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. Herman

    Boehner’s job is to represent his constituency, which is what he is doing. The “conservative faction of his caucus” represents people, enough of them that politicians see their numbers driving outcomes of elections. That is the power of the conservative faction, they have the numbers. Reading the media, it sounds like Conservative faction has some evil magical power, or else it’s “money”. While money is important, and can help get the votes, with media solidly behind the president and Democratic Party, for the republicans money is not the solution. The conservative power at the moment comes from ideology, and concern about future of this country, that are shared by a large portion of Americans. And the numbers of conservatives are growing as the president attempting to further divide the country and make its citizens chose one side or the other.

    October 4, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  2. Fed Up

    Reid has the Gall to compare an airman sitting at home to someone who is fighting for their life? That statement alone shows how idiotic he is. He doesn't care one iota about the American public.

    October 4, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  3. Absarokee

    This guy is so out touch, he won't even approve an exception to policy (or legislation for that matter) even if it helps one cancer child's chance to therapy. People like this, who are too old to care and too old to remember what the rest of us have to deal with daily with our sick children- should be voted out of office and put out to pasture.
    Bring some young fresh blood in and contemporary ideas, not an old dinosaur.

    October 4, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  4. jim from nj

    1st of all, the debt ceiling is for money the congress *HAS* already spent. If the republicans *REALLY* cared about fiscal responsibility, why did they agree to spend money we did not have? This means that they implicitly agreed to raising the debt ceiling when the passed the various appropriation bills.
    2nd of all, why is the GOP attempting to pass appropriation bills to fund only the national parks, Washington DC, etc? What about my job and how do i pay me bills? Oh I forgot, I don't live in DC and they don't care about me nor my job in protecting our country. Nor do they care about the problem of how i will pay for my mortgage and feed my kids. They should pass a "clean" bill and send everybody back to work asap! PS. I still consider the USA to be the greatest country in the world, even with the political disaster we call the US Congress.

    October 4, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  5. eciam

    The GOP started this mess, now they want our president to kiss there A to get our country out of it!
    GOP, kiss your own A!
    Mr. President don't give in to this Goverment takeover!
    Can we imagine for a moment if this was a Democrated party shutting down our government over a legal bill!
    The GOP partyand supporters would be calling the Dems. every vile word you could imagine and then some!

    October 4, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  6. adam

    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 |

    The Republicans (too cowardly to stand up to the extremists in their own party) caused this lockdown, or did you miss that?

    October 4, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  7. bob123666

    boneher was JUST told by obama that this isn't some damn game. thank you for finally growing a couple of cojones president O. now if only you can put your money where your mouth is.

    October 4, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  8. 1termlimits

    PEOPL Vote Them ALL OUT and Demand TERMLIMITS – enough said.....

    October 4, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  9. rr

    Go Get Them Harry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 4, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  10. Anonymous

    America has awoken to the Liberal Agenda to destroy Freedom loving Americans everywhere. I predict an imminent Red State/Blue State civil war, and it won't be good for the Blue States. Liberals are destroying this Great Nation. We will take her back.

    October 4, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  11. Rose

    You are WRONG!
    He is RIGHT!
    Help to limit WASTE SPENDING is the job doing for the country.
    He is doing for the country.
    You are doing for the politic!

    October 4, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  12. eciam

    The GOP started this mess, now they want our president to kiss there A to get our country out of it!
    GOP, kiss your own A!
    Mr. President don't give in to this Goverment takeover!
    Can we imagine for a moment if this was a Democrated party shutting down our government over a legal bill!
    The GOP party and their supporters would be call the Dems. every vile word you could imagine and then some!

    October 4, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  13. frank

    Mike you are 100% correct. Yes Harry Reid the country is more important than the Speaker of The Houses job. It is also more important than your job. Failure to Negotiate Harry is not what leaders do. What are you afraid of?

    October 4, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  14. Chaerlotte

    Thank God for Harry Reid.

    October 4, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  15. fourth81

    In all honesty, anyone who is hating on Obama or the Democrats more than the Republicans is either a Republican themselves or simply isn't seeing clearly. Obamacare is here to stay and it's better than the system that we currently have. Fact. The Republicans admitted to wasting millions of tax dollars to make Obama look bad his first term, downplaying everything he did and making his job more difficult than it needed to be. Fact. Moderate Republicans in the House and the Senate want to vote on a clean CR to get the government going. Fact. The longer we don't have a clean CR, the more money EVERYONE loses on and the more weakened our economy becomes. Fact.

    Now I'm not saying the Democrats are not to blame for some of this as well, but the Republicans have ADMITTED to being the bad guys. And the worst part? The Republicans actually saved Obama's rear because I'm sure Obamacare would have had a bunch of growing pains that the Republicans could have picked apart, but instead they chose not to pass a CR that wouldn't defund Obamacare and a large majority of people, having forgotten about the potential problems of Obamacare, are looking at them with daggers in their eyes.

    Besides the fact that Republicans were saying Obamacare was hurting the economy BEFORE IT EVEN WENT INTO ACTION. If I were a Republican, I would ashamed of senators like Ted Cruz, who has been railing hard against Obamacare with weak rhetoric but hasn't said a damn thing about a solution to it. Put up or shut up.

    October 4, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  16. sly

    America will win.
    Democracy will win.
    We will not let southern Tea Billies hold America hostage.

    President Obama and Senator Reid will not pay ANY ransom.
    It is America's way, or the highway, you poor sport civil war losers.

    October 4, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  17. eciam

    The GOP started this mess, now they want our president to kiss there A to get our country out of it!
    GOP, kiss your own A!
    Mr. President don't give in to this Goverment takeover!
    Can we imagine for a moment if this was a Democrated party shutting down our government over a legal bill!
    The GOP party and their supporters would call the Dems. every vile word you could imagine and then some!

    October 4, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  18. wendel

    Harry is right on. Tired of the republican games. Now they whine and blame the president. Are they crazy and do they think we are that stupid.? Wait I guess they do. Look at some of the comments written here and faux news doesn't even think we have a problem.

    October 4, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  19. Stephen Jones

    @ FARLEY. John Boehner is so obviously meant to gain from the health insurance lobby...so much so he wants to keep of millions of americans from insurance who cannot afford a healthcare plan. WHAT KIND OF MAN WANTS TO SHOVE THIS DOWN OUR THROATS?? NEXT IS ORGAN HARVESTING BY INSURANCE COMPANIES. WE NEED TO LOOK TO OHIO TO REMOVE THIS LIAR.

    See how easy silly hyperbole is.

    October 4, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  20. Ninety Niner

    Peter Principle AGAIN...the nation would be better had Boehner heeded the call to depart public service back in the late 1990s. Time again for apparent spineless, blameful speaker; leadership requires more than title. Please go...

    October 4, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  21. KarmaBurns

    I want a recall vote on the entire Congress! Why arent more people angry? I have emailed my reps and senators over and over. What good is it? The OBVIOUSLY dont want to know what we want or care if we are able to survive paycheck to paycheck. It is only about who wins, Mr. Boehner, you are fooling no one...you dont want discussion and you darn well it is a game. Where are the protestors with signs? Where is the outcry? Are we Americans so beaten down now? Yes, yes we are. We are trapped in this pi**ing contest.

    October 4, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  22. kvining

    Good for Reid. If the Democrats give in to this extortion, they would be hurting Democracy. Any future crazy minority will simply do what the Tea Bagger kooks are doing, and democracy as we know it will come to an end.

    October 4, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  23. teaparty days are numbered

    since the GOP/TP do the opposite of what the president suggests, even though it was their idea, why doesn't the president suggest that GOP/TP party go out and get guns and NOT kill each other?!

    October 4, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  24. TomGI

    If Boehner wants to stand in 'lock step' with the tea party and Ted Cruz so be it. Frankly, I agree with Reid, fund it all or fund nothing without inclusion of the ACA . Don't let the government get hijacked by a minority of extortionists. Virtually all the people in my circle that my wife and I have spoken with (including some staunch old school Republicans) have had it with the tea party, formerly known as the christian coalition. I didn't find one person that would back their positions and if they do they are too shy to admit it. Read up on the tea party's "Williamsburg Accord" to get a better understanding of what they REALLY stand for and who their leadership really is.

    October 4, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  25. sftommy

    Good Morning America how are you?
    don't you know me I'm your native son

    A little Willie Nelson patriotism from both sides would solve this thing!

    October 4, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
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