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. Fed_Up

    If the president of Syria took 800,000 people hostage over an ideological issue, the United States would threaten to send in troops or conduct an air strike.

    October 4, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  2. Deirdre

    @GIJOE...Almost the entire bill was based on the design of Mitt Romney's healthcare plan as it was implemented in Massachusetts. I think the GOP was allowed plenty of input. The trouble was, that they didn't have any new ideas to improve the program.

    The GOP has tried to de-fund the ACA over 40 times. Now they're trying again. Only this time their tactic is to hold our country hostage. They are injuring the entire country over their obsession. I'm sorry. That is unacceptable behavior.

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

    Obama and the Democratic party passed this mess called the Affordable Care Act at the 11th hour by hook or crook. Then they are making all kinds of special exemptions for their voting blocks and special interest. The House of Representatives have the power of the purse. It was set up that way by the founders for a reason. This is a very poorlyl wirtten law and is full of problems. Stopping it is the only way to get this thing fixed.

    October 4, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  4. rightstuff1944

    Socialism has never worked. It never will, because its goal is to change man's nature. Trouble is, man's God-given nature is to be free. Socialized medicine is just a little bit of slavery with a cherry on top. Plus an ObamaPhone.

    Harry Reid is mentally unstable, but he won't seek psychiatric help.

    October 4, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  5. setnaffa

    The People oppose Obamacare; but Senator Reid doesn't serve them, he serves the Bureaucracy.

    He should remember HIS job is not so important, either.

    October 4, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  6. jp

    Good then get out Gov Teach. You apparently never did believe in limited and responsible government that promotes self ownership over dependency. Our government in it's current form with its out of control spending and borrowing will fail and fall hard. Hopefully there are still enough responsible people left to pick up the pieces so we can get back to our founding principles that you and others have rejected

    October 4, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  7. next generation leadership

    enough with mud slinging...just let the voters decide next coming elections...

    October 4, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  8. Anonymous

    The Republicans are doing this to bring down our government and rebuild it as a "ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT"

    October 4, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  9. JCFinley1

    Every one has rights, but there has never been the principal that a minority has the right to rule the majority. That is why the Constitution makes it impossible for less than 2/3 of the Congress and the States to approve of amendments to the Constitution. Laws based upon the Constitution can be passed by a simple majority. But the idea, that a minority of our representatives in the Congress and Senate can dictate the laws of the Nation is not a principle this Nation was built upon.
    Boehner apparently likes his job more than he loves this Nation.

    October 4, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  10. Beryl Taylor

    My family in the UK is telling me that the USA is a laughing stock in Europe. People think that the boys can't play nice together. This is such a disaster and the country will never be able to hold it's head high again if we do not stop this nonsense and get on with it. The government is supposed to be "of the people, for the people". I don't see anything here other than stupidity and self preservation on the part of our leaders!

    October 4, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  11. pappabear

    If the President thought that obamacare could cause 800k people to lose their jobs would he still stand behind it?

    October 4, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  12. Jerry

    Harry Reid is a major obstacle to getting a resolution. The dems in the senate and administration lead by crisis management. I don't want Obama care. I don't want my health records in a government database. I am dealing with Obama care everyday in business, and its a mess.

    October 4, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  13. Jeff Kelly

    Harry is right about Boehner. But he failed to also mention that the entire world does not evolve around him. Only in his own mind.

    October 4, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  14. LVG

    Romneycare was a necessary solution to the unfunded mandates of Reagancare (EMTALA) which were bankrupting the hospitals and the state. You and I have contributed in excess of 9 billion dollars in excess Medicaid through 2012 to make Romneycare work. That is now budgeted in under Obamacare and could go to all the states to cover the unfunded mandates of Reagancare so ERs are not the primary health care providers for the working poor (whose employers do not want to provide coverage as the GOP is always pointing out) .And the GOP closes down the government for that!!!!!!!!!! Stupid Party hard at work!

    October 4, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  15. roger

    The nation comes before Boehner but not before the Democratic party. Shameful.

    October 4, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  16. Scott

    Ten years from now we will know if the Affordable Care Act has worked. If it works Obama will take all of the credit for a bill written by the Democrat congress, if it fails by then, he will blame his presidential successors.

    October 4, 2013 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  17. BDG

    I think i have a solution to this madness. Lets delay Obamacare/ACA (for some of you who do not know the difference) for one year. If no jobs 350,000 are generated every month or our current health-care premiums do not fall by 20% in that time, them Obamacare is automatically triggered. No congressional votes needed. What do you all think?

    October 4, 2013 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  18. tom l

    President Obama said that if you don't come to work you should get fired. I wonder how well that strategy will work with the very Unions that support him and the democrats with their strikes. Is he saying that any union member should be fired if they go on strike?

    Oh, and thanks Presdient Obama for being that calming influence so that Wall Street knows that this will be handled (please note sarcasm). His statement that the markets should be worried is reprehensible and irresponsible. What kind of leader does that???

    October 4, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  19. BigSir

    Stop the rhetoric!

    October 4, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  20. Ed FL

    If Boehner had any integrity he would do what is necessary and then resign. He is the absolute worst politician ever to hold such a high integrity position and come off as such an incompetent fool. Do the country a favor and quit before anymore of the GOP inaptitude embarrasses you and the GOP.

    October 4, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  21. GB

    You know, the more I read here, the more I understand the importance of history and why so many of the GOP followers are struggling to understand their unpopularity. Following the last great depression, the Democrats rose to prominence and developed the social safety nets we still rely on today. Republicans were crushed for twenty years because they failed to understand one key fact – when people are in fear, they look for reassurance that everything will be okay. The GOP is telling them to "eat cake" (another historical reference) and this never plays well with the masses.

    October 4, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  22. John Locke II

    Somebody should inform Reid that his job isn't as important as anyone of the the WWII vets he dissed because they visited THEIR memorial. In fact he isn't very important at all and can be removed by the voters next time around.

    October 4, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  23. citizen1052

    When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty. – Thomas Jefferson.
    Mr Reid, you and your cronies are tyrants. You won't debate, you won't try to see other views, you will not compromise. You will hold this country hostage until you get 100% of what you -YOU- want. When you leave office I will celebrate every bit as much as I do on the 4th of July.

    October 4, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  24. dnokc

    I would take Mr. Reid's comment on step further. Our government is bigger than anyone of us Mr. Reid & Mr. Obama.

    October 4, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  25. Doug

    Apparently the lives of 200 kids with cancer are less important to Reid than the leverage they provide to him in his effort to get his way without compromise.

    October 4, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
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