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. Nick

    Someone please tell Reid the nation (the entire nation) also comes before Democrats who think they can push their own ideology and ignore those that disagree. The "one size fits all" liberal approach to government is anti-American and un-Constitutional.

    October 4, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    Do the math...how many employers have less than 50 employees?
    All those people arn't in the mix. BUT OTHER'S ARE REQUIRED TO BUY IT!!!!!

    October 4, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  3. prayfast2

    (EYEOPENER0) notice that 80% of the ads are for BIG PHARMA. So the government shuts down so BIG INSURANCE WHO DETERMINE WHAT DRUGS THEY WILL EVEN PAY FOR ON YOUR INSURANCE is behind this shutdown. The Congressional Leaders who are forcing the shutdown are protecting their interests LOBBY MONEY & the interest of those who PAY THEM the LOBBYIST.

    October 4, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Sure are some productive idea's and thoughts here.....NOT

    October 4, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  5. Truth

    Hey Harry....

    The country comes before Reid ALSO!!!!

    October 4, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  6. Pandamonius

    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.

    If that's your interpretation of the situation, then you obviously can't read even the most obvious of political ploys. GOP are the ones who put those kids in danger. Then they "graciously" offered to fund them, if the Dems surrender and allow Obamacare to be gutted. That's no different than putting a gun to a kid's head, and offering to not pull the trigger if someone pays you off.

    The GOP is after two things right now. The repeal of Obamacare (not even related to this spending bill), and soundbytes that they can use later on, when the public has forgotten who really caused this mess.

    October 4, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  7. RapidOne

    Republicans are tanking the country, plain and simple. Ugh, disgusting how stupid we've become as a nation.

    October 4, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  8. jimi

    The TPers seem to have copied the Army General in Viet Nam who chose to burn the village in order to save it. This time they want to burn down the entire country for the same reason

    October 4, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  9. My10Cents

    Michael Steele is obviously forgetting the very public interviews Boehner gave where he very publicly declared that "Obamacare" was the law of the land. So is Michael Steele being deliberately duplicitous or is Boehner really just a forgetful imbecile or an unrepentant hypocrite?

    October 4, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  10. Dave

    Why do you only give publicity to Reid?

    October 4, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  11. dribblesandbits

    harry is correct and boehner will chuck the hassert rule and raise the debt ceiling to save his reputation and legacy. he will not disgrace his family by causing a great depression and chaos to the world markets. he will be a hero and patriot and get book deals galore.

    October 4, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  12. Realpolitik

    Kenin, as someone from Texas, you are one to talk! It's your senator. Ted Cruz, who isn't even technically American, who is leading the charge to shutdown the government. I agree with Obama and Reid's strategy, the United States of America does not negotiate with terrorists, and holding the entire nation hostage out of ideological beliefs is terrorism, which is what the Tea Partiers of the House GOP is doing. If Boehner actually had any balls left, he would defy the terrorist tea partiers in his own party and bring the clean CR up for a vote, there are enough Democrats and moderate Republicans in the House that their combined vote would pass it.

    October 4, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  13. pm Ohio

    Of course it's the Tea Party, a fraction of the Right, who wants to take down the President at all costs and to take away ACA when finally, medical costs will come down and everyone can have insurance. They can also take away Boehner's seat as Speaker, so what does he do? What's good for the country? No, What's good for the economy? No, What's good for the long term interests of his Party? No...he caves in and turns spineless and renegs on a deal he made with the Dems to avoid this mess. The American people know who is to blame...The GOP and the Tea Party. I used to blame the Tea Party but now that they have the Speaker doing their bidding, it's the GOP's fault for all of this. A Continuing Resolution is a simple spending authority to keep the Government open while yu work out differences in the Budget, not a document to get political concessions from the other side. The Government does not work if the succeeding Congress tries to un-do everything passed and signed into Law by the previous Congress. There is a reason the leaders on Capitol Hill are older m politicians. They know how to Govern...the Tea Party has no ideas, they only know how to destroy Government at any cost.

    October 4, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  14. LucyRicardo

    Obama and Reid are forgetting that Boehner and the rest of Congress - especially the House - speaks for their constituents, the people of their state and district. The country is very divided so why would anyone be surprised that no agreement has been reached? Obamacare just barely passed after several votes and strong arming by Pelosi and some of her cronies. Many American people did not want this program to begin with and it's already taken its toll on jobs. Stop trying to make Congress look like the bad guys. Congress is a sampling of the American people, so it is the American people you are bullying and it is the American people you are telling that you won't budge!.

    October 4, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  15. Claire Atkinson

    I am not a tea party member but only Reid would know they are Anarchists, he should also be able to tell scientist what happened to the dinosaurs as well.

    October 4, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  16. sly

    The Atlanta Braves told MLB today they will not complete the playoffs unless Game One is replayed.

    Seems the Braves were unhappy they lost 9-1, and are claiming their pitcher wasn't ready, and they get a redo.

    The Dodgers have complained to MLB: "We've played by the baseball rules for over 150 years now. Just because they lost I hope you won't make us replay game 1" stated Tommy Lasorda.

    October 4, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    Health Care Reform is supposed to be about fixing ALL the problems......
    Affordability is costs and abuses by the health industry
    .... NOT requiring a certain sector to buy insurance!

    October 4, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  18. Sdechter

    Let's see, now. It was just a few years ago that Harry Reid teamed with his buddy Pres Obama and Obama's lackey who headed the NRC to kill the National Spent Fuel Repository so Harry (Janus)Reid could be reelected. The repository was enacted into law by Congress more than 20 years ago. How quickly Harry Reid forgets history.

    October 4, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    I agree that for Republican's this is just playing politics.
    They haven't said they don't accept forcing insurance purchases on certain sectors.

    October 4, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  20. Carl Hudson

    For our democracy to thrive we must have a credible 2-party system. Two defensible points of view; respected leaders on both sides; a willingness to work together when events dictate it. We no longer have that and I lay the blame squarely on the Republican Party . . . or at least its Tea Party fringe. I also blame the constituency of these guys who will risk the future of this country because they can't get their way through the ballot box. Really, people? Let's shut down the government to prevent our fellow Americans from getting affordable health care? We have only one party today opposed by a lot of blather and ill will on the other side..

    October 4, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  21. jonathan

    I hope when the Republicans decide to finally vote on a clean CR, the Democrats change their mind and say no they will keep the government shut down until they replace Obamacare with an even better single-payer healthcare system. Then I hope they blame the republicans for not negotiating

    October 4, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  22. Pandamonius

    Franklin Man
    The longer these weasels stay on vacation, the less harm they do. The shutdown is nothing but good.
    GOP war on education is paying off, I see.

    These "weasels" are exempted from the furloughs and pay cuts. That means that they still get paid, and continue to sit around getting nothing accomplished.

    October 4, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  23. Jay From Boston

    All this negative talk about the government is very alarming. Ultimately the responsibility falls on each and everyone of us. If you didn't vote than keep quiet because you didnt participate in electoral process which is vital to our government and freedom.
    If you did vote than start taking some blame for electing officials that don't cooperate. Instead of writing useless quotes here call your senator or congressman and complain that your not happy. If the tea party is bent on being anarchist and destroying the government than you better consider the repercussions of those actions. Civil wars have been the spark of such behavior and frankly I love my country too much to see that. Just think of how the world would capitalize on our own self destruction. That would be a fate much worse than anything you could imagine. Use your vote and voice your concerns to your elected officials. That is how democracies work.

    October 4, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  24. DJ PsiPhi


    If you dont want a shut down... and you want to protect the american people against a law... (ACA is a law now remember..)... then why dont you leave obamacare alone, then attack it when the 'american people' arnt suffering.

    October 4, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  25. sly

    "All this negative talk about the government is very alarming. Ultimately the responsibility falls on each and everyone of us. If you didn't vote than keep quiet because you didnt participate in electoral process which is vital to our government and freedom.
    If you did vote than start taking some blame for electing officials that don't cooperate."
    Amen Jay!

    Americans are great at blaming others. I think they forget that they vote their candidates in. Take some responsibility Americans and when you want to blame someone in government, look in the mirror.

    October 4, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
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