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. ashton

    If Obama were a leader then there would be followers. All he is doing is taking a stroll by himself. Most of the public- for one or more reasons is not in favour of ACA in its current format- if here is one at all. Yet, there is a President bent on having his way. There is a great saying by a wonderful true leader that said ( and this is in Obama's case)- "there does my people, I am their Leader. I need to follow them".

    October 4, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  2. Mike

    News flash – you don't serve "the country." You serve the people who elected you. And if your constituints don't like something, your JOB is to represent that the rest of the government.

    October 4, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  3. Ryan in Texas

    "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that “the buck stops here.” Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better."

    From Sen. Obama’s Floor Speech, March 20, 2006:

    October 4, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  4. Pamela

    I am Republican, but do not support the Tea Party Republicans, who are to blame for shutting down the government. The Republicans will be blamed for destabilizing the economy at a time when the economy has been slowly improving. The Do Nothing Republican Party. The Tea Party does not want government at any cost. They dislike government, but without government they would not receive medical benefits or a paycheck courtesy of the American taxpayers. They should be ashamed of themselves. People are suffering because of the Republicans. It does not only effect the Federal employees, but effects many more people down the pipeline.

    October 4, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  5. Dan

    Reid should resign. Only scum would "leak" private emails to the press and it turns out that Boehner just supported the same position as Reid with keeping Congress out of the exchanges and on their incredible healthcare package. The tea party members are the only ones that may stand up to corruption.

    October 4, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  6. Scott

    Reid should have been tarred and feathered a decade ago. N one will miss him once he joins Ted Kennedy. And the nation will be better off for it..

    October 4, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  7. Wake up People!

    I think the most hilarious part of this shutdown is.... If Mitt had won the election and the democrats started making demands that he do what they say, the MSM and the GOP supporters would be screaming from the rooftops that Elections have consequences. The dems would be called crybabies and sore losers, yet the MSM has yet to say it about the GOP.

    It's very telling.....

    October 4, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  8. Darren

    Reid's job is not as important as the unborn. Reid wants taxpayer money to be used for people's immorality and to help mother's kill their unborn children. An estimated 70,000 to 110,000 will babies will be killed because of this "health" bill. We read that this is a consumer nation. Too bad, this country has murdered over 55,000,000 consumers. Just like the Dred Scott decision, the Supreme Court got Roe vs. Wade wrong. The 5th Amendment is suppose to guarantee that one of our inalienable rights is the Right to Life. This goes before liberty. For without life, there can be no liberty. Please don't have an abortion. Offer your son or daughter up for adoption. There are plenty of parents who are looking to adopt. I pray for this country to see the sanctity of life. St. Francis of Assisi, on your feast day, pray for us.

    October 4, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  9. tp1776

    the Tea Party does not represent the country. Gutting the Affordable Care Act is not in the interests of millions of Americans.

    October 4, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  10. JC

    I am so sick of these old men pointing the blame finger at the other person. Every time the government gets its finger in the pie things go sour fast. Why can't the electorate see what's going on and replace these incompetent imbeciles and get someone in office who put the welfare of it's citizens first and their own pockets last.

    October 4, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  11. jim from nj

    "Farley"... Do you think it is okay for the american people to pay for deadbeats fwho *DON'T* have health insurance. Because we were. My ex-in-laws in FL, who are white, and did'nt have health insurance use to go to the hospital emergency room for routine medical issues. Of couse, the hospital footed most of the bill since ex-in-law could not pay for 99% of the medical bill. The hospital could not legally turn my former nephew and neice away and thank God for that! They have grown-up and are gainfully employed. However, it always upset me that their mother did not have affordable health insurance at the time and should really have taken them to a pediatrician instead of the emergency room. The cost of a pediatrician is much less than the emergency room. If she had insurance, she could have managed the "co-pay" and not the "full" medical bill. Guess what, since the hosiptal could not legally turn them away the hospital ate the cost. That was only 1 family w/o insurance... Now multiply it for all the uninsured family and you can see why the US hospital systems are going bankrupt. And . guess who has to bail them out financially? The US tax payers. With obamacare, people with affordable health insurace can pay their fair share. With or without obamacare, the government has to pay for parr of the healthcare costs. At least with obamacare, it is the less destructive approach in saving our hospitals.

    October 4, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Obama's socialist agenda is not as important as the future of America.

    October 4, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  13. Scott

    Pamela: still waiting on Obama to actually compromise on, well, anything. He just dictates, all the more reason to hold the line.

    October 4, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  14. logicnothuff

    Reid is liar, and that's the only thing he does well. Otherwise, his brain is fried. Democrat Party, the Party that started the Civil War, gave away the nations bankers to a banker's mob (Wilson), started the unstoppable blob unfulfillable Social Security (FDR), didn't llft a finger to help Chinese free peoples stop the Communists (Truman ) but they DID insert half a million troops in Viet Nam and THEN they yanked support when Nixon just about had the war won, started communist giveaways in the UnGreat Society which has wrecked America (Johnson), and then gave away all America's warhead designs to the Chinese but didn't stop it because Chinese gave money to Democrat Party (Clintons). And now B. Hussein Obama has turned the United States over to the Muslim Brother hoods. Democrat Party is evil.

    October 4, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  15. Jim

    Start a petition for Congressional Term Limits. Career politicians with fake tans acting with impunity and stuffing their pockets with corporate handout money has GOT TO END.

    October 4, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  16. Pamela

    A term limit like the presidential position is the only answer to getting all these fulltime politicians off of the nice benefits they receive year after year while their constitutes suffer. They live on easy street with their nice health benefits, lobbyist perks, and pay while each day more and more Americans are going without health benefits due to the high cost of health insurance. Some are still unemployed, while others have had to accept lower paying jobs in order to take care of their families and survive.

    October 4, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  17. Rotten Fruit for All

    You're right Harry...and it also comes before you and Barry and his gigantic ego. Give the rest of us the one year delay that you gave all of your big business pals who contributed money to Democrat campaigns.

    October 4, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  18. scarf


    Reid is liar, and that's the only thing he does well. Otherwise, his brain is fried. Democrat Party, the Party that started the Civil War
    Republican Party, the Party that started the income tax.

    October 4, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  19. Ed Barbar

    To all you Tea Party haters, you people all think the same way. If the debt held by the public had normal rates over the last thirty years, 5.7%, over 85% of all income taxes would be spent on the interest of the debt alone. That's what greedy liberals are leaving the children.

    The economy sucks because liberals spent all the money. When they ran out of money, they went after banking institutions, to make more minority loans, and started the massive housing crisis by creating new loan rules that were unsustainable. Sure, greedy people at Goldman Sachs (why are they still in business?) took advantage of systems that weren't up to date, and really spiked the housing crisis, but it started with Barney Frank and liberals screwing around with banking institutions. Now the kids have to pay it off.

    Now Obama has borrowed more money than in the history of the US, has given it to his corporate friends, and again, you all wonder why the tea party wants to put a stop to the profligate actions of our government. Wake up. It's time to watch the US turn into Greece.

    October 4, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  20. J Russ

    Up until maybe very recently in this nation's history approations were done one bill at a time......until we started down the path of these enormous omnibus bills. What's wrong with passing smaller bills that maybe we can better understand and control? Might be able to see a lot of the fat that's buried by both parties.

    October 4, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  21. Pam from Iowa

    Hopefully Boehner's job is about to come to an end.......

    October 4, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |

    Harry sounds like a spoiled brat child and only because father Obama permits his child to do such. Thank God the government is shut down, they do nothing for us when they are open! The downside is that we get to see Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi embarass themselves and our nation at press conferences.

    Great leaders, Mr. Obama, facilitate solutions, not create division. Obama is so bad we've all forgotten who Jimmy Carter was...

    October 4, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  23. What Now

    Gosh, so many people screaming their hatred for the other side. So many pointing fingers and saying it's the Democrats fault, no it's the Republicans fault. The truth is, it is the fault of a group on the far right. Some call them the tea party, I call them the militant anti-government group who base their entire prosepective on false information and misguided concepts. There are good and bad on both sides. Unfortuanately, the Republican party is being dominated by the nuts.

    October 4, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  24. Mike Johnson

    Bottom line – Obamacare is the President's legacy. He can't possibly budge on it even though the majority of Americans don't want it and it is doomed to failure. We are in trouble.

    October 4, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    Then say...."American's will not accept being forced to carry a Health Insuance Policy."
    "they will accept reforming the industry cost's and abuses....what they expected".

    October 4, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
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