CNN "CNN Newsroom" - TRANSCRIPT Chaos in Congress; House Reconvenes Today; Rep. Don Bacon (R- NE) is Interviewed about the Speaker Vote; Update on Damar Hamlin; Dr. Barry Maron is Interviewed about Damar Hamlin; McCarthy Empowers Colleagues. Aired 9-9:30a ET


Date: Jan. 4, 2023
Location: Washington, DC

All right, so joining me now is someone deeply involved in all of this, Republican Congressman Don Bacon of Nebraska.

Congressman, nice to have you back on the show.

REP. DON BACON (R-NE): Thank you, Jim. It's always an honor to be on with you. Thanks for having me.

SCIUTTO: So, first, let's begin with the vote. Kevin McCarthy actually lost a vote over the course of those first three yesterday. Based on what you know, can he turn that around? Can he get the votes to be speaker?

BACON: He can, but we've just got to be honest with what's happened here. A small group, a handful, have made demands over the last two months. Every demand they asked for was given. I didn't agree with these demands. I thought we should have demanded some kind of quid pro quo back for demands (INAUDIBLE). SCIUTTO: Yes.

BACON: These - these are unilateral concessions that Kevin made, but then they never came back to support him. And so they keep changing the goalposts.

So, I think these folks will be very hard to get to yes. That's just the way they are. They love gridlock, they love chaos and that's what we see going on here. So, I hope Kevin continues to work there. He should hold firm because 91 percent of the conference supports him. He's done more than anyone else to help regain this majority. He's worked hard for four years. He's been in every district. So, I encourage him to continue.

But he may also have to start looking across the aisle to determine if there could be some compromises made on committee ratios and things like that because if these -- the small handful refuse to be part of the team, you cannot let them hold you hostage. And that's what they're doing right now. And they don't think we have the wherewithal to do anything without them. And we need to show them otherwise.

SCIUTTO: You noted this yesterday, this idea of reaching across the aisle to find a consensus candidate. That is, reaching across to Democrats. Are there any such talks underway right now with Democrats?

BACON: There are preliminary talks, but we don't want to go too fast on this because that then highjacks what Kevin is try to do. And we want to support Kevin. I mean he's worked hard to get this. But if at some point the small handful of folks who refuse to be part of the team after the conference overwhelmingly voted for Kevin, if they make it clear that they cannot be team players, well, then we have to look somewhere else.

In the end, we have to govern. This is about leading the greatest country in the world and we cannot let a small handful of folks that are on the extreme part of our conference, one of the smallest caucuses that we have, we can't let them control the entire House of Representatives.

SCIUTTO: I understand the desire to keep the content of such talks underway private at this point, but let me ask you this. You say you need a consensus candidate. In your view, is that consensus candidate McCarthy or someone else?

BACON: Well, we should -- I think we should absolutely start with Kevin. And I'm a -- as long as Kevin has his name in the ring, we should be working to get him 218 votes.

I also think at some point he needs to work with Hakeem Jeffries to talk about committee ratios, office spaces, how we're going to do various rules that could open up some doors for the Democrats with like motions to recommit and things like this. There could be some ground there where he could work across the aisle and maybe achieve 218 votes that way.

And there's different ways to do that. Some folks could vote absent or present or just not vote. There's different ways to go about it.


BACON: But if at some point he can't get there, and these folks refuse to be part of the team, that's what they're doing, they're trying to hijack the team, they're trying to run the House with a handful of people, and that's unacceptable to the rest of us, well, then we have to work across the aisle.

In the end, you've got to have a bipartisan capability in the House because you've got to work with the Senate, you've got to work with the Democratic president. And I'm not sure that this small handful is willing to do that.

SCIUTTO: So let me ask you this. You're -- folks at home might not know this, but you're unusual and you're a Republican. You've won in a district that is competitive.


SCIUTTO: You know, a lot of -- most districts are not, right? And you have a lot of folks who were here in districts that, frankly, they hold these hardline positions. They'll be just fine.

But what you're talking about here would be Republicans in effect defying some Republican voters here. I mean are those votes that they could survive down the line, right? I mean do folks say this is something they'd be willing to do to get to a speaker and cooperate with Democrats?

BACON: Right. Well, we have to be Americans first. And I went - you know, to our Freedom Caucus friends -- by the way, it's a minority of the Freedom Caucus that is doing this. The majority of the Freedom Caucus supports Kevin McCarthy. By the way, and most conservative commentators are supporting Kevin.


BACON: It is a small group. They're demanding their way or the highway. And they're hurting the party. They're hurting us in 2024.

I listened to the news last night. I was sick to my stomach. The small group is putting mud all over all the Republican Party at this point. And to hear the other side mocking us during the votes yesterday, that's all on these 20 people. And I would -- hope they see that.

But, you know, I commanded an Air Force squadron in combat.


I commanded five times. I deployed four times. You've got to be a team. Even if it's only an 80 percent, 85 percent perfect team, you've got to form a team. That's how you get things done.

SCIUTTO: Yes. BACON: Nancy Pelosi was able to do it with 222 people last time. We've got to be able to do the same thing. And this small group is hurting us, hurting the GOP nationally.

SCIUTTO: We did hear this morning from Trump. Didn't hear a lot yesterday from him. But this morning he is reiterating his support for McCarthy as speaker on his Truth Social app. Will that win over -- do you believe that can win over McCarthy's opponents?

BACON: It may with - it may with some of these folks because they're pretty, you know, hard core in the President Trump's camp. And I, you know, I think we need all voices to speak up on this.

You know, when you get 91 percent of the vote, you should coalesce around that team and -- instead of demanding what you want.

Let me, Jim, if I may, they demanded a month ago a whole list of concessions. They got them all. About a week and a half ago they did a whole nother list. They got almost all of it. And if they didn't get it, they got halfway on one or two.

And then, on Monday night, they demanded to have chairmanships on various committees and have more seats on the Approps, Ways and Means and the Rules Committee. And that's unacceptable. These committees and the chairmanships are merit based. And they want an affirmative action program for the Freedom Caucus. And the rest of us think it's unacceptable.

SCIUTTO: Wow. Should -- you mentioned conservative commentators who have been - and, by the way, they're influential, as we know. But one of them, Hugh Hewitt, and others have said McCarthy should start taking concessions back, actually. That, as you say, he made these concessions, got nothing in return.


SCIUTTO: I mean when you say he should hold the line, should he go that far?

BACON: Well, I believe so. Some of these concessions, I thought, were unacceptable, but they could not even get to yes with these concessions. To vacate the chair, you know, to try to figure out how many people you need to try to bring the speaker back and recall him, we had it at 121, you know, as of last month. They wanted one. They want - they have a single Republican to have a gun to the speaker's head on every vote.


BACON: President - or Kevin McCarthy negotiated it down to five. I don't think that was smart. I think we should take all that back now because he made these concessions with the intent that they would meet him halfway, and they have not done so at all. So, I agree with Hugh Hewitt, take these concessions back.

SCIUTTO: Congressman Don Bacon, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

BACON: Thank you.