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. KeninTexas

    If it wasn't so serious, I would find it amusing that Reid and the Democrats are demonizing the Republicans for being intransient and unmovable in their position when they absolutely to adjust their position whatsoever. Obama should choke on his words as he claims that the Republicans won't budge when he's the worst of them all.
    PS: I think Reid is showing signs of losing his mind. Time to retire for him.

    October 4, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  2. Jerry Okamura

    If our country was really important, would they support a government spending money it does not have? If our country was really important, would they support policies that limit or take away our freedoms? If our country was really important, would they make us more dependent on government or less dependent on government?

    October 4, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  3. Dan Scott

    Dana Bash's question was a loaded from the start. She was attempting to ambush Reid. What she did was show how unprofessional and partisan she is. Bad reporting!

    October 4, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    BECAUSE they are still robbing the economy and abusing the power they have enjoyed raising health prices.

    October 4, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  5. Dave

    Harry Reid thinks Obama's ego comes before kids dying of cancer.....

    October 4, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    Do you remember the Pharmacautical companies quickly lowered their prices?
    Mine went from $70 a month to $30 on their own initiative. AND they provide
    free meds based on income now through their OWN companies......

    October 4, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    reid is obviously correct and boehner will wave the hassert rule crap and vote to up the debt ceiling as he and his family would be disgraced for all history and boehner wants not to have as legacy a great depression and world financhial chaos
    pinned to him. he would be hated as much as john wilkes booth.

    October 4, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  8. Fed UP

    What happend to "For the People, By the people"? This governement is for themselves – they care nothing about the American people. Heck, they don't even anything in common with us, other than being humans and that, my friend, is questionable at this point.
    People are fed up, but what difference does that make? No one in the government truly listens to us anyway. So, now what?

    October 4, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  9. Dan


    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.
    Pamella, you're about as much of a Republican as Harry Reid himself.

    October 4, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    The White House needs a new cabinet post....to seat the opposing party...

    October 4, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  11. Franklin Man

    The longer these weasels stay on vacation, the less harm they do. The shutdown is nothing but good.

    October 4, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |

    Medical tyranny shows up right on time. Now that the Gumberment will force Western Medicine on everyone as a TAX implemented by the Gumberment. Plan on seeing several more of these episodes play out as they now force you into Medical Tyranny and into the hands of BIG PHARMA. People will be forced to take these medications making them yet more unstable. Go back to all mass shootings and incidents like this most of the time these people are on some sort of Serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Why does CNN and other networks not focus on this? Because they are funded by BIG PHARMA through their TV Ads. Next time you watch CNN notice that 80% of the ads are for BIG PHARMA.
    The Gumberment already takes 30-50% of your earnings now they want another 10% for medical. Where does it end? What will they impose next? Wait till you wake up in 50 years and find out 90% of your income is spent already before you get it.
    Welcome to modern day slavery people!

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

    This whole fiasco just highlights the need for term limits on ALL Congressional members.

    October 4, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |

    Spoken like a Harvard lawyer.

    October 4, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    Take a look at Gabby Gifford's remarks when her offices were vandalized.
    That's where it's at....she discusses it....YouTube

    October 4, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  16. KBNJ

    The nation comes before YOU, too, Harry. The Constitution dictates that you NEGOTIATE AND COMPROMISE, not DICTATE.

    October 4, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  17. DRJJJ

    Harry, you're no role model and neither is your state!

    October 4, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  18. Tom

    Phoenix, your two points are not related. Uninsured people are not turned away by emergency rooms—hospitals will not do it. If the bill is skipped out on, which happens often because an ER bill is typically larger than your average medical bill, that cost is essentially picked up by the insurance pool. The idea behind the ACA is to have more money going into the insurance pool so that health care costs don’t continue to rise at an absurd rate. The way it was before was like an upside down pyramid with the tip of it at the bottom being the people paying into the pool and the wide base at the top being the people using health care. The ACA is an attempt to right the pyramid—more money coming in at the bottom, less usage. It isn’t perfect, partially due to the fact that it is set up to include the private sector. This has nothing to do with non-treatment for a kid with cancer. That has to do with the National Institute of Health (NIH). The NIH is the government entity responsible for clinical trials of cures for things such as cancer. It is a government entity. The government is shut down. Therefore, the NIH is shutdown. The ACA is not related to the functionality of the NIH.

    October 4, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  19. cog in the wheel

    The Tea Party and right-wing GOP are 100% responsible for the government shutdown. They keep saying "the people don't want the ACA" but in fact there is intense interest in signing up for healthcare coverage made possible through the ACA. There's so much traffic the website can hardly keep up....

    The economy recovery is still very fragile, but the Tea Party and GOP think preventing the ACA is more important than that recovery. Causing nearly a million people to get furloughed is definitely going to have a negative impact.

    October 4, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  20. readerlk

    @Mike, that is why you are not an elected officer. Reid is right. As an elected officer, you don't just serve your constituents. You have to serve the nation while representing your people. An elected president does not just represent the half of the population that elected him (or her).

    @Ryan in Texas, US debt ceiling has historically been rising under every single president. It is the Iraq War that catapulted our balanced budget into a huge deficit (then followed by the recession). And who started the war?

    October 4, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  21. Matt

    The biggest sham that has ever been pulled on the American people is there is no difference between a career Democrat and a career Republican. Both sides are funded by special interest groups and big corporations. Their main objective is to keep conservatives and liberals fighting each other over whose bad guy is better. That way they stay in power and can curry favours to their donor masters. Follow the money, big corporations are behind this political polarization to keep the average citizen off balance and not focused on why political leaders are making these senseless decisions. Vote incumbents out and anytime a politician takes money from big business get rid of them!

    October 4, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    The real issue of REFORM is costs put on the insurance industry.

    October 4, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  23. sly

    Simple: You want to save the kids on cancel, stop holding America hostage for southern Tea Billies.

    Americans elected this Congress. YOU elected this Congress. Our Congressment represent us, and do what we ask.

    All you fools out there blaming 'government' should look in a mirror and then you'll see who is keeping those po' lil' children off their cancer medicine.

    Get over this fluff and give up you Republican losers. This is America!

    October 4, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  24. Adam

    The topic of discussion is the govt shutdown... Not on abortion which is a SETTLED matter whether you and your cult followers like it or not! If u dont like abortion, u dont have to take part in it.... But as i suspect from your name u are male.... Like all men, including myself, you have NO right to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body and that includes abortion

    October 4, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  25. dribblesandbits

    reid is right on the money and boehner will chuck the hassert nonsense and vote to raise the debt ceiling as he and his family would be more hated and disgraced than john wilkes booth were the country to go onto a major depression and world economic chaos developed. boehner might thankfully lose his speaker role and become a great patriot and get book deals and then be able to tell how worthless and ignorant the tea party simpletons were in government.

    October 4, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
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