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. just an american

    im so sick of harry im sick of him bashing the republicans we are good people and taxpayers Obama should shut this man up but Obama is just as bad he has divided this country and its beyond sad

    October 4, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  2. Jim

    Didn't the Senate refuse to even vote on the original bill that passed the House that completely funded the government except for the AHCA? They cut the de-funding section out and then voted. I don't mind that they did that but shouldn't they have voted on the complete House bill first? Harry Reid refused to allow that to happen. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. When did the Senate last even vote out a complete budget bill for the House to consider? I believe the answer is several years ago. The blame does not belong only on the House by any means.

    October 4, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  3. sean patriot

    Reid, Your jobs not even as important as the Mexican Ice Cream truck driver that terrorizes our neighborhood with the same crappy song over and over.

    October 4, 2013 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  4. GIJOE

    when Obama was elected the democrats passed Obama care without a single republican vote because they were not invited to the design of the law. Now Reid and the dims expect the GOP to follow their lead, and agree to further irresponsible spending by the dims! I don't think so. If Obama won't compromise and negotiate with the GOP, then why should the GOP compromise with dirty harry? The fiasco of Obama care will become more clear in time as more folks discover how badly they got screwed in going from a 40 hr per week job to a 30 hr week job to say nothing of the $5000 deductibles in the obamacare health exchange policies. Remember in 2014 and vote for no democrats!!!!!!!!

    October 4, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  5. Anonymous

    All this is the Repugnants' doing–all of it. They believe in democracy only so long as they win elections–when they lose (2X!) they hold the country hostage until they get back in.. This is how fascists operate. That's what they are. We should outlaw their party, a criminal organization by any rational measure.

    October 4, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  6. livingston

    @rufus – Sorry, but you may have noticed that the gop/teaparty are the ones that voted to shut the government down. This is one their doo step and it is really starting to stink up their house. The hostage takers do not get to kill the hostage and then blame the other guy for not giving in to them.

    October 4, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  7. Ztarbod

    I sure am glad Harry Reid's partisan desires come before the country. His blind support is ridiculous.

    October 4, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  8. Bamabegone!

    Reid should stfu. It was he and his Democrat ilk that shoved thru the "Affordable"(?) Care Act in the middle of the night - because "they won."

    October 4, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  9. BlameNevada

    Have to get these old geezers out of Congress. They have lost touch with reality.

    October 4, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  10. jess sayin

    I believe the real problem has been in the works for years. Certain right wing bigwigs have been working very hard on a local level to ensure their ideologues win seats by gerrymandering districts. I am writing to my congressional delegation to introduce an amendment to determine political districting by grids. No longer will districts look like abstract blobs, meandering among which voters are white, ultra right and not too bright. A grid, determined in size by the population numbers and no other variables, is the only way to get reasonable representation.

    October 4, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  11. OBG

    The nation comes before Obama and Reid.

    October 4, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  12. Republicans Are The American Taliban

    I don't blame any member of Congress for the shutdown. I blame the voters who elected them to office.

    October 4, 2013 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  13. Name

    Who cares what this man (Reid) says. He is for POWER and keeping it. Not for the people.

    October 4, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  14. Informed

    It astonishes me that Republicans can't see that THEY are the ones making the demands here, and then blaming the other side for not negotiating. For goodness sake, get a clue and look at the set of facts here – ACA is mandatory funding, so it goes forward UNLESS the President agrees to de-fund a law?

    Sorry, but the minority is the minority. Suck it up, crybabies – you lost. And like the uninformed infants you are, you throw tantrums and blame someone else – today's GOP, the party of spoiled four-year-olds.

    October 4, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  15. RayNaiken

    Mr. Reid. Your job is not as important as is the one of Speaker of the House.
    And Mr. Reid you are a hateful old coot if you don't want to save the life of one child.

    October 4, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  16. slimW


    Boehner is standing firm to SAVE the country from fiscal devastation, Harry Reid is standing firm to destroy the country along with his cronies and the Whitehouse..

    God Save our country from these fools.

    October 4, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  17. dax

    everyone else: The nation comes before Reid and Obama.

    October 4, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  18. Peach

    I think there is seriously something WRONG with Harry Reid---first he doesn't want to help kids with cancer. I think it may be time for another CAT scan for this guy....... he NUTS

    October 4, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  19. SCBAMA

    Nation comes before Reid.

    October 4, 2013 09:54 am at 9:54 am |

    Everytime that old man(Reid) opens his mouth, he embarrasses the citizens of Nevada...let stick to his land deals and get him out of the Senate

    October 4, 2013 09:54 am at 9:54 am |

    Reid is an embarrassment to the citizens of Nevada.He is much better at land deals than trying to govern.

    October 4, 2013 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  22. srcactus

    Political diatribe and not worth the space to repeat the sick message.

    October 4, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  23. Data Driven

    "A spokesman for Boehner denied Tuesday the speaker was working with the Democrats to find a legislative fix for the subsidies,"

    Um, sure, "a spokesman", but I'll trust the leaked emails.

    October 4, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  24. Bill

    Neither is yours, Harry. Tell ya what......why don't BOTH you clowns step down?? Resign! Show us how big a man you can be!!

    October 4, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  25. Richard Miller

    Comments posted here mean nothing other than to assuage one's ego. CNN's talking heads tell us what we want to hear. I do wish that there was a news media that wasn't afraid of the big bad wolf.

    October 4, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
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