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. 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 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  2. lee

    I do without him and take McConnell with him.

    October 4, 2013 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  3. OrganicManLives_N_anOraganicUNiverSE

    Boehner should step down if cannot move forward.

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

    Senator, expecting Boehner to have courage to do the right thing is as unlikely as expecting him to give up his free tanning sessions at the Congressional gym.

    October 4, 2013 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  5. Mann D. Lifeboats

    Harry Reid appears to suffer from some severe psychological ailment.

    For sure, he suffers from the intellectual, moral, spiritual and social disease called liberalism.

    October 4, 2013 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  6. Yona Solomon

    About 47 millions AMERICANS voted voted for Republicans.
    Obama and Democrata have to respect their opinions and have not rights to behave DICTATORIAL.
    All laws have to be debated in the House and Senat and not in the street and plazas .
    Its funny how the DNC what laws are laws and what laws are not really laws. ie: drug laws. They are all still on the books but when Colorado decided to vote on open pot smoking and it passed the Dems including Holder just looked the other way. When the leadership in Arizona attempted to inforce federally mandated illegal alien laws Holder rush down there to sue them for trying to up hold the law. The second amendment allows for law abiding citizens to have and own guns this government is trying everything it can to keep people from getting their hands on them. Laws are only laws when they want it to be a law. Other laws....not so much...

    October 4, 2013 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  7. Tea Party

    Haha Reid is destroying tea baggers. Way to hold the country hostage tearroists. Your out in 2014. Paul and McConnell in bed together...So much for Paul's grass roots. Pro-corporate slimeballs.

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

    So Boehner reneged on his agreements? Nothing shocking there. Harry Reid is a good manager as opposed to Boehner and his inability to keep the insane clown posse in line.

    October 4, 2013 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  9. Deborah Lee

    Don't forget how all of this began. Ted Cruz and the Tea Party crazies. Cruz is not President. If he wants to run the show then let him run for the Presidency. Obamacare is the law of the land. Pass the budget and quit trying to get rid of it. You've tried over 40 times and failed. Get over it!

    October 4, 2013 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  10. Normal In NH

    Mr. Reid, you are leading the most dysfunctional senate to ever occupy the capitol. You and all of the leadership in DC are abject FAILURES. Accept it, move forward and start solving problems.

    October 4, 2013 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  11. Distressedforloughedworker

    You,Republicans shutdown the government 18 years ago and you Republicans did it again! Republicans do not deserve to govern America. Be the Democrats to be in power all years ahead.

    October 4, 2013 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  12. Lamont

    It is amazing how so many right winged "mis-informers" take to main stream media boards. Yet, they also cry about how much the main stream media leans left. Such people ought to get a life. Intelligent people are informed people. And even when they are not informed, they go look up and verify the information. Why spread so many lies about Obama or Reid within this venue?

    October 4, 2013 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  13. JD

    Republican trolls! You should be cleaning out the flea party instead of attacking good people trying to run our gov't!

    October 4, 2013 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  14. The "T" Stands for Taliban

    Harry Reid is 100% right. The American Taliban is holding our country hostage because they didn't win as many elections as Democrats. The Affordable Health Care act already passed congress. The spending was already approved by congress. The American Taliban will NEVER win the senate by taking us hostage, with the ransom note saying, "Strip 30 million Americans of their healthcare immediately."

    October 4, 2013 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  15. Ryan

    A vote for ANY Republican may as well be a vote for the tea party.

    October 4, 2013 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  16. Sosume

    Same goes for you Mr. You are the poster child for early retirement. You should have been out of the senate long ago!

    October 4, 2013 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  17. Gramsci3000

    Republicans refunded the NIH in protest of the Affordable Care Act, which would extend medical coverage to millions of adults and children who otherwise can't afford healthcare. Their mea culpa with the NIH is disingenuous and hypocritical. By defunding, the Republicans have actually created the "death panels" that they made up years ago. Shame on them. It isn't up to Reid to clear their consciences.i

    October 4, 2013 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  18. Al Neuman

    Harry Reid doesn't do anything unless it benefits him politically. Our country is more important than crony kickbacks to corrupt politicians.

    October 4, 2013 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  19. G

    the republican corporate states of america–the united states of america died in 1980

    October 4, 2013 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  20. John

    Harry Pelosi and Nancy Reid both need to leave Washington. They will not negotiate, because they don't know how and are afraid they will make greater fools of themselves than they are already.

    October 4, 2013 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  21. Obama the Messiah

    Harry, please leave and don't be heard from again.

    October 4, 2013 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  22. Just sayin'

    I'm guessing that ACA will be a great thing for this country! Otherwise why all the fuss? If they truely thought it was doomed they would let it roll out and let the chips fall. What are they so afraid of?! Its certainly not about the money as the claim. Look at the billions a day this debacle is costing U.S./US?

    October 4, 2013 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  23. Wake up People!

    You people are truly ignorant. This shutdown is ALL on the GOP. The ACA is the LAW. Get over it. They own this shutdown as MANY in their own party have tried to talk them out of it. If you're not wealthy and you're supporting the party of the 1% you really need help, they are fooling you.

    October 4, 2013 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  24. Mike in SA

    Neither is your job, or Obama's job, Reid. What a two faced individual.

    October 4, 2013 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  25. No1uKnow

    As a Tea Party member, I’d like to be referred to as an “insurgent”, and not a “terrorist” got that, political hacks and MSM?

    October 4, 2013 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
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