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)

    Harry Reid is so obviously meant to gain from this health care bill th at is bad...so much so he wants to make criminals of millions of americans who cannot afford the healthcare plan. WHAT KIND OF MAN WANTS TO SHOVE THIS DOWN OUR THROATS?? NEXT IS ORGAN HARVESTING MANDATES. WE NEED TO LOOK TO NEVADA TO REMOVE THIS BIBLE BEATING LIAR.

    October 4, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  2. Paul

    Thank God for Harry Reid. Give em hell , Harry.

    October 4, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  3. ghostwriter

    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.

    I keep asking why we still listen to these chumps, but no one seems to be able to answer.

    October 4, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  4. Mary Jane

    When someone has true leadership ability they can bring together two opposing sides and reach some common ground, and it's clear that we lack that leadership ability in Both the House and the Senate, but more importantly in the Oval Office.

    October 4, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  5. Faux Scandals

    The Taliban Extremist Anarchists Party are willing to release hostages, but only the ones they like.

    October 4, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  6. The Stugatz

    They should all be relieved of duty. Reid more than many others should be first.

    October 4, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  7. Fred

    Mr Reid, The nation comes before Obamacare.

    October 4, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  8. YO

    Boehner is an anti-American Nazi. He needs to be put down like a rabid animal. His disdain for the American people is appauling. How did Ohio elect this sociopath? The longer the shutdown continues, the sooner the GOP is completely destroyed. The GOP will be a dead, forgotten party in 2 elections.

    October 4, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  9. bob

    The nation comes before Obama care.

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

    "Reid to CNN: Boehner’s ‘job is not as important as our country’"

    Me to Reid: Obama's ego isn't as important as our country either. And that's all Obamacare is at the moment, a reflection of Obama astonishingly inflated and thoroughly unjustified ego. He seems perfectly willing to ruin the country in order to cater to that ego.

    October 4, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  11. ghostwriter

    For Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Budget Committee, the move is ironic. She has been trying for more than a half-year to go to a conference to work out dramatic differences between the Senate budget and the House version. Senate and House Republicans have objected, repeatedly. But with the clock expiring at midnight Monday, and federal officials starting to shut down all non-essential government functions, the House resorted to seeking a conference committee to pass a spending bill, or "continuing resolution" that runs only through mid-November or mid-December.

    Senate Democrats called that negotiating at gunpoint. "We know going to a conference means that we have to compromise - that's what a conference is," Murray said just before midnight. "But we're not going to do it with a gun to our head that says we're shutting government down and we're going to conference over a short little six-week C.R. We have to deal with the longer-term budget. We have asked many times to go to conference on that."

    Indeed, Murray and her colleagues asked 18 times. They have been blocked by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and a group of tea party Republicans led by Sen. Ted Cruz.

    October 4, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  12. Interesting

    I find it interesting the comments on this page, it's almost as if someone is paying for Pro-Republican comments. Surely there cannot be that many people willing to vote against their own interests in the name of "freedom". Considering most of those saying that ACA is the equivalent of slavery have no heritage of slavery in their families other than their ancestors owned some, I'd say read more and pay attention to what is going on. Is freedom really working all of your life only to be crippled physically and financially by a medical illness through no fault of your own? Is freedom constantly railing against foreign aid, saying we need to do more at home, and when our elected officials try to do so railing against that too? What would make you happy? No government? Do you truly understand what that means? No public schools, no public safety (law enforcement, fire fighters, emergency responders, etc.), no public projects (no new roads, bridges, research, infrastructure, etc.), no national agencies (security, intel, military, etc.). So what do we have then? A whole lot of NOTHING. Some freedom, thanks but no thanks.

    October 4, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  13. Wake up People!

    @Mary Jane.

    How exactly would one go about doing that when the opposing party has been attempting to destroy the man in the Oval Office for 5 years? You do know members of the GOP were afraid of being seen with Obama? Also Fox has been telling their uneducated masses that he's not even American therefore shouldn't be POTUS.
    No other POTUS in the history of this country has EVER been treated as THIS one has.

    October 4, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  14. Bill

    America has already had a "discussion" on the Affordable Care Act, and so did the Supreme Court, the GOP needs to now get out of the way of the will of the American people and stop holding our country hostage! It is a JOKE that the GOP says they "simply want to negotiate" when they have repeatedly stated that there is no negotiation in regards to the ACT and the goal is to repeal it. Well republicans, America wants this ACT and it is going to happen whether you like it or not. Continue to screw America like you are doing and you'll get the same thing you got in 95 the last time you shut down America.

    October 4, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  15. BooBooBubby

    I have heard enough of this. Congress is out to collapse the country and they WILL succeed this time. The house is sharing one brain cell and it doesnt belong to Boehner.
    They should shut down that building, lock it up, and build a moat around it. Government is shut down in more ways than one. Gutting a law is unconstitutional, they dont give a hickey about us and face it folks, we are pawns in a game of thrones here. Kick the buzzards out and close it down. They WANT us to be a third world country–they have "theirs" so they believe they are protected. Wait till the blue-hairs lose their social security, wait until the big companies lose their subsidies (and farmers), wait until all the infrastructure falls. THEY ARE HAPPY ABOUT THIS. They know there is no election THIS November–they are counting on us not remembering and NOT BEING ABLE TO VOTE. Seriously, they want chaos and anarchy–easier to rule (not govern) a stupid and starving populace.

    October 4, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  16. Anonymous

    the country should come before you and the president. you and your fellow democrats tolerate fraud, waste and abuse.

    October 4, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  17. Mike

    The House should send the budget to the Senate with funding for obamacare...with all of the congress and union and special interest group waivers and subsidies removed. Let's see if the Senate will pass a budget that makes it fair for everyone...my guess is they won't!

    October 4, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  18. NickAnast

    phoenix86: "What I find most telling in Reid's comments over the past few days is his and Obama's insistence that children with cancer will not be treated due to the government shutdown. I seem to recall that one of the arguments the dems used for Obamacare was that people paid for the uninsured because hospitals didn't turn the uninsured away. Seems that under Obamacare, they now will let you die if you're not covered."

    Wow, you really are clueless, aren't you? Reid and Obama would rather fund the entire government than just pick and choose. Food inspectors have been furloughed, so food imported from overseas is not being inspected upon arrival in the US. How long before someone gets sick from eating contaminated, unsafe food? Children cut off from Head Start are going without food. How long before they become sick? Of course, John Boehner and the GOP could end this insanity immediately simply by bringing up the Senate's CR for a vote in the House. Everyone knows it will pass, and the president will sign it. This entire shutdown is solely the fault of Boehner and the GOP.

    October 4, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  19. Snarky MacFee

    Easy to rule a starving and stupid populace. Easier to let the unwanted and the "undesirables" die off from disease and malnutrition. They believe the PAC's will keep them on easy street while the rest of us live like the Somalians, Greeks, and Mexico. Enjoy the Fall of the USA, brought to you by the idiots that were voted into office because they are soooooooooooooooooo moral.

    October 4, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  20. ME

    Boehner .....
    .Mr Obama is OUR President
    You only talk when you think you need to blame someone for some remarks..
    Both Parties are disgusting right now!!

    October 4, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  21. EdL

    Reid's job is not as important as our country. Nor is Boehner, nor is Obama's.

    October 4, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  22. Snarky MacFee

    As long as they get paid $174,000.00 a year, they will keep this up. Hope they are ready to take the blame for throwing us into 1920-30's Europe.

    October 4, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  23. FARLEY

    iF YOU suupport HArry Reid look at his propoganda tactics of trying to destroy the reputation of otherts. You say this is a good man?? he despises everyone. AT least Beohner has kept everything above water. Reid is only a politician. OBama wasn't even that–this is why he moralizes so...we are going to get a bad grade Americans if we don't agree with t hem... but the reality is we are going broke, they want us to cough up the money we have in savings or the money we do not have at all to support a system that does not work fiscally. What iudiot would support that? If Obama were concrened about the people he would have stood up and said, this can't be right, we will ahve to work on this-but no-they are so egotistical they can't see then voters for the illelgals....

    October 4, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  24. adam

    Super Gus- Why would an anarchist try for additional governmental control/bureaucracy? I don' think you know what anarchy means.

    October 4, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  25. Andres

    Do not negotiate with this traitors and extortionists of the Republic Harry! Clean bill or nothing!

    October 4, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
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