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. Layla

    Americans will not forget that Reid and Obama won't compromise. 2014 elections are going to be something.

    October 3, 2013 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  2. Ed

    Senator Reid is from a very small western statute and is a Mormon. He is also a political hack. I want not trust him as far as I could carry his already degenerating bones. Do not believe anything he says. CNN would be wise to do the same but they are in on the grift ... Reid is a grifter ... So is CNN ... Notice where their ratings are though ... Let's get on with prudent financial management of the USA and not what Prez Obama is offering ... BO does know what he is doing but it is bad for the USA ... Get rid of Obama care to start.

    October 3, 2013 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  3. TexasPatriot

    Hey Harry, Boehner is 3rd in line to the Presidency. That trumps you! Who's more important now?

    October 3, 2013 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  4. jschmidt

    Just like Obama giving Obamacare exemptions and pushing off the business mandate at his whim,another law Obama ignores is Immigration and endangering the country as well- "Shawn Moran, Vice President of the National Border Patrol Council, spoke exclusively with Breitbart News and claimed that Border Patrol management has begun the practice of ordering Border Patrol Agents to stand down and cease pursuing drug smugglers, human smugglers and traffickers, and illegal aliens. He also warned it could lead to illegal aliens entering the country from nations associated with terrorism."

    October 3, 2013 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  5. dave

    like yours is harry, think not an hopefully the people of NV will wake up an do the right thing an make you unemployed
    but then again your a million, you been screwing the American people for years an filling your pocket

    October 3, 2013 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  6. TravlnTexan

    there are no word to describe the "disdain" I have for Harry Reid. He almost me ashamed to say I am an American.

    October 3, 2013 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  7. Norman Duncan

    I cannot understand the public's flippancy and lack of understanding that we are facing a crisis in our beloved country. Taking sides will not solve the problem but both sides compromising without conditions on issues might result in an understanding to reopen the Government immediately.,. Obamacare should be off the table as it is in progress. Solve the current debacle, then have a committee of the two bodies review the deficiencies and correct them. This is a civilized way to resolve issues if the Tea Part, if they wish to be a political party, would think more of people rather self ideology.

    October 3, 2013 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  8. ryan J

    Harry Reid is about as UNamerican as they come, a true sad, hateful, small man, Our country is in a sad sad state.....

    October 3, 2013 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  9. Winston Smith

    He's right. No one person, regardless of party is more important than the nation.

    October 3, 2013 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  10. Diogenes1

    Is there a tendency for tyrants to fear anarchists? Just wondering?

    October 3, 2013 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  11. Norman Duncan

    Except for a few typos in the final sentence my comments are based on international experience on how to settle matters.

    October 3, 2013 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  12. msut14

    Reid forgets its the LAW to submit and approve a budget from the POTUS EVERY YEAR, how many since 2008? ZERO!!

    October 3, 2013 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  13. The SGM

    Yes he to is replaceable; however, the people of his state must also be a short a few marbles because they keep re-electing him -the same goes for those who continue to re-elect Pelosi

    October 3, 2013 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  14. JW Stallings

    I am going to give the benefit of the doubt, as i bite my tongue, and say that Harry Reid is just punch drunk. Nevada should recall this fool.

    October 3, 2013 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  15. aintthispeachy

    It is pitchfork and torch time in DC

    October 3, 2013 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  16. Bart

    Regardless of your political affiliation, is anyone else really sick and tired of the politicians today mocking, criticizing, demonizing and demeaning members of the opposite party ?? Unless their goal is to have this country run by a single party, where the thoughts and cooperation of the other party are not needed, what on earth is with this infantile posturing and name-calling? How is compromise and consensus ever to be reached? Grow up Congress!! Put the country first...before your own pathetic career!

    October 3, 2013 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  17. bradford cutler

    Can this guy just shut-up for a change and let nature take it's course. The President, not Reid, has taken his position of " No Concessions". Now it is up to the Republican to cave in completely, like they always do. It will happen in days rather than weeks. In the meantime can someone put a rag in this guys mouth. His constant whining is quite annoying to everyone concerned and it will not result in the Republicans caving any earlier.

    October 3, 2013 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  18. Rose

    The longer the shutdown lasts, the better. ALWAYS best for AMERICA when FED GOVT is shut down.
    Everyone sorts out what is real and what is hogwash. A few weeks of it and illegal aliens might even start leaving this nation.
    As Dim Civilians voters discover the Obamacare hotline logo aimed at THEM...
    and a few other facts, like how their DR Lic., vehicles and houses, and other things are in danger of being confiscated from them...

    October 3, 2013 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  19. Paul

    Omnibus spending full of pork earmarks are the reason we have uncontrolled federal spending. It is time we return to passing one bill at a time for each sub-committee of the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations where each bill is passed separately — one bill for Defense, one for Homeland Security, and so on as the U.S. House has started to do this week.

    October 3, 2013 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  20. RTC

    Harry .... you are the most expendable person in the congress .... you could be replaced with a button that says "NO" .... that seems to be all you do. Your inflated sense of self importance is comical ..... the country would do just fine without you!

    October 3, 2013 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  21. L.Sanfod

    Danger sign for the GOP/TEA
    If seniors, the most apt group to vote, miss even one social security check caused by Cruz's GOP/TEA the republicans will be doomed for eternity. Just remember at the Tea Party rallies the signs.
    "Don't mess with my medicare or social security".
    Boehner must be taking note.

    October 3, 2013 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  22. Rico

    The more shrill and childish the Democrat rhetoric, the more you know the Republicans are on to something. ObamaCare is collapsing in front of everyone's eyes before it was even rolled out.

    October 3, 2013 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  23. RGrantM

    Corruption, senility, overconfidence and vanity is a terribly unstable concoction, Harry.

    October 3, 2013 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  24. ffpm6

    So, Ried is "projecting his own fear at Boehner.
    If there was nothing to be concerned about Ried would be quiet. it is obvious by his facial expressions that this BHO plan of Obamascare is failing.
    the only way they will get people on it is to force it.
    first it will be the government workers. then the state workers. then those that contract with the government.
    were screwed!

    October 3, 2013 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  25. IowaFalcon

    We would not be in this position had Harry passed a budget... ever. I know, democrats are going to say that it is the Republican's fault, but we did not have a budget even when democrats had complete control. If Harry would actually allow regular order, allow a vote on anything but a show budget, and actually be willing to cut some spending, we would not be in this mess. Both sides have a lot to account for, but Harry Reid personally deserves most of the blame for the gridlock. The Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader are both compromisers who have pushed their caucuses to the brink of what they can accept, and Harry still will not do his job until the Speaker forces a crisis to get ANYTHING done.

    October 3, 2013 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
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