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. Greg Miller

    I have never known anyone I have disliked as much as i dislike Harry Reid. He is a liar and a fraud and with Obama leading the traitorous Democrats, will bring this country down.

    October 3, 2013 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  2. Flyin4awa

    Reid...You're a pitiful excuse for a leader

    October 3, 2013 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  3. arj190

    Here's a clue HARRY, neither is YOURS!!!

    October 3, 2013 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  4. BluClw

    This is Boehners first step towards redemption. If he holds THIS line, Patriots will be singing his praises!

    At this point Boehner is showing Harry Reid who really holds the power of the purse! And hes making Reid fight against targeted individual payments making Reid vote against funding lol.

    If Boehner was smart he'd twist Reid around for weeks. Make turning on the Government conditional with Harry Reid, Schumer, and others stepping down from Senate Leadership.

    October 3, 2013 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  5. boungiorno

    Mr. Reid your ideas and opinions are good but let the progress unfold within the walls of congress this will be ironed out

    October 3, 2013 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  6. Jim

    This is my favorite quote of the entire year so far: "President Obama fights for the Cop, the teacher, the firefighter, the clerical worker, the checkout cashier, to have access to Obamacare, good public schools, housing."

    Evidently Doris, and many others like her, have paid absolutely ZERO attention to the state of our Country any time lately. Gas prices completely out of control (compared to when Obama took office), energy prices as a whole wildly up, taxes up, unemployment insanely up, food stamp program insanely up, and I could go on for quite a long time. If Obama were so concerned for the "everyday normal people" like Doris mentioned earlier, he would DO SOMETHING to make sure this Country was running better so people would have faith in the USA to be a World Leader again. As we sit now, we are a laughing stock.

    October 3, 2013 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  7. Kathleen Wimmer

    This man is so sad, he has no moral fiber at all. I love Rush's name do him.

    October 3, 2013 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  8. RJ

    One has to have faith that the majority of the people see Reid is either a cynical, hypocritical tool – or a complete imbecile. If it's not the latter, then I have no idea how he sleeps at night or can stand his own image in the mirror.

    October 3, 2013 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  9. Kathleen Wimmer

    Sorry about the typo, I believe Rush calls him "dirty Harry"; given all the dirty tricks, lies and ugly name calling, it really suits him.

    October 3, 2013 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  10. Erin

    Reid twisted arms, threatened, promised, and bought off everyone possible in the Senate to get Obamacare passed in the middle of the night. During that time, he refused to deal with the Republicans. He sees himself as the as a King maker because he got Obama's signature bill passed. No way that he will allow anyone to make his foul efforts be for naught or diminished in any way! He is an evil, whispering old man who refuses to realize that HE is hurting the American people for the sake of saving his image. He could care less about you, me or Joe Six-Pack!

    October 3, 2013 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  11. Chris

    CNN, how about do you guys do some REAL reporting instead of just taking what libs say and the word of God. How about reporting on how the White House is bullying the GOP by not negotiating at all. How about reporting on the fact the the president can't take one iota of responsibility for this mess. He is supposed to be the leader of this great nation. The only thing I can see in Obama is an empty suit. Same goes for all his bed buddies in th senate.

    October 3, 2013 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  12. k.m.Name

    Harry Reid is 100% A NUTJOP. He needs to be removed!

    October 3, 2013 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  13. Rob V.

    Yeah...we know Obama was re-elected, and the House Republicans were elected to.

    October 4, 2013 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  14. seafarr1

    TeaParty Caucus is only a handful of GOP; What Harry & Barry really fear is what they represent: an earthquake of civil discontent with the progressive, statist agenda. A tsunami of traditional American voices for smaller government & balanced budgets will soon flush away the DC sewage. Ted Cruz has a handle on the plunger.

    October 4, 2013 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  15. Michael

    Doris, you're just another lib who would be lost if not for Obozo's glass belly button. Instead of listing all the occupations Bozo fights for you could've just said unions. And tell me why he has given big business a one year delay on Bozocare, but he won't do the same for the little people you say he fights for. I would've thought the White House had designated you as non-essential, so are you still working for free from the basement of the WH making stupid posts?

    Bob, good post. Most people don't realize the House is responsible for spending. Some people even believe shutting down the government destroys the economy. Business is the economy. Government is like a tick on a dog, sucking blood out of the economy.

    October 4, 2013 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  16. flackjacket5

    His arrogance is unflappable and his conduct is impeachable...It is as though he never acted as Czar during his years as Senate majority leader and prevented the passage of budgets, but forced the financing of government to be carried on by continuing resolutions, thus avoiding the very spending limitations that have partially restrained the growth of deficit spending in the past. He is the conductor of the coming national fiscal train wreck.

    October 4, 2013 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  17. Sparky Boy

    All of this turmoil, hatred, panic, uncertainty, treachery generated by one person: 0bama. Like a cancer growing in the country, it is a result of Democrats.

    They are all traitors to this country. They should be rounded up by the US Army, detained, charged with treason or sedition, and imprisoned until their military tribunal. That would include you, Sen Reid.

    October 4, 2013 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  18. Anonymous

    you could replace the word 'job' with 'legacy' and you could say the same thing about obama. he has made the idea of his 'legacy' more important than the country. 'legacy' is earned by presidents as the sum of what you do for our country–obama hasn't done dick except change it to fail and become little bettler than the great grey mass of countries in the world. he and reid are hypocrites of the worst, sef righteous kind.

    October 4, 2013 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  19. charles armogida

    you could replace the word "job" with "legacy' in reid's unfortunate rant, and the same paragraph could apply to obama. he has very much placed his 'legacy' above what is best for the country. presidentail legacies are earned over time and considering the sum of a president's accomplishments. all obama has done is to change the country for the worse without regard for the american pople–he is concerned only for those poor dupes from whom he could 'buy' their votes with stuff and more stuff.

    October 4, 2013 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  20. Teresa

    Reid as well as most Democrats are masters at transference– actually quite transparent– their accusations belie their own thoughts as well as actions.

    October 4, 2013 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  21. michael schlutz

    this country's fate is more important than sen re
    id's dementia

    October 4, 2013 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  22. Kees Roma

    Funny...that's what I think about Reid, the Administration, and the Senate and House of Representatives...this government is doing much greater harm to America than good. Time for it to go away.

    October 4, 2013 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  23. Boogeyman

    Can you feel a take over coming to America? What will we do..?

    October 4, 2013 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  24. thomas

    I think it's time for Reid to take a good long look in the mirror. Reid is no different than all those other narcissistic bureaucrats he's been point fingers at!

    October 4, 2013 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  25. Lheim

    The 'weird caucus'. They remind me of an episode of South Park where a sect of anti-semitic jewish people were attempting to take over judaism.

    October 4, 2013 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
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