Joining me now from the other side of the aisle, Republican Congressman French Hill of Arkansas. He's been designated by McCarthy as one of his emissaries to find a deal with those Republican holdouts. Congressman Hill, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.
REP. FRENCH HILL (R-AR): You bet. Happy New Year. Good to be with you.
SCIUTTO: Thanks. Happy New Year to you and your family as well.
Let me begin. I know you're still, and Republicans are still counting votes, but just in the simplest terms, is Kevin McCarthy more likely today to be speaker of House than he was yesterday?
F. HILL: Such a good question for all of your viewers. I believe yes. 200 members of Congress are standing firm by their desire to see Kevin McCarthy be elected the next speaker of the House based on leadership and policy development in our commitment to America, his ability to raise funds and recruit candidates to have our back-to-back pick up in seats in the last two congressional elections and his ability to select the right people to be on the right committees. So, those conversations between Leader McCarthy and those who are not yet yes votes continued yesterday and they were very constructive.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. Sources tell CNN that McCarthy has now agreed to allow just a single member to make a motion to vacate, as it's known, in effect, force a floor vote to remove the speaker, as well as other concessions among them agreeing to allow more members of the freedom caucus to serve on the rules committee. Have those concessions, and they are big ones, have they won any new commitments to support McCarthy as speaker?
F. HILL: I think that is the kind of discussion that's still going on this morning, which is after Leader McCarthy's good work with members of the 20 that were voting no as of yesterday, he made a lot of give and take yesterday. As I said, very constructive discussions on rules, on spending and on budget reform and on who would be on what committees. And the question now is who has gone to yes, and that is what we await for the report this morning.
SCIUTTO: So, you're saying that no one, despite the concessions, has committed to voting yes, to reversing their vote?
F. HILL: No, I'm not saying that at all. I'm saying those discussions still continue because, don't forget, you have a few people engaged in discussions and you have a lot of people that have to be explained to, met with and have more detail with before they get to that final conclusion.
SCIUTTO: Okay. The issue here, of course, is given the slimness of the margin, McCarthy needs not just the right-wing members to support him, he needs the moderates as well, and moderates, including on this broadcast, like Don Bacon have expressed real criticisms of many of these concessions here. Are you certain that moderates will support, continue to support McCarthy with these concessions that they very publicly oppose?
F. HILL: Well, let's see how that rules package ends up in detail and in writing. Let's see what those budget and spending reforms end up as. And let's see what the steering committee does about appointing people to committees.
Kevin McCarthy knows better than anybody else because he knows this conference well what it takes to create unity in the conference and move forward so we can move our legislative agenda and create a contrast to the proposals and policies of Joe Biden.
SCIUTTO: You have been in Congress a long time. You know the issues of getting anything through under normal circumstances. If you have this new dynamic where just one member can raise his or her hand and call for an effective vote of no confidence in the speaker, how did you get anything else done? And not just for the speaker, by the way, but for the Republican majority, things like spending bills, you know, raising the debt limit?
F. HILL: Well, look, Speaker Pelosi had a very narrow majority. She worked very hard at crafting a unity plan for House Democrats in the last Congress particularly. And Kevin McCarthy has the skills and abilities, the ways and means to do that in this Congress. SCIUTTO: But he can't get elected speaker. She was elected on the
We're six votes in.
F. HILL: Well, I think he will be elected speaker. Don't forget, there are 200 members that are standing firm behind Kevin McCarthy. We put a lot of emphasis on the 19 or 20 that have not gotten to yes yet and we've ignored the fact, as you pointed, the vast majority of this conference, 200 people, including center right people, moderate people and more than half of the freedom caucus, let's not forget that, support Kevin McCarthy as being speaker. And I think we'll get there and I think we'll get there soon. And I think yesterday was a good day and I hope today is an even better one.
SCIUTTO: You're an experienced politician. You saw the results of the midterms. There was expectations of a red wave, it didn't happen and in large part because a lot of more extremist candidates lost their races. Is this good politics right now for Republicans having just gained the majority in the House to be giving in so much to a wing of the party that has not fared well for Republicans in recent elections?
F. HILL: Democracy is messy. I would you remind you, a hundred years ago, in 1923, House Republicans went through precisely the same unrest. Only at that time the insurgency was from the left, not from the right. And it led to one of the most productive Congresses for the next probably eight years led by Nick Longworth and President Calvin Coolidge. The budget was balanced, the debt was paid down. It was a good time for Republican leadership in the House.
So, we're going through a messy process now and I acknowledge that. It is not an instacart election of speaker. This is where you have got to bring your colleagues along and create something that breeds and we'll do that.
SCIUTTO: Congressman French Hill, good to have you on the broadcast this morning. We appreciate you joining us.
F. HILL: Thanks.