact of that severe fuel shortage. The World Health Organization saying now that 12 of Gaza's 35 hospitals are no longer operational. Eight of those because of this fuel crisis. Important to add that the IDF has come back and said that they believe there are 500,000 liters of fuel that are being held by Hamas, that they should be able to share that fuel. We have asked the UN about claims that the IDF has made in the past days that some of the fuel that they had has been stolen by Hamas. The UN said to us that they have no record and no indication of any of their fuel from any of their warehouses being stolen at any point.

But while this back and forth continues about how much fuel is left and how long it's going to last, it's very clear that on the ground already the impact of this drastic shortage is being felt, both in terms of the hospitals, but also, Wolf, in terms of desalinating plants. People now, according to doctors on the ground, being forced to drink blackish water. A real lack of clean drinking water and all that aid that is sitting on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, still unable to pass through. Just eight trucks went through last night. The expectation and the hope talking to the UN had been that starting on Monday earlier this week. That you would start to see more of a continuous and sustained flow of trucks going through. That simply has not happened -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Clarissa Ward, reporting from Cairo for us, an update. Thank you very much, Clarissa.

Just ahead, what's next for the House of Representatives with the new speaker finally in power? We're going to tell you what we're hearing from key Republicans. Stay with us.



BLITZER: Here in Washington right now, the newly sworn in House Speaker, Republican Mike Johnson of Louisiana, accepting the gavel there -- you see that picture. He's taking something of a victory lap right now, but there are so many challenges ahead for him and for Congress, including the threat of a government shutdown less than a month from now.

I want to get right to CNN's Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill. First of all, Manu, what are you hearing? What are you seeing from the lawmakers? And you're watching all of them about the road ahead, the immediate road ahead?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I've talked to a number of lawmakers about Mike Johnson. It was clear is -- they're going to give him a bit of a honeymoon period. The question is how long of a honeymoon period will he get given the momentous tasks he has ahead on issues like government funding. Issues like Ukraine aid, issues like Israel aid. Unclear how he'll deal with any of those matters at the moment.

But in talking to the members, they'll want him to -- give him some room to maneuver. Something that was not afforded to Kevin McCarthy. Some members on the far right say that they will be open to moving forward on a spending deal that Kevin McCarthy was not afforded to. In fact, when Kevin McCarthy moved in a short-term spending bill that essentially cost of the speakership. These members are not -- we have waged those same threats against Mike Johnson.

And also some of the members -- some more moderate members I've talked to about Johnson's more conservative politics. Johnson is aligned more with the far-right elements of his conference on social issues like abortion and against gay marriage. He also was pushed to overturn the 2020 elections by leading an amicus brief supporting a lawsuit to invalidate a number of states certified electoral votes.


I asked three New York Congressman Republicans who are central to winning the GOP majority, about this -- Mark Molinaro, Anthony D'Esposito and Nick LaLota. They all downplayed all of that. They said that we just need to move forward here. Let's not worry about the past. They said that they did not take that into serious consideration as they voted for him here. So, Wolf, it shows you how these members allowing him to maneuver right now, the question is for how long.

BLITZER: So is there going to be at least a period -- a grace period now where the two parties in this new Congress are going to work together?

RAJU: It's really unclear, Wolf. In fact, Hakeem Jeffries had told me just this afternoon, the Democratic leader, that he had not yet spoken to Mike Johnson. But he laid out his red lines on dealing with government spending. But that will be a key issue for Johnson. How to net -- maneuver the Senate, the Democratic Senate, the Democrat in the White House and the Democrats in the minority in his nearly divided chamber.

BLITZER: Yes, lots at snake. Manu Raju, thank you very, very much.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching our special coverage. I'll be back in two hours in the "SITUATION ROOM." "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper live from Tel Aviv starts right after a quick break.