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HILL: Certainly does feel messy. Manu, appreciate it.
OUTFRONT now, Republican Congressman Dusty Johnson.
Good to see you tonight, sir.
You were in a meeting with Kevin McCarthy just a short time ago. You sounded pretty confident today about his chances. As we just heard though from Manu and we just heard from Congressman Gaetz a short minute ago, he is still an no, after his own meeting with Kevin McCarthy today, what is the path that you see at this hour for Kevin McCarthy to be able to secure those 218 votes?
REP. DUSTY JOHNSON (R-SD): Well, a couple of things first. Listen, Matt Gaetz has always been a no. He will always be a no. Kevin McCarthy is going to become speaker of the House. It's not going to be with Matt Gaetz's vote. And that's okay.
Manu Raju is right. This is going to be messy. If it's one thing the U.S. House of Representatives does well, it's messy.
Listen, Kevin McCarthy is going to be speaker, but it's not going to be easy, and it's not going to be a straight line. It's going to take a little while and that's okay.
HILL: It's going to take a little while, I mean, how many rounds are you thinking about here?
JOHNSON: I don't think that anybody knows. We are in a little bit of uncharted territory here as you mentioned. It has been since 1923 that we have had multiple ballots. But you know, longer than that, in the 1800s, there was one speaker's race that went 133 ballots, and I think what is important for the folks at home to know, is that Kevin McCarthy and all of his supporters, listen, we're resolute, we're patient. We understand that the American people have and wanted Republicans to have a hand in governing this country, and listen, Kevin McCarthy is going to become speaker even if it takes 10, or 20, or 30 ballots.
HILL: So, just give me a sense then, as you, said Matt Gaetz, you never expected Matt Gaetz to vote for him. As I noted, there are at least five Republicans who have said, including Gaetz is one of them, absolutely not.
So who do you see at this point who could potentially change their mind?
JOHNSON: Well, first off, it's important to remember that nobody can get to 218 if Kevin McCarthy can't. There is not a single name that you can bring out, Erica, who can get to 218 if Kevin McCarthy can't get their. He is best opposition.
But as far as your question about, okay, how does Kevin McCarthy get to be speaker that? He doesn't need 218, in fact, Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner, and Newt Gingrich all at different times were able to get to speaker with 216 votes.
If there are members that are both present, or members that don't show up to vote for that particular ballots, his threshold goes down. And so, I think overtime [sic], this has the potential to be a war of attrition. Kevin McCarthy is not backing out of this race. He knows that he is the right guy to govern this house and he's not going to back down.
HILL: Are you aware of any new concessions that may have been made to hard-liners today to get those votes that he needs? And are you concerned at all, our beat of the question, are you concerned at all that those are some of the concessions that have already been made, and the impact on his role as speaker? On his power? And his ability to lead?
JOHNSON: Yeah. I'm the chairman of the Republican mainstream caucus, that's a group of between 70 and 80 members, pragmatic conservatives. We are the guys and gals in Congress who want to get things done. And as a group, we are concerned that some of the concessions that Kevin McCarthy has made, but, we trust Speaker McCarthy to be able to govern the House even with the imperfect rules package.
And at some point, Kevin McCarthy doesn't become speaker, than I think our concerns with that rules package will be far more acute, because whoever else would be speaker, frankly, they're not going to be as well prepared to govern a fractured House.
So yes, the rules are not perfect. But I think that they, enough concessions have been made to allow McCarthy to get the votes he needs.
HILL: Real quickly, you say that there is no one else by Kevin McCarthy who can get the votes. But as we know, this is far from over. It's just beginning as you noted. Steve Scalise, that name has been a flouted out there. I know that he
has said that he supports Kevin McCarthy. But if for some reason things change, he were to step up, would you support Steve Scalise?
JOHNSON: Steve Scalise is a great leader. He's a friend of mine. But nobody is better positioned to lead the U.S. House of Representatives than Kevin McCarthy, and I would just note, people focused on 218. But as you know, Erica, the math is really five, there are five members who are willing, Republican members, who are willing to stand against any other candidate other than Kevin McCarthy. That is a problem for Steve, and, frankly, for anybody else.
HILL: Great to have you with us tonight, appreciate it. Thank you, Congressman.
JOHNSON: You bet. Thanks.
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