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. GODis4EVER

    Mr. Reid, you are such a liar and baby.....Resign you coward

    October 4, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  2. John J.

    It is amusing what Mr. Reid thinks of as a profound, insightful statement.

    October 4, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  3. GG

    Reid was presented a budget to fund everything in the Government except Obamacare. The senate did not approve it, so the Senate holds the bag for shutting down the Government. Simple as that.

    October 4, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  4. Bilbo

    Let Harry lead by example and sign up for ACA first along with every member who voted for it.

    October 4, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  5. Mark in Phoenix

    How come it is only republicans that get accused of intransigence, when Obama says it's my way or the highway. Obama will not negotiate. Harry Reid blames Behner of putting politics before the people. Please. Talk about hypocrite. He couldn't hold a real job.

    There are self-serving politicians all over Washington. My vote is for term limits.

    October 4, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  6. Dean

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused House Speaker John Boehner of being more worried about his job than the country amid a government shutdown.-----Is that the pot calling the kettle black, or what?

    October 4, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  7. 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 supports socialized medicine.

    October 4, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  8. Wake up People!

    The crap budget they proposed would only fund the government for a few weeks. I don't know about you but that's stupid to me, to go through this same BS next month.

    People the GOP, the MINORITY is in the wrong.
    And Fox-lite, I apologize for offending your master. I see my educated and insightful comment got zapped as usual.

    October 4, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  9. Anonymous

    With Harry Reid suffering from dementia, how can their ever be a grand bargain agreement, with sane Republicans? Even Obama is letting Harry play President, basically telling Barrack, what to do, not to negotiate. The republicans have given all they will give, it is now time, to delay Obamacare.

    October 4, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  10. Thom

    Anarchists....he's got it right......and the #1 Anarchists is Ted "lets blow the country up" Cruz.

    October 4, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  11. Liz

    Reid is a baffoon and a liar. Hows Obamacare going, so far reports are its not going well. A self employed woman, called into talk radio, she was paying 21,000 for her fam.policy, and very satisfied with it. Under Obamacare she said they raised it to $25000, no grace period, and she can't have her old policy. Are the horror stories just starting? PreslObama tells us Obamacare is the law, no changes. But he and congress are exempt, along with the unions, and Obama supporters. So much for no changes.

    October 4, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  12. Dennis

    Boehner;Mr.No of the Party of No.

    October 4, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  13. Lardeau

    Around and around they go. Meanwhile nothing is accomplished.

    October 4, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  14. John

    Nation comes before Reid, Pelosi and Obama too.

    October 4, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  15. Darrell

    That's why I would love to see term limits, this life long in the Senate and Congress is a joke, all they worry about is themselves, and the glamor of being shown on TV, you put term limits in the system, watch how much laws get passed that are there to help the American people, like it should be whey they were put in the office from the beginning, once in office, they turn greedy, power hungry.

    October 4, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  16. Mymy

    Boehner is not the speaker of the house, he is the head babysitter of a daycare center with some screaming little kids demanding his attention.. or they will tell their mommy.

    October 4, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  17. john

    Hey Reid, Boehner speaks for half of the country!

    October 4, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  18. PJ1987

    The money behind the Tea Party has given up trying to win the Presidency andva majority of Senate seats. Therefore tho new strategy is patterned after using the power to give Republicans in the House majority status. Without TP reps, Republicans wouldn't have the majority.

    I wonder if 16 or more moderate Republicans might have more in common with the Democratic Party than the Republican party with its uneasy alliance with the TP faction. If some Republicans switched party affiliation, then Boehner would no longer be the majority speaker and the House could resume its normal functioning.

    This presents a way out for moderate Republicans – abandone the TP infested Republican party. Turn independent if nothing else.

    October 4, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  19. Amanda

    It's as thought people are not listening or reading this story. It's as though big businesses do not want the little people to be able to have insurance. Insurance that can get them treatment and lower costs (but does costs businesses). How is that hard to understand? People gripe about welfare and gripe about this. Do people want to just kill off the low income and quit dealing with them altogether?

    October 4, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  20. dave

    These morons on the left make rules and laws up as they need them. Every budget is passed by Item, its called accounting. The general fund is nothing more then a scam to allow big government bureaucrates to continue increasing the debt limit. It allows them to hide all the money they scim off for friends, family and crony capitalist. Reed like Obama and Pelosi are dispicable human beings who could careless for the American people; in their view they and the democrate cause comes first.

    October 4, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  21. gpomar

    Harry Reid, take the giant stack of House bills and vote on them. DO YOUR JOB. We're sick of you, and you alone, holding this nation hostage.

    October 4, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  22. William Force

    Obamacare is an American law that all Americans are required to have or pay a fine but the federal government employees who wrote the law do not have to participate, so... the government is not American? Its time to stop the specal interest groups and their money along with the millionaire government employees that think they are above the law.

    October 4, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  23. Rob-Texas

    The problem is that our governement was not designed to support most of the nation. Congress can shut down the govenment when agreement cannot be reached. In 1776 that did not include the billions of people on assitance or the extent of goverment jobs we have today. I hope they can reach an empass. I don't think much of Harry Reid and this all or nothing attidue is a joke.

    October 4, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  24. tv22

    Now I can see the GOP strategy. The longer they wait, the more stupid things Harry Reid says. Plus, they finally managed to ground the President and he actually has to stay here and "preside".

    October 4, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  25. John

    Until Mr Reid, Ms Pelosi, and the rest of the schmucks in congress agree that Obamacare is good enough for them too, repeal it. I trust nothing that a legislator won't put themselves through. What a bunch of Liberal crooks!

    October 4, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
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