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. skyleb

    They don't call him Dirty Harry for nothin

    October 4, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  2. Cooler

    His Tea Party is killing the economy!

    October 4, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  3. Donnie the Lion

    IMO, there are people in other nations who come before John Boehner.

    October 4, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  4. ashton

    Reid must have Read the Red book on Socialism. The Dems are taking USA into that zone fast and soon. Too many outstretched hands have now become alive in the good old America. Those will nothing will always blame the past and those with lots will see the future as an opportunity. As a nation, you have abandoned the values of Spirituality and Relationships and have pegged your hopes on the promises from a visionless leader. The current situation is NOT only about Shutdown of Government, ACA. It is about a Nation that is dying from inside because of paying attention to only what's on the outside. USA is now all about "optics" nothing about integrity.

    October 4, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  5. Anonymous

    Boehner can probably end this shutdown by doing nothing other than let the House vote on the Senate's last bill. Only a handful of Republicans would have to vote with the Democrats to end this. I have got to believe that there a few Republican Congressmen with the guts to do the right thing for the country, even it draws the ire of the ultra-right.

    October 4, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  6. Anonymous

    Reid and Pelosi should both resign. They both must be over 80 and going seanile.

    October 4, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  7. Anonymous

    I am glad that we have two fighting party factions. Brings out the dirty underware of both kids. We the people! Gov't bad, people good!

    October 4, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  8. Jim Amstutz

    For years the GOP has complained that the President isn't a leader. He's leading – follow.

    October 4, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  9. Ricky

    Its amazing just a few decades ago you could not find one American to acknowledge socialism, especially communism. However, in today’s USA more and more Americans are embracing socialist agendas, such as universal healthcare, among others. Harry Reid, President Obama, the Clintons, and the Democrats are hell bent on turning the USA as the Greatest Communist country in world history.

    October 4, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  10. taking the cake

    It does not matter he said, he said. It matters that you begin a compromise discussion and how in the sam hill do we know...we, who you are putting first. we the little man, how do we know that anything you do is for our good. you never ask us...
    we would like some more direct input. can you fix that?

    October 4, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  11. guy

    stop aid to other countries and we will have enough to help the people in this country.also we would be able to have the same medical benefits as our congress and senate.

    October 4, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  12. SteveInMN

    There is not a single kid not getting care because of the shutdown. Silliness, more Republic propaganda.

    Good on ya Harry, don't give an inch.

    October 4, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  13. Jeff

    Obama is a complete joke.......as is Harry Reid. They are embarrassing. They refuse to negotiate, and are now in full swing trying to blame Republicans for all of this mess. Fact: it's the democrats fault for pushing the Republicans aside. I predict that many democrats will be voted out come 2014.

    October 4, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  14. Blueman101

    So the country is in turmoil and what does President Obama (our supposed leader) do, he stamps his feet, says I'm not talking, and goes and locked himself in his room.

    Can we please get some real 'LEADERSHIP' in the Whitehouse??

    October 4, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  15. Davezs1

    it is reid and comrade Obama who are shutting down the government,reid and Obama have morals

    October 4, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  16. lol

    Apparently the nation comes before anyone.

    America is bankrupt...but don't let that stop anything...the sheeple will pay for it.

    October 4, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  17. cjb

    Harry Reid needs to worry about his job. The Dems are out next election. They are responsible for the shutdown.

    October 4, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  18. Michael Cliff

    I would be willing to bet, the the majority of Americans, whether your Democrat, Republican or Independent has had enough of these clowns. We should vote them ALL out of there!!! Create term limits for these positions, as their is a term limit for our President. Speaking of that office, how about one term of 6 years. They crucifiy him the last two whichever party he is in. VOTE THEM OUT!!!!!

    October 4, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  19. cjb

    The American people overwhelmingly are against Obamacare and yet the Dems ignore that. I guess they will be ignored next election.

    October 4, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  20. JeffreyRO5

    I thought Boehner already handed his speakership over to Ted Cruz!!

    October 4, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  21. Citizenatlarge1

    The Hypocrisy is mind boggling. The House sends a budget to the Senate funding everything but Obamacare, and it is rejected by the Democrats and the President. The House then sends an alternative plan to the Senate funding essential programs within the government that the Senate as well as the President again reject. And all this over a flawed law, Obamacare, that is not the bill of goods that the President promised us and which most experts agree is not even ready to be instituted. The myriad of problems with the law's implementation that have been reported are ample evidence that it should be at least delayed. But here we have Mr. Reid and the President accusing the other side of playing games and shutting down the government. They obviously have very little respect for the intellect of the American public.

    Mr. President, everything can be negotiated. It is part of your job to find common ground with the people who disagree with you. The end, no mater how noble, does not justify the means when it is achieved through deception and force.

    Your legacy will be as the President who governed over a divided nation during a period when we desperately needed a leader to unite the nation.

    October 4, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  22. athiestone

    I'll take 80 and going senile any day over 60 and narcissistically evil.

    October 4, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  23. Dave Hawkins

    Democrats need to remember that in the last election the people of the United States gave the Congress a Republican majority for a reason. The Democrats are spending too much money and the people want the budget reined in. Congress is attempting to do that and the Democrats continue to live in their private little tax and spend world. Get Real guys! The "Affordable" Health Care BS costs too much and we want it gone!!!

    October 4, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  24. The fact of the matter

    "The nation comes before Boehner" he says? Look in the mirror and say that, Reid. Substitute your name.

    October 4, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  25. Une

    Harry Reid pushing again the socialist agenda. I hope he realizes that unlike Spain in the USA people will not put up with it. Maybe some states like NY, Nj, CA but not most of the country. So what he is pushing is the breakdown of te US.

    October 4, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
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