October 3rd, 2013
07:06 PM ET
10 months ago

Reid to CNN: Boehner’s ‘job is not as important as our country’

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.


Filed under: Government Shutdown • Harry Reid • John Boehner • Senate
soundoff (645 Responses)
  1. Vick Cherey

    Tea party = domestic terrorists.

    October 4, 2013 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  2. Jay

    Harry thinks he is really slick. He continues to blast the other side for remarks, that he himself is making and then tries to degrade a reporter at a news conference for asking a question and then wants people to think he is the only one that is right... Harry, you and your position are not more important than this country. Hard working Americans for some reason voted you in, but they will not stand by and watch you try and destroy this country just for the sake of I told you I could .

    October 4, 2013 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  3. KR

    "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."

    Do the right thing, Boehner! Bring the ACA bill up for a vote in the House, or you will certainly go down in the history books as a shameful coward.

    October 4, 2013 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  4. William Talbert

    @John Q Public – But yet republicans are willing to let 3 million die by defunding or appealing Obamacare and then forcing Americans back to extremely expensive insurance premiums and increasing medical care. So there is do difference between Reid the Republicans.
    It is simple Republicans want to appeal Obamacare and tell millions of children, hey you have to die because we hate the man on the White House because he took our Affordable healthcare Plan we enacted in Massachusetts and hailed it a major success and adopted it for the country. People forget Obama modeled and blue printed his affordable Healthcare Act after the Republicans and Romney's Affordable Healthcare Act of Massachusetts. So explain to me how it is good for a Republican State but bad for a Democrat Nation?

    October 4, 2013 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  5. KBNJ

    Boehner is not my favorite person in the world, but he's doing what he got elected to do. Reid and Obama cannot ignore, denigrate and completely silence 1/3 of our govt – the House that represents the PEOPLE – and then blame THEM for shutting down the govt.

    October 4, 2013 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  6. Luis Wu

    The teabigots will be the ruin of this country. I don't understand why intelligent people don't see that. Anarchist is a good description. The Republican party is doomed if they keep pandering to these Neanderthals.

    October 4, 2013 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  7. Joe

    Reid actually believes that if he says something over and over it becomes true. Obama, Hillary and Reid should be in prison.

    October 4, 2013 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  8. felicityva

    Boehner's job is second in line from the presidency. Biden's is first. Your job doesn't carry anywhere near the clout his does. Wrinkled old clown.

    October 4, 2013 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  9. pawpaw1313

    The house gave you a bill to fund the govt. You refuse to put it on the floor of the Senate. The ilks of you, Pelosi and Obama think everything should be your way. GUESS WHAT!!

    October 4, 2013 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  10. Portholus

    So in reading the comments out there we all can agree that Reid is just posturing again. As this talk with Boehner was not on any record there is no one to back up his story. Now for all of those that are saying that Obama is for the average citizen, you might want to think again. This is a guy that is as bought and paid for as any member of congress. He is for Obama. Do not think otherwise. Giving everything to various people is not the same as being for the people. Remember that for him to have money to give it has to first be taken from someone that earned it. Finally for the person that is stating that obama needs to rule by executive order, that is called being a dictator. He is currently trying to do that and I am afraid that I could not agree with him being a dictator. He wants power too much and he is not willing to concede it once things are straightened out.

    October 4, 2013 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  11. Stephen

    The voters specifically put Republicans in charge of the House to DE-FUND the "train wreck" called Obamacare. The House is responsible for all spending bills and they have every right to block funding for any program they deem to be unworkable.

    October 4, 2013 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  12. oh really, give us a break

    oh wait, maybe we can help just one child with cancer, No is what reid says and that comes from the samr group that removed God from their convention. You all must really see who is the demons now, its obama, reid , pelosi and the rest of the devils in the democratic party.

    October 4, 2013 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  13. Country First

    Mr Reid – If you and your fellow politicans really thought of your country first you would step down. I blame both Democrats and Republicans for this mess of government you have created. You all need to be kicked out the door. Every last one of you think only of your own personal interest. You care nothing for this country and its citizens. You are totally dsyfunctional. Step-up and be leaders or step aside. Enough is enough. Next election and those to follow my vote will be casted for those whom are not serving in Washington today. I would asked all my fellow Americans to do the same. We can end this whole mess and put you all out in the street.

    October 4, 2013 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  14. nuclear mike

    Without the NRA you would not even be there in DC as you would have lost your re-election bid...so shut up and act American!!!

    October 4, 2013 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  15. Pam

    The hypocrisy is strong with this one.

    October 4, 2013 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  16. Thomas

    So, if the democrats cave and gut their defining legislation (ACA), what's to stop the not just the GOP but either side from doing this on every single issue that they deem necessary? What about shutting down the government for abortion? What about shutting it down to include gun bans? What about shutting it down just because you feel like it?

    October 4, 2013 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  17. JakeF

    Harry Reid and John Boehner are both cut from the same cloth.

    But all this takes is a clean spending bill for monies we already owe. The other issues can be negotiated and compromised on at a different time by competent adults we elected to congress. (that's pretty funny, isn't it?.. competent adults we elected to congress)

    Bunch of clowns. Now grow up and do your job. That job is NOT acting like a bunch of spoiled little children that didn't get their way.

    October 4, 2013 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  18. JeffreyRO5

    Clearly conservatives don't understand the point Reid was making. It is not that Harry Reid's job is more important than the country, but that because John Boehner's job is under threat from Tea Partiers, that's no reason to harm the country. If Boehner were a patriot, he'd gladly give up his job for the good of America. I won't hold my breath though.

    October 4, 2013 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  19. Uh-Clem

    According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary an anarchist is a person who believes that government and laws are not necessary; a person who rebels against any authority, established order, or ruling power. Senator Reid's use of the term, while arguably incendiary, is spot on. If you believe that politicians will say or do anything to rationalize their political actions/policies you would be correct and that makes all of the arguments we are hearing from both sides extremely suspect. But, in the final analysis there is one overreaching point worth remembering. This is not medieval Italy, Machiavelli was making astute observations of a political system that in no way resembles democracy, and it is painfully clear that there is a wrecking crew with absolutely no mandate to make government work engaging in acts of sabotage with no end game, no workable or cogent model for the future, and damaging the American people and support systems far worse than the existing laws could ever do. Is martial law next?

    October 4, 2013 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  20. jim

    None of them are important. What have they really done for americans.

    October 4, 2013 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  21. Lamont

    If dying children is an issue, then just pass a clean bill and therefore children will not die and even more can eat and keep from getting sick.

    October 4, 2013 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  22. Just sayin'

    Well said Doris. The ppl pulling the strings are the incredibly selfish, all about ME, T party. Ted Cruz is bought and paid for. Hope he got a settlement because he won't be back. Congressmen should work for minimum wage and the glory of the position, and retire like the rest of us without a golden parachute. Most of them are already rich with their hands in everyone's pockets anyway. And the majority think they are above the law. How else do you get away with extortion?! They will never feel the pain the average person does and they never learned empathy. We need to go to a 1-party system, take down the 'wall'/aisle that separates up and really become United.

    October 4, 2013 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  23. Malory Archer

    I normally like to see the good in folks, but the rethugs in congress and their deep pocketed owners are truly nasty, vindictive men. What a bunch of insufferable jerks.

    October 4, 2013 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  24. EJ

    It is amazing how the government is not being effective and yet ignorance is of the upmost importance. Educational programs and lending for homes have shut down and people care more about name calling. It is such a shame that hatred and ignorance exists so strongly in our society.

    October 4, 2013 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  25. rs1201

    To be a democrat is to never take responsibility for anything...just look at obama...
    Reid and Schumer very clearly said that they didn't think it was appropriate to help a child with cancer...none of us are deaf Mr Reid!!!!!

    October 4, 2013 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
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