October 3rd, 2013
07:06 PM ET
9 years 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.

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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. John McCrillis

    The Democrats are very foolish to even respond to the GOP or any news agency. The President should have went out and said "one does not argue with a child throwing a tantum" , end of discusion.

    October 4, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  2. Larry in Houston

    WOW !! after reading Minerva's comment, in Texas, I have nothing else to say !!

    October 4, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Mr. Bohner you should be ashamed the medical bill is already a law. this is just an excuse to get what u want. I don't see you crying now.

    October 4, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  4. frustrated american

    I find it ironic that everyone is calling it affordable health care. So let me get this straight, if i can't afford to have health insurance and i go to the hospital I will have to pay a tax for not having something I can't afford? Someone please tell me how this makes any sense. The cost of health care is not going down because Obamacare is in place.

    October 4, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  5. Andrew

    when Obama/Reid/Pelosi passed Obamacare, they threw bipartisanship out the window and said, We are going to ram it down your throat while we have the chance. Why would they expect a different reaction from the Republica Party than the one they are getting?

    October 4, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  6. Amarjeet

    That is why he has turned his back to people of America and following Tea Party younger generation being too old as he looks and worn out with tears.

    October 4, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  7. penguin

    Poor Republicans feel disrepected. They feel this way because the Democrats won't let the Affordable Care Act be made ineffective. Then the Congressman from Texas berates a National Park Ranger for telling people the park is closed. What hutzpah. That Texas Tea Party Congressman is a jerk and should be disrespected. The ACA isn't perfect, but it is allowing millions of people who couldn't get health insurance get some coverage. We're all waiting for the Republicans to change the health care law to make it work better, but they refuse to do so. And when it comes to budget items, we're still waiting for them to make cuts to areas other than to programs that help the poor.

    October 4, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  8. prayfast2

    (EyeOpener) Is this really POLITICAL . or a SCREEN TO DIVIDE & DISTRACT we the people, for the people by the people. Insurance Companies will lose with ACA, (which most people only know as OBAMA CARE) so it must be stopped. The SOAPBOX is for those who will not shine their eyes and see through the POLITICAL SCREEN.

    October 4, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  9. rick

    Thank you Reid for sticking up for us, we the people!!!! Universal healthcare, expansion of welfare so nobody goes hungry, and greater union rights!! Hillary 2016!

    October 4, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  10. sick of the system

    If any of you look at the shutdown as the result from only one side (Democrat or Republican), you're an idiot and need to stop your involvement in politics because your type are the ones continuing to re-elect these morons. Our President and both parties are inept and continue to drop to new lows with every issue. Obama wasn't elected to do a non-stop BLAME campaign and Congress needs to stop acting like pre-schoolers fighting over a toy. Even if you are a partisan hack, what more has to happen to be sick of your party? Supporting either is like wearing as banner stating your stupidity.

    October 4, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  11. rick

    Thank you dirty Harry "oop I crapped my pants" Reid for sticking up for us, we the people!!!! Universal healthcare, expansion of welfare so nobody goes hungry, and greater union rights!! Reid 2016!

    October 4, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  12. Truth

    Republicans are thugs.
    What is their position here? We DEMAND that you dismantle health care reform - which Democrats have been working on since FDR (!) - or we will shutdown the government.

    Imagine some deranged individual telling you that you have to give them all your money or they will shoot your children. Now imagine a Republican. WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?

    October 4, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  13. hdyhrhrnjfjfjdjr

    I could rattle off about 100 programs that Dems have always said were created for the children. We have tighter EPA regs for the children, we have CHIP for the children, we have Common Core for the children ... . And, anytime a Republican dared say something negative about one of those programs, a host of DEMs and their media pawns would launch an assault saying Republicans hate children. They are harming children with their plans. Now, the dreaded evil Republicans what to fund the NIH so children with cancer can receive treatment. It was Reid a DEMOCRAT who said "why would I want to do that" when ask if he would sign off on the bill. Complain ALL you want about the Republicans no accepting the result of an election or the passage of a bill. It is DEMOCRATS who are keeping cancer stricken kids from receiving their treatments. And, it is DEMOCRATs who SPENT TAXPAYER money to fence up monuments that are openly accessible 24 – 7 prior to the shut down.

    October 4, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  14. NameFrank Deery

    After the fiasco of Obama's Syria/Putin blunders, the crucial 2014 election seemed to be going towards the GOP. That was worse, really, than this shut-down, but Reid and the liberal media are hyping this latest Obama failure TO LEAD as a Republican mess.

    The Tea Party Reps were elected by voters-tired of our rising debt, even after the bad Recession-one many Democrats played a big part in. The Tea Party is, like Paul Revere, warning US to stop the wasteful spending, which is highest under Obama, and be more
    austere. Angele Metkle did it for The EU.
    That Obama even pushed his flim-flam health care bill, now getting bad marks from
    all over, during a bad recession shows his lack of insight. This is 2013, tax and spend liberals(Reid, Obama, Clinton, Pelosi, and Kerry), not 1973! I was there!

    Reid is a dottering, aging liberal who should retire to Nevada. Let the "kids" do it, as Audrey Hepburn wisely said. Calling any Republican
    "anarchist" after the Boston Marathon mess and rising crime among Obama's "base" in
    Oakland, Chicago, DC, Even Oklahoma is absurd and non-productive. Product? US!
    Status? No real CIO! Obama golfs!

    October 4, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  15. ashamed

    IIn my 38 years of being a patriot, and a voter I have never seen such a socialist sign appear in the government of the United States. The government should not force upon the people what they don't want. Lets vote on it America! Let the people decide.

    October 4, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  16. Enranged

    It's interesting how Reid references the 1100 Nellis DoD workers. There's was legislation approved by Congress and signed by the president that essentially said federal DoD civilians could continue to work but it's the president and Sec of Defense that's not allowing them to go back to work. Wonder why Reid, the democrats, and the press aren't telling us that side of the story? I have a copy of the letter if anyone in the real press would like it.

    October 4, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  17. angery

    How can you people be so anti Health care that people have to pay for at health care? It is not the Government that won't let you go to any Doctor, it's the Doctors and the Insurance Companies. There is no free lunch when it comes to Health care. Doctors ,Hospitals ,Health Care specillis and everyone else wants to be paid. I would think we would all want that. We can iron out the problems at a later time not rebel and dig in your heals to repel affordable health care.
    Just some one who don't understand politics

    October 4, 2013 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  18. Chris Brown

    Reids comment about Boehner, needs to be evaluated.

    October 4, 2013 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  19. dw1650

    Mr. Boehner, you are using a law that will benefit tens of millions as leverage by sending this country into a tailspin just so you can have a shot at your party winning the Presidency?

    October 5, 2013 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  20. JoeR

    We don't have a political problem in America we have a Republican problem. I am also really sick of the parasites of Texas who take more money from the Federal government than any other state and use it to make the rest of the country miserable. If you privileged conservatives hate the government so much, send back your Fed highway funds, farm subsidies, and military/industrial assets. Texans don't have any trouble taking tax dollars, they just don't want to pay any back.

    October 5, 2013 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
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