McCarthy in combative exchange with CNN's Raju on election

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthySunday shows - Delta variant, infrastructure dominate Kinzinger supports Jan. 6 panel subpoenas for Republicans, including McCarthy McCarthy jokes it'll be hard not to 'hit' Pelosi with gavel if he is Speaker MORE (R-Calif.) insisted Thursday that Republicans were not trying to reverse former President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Gosar's siblings pen op-ed urging for his resignation: 'You are immune to shame' Sunday shows - Delta variant, infrastructure dominate MORE's election defeat in challenging the results of November's presidential contest in a testy exchange with CNN's Manu Raju.

McCarthy argued that Republicans had formally challenged the results in only two states when Congress met on Jan. 6 to certify President BidenJoe BidenGOP report on COVID-19 origins homes in on lab leak theory READ: The .2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session MORE's victory. Those two states — Arizona and Pennsylvania — together did not contain enough electoral weight to reverse the outcome, which requires 270 votes of the Electoral College, he noted.

The conversation turned combative when McCarthy asked Raju "if Arizona and Pennsylvania were removed in the Electoral College [tally], would President Biden's numbers [go] below 270?"

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"The answer is no," McCarthy continued. 

McCarthy had endorsed a Texas lawsuit challenging the election results in four battleground states, and he voted to object to both the Arizona and Pennsylvania results. Yet when Raju pressed McCarthy whether he had sought to overturn Trump's loss, the Republican leader rejected the idea out of hand.

"No," he said, noting that Democrats have also challenged state results in the past. "This is democracy, this is our chance to look at it."

The question arose in the context of an election dispute in Iowa's 2nd Congressional District, where Democrat Rita Hart has challenged her defeat to Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks.

The contest was razor-thin: after a recount, state officials certified that Miller-Meeks had won by six votes. Hart has asked Congress to investigate that result — a request currently being weighed by Democrats on the House Administration Committee.

Party leaders, however, have remained open to the possibility that Congress could overturn the result and place Hart in that seat.

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"It was very, very close, as you know, and a number of ballots were not counted, and the Constitution says that ultimately the Congress is the judge of its membership," House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerProgressives camp outside Capitol to protest evictions House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Top Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure MORE (D-Md.) told reporters this week. "That is what House Administration is charged with, and that's what they're doing. And I want the honest answer, whoever wins."

This has drawn cries of hypocrisy from Republicans, who in turn have been called hypocritical by Democrats for their handling of Trump.

On Thursday, McCarthy was asked how Hart's request that Congress reverse a formal election result is any different than Trump's request that Congress overturn the presidential outcome.

McCarthy said the very premise is false since Arizona, with 11 electoral votes, and Pennsylvania, with 20, were not enough to overcome Biden's Electoral College victory, which was 306-232. If both states had flipped their certifications, Biden still would have won 275-263.

"It takes 270. If you remove Arizona and Pennsylvania, President Biden is still president, he's above 270," he said. "So that premise is wrong."

Heading into the the Jan. 6 certification vote, House Republicans were hoping to challenge the outcome in six states won by Biden — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. But after the mob attack on the Capitol that day, they found support from only two members of the Senate — an endorsement required to launch a formal challenge — leading to the votes on the results in Arizona and Pennsylvania.

More than 120 Republicans voted to reject the outcome in both states, including McCarthy and other GOP leaders.

Following November's presidential election, Trump quickly fought the result, claiming falsely that he was defeated only because rampant voter fraud, orchestrated by Democratic conspiracists, had tipped the scale for Biden. Yet no state reported fraud on any significant scale, and the scores of court challenges brought by Trump and his allies were shot down by courts across the country, including the Supreme Court.

McCarthy was among the first GOP leader to adopt Trump's message — "President Trump won this election, so everyone who's listening, do not be quiet," he said on Fox News two days after the election. And he endorsed a Texas lawsuit challenging the outcome in four states won by Biden: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. That case went as high as the Supreme Court, which dismissed it.

McCarthy on Thursday defended his endorsement of the lawsuit, rejecting the notion that Republicans had sought to disenfranchise millions of voters in those four states.

"No, no, no, no I don't [regret it]," he said after a direct question by Raju. "You know why? That's where you go, to the courts."

McCarthy said it is Democrats, not Republicans, seeking to nullify the will of voters, pointing to the Iowa challenge posed by Hart — who did not pursue her case in court — as evidence.

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"Did she win it on Election Day? No. Did she win it in the recount? No," McCarthy said. "She's got six members [who are] going to disenfranchise the more than 400,000 people that voted in that district. Pure politics.

"Don't mistake things that aren't the same."

McCarthy at one point also raised a challenge to the Electoral College results in Ohio by Democrats in 2004. He said if that count had been overturned, it would have changed the Electoral College count in that cycle. 

Raju pointed out that the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, former Sen. John KerryJohn KerryHow the US could help Australia develop climate action Equilibrium/ Sustainability — Presented by NextEra Energy — Clean power repurposes dirty power No. 2 State Department official to travel to China amid tensions MORE (D-Mass.), had conceded the race prior to the challenge being made. Trump, in contrast, refused to concede his defeat to President Biden and launched dozens of court challenges to the results, all of which failed.

At the end of the exchange with Raju, McCarthy asked the veteran CNN reporter if he had ever asked him a question about a bill that was going to the House floor.

After Raju said that he had on numerous occasions, McCarthy accused him of asking "the same question, the same time, in the same place, it doesn't matter what time or year it is, and nine times out of 10 you have it wrong."

"So, I answered your question. It's nice to have you here."