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. Malory Archer


    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.


    In other words, you called his office and attempted to bully his staff and they put you back in your place. Honestly, who do those uppity women think they are standing up to an angry little man???!!! Why, it's just not right I tells ya!

    October 4, 2013 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  2. Barbara

    The continuing resolution and debt ceiling should not be held hostage to efforts to get rid of Obamacare.

    October 4, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  3. yolanda

    As we approach (government) business hours we will see the usual defenders of all things Obama post here (@Sniffit, @Rudy, @The Real TP, etc). Is it coincidence, or are they govt. employees? We' are probably paying for them sharing their collective wisdom with us, and yet again educating us to what is best.

    October 4, 2013 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  4. Lisa Colletti

    God bless Harry Reid. As for the commenters. You are the ones that are destroying this great nation. Jesus would not be happy with your hatefulness and greed. Have a nice day.

    October 4, 2013 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  5. Lynda/Minnesota

    Oops. I accidentally clicked on the kiddie forum. My bad.

    October 4, 2013 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  6. Madison

    DO any of you know WHY there is the controversy over the "subsidy" for congressional staffers to buy on the echanges??

    REPUBLICON chuck Grassley put what he assumed would be a poison pill in the bill, which made congressional staff the only people in the nation forced to give up their existing health care plan and purchase insurance on exchanges. He was hoping he could peel away just enough votes with this cynical tactic to kill the law. He was wrong. SO, because a REPUBLICON essentially reduced the pay of all congressional staffers by taking away a benefit they have always had, the "subsidy" simply replaces what the REPUBLICONS took away. And now they are counting on your complete ignorance to get you fired up about "special treatment" and blame Democrats for something that is, as this whole hostage situation, is 100% the fault of the republicon extremist radicals

    October 4, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  7. common sense

    In this whole debate there has been a lot of name calling and enough blame to go around. The bottom line is if there is a law that you do not like use the cout system not the contry as hostage. The CR has nothing to doe with what congress is attempting to do. The big loser in this he said v he said is the country.

    October 4, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  8. agnostickids

    A lot of people on here don't like Reid because he's a mormon that doesn't kowtow to his church leaders the way Romney and Orrin Hatch do. Reid puts his country first; not some outlandish idea of controlling people through fear

    Boehner does need to show SOME courage. He needs to stand up to the tiny minority in the GOP that has taken over the entire country in a terrorist-like coup. He needs to put an end to this right now, and he can. If he thinks he and his opinions of our President are more important than our country, then the GOP needs to be the party of yesterday. Remember this in 2014.

    October 4, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  9. WV Gleeman

    It's not hard to believe that Boehner did that at all. Why does everyone think it's a thing though? This is how the new Republicans do business. It's just a matter of how many people will allow them to continue to do it.

    October 4, 2013 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  10. SuuZQ

    We need a serious 3rd Party to get us out of this continual Compassionate Dems vs Mean Evil Repubs name calling stalemate. We are so divided as a nation now.
    About half the people want Free or cheap stuff/services provided by big govt.
    The other half don't want to blindly keep pay for it -all while being verbally slapped by Libbies calling them selfish, mean, ignorant and just plain lucky to be rich (because they probably didn't work hard for their success.)

    A candidate bucking both parties needs to start emphasizing that nothing in this country is free or cheap, and everyone has the personal responsibility contribute and help control costs.

    October 4, 2013 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  11. Leslie

    I didn't even bother to finish reading ths article after the first paragraph. This is more of the same, one peson/party blaming the opposite person/party. I don't believe either of these gentlemen were on the list where they were giving up their pay, so quite frankly I don't even care what they have to say. The government is still shut down. Who cares who's fault it is, just get a resolution already.

    October 4, 2013 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  12. Komodo

    "Boehner reneging on an agreement": wow, there's a shocker.

    October 4, 2013 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  13. PL

    Tea-Party, Shmee-Party! It's way past time for politicians to put aside their political issues and address what is best for this country! It is in no one's best interest to endure this shutdown. And while we the people are suffering, the congress and senate still get their lunches, free haircuts and PAYCHECKS!!! If you 'elected' officials cannot work together, it's time to find representatives who can work together! It's time for the old guard to be put to pasture and welcome in those who will actual listen to the people who put them there!

    October 4, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  14. Jack Gregory

    I wish we could send the entire group packing. Since that's not possible, I hope there is a nationwide push for term limits.

    October 4, 2013 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  15. To Independent Jim

    independant jim said above

    "how many children in this country die each day because of inadequate health care the NIH is part of the government when the republicans shut down the gov they said tough luck to those kids find help somewhere else Now they try to paint Reid as against kids when they are against anyone that gets sick"

    The GOP recognized this and have already passed legislation to fund NIH – Harry Reid, the obstructionist, has refused to allow this to be voted on in the Senate - harry is most definitely against kids - his ego and arrogance trumps the welfare of others - should be impeached for this Obama is the same and would VETO reopening of NIH for the sake of getting votes

    October 4, 2013 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  16. Jesse

    The problem is that neither Reid, Boehner, or any members of congress work for us anymore. We need term limits plain and simple. These people go to Washington to get rich not help their constituents.

    October 4, 2013 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  17. rdg18

    I will vote against this new liberal America every time.

    October 4, 2013 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  18. paul

    Way to go, Harry Reid. Expose the hypocrites! Apparently, the speaker made a deal, privately, with Harry Reid and then changed his tune in public. What a hypocrite the Speaker is. He sounds like the congressman who had the temerity to chastise a park ranger for closing the Park when it was he and his republican colleagues (including that disgusting woman, Michelle Bachman) who,effectively, voted to close the government if they didn't get their wish: repeal or delay Obamacare.

    October 4, 2013 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  19. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    I say to my friend John Boehner–and I do like him,
    Next time you see your friend John tell him from us that he needs to decline his paycheck in solidarity with the people he's screwed, er, is supposed to represent.
    The same goes for you Harry, oh btw.
    It is not as if either one of you needs it...or have earned it in Boo-Hoo's case.

    October 4, 2013 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  20. Jack

    I am going to have to believe Mr. Reid for 2 reasons Mr. Beohner just keeps repeating himself. The tea party members are not going compromise, they only want it there way.

    If he truly cared, he'd drop the Hastkert rule and send the bill to the floor where the tea partiers know that their are enough moderate republicans to pass almost any compromised legislation.

    So, the Tea Parters lose!

    October 4, 2013 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  21. Rufus

    Obama and Harry Reid are to blame for this shut-down. They wanted it; they got it.

    October 4, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  22. jn4102

    This meeting must have been organized by the same fellow who told Reid about Romey tax details 🙂

    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.

    October 4, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  23. James Rasmussen

    If Sen Reid is right and the head of the house is not an important player and should be ignored. Then the same should be said about Reid and he should be ignored.

    Reid has consistently said that he and the President would NOT compromise and that the House should pass a "clean" spending bill. If he wants a "clean" spending bill then the democrats should pass a balanced budget or any kind of a budget. The Democrats including the President have NOT passed a budget for the last 7+ years. If they truly want "clean" spending then they should pass a budget.

    October 4, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  24. louenglish

    Neither is yours Harry. This is a serious effort by the House to prevent the bankruptcy of the U.S.. The Republicans do not want to gut Obamacare they want to delay the individual mandate and insure the program is administered fairly, Given the programs disastrous launch you think the Dems would now welcome a delay.The President is refusing to negotiate, refusing to fund veterans, NIH, national parks. And if that wasn't enough he is encouraging his leadership insult and name call the opposition. I have never seen a more amateurish attempt at leadership in my life! Certainly he will go down in history as one of the poorest, most divisive, incompetent Presidents in history

    October 4, 2013 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  25. JH

    I don't care what side you are on. The reality is we would have national healthcare regardless who won the election. The only difference is who benefits from all the money being made- Republican or Democrat campaign contributors. What needs to happen is to make special interest groups illegal. The name even calls them "special" interest because they are unique and minority views. Stop legally bribing politicians and just maybe Washington will get cleaned up a bit.

    October 4, 2013 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
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