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. RIchard Long

    ""The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a Sign that the US Government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. ...Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that 'the buck stops here'. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and Grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.""
    – Barack Hussein Obama

    October 4, 2013 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  2. johnpm65

    And Reid's is even less important than Boehners. Reid is a piece of garbage.

    October 4, 2013 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  3. obotmama

    after giving away billions to fake companies obama was ordered to stop trying to create jobs and just go on vacation as usual!

    October 4, 2013 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  4. Richard Broderick, Jr.

    The cause of the present Federal deficit is:

    1. A stupid trillion dollar Bush war based upon a goof.

    2. A stupid Bush tax cut.

    3. A stupid Bush Prescription drug program that mandates that the government pay the highest price for drugs.

    All these things were supported by CON hardliners.

    October 4, 2013 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  5. Wake up People!

    Also you don't brag about shutting down the government and then turn around and blame the other side.

    October 4, 2013 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  6. mtkaod

    Given that his job is established by the constitution and is a key component in the stricter of our government makes it important.

    The cries of do it for the country is reminiscent of the cries to do it for the children. Both are nothing more than an emotional appeal; which is a horrible way to govern or establish law.

    October 4, 2013 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  7. Mike

    Does anyone wonder why the GOP is the party of the past not the future? They'll continue to lose elections when they shut down government because they lost an election that was primarily focused on President Obamas healthcare reform. The GOP is is saying to Americans, "we don't care if the majority of you want it, we don't want it". The once great USA has lost the respect and credibility globally and now they are losing it with their citiznes. It's a travesty.

    October 4, 2013 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  8. William

    It is such a cheap ploy to personalize these attacks.
    The Bottom line 26 States are not participating, 24 are. that is OVER HALF.
    the Fed is trying to stick everybody with the bill when we have no funds to pay our existing bills.
    Harry Reid is a Corrupt Tool.
    They wont allow poof of ID in order to vote, but they will give the IRS direct access to your bank account.

    The Democrats are acting more and more like a totalitarian regime

    October 4, 2013 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  9. joeusavotes

    Harry, please come to the table and work out a solution. Both sides can give a little and both win. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. One gigantic bill we were forced to accept that you guys did everything right? Hear everyone out and it may make sense to change some parts and make them better. Please try!

    October 4, 2013 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  10. blf83

    No job, however much you need or desire it, is greater than the common good – in this case our country.

    October 4, 2013 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  11. mariae

    Reid, Pelosi and all the others that stand with them could care less about the American people. Obama is a power hungry,diabolical madman. This makes him very dangererous. The only loyalty that Reid and Pelosi have is to Obama and the Socialist Party of America. (The Democratic party died long ago). If anyone believes they are doing this for the American people, they are sadly mistaken. It is control pure and simple.

    October 4, 2013 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  12. Jason Burnstein

    This shutdown is owned entirely by Obama and the Democratic party.They insisted on ramming through a mandated health law that most of them never even read. Harry Reid should resign for the good of America. He is a senile, mean spirited, curmudgeon. The damage that they have done to America will take decades to repair.

    October 4, 2013 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  13. Larry T

    Now if only the nation could come before Reid as well! We have train wrecks on both sides. The Dems are hell bent on spending money they don't have and the Reps are hell bent on opposing them with strong arm measures. So, do we crash now or just wait for the bankruptcy? I know, lets just trade all our national parks to the Chinese to pay our debt! Don't even think that they haven't discussed this behind closed doors. By the way, does anyone besides me remember when the Dems controlled the whole government and we limped from recession to recession. The marginal tax rate was 78%. The Republicans ALMOST got it right. Too bad they blew it. That still doesn't make the dictatorship of the proletariat backed elite class right.

    October 4, 2013 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  14. tom

    Anything that comes out of Boehner's mouth, or his spokesman's mouth, is useful for lining your bird cage. Boehner is the worst Speaker in U.S. history, by far. I have no idea how he can look himself in the mirror, because he is a very, very bad person.

    October 4, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  15. Cake Crumb

    So, the above headline translated into English would be "Reid: I'm guilty of the shutdown 'cause I'm immune to Obamacare, but Boehner's weak and a crybaby. so his head rolls!"

    It's brinksmanship, though the Republicans learned from the last shutdown (and he McCains and Grahams) to stand their ground.

    October 4, 2013 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  16. Anonymous

    52.... that's the small group of terrorist that are holding the country hostage. That's the small group of Democrats in the senate that won't simply submit themselves to the same law of Obamacare that they are forcing on the American people. The house sent a bill that said they would pass the continuing resolution if the Senate would simply accept Obamacare for themselves... without waiver.... and this small terrorist group of 52 american Democrat senators said NO that's ridiculous. Really?

    October 4, 2013 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  17. PA Patriot

    Get out of the way Senator Reid. You are preventing this people from moving forward. John Boehner is doing the right thing and is what WE THE PEOPLE want him to do. You, Mr. Reid, are a worthless piece of trash.

    October 4, 2013 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  18. islandivan

    The nation also comes before the great negotiating failures of Harry Reid and Obama. The arrogance portrayed by that pair is disgusting. They actually think they have a mandate which they don't. They won an election but it was no mandate when you garner 52% of the vote out of only the 56% of eligible voters that actually went to the polls. Stay the course Mr. Boehner.

    October 4, 2013 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  19. Wake up People!

    Once again the FOX bots show who is their master..... Rush. I've seen many comments this morning calling Harry Reid, Dirty or Filthy Harry. I should have known it was the druggie Rush. What idiots being lead around by the noses by a dope fiend.

    I'm sure this one will be zapped.

    October 4, 2013 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  20. Scott McInnis

    52.... that's the small group of terrorist that are holding the country hostage. That's the small group of Democrats in the senate that won't simply submit themselves to the same law of Obamacare that they are forcing on the American people. The house sent a bill that said they would pass the continuing resolution if the Senate would simply accept Obamacare for themselves... without waiver.... and this small terrorist group of 52 american Democrat senators said NO that's ridiculous. Really?

    October 4, 2013 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  21. Dr. Scott

    MEMO TO HARRY REID: Your job isn't ANY more important than say Speaker Boehner's is. But I'll look you square in the eye and tell you without equivocation that the Speaker is one hundred times more American while you are without a doubt the most obstructionist person in government – with Obama nipping on your heels.

    October 4, 2013 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  22. tom

    I'd rather be Harry Reid than John Boehner, any day, that's for sure. Boehner thinks that a small number of House lunatics get to run the country. They belong in prison.

    October 4, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  23. nam na name

    Who cares where he is in the line of succession to the presidency, that says nothing about his power or importance in his current job. Line of succession is about states rights and federalism. The first in line is one of the least important people in Washington.s

    October 4, 2013 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  24. Jerry Carter

    Guys like Harry Reid are a good example of why we need TERM LIMITS the sheep need to wake up to that fact!

    October 4, 2013 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  25. Mark in CA

    Actually, the GOP should raise the debt limit now without much fanfare, as this is something that Boehner would never do anyways. Give it to the DEMs. The American people and financial markets would be thrilled and the GOP could not be viffilified. However the govvie shutdown is a totally different problem. With the government shutdown, they have given each head the ability to keep all essential workers. That decision is not Boehner, it is within each dept. Pass a bill to pay each employee furloughed with back pay when the furlough ends. In effect, it will be a short vacation for them. The longer this lasts, the more we will see how inflated of a government we really have. LOL

    October 4, 2013 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
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