CNN "Anderson Cooper 360" - TRANSCRIPT House Returns Tonight For 14th Speaker Vote, McCarthy Ally Touts Momentum; Interview With Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD); Piecing Together Evidence In Idaho Murders Affidavit; Piecing Together Evidence In Adaho Murders Affidavit; Bills' Damar Hamlin Now Speaking; Tells Team "Love You Boys"; Stunning New Leaks From Upcoming Prince Harry Memoir. Aired 8-9p ET


Date: Feb. 6, 2023

Joining us now is South Dakota Republican Congressman, Dusty Johnson. Congressman, I appreciate you being with us. You had been aligned with Kevin McCarthy from the beginning, you voted for him 13 times. How confident are you that when the House reconvenes at 10, he will be the Speaker of the House tonight?

REP. DUSTY JOHNSON (R-SD): Well, I've been telling people for three days that we were making progress with negotiations. I've been in those rooms. I felt, Anderson, that there were people of good faith sitting at the table trying to get to yes.

Now a lot of people said, oh, Kevin McCarthy is never going to get there. You guys are wasting your time. But we are close. I wouldn't want to speculate on a timeline other than to tell you, I continue to feel that we're making progress. And frankly, some of the rule changes that have been made are the right things to do anyway.

COOPER: Do you think he will win in the first vote back or do you think it's going to take multiple votes?

JOHNSON: Well, I wouldn't want to speculate as to timeline. That's the thing about these breakthroughs. You never really know exactly when they're going to happen, but we have continued to make progress in a slow and steady way, and I think that's going to continue to happen tonight.

COOPER: You think they'll continue to vote to try to get it there no matter how long it takes tonight?

JOHNSON: Real life happens. Melanie did such good job of giving your viewers a sense of you know, premature babies and medical issues and surgeries and those don't stop.


Kevin Hern who is a Republican vote for McCarthy. He has a memorial service for his mother tomorrow night, and we are going to continue to have those things crop up, and I think Republicans are going to be committed to making sure that Kevin McCarthy is elected at some point in the next few hours.

I would note Anderson, for your viewers that real life is going to continue to happen for House members over the course of the next two years, week in and week out. Anytime anybody gets the sniffles, that's going to impact the math on the House floor.

COOPER: Congressman, you're a supporter of McCarthy. You're also a pragmatic, you want to get stuff done on Capitol Hill, you are not on an extreme, I think it's fair to say. Are you concerned at all about some of the things that have been conceded?

Obviously, you've said some of the rule changes make sense to you. Do you worry about even as a supporter of McCarthy about one person being able to, you know, bring a vote on whether or not he should no longer be Speaker?

JOHNSON: You're right, I do view myself as a pragmatic conservative, and my colleagues do, too. I was elected as the Chairman of the Main Street Caucus, that is between 70 and 80 pragmatic conservatives.

There is a little bit of concern, Anderson, about these rule changes, but I think in the media, it's largely been blown up. The changes come in three ways. Number one, to increase transparency and accountability, a lot of members are supportive of those. I'll give you one example.

A bill should not be voted on before there has been 72 hours for members and the public to review it. That makes a lot of sense to me. Number two, an understanding that the House is stronger if you have all the views on all Committees, that is going to give House Freedom Caucus members more of an opportunity to serve on Committees where they've been underrepresented in the past.

And then number three, a return to fiscal sanity. That has gotten a lot of attention today. But the reality is we are $33 trillion in debt. So some of these budgetary control mechanisms that have been agreed to are really, really important for this country.

COOPER: There isn't -- you know, the majority that the Republicans have in the House, as you well know, is a slim one. So on many issues, there is going to need to be negotiation. There is going to need to be compromise with Democrats, the more power those in the Freedom Caucus, perhaps, or in the farther right side of it have. I mean, is there going to be compromise? Is that going to be possible?

JOHNSON: There is going to need to be some give and take because there is also a United States Senate and the American people, although I'm not very happy about it, put Chuck Schumer in charge of the US Senate or gave him enough members so that he can be in charge.

But I think we want to focus on leverage here, which is if you have a conservative House majority, we are going to start negotiations at a stronger place than when we had a Nancy Pelosi led US House.

No member that I'm talking to feels like we are going to be able to make drastic changes overnight. We didn't get into this country's problems overnight. It's going to take us some time.

But I think what conservatives like myself want to see is movement in the right direction. We want to bend some of these curves in a way that doesn't continue to put us so much deeper in debt.

And I think if we can bend those curves and if we can convince the Senate that it is the right thing to do, this is going to be -- the 118th could be a very fruitful Congress.

COOPER: And just back to the votes, finally, do you think enough holdouts can be persuaded to vote "present." We know that is part of the McCarthy team strategy, thereby lower the overall number needed to win?

JOHNSON: Yes, I wouldn't want to disclose kind of the up to the minute movement of members because I don't want to blow the whole gosh darn thing up.

I mean, I've been involved in a number of these negotiations over the last few years and anytime anything leaks out, because frankly, you just had a couple of your really good Capitol Hill reporters on the air, and they break a lot of news that sometimes it isn't all that helpful to have broken, but when those leaks happen, it does risk blowing the whole thing up. But I've got to tell you, we are making moving in the right direction.

COOPER: Congressman, I really appreciate your time tonight. It's a good conversation. Congressman Johnson, thank you.

JOHNSON: Thank you.