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. stevetanton

    Republicans are the American Taliban? They are the minority party fighting the socialist Gulag. Grow up!

    October 4, 2013 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  2. GB

    I am glad that Speaker Custer is willing to put the Republican party on the line for this assault. It is time we finally put an end to crazy partisan gridlock. CNN polls place politicians approval rating at 10%. Think about that. Rats poll at 12%. In addition, independents are blaming Republicans for the shutdown. In case you don't understand what that means, independents are the ones that sway elections.

    October 4, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  3. Gov Teach

    We switched parties. The Republican Wingnuts have created a party that is not inclusive of moderates. First the shenanigans of the election, now the shut down. I'm done with the Republican Party. I'm now a certified Democrat!

    October 4, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  4. RBK

    Harry Reid ? Come on. This is the same leader that has not brought up to vote over 100 bills sent up from the house. All of you Obama kool aid drinking idiots need to realize that our country is broke. You liberals don't care about spending debt because you have no clue on economics. Sure it would be nice to have social programs that actual work and move people off of them. We are an entitlement country now that just kills me. It is not what I can do for myself but rather what can I get for doing nothing and give nothing back. I am sure that there is a small % that actual does give back and gets off of social programs but it is the other 90% that just doesn't care. Step up fellow Americans !!!

    October 4, 2013 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  5. James Madison

    Dear Harry:

    A lack of a Senate budget for 5 years straight, comes before arguing over a continuing resolution.

    Just sayin!

    October 4, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  6. Johnny

    I know there are many people who want more government control of healthcare and have some odd view that greater government control is a good thing. But one thing that supporters of these dems should understand is, all the grandstanding of painting Republicans as "against the country" and "hijacking the country" (because they are against the as-is Obamacare legislation) is purely politics. You aren't very intelligent or objective if you buy into it.
    Make no mistake – Obama and his close allies in congress are enjoying a virtual dictatorship – and they have you and your naivete to thank.

    October 4, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  7. Kimmo Sabe

    Well Mr Clinton, you told them to call their bluff.
    Remember kids it takes two to tangle. DEMS want to spend, spend, spend and REPUBS do not. Each side thinks they are right. In the words of Rodney King " Can we just get along?" It might sound crazy but I think if we had an all female house and senate we might be better off. As sorry as things are, I for one would not want to live anywhere else. GOD BLESS THE USA.

    October 4, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  8. Ninavs

    Jobs of Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, et al are nowhere near as important as the US and its people. It is obvious that the progressives are on a total power and control trip.

    October 4, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  9. Ninavs

    From the beginning of this admin the attitude has been "we won, you lost get to the back of the bus". Well the 49% of us who did not vote for this bunch have rights too.

    October 4, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  10. CW

    If this (see quote below from another commenter) is the degree of stupidity we have to contend with, no wonder things are in the crapper:

    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 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  11. Joe in Kalispell

    If the nation is important to you stop doing shady things to pass laws like you did with ObamaCare. Delay ObamaCare for one year for the individual mandate like you did for big businesses and union.

    BTW, You are a disgrace to Mormons everywhere.

    October 4, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  12. Rob

    The House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, and the Executuve Branch, need to remember where they came from. We are ruled by a bunch of power hungry people. While there are some good apples in the bunch, the stench of the bad is overwhelming.

    October 4, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  13. bill

    The GOP have caused America more damage the last 13 years than the Taliban ever could. The GOP speak of negotiation when America and the US Supreme Court has already spoken but yet they still want to go against the will of the American people who support the President and the Affordable Care Act. If put to a vote again in the House today, the will of American people will once again side with the Act, that's why the neo-radical GOP commies don't want another vote to take place. That's what the republicans do, they highjack an entire country to assert their will against that of America

    October 4, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  14. Ruby

    If the American people didn't like or want "Obamacare", they had their chance to express that in 2008, 2010, and especially 2012. The American people WANT this law, and it's asinine to think the Republicans have the right to stop it just because they personally dislike it. That's not how democracy works.

    Boehner needs to grow a spine and bring the clean spending bill up for a vote, were it will pass the house with wide BIPARTISAN support, because most Republicans support the clean bill and it is ONLY through John Boehner abusing his position to block voting on the bill that the shutdown, supported by only a tiny minority or one house of one branch of government, is maintained.

    October 4, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  15. surfbuddy

    Harry Reid is an angry old white man. As an American citizen, I wish he would stop calling Republicans vicious, ugly names. I voted for ALL of the republicans in my district, I know all of them personally, and resent you and Obama's namecalling to men and women who are just doing the jjob we elected them to do. You and the rest of the democrats should get off your duffs and negotiate with the republicans. Start doing your jobs.

    October 4, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  16. bill

    The GOP is nothing but a pathetic failed party and I can't wait until the next election cycle as they will ALL be voted out of office!

    October 4, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  17. Robb

    If country and citizens come first then why was Obamacare passed? Why do YOU (as in govt) continue to increase spending thereby raising taxes on already strapped Americans? Why do YOU (as in Govt) continue to send BILLIONS to foreign entities instead of keeping it here at home? Why do YOU (as in govt) continue to deny Americans the use of their own natural resources just to appease your ideologies? The list could go on and on! Bottom Line President Obama, Reid, and Pelosi had this coming for a long time when they showed what they would do when they controlled govt and their powers couldnt be challenged!

    October 4, 2013 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  18. VCMD

    Reid is correct. Nation comes before Boehner but not before Reid and Obama and therefore Boehner should just do whatever Obama and Reid ask him to do!!!. I think they should amend the constitution and President should also be the leader of Senate and Congress!

    October 4, 2013 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  19. cuisinemanager

    Who would have ever thought that people that want to government to stop spending so much much would be called anarchist and terrorist. Spending has become so ingrained in the political system that the idea of cutting waste and not spending is considered to be un-American. Everyone from both parties knows that spending is out of control and must be reigned in. You can no longer believe the media, they have taken sides and they no longer reports the 'news". We all know that spending can't go on like it has for decades. Both parties are guilty and it is time to tell them to stop!

    October 4, 2013 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  20. NorCalMojo

    Boehner has no choice in the matter. He's pushed off the Tea Party every time, so they stopped listening to him. We're watching the old guard of the GOP losing their power.

    Will the new leadership attract more people? Will it cause people to leave and force new coalitions? Who knows, but it can't be worse than the political stagnation we've seen since the Clinton years.

    I only wish we saw more democrats challenging their leadership.

    October 4, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  21. Steve N.

    How about Nation before Obamacare, Harry?

    October 4, 2013 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  22. Ralph

    And your word Reid along with Obama's are not worth the air used to talk. All the lies and deception to Americans. As a retired veteran, never making the millions from the Taxpayers as you and your coharts, I and millions like me took and Oath that meant something. Your Oath was just a ticket to power. Enjoy your unneeded paycheck. My family can't use everyone else's money, can print any. Best thing though is I have not made a living by lies and deception.

    October 4, 2013 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  23. John

    Odds are Bonehead has already laid the ground work to lose his job. Around the nation we are asking Ohio to keep him home. Same for the home states of McCain, Reid, and many others. The whole place needs to be cleaned out.

    October 4, 2013 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  24. JWJH

    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."

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. They were invited to contribute and engaged in the entire discussion. One by one, the Democrats dropped things they liked to which Repubs objected (public option) and introduced ideas that they had supported. At the end of the day, after all the compromise, the GOP decided to disown everything they'd done and vote as a bloc against the law so they could deny any responsibility for it.

    As John Stewart so smartly put it: "If it turns out that President Barack Obama can make a deal with the most intransigent, hardline, unreasonable, totalitarian mullahs in the world, but not with Republicans, maybe he’s not the problem."

    October 4, 2013 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  25. lifeisadimension

    As JFK once said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country!"

    October 4, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
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