Washington (CNN) – In an interview with CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused House Speaker John Boehner of being more worried about his job than the country amid a government shutdown.
The Nevada Democrat also talked for the first time Thursday about Boehner reneging on an agreement between the two over a “clean” spending bill, and admitted he directed his chief of staff to leak embarrassing e-mails that they say indicate Boehner changed his position on Obamacare subsidies for Congress.
Reid also followed up on his controversial comments from Wednesday, when he took issue with the idea that the Senate should vote to fund clinical trials for cancer patients at the National Institutes of Health during the shutdown.
In the interview, Reid criticized Boehner for bowing to a conservative faction of his caucus that insists on attaching anti-Obamacare provisions to a temporary spending bill needed to fund the government.
“His job is not as important as our country,” Reid said.
While a more moderate group of the GOP caucus is trying to generate support for a “clean” continuing resolution, Boehner has not agreed to bring their plan up for a vote.
“I say to my friend John Boehner–and I do like him, I’ve said that lots of times–John, if you want to really have history books account who you really are, do this,” he said, urging Boehner to take up the clean bill.
“He has to have some courage,” he added.
Clearly agitated at the memory, Reid said the two met in early September and reached a compromise about the end-of-the month deadline to pass a spending bill. Reid said Boehner agreed to pass a $988 billion spending package, $70 billion less than what the senate leader wanted.
“That was really hard,” Reid said, referring his decision to drop $70 billion. “My caucus really didn't like that. We took a real hit.”
Asked if Boehner at the time promised to deliver a clean continuing resolution, Reid said: “That's why we did it. That's why we agreed to that lower number. So that's one of the largest compromises since I've been in Congress.”
Republicans passed a series of bills on Wednesday with majority support that would fund national parks, the National Institutes of Health and District of Columbia operations while the government remains shut down.
But Reid has refused to take them up, saying the government should be funded all at once. The White House also issued a veto threat.
Reid, who's been known to use explosive terms to describe the tea party, defended his choice of words, especially when he calls them “anarchists.”
“Why in the world wouldn't I use the term anarchy? That's what they are, they're anarchists,” he said. “They don't believe in government at any level. That's why we have members of Congress over there today and yesterday saying finally, we're able to close the government.”
He conceded that calling them “the weird caucus,” as he’s previously done, was “probably a little over the hill,” but said he won’t give up on referring to them as anarchists.
“There's no better description I can make,” he said. “They're not blowing up buildings and they're not killing people. But they're throwing much - monkey wrenches in the wheels of government.”
On Wednesday, Bash asked Reid at a press conference why he would refuse to pass a bill to fund the NIH’s clinical trials, which have stopped amid the shutdown.
He reiterated his stance against funding the government piece by piece.
"Why would we want to do that? I have 1,100 people at Nellis Air Force base that are sitting at home. They have a few problems of their own,” he said. “To have someone of your intelligence to suggest such a thing means you're as irresponsible and reckless.”
Republicans quickly seized on his answer, using it to paint the Democrat as uncaring and insensitive.
While Reid admitted he was not articulate in his answer, he said the attacks that followed were “mean-spirited.”
“I understand babies who are sick. I've got a lot of children, lots of grandchildren. I really worry about kids, probably more than others because those little bodies can't take the assaults that we as older people can take,” he said.
Reid also commented on why his staff leaked a series of e-mails between his office and Boehner’s, which, according to Reid’s office, show Boehner worked privately to preserve health insurance subsidies for lawmakers and congressional employees before publicly moving to strip them as part of the standoff over government funding.
“He was behind this all the way,” Reid said. “I did a lot of the heavy lifting, but he was part of the deal. He was there. And then to have him come and try to say, ‘this is bad, Congress is getting something others aren't getting,’ it's not true. … I thought, how could you do that?”
Democrats argue the federal support is no different than what large companies give their employees.
“I told my staff, ‘You tell his staff, if they do this, I’m going to have to go public, because this is something that is just absolutely wrong,’” he said.
A spokesman for Boehner denied Tuesday the speaker was working with the Democrats to find a legislative fix for the subsidies, outside of repealing Obamacare in its entirety and keeping congressional employees on their existing health plans.
Instead, Boehner thought the matter should be handled by the Office of Personnel Management.
“The speaker’s position is clear: He voted against Obamacare, and he wants to repeal Obamacare. If the Senate Democrats and the White House wanted to make a ‘fix’ to the law, it would be their fix. The speaker’s ‘fix’ is repeal,” said spokesman Michael Steel. “This is just a desperate act by Harry Reid’s staff to protect their own subsidy.”
– CNN Senior Congressional Producer Ted Barrett contributed to this report.
Reid, your position is not important either. You are a joke and a person to be pointing fingers
Clearly Reid believes his job is more important than dying children.
Believe it or not there was a time when Reid supported an audit of the Fed. Corruption comes so easily in Washington.
Dingy Harry wants the shutdown to continue. BHO wants it to continue. It is all about politics not about the country for the Dems.
Harry Reid does what Democrats always do, he accuses others of that which he is engaged in, and behaving, i.e., it is REID who is more concerned about his job, than for the good of the American people. REID chose, in full accordance with Barky O'Bama, to shut down the federal government. Reid views the Senate as his own personal fiefdom and will not countenance any challenges whatsoever. Obama's insufferable ego will never let him consider any compromise to his cherished socialist health care system.
Filthy Harry and Crazy Barry. If it were a movie, it would be rated "CP" – Childish and Petulant".
Guess what Harry, second in line to the president is WAY more important than you, like it or not! Be careful, you are way more insignificant then you would like to think, as well as all our groupies.
They need to give people of harry's age senility checks. For some reason he thinks his job is as or more important than the country. How does he keep getting elected? Bribes.
I am really sick if the nitwit and also Nancy Pelosi who said today the American people just don't understand anything, I am sick of her to and I understand more than you think I do, way more
Reid....your Job...as Trouble maker jerk...and Egotist....is the least important job on Earth...a janitor is wiser and has more respect.
Boehner, Tea Partiers, and their ilk need to be taken into custody. Until order is restored, President Obama must rule by Executive Order. It is the only course that now is feasible.
If u care so much 'dingy harry' then why dont u pass the spending bills the house has passed. It comes down to this, dems want a mess and blame it all on the tea party. Guess what Harry, GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH
I normally like to see the good in folks, but Harry Reid is truly a nasty, vindictive man. What an insufferable jerk.
Reid is only important to himself. Term limits anyone? Reid is a direct product of the low information voters.
Harry, Your jobs not as important as a wart on a frogs butt. But you are about that smart.
If anyone in government should resign, it is Harry Reid. The Obama puppet, who allows Obama to control every single thing he does.
Reid should take Pelosi and Obama to communist China to live where they would fit in well.
I'll go with the "Cadaver" on this one. If Boehner wimps out on one more critical issue like this one, I can only conclude that he will be hurled out of the GOP like the wet rag he is.
Reid is only worried about the future of the Democrat Party. Not the future of this country.
John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Rafael Edward Cruz, are bound and determined to make sure their rich benefactors,
get all the tax breaks they need to stay in their mansions, while ordinary Americans get kicked out of their homes.
President Obama fights for the Cop, the teacher, the firefighter, the clerical worker, the checkout cashier,
to have access to Obamacare, good public schools, housing.
GOP fight for the Koch Brothers to stay in their Park Avenue Condos.
How does Obama get his hand inside Reid to do that puppet act anyway?
All bills involving spending must originate from the House (the side of Congress that represents the individual citizens and taxpayers) .. only the Senate (the side of Congress that represents the States) can decide to not go along with a funding bill and thus "shut down" government. By the way, contrary to popular belief, closing government in this country is not the same thing as closing America.
Reid is just a senile old man, he needs to be in a managed care facility, his brain is mush!
Reid, you stopped being important 2 decades ago.
I'm so tired of the the White House and their cronies that are the most unethical people to ever be in power. They want to increase the debit ceiling and continue to create bigger and bigger government program (Obamacare). They just don't get it. The checks and balances are suppose to keep this President in line. That's our government. He needs to be a leader, not a dictator. He is not Presidential and very amateurish at what he is doing. The vast majority of Americans want the Republicans to stand against this man and is distinctive direction. He wants to run the country like the Democrats did in Detroit. They are a train wreck waiting to happen.
None of your jobs are that important. Including yours and the president's. You're all public servants.
Act like it for a change fund the portions of the government we agree upon. The bits we don't... guess that's up for debate.