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. Anonymous

    American's see it as more money being paid into the system forcibly.......which will offset all of the
    illegal immigrants free health care burdens.......PERIOD!!

    October 4, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  2. Travelightly

    The Republicans are obsessed with defunding Obamacare and bringing the President down. This is all they can think about and their obsession has paralyzed them to any sort of negotiation or compromise. They are holding this country hostage by their inability to deal fairly with the Democrats. Funding programs piecemeal is ridiculous when they can fund the entire government if Boehner would only bring a clean bill to the floor of the House. It really IS that simple! But He has no power in his party anymore and that is also part of the problem.

    October 4, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    I think people believe their costs are too high BECAUSE too many people are getting free emergency
    medical care....so they are expecting costs to go down with more payers.

    October 4, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  4. Chris

    Is it coming to this?....Anakin says that people should work together to find solutions to problems. Amydala asks Anakin what if people cannot agree on the solution. Anakin says "Then someone should make them agree!".

    October 4, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  5. Thomas

    How many posting there dislike of Harry Reid here work for the Heritage Foundation or Citizens United ?

    Ted Cruz , " Green Eggs and Ham "

    Kentucky health-exchange site holding up after more than 1 million views ... Lexington that the launch marked a historic day for health care in Kentucky.

    October 4, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  6. oneWayfarer

    IF - During the Civil War there were a Caucus of CONFEDERATES in the U.S. Congress – People who consider the Federal Government 'The Enemy' which they want to DESTROY – It would NOT have been Appropriate to allow THEM to Dictate the Actions of Congress and thereby the NATION.
    TODAY we have the Unholy Spawn of Confederate ZOMBIES and Al Qaeda who have AMERICA under Attack. The GOP needs to Recognize that the Tea Party – which has its OWN caucus are NOT Republicans. Boehner should KICK them out of his caucus. He would NOT lose his SPEAKERSHIP because DEMS would be so glad to see the TERRORISTS rendered – Irrelevant.

    October 4, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  7. Trevor

    I am really getting sick of this government that wants to continue to pay for socialist programs, oversea wars and laws to take our freedoms while our debts spirals out of control. They should have passed a balanced budget before even considering raising the debt ceiling. WELL ON OUR WAY TO 20 TRILLION IN DEBT! NO MORE!!!

    October 4, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    The only answer is about costs.......
    once and for all putting a leash, a watch dog, on the Health Industry.

    October 4, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  9. RugbyGuy

    I have repeatedly posted that Boehner should allow an up-or-down vote by the peoples representatives. However, the president and Reid should not make Boehner's difficult job of trying to herd cats impossible. Cruz and Company have made promises to the Tea Party that knew they could not deliver: Stopping Obamacare. GOP moderates need to regain control of the party to be electable in 2014. Accordingly, the majority of the GOP will pressure Boehner to claim victory in approving a clean CR at sequester level funding. Meanwhile, personal attacks on Boehner will only prolong the shutdown, and if that is the democrat's strategy they lose their current advantage.

    October 4, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    Force a $5 payment on all Medicair/ Medicade office visits....do the math.
    Raise SS $5 a month. Do the math.

    October 4, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  11. Tell the Truth

    The DEMOCRATS and OBAMA shut the government down,.
    The GOP has OFFERED funding to reduce hardship FIVE times = OBAMA AND REID have refused!

    What part of "The Democrats don't give a toss fdor America" don 't you snivelling, uneducated LIBERALS not understand?

    October 4, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  12. RugbyGuy

    ...and if that is the democrat's strategy they will lose their current advantage.

    October 4, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    Obama said there will need to be some tweeking to it along the way....
    start the tweeking.......agree to start the tweeking

    October 4, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  14. discouragedinMI

    It would be nice if the Demos and Repubs would stop spending money they don't have.

    October 4, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  15. True American

    Its a pity that the republicons want to pick only what THEY think is important. People we are all Americans and I for one is tired when otherr Americans deny other Americans with healthcare which is a law and stamped by the Supreme Court.as such. All I know is if we go through another depression will be the doing of the republicons in Congress. As a Christian, disabled veteran, taxpayer, white guy can figure it by the words and actions of republicons that they did not want our President succeed. Why cant many of you figure that one out.

    October 4, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  16. Annette

    If the country came first the Dems would have done research on the effects of Obamacare BEFORE finding a loophole to get it through. Next have even one of the Dem Congressmen/women and Senators read the information available on what this will cost indididuals and what the subsidies will cost the taxpayers? The theory is wonderful help the uninsured. But at the cost per individual and family paying the penalty, hoping there are no major health problems and then if there are file bankruptcy is the cheaper alternative.

    October 4, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  17. A Veteran

    This has been a well thought out agenda by the GOP. That also means they conspired to do this all along. The truth came out, and the saving face time is long over. It's a LAW,, now do your damn job and VOTE. Oh that's right you can't let that happen because too many of the GOP will vote to fund it. It is THAT SIMPLE America.

    October 4, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  18. Bethany

    This is ridiculous. How mean spirited can everyone be?! Wow, heaven forbid someone disagree with a democrat and take a stand so because they are extreme and shut down the government the democrats are going to behave even worse and refuse to open anything for the public just so the republicans don't get their way! They should all be ashamed, but most of all the Democrats and the President for refusing to negotiate with the republicans that support half of America!

    October 4, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  19. minerva cruze TEXAS

    I guess the Republicans do not want be elected again or their salary for the rest of their life; when they retire. Think about it how many congressman make a $200,000.00 dollar a year salary? If we take 5 of their salaries (just 5) and it is a million dollars n one year. We take 500 of them and it is 100 million dollars.We multiply that by 20 years and guess what? We have saved the government (our tax money) several billion dollars. That does not include the 36 million that we are loosing everyday because of the government shutdown. These Congressman are all corrupt. In 1995 the government was shut down for three weeks because in one of the amendments in the budget proposal to President Clinton and Vice president Al Gore It stated THAT THE EPA COULD NOT INSPECT ANY FACILITY WITHIN 100 MILES from THE GULF COAST ( talk about a political agenda) Considering that 75% of the industry is there. The Republicans now have taken on a bigger cause beyond the refineries and chemical plants; The medical insurance companies who lobby with more money and more profits than any other INDUSTRY. Do you know how much money the pharmacy ,drug lords of this country and Medical association is going to loose if we have affordable or FREE health care for the entire Nation. Why do you think a doctor becomes a doctor supposedly to help people right ? WRONG to make more money. Why do politicians spend 8 million dollars to run for office when the job pays only 200,000 dollars? To make more money. They are suppose to be representing our interests and to help run government but they all listen to lobbyist who contribute to their election. This is just another self promoting greedy agenda that CRUZ ( the gentleman from TEXAS) who I hope to God is voted out in the next election. I am in Texas and I will do everything in my power to vote him out and I am ashamed that he is of my nationality and heritage. He must have been adopted no decent Hispanic could cause this much damage to this country. . CRUZ if you ever cross my path I just would say to you " I am a Vietnam veteran and also a government worker. I am ashamed of you and unfortunately your parents should be too.. I just saw how you objected to veterans getting paid and having medical care some of these people sacrificed their limbs for you and you have the audacity to say you represent us? You don't know veterans and you will never get it. They didn't die for you because of the pay. They did it because they had true love and pride for this country, ETHICS and MORALS; something you will never understand..

    October 4, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  20. Greg

    What has the country come to when Obama moves the democratic party hard to the right and passes an insurance company written corporate pipe dream of a legislation, and the far right brands it as socialism, and we the people buy into all this nonsense? What it means is the hope for a truly progressive healthcare reform is so far out of reach. George Orwell would have been impressed.

    October 4, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  21. M

    Reid is a complete hypocrite.

    October 4, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  22. mucklucky

    The Democrats give a 1 yr delay to implementing ACA to big business, but threaten small business to shutdown! The Republicans are asking for the same 1 yr delay in the individual mandate, but the Democrats refuse! Now tell me... which party is for BIG business and which party is trying to help the individual?

    October 4, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  23. Lyle Chipperson

    tsss...tsss...It would have been better if the Nation had waited to come after the Boehnor or sumptin

    October 4, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  24. EdwardTr

    Let the whole house vote on a clean bill, that is all we are asking for.

    October 4, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  25. Josh

    The Dem Congress had signed Obozo's Obama Care in 2010 because of all the concessions made to the Congress and their staffers. Congress staffers get federal tax subsidies that the rest of the country does not.

    Even after that, this POS president has made 19 other exemptions and modifications to Obama Care. Why should the new Congress fund this legislation? What is so unreasonable about Repub demands that the rest of the country get the same 1 yr exemption from the mandate as the corporations? What is so unreasonable about Repub demands that the rest of the country get the same federal tax subsisdies as Congress staffers?
    The liberal masses are uninformed libtards. As long as Obozo gives them freebies their vote is available for sale.

    October 4, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
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