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Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Defeated For Sixth Time, House Adjourned Until 8:00 P.M.; Bills Say Damar Hamlin Still In Critical Condition, Showing Improvement; Biden Says, House Chaos Embarrassing For The Country; Biden Joins McConnell For Bipartisan Event As House Chaos Unfolds. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 04, 2023 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news, we're following chaos at the U.S. Capitol. Republicans huddling behind closed doors tonight after Kevin McCarthy's bid for the speaker's gavel lands with a thud for the second straight day. The next moves for McCarthy and his opponents are very unclear right now with the House adjourn until 8:00 P.M. Eastern.

Another major story we're following tonight, new information emerging about the terrifying on-field collapse of Damar Hamlin. The Buffalo Bills say Hamlin is showing signs of improvement although he remains in critical condition in the ICU. This hour, the chief medical officer for the NFL joins me live for an exclusive interview.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's get straight to the spectacle on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives now adjourned until 8:00 P.M. Eastern. Our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is standing by for us up on Capitol Hill. Manu, Republicans there working behind the scenes right now to try to resolve this deadlock. I understand you're getting new information.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I've been outside that room where they have been meeting for the past hour or so. This is an essential moment for Kevin McCarthy, for the House, for the Republican Party and, frankly, the country determining who the next speaker of the House is, someone who will drive to party's agenda going forward, someone who essentially could determine key policy measures that could affect the lives of so many Americans.

But that is unresolved at this moment where Kevin McCarthy along with a handful of his closest allies are behind closed doors with a handful of other members of that bloc of 20 members who have so far denied him the ascension to the speakership. Some of those members have pushing for a various changes, changes to the House rules, efforts to give them more power, more committee assignments, things to essentially weaken the speakership and give rank and file members like themselves more leverage over the sitting speaker. Those discussions are still ongoing.

I am told by some of the members that there have been some progress along the way, including, earlier today, two Congressmen who have been in part of the talks before the meeting told me that -- who opposed McCarthy, told me that they are encouraged by the progress so far.

But Kevin McCarthy has very little room for error. He could only afford to lose four Republican votes. And after the final vote, the sixth time he was rejected and was not able to get 218 votes to become the speaker of the House, several of those members still indicated they are hard no's, Andy Biggs, are for one, Bob Good for another, Matt Gaetz, a third. That means McCarthy has virtually no margin for error going forward as he tries to peel away other members who might be amenable to compromised.

So, Wolf, we are at a moment here of deep uncertainty. The House cannot move forward, cannot govern, is essentially paralyzed until they decide who the speaker of the House is, which is why they plan to come back at 8:00 P.M. And at that moment, we will see. Will they move forward with another vote? Will the House Republicans try to adjourn for the night, something that will require 218 votes to do? All uncertain at this moment as they are behind closed doors trying to cut a deal as the Republican Party has been battling with each other for weeks, on publicly for the last two days with no end in sight. Wolf?

BLITZER: I know you're working your sources, Manu. We'll get back to you. Manu Raju, up on Capitol Hill.

Let's get some analysis right now from our political experts. They're joining us right now. John King, two full days now in this chaos up in the House of Representatives continues. So, where do things stand and where are they going?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kevin McCarthy and the House of Republicans are just -- they're at a crossroads. And the question is, can he find a way to appease the critics, get enough of them to vote for him and get some of the others to at least, if they won't vote against him, maybe vote present to try to change the parliamentary math a little bit, or you are beginning to see many McCarthy allies say, if he can't figure this out tonight, it's time to talk about a plan B. And that's a tough moment for Kevin McCarthy, wherever your politics at home, wherever, that here is a guy who tried for speaker before was humiliated. He has tried over the past two days, six times, he has been publicly humiliated by his own members, 20 of them now on that floor.

Can he salvage this? He has been wrong in every calculation he has made so far how to get to be speaker. So, logic tells you he does not have a plan to get there. Can his allies help him? He has asked as so many of his -- the fellow conservatives, people who have credibility with the holdouts have tried and tried and tried and they have failed.


So, increasingly, the whispering and the texts, some of it public, a lot of it more private is we just need Kevin to understand. If he can't figure this out in the next hour or so, he needs to get out of the way.

BLITZER: Yes. Let's see if he does. Jamie, we haven't seen anything like this, what, in about 100 years in the House of Representatives. Big picture right now, this is a dramatic moment in American history.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm almost old enough to remember, 100 years ago. Well, as John said, how do you negotiate with people who don't want to negotiate? And as, Manu, pointed out, this comes down to math. He can only afford to lose four votes and there are 20, maybe plus 1 present right now, those are a lot of people to win over, and this is personal.

This is not -- some of the people who have been holding out want rules changes or other deals. But for a lot of these people, they're never Kevin. It is about personality. They don't want him as speaker. And I think many of them would be much happier if the name we keep hearing is Steve Scalise, the number two, gets floated as a possibility.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And in some ways, that is a huge problem for Kevin McCarthy that there is an alternative that is not out there publicly but is privately viewed as perhaps a more palatable alternative. And it makes it much more likely that people are going to continue to hold out and wait for that alternative to become much more of a reality.

Scalise is not doing what Jim Jordan has done, which is to say, I really want to be judiciary chairman, I really don't want to be speaker, please do not put my name into nomination. Scalise has not done that, which has kept this name alive for Kevin McCarthy, and that's been really extremely problematic.

The way I would describe where we are right now is that it's a good that thing that they're talking but it still would take a miracle for McCarthy at this point to become speaker. The talking is good because it means that things are moving in one direction or another but members on the Hill still don't know how many hard nos there are and how many people who are movable, and that is -- I mean, that is a very bad sign. I mean, they have been working on this for months. And the fact that they still don't know who is movable is deeply problematic is Kevin. KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: And the reality here

is that it's been moving away from McCarthy. The momentum has been very, very slowly but it has been pulling away from him, not leaning toward him, which makes the job that he's trying to do right now all the more difficult.

And, Wolf, I think, big picture, the really important thing to zero in on is the fact that this is really demonstrating what life is going to be like with Republicans attempting to have a governing majority in our United States Capitol in the House of Representatives, and this is the most acute preview of the hard things that they are not going to be able to accomplish.

I mean, think about the person who does eventually get this job and what they're going to have to face down every time there's something hard to do, like raise the debt ceiling. That puts a lot on the line for the whole country.

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's an important point because they're also basically undermining the idea of the powerful speaker. I mean, whether you're thinking of Tip O'Neill or Pelosi or Rayburn, there was this idea that you could kind of rule with the gavel, and now you have some people espousing a long time complaint to say, we don't want this to be a top-down process.

Of course, they don't actually have an alternative vision, right? It's an alternative vision where at any given time, you can be thrown overboard. Who would want to do that job, right? If it's not McCarthy, who would want -- yes, my point is that it's not McCarthy, it means you're basically taking a weakened position, right? Any concession you would take to get there means it is fundamentally weakening the job at a certain point.


CORNISH: Exactly.

COLLINS: That's what they're (INAUDIBLE). You saw Mike Murphy, the political consultant, said it's like being mayor of hell. It's the worst job that anyone wants. That's the point, they don't want one person to be able to control the entire caucus.

Brian Mast is supporting Kevin McCarthy. He said that earlier today. The point is to make sure everyone has more of a voice. And he did note that obviously that's something the minority would benefit from as well those Democrats that are here watching all of this play out.

To go back to what Jamie said about this being personal for some of these members, I think that's so critical here. Because, yes, there are these 20 members right now that McCarthy has to deal with, those are the ones he has to negotiate with because they've made their votes very clear. There are really a group of hardliners in there who are definitely no's.

And so the question is what changes with them. Because Trump yesterday, as he was going back and forth on where McCarthy stood here, was noting that McCarthy's supported some of their primary opponents in this.


So, for them, that's something that I think is a difficult thing for them to get over when they're negotiating --

KING: It's a minor piece of this at the moment. It's a minor piece, but this is more proof that Donald Trump may still be popular, but he has lost his power, period.

BLITZER: It's interesting because Trump did weigh in today big time and urged the Republicans to select McCarthy.

COLLINS: Which actually surprised me because I was talking to people who were talking to Trump yesterday, and he was saying he was getting a lot of calls from people saying, don't endorse McCarthy, at least don't reiterate your endorsement. McCarthy's camp wanted Trump to come out and put out a statement saying, yes, you should vote for Kevin McCarthy for House speaker after he had given a statement to NBC kind of questioning whether or not he's still stood behind that. It took until this morning that Trump actually put that statement out saying all Republicans should vote for Kevin McCarthy. Clearly, that did not change them, to John's point.

CORNISH: I'm sure he's regretting it after hearing Boebert get on there and say, you should have been calling McCarthy. And that was just such a public tossed off line. And it reflects the fact that after this midterm election, you didn't just have election deniers who failed, you had Trump-endorsed candidates who did not survive the process. So, these guys who are still there, they're actually trying to protect the power they have gained in this sort of freedom caucus context, so to speak.

GANGEL: Absolutely. And it says as much about Donald Trump as it says about Kevin McCarthy. They are not scared of him anymore.

KING: There's no fear.

GANGEL: The base may be the base, but right now, at least on this vote, they are not scared to break.

HUNT: Right. But the big picture that they're missing here is that the GOP -- I mean, look, this is why Kevin McCarthy is in trouble, the GOP majority is incredibly narrow. But the reality is a weakened speaker in a narrow majority gives the narrow majority much less power because they can't actually get it together to do anything. That is a scenario where if you're a Republican and you want to yield actual influence in the country, you want your speaker to be powerful and be able to get things done.

And it's clear, I mean, that makes it so crystal clear that for at least for certain the hard core edge of this group, it's just about them. I mean, for Matt Gaetz, it's all about Matt Gaetz.

KING: It's sport. It is a sport. It's a constitutional office. It's the person who's second in line to the presidency. It's a very narrow majority. The Republicans say -- remember we still have a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate. It's not like even if they had a powerful speaker, House Republicans can do anything by themselves. They still can't advance any policy goals.

But the question is can you at least be united to send a signal to the Democratic president that you've got to do business with us. Joe Biden is laughing right now. Because he keeps saying it's unseemly, he keeps saying he wants it to work. Trust me, the Democrats are supposed to be moping this week. They just lost the House. You see them on the floor. They're smirking and they're laughing and they're watching the Republicans dig deeper and deeper and deeper into a hole.

COLLINS: And they're out having a nice dinner while you are seeing all the Republicans negotiating with Kevin McCarthy trying to figure out what's going to happen at 8:00.

BLITZER: Do you see, Abby, is he at a point where McCarthy decides it's over and he drops out?

PHILLIP: There's certainly a point at which that is at this point likely to happen. Will it be tonight, will it be tomorrow? I don't foresee this going weeks. I don't think that even McCarthy's supporters have the stomach for that kind of a fight, but at some point, we heard it today.

Ken Buck, someone who was supporting McCarthy, still supports McCarthy, he put a deadline on it. He said something needs to happen today, some movement needs to happen today. And I think that that's what they are spending this intervening time trying to sort out.

I just want to make one point about kind of this group of people exerting undue influence on the process in the Republican conference. This has been building even since the Trump days. They became empowered because someone like them, a Trump figure, became president. But even he stopped being able to control them. And I think that control is now totally out the window.

So, you have people who are empowered by Trump but no longer controlled by him. And it's going to be a huge governing problem for this Republican majority because on every single issue, they do not want to play ball.

And when you listen to what they are saying, if you listen very carefully to their demands, they're basically asking for every process in Congress to be done the way that each individual member wants it to be done. That is no recipe for getting any laws passed, any bills done at all.

GANGEL: The chaos caucus has really taken over completely. It's not just the freedom caucus now. It has taken over this whole caucus.

HUNT: Well, the freedom caucus has become the middle of the House Republican conference.

CORNISH: Yes, they've gone out of their way to come out and say it's not everyone in the freedom caucus. And I think they're trying to draw this distinction that there's just like a handful of hardliners and they are the ones that are the problem.

Wilding power is a system of carrots and sticks, and McCarthy doesn't have carrots and he doesn't have sticks.


He has no way of actually doing any of the horse trading that you would see with Pelosi. I mean, I think more should be talk about the way she effectively pushed back a rebellion a few years ago by making systematic concessions. And now we're looking at an orderly transition of power on the Democratic side with basically two days of commercials for Hakeem Jeffries. Like there's no better introduction for America to him. BLITZER: Let's not forget until there's a speaker of the House, the House of Representatives can't do anything.

CORNISH: Exactly.

BLITZER: They can't swear in the new members who have been elected. They can't get into legislation appropriations, anything.

CORNISH: But it's a different system of forwards. If your endgame is being in a commercial and surviving your next primary, this is great. If your endgame is governing, a little less so. But there's like a small group of people who now -- like they have lots of footage of themselves sticking it to the man and standing up to Kevin McCarthy and saying like we have beat back the swamp. Those people actually don't care if they're going to be this committee or that committee because they have done what they accomplished.

BLITZER: Yes, this is history unfolding right now. Everybody stand by. We're going to have more to discuss on where Kevin McCarthy and his embattled Republican Party could go from here. Stay with us.



BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story right now, the truly historic humiliation of Congressman Kevin McCarthy on the House floor after suffering yet another string of defeats in the race for the speakership of the House.

John, let's say he's able to pull it off, McCarthy becomes the speaker, what has happened in these past few days, how will that impact his ability to govern and lead that Republican caucus?

KING: Well, I think that's a giant hypothetical because the math is so damning against him right now. But to accept the question that if it happens, if it happens, that means he's going to give up even more. So, does he give up right now, he wants to have the -- you can vote to vacate the speakership with five votes. Does he give them the one vote? Even at five, remember how many holdouts we have here. We have 20. Ten of them are probably more hardcore than the other ten. Five or six of them seem to be cement, right?

So, let's just assume for the sake of the conversation Kevin McCarthy somehow finds a way to be speaker, for how long? He would have very limited power. At some point, he's going to have to do something they oppose. Remember, most House Republicans have voted no for years. That's been their M.O., especially in the minority, vote no, vote no, vote no. But even in the one in a majority, voting against spending bills, voting against raising the debt ceiling.

In just a couple of months, the United States government faces a choice. They are a part of the United States government, raise the debt ceiling or default. Think everybody at home. Pay your credit bills or default, right? Well, they have to raise it. So, if Kevin McCarthy goes along with Mitch McConnell and Joe Biden who will say the responsible thing for any government to do is raise the debt ceiling, yes, negotiate some tradeoffs, try to negotiate some spending cuts, try to negotiate some policy change.

But the responsible thing to do in the end is cut the deal and vote, yes, well then they are going to say bye. They're going to come after whoever is speaker, whether it's Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise or anybody else. They're going to come after that speaker right then.

PHILLIP: Once again, they're raising and get this issue of the motion to vacate and bringing that threshold back down to one person. So, that would be one way that Kevin McCarthy's life as speaker could be cut short abruptly.

We heard earlier this afternoon Alyssa Farah Griffin, our colleague here, who knows this group pretty well, saying that she's hearing, people are talking about a one-year term for the speaker also something that would be really very untenable.

So, I think that if McCarthy gets this, he knows that it could be only for a short time, and he would have a very short period of time to prove to these holdouts that he ought to have the job for longer.

COLLINS: And to the point of what governing would look like, remember when it was just not that long ago, McCarthy was meeting with President Biden and McConnell and other leaders at the White House saying, if they didn't past the ominous bill, he did feel that he would be confident enough to get a government funding bill passed, that obviously doesn't seem like something he would easily be able to get done.

That infrastructure bill that McConnell and Biden were touting today, McCarthy and other House Republicans whipped against it, saying that they should encourage it. It just shows you the difference and what that governing would look like for McCarthy but really for any Republican House speaker compared to what's happening in the Senate and what this next Republican majority is going to look like.

BLITZER: Jamie, what's the latest? What are you hearing from your sources?

GANGEL: The negotiations do not look as if they are going so well. Chip Roy came out, who has been pro-negotiating, and said, quote, of course we're going to get to 218. We just got to find right person. That does not sound like a resounding endorsement. Matt Gaetz said that McCarthy dissenters could continue to hold votes until the cherry blossoms fall off the tree.

HUNT: Which is in April. That happens in April. All those of you who don't live in Washington D.C., the cherry blossoms falls in April.

BLITZER: We love the cherry blossom.

All right, everybody stand by. There's a lot more were watching. We'll also get an update on the condition of Buffalo Bills Safety Damar Hamlin who collapsed during Monday night's game against the Bengals. My exclusive interview with the NFL chief medical officer, that's coming up next.



BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, Congressman Kevin McCarthy trying to wrangle votes behind the scenes right now after failing to win the speakers race on a sixth straight ballot. We'll have more on that in just a few moments.

But, first, we'll get an update on another major story we're following. A glimmer of hope right now for hospitalized Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin. The team now says Hamlin is showing, and I'm quoting now, signs of improvement although he remains in the ICU in critical condition.

The NFL's chief medical officer is standing by live for an exclusive interview. There you see him, Dr. Allen Sills will be discussing with us. But first, CNN's Adrienne Broaddus has our report.


ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Thoughts everywhere with number three in Buffalo, where everyone is wondering if Highmark Stadium will host the big game this weekend. And the Bills mafia is hanging on every word from the Hamlin family. In Cincinnati, a number three golden balloon marks the hospital where Damar's mother and father are at his bedside.

DORRIAN GLENN, HAMLIN'S UNCLE: I mean, they've been there like every step of the way. So, I mean, together like they're heartbroken, but like collectively as a family.

BROADDUS: The Buffalo Bills tweeting, quote, Damar remains in the ICU in critical condition with signs of improvement noted yesterday and overnight. He is expected to remain under intensive care as his health care team continues to monitor and treat him.

As support for the 24-year-old football player grows, his family overcome with a gratitude and offers to help.


JORDON ROONEY, HAMLIN'S FRIEND AND MARKETING REPRESENTATIVE: They are incredibly grateful of everything that has been out there, all of the support that they have gotten.

BROADDUS: Hamlin's Chasing Ms foundation toy drive GoFundMe page now with more than $6 million in donations.

GLENN: But to know that you got that circle of support from everybody to help you get through it, it means a lot.

BROADDUS: A rare emotional outpouring at today's NFL zoom press conference. NFL players saying there's no playbook for this situation and praising medical response. TROY VINCENT, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF FOOTBALL OPERATIONS, NFL: The EMTs that evening was outstanding. You gave our brother, Damar, another day to live.

BROADDUS: The NFL is grappling with how to move forward into playoffs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obviously, we're going to have to make a decision on that in the coming day, which we will. But there're a lot of considerations in place.

BROADDUS: Even calling into question this Sunday's Patriots/Bills game.

VINCENT: We have not had that discussion. We'll allow Sean and his team and his staff and the players, which are the most important thing here, to guide us if we have to make that decision.

BROADDUS: And Wednesday's scheduled team media availabilities canceled one day after the NFL Players Association promised its players it would have every resource available to aid and support them during this time.

DION DAWKINS, OFFENSIVE TACKLE, BUFFALO BILLS: Everybody like that has seen it, our whole country, every football fan, everybody who's not even a part of football has seen and heard this story. So, we're all handling it in different ways.

BROADDUS: As a family, a team, and the entire country --

TERRY TOTTEN, HAMLIN'S HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL COACH: If there is a road, a path, a chance, Damar will find it that that is what he has done up until this point. He has so much to give left in this life.

BROADDUS: -- hold hope for a positive outcome for number three.


BROADDUS (on camera): Number three on the field but number one in the hearts of his friends and family. And this afternoon when, Troy Vincent spoke to reporters, he did not appear on camera. But for those of us who were on the call, we could hear his voice trembled as he spoke. And he said the game of football -- and I'm paraphrasing here -- is guided by best practices and principles. But he said on Monday night, the only best practice and policy that mattered was the emergency action plan carried out by those first responders, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Damar, he wears number three on his jersey when he's playing football. Adrienne Broaddus, thank you very much for that report.

Joining us now for an exclusive interview, the chief medical officer at the NFL, Dr. Allen Sills, our Chief Medical Correspondent, r. Sanjay Gupta is with us as well. He's got some questions for Dr. Sills. But let me start. Dr. Sills, I know you're deferring, correctly so, to his medical team for the team that's treating Damar for any updates on his actual condition, but are you in touch with that team? Will they give a briefing to the public at some point?

DR. ALLEN SILLS, NFL CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER: Well, Wolf, we are in regular contact with that team and doing all that we can, of course, to support them. But I would anticipate that they'll do briefings as guided by Damar's family, which is what we all would want. We want to respect his privacy and their emotions in this time.

So, we, as the NFL, have left them take the lead in providing updates but we are in regular contact with them and with the hospital and obviously with the Bills medical staff.

BLITZER: I want to bring Sanjay into this conversation, our Chief Medical Correspondent. Sanjay, I know you have some questions for Dr. Sills.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Dr. Sills, I mean, the story that everyone has heard now obviously is a young man takes a blow to the chest and goes into cardiac arrest. As you said, you're not treating Mr. Hamlin, but do the signs point to commotio cordis, something that people have heard about now as a possible cause?

SILLS: Well, as you know, as a physician, Sanjay, it can be difficult sometimes to understand the cause of cardiac arrest, and we may never actually have a definitive answer. Commotio cordis is a very rare condition. It happens a lot more in sports like baseball, hockey, or lacrosse, where you got a high speed projectile that comes and hits an unprotected chest.

So, I don't think at this point we can rule that out because it has been described in football players. But, again, focus right now is on treating Damar and helping him get better and obviously his healthcare team will continue to try to search for answers about why this happened, and we'll do everything we can to assist them.

GUPTA: Yes. And just real quick, Dr. Sills, the screening test that professional football players have, they're pretty extensive, I imagine. Is it safe to say that if someone is playing at the professional level that they don't have a preexisting condition that could have caused this?

SILLS: Well, as you said, Sanjay, there is very extensive screening that goes on for all our players. They get American Heart Association guidelines screening every single season. They get an EKG done every single season, Chest x-ray done when they join the team, and obviously there's a high degree of surveillance and suspicion if there already any conditions and more advance testing is done.


So, it is fair to say that every player is screened and everyone is alert for any conditions that might need further workup. But as you know also, many times, in these cases players don't necessarily have a preexisting history or preexisting abnormality and cardiac arrest can occur without any warning.

GUPTA: Would something like myocarditis have been picked up before he was playing?

SILLS: Well, that's always something that's being investigated. And, again, I don't want to get into specifics of this case because I want to respect his privacy, but I will just say that his healthcare team is going to investigate any and all possible causes of this episode. We're here to assist them as we can in that endeavor.

And we always go back, Sanjay, and take a look at any time we have an evacuation off the field, whether it's for a broken bone or a spine injury or a concussion, we always do an after-action review, just like we do in the hospital, to see is there anything we can learn, is there anything we can do better, is there anything that will help other players going forward.

BLITZER: You know, Dr. Sills, I want you to tell our viewers and tell me about what's call the NFL's 60-minute meeting. I just learned about this myself and I'm a huge NFL fan, the preparations that actually go into the emergency medical action plan before a game. How critical is quick treatment here in a situation like this?

SILLS: Well, Wolf, if you ask me, the 60-minute meeting is the most important thing we do on Sundays. As you mention it happens one hour before kickoff, and that's the name, the 60-minute meeting. And it involves everyone on the medical care team from both teams. So, the team physicians, the athletic trainers, our independent personnel with our unaffiliated neuro trauma consultants, our airway doctors, our visiting team medical liaisons, the paramedics, the ambulance crew and the referee.

That whole crew of people gets together one hour before the game. They review that emergency action plan. They talk specifically about locations of emergency equipment, who's going to lead if we have a cardiac arrest, how the chain of command will go. And that's an incredibly important part of our preparation. It happens before every single game, whether it's pre-season, regular season, international Super Bowl. And the referee is there because he or she obviously has command of the field and we want them to be involved as well.

So, fans don't ever see that meeting. It happens underneath the stands. But to me, it's one of the most important thing we do on game day and it's part of the reason why in this tragic moment on Monday night we could have a quick, effective and really transformational response.

BLITZER: Sanjay, Dr. Sills, has another question for you. Go ahead, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Dr. Sills, Allen, you and I have known each other for a long time. People may not know that, we've worked together, trauma neurosurgery and were both a neurosurgeons. I get asked all the time, I don't know if you do as well, whether I'd let my kids play football. And it turns out I have three teenage daughters, so it hasn't really been much of an issue. But what about you, Dr. Sills? With everything that we know about football, would you -- and you're the chief medical officer of the NFL. What would you say to your kids if they wanted to go play at a high level?

SILLS: Well, first of all, Sanjay, I have four children, I have nine grand children, so these are questions that are really relevant to me not just as the NFL's chief medical officer but as a parent and a grandparent. And I've also cared for athletes at the high school and youth level and coached at youth sports. So, these are incredibly important questions.

My answer as parent is, yes, I let my children and my grandchildren play sports because I think there are tremendous benefits. But what I want to know as a parent is, is that sports league prepared. Do they have an emergency action plan, do they have bystanders for people who are trained in emergency procedures, do they have a defibrillator present?

To me, those are the key questions and I also want to make sure the league or the team that they're associated with promotes an atmosphere of safety. They're considering safety, they're keeping up with the latest in developments.

And so, one of the important parts of my job as chief medical officer of the NFL is how can we help spread that work, how can we tell others what important in these areas. We know that not every youth league is going to have 30 medical professionals at a game the way we do in the NFL. But every league can have a defibrillator. Every league can have coaches in stand and bystanders who are trained in basic CPR and life support. And to me, that's the key element for all sports, not just football.

BLITZER: Dr. Allen Sills, we are grateful to you for all you're doing with all your colleagues, thanks so much for joining us. And, Sanjay, as usual, thanks to you as well.

Coming up, we're waiting for the House of Representatives to gavel back in the session at 8:00 P.M. Eastern tonight after yet another chaotic series of votes failed to elect a new speaker of the House. We'll get reaction from the White House when we come back.



BLITZER: Right now, we're waiting to see what Republicans have planned when the House returns to session at 8:00 P.M. Eastern later tonight. The chaos to elect a new speaker of the House is drawing a new reaction from President Biden.

Our Chief White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly is standing by for us. Phil, so what did the president have to say about what's unfolding, the drama unfolding in Congress?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, in talking to Democrats across Washington over the course of the last 24 hours, it's not hard to pick up some level of amusement by what they've seen transpire on the House floor, a new House majority unable to really get out of the starting blocks at this point.

The president is not among that group. He has made very clear that he's taking, A, no enjoyment in this whatsoever, and also he thinks there are broader, very negative implications for what it may mean over time. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: It's embarrassing for the country. I mean, literally, I'm not making a part (ph) of that reality that we have a Congress who can't function, it's just embarrassing. We're the greatest nation in the world. How could that be? And we've had a lot of trouble with our (INAUDIBLE), a lot of trouble with the attacks on our institutions already. And it's just -- that's (INAUDIBLE) more than anything else.


MATTINGLY: And, Wolf, that's a deep-rooted worry when it comes to the president. He's several times over the course of his first two years noted how critical the perception of the rest of the world in terms of how the U.S. government can operate particularly in the wake of the last three or four years, how critical he views that at this moment in time.


And it's a moment in time that the president has really given the sense that things are starting to turn a quarter. This certainly flies in the face of that and is his view, clearly, Wolf, that's a problem.

BLITZER: Phil Mattingly at the White House, thank you very much.

Just ahead, the shocking injury of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin is the latest hardship facing the community of Buffalo, New York. We will be right back.


BLITZER: A mass shooting, deadly winter weather, and now the life- threatening injuries suffered by Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin.

My hometown of Buffalo, New York, has suffered a series of calamities and just the last eight months.

CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, wolf, we can help a feel for you and your fellow Buffalonians.


We have spoken to some longtime city residents who are telling us they are really not sure how much of this they can take.


TODD (voice-over): Damar Hamlin's injury once again uniting a city facing adversity.

DION DAWKINS, OFFENSIVE TACKLE, BUFFALO BILLS: It's a dramatically unique thing that has happened. And we are all going through it together. And honestly, the entire world is.

TODD: Many Buffalonians, normally a stoic and tough group can be forgiven for asking why us. A feeling Hamlin's teammate Dion Dawkins seem to reflect in an interview with Wolf.

DAWKINS: All of the things we have gone through this entire year, from the start to now. It has been just constant, you know, beating for Buffalo.

TODD: Three traumatic events in the span of less than eight months have staggered what is known as the city of good neighbors. In May, a racist gunman killed ten people and wounded three others in a mass shooting at the tops friendly market in east market buffalo. The city rallied, including Buffalo Bills players who visited the site, and delivered food to residents in need near the shuttered store.

Seven plus months after the shooting, another blow to the city. A crippling winter storm killed more than 40 people in Buffalo and the surrounding counties. As residents started to dig out, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown reflected.

MAYOR BYRON BROWN, BUFFALO, NEW YOK: It was a painful year for all of us. And we move forward into 2023, as a resilient community, as a strong community. As a community that has lifted itself up through all of these challenges.

TODD: Buffalo residents were still dealing with the after effects of that storm when Hamlin's injury occurred on Monday night football. And as Geneva Smith Johnson who knew five of the top supermarket victims notes, all these traumas were beyond the control of Buffalonians.

GENEVA SMITH-JOHNSON, KNEW 2022 BUFFALO SHOOTING VICTIMS: It's uncontrollable weather, so it happened. Unfortunately, we cannot control people, I am referring about the May 14th incident. There was no way of controlling that from happening. And then with the injury, I don't know how you can prepare for something this unexpected. How can you control things that is beyond your control?

TODD: But church deacon Jeffrey Peace who worked with one of the shooting victims says the city will rebound.

DEACON JEFFREY PEACE, WORKED WITH SUPERMARKET SHOOTING VICTIM: We bounce big. We continue, we don't stop functioning. We don't shut down. We get together and we put a plan together. What do we have to do to put these things back out to normal?

(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD (on camera): Buffalo Bills fans and players are known for their compassion and charity towards others in times of need. Damar Hamlin himself started a GoFundMe toy drive campaign in 2020. Since Monday night, several million dollars are poured into it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's heartbreaking to see what is going on in my hometown of Buffalo, New York. And we are, of course, all still praying for Damar.

Coming up, we are awaiting the house to reconvene soon after failing to elect a speaker of the House once again. So what happens next?



BLITZER: We're about an hour away from the House of Representatives returning to session after Republicans failed again to elect a new speaker. This as the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Biden showed off a rare moment of bipartisanship in Kentucky.

Our White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond has our report.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden is kicking off 2023 with a searing contrast.


DIAMOND: While House Republicans are still squabbling over their choice for speaker, Biden is taking a major victory lap with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell at his side, showing what can get done when Democrats and Republicans work together.

JOE BIDNE, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After years of politics being so divisive, there are bright spots across the country. This bridge is one of them. For decades, people have talked about the Brent Spence Bridge, but folks, talking is over. The bipartisan infrastructure law, we are finally going to get it done.

DIAMOND: Long before it became an emblem of bipartisanship, it was a symbol of the country's aging infrastructure, deemed functionally obsolete more than two decades ago.

Chunks of concrete tell from this bridge in 2011. And then in 2020 there was a fiery crash between two trucks that shut the bridge down for six weeks. But local officials and business leaders say that it is the traffic, the congestion that is causing the most economic damage to this region.

This bridge is a major economic artery of two highway systems stretching from Florida all the way to Canada, driving about $2 billion of cargo per day. That is $700 billion dollars of cargo a year, or about 3 percent of the U.S.'s GDP. And officials say that the new bridge and the fixes to the current bridge are going to be an economic boom for the region, and for the country.

MITCH LANDRIEU, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER & INFRASTRUCTURE COORDINATOR: If you fix this bridge you keep it going, you are not only going to help people get to and from work into an from church, to an from school. But you are actually moving products to people's tables, which is what they need. And you are creating huge numbers are really well-paying jobs.

DIAMOND: The bridge is one of thousands that will be repaired thanks to the 1.2 trillion dollar bipartisan infrastructure law, which dedicates $40 billion to bridges. Today, lawmakers basking in the bipartisan feet.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Today we send this wonderful clear day with sun shining down on literally a legislative miracle.

DIAMOND: That miracle will be harder to replicate with a House Republican majority. McConnell's rare presence alongside Biden may ultimately be more of a tribute to the past.

MCCONNELL: This bridge I think symbolizes the coming together of both sides on something that both sides thought was important to try to get an outcome.


DIAMOND: And the prospects of major bipartisan accomplishments in this new Congress are pretty slim. House Republicans have made clear that their priority is investigating the presidents and his administration.

But that is a contrast the White House plans to drive home. With events like today that put the president on the road and above the partisan fray, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeremy Diamond, thanks very much for that report.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.