October 3rd, 2013
07:06 PM ET
6 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. marge

    Nothing is as important to Barry and Harry than control of each and every person in the country – what we say on the phone, what we write in emails, what we learn in school, what monuments we may visit, where we walk, what cars we can drive, how we spend money we have earned, what doctor we see ....

    October 4, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  2. Todd

    The problem I am having is with the big picture. What is the real long term plan here? Are we simply going to keep borrowing our way out of trouble, or reform the tax code and put tariffs on companies that outsource jobs? Otherwise the tax revenue is going to be constantly dwindling and we will keep going further and further into debt. No serious talk of any of these things. GOP will dodge any solutions or block bills even to borrow money now. Obamacare is another matter and while that bill is likely flawed, it does give some leverage to the GOP because nobody is crazy about paying for health care. The long term goal appears to be bankruptcy because I am not seeing any other options with the political culture.

    October 4, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  3. phoenix86

    What I find most telling in Reid's comments over the past few days is his and Obama's insistence that children with cancer will not be treated due to the government shutdown. I seem to recall that one of the arguments the dems used for Obamacare was that people paid for the uninsured because hospitals didn't turn the uninsured away. Seems that under Obamacare, they now will let you die if you're not covered.

    Nice job Barack and Harry.

    October 4, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  4. Liz

    When Congress and the unions sign up for Obamacare then I will expect the Republicans to step aside. Last night Rep.Rosa Delauro, was on tv. selling the virtues of Obamacare for the latinos. Not for the rest of America, this is for votes. If its so great why have congress and Obama declined it for themselves and their families.And given waivers to friends and unions. I support the Republicans.

    October 4, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  5. The Real Tom Paine

    -citizen1052

    When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty. – Thomas Jefferson.
    Mr Reid, you and your cronies are tyrants. You won't debate, you won't try to see other views, you will not compromise. You will hold this country hostage until you get 100% of what you -YOU- want. When you leave office I will celebrate every bit as much as I do on the 4th of July.
    *********************
    No, Mr. Reid is doing his job as Majority Leader, unlike Mr. Boehner, who is so scared of his own shadow that he will not lead. Right now, Boehner is talking to Democrats in the House to get things done, since its obvious that he can't work with anyone on his own side.

    October 4, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  6. KRJ9

    Look republicans, Pass a CLEAN spending bill. Like we've done in the past. What happens if you gain the presidency and we attach a bill banning guns. Do you think for one second the republicans would pass it? No they won't. Debate Obamacare on it's own merits and quit playing games. That is if you can

    October 4, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  7. gpomar

    @Wake up People!

    Calling BS. Harry Reid has NEVER voted on a budget bill from the GOP House...EVER. And regardless of your opinion of the bill(s) sent, they deserve a vote. If they're that bad, the democrats will defeat the bill since they're the majority in the Senate.

    Here's Harry's dirty secret... More democrats in the Senate are siding with the GOP on CR's and Obamacare. Harry knows that if he allowed the vote, the bill(s) would pass and the GOP will have saved the day. He can't have that because politics is more important to him than the USA.

    October 4, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  8. steamboat

    LOL – Liberals always accuse the other side of the very thing they are guilty of ! I'm not a huge Boehner fan, but he and the House are doing the right thing. If they don't succeed, we will tell the incompetent liberals "see I told you so" as the disaster of ObummerCare destroys the middle class.

    October 4, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  9. ashton

    I do have a lot of respect for an "elderly statesman"- viz. Reid. However, when vision for a better future is blinded by anger, name calling and the desire to be stubborn, then Mr. Reid should do the right thing and step down for his position. I have read and listened to both sides of the argument and have heard stories form everyday citizens. The question is simple- Is the United States of America become dis-united just because you have a president who lacks the fundamental ability of a leader to be humble and allow the ACA 1 year if postponement so that all citizens and administration associated with the act understand its full implication, do the required tweaking and re-introduce the act in a more acceptable and profound manner? Leadership is NOT about ranting and name calling as Mr. Reid seems to think. Mr. Reid should know that if he "can't improve upon silence, then he should say nothing"- ( Ghandi).

    October 4, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  10. GreyBeard

    Nothing is more important to the GOP than being in control. The GOP is nothing but a band of idiots.

    October 4, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  11. dbkiller

    I'm no longeer a republican......

    October 4, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  12. Super Gus

    It is amusing how you liberals call conservatives "Anarchists" How does not supporting a mandate forcing the citizens to buy an insurance plan that is so great the President, and Congress are exempt from. Does that constitute an Anarchist. I think an anarchist would hire 1600 IRS agents to target political enemies as an anarchist. Your God-king Obama is the real Anarchist.

    October 4, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  13. Tim

    This is all part of Reid and Obama's plan to raise debt ceiling without congress approval. Reid and Obama trying to paint the picture that their needs are greater than what the constitution says. And that Reid says what right does Boehner have. Umm,, Harry,,,, John Boehner is the speaker of the house. You know the branch of the government where the power of the purse resides. Were on to your scheme.. Obama keeps repeating the word "default". Thinking he's setting the table for his upcoming unconstitutional ploy. Thank you Mark Levin for exposing these clowns.

    October 4, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  14. NYNJCT

    So, Harry, you have rejected FOUR TIMES GOP's Offers. Your important jobs sound like 'REJECTION'.

    October 4, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  15. sam

    Someone tell Reid the entire Democratic party has leveraged our entire economy and American way of life for their political positions....so if he wants to start saving the nation start by doing exactly the opposite of everything he and is socilaiist have been doing.

    October 4, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  16. gpomar

    @Todd
    "GOP will dodge any solutions or block bills even to borrow money now."
    Borrowing isn't a solution, that worsens the problem. We still have "essential" federal workers working, so why should us taxpayers be on the hook for non-essential federal employees? This is supposed to be a small decentralized government.

    "Obamacare is another matter and while that bill is likely flawed, it does give some leverage to the GOP because nobody is crazy about paying for health care."
    The adults have been paying for their own healthcare their entire adult lives, if they so choose to. But now it's not a choice, you are forced to purchase a private product or go on welfare and pay for that. The flaw of the ACA is that, according to SCOTUS, this is a tax. This bill started in the Senate, and the Senate is not constitutionally allowed to write tax law – only the House.

    "The long term goal appears to be bankruptcy because I am not seeing any other options with the political culture"
    Obama is certainly trying to bankrupt America, and he's using the plan of some of his heroes – Cloward and Piven, who determined that the only way to take America down is using the welfare/entitlement system. The Tea Party does have a plan... a Constitutional federal gov't, you should get on board with that – it's their sole reason for existence.

    October 4, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  17. Manti

    I love this. While the peoples' reps bicker back and forth the stock market is becoming a nice buyer's market. Time to increase your 401Ks.

    IT will take a few more months to send over all the piecemeals to the Senate and then it's a go.

    The Republicans have never ever cared about the 47% so why would they start caring now?

    October 4, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  18. Ed from Maine

    Bonehead and his uncontrolled pack of 30 mavericks are doing the work of foreign terrorists – shutting down parts of the government and damaging our fragile economic recovery. Inn short – they are stressing our system of government and our citizens which is exactly the same goal that Bin Laden and his successors have.

    October 4, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  19. ghostwriter

    So republicans answer to the shutdown is to hold a vote on each and every item, program, department, etc in the budget?

    October 4, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  20. Joyce

    Harry doesn't know it's not about him.

    October 4, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  21. HeyHey

    Constitution is specifically designed to prevent the majority from oppressing the minority... Changing the structure of the nation by a majority is in fact violating the right of the minority...

    Deal with it Harry.

    October 4, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  22. Jim Hartnett

    John Boehner's campain supporters have shorted the US ecomony. They stand to make billions from his economic treason. Remember JPMorgan lost 12 billion in 2012 betting the US ecomony would not recover. This is a repeat of that market manipulation, only this time they have the speaker doing the dirty work.

    October 4, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  23. TED

    Boehner is holding the country hostage due to the TEApottiers and their tantrums about taxes and debts. Remember repthugs, GW Bush was handed a surplus which he turned into huge deficits due to stupid wars. the GOP owns the issue but they do not want to deal with it. They are uncaring about people needing healthcare and want to defund a LAW that is on the books. They would rather expand tax credits and writeoffs and loopholes for the rich and corporations. The GOP is turning this country into a wasteland with their wrongheaded policies. Boehner is incompetent and spineless to his own party. Vote him out, Ohio.

    October 4, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  24. If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

    "There's one way to fix this .. My way!" – President Obama
    Yup, I see it's only the Republicans causing this ... How dumb do all these politicians think we all are.

    October 4, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  25. Chris

    Don't you just love how a Congress person can justify THEM being on special insurance like the "big companies" have. Hey, you want better insurance then go to work for a "big company"! Us taxpayers are tiring of footing so much money and benefits to Congress AND to those Millions of People living off of taxes. Yes, those who collect welfare, food stamps, public housing, healthcare, cell phone & minutes, and the list go on and on and on ..... they are just as big a problem as Congress and the President. Get rid of all of the loafers by lowering salaries and benefits and putting time limits on social programs. Every man and woman who is of working age should work. I've seen paraplegics working from their wheel chairs and I've seen lazy people complaining about their legs hurting so much they are on full disability, yet they weigh 300 lbs.

    October 4, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
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