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.
Keep giving them hell majority leader.
Why are the gop begging our President compromise?
The gop broke it and the votes are there to fix it.
It is all about your incompetent gop desperately trying to keep their jobs.
The devil took over the gop.
Reid needs to look in a mirror if he wants to see a useless bag of hot air. Reid is the idiot responsible for the shutdown. Impeach Reid and Obama.
Reid is worthless. It is you refusing to fund the military, research for medication, the federal parks. The republicans have sent over the bills and you and your criminal gang refuse to put them through. You and your master Obama have given passes to everyone but the American People.
John Boehner is on the verge of going down as the WORST SPEAKER IN HISTORY. Time to grow some GONADS John and stop being led around by the nose by a bunch of lunatics and put your country before your party and before yourself. We need a LEADER in the House. Nancy Pelosi ran circles around you!
i hate to say it, but I think the country may split. If that does happen, I'm going with cruz and paul. you all can stay with king barry, pelosi, reid, jayz and oh yeah, hillary. good luck.
Yet another comment that epitomizes the need for term limits and mandatory retirement age for ALL politicians....
Obama's legacy is not as important as the american people.
harry, you are delusiomal. are you blind? get that wax out of your ears and listen to the people of america. "we don't trust you any more".
I am amazed by the comments on this article. You people ought to be ashamed.
I am truly disgusted with the games being played and we the citizens are the losers!
Reid says "Boehner's job is not as important as our country". I agree. And if Boehner makes any concessions he will lose that job and the Republican party will never, ever be taken seriously again. We will be a laughing stock.
Reid is nothing but a thug and a bully. If he wasn't so corrupt his comments would be funny. He is the only reason besides the immature male in the Whitehouse we are in this position.
You and Nancy need to retire.
That's right Harry, You tell them. And for ALL you rwnjs, that keep taking statements out of context and are saying Harry Reid wants children to die. That right, keep taking statements out of context, that worked out so well for you in the 2012 election
In a land of idiots, Harry is close to the king!
Forget Reid. Cruz has put the GOP in the position of defending the ACA or hoping the ACA succeeds. If the ACA goes ahead and stays as unpopular as it is or gets even more unpopular, Cruz can run as an independent and the GOP will have been decimated.
Harry Reid is seriously mentally deranged. That the Democrats have this disgusting person in charge of the Senate tells you all anyone needs to know about their party - Pathetic!!
John Boehner has to know that the T-Partiers, Eric Cantor or Mike McCarthy will NEVER respect or support him. If the GOP holds the House, they won't re-ellect him. His only chance is to be the adult in the room. Forget the Hastert Prohibition, put a clean CR to a democratic majority vote and work with the President to bring a comprehensive immigration bill to the floor as well. Squeeze a tax simplidfication and reform bill in and he would be remembered favorably by history whether he remained Speaker, or not.
Here is a statement from Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Budget Committee:
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Budget Committee, said she has been trying for more than a half-year to go to a conference to work out differences between the Senate budget and the House version. Senate and House Republicans have objected, repeatedly including Boehner. So you see folks, this shutdown is on the republicans that did not want to work out the budget differences
Yes, there's a good idea, listen to anything Reid says about how to be viewed in history. We might as well let the Dems determine who the prissy club Republicans should run for the Oval Office in '16. I believe we've seen that work out really well the last couple of elections now haven't we?
What a sad old man to have lived so long and to have such an inflated ego–with no wisdom. To me, Reid's job is not as important as our country. Perhaps he should retire.
It is funny some people are say the GOP is just worried about the rich. Delaying the mandate for individuals for one year does not help the rich. It only will keep the government from collecting penalties this year.
No one's job is as important as our country, and that includes the jobs of President Obama and Senator Reid.
Appears Reid and Obama do not want the clarity of funding the House is offering. What undesirable spending is Reid and Obama hiding? Why not present programs one at a time, vet their worth, and vote up or down on each? Obama was hired in part to trim the deficit, budget, and spending. He made the campaign promise to us. Why is he not honoring his word? Let's rack and stack each program in priority order, draw a line marking those worthy and those less worthy, one at a time publically since Reid and Obama do not want to do their job professionally. By default so far, Reid has declared each presented by the House as unworthy of funding.
Mr. Reid is of the opinion that he rules. This is what happens when the government gets too big. We The People need to take back OUR government and get rid of people who believe they are ABOVE the law.