October 3rd, 2013
07:06 PM ET
12 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. William

    Reeds ugly face should only be viewed from 6' above ground. Someone please cap the fool! You Vegas boys should be able to handle that job, Right?

    October 4, 2013 01:29 am at 1:29 am |
  2. Lori thorne

    What a foul wizened little man. Obama's perfect puppet

    October 4, 2013 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  3. Bud Wood

    We're seeing the thrashing around of a dying empire.

    October 4, 2013 01:37 am at 1:37 am |
  4. JimmieMeehan

    Hey Harry...they are having discussions and votes over in the house...you are denying votes so their is need of discussion....so who is doing the work of the people and who is denying The People

    October 4, 2013 01:49 am at 1:49 am |
  5. Romy Monteyro

    Reid, according to his bio-data was a former boxer. I guess that explains his empty-headedness. Too many blows to his head made him what he is today-a moron of the highest order! Go away, Harry, please. But don't go away mad, just go away!

    October 4, 2013 02:37 am at 2:37 am |
  6. Finny

    Reid is loathsome and monstrously corrupt.

    October 4, 2013 02:45 am at 2:45 am |
  7. Thomas

    @ Terry , Jack Bauer , Jack Ryan , Keys , Rick McDaniel , Sam Houston , Just , MarkJ , Conserv , Hil , Marilyn , Tim , Wmsy , Mark Jessup , SVO , Will Rogers , John Q Public , clyde green .

    All of you must like " Green Eggs and Ham " .

    When so many Ted Cruz supporters get together in one place to bash Harry Reid , you know Reid is doing the right thing !

    October 4, 2013 02:49 am at 2:49 am |
  8. Charles Lowrance

    Same for you Reid... God of the Senate..

    October 4, 2013 02:54 am at 2:54 am |
  9. Fred Thomas

    Compromise is an agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions, "An ability to listen to two sides in a dispute, and devise a compromise acceptable to both!"

    The solutions are there, for the president, Senate Pro Temp, and Speaker!

    October 4, 2013 03:00 am at 3:00 am |
  10. Terrence

    BTW anyone thats keeping count we just hit 1.2 billion USD lost during government shutdown FYI. what would you do with 1.2 billion?

    October 4, 2013 03:22 am at 3:22 am |
  11. troppo1

    Wow, listen to the wailing of the lost, Romney lost but Romnycare won. The teaParty are losing and that is tearing them apart. """"OHH wo is me""

    October 4, 2013 03:42 am at 3:42 am |
  12. TKList

    Harry Reid is completely pathetic.

    October 4, 2013 04:02 am at 4:02 am |
  13. Tonus One

    Hey Reidosaurus...thanks for making the point clear. NO ONE's JOB is more important than the country...that includes you, your libtool friends and POTUS. Negotiating is your job, we suggest you pack your swollen egos and your misplaced hubris, and get back to work...right now, our return on the money we pay you is zero.

    October 4, 2013 04:10 am at 4:10 am |
  14. wboehmer

    The question isn't about Boehner's job or Reid's job . . .
    it's about whether Obamacare is more important than our country

    October 4, 2013 04:14 am at 4:14 am |
  15. Exo MXYZPTLK

    Presidents come and go, but the Republic must live on. Out of the two, it's a no-brainer. What arrogance to place oneself before duty, honor or country!

    October 4, 2013 04:24 am at 4:24 am |
  16. Madame de_Farge

    The majority of congress needs to be retired. They go in as citizens and very quickly become multi-millionaires through bribes, graft and corruption. Reid is one of the worst. Anyone who turned 'serving the people' into 'screwing the people' has to go...on either side of the aisle. Let's clean house in 2014.

    October 4, 2013 04:59 am at 4:59 am |
  17. AEK

    The reporter incorrectly laid the blame on the government shutdown on John Boehner near the end of the second video clip.

    She must be reading the Democrat talking points, because in fact it was the Republican majority House that passed a bill to fund the government less Obamacare, and it was the Harry Reid's Democrat majority Senate that refused to pass that bill.

    Therefore it was Harry Reid that shut down the government.

    I am amazed that a national news agency such as CNN makes false statements based on Democrat talking points without researching the facts.

    CNN basically speaking for the Democrat Party rather than reporting the news.

    Shame on CNN.

    October 4, 2013 05:19 am at 5:19 am |
  18. @RI_Roger

    When Democrats learn to write legislation that is fair to all Americans, not just the groups they are seeking votes from, then Republicans can feel like they can vote on Clean bills. Democrat legislation always has some type of demographic or parliamentary slant it that makes Republicans cringe.

    October 4, 2013 05:42 am at 5:42 am |
  19. acrscout

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

    Neither is your job Harry, you can be and should be replaced.

    Having called your office several times I find that your only method of communication seems to be threats and intimidation, which seems to be the standard for your party.

    October 4, 2013 05:52 am at 5:52 am |
  20. Ira Motus

    Consider this: The photographer captures the stooped and bent form of a weary old coot. He can't change and he's bitter. He's liable to say any darn thing. His depleted followers accept him for the shell of whatever creature he purports to be. And, the tired old man refuses to admit that his diminished faculties have allowed a scourge to be visited upon the town. It will get worse for the town before it gets better. You have just entered The American Twilight Zone!

    October 4, 2013 05:52 am at 5:52 am |
  21. acrscout

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

    Neither is your job Harry, you can and should be replaced.

    Having called your office several times I find that your only method of communication seems to be threats and intimidation, but that seems to be the norm for your party.

    October 4, 2013 05:54 am at 5:54 am |
  22. aidia sue davis

    You tell people that you are a Mormon. What a laugh. I've been a member 43 years, and you are nothing like any Mormons I know. You lie, manipulate, cheat, pit one person/group against another, and look to others to do your dirty work. Sounds to me like you are a sociopath person, who is in it for yourself, not the country.

    October 4, 2013 05:58 am at 5:58 am |
  23. rowleya

    Boycott LasVegas untill Reid Recalled or Resigns

    October 4, 2013 06:01 am at 6:01 am |
  24. acrscout

    Doris,
    " 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."

    Really? is that why every time a budget fight comes up, the first thing Obama indicates, is that veterans and Social Security recipients are at the top of the list NOT to get their promised support? That seems to be a pretty poor way of taking care of the little guy.

    October 4, 2013 06:04 am at 6:04 am |
  25. Javert

    How can anyone with a brain vote for this sad excuse for an America Senator. It's time for term limits.

    October 4, 2013 06:11 am at 6:11 am |
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