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. crewmax42

    if they're not doing Reid's criminal agenda, I can understand why he would call it weird. funny, so many of these Clowns, like Obama, said they wanted to change Washington.

    October 4, 2013 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  2. Scott


    John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Rafael Edward Cruz, are bound and determined to make sure their rich benefactors,
    get all the tax breaks they need to stay in their mansions, while ordinary Americans get kicked out of their homes.
    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.
    GOP fight for the Koch Brothers to stay in their Park Avenue Condos.
    Wow the liberals really brainwashed you. Just shows that people with little knowledge or common sense should stay quiet

    October 4, 2013 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  3. Griefman

    Harry Reid is a disgrace to mankind.

    October 4, 2013 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  4. EddieInFL

    Hey Harry–Boehner sent you a budget that would completely fund the government (except ACA). it is YOU–REID that has shut down the government.

    Could have taken the "deal" and negotiated on ACA later but it seems you'd rather let children with cancer DIE.

    October 4, 2013 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  5. Tom

    When I am having a really bad day, I try to take comfort in the simples joys in my life - like giving thanks that I am not related to Harry Reid, a pompous and vile human being who wears cheap suits when he hurls slander at people on TV.

    October 4, 2013 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  6. Diogenes

    Harry Reid IS Washington in all it's evil, tyrannical, character. Dirty Harry symbolizes everything our Revolution faught to overcome The founding fathers would have had this man and all his associates charged with treason long ago.

    October 4, 2013 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  7. BrianHudson

    Democrats have proven to be conniving deceitful politicians. They passed a completely partisan 'health plan' that the country cannot afford, and when called on the carpet, they cry, cry, cry. Maybe they should have passed a BI-PARTISAN health plan to begin with. Everyone I know does NOT like Obamacare and DOES NOT want Obamacare. It's a half baked 'health plan' and that's why Obama has given so many 'passes' to big business and Unions, along with 75% subsidies for everyone working on Capitol Hill – must be nice to have your hand in the till. Must be nice.

    October 4, 2013 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  8. t-bone51

    It's worse then Harry thinks. He shouldn't be worrying about Boehner's job, nor his. He should be worried about the jobs in the private sector because Obamacare is a job-killer.

    October 4, 2013 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  9. whodat1

    Harry & Barry aren't fooling anyone (okay, maybe they're fooling a few of their sycophants). They are the ones responsible for the shutdown. They are the ones unwilling to negotiate. (They've even said so!) But the media help them put the blame on their opponents. I see the media as the main culprits here.

    October 4, 2013 06:55 am at 6:55 am |
  10. BabsinPA

    Isn't it interesting that the man who couldn't be bothered to pass budgets for this government for 5 years, the man who has been obstructing government's orderly flow for 5 years by tabling so many bipartisan House bills, refusing to let them go to the floor of the Senate for debate or vote, always has so many negative things to say about every Republican in Congress? Very mean-spirited and vindivtive behavior from a "leader" of this nation.

    October 4, 2013 06:56 am at 6:56 am |
  11. Glenn47

    And Reid's is important? Only in his little twisted mind. He wanted this shutdown and bad. He thought it would position him better for his next election. He needs to go back to NV where he started his career in illegal bribes and destroying the people there.

    October 4, 2013 06:56 am at 6:56 am |
  12. BrianHudson

    This Government "Slim Down" is all on the Democrats. Don't be fooled, it's not a "Shut Down" as the Democrats would have you believe. Democrats over dramatize anything they can (like the Sequester) and blame it on the Republicans. Reid or Obama could have stopped this "slim down" anytime they want, and the American people know this. No one I know likes this Obamacare plan – why do you think they needed to give every worker on Capitol Hill a 75% subsidy? My family doesn't get a 75% subsidy and I don't make what those folks in D.C. make!! I'm very angry at the Democrat over dramatic politicians.

    October 4, 2013 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  13. anonymous

    These guys can point fingers all they want, but that's not their job. Their job is to MAKE the government work...however.

    October 4, 2013 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
  14. Doug Lynn

    The Democrats want it all their way or nothing. That is horribly wrong regardless of which party is doing it! Every year the Senate, the President and the House must agree to fund each and every program. We are 17 trillion in debt precisely because too often the process is all or nothing. Each line item needs to stand alone and receive a majority vote or go unfunded. That is democracy. The "I will vote to fund your program, if you vote to fun mine" is a big reason we are in such a mess. All or nothing is wicked politics. It is wrong and always has been. It is absolutely crazy to that we have to spend billions on unpopular stuff in order to get the stuff that is very popular.

    October 4, 2013 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  15. Jim Thomas

    The US Govt is now self imposed dysfunctional. Congress has a credit card in the name of every American and they are maxing out the credit limits EVERY year. It's TIME TO STOP ! CONGRESS, if you cant control your spending, then you will be sent to TIME-OUT. Anarchy yes, YOU Congress thru your irresponsible behavior have necessitated the rise of anarchy. Congress has made its bed, now get use to it... sweet dreams Reid and Boehner... Night, night !

    October 4, 2013 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  16. HistoryRepeats

    72% indictments for ACA are not as important as your job Reid.

    October 4, 2013 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  17. Dan

    Boehner is trying to save this country from Obamacare.

    October 4, 2013 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  18. DC Observer

    Harry Reid Book of Negotiation and Diplomacy: Rule #1 Before sitting down to negotiate, poke the other person in the eye with a stick, attack him personally, and demonize and ridicule him on national television.

    October 4, 2013 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  19. Ari

    This is about 30 or 40 Tea Party extremists trying to repeal a law that they do not have the votes to do.
    Sore losers who lost the election and yes they are anarchists and traitors.

    October 4, 2013 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  20. Harry Reid Book of Negotiation and Diplomacy

    Rule #1 Before sitting down to negotiate, poke the other person in the eye with a stick, attack him personally, and demonize and ridicule him on national television.

    Rule #2: When starting negotiations, announce to the other side that "you will not negotiate"

    Rule #3: Before attending negotiation meetings, tell the other side, you will only negotiate if they agree to your terms before the meeting.

    October 4, 2013 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  21. Mike

    I don't often agree with Reid, but he's right on this one.

    October 4, 2013 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  22. rowleya

    Recall Reid or boycott Las Vegas until Reid Resigns.

    October 4, 2013 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  23. y0y

    Fact of the matter is ALL of their jobs are detrimental to the country. The President and nearly every single legislator have become a cancer that needs to be removed. It doesnt matter which party because nearly all the problem today existed under Bush as well. I see more concern for Illegals from the President, Congressman and Senators than I do for citizens and legal residents. We as a country need a vote of no confidence to recall ANY federal level politician as well as a "none of the above" option when voting combined with mandatory voting for citizens and a 51% requirement for a politician to be elected. Add to that to outright ban the- Electoral College. Time these representatives to REPRESENT the People.

    October 4, 2013 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  24. maximusvad

    Reid is right. Republicans are on the wrong train. Sociopath express to oblivion.

    October 4, 2013 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  25. truthteller

    The GOP aren't Anarchists, they're terrorists, holding the United States hostage. No different than a kid throwing himself on the floor in a store and screaming and kicking.

    October 4, 2013 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
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